SUBLIME SCENES, CHALLENGING CLIMBS
This exciting itinerary takes us within a stone’s throw of gigantic Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Beautiful landscapes, grassy meadows, rhododendron forests, rushing streams and breathtaking heights are the highlights of this region. We also explore Gangtok and Darjeeling.
This classic trek passes through the eastern Himalayas, journeys from Yuksom to Samiti Lake and onwards to the dizzy heights of Goecha La (4,940m), a high pass right beneath the towering massif of Kanchenjunga (8,586m). Setting out from Gangtok, the enchanting capital of Sikkim, we head to Yuksom and continue via Tsokha, Dzongri, Thangshing and the spectacular Samiti Lake to reach Goecha La. The trail passes through lush vegetation, rhododendron forests and remote villages. We camp in beautiful meadows surrounded by the magnificent panorama of the Himalayan peaks. Dzongri (4,020m) in west Sikkim offers the trekker the most fascinating close-up views of Kanchenjunga and the neighboring Pandim. Goecha La (4,490m) is the highest point on our route. The pass is strewn with prayer flags and offers a mind-blowing panorama of the mountains al around. We finish our trek returning to Yuksom from where we drive onwards to Darjeeling, a beautiful hill town famous for its tea and its ‘toy train’, as the narrow gauge railway is called.
- Gangtok – a beautiful city nestled within the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas
- Dzongri – one of the key halting points in Sikkim
- Samiti Lake – a glacial lake in the Onglathang valley
- Goecha La – a spectacular mountain pass in Sikkim
- Darjeeling – a beautiful hill station famous for its tea plantation
Day 2Delhi- Bagdogra ( By Flight) Bagdogra- Gangtok Overland Drive ( 124 Kms/3-4 Hours)
Delhi - Bagdogra
After the breakfast, we are transferred to the airport to catch our flight to Bagdogra. On a clear day we have views of many of the Himalayan giants including Nanda Devi, Dhaulagiri, the Annapurnas, Manaslu, Makalu, Everest and finally, just before we land, of the great bulk of Kanchenjunga.
Bagdogra - Gangtok
From Bagdogra we have a beautiful afternoon drive through the forests to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, from where we enjoy fine views of the Kanchenjunga range.
Day 3In Gangtok : Sightseeing in Gangtok
In the morning, we drive through the lush countryside to Phodang and Labrang monasteries, which lie a little to the north of Gangtok. In the afternoon, we return to Gangtok and visit the Institute of Tibetology and a Tibetan handicrafts centre.
Day 4Gangtok – Yuksom (1770m)
Gangtok - Yuksom
This morning we visit Rumtek Monastery, the headquarters of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. From here we have a fairly long drive to the start point of our trek at Yuksom (1,770m). The road winds its way through picturesque countryside and tea plantations. There may be time in the evening to walk up to Dubdek/Dubdi Monastery just above the village.
Day 5Yuksom – Tsokha (3050m;5-6 hrs)
Yuksom - Tsokha
The first two days of the trek are mainly through forested areas with plenty of interest for both botanists and birdwatchers. On the first day, we walk along the valley side crossing several small rivers running through the forest. The trail crosses the Prek Chu, a torrent which can be heard thundering from far away, and climbs steeply northwest to the small settlement of Bakhim (2,790m). From here there is a fine view looking back down the valley with ridge upon ridge of forested hills. We continue for another 3km through the forest of magnolia and rhododendron to reach the fairly new Tibetan village of Tsokha (3,050m), where we camp overnight.
Duration of Trek: 5-6 Hrs
Day 6Tsokha – Dzongri (4020m;5-6 hrs)
Tsokha - Dzongri
In the morning, the trail passes through the village of Tsokha and continues to climb north through a thick forest of rhododendron and fir to Phedang (3650m). At Phedang there is a large grassy clearing surrounded by rhododendrons, with clematis Montana climbing everywhere. A steep climb from Phedang brings us out of the forest to a vantage point where we get our first really good views of the main peaks of the Kanchenjunga range. From here the trail is quite easy continuing through shrub rhododendrons to Dzongri (4,020 m) where we camp near a stream.
Duration of Trek: 5-6 Hrs
Day 7In Dzongri Rest day for acclimatization at Dzongri
We are now at 4,020m and have a rest day to acclimatize further. There’s a chance to savour the views of the mountain peaks by climbing up to Dzongri Top, a vantage point on a ridge above the campsite, from where one can see the sunrise on Kanchenjunga. From here, we get panoramic views of Kabru (7,353m), Rating (6,678m), Kanchenjunga (8,534m), Koktang (6,147m), Pandim (6,691m) and Narsingh (5,825m). (We can also have some views from the campsite as well). Towards the west, the Singalila ridge, which separates Sikkim from Nepal, can also be seen.
Day 8Dzongri – Thangsing (3930m;4-5 hrs)
Dzongri - Thangshing
After breakfast we set off climbing steadily to a ridge (approx. 4,250m), passing herds of yak amongst the scrub, juniper and rhododendron, which are mixed and burnt as incense by the local Buddhists. After cresting the hill the path drops into the valley, and after this steep descent we again cross the Prek Chu into mixed forest. It’s then an hour’s climb from the bridge to our campsite at Thangsing (3,930m), a large grassy area with the valley opening up ahead and fine views of the mountains.
Day 9Thangshing – Samiti Lake (4330m;3-4 hrs)
Thangshing - Samiti Lake
In the morning we take the trail that climbs gently to the north and follows a stream and crosses alpine meadows. We follow this easy trail up the valley beneath the west side of Pandim through dwarf azaleas and rhododendrons, with Thangshing Peak, Khang and Pandim to the right, and Kanchenjunga and Goecha peaks in front. This brings us to the first of the terminal moraines of the Oglathang Glacier from where the superb view of the south face of Kanchenjunga can be enjoyed. In order to capture clear views one has to reach Onglathang early. We climb to the crest of the moraine ridge and find ourselves on the shores of Lake Samiti (4,330m), a beautiful glacial lake ringed by prayer flags and reflecting a number of snow-capped peaks including Pandim.
Day 10Samiti Lake – Goecha La – Thangshing (3800m)
Samiti Lake - Thangshing
Today we start early for the steep four-hour climb to the Goecha La Pass (4,940m). The climb begins with a gentle gradient and a little later the steep ascent starts. The trail skirts the lake before ascending a series of moraine ridges on the eastern edge of the Oglathang glacier and then drops to a dry lake at Zemathang. As we climb, we have increasingly spectacular views of the mountains, glaciers and valleys to the south and east. Finally we reach the high point of our trek, Goecha La- marked by prayer flag. Rising more than 4,000m above the Talung Glacier, at a distance of only five kilometers from our viewpoint, is the stunning eastern wall of Kanchenjunga, which includes the five principal summits of the massif and also the impressive Kabru and Rathong peaks. We return to Lake Samiti by early afternoon and continue downhill for a couple of hours to Thangshing where we camp overnight.
Duration of Trek: 8-9 Hrs
Day 11Thangshing – Tsokha (3050m;7-8 hrs)
Thangsing - Tsokha
Descending the valley from Thangshing we take a direct route, missing out Dzongri by following a lower trail through dense rhododendron forest to reach Tsokha after a long trek.
Duration of Trek: 7 Hrs
Day 12Tsokha – Yuksom (1770m;5-6 hrs)
Tsokha - Yuksom
Today is the final day of our trek. After the breakfast, we retrace our steps towards Yuksom. The going is easier as the path is mainly downhill all the way to the river. The trail then runs up the narrow Rathong Valley through thick, sub-tropical forest, contouring the east bank of the river with several undulations and tributary rivers to cross. Finally we reach Yuksom where we conclude our trek. This evening, we can celebrate our achievements with locally brewed ‘chhang’, ‘tongba’ (local alcoholic beverages) and traditional Tibetan food.
Duration of Trek: 6 Hrs
Day 13Drive Yuksom – Darjeeling
Yuksom - Darjeeling
We rejoin our transport and leave early for our drive to Darjeeling. The road takes us through the jungles where cardamom plants grow in profusion. We reach Darjeeling and have the afternoon free to explore. There is an interesting Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which has a superb collection of early Everest memorabilia. Founded by Sir Edmund Hillary, it is the main training school for Indian mountaineers. There is also a Tibetan Self Help Centre and some local monasteries. We have time to explore the bazaar, and for those interested in flowers, there is a botanical garden also.
Day 14Darjeeling – Bagdogra Overland Drive Bagdogra – Delhi (plane)
Darjeeling - Bagdogra
After the breakfast, we drive via Ghoom Monastery, down to the plains following the famous Darjeeling railway for much of the way through tea estates, forest and pleasant hillside villages, to Bagdogra, from where we catch our flight back to Delhi.
Bagdogra - Delhi
On arrival, we will be received by representative and transferred to the hotel.