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Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary


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Lying in the southwest corner of the West Sikkim district, Barsey is well known for its vibrant and colourful Rhododendron flower. This sanctuary encompasses over 104 sq.km across the razor-sharp Singalila Range which forms the natural international border with our neighbouring country Nepal. Having three points of entry into this sanctuary from Hilley, Dentam and Soreng but both tourists and trekkers prefer entering through Hilley since it is easily approachable by road. The bridle path from Hilley to Barsey is a favourite among tourists especially during the Rhododendron flowering season and the faunal treasures of the sanctuary include Leopard Cat, Himalayan Yellow Throated Marten, Himalayan Palm Civet, Himalayan Langur, Crimson Horned Pheasant, Monal Pheasant, Kaleej and many diverse species of birds. Hence Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is a treasure trove for wildlife and birding enthusiasts and is therefore frequented by a number of wildlife photographers and ornithologist enthusiasts throughout the year.

Spanning over the razor-sharp Singalila range of mountains, the climate of the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is characterised by being wet and cold, thus favouring the spread of the dominant genus of flowers in the area – Rhododendron. July, being the wettest month, receives an average annual precipitation of over 250 cm and the areas above 2500 m sea level receive regular snow falls during the winters. The period from November to May experience the clearest skies, characterised by a bright shade of azure blue. The sanctuary also boasts of over 40 species of Rhododendron and during the blooming season, the sanctuary is blanketed in a sea of colourful rhododendron flowers. To witness this majestic sight, it is best to visit during the season of the flowers which falls between March and May. The period between July and September is the wettest and is best avoided. The second trekking period starts from October to December, when the skies are clear with little to no haze, thus making the viewing of Mt. Kanchenjunga and the snow-capped ranges are clearly visible. Though there are no rhododendrons blooming during this period, the sanctuary is exquisitely beautiful and is sure to satisfy the wildest of souls.A beautiful trekker’s hut going by the name of Guras Kunj is located at Barsey, in the middle of the sea of Rhododendron at 10,000 feet commanding a gorgeous view of the Singalila Mountain Range. Trekkers can spend the night at this hut and soak in the warm rays of the sun here while breathing in the fresh mountain air and enjoying a panoramic view of the rugged Singalila Range. 

 

How to reach -

The trek through Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary can be approached from a number of entry points ranging from Dentang, Soreng and Hilley. The small town of Hilley in West Sikkim however, is preferred out of the three owing to its proximity to a motorable road. There are taxis available from Gangtok to Hilley which is roughly 130 km away. If not you can take a taxi to Uttarey and walk the trek begins at the Hilley gate and continues for 4 km from Sombaria to Barsey, the first campsite. Though most tourists choose to end the trek at Barsey, passionate trekkers who want to carry on the need to hire a local guide who is familiar with the area and arrange for camping provisions as well as porters. The next stretch is a mix of treks both uphill and downhill. You will pass plenty of wide-open meadows that offer extensive views of the surrounding mountains as well as numerous little mountain streams.

Best time to visit

Although dependent on the weather, usually the flowers start blooming in March and reach their peak in April and early May.

Distance from Gangtok - 110.6km (Approx 4hrs)

 

Why visit

A trek through the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in spring is like experiencing paradise itself. Entire hills are covered in hues of bright pink and deep red against the sapphire-blue spring skies and the snow-covered peaks of the Kanchendzonga make for quite a visual treat. The fragrant mountains echo with dozens of bird calls.

Nestled between the Kanchendzonga Biosphere Reserve on its north and the Singalila National Park on its South, the sanctuary—a protected area—stretches over an area of about 104 sq km on the Singalila range of the Eastern Himalayas in West Sikkim. So gorgeous does the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary look that the revered British botanist, Joseph Dalton Hooker, gave these blooming rhododendrons the sole credit for the glory of the entire Singalila range when he visited it in the 1800s. Ranging from an altitude of about 7000 to 14000 feet, the flora of the sanctuary ranges from broadleaf and coniferous forests to alpine meadows.

 

Things to do and see

The sanctuary is one of the best places to visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers. It offers scenic views of the Khangchendzonga Mountain and attractive blooms of rhododendron flowers. Also, it has several trekking trails like that from Uttaray and Dentam. 


 

Trek

 

The hike from Hilley to Barsey Wildlife Sanctuary is a short trek of about 4 km. The route is easy and can be covered in 1-2 hours. Most tourists start early, reach Barsey, explore the forests and return on the same day. The trail inclines gradually through the colourful Rhododendron forest. In the short walk, one will walk past many glacial streams. The slightly wider streams have wooden bridges over them. The forest explodes with a burst of colours with the pink and white flowers dotting the entire route.

 

With changing landscapes, the grassy trail ascends and descends slightly and on the way, one gets to witness a beautiful view of the Kanchenjunga range which is the major highlight of the trek. A camping ground on the premises of the Guras Kunj is where seasoned trekkers prefer to camp overnight. A small trek to a nearby hillock can also be undertaken to witness a spectacular sunrise.

 

Tips

 

1. Make sure you carry warm clothes irrespective of the fact that what season you are travelling in.

2. Carry your own trekking gear and equipment and be always prepared.

3. Carry a medical aid kit and your usual medicines for the way.

4. A good pair of trekking shoes is a must.

5. Carry rain gear no matter if you are travelling during monsoon season.

6. Make sure you obtain all the permits well in advance required for trekking in the region.

7. Make sure you carry spare batteries as there will be no electricity supply.

8. A well informed and trained guide is very important and do make sure to sort out all trivial things well in advance to avoid misunderstanding.

 

Accommodation

Rabdentse Residency - Hotel Rabdentse Residency is a standard leisure hotel located at Pelling at about 7,000 ft above sea level in West Sikkim. This hotel comes with 16 rooms overlooking the mountain and valley with a colour TV, attached bathroom with a hot water supply and simple amenities. The F & B area includes a multi-cuisine restaurant and other facilities include doctor on call and laundry. It is recommended for those looking for no-frills accommodation to explore the area. 

Norbu Ghang Resort - The Norbu Ghang Resort is a resort at Pelling, West Sikkim. This resort is located in Upper Pelling overlooking Mt. Kanchenjunga, which is equipped with 32 rooms designed like cottages, charming interiors and private balconies. Each room enjoys spectacular mountain views. In-room amenities include colour TV, heaters and tea/coffee maker. F&B areas include a multi-cuisine restaurant and a bar. Conference and banquet facilities available. Other facilities include doctor on call, laundry and safe deposit lockers. Recommended for individual and corporate travellers and honeymooners.

Hotel Dubdi - Hotel Dubdi is a simple hotel located in a picturesque valley in Upper Pelling in West Sikkim offering a panoramic view of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Standard leisure hotel in Upper Pelling offering views of Mt.Kanchenjunga. This hotel is equipped with 18 rooms categorised as Deluxe and Super Deluxe rooms with colour TV, ceiling fan and attached bathroom with hot water supply. F&B option includes an Indian restaurant. A laundry facility is available. Recommended for inbound travellers and those seeking a no-frills stay option to explore the area.

Norbu Ghang Retreat and Spa - Norbu Ghang Retreat & Spa is a boutique mountain resort at Pelling offering stunning Mt. Kanchenjunga views. A boutique mountain resort at Pelling. Spacious rooms furnished modern amenities, fireplace and windows opening up to beautiful mountain views. F&B areas include a Himalayan Café serving freshly baked items and local dishes. Wellness options include traditional stone bath Other services include travel desk, laundry, doctor on call and internet. Recommended for holiday travellers and getaway seekers looking for a Himalayan experience. 

Aryan Regency - Hotel Aryan Regency is a simple hotel overlooking a scenic location at an altitude of 6100 ft at Pelling. This hotel is located in Lower Pelling at a scenic location. It is equipped with 17 rooms categorised as Super Deluxe Room and Suite. In-room amenities include a ceiling fan, blow heater, TV, tea/coffee maker, wall to wall carpet and attached bathroom with a hot water supply and room service. F&B areas include a multi-cuisine restaurant, terrace garden cum restaurant and a bar. Internet connectivity is available. Party hall for events. Other facilities include doctor on call, laundry and a library. Recommended for budget travellers.

 

 

Nearby places to visit

Darap Village: Darap Cherry Village is among one of the few undiscovered places where travellers look for the taste of rural life where they can escape from the annoying tourist crowds. The word Darap originated from the limbo word ’Tan-lop’ which literally means a plain or even land. It is located just 8 km from Pelling on the way to Khecheopalri and Yuksam. The area is mainly inhabited by the Limboo Community and other small communities like the Bhutias, Chettris, Tamangs, Rais, Gurungs and Lepchas live in harmony. 

This village is in the interiors of the Himalayan belt and was discovered recently, and prepared for tourism. The local people known as Limboos have preserved their rich culture and traditions for ages and are extremely welcoming by nature. There are a lot of tourist-related activities that can be done in Darap village like trekking, traditional house visits, handicraft making, bird-watching and visiting the caves at Kanchenjunga National Park etc.

Khecheopalri Lake: Khecheopalri Lake, originally known as Kha-Chot-Palriis a lake located near Khecheopalri village. Located 34 kilometres to the northwest of Pelling town, this lake is believed to be a wish-fulfilling lake. The Khecheopalri Lake has gained more popularity because of the fact that leaves are not allowed to float on the lake as they are picked up by birds instantly whenever they see a leaf floating on it. Due to this reason, many people wait near the lake to witness the magical moment in front of their eyes. The celebration of various Buddhist festivals have also attracted various devotees of Lord Buddha and they spend most of the time in the temples near the lake. The stunning Khecheopalri Lake lake is an integral part of Buddhist monasteries. Due to its rich biodiversity, it holds a lot of importance in terms of eco-tourism and pilgrimage. The sacredness and the purity of the lake are preserved to date.

Geyzing Town: The capital city of the West Sikkim District, Geyzing, also known as Gyalshing is located at an altitude of 6,500 feet above sea level with lofty and majestic mountains of the Himalayan range surrounding the city. The river Rangeet surges in the western part of the city. Keeping aside the scenic beauty of nature that can be seen in Geyzing, there are many monasteries situated here that make it a major tourist attraction. Geyzing is one of the major towns in the West District of Sikkim as well as the district headquarter. The town is also famous as Gyalshing among the local people and is located at a distance of 10km from Pelling. With the increase in the number of tourists travelling here every year, Geyzing has become a tourist hotspot and it is the main trading and commercial town of this region too. Yangtey, a hilltop which is a few kms away from here, is sited on top of a cliff and offers a beautiful scenic view. Straight down is the river Rangeet and up ahead you can see the marvellous Kanchenjunga Mountains. Apart from its natural picturesque beauty, Geyzing is also famous for the monasteries which are visited by several Buddhist pilgrims.

Yangtey: At an altitude of 6000 ft, Yangtey is a small village lies very close to the town of Pelling in Sikkim which is famous for the amazing views of Mt. Kanchenjungha that this place offers. The scenery here is marked by magnificent peaks of the Eastern Himalayas covered by clouds. The ancient monasteries located at Yangtey are a great example of ancient art culture and quite a specimen of the past. Yangtey is a delicate hamlet just 9 km from Pelling, lying nearby to many tourist attractions such as Khangchendzonga waterfalls, Khecheopalri Lake, Rimbi Waterfalls, Rabdentse Ruins, Sewaro Rock Garden, Temi Tea Garden, Geyzing, Legship and Pemyangtse. Apart from the splendid sight of the Himalayas, Yangtey also has a name for its beautiful Tashigang Resort lying amidst plush green gardens and lawns. A trip to the Khecheopalri Lake, which is known as one of the holy lakes in Sikkim will be the highlight of your holiday.

Sangachoeling Monastery: Located at the top of a ridge in the town of Pelling, Sikkim, Sangachoeling Monastery was established in the 17th century by Lama Gyalwa Lhatsun Chempo.Also spelt as Sange Choeling Monastery, this is one of the oldest monasteries in Northeastern Sikkim. In order to reach this place, one has to walk for at least 40 minutes through the forest on a steep hill slope but the end result is absolutely worth it. Stepping inside the Sangachoeling Monastery, you notice various ancient wall paintings, statues, unique clay structures and scriptures that date back to the 17th century. From Sangachoeling Monastery one also gets an opportunity to witness a spectacular view of the snow-clad mountains and lush greenery around it. The fact that the building was restored to its former beauty after catching fire has become the major highlight of the monastery. Due to this reason, people who come from anywhere in the world visit this prestigious Sangachoeling Monastery building to have a close look at the ancient artefacts. 

 

Mode of Reach to Sikkim

Sikkim Helicopter Service: Bagdogra is also connected with Gangtok by daily helicopter service operated by Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation, and it takes only 20 minutes to reach Gangtok from Bagdogra. The 5-seater helicopter makes travelling to Sikkim easier, along with being an incredible way of witnessing the majestic state, like never before. The passengers on this helicopter are awarded a Certificate of Participation by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation.

Road: Siliguri is more or less the main gateway to Sikkim. National Highway 31A connects Gangtok to Siliguri. The scenic lush green forests on the banks of river Teesta on one side and the Eastern Himalayan range on the other side make the drive worthwhile. As stated earlier, public vehicles including buses, shared jeeps and auto-rickshaws are available from Siliguri to Gangtok, Kalimpong, Kurseong, etc. at frequent intervals. You can also opt for a private cab from Siliguri to travel further.

 

Railway: Sikkim does not have a proper train network. The nearest major railway station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) which is about 6-7kms from Siliguri and 130 km from Gangtok. Very few selective trains pass through Siliguri, which is approximately 114 km from Gangtok. Onward journey from Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri railway station is possible by road.

 

Air: The nearest accessible airport to Sikkim is in Bagdogra which is approximately 124 km from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. Bagdogra airport has both public and private transport options for the onward journey. 50 meters away from the terminal building, the local taxi stand has both shared and private jeeps for Darjeeling, Siliguri, Gangtok etc. Further down, around 700-800 m from the taxi stand there is good availability of public buses and shared autos for the same.

 

Sikkim is not just a tourist destination. This is a region where a visitor and also as a local resident can lead a content stay with all the basic and primary amenities at your doorstep. The place is the ultimate example of enjoying a blissful life in serenity. It is away from the regular chaos of the city but has all the elements that you need to lead a city life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WeCare Holidays to make the trek through Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary a memorable experience.

 

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