Yumthang, situated at a height of 11800 feet is popularly known as "Valley of Flowers", Located at a distance of 148 kms from Gangtok, it is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and breathtaking scenic beauty. In spring season, wild flowers such as primulas and Rhododendrons bathe the landscape in rich colours, making it a tourist hot spot. The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary over here has 24 species of Rhododendron flowers which bloom from April to May end.
hot spring located on the right side of Yumthang river is a popular tourist attraction. In addition to a vast green meadow, lush green forest abounding in Pine and silver fir trees throngs the place. While driving towards the valley, one can see cascading waterfalls and streams.
Situated further up at a distance of 16 kms, at an altitude of about 16,000 feet is Yumesamdong. The rugged vegetation- free mountains, especially in the months of November-December and March- April over here present a breathtaking scenario. The approach to Yumthang is from Lachung valley, situated at a height of 8000 feet. It is at a distance of 120 kms from Gangtok. It has a unique self-governing body called the Dzumsa, which substitutes the modern Gram Panchyat. The village, spread out on the either side of Lachung Chu, has managed to retain its unique culture and tradition. If you are visiting Sikkim and don’t think that you will make it again in a long time to come, then do pursue a visit to Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. Why? Because you may not again see such stunning views of snow mountains and rivers anywhere else.
Dr. Joseph Hooker in his "Himalayan Journal" of 1855 mentioned that Lachung and Yumthang are the two most picturesque places in the whole of Sikkim and had even compared them to valleys of Switzerland.
You should plan your visit to Lachung and onward to Yumthang valley and Zero Point from Gangtok. It requires an overnight stay at Lachung before you can return to Gangtok next day. From Gangtok, after 66kms drive you will reach the small township if Mangan, and then Chungthang which is only 22kms before Lachung and is the nearest town. Along the way the river Teesta will be by your side and you can see a number of waterfalls and mountain springs.
Lachung means the "Small Pass" (so there must be a "Big Pass" as well? Yes, it’s another place called Lachen. From Chunthang a road bifurcates and leads towards Lachen). Lachung is a small mountain village at an altitude of 8,610ft and located about 118kms from Gangtok. Although the distance looks easy, it takes about 6 hours by car to reach Lachung from Gangtok, and the road although very scenic, is often not in good condition. Lachung is part of North Sikkim.
Although most come and stay at Lachung to visit Yumthang valley and Zero Point the next day before returning to Gangtok, you should not miss out on the opportunities which Lachung itself offers. Start early in the morning from Gangtok so that you can reach Lachung by 12noon and have enough time to explore the nearby area. The residents of Lachung who are mostly Bhutias call themselves Lachungpas. They have their own self governing body known as "Dzumsa" to settle all social and other disputes through consensus.
One of the nice places to visit here is the Lachung Monsatery (or gompa). It has wonderful wall murals and also several ancient statues. The monastery holds religious dance on 28th and 29th day of 10th Buddhist month (December). You should also visit the Carpet Weaving Center where you can see the local ladies weaving exquisite woolen carpets.
On your way to Lachung, you had crossed the town of Chungthang which is about 22kms away. You should take a halt here and watch the lovely confluence of the rivers Lachung and Lachen chhus which then join the river Teesta.
You should stay overnight at Lachung, and start early next morning. Yumthang valley is about 25kms from Lachung located at an altitude of 11,800ft and takes about 1.5 hours of drive. The name Yumthang Valley means "Valley of Flowers". So you know what to expect. But the name would have been more appropriate if it said "Valley of Rhododendrons". Because here as the tree line ends and the vast stretch of flowering valley exposes a dense bed of rhododendron flowers for miles and in many different colors like purple, blue, red, pink etc.
The rhododendrons bloom between March to May. Visit the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary which spans across 34 square kilometers area here near Lachung and has over 38 different varieties of rhododendrons. The sanctuary beats out its competitors like Dzongro, Barsey, Zema in Lachen because of its sheer variety and spread of colors. You can see some great species such as arboretum, grande, nivale, the state flower etc. State Forest Department holds International Rhodendron Festival here annually between March to May during the peak flowering season. Other than the wonderful views of vast valley of flowers, Yumthang also offers lovely views of the mountain peaks such as Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa forming the backdrop of the river Teesta.
Before entering the Yumthang Valley, a pedestrian pathway goes over a small bridge and reaches Yumthang Hot Spring. You will need to walk for few thousand yards to reach the hot spring. In such a cold climate, this surprisingly natural warm water comes as a pleasant surprise. The water is rich with sulfur and said to have good healing and medicinal value. The spring water here is directed to a hut and couple of pools inside so that one can take a healing bath here.
Further up and about 23kms from Yumthang at an altitude of over 15,000 ft is the place Zero Point (also known as Yume Samdong). It takes another 1.5 hours from Yumthang by vehicle (about 3 to 3.5 hours from Lachung). This is where the civilian road ends and you can’t drive any further and hence the name Zero Point. A short distance away from here is the border with China and tourists are not allowed to go any further beyond the Zero Point.
So what do you expect in Zero Point? While the road is quite treacherous, the rewards are awesome. Zero Point or Yume Samdong is the place where three rivers meet with surrounding snow-clad mountains and offering marvelous scenic views. You can often see yaks grazing in the snow. There is hardly any vegetation in Zero point other than some stretches of grassy land which becomes visible when the snow melts. Zero Point is the place which remains snow covered for most part of the year. So if you want to see and enjoy snow, then visit Zero Point and you won’t likely be disappointed. There are also Hot Springs in Yume Samdong at the river called Sebu chhu. How to visit Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point Only vehicles from tour operators who are registered with Sikkim tourism are allowed. Visit to Zero Point requires additional cost for vehicle. You need to take a tour package from an authorized tour operator of Sikkim.
Suggested Tour Plan from Gangtok (Only Lachung / Yumthang Valley)
Day1: Reach Lachung from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachung.
Day2: Star early, visit Zero Point, Yumthang Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and proceed to
Combined tour of Lachen & Lachung
Day1: Reach Lachen from Gangtok, overnight stay at Lachen.
Day2: Start early (4am), visit Gurudongmar lake & Chopta Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and
proceed to Lachung. Overnight stay at :Lchung.
Day3: Star early, visit Zero Point, Yumthang Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and proceed to
Best time to visit Lachung / Yumthang
April to May is a great time to go as the rhododendrons are in full bloom during this time, and Yumthang valley lives up to its name - the valley of flowers. Another good time is during Losar festival (held between February to March). This is when the locals in their full traditional costumes eat, drink and perform many cultural shows. Beginning of December is also a great time as you can see the monks performing mask dance at Lachung monastery. Permits As the China border is nearby, the whole area is under army control. Visitors require protected area permits (PAP) to visit Lachung/ Yumthang/ Zero Point. It can be made at Gangtok Tourism Office, District Administrative Center at Mangan, or at Chungthang Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s Office. However it’s best to leave it to the tour operator. What to carry If you are heading for snow in Zero Point, then rent an overcoat, a pair of gloves and snow boots from Yumthang market. Also carry enough warm woolens in all seasons as it can be biting cold at the higher reaches. Carry all your medication particularly for any high altitude sickness. There are no ATMs here, so carry enough cash.