As the spring season starts in India the immense heatwave arrives in most of India and most of the schools starts to have their summer vacations.In order to get respite from this summer most of the travelers do travel to the hill stations to enjoy the cool weather and the natural beauty of the spring season in the mountains.The roads in the Himalayas starts to open in the month of April as the snow starts to melt in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Due to spring season the whole of the Himalayan valley’s blooms with colorful flowers which adds to the scenery of the landscape. So as the April month starts one should start to plan to visit to any of the hill stations in the Himalayas.
Sikkim is situated in the north Eastern part of India ,in the lap of the Himalayas having an international boundary with Tibet,Nepal and Bhutan. The only route to reach this mountainous state is through North Bengal from Siliguri. Though Sikkim is a very small state but it consists an immense versatile geography for which it is better to plan the routes of Sikkim accordingly depending on the duration of holidays. The state is mostly covered with mountains so travelling around the state is slow owing to the tough road conditions. There is no railway station in Sikkim so one has to depend on car for travelling around Sikkim.
This beautiful state is one of the cleanest state in India and provides some majestic views of Mountain Kanchenjunga from it’s western most part of the state. So I decided to explore the Western part of Sikkim which also has some important base point for high altitude mountain trekkers.As I started of from Jalpaiguri station the terrain started to change from the plain fertile land of the Mahananda river into a mountainous highway along the Teesta river. The road was along the Teesta river which is also an important hub for hydro power plants in India. So the journey till the arrival of Sikkim border was along this beautiful river . The river looked completely green as we passed one of the many gorges of the river and as we started to gain height the greenery started to increase. A little later we reached Melli which is the border town of Sikkim and West Bengal provides some wonderful views of the Teesta river . The whole of the bridge that separates the two states in Melli is covered with prayer flags which makes the bridge an ideal spot to capture memories.
View of Teesta River from Melli bridge.
Soon we crossed the police check post and after this the highway was pretty smooth till Kitam Bird sanctuary. After the bird sanctuary the road became terrible but the landscape kept us relieved from the stress of the journey. It took 5 hours for us to reach Pelling ,the most important hill station in West Sikkim. We checked in to Hotel Yangthang Dzimka resorts .
Just before entering Pelling city.
View from our resort ,birds sighting was an added splendor.
Pelling is situated at an elevation of 2100 meters above sea level and it offers one of the best views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Apart from that this city has ruins of an ancient civilization which is also an UNESCO world heritage site. Being on the western part of Sikkim it is the gateway to the two most important treks called Goechla and varsey rhododendron sanctuary. The town has India’s first skywalk in the state and monastries of 17 th century. The hotel is situated near the helipad at upper Pelling and the location was just at the perfect central point of the city from where we had an easy access to all the important tourist spots. The rooms of the hotel are pretty spacious and it’s restaurant offers only vegetarian food. On the very first day as one will reach Pelling on the way one can visit the Rabdentse ruins and the Pemayangtse monastery. Make sure to start early in the morning from Jalpaiguri to spend an useful amount of time in these two places.
Rabdentse ruins is a protected place by the Archaeological society of India and is located inside a jungle which is a small bird sanctuary in the middle of the hill station. Even one will get to see rare species of Himalayan birds in the zoo built inside the park ,on the way while going to this UNESCO heritage site. It will take approximately 20 minutes to walk and cover a steep road inside the dense forest in order to reach the site, which is of course tiring but the stress will be completely vanquished by the essence and the charisma that this historical place offers to a tourist.
Himalayan Bird zoo just at the beginning of the Rabdentse trail.
Jungle walk on the way to Rabdentse Ruins.
The three stone pillars known as chortens are the main attraction of Rabdentse Ruins where the king and his family members used to offer prayers to their deities. From this place where the chortens are located panoramic views of the entire Sikkim valley and Kanchenjunga is visible. Other than this there is a northern and southern wing of this palace. The northern wing used to be the residential place of the noble family members of the king and the southern wing used to be the assembly court where common people used to assemble in front of the king.
The three chortens in the prayer hall of Rabdentse ruins.
Panoramic view of Rabdentse site from the assembly court of the king.
The Rabdentse site was the second capital of Sikkim in the 17th century which was later attacked by the Gurkhas of Nepal and reduced to ruins. This place with such extensive views of immense greenery and mountains not only offers a rich history of our cultural country ,but also offers a 360 degree views of the charming valley’s of western Sikkim.
On the way to Pemayangtse monastery.
After visiting Rabdentse ruins a 10 min drive will lead us to Pemayangtse monastery which is the second oldest monastery in Sikkim ,that was built after the ruler of Sikkim in 17th century shifted his capital to Rabdentse. This Buddhist monastery follows the Nyingma tradition which is the oldest tradition among the four Tibetan schools of knowledge. Nyingma simply means ancient because it was derived from the the early Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit.
The main monastery of Pemayangtse.
Colorful buildings inside the monastery.
This monastery controls every other monasteries in West Sikkim and contains monks of pure Tibetan lineage without physical abnormalities. The monastery has beautiful architectures and the main prayer hall is surrounded by the residential buildings of the monks. The main prayer hall contains the state of Guru Rinpoche in his various forms of incarnations who is considered to have revived Buddhism in Tibet. At the entrance of the monastery a red wall containing Buddhist prayers is a major attraction for all those travelers seeking to click their photos in a colorful background.
In the evening it is a perfect time to go to the skywalk which has been newly constructed by the Sikkim government and to the adjacent Sangachoeling monastery.The Pelling skywalk was opened on November 2018 and since then it has attracted numerous tourist from across the whole world. This is a first skywalk built in India and it is transparent made of glass that adds to the adventure to this spot.The main attraction of this skywalk is the Chenrezing statue which is 134 meters tall that adorns the skies of West Sikkim as it is situated on top a mountain which is visible from almost major parts of West Sikkim.
View of Chenrezig Buddha statue from the skywalk.
One needs to walk up numerous steps to reach the statue from where the entire skywalk and the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas are visible. In fact such large Buddhist guru statues is very common in Sikkim which can be find in other parts of the states also,enhancing the influence of Tibetan Buddhist culture in the state. The entry ticket costs RS 50 which also includes the entry to the Sangachoeling monastery situated beside the skywalk. The skywalk opens at 8 in the morning and closes at 6 in the evening.The entire place is well decorated with numerous statues of Buddhist culture and prayer wheels that rotates to shower the Buddhist prayers in the wind.
Panoramic views of the Eastern Himalayas from the skywalk.
On either sides of the steps leading to the Chenrezing statue,they are decorated with yellow colored prayer wheels which adds to the beautiful design of architecture. The beautiful view of the statue can even be seen from the helipad ground of Pelling and Yuksom ,a small hill station further north which adds to the significance as if the Buddhist guru sits on top of the state protecting the people with his prayers .
View from the Helipad in Pelling. The mountain peak in the picture contains the Chenrezing Statue.
Sangachoeling monastery is an ancient historical archaeological site beside the skywalk which contains a main monastery and few remains of the stupas which has now been well preserved by the archaeological and tourism department of Sikkim.The stupas are made from grey colored bricks that overlooks the Pelling city when one stands in front of the platform on which the stupas are situated.It was built in the 17 th century and is known as the place of the secret spells.Like Pemayangtse monastery it belongs to the Nyngima sect and allows men monks only belonging to the this particular sect. This charming place with rich historical values is a place of heritage for the Sikkimese people and most of the tourist visiting here are requested to remain in silence and enjoy the scenic and mystic significance of the views offered from the magnificent location of this monastery.
Ancient chortens in Sangachoeling monastery.
The main monastery of Sangachoeling.
Due to the Chenrezing statue that sits on top of the skywalk and the monastery ,on visiting this place the relevant significance incurred due to Buddhist influences such as a monastery,prayer wheels and stupas has a deep impact on any religious traveler. After experiencing the mystic culture I understood that the skywalk is only an added measure undertaken to attract numerous tourists but the main significant attraction is the Chenrezing statue and the preserved Sangachoeling monastery.
View of the Chenrezig statue and the skywalk from Sangachoeling monastery entrance.
Our next destination next morning was to visit the Rimbi orange garden. As I left Pelling towards Rimbi Icame across an ancient tribal village called Darap which itself has now grown into a famous destination to explore the Himalayas. There are many home stays which have come up in this village providing an ideal peaceful retreat for the various tourist coming here to see the snow capped peaks of the north east Himalayas.
The intense greenery of the Himalayas and the pollution free environment gradually lead us to the next village called Rimbi. Rimbi is famous for it’s orange garden and the Rimbi river which provides a charismatic landscape for the tourists to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Eastern Himalayas.
Just before the Rimbi orange garden I came across the Rimbi waterfall on the highway.The waterfall is not so huge but due to the surrounding scenery and the unique alluring nature of a free falling volume of water from the mountains this spot can be easily considered as an enchanting retreat for all the tourist who wants to capture the natural scene in their frame.
Just after a 5 min drive from here we reached the Rimbi orange garden. Small shops near the highway will greet us through a small entrance with an entry fee of RS 10 will greet us to the orange garden which lies on the banks of the Rimbi river. The area is congested but has been suitably utilized for cultivating organic fruits and crops. The area is mainly marked with orange trees and cardamom plantations besides some few houses of the villagers residing here.The clean pathway covering the entire garden is concrete which is relatively well maintained by the residents inside the garden.
The numerous orange trees starts to bloom with oranges from the month of November so we were not so lucky to visit in the months of May .Still the organic farming surrounded by the Himalayas mesmerized our short time on the banks of the Rimbi river. The pathway leading down to the river banks is planted with numerous flower plants with rose being the primary flower tree.There are cozy seating places and small shops selling organic Himalayan tea and water bottles for the tourists.
Numerous Orange trees in Rimbi.
As I reached the banks of the Rimbi the sound of the rapids formed by the flowing of the river through the mountain rocks allured us to record the surrounding in our go pro camera to take back the memories of the natural ambiance. Unlike other places where such banks of the rivers has been transformed into picnic spots, the Sikkimese people has done an effective ethical work in maintaining the cleanliness of the place. In fact the state of Sikkim is the first state in India to have transformed into completely organic and may be considered as one of the cleanest state in India. The Rimbi orange garden not only provides a tranquil place amidst the organic farming but also helps us with some effective time with nature on the banks of the free flowing Rimbi river.
The road after Rimbi continues further north towards Khangchendzonga National park leading us to more fascinating destinations in West Sikkim which I shall explain in my next blog where I traveled further to the ancient capital of Sikkim called Yuksom. I must say such wonderful experience with both nature and history wouldn’t have been possible without the hospitality of the local people who gave us some relevant informations. I must also mention the delectable food that the hotel restaurant offered always concluded my day with a proper diet which is important in any trip. Keep following our website for my next blog on this entire trip across the most religious circuit in West Sikkim.