Sikkim in Winter: Visit North East India’s Winter Paradise
Winters are approaching and so are holidays. If you are exploring the winter destinations in India, do not miss out the North East, especially Sikkim. Sikkim in winter is a wonderland. Think of those picturesque postcards of winter and they come to life in Sikkim. The cold season comes with low temperatures. Snowfall is common, the landscapes turn white with a pristine cover of snow. The mountains peaks look wonderful, frozen lakes, acres of forests, and a chance to drench in pretty snowflakes descending from heaven tempt you for a vacation.
The charm of Sikkim is such that it gives most winter holiday destinations in India and the world a run for its money!
Winter Weather in Sikkim
The average temperature in winters in Sikkim ranges from 10 degree Celsius to 4 degree Celsius, even dropping as low as 0 degrees Celsius. The cold season arrives by November and continues till March. The high-altitude areas of this North East mountainous state are draped in snow and snowfall is a common occurrence. In fact winter is the best time to visit Gangtok.
Places in Sikkim You Must Visit in Winter
A beauty in the winter, Gurudongmar Lake is a popular tourist attraction in Sikkim. One of the highest alpine lakes in the world, it is not only known for its spectacular beauty, but is also revered as a sacred lake by Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. After an arduous travel though rugged terrain with little vegetation and human population, get to the azure lake. Why you must visit this lake in winters is, that no matter how low the temperatures fall, a part of the water never freezes completely. The lake is a vision in winter one that you can’t afford to miss!
Located in close proximity to the China Border, visit to lake is not allowed for foreign tourists and even Indian nationals require special permissions from the Indian Army.
Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake
Located at an altitude of 12,310 feet, Tsogmo Lake also known as Changu Lake is one of the famous high altitude lakes in India. Come winter and the lake is all the more breathtaking. The most amazing winter experience in Sikkim brings you to the lake. The water body freezes up in the cold season and the thrill is that you can walk on the frozen surface.
Even in its frozen glory, the lake is a beauty as you can easily look through the ice to the water below. The deep blue sheet of ice acts like a mirror, reflecting the ever-changing colors and moods of the sky. Acquire a permit from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department of Sikkim for visiting Tsomgo Lake. Gear up for the cold winds before making your trip.
Nathu La is one of the high altitude mountain passes in India, the highest in Sikkim. It is the border post between India and China. A breathtaking beauty, the mountain pass is one of the must visit tourist sites in Sikkim. A land of perpetual cold, it’s the winter months that make it all the more exhilarating.
Draped in snow the mountain pass looks out of the world. Marvel at the exquisite scenery, pay a visit to the actual border that separates the two countries. The mountain pass may be closed in case of snowfall, therefore get permission from Gangtok before you travel to the exciting and treacherous route to the mountain pass.
A spectacular beauty, Yumthang, the ‘Valley of Flowers’ of Lachung in North Sikkim is one of the best places to visit in winter in India. Set an altitude of 8,800 ft above sea level, in the cold season the valley is covered in snow. As far as the eye can see, there is a pristine white landscape. The beauty is unrivalled in the sunrise and sunset as the entire valley turns into a riot of colors during sunrise.
Adventure sports also abounds in the valley. Yumthang is one of the best places for skiing in North East India. A very lesser known fact, the Yumthang Hot Springs also draws tourists in the winter season. Said to have therapeutic value, the lukewarm water soothes the body, mind and soul. The valley is also one of the favored winter destinations for honeymoon couples.
Teesta River is the lifeline of Sikkim, one of the places to not miss in the North East. It’s the hub of watersport adventure like river rafting. The river is full from the recently passed monsoon, the river has a strong flow in winter. The cold season is a good time to plan for a visit coupled with adventure. The river has a series of rapids of varying intensity of flow. There are rapids of grade 2 to 4. Rafting is provided by many organizers offering an experience for both swimmers and non-swimmers.
The point of Sangam, confluence of Teesta and its tributary Rangeet River remains frozen in winter. It is among the favorite spots for travel and landscape photographers as the frozen realms are quite enchanting.
One of the must visit places in Sikkim that lures travelers throughout the year is the beautiful town of Pelling. Located at a height of 7200 ft above sea level, snowfall is guaranteed in the cold season. The entire town looks like its straight out of a fairytale.
Marvel at the frozen waterfalls, the breathtaking views of the snow covered panorama especially the Kanchenjunga Peak. Try out the thrilling adventure options like trekking and mountain biking. Forget the worries of daily life and escape to pure bliss of the mountains. It’s truly a refreshing experience of a holiday in the North Eastern state.
Things to do in Sikkim in Winter
The serenity of the weather coupled with the serene monasteries, a winter holiday in Sikkim is not complete without a visit to monasteries. Pay a visit to the Rumtek Monastery which is counted amongst the largest and oldest monasteries in Sikkim. An ode to the Buddhist cultures and traditions, this monastery is also known as the ‘Dharma Chakra Centre’. It is a perfect place to attain mental peace and know more about Buddhism.
The other popular monasteries to explore in the cold season include Pemayangste, Phodong, Phensang, Dubdi, Enchey, and Ralong among many others. Learn about the vast history and heritage of Buddhism. Winter is also a great time for many celebrations that you must not miss.
Trek to Dzongri La
The Yuksom Dzongri La trek is an exhilarating trek in not just Sikkim but the North East and especially in the peak of winters. The trek commences from the Dzongri in the Kanchenjunga National Park following the route to HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) base camp.
Named among the best winter treks in India, trek through dense forests of Himalayas proceeding towards snow covered landscapes finally reaching the most mesmerizing vistas at an altitude of 4,170 m. The view of 16 Himalayan peaks from Dzongri peak, include Mt Kanchenjunga, Oklathang Valley, and many more, is the reason why you should not miss this winter trek. Not just the adventure and the view, the trek is special because of its opportunity to experience the cultures of Lepchas, Bhutias, Subbas and Limboos.
Adventure abounds in North East, paragliding in Sikkim is one of them. Fly like a bird in the clear blue skies, it’s one of the best things to do in Gangtok. The view of the spectacular surroundings, snow covered mountain peaks, cities and hamlets, player flags fluttering in the wind tempt you to take up the adventure. Even in winters, it’s possible to embark on this adventure. You have the choice of tandem flying or trying the adventure by yourself. There are quite a number of organizers offering the adventure to try.
Yak ride in Sikkim is an activity you must try. The huge and gentle yaks are the mode of transport here. Slowly and steadily, the yaks cover the tough terrain exposed to natural extremities and even in areas when there are no roads. A yak ride is exciting as the gentle beast makes way through the tough terrain at a steady pace.
The adventurous activity is available even in winters. Yaks are dressed in woolen knitwear over the horns and forehead and strings of bells. Yak rides in Sikkim are available near Tsongmo Lake and the Dzongri trek.
Enjoy the Sikkimese Nightlife
The peaceful ambiance of Sikkim hides a secret, an exciting nightlife. The capital city Gangtok is a popular place to spend the night in. From pubs, bars, casinos, nightclubs to live casinos, there are quite a number of pleasures. The celebratory nightlife is made all the more special with the winter festivals, and especially Christmas and New Year. The fun factor of the parties are the local drink of the mountain state, Chaang which is quite tempting has a low price. Enjoy the nightlife in Gangtok, it is actually one of the best things to do in Sikkim.
Shopping on MG Road
MG Road is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok. Shopping here is truly exciting as it is full of amazing wares. Have a look at the Chinese Feng Shui items like laughing Buddha, Dragons, New Year Lamp, dresses worn during Tibetan festivals. Also check out the hand-woven blanket, carpet, wooden and bamboo items. Hunt for bargains and good souvenirs. The handicrafts are especially of note, but do check out for authenticity. Shop till your drop filling your bags with fond remembrances of Sikkim.
Attend Colorful festivals
Festivals are a part of Sikkim’s culture. Winter welcomes a number of celebrations in the mountain state. Rituals, traditions, dance, music, performances, prayers and many such celebrations are a part of the festivals in Sikkim.
Some popular winter festivals in Sikkim you must attend are
- The Gangtok Winter Festival organized by the Tourism Department of Sikkim.
- Mangan Music Festival, a three day music festival from 12th to 14th December every year.
- Losoong, the Sikkimese New Year celebrated inside the Phodong and Rumtek monasteries.
- Losar – the Tibetan New Year, a three day celebration with prayers, chanting, folk music, dance drama, and many more performances.
- Kayged Festival, an excellent opportunity to witness the famous ‘Cham’ dance of masked monks in the monasteries.
Accommodation in Sikkim
A winter holiday in Sikkim is truly amazing but it comes with a lot of preparation. Pre-book your hotels and accommodations to avoid being stranded in the cold season. The favored winter holiday destination in India is visited by families, adventure lovers, honeymoon couples and even the solo backpackers. The North Eastern state has some of the best tourist facilities. Accommodation is available in options of 5, 4 & 3 star hotels, homestays, hostels and many others.
Food & Drinks
Sikkim has a blend of Tibetan, Nepalese, Bhutanese and Indian cultures which reflects in the food. The lip smacking delicacies of Sikkim not only tantalize your taste buds but helps you sustain the cold temperatures. The most popular food items include, momos (dumplings), thukpa, phagshapa, sha phaley, gundruk, singpi, instant maggi noodles, etc.
Chaanga is a local drink of Sikkim. Brewed locally, the drink is used in parties and almost every celebration. Cheap and quite a delight, have a sip of the drink of your holiday in Sikkim.
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