Best places to visit in South Sikkim
The southern district of Sikkim has varying altitude…you will find areas ranging from 2000m to 400 m altitude. Sloped terraced farming sloped and rich agricultural lands mark south Sikkim… this is one of Sikkim’s most fertile zones though area wise it’s the tiniest of all 4 zones. Namchi is the capital of South Sikkim and its most important destination.
There are other beautiful destinations in South Sikkim too…each with its unique brand of charm. Learn all about the popular spots and unexplored upcoming destinations in South Sikkim.
Easily the most popular destination of South Sikkim, Namchi has been now developed as an active centre of religious tourism. All the four holy dhams of India have been replicated in Namchi and there is also a gigantic statue of Guru Padmasambhave. Another important religious attraction in Namchi is the Samdruptse Hill which is supposed to possess mythical wish fulfilling properties…incidentally this was once a volcanic site.
There are two important festivals that happen each year in Namchi…the Gold Cup football tournament held in Baichung stadium is the first event. The second happens in February…the annual flower show (the largest in Sikkim) which stars a mind boggling array of orchids. In October a number of mid-scale cultural and food festivals happen in Namchi. Though not known as a shopping destination…Namchi has a bustling town market which is stocked with interesting souvenirs and handicrafts. The town square of Namchi and the Central Park is a pleasant place to pass time.
The ngadak monastery, doling Gompa, shirdi sai mandir and pilgrimage centre, namchi rock garden are other beautiful attractions around Namchi. Another great place to visit is Namchi Helipad that’s a largish open space commanding views of the char dham, town and the Kanchenjungha peaks.
Best time to visit: March to May the weather is pleasant in Namchi while September to November is another good slot.
Location and route: Namchi is quite close to Ravangla.
Namchi is 90 km away from New Jalpaiguri and 96 km from Bagdogra (takes about 3.5 hours by cab). Tourists travelling to Ravangla (26 km away from Namchi) also halt at Namchi for sightseeing. You can get pre-paid taxis from bagdogra airport and New Jalpaiguri station to Namchi. Gangtok is about 78 km away from Namchi. State buses are also available from Gangtok.
A sleepy town in South Sikkim, Ravangla has recently gained a lot of attention because of its gigantic gleaming golden Buddha statue. The newly constructed Buddha Park is another significant step of the Sikkim government in the direction of religious tourism. Ravangla is actually a ridge top settlement and its backdrop is scenic. You can see the mountain ranges from almost all points of the town.
A few restaurants, parks, bars and a lively market are all that’s on offer apart from some very old and famous monasteries. Notable amongst these are the ancient Ralang Gompa, Palchen Monastery, Mane Choekhorling Gompa and Yungdrung Kundrakling. Ravangla is a great base for trekkers such as Ravangla Maenam trek and Ravangla Khechupelri trek. Another great reason for travelling to Ravangla is to use it as a base for Peling, Namchi, and Kaluk etc.
Best time to visit: summers and autumn i.e. between March to May and September to October.
Location and Route: from Bagdogra airport, Ravangla is 124 km away and the Jorethang road is usually availed to reach it (you will pass Namchi and Melli junction on the way).
Borong - Birdwatchers' Paradise
Borong is a quaint little hamlet in south Sikkim and at an easy driving distance from Ravangla (ideal for a day trip). Other than marvelous views of Kanchenjunga peaks, nature's beauty and wonderful eco loving people, Borong is known to attract many avid bird watchers.
Perched prettily on the banks of Rangeet River... Sikip is one of the emerging tourist destinations of South Sikkim. You will hear it referred to as an anglers paradise… there are plenty of streams here teeming with fish and the laidback ambience is perfect for day long fishing trips. River rafting down the Rangit is a preferred activity here. Many tourists who come here prefer to camp under the stars. Sikip has temperate climate…you can visit it at any time of the year.
There are no proper hotels in Sikip. However there are a few homestays run by the villagers as extension of their homes.
Best time to visit: all year ….however March to May & October to December are great times.
Location and Route: Can be reached from Gangtok in 5 hours via Legship and from Darjeeling via Jorethang.
Jorethang is one of the biggest towns in South Sikkim and it sprawls on the foot of the hills that’s near the Rangit River. It’s not at a very high altitude (only 300 m above sea level) and that’s why it claims temperate climate all year through. The principal attraction of Jorethang is its Akar Suspension bridge. If you travel about 500 meters north of this bridge you will reach a pretty temple called the Sisne Mandir. Jorethang is surprisingly near Darjeeling (only 30 km) and thus tourists visiting Darjeeling can easily fit in Jorethang in their schedules. The grand Maghe Mela which has a lot of cultural activities, local handicraft and food festivals and musical extravaganzas take place in Jorethang in January.
Best Time to Visit: all year though, the winters are scenically more beautiful
Location and Route: Jorethang is very near Darjeeling…all vehicles which travel from Peling, Gangtok etc. to Darjeeling go via Jorethang. Most major towns of North Bengal and Sikkim will have private cabs running to Jorethang.
Tendong Hills and State Biodiversity Park
Tendong has been well known as a popular trekking destination in South Sikkim. The tendong Hill trek starts from Damthang that’s 13 km away from Ravangla. The trek starts from the Damthang bazaar and is 6 km till Tendong Hill Top…it will take 5 to 7 hours to accomplish this trek.
This is a smallish stretch of land flanked by verdant forest cover on a hilltop. Incidentally these forests are considered to be holy as the Lepcha tribe pray inside them. It is said that Tendong has a deep connection to spirituality…the lamas who have committed their lives to meditation had chosen Tendong as the site for their hermitage. This is a great place to enjoy the loveliness of nature and to embark on long treks to the numerous attractions nearby. A few places you can plan treks or a drive to are Temi Tea Estate, Borong
Incidentally Tendong doesn’t have too many good accommodation options… mostly tourists prefer staying in Ravangla/ Damthang and then travelling/ trekking to Tendong.
Tendong state biodiversity Park is located on the southern slot of the Tendong- Maenam ridge and it sprawls across 255 hectares of land that are lush with alders, walnuts, bamboo, cane and oak along with a variety of medicinal and flowering plants. You can find squirrels, barking deer etc. inside the park and you can go on long sprawling walks. This is one of the must visit places if you visit Tendong/ Maenam or Namchi.
Best Time to Visit: Best visited in spring and summers i.e. between March to June.
Location and Route: the state biodiversity park is 14 km away from Namchi. Many buses and jeeps travel from major cities of Sikkim to Namchi and from Namchi one can easily take a bus or cab to reach the park.
Tourists usually combine Maenam, Tendong, Namchi, and Ravangla in one trip though all these individual places can also be targeted as a separate holiday destination.
Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary and Maenam Hills
If you travel to Tendong then a visit to the Maenam wildlife sanctuary should also be there on your schedule. This wonderful sanctuary is just above the Tendong hill and occupies about 37 sq. km. The high altitude and diverse terrain of this sanctuary makes it ideal for treks, nature walks and bird watching. There is an immense variety of fauna inside. You can find red panda, marble cat, barking deer, common hill partridge, civet cats, goral etc inside. There are also incredible variety of birds including several types of pheasants, blue necked Pitta, magpies and common hill partridges.
Botanists and believers of naturopathy find Maenam fascinating as it reportedly holds some of India’s finest medicinal herbs. The 37 sq. km area also holds grand treks like the famous one to Maenam peak that starts from Ravangla, goes through alpine forests and reaches the peak and even continues further to Bhaledunga (it will take a trekker of average competency 4 hours to trek from Ravangla to Maenam peak).
The Maenam hill top is at an altitude of 10,300 feet and has excellent views… you can see the Bengal plains as well as the Kalimpong and Darjeeling hills. Just a little distance away is Bhaley Dunga that remains suspended at an odd angle above the Yangyang village. From Maenam hill a trekker can take an easier route to Borong village or the challenging route (as shown by the legendary Botanist Joseph Hooker) to Yangyang village.
Don’t miss the antique looking Maenam Gumpa (built in 1969) that’s on the top ridge of the Maenam sanctuary. There is no formal lodging here. Camping is possible though.
Best Time to Visit: November to May is a good time to get clear view of the mountain peaks. However in winter it snows at the upper reaches of the sanctuary.
Location and Route: The sanctuary is 26kms from Ravangla (takes over an hour by taxi) and 65kms from Gangtok (takes about 3 hours by taxi).
The greater Rangeet zone of south Sikkim has a lovely expanse of tropical forests which is proposed to become the Kitam Bird sanctuary. This zone covers the foothills of the outer Himalayan region and has steep valleys and deep gorges…you will find wild orchids, giant bamboo shoots and wild bananas here in abundance along with luxuriant sal and pine covers.
Bird lovers have been flocking here for ages to catch sight of Rufous necked Hornbill, chestnut breasted partridge and great pied hornbill, peafowl, vultures etc. apart from other migratory water birds. Birders usually stay in Sumbuk that has multiple tribal dwellings and a great ethnic diversity. Sumbuk village has a trekking point (Kolompe rocky mountain), breeding forests of peacock (south sumbuk slope) and phool dhara hill top. It’s a quiet unassuming place that is slowly gaining recognition as a worthwhile tourist destination amongst the general tourists.
Best time to visit: summers, autumn and winters are ideal for visit. Rains are heavy here so it’s best to avoid this place between Julys to September.
Location and Route: Sumbuk enjoys good connectivity to Siliguri via NH 31 and is only 110 km away. It will take about 4 hours to reach by taxi.
Temi Tea Gardens
Sikkim’s only tea garden is a great destination for tourists looking for a different kind of experience. Most of the tea produced here in this 453 acre large garden is exported and the flavours are delicate with a completely different twist that allow them to be demarcated from the Darjeeling Teas that Indians seem to prefer more. The tea garden sprawls all over a mild hill slope that begins from the Tendong Hill and creates the scope of a majestic view of the nearby terraced slopes and villages. The approach road and surroundings are filled with pine and prune trees and there are numerous walking trails all around.
There is a cafeteria, tea shop and gift shop inside the tea garden. There is also the privately managed Cherry Resort inside the compound and they have excellent mountain views from all rooms. The resort is open whole year through… in Christmas and New Year there are incredible celebrations with local song and dance routines while in spring magnolias and rhodenderons bloom in nearby woods and birders take advantage of the birding season to spot the lesser shortwings, kalij, satyr tragopan. Trekking and touring options are also plentiful. This region has beautiful plantations of cardamom and cherry blossom trees.
You can make a booking by calling or mailing
Phone. +91-8016488737, 9800013666
Alternatively you can also stay in the Heritage Dak Bungalow which is a government undertaking. The tariff plan here is much lower though accommodation inside is limited to the two bedrooms of the bungalow. There is a pretty poppy garden facing the bungalow that adds to its charm.
You can make a booking by calling or mailing:
Phone: 033 25299689
Tea processing tours can be pre-arranged in the Temi Tea Gardens even for day visitors. Of course if you stay inside the Cherry Resort or the Dak Bungalow then you get to learn about the various aspects of tea making in greater detail. Interestingly Temi tea gardens uses organic manure only in accordance to the IMO guidelines and this contributes to the preference of International buyers for Organic Temi Tea. If you happen to stay here you can get Tea at affordable prices from the Tea Garden employee consumer cooperative society operated shop.
Best Time to visit: visit between Octobers to February if you want clear mountain views. November and December are the best months for nature lovers who want to see the cherry blossoms in their full splendor.
Location and Route: Temi Tea Estate falls on the borders of South Sikkim. Tourists travelling from west (Pelling) to south (Ravangla) often visit Temi Tea Estate on the way. Tourists from Gangtok to Namchi and Ravangla also pass through the Temi Tea gardens.
The best way to reach here is by private hired car or taxi.
Gangtok to Temi Tea Garden is 55.3 km
Pelling to Temi Tea Garden is 68.8 km
Ravangla to Temi Tea Garden is 21 km
Siliguri to Temi Tea Gardens is 119 km