Hey fellow readers, today we bring you our much-awaited 8N-9D family trip to Darjeeling & Sikkim. Visiting Sikkim and Darjeeling felt like giving a touch of blue to the Swiss mountains and providing a shade of bright green to the grasslands of Europe respectively.
Day 1: Delhi to Darjeeling via Bagdogra
Coming straight to the itinerary, we boarded our flights from Delhi to Bagdogra. Sarah, our daughter, was also very excited about the entire trip as it was a much-needed break for her after her exams. Eagerness filled the air as we boarded the flight, eager to embark on this adventure to the hypnotizing land of the Himalayas.
At Bagdogra airport, we were greeted by the pleasant weather and lush green landscapes as we drove towards our first destination, Darjeeling. It was a three and a half hour’s trip to Darjeeling. By the time we reached Darjeeling, we were met with sundown but only to be lifted by calming drizzle and the well-lit & very cozy Hotel Mayfair Hill on Mall Road.
Tip: Do carry your umbrella’s whenever you are here.
Day 2: Exploring Darjeeling’s Tea Gardens and Zoological Parks
Darjeeling, the “Queen of the Hills,” was our first stop in Sikkim. The Mayfair Hotel was a splendid beauty in the hills, with lovely views, recreational activities, delicious food, and staff with superlative hospitality. The hotel had a very nice theme about mountaineers and climbers who had climbed various peaks of the Himalayan range.
At 3:30 a.m., we woke up to the misty morning in Darjeeling and we started our trip with a visit to Tiger Hill to view the Kanchenjunga peak. However, to our dismay, the cloudy weather didn’t allow us to witness the majestic form in its truest sense. We came back to our hotel where grand breakfast was eagerly waiting for us. Here are a few pics:
After breakfast, we got the first sign that our trip is going to be great when it started to rain heavily but instead of being sad about it, we thoroughly enjoyed staying back at the hotel. After a while the rain subsided, and we started our exploration of the city of hills.
First, we visited the P.N. Himalayan Zoological Park, which is famous for its conservation of rare Himalayan birds and animals. Sarah was thrilled to see animals like the red panda, snow leopard, Himalayan wolf up close, roaming bears, black panthers, and the Bengal tigers.
We also visited the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which houses the expeditions, museums and journeys made by the explorers to the mighty mountains.
The next pit stop was the lush tea gardens of Darjeeling, where we got to taste locally produced tea. We loved it so much that we bought packets of tea for our friends and family back home. Honestly, the tea wasn’t as good as we expected, wouldn’t recommend buying from the local stalls/shops outside the tea gardens. Instead buy from the world-famous shop Golden Tips, where tea(s) are reasonably priced.
We also visited the Tenzing Rock and Tibetan Refugee Camp, which weren’t great and would suggest that if one can give them a miss, please do so for better alternatives like the ropeway.
Day 3: Toy Train and a trip to Gangtok, Sikkim
After breakfast, we visited the famous toy train of Darjeeling. Believe me, the majestic and grand it looks from the outside is not so from the inside. Click as many photos with the stationed train instead of buying expensive tickets (Rs.1500/person for the Steam engine & Rs. 1000/person for the diesel engine). It wasn’t worth it!!! For knowledge, the toy train covers the Batasia Loop, which offers a view of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and at the end of the loop is Ghum station which is famous for the museum and the Ghum Monastery.
We bid farewell to Darjeeling and started our journey towards Gangtok, Sikkim which was a nearly four-hour ride.
Tip: On the way, please stop at the Teesta View Point, which offers panoramic views of the Teesta River and the surrounding valleys and also visit the Lamahatta Eco Park for the gigantic trees saddled in a multitude of rows here. We couldn’t visit both points as our driver wasn’t keen to stop, which was such a shame. Also, people who like adrenaline rush can try the rafting rides in the Teesta River.
After reaching Gangtok, we checked in at our Hotel, Woodberry on Swastik.
Fact check: Avoid Woodberry Hotel if one can for the following reasons:
- There are only two valley view rooms in the hotel and the views are not so great.
- The staff hospitality is mediocre except for the restaurant manager.
- The hotel doesn’t have great car parking and is 5km from MG road for which one would need to hire a local shared taxi that would cost Rs.30/person.
After settling in, we decided to check out MG Road. The road is bustling with crowds in the evening and is a market worth the visit. Here we enjoyed cold coffee, burgers, and ice cream with the sight of colorful cafes all around. If you miss out on buying Darjeeling tea, you would get a plethora of options including Golden Tips to buy your tea from here.
Day 4: Drive to Lachung, Sikkim
We started our journey towards Lachung, a picturesque village located in North Sikkim and were greeted by an ever-smiling and very kind driver for the rest of our journey. He not only made the journey great with his calm and composed driving but also stopped at every place worth the experience. On our way, we enjoyed the pristine waterfalls – The Seven Sisters, Naga Falls and Amitabh Bachchan Falls (Bhema Falls). We also stopped by the dam where the confluence of both the Lachung and the Lechen rivers happen. Here are a few pics:
At Amitabh Bachchan waterfalls, we met an amazing singer & owner of a café who was singing his heart out the famous Bollywood songs of the 90s. We were so awed that we started dancing to his tunes and it felt like the time stood still. Also, when asked if he would accept a token of appreciation, he refused politely stating he’s performing by free-will and love and affection is what keeps him going. Please do buy stuff from his café whenever you are here and shower love to him.
After a long drive, which took us nearly eight hours, we reached Lachung and checked into yet another amazing hotel, Yashshree. We were greeted by the stunning vistas of snow-capped mountains and gushing waterfalls. The three of us were so awed by the beauty of the panoramic mountains that we spent the evening gazing at the fast-moving clouds.
Day 5: Visit the Zero Point & Yumthang Valley
One of the highlights of our Sikkim trip was a visit to the Zero Point, which is at an altitude of 15,300 feet and marks the end of the road in North Sikkim. We woke up early and drove to this stunning valley. We started at 7:30 a.m. to avoid heavy traffic in hills. Nearly 250 cars go to the same place every day. The landscape here was surreal, with snow-covered peaks, frozen rivers, and a vast region of untouched wilderness. Though the cars had to stop short by a few kilometres from the Zero Point due to bad weather, the time we spent here was simply amazing.
On return, we visited the Yumthang Valley, also known as the “Valley of Flowers.” Unfortunately, the whole valley was covered under the snow at this time of the year but still, it felt like visiting the winter wonderland if not the fairy-tale world of flowers.
Day 6: Stay at Lachung and visit to Mount Katao
We decided to take a day off from our hectic itinerary and just relax at Hotel Yashshree. The serene ambience and majestic views from the hotel were refreshing, and we spent quality time bonding as a family. We also visited Mount Katao, a lesser-known but beautiful destination in Sikkim, a place where one can witness the constellations at night. It stood tall covered in snow with the alpine forests for the company. Though we couldn’t gaze at any constellation because of cloudy weather, here’s the time-lapse video of our stay in Lachung:
Rest of the day we spent roaming around in the village and enjoying the incontinence of rain and the rivers. Places like Lachung, Gangtok and Darjeeling reminded us of our stay in London where rain would shower every now & then.
Day 7: Back to Gangtok
Since it was a long drive from Lachung to Gangtok, after reaching, we used the rest of the day strolling on the MG road.
Day 8: Gangtok sightseeing
Sadly, there had been an avalanche a day prior near Nathula Pass because of which we had to miss the same on account of unpredictable weather conditions. The maximum point we could go up to was 15th Mile which was too crowded and after having visited the Zero Point/Yumthang Valley, there wasn’t much to enjoy here. The only saving grace was that we were lucky to witness the sight of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak (tallest in India) in the world in its full glory, and the icing on the cake was the pure and bright golden colour of the peak derived from the sun’s rays.
There are many other events/places to visit in a day at Gangtok and one may include:
- Paragliding, but do not try if it is cloudy weather.
- Tsomogo/Changu Lake: A must-place visit for a serene blue water lake with a heavenly landscape.
- Baba Mandir
- Ganesh Tok/Hanuman Tok
Day 9: Departure from Sikkim
We started early in the morning to catch our flight back to Delhi from Bagdogra. Gangtok to Bagdogra nearly took 5 hours to reach. As our memorable family trip to Sikkim came to an end, we bid farewell to the enchanting land of the Himalayas. We left Sikkim with our hearts & camera full of memories & souvenirs, mesmerizing views of the snow-capped peaks, and a deep appreciation for the rich culture and natural beauty of this Himalayan wonderland.
Reflecting on our trip, we realised there’s an equally busy world in north-eastern India as well. The way the commercial activity was at its peak in Gangtok, we realised that Sikkim has two facets to offer, a vibrant & commercial city on the hill and also a hidden gem of the Himalayas. Another feature that smitten us was the numerous schools in all the regions we visited. It almost felt like taking a break from our busy Delhi lives and teaching the kids here and in isolated areas for a year.
We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to the people/local government of Sikkim for promoting sustainable tourism and preserving the beauty of the region by avoiding single-use plastic, the cleanliness of the towns and villages, and all houses/buildings decorated with pots, plants and greenery.
Hope you enjoy reading our tell-tale and this shall encourage you to pack your bags and create lifetime memories of this place.
Here’s the shuffle dance by Sarah during the trip:
Categories: Asia, Destinations
Lovely pics and trip Raghav!!!