Lachung, Yumthang & Zero Point Tour from Gangtok
Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point in North Sikkim are all about stunning views of snow mountains, magnificent valleys and rivers. 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.
Most tourists visit Lachung from Gangtok through a tour operator. It requires an overnight stay at Lachung before you can return to Gangtok next day. You can add one more day and easily combine the trip with Lachen/Gurudongmar Lake
before you return to Gangtok.
From Gangtok, 65kms ahead (about 2 hours 45 minutes drive) is the small township of Mangan
, which is the district head quarter of North Sikkim. All vehicles heading to Lachung or Lachen pass through Mangan. If you want to skip Gangtok, you can directly get to Mangan from Bagdogra airport or NJP station via Singtam (takes about 6+ hours drive), stay there overnight and proceed to Lachung/Lachen next morning. Hotels in Mangan can arrange such tours through local operators.
From Gangtok, there is a single arterial road known as North Sikkim Highway (also known as Gangtok - Chungthang Road) that goes all the way up to Mangan and then continues up to the next important settlement of Chungthang which is 30kms ahead of Mangan.
The river Teesta flows alongside the road from Mangan to Chungthang and you can see a number of waterfalls and mountain springs along the way. One of the best and popular waterfalls of North Sikkim is Naga Falls which is located 17kms from Mangan on the way to Chungthang. You will see many tourist vehicles making a stop here.
Naga Falls, North Sikkim
You need to walk over a footbridge to get to the base of this magnificent multi-tiered waterfall which comes down from high above through several stages meandering through large rocks.
At Chungthang, the road bifurcates... the one towards left (Lachen Road) goes to Lachen, and the other towards right (Chungthang - Lachung Road) goes to the village Lachung which is 22kms away. Chungthang is the nearest town for Lachung.
You should spend some time at Chungthang Town
(located 30kms from Mangan at an altitude of 5,870ft) and watch the lovely confluence of the rivers Lachung Chu and Lachen Chu which meet the river Teesta. Nearby there is a sacred stone (Naydo) having footprints of guru Padmasambhava.
Photo: Ankur Panchbudhe/flickr
About 11kms ahead of Chungthang towards Lachung (30 minutes drive) you will come across a wonderful waterfall known as Bhim Nala (also known as Amitabh Bachchan Waterfalls because a scene of the film 'Ankhen' was shot here with actor Amitabh in it). Take a break here for 10 minutes and enjoy the lovely view of the fall roaring down from high above and splashing into the ground near you. The sound of the gushing water can be heard from far and the water is really cold.
Bhim Nala, North Sikkim
Photo: Ankur Panchbudhe/flickr
There is a wooden platform made by the villagers (with bamboo and logs) so that you can go close to the waterfall, but you need to pay Rs. 10 per person to use the wooden platform (you can however view the waterfall from the road as well).
What To See & Do
While Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point (Yumesamdong) are the three primary destinations that are visited by general tourists on this route, there are several other exotic places at higher altitudes that are visited by the more adventurous and trekkers.
From Chungthang, the elevation keeps rising from 5,500 feet to over 17,500 feet as you go towards north reaching out towards the snow covered mountains near Tibet border.
The table below shows the places and how elevation rises along with distance:
1 hour drive
1.5 hours drive
1.5 hours drive
25 mins drive
Dongkha La Pass
3 hours trek
A high altitude trekking takes place from Zadong (16,030 ft) and goes through Dongkha La Pass (also known as Donkiala Pass) at 18,000ft (4kms), Tso Lhamu Lake (also known as Cholamu Lake) at 16,700ft (3.2kms) and then to Gurudongmar Lake
at 17,100ft (8kms). Note that Tso Lhamo Lake is a glacial lake and is the source of Teesta river.
A river that originates below Dongkha La Pass and known as Donkia Chu has three names at three different places. At Yumesamdong (Zero Point), another stream Sebu Chu meets it and then the river is known as Yumthang Chu. And at Lachung this same river is known as Lachung Chu.
As you approach Lachung from Chungthang, you will drive with the river Lachung Chu flowing on your right, tall cliffs to your left and mountain springs coming down the cliffs at several points.
Lachung means a 'Small Pass' (so there must be a 'Big Pass' as well? Yes, it's another place called Lachen
. From Chungthang a road bifurcates and leads to 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 due to snowing and occasional land slides.
Lachung River (Lachung Chu)
Photo: Jaiprakashsingh / Wikimedia Commons
Lachung is in North Sikkim. Although most come and stay at Lachung only to visit Yumthang valley and Zero Point 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. There are hardly any Nepali or Lepchas here. And the Bhutias that you see here had mostly immigrated from Bhutan many years back. However many Bhutias have also arrived in North Sikkim from Tibet as well, but they are mostly seen along Teesta valley and not in Lachung.
Photo: Nichalp, cc by sa 3.0
Mountains rise on both sides of the river Lachung Chu. Across the river is the main village of Lachung and perched on the mountain at a higher elevation is the Lachung Gompa. There is little farming land here as well... radish is one of the vegetables cultivated here. You can also see apple and peach orchards. The forests on the mountains look different compared to Chungthang... they are less dense here and full of oaks, maple and poplars. And there are lots of flowers and ferns as well.
One of the nice places to visit here is the Lachung Monsatery (or Lachung 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 (usually falls in December).
You should also visit the Carpet Weaving Center where you can see the local ladies weaving exquisite woolen carpets. The center is open on weekdays between 8am to 4pm.
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 hour 20 minutes drive.
Photo: Ajay kumar, cc by sa 4.0
Shortly after Lachung you can see a change in the foliage. Conifers including pines and mostly Morinda pines become dominant. Apart from this there are Himalayan larch... these are also conifers and can be as tall as 60ft. You can start seeing these larches at 8,000ft, lots of them at 10,000ft and then they start thinning out and disappear in 12,000ft. This is the only type of conifers in Sikkim that shed leaves in the winter and fresh leaves sprout in the spring.
There is a check post shortly after Lachung. During high season, there can be long queue of vehicles here. The situation can be quite chaotic and you may easily end up wasting about an hour here. So if you want to avoid such queue, you must start very early (even 6am start may not be enough).
Photo: Ajay kumar, cc by sa 4.0
Shortly after this, there is a road that crosses over the river to the right and goes up all the way to Tibet through Gore la Pass. You can not obviously go that far. However, you can go up to Katao along this route which is 28kms from Lachung. Katao is known for its stunning views of Mt. Katao and its snow peak. A separate permit is required to visit Katao. If you are longing to see snow, there is probably no better place in Sikkim than Katao. It is a venue for winter sports like skiing.
The main road towards Yumthang however continues straight ahead with the river flowing on its right. From Lachung, 18kms ahead towards Yumthang is Yakse, a land where yaks are herded.
Yakse is surrounded by the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary which spans across 43 square kilometer area and has around 24 different varieties of rhododendrons. The sanctuary beats out its competitors like Dzongro, Varsey, Zema in Lachen because of its sheer variety and spread of colors.
Flower at Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary
Photo: Satyakipal94, cc by sa 4.0
You can see some great species such as arboretum, grande, nivale, the state flower etc. Other than rhododendrons, there are flowers such as iris, primulas, cobra lilies, louseworts, poppies etc. The Rhododendron trees become shorter as you go at higher altitudes. You can't see all of these while driving along the road when approaching Yumthang. You should plan a separate visit to Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. State Forest Department holds International Rhododendron Festival here annually between March to May during the peak flowering season.
The name Yumthang Valley means 'Valley of Flowers'. But the name would have been more appropriate if it said 'Valley of Rhododendrons'. Because here as the tree line ends, 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.
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. Banks of the river Teesta here have become quite wide and are covered with pebbles.
Yumthang - Teesta river with backdrop of the mountains
Photo: soumyajit pramanick, cc by sa 2.0
A pedestrian pathway goes over a small bridge across the river 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.
Most yak herders live around this area of the hot spring and you can see their huts scattered around. Nearby there are couple of rivers - Yumthang chu and Puniya chu where you can do fishing if you have time. But for that you need to plan a longer stay at Lachung. About 2kms further north of the hot spring, there is a Shiva Temple. The area is guarded by army men and their dogs. All around is Alpine vegetation full of conifers like larch and silver firs... a magnificent sight.
Zero Point (Yumesamdong)
Further up and about 23kms from Yumthang at an altitude of 15,300 ft is the place Zero Point (also known as Yumesamdong). It takes another 1.5 hours from Yumthang by vehicle to get to Yumesamdong (about 3 to 3.5 hours from Lachung).
Lake between Yumthang and Zero Point
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Why is this place called Zero Point? Because, this is the last point up to which the tourist vehicles will usually take you. The civilian road ends at a short distance ahead, and shortly thereafter is the border with China, and tourists are not allowed to go any further. Hence the name Zero Point.
PRO TIP: Actually, the motorable road continues from Yumesamdong for another 7kms and ends at Zadong which is the actual Zero Point located at an altitude of 16,030ft. So if you can convince the operator, you can drive up to Zadong Zero Point. But there is nothing to see there.
So what do you expect in Zero Point (Yumesamdong)? There is no settlement here. While the road is quite treacherous, the rewards are awesome. Yumesamdong with surrounding snow-clad mountains is the place where three rivers meet and offer marvelous scenic views... the river Sebu chu comes from left and meets the river Donkia chu and creates the river Yumthang chu.
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 Yumesamdong at the river called Sebu chu. Donkia-La pass located 12kms ahead at an altitude of 18,000ft, connects Lachung Valley with Lachen Valley. As I mentioned earlier, you can only drive up to Zadong (7kms) and then it requires a 5kms trek to reach the pass.
At Zero Point you will find a few temporary stalls where locals sell snacks, Maggi noodles, eggs, chana masala etc. You can get tea/coffee (and surprisingly even alcohol). There are no toilet facilities here though. Note that due to the high altitude of Zero Point, oxygen in the air is low and there can be breathing problems for few. So you should avoid visiting the place with an asthmatic or an infant.
How to visit
Lachung, Yumthang and Zero Point are all in Protected Areas and only vehicles from tour operators who are registered with Sikkim tourism are allowed here. You will also need a special permit (described in the next section) to visit protected areas in Sikkim. Visit to Zero Point requires additional cost for vehicle. Authorized tour operator of Sikkim offer complete tour packages.
I would suggest that on the second day, start early in the morning and first visit Zero Point. This is because the weather conditions there can change any time and in the afternoon the visibility may not be as good as in the morning. On your way back, visit Yumthang Valley and Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. Also visit the small local market in Yumthang and scan through the small stalls selling clothes and knick knacks. Try out some noodles or omelet and tea.
Permits for Lachung / Yumthang
As the international border with China 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, you need to get it done through a registered tour operator of Sikkim... the application form should be submitted minimum one day in advance. Foreigners need to be in a group of two or more in order to visit Lachung/Yumthang (solo foreigners are not allowed).
Permits are not issued to children below 5 years (officially not allowed). It is not recommended that you try to take a kid below 5 years to Yumthang/ Zero Point, you will be likely stopped at a check post along the way.
Visit Sikkim Permits
for complete information about getting permits for touring various parts of Sikkim including Yumthang/Zero Point.
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 Gangtok.
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 Lachung.
Day3: Star early, visit Zero Point, Yumthang Valley, return to hotel, have lunch and proceed to Gangtok.
Indicative Tour Package Cost
Fare updated: March 2021
Note that North Sikkim tour cost can vary widely depending on several factors such as:
High or Low season. Usually the high seasons are between April 1 - June 15; September 15 - October 30; December 20 - January 5, and the rates are quite higher in high season.
Category of vehicle. A luxury package would usually include a vehicle like Innova, Scorpio or Xylo; while a budget package would include a Sumo, Bolero or Mahindra Max.
Category of Hotel - luxury hotel, mid-priced hotel or a budget lodging.
Your group size. A large vehicle can accommodate up to 7-8 persons. So more the number of persons, the per-person cost comes down.
Tour operator. High-end tour operators with established brand names would charge higher package rates, but they are more reliable than the unknown ones.
A 3-day/2-nights tour package from Gangtok to Lachung (including Yumthang, but not Zero Point) and Lachen (including Gurudongmar Lake) would cost around Rs. 30,000 for two persons in high season for a mid-priced package that includes mid-range hotels on AP plan (i.e. breakfast & dinner), local sightseeing on the way and a reserved vehicle like Sumo, Bolero or Max. The same package would cost around Rs. 25,000 in low season. The cost includes permit fees.
Operators in Gangtok also offer group tours to North Sikkim which operate on a per person basis making it easier for budget travelers. Up to 8 tourists are usually taken in a large vehicle. Indicative cost is Rs. 3,000/- per person for 1Night/ 2Days visit to Lachung & Yumthang which includes shared transport, accommodation in a budget hotel on a twin sharing basis, food, permits etc. A similar 2nights / 3 Days group tour that covers Lachung/ Yumthang as well as Lachen/ Gurudongmar
would be around Rs. 5,000 - 5,500 per person depending on season.
Where to stay
There are several hotels in Lachung. You won't find any accommodation in Yumthang or beyond. It's quite difficult to contact hotels in Lachung and Lachen over phone and make reservations. It's better to go through a Sikkim Tourism registered tour operator who can make the bookings and also arrange for necessary permits. You can suggest the hotel of your choice to the tour operator.
The best of the lot is Yarlum Resort in Lachung which is a luxury class hotel having 38 rooms and suites. Facilities include room heaters, 24 hours hot water, in-room LCD TV, tea/coffee maker etc, Library & DVD lounge, snooker/pool room, in-house multi-cuisine restaurant, in-house bakery, internet access through VSAT etc. Phone: 03592 281663; Mobile : 94343 30033 / 35; Email: [email protected]
Snow Lion Mountain Resort is a budget hotel with nice amenities and overlooks the Lachung village with great views of the mountains. There are balconies in each floor. Bathrooms have geysers with 24 hours hot water. Room heaters come at extra cost. However there can be power cuts. Rooms are all wood paneled with wooden floor.
The dining room too is partially wood paneled with low traditional seating and have a fire place. The over all service is nice although a bit laid back at times. Food options are limited. You need to order your meals in advance.
Phone: 03592 204116; Mobile : 94341 44194. You can book through worldmarcopolo.com.
Le Coxy Hotel in Lachung is a no-frill simple one with home-like atmosphere and modern amenities. It's a small hotel with 13 rooms and an in-house restaurant. Phone: 03592 201153; Mobile : 94343 18498
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. October to November is a great time for the views. November onwards you can expect to find lots of snow in the valley.
Beginning of December is also a great time as you can see the monks performing mask dance at Lachung monastery. 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.
Avoid visiting Lachung/Yumthang during the monsoon (mid-June to end-September), this is the time when there are possibilities of landslides and road blockades.... route in the higher reaches may remain closed. There is usually heavy snowing from late December up to end-February and sometimes route could be blocked.
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.
The eBook on Darjeeling & Sikkim is a great resource to plan your tour and get deep insights into various attractions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim including trips, tours and rides.
Pubali Banerjee (March 2022)
Hi Raj, I am planning to visit Sikkim in the second half of March along with my family. We want to visit Lachung, so can you please brief me about the current situation and how to get online permit if needed. Thank you in advance:)
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) March 2022
Hi, you can visit Lachung but need to follow all travel and Covid protocols as mandated by Sikkim. You can not get permits online for Lachung or for that matter, for any protected area of Sikkim... you need to go through an authorized tour operator of Sikkim.
Neelakhi Barua (February 2021)
Hi, I will reach NJP on 12th April 2021. Is it possible to reach Lachen/Yumthang Valley on the same day i.e. 12 April 2021? And do I need a permit to visit Yumthang Valley and if yes, how?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) February 2021
Hi, in general, it is not possible to reach Lachung on the same day of reaching NJP, unless your train reaches NJP early in the morning, you get your permits done in advance through an operator in Mangan, and you go directly to Lachung via Singtam and Mangan. You need a protected area permit to visit Lachung/Yumthang which you can get through an authorized Sikkim based operator either in Gangtok or in Mangan.
Saneesh K (December 2019)
We heard that zero point is closed for visit for the month of December, is it true?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) December 2019
No that's not true. In December you can visit Zero Point provided there is no road blockade due to landslides or heavy snow... which although can happen but not very common.
Rohan (September 2018)
Hi Raj, Thank you for detailed information. I am planning to visit Sikkim in last week of Nov 2018 with my parents who are around 60 yrs old. 1. Is it possible to visit Yumthang valley in Nov end?
2. Can we get seat of our choice in shared taxis? 3. Will share cabs wait for sightseeing on the way?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) September 2018
Hi, yes it is quite possible to visit Yumthang in November. However you may not always get a shared taxi (basically a shared tour package) because it depends on demand and are usually available in high seasons. You can request for choice of seats, but that may not be offered if others have already made similar requests. They can have limited sightseeing along the way (which would be included in the package... you need to check with the operator).
Priyanka (June 2018)
We have booked accommodation in lachung for Oct 2018. Can we book a separate vehicle or is it necessary to go through a tour operator? We do not want the whole package.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) June 2018
You need to go through a registered tour operator in Sikkim. If you have booked a hotel, you can ask them to exclude that from their package and include only the vehicle & permits.
C Nandakumar (May 2018)
Thanks for your detailed information about Yumthang valley and Zero Point. I visited this place on 22nd May 2018. Beautiful place and wonderful experience. Yumthang feels as a dream world. Thank u Sikkim.
Paul (April 2017)
Hi, Thank u for your great effort for providing a detailed information. Pls let me know How many days (minimum) required to visit Gurudomger lake and Yumthang Valley with a stay at Lachung... (from Gangtok). Is it possible to cover these two places with one day stay at Lanchung.. We are planning our trip and need to know the no. of days to be included additionally to visit these places. Thanks .
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) May 2017
You need one night in Lachung and one night in Lachen ... so 2 nights.
Ganesha B S (December 2016)
Hi Raj, Firstly thanks for the info. I and wife will be coming to Gangtok in Jan 2017. Would like to know is it possible to visit Zero Point during this time.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) December 2016
Depends on if the route is open (it could be closed due to heavy snowfall).
Dileep (September 2016)
Hi Raj, thanks for your valuable information regarding tour. I need a small information regarding Lachung excursion. I am planning to visit Yumthang valley/Lachung in 3 days 2 nights trip from Gangtok. So, can I book a taxi to Lachung (for one side only) and then book another taxi in Lachung for return? Are taxis available from Lachung to Gangtok? Your input will be very useful for my tour planning. Waiting for your valuable reply......
Raj (darjeeling-tourism) September 2016
Lachung being a protected area, you should go through a registered tour operator. Booking one way won't help because they will anyway charge two-way fare.
Shakuntala Pathak (March 2016)
We had contacted Kongchen group directly, co-owners of hotel Yangla in Lachen and hotel Golden Fish Lachung helped us save some bucks (about 20-21 thousand for 4 persons). However I will strongly suggest anyone interested to directly contact Ritesh Chattri, he was our driver and an excellent one. He saved our family from a extreme snow storm at Gurudongmar, and he can arrange the entire trip for you at a far less rate provided by hotels or travel agents who charge commission. Hs contact number is 08972464815.