The famous Yumthang valley in North Sikkim lies 140km north of Gangtok. Lachung provides the base for exploration of Yumthang, the valley of flowers. Situated at an altitude of 11800 ft ( 3564m) with a close proximity of Tibet, Yumthang is a unique place where the tree line ends, but rhododendron and primula still bloom covering the whole area in a surreal shade.
Yumthang Valley also offers views of a stunning array of peaks with Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa. The best season for visiting the valley starts in late February and continues up to mid June, when thousands of colourful flowers are in full bloom. However, to enjoy a clear sky and brilliant view of snow-capped mountains, the September – December season would be ideal. During the summer months, villagers take their cattle to these heights to graze (a practice known as yaylagpastoralism). In view of increasing number of tourists, there is possibility of environmental degradation in the near future.
The Valley has an astounding, over 24 species of Rhododendrons which paint the Valley red in spring. Rhododendrons are shrubs or trees, and different species of Rhododendron cover different large stretches of the Valley. In spring, the Valley looks like a collage of little forests of different colors. The flowering of Rhododendrons is over by May end. During monsoons, starting in June, the Valley blooms with all kinds of tiny Himalayan flowers, like the Primroses, Cinquefoils, Louseworts and Cobra-lilies. This is a much more enchanting scenario, but takes a keen viewer, with an eye for detail, to truly appreciate. A number of hot springs are scattered in the valley providing an unexpected opportunity to feel the warmth of the water even in freezing temperature. Rich in sulphur these springs are believed to have miraculous healing power.
There is no accommodation available at the valley. Visitors may stay at Lachung from where the valley is about an hours drive. Accommodation in Lachung is basic and can not be compared to other destinations in Sikkim. Lachung has been described as the “most picturesque village of Sikkim” by British explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker in his definitive, The Himalayan Journal (1855). Skiing is conducted in Phuni near this town. The region has been opened to tourists during the recent years although trekking is still not allowed. Tourism infrastructure in the area is still very basic but fast improving. The road to Yumthang from Gangtok follows the Teesta River, crossing a spectacular gorge over the Rang Rang suspension bridge. The last major town is Chungthang about from where Lachung is an hours drive where tourists stay overnight.
The experience of visiting Yumthang Valley should not be missed. From the beautiful drive through breathtaking forests, the awe-inspiring views of the mountain ranges and peaks, the added attraction of staying at the wonderful hamlet of Lachung, and finally the incredible Yumthang Valley itself – tour operators in the area ( who are your only option for visiting locations in North Sikkim ) generally offer a 2 night, 3 day package, and with a little care in picking one with a good reputation – you can surely count on having one of the most pleasurable and memorable holidays of your life.