- On 2021-02-20
70 km away from Gangtok in North Sikkim is Dzongu, a land reserved for the Lepchas – the original inhabitants of Sikkim. The Lepchas believe that if Life is spent in accomplishing good deeds then one is rewarded by attaining eternal blessing in Mayal Lang or in more common terms, Heaven. They also claim to be the proud pure-line descendants of the original inhabitants of the land of Mayal Lang and though this may be shrouded in fantasy, the heritage of the tribe is indeed a treasure as evidenced by the reservation of this beautiful land to only the Lepchas.
The terrain of Dzongu is amazing, unlike any place that you might have visited. There are icy cold rivulets that must be crossed only to be welcomed by hot water springs and then all of a sudden, there is a luscious green forest teeming with exotic flora and fauna. If one casts his eyes around, you are sure to witness at least about 5 mesmerizing waterfalls. And when you are in the middle of taking in all this heavenly beauty, clouds will come in and envelop the entire region occasionally, and then all of a sudden, there are sporadic light showers alternating with soft sunlight falling on you. Truly, the gateway to heaven, isn’t it? Dzongu has something for everyone, starting from honeymooners, to nature-loving travelers, to spiritual seekers and cultural enthusiasts.
Dzongu is a restricted zone for everyone who is not a Lepcha by ethnicity. Even Sikkimese citizens require to obtain a special permit to visit the place as do everyone else.
How to Reach -
To reach Dzongu, one has to cross the Teesta river. There are two entry points for Dzongu, one in the lower region and the other one in the upper region. The entry point in the lower region is near Dikchu and in the upper region, it is Sankalang or Sungklong. Earlier, one could travel from Lower to Upper Dzongu directly but however, in the year 2016, a landslide occurred which changed the flow of the Teesta river. This damaged the only bridge that connects to both the regions, leading to Upper Dzongu from the mainland. So to enter the Upper Dzongu region one can only reach through Sankalang or Sungklongentry points.
There is another bridge in Mangan where one has to park their vehicle at one side of the bridge and after crossing the bridge, another vehicle needs to be boarded till Tingvong or Lingzhi villages as the bridge is very narrow for a vehicle to cross. So one needs to cross the bridge by walking and get another vehicle on the other side of the bridge.
Best time to visit: Dzongu can be visited all around the year but the best time to travel would be from March to June. The monsoon months which start from mid of June to September should be avoided as it rains continuously in this region. The winters are very cold, bringing snowfall to some upper villages.
Distance from Gangtok: 73.2km (3hrs approx)
Nearby Places to visit in Dzongu -
- Hee Gyathang Monastery
- Tholung Monastery
- Kusheong Trek
- Lingzey Waterfalls
- Magan Bridge Walk
- Chopta Valley
- Thangu Valley
- Green Lake
Hee Gyathang Monastery -
Hee Gyathang Monastery is located in upper Dzongu which can only be reached through a hike as there are no roads for vehicles to get there. Hee Gyathang Monastery is 100 years old that was destroyed in September 2011 by an earthquake. The monastery was again built with the help of steel actions that were carried by 20 men piece by piece. The place is very peaceful and one can see distant peaks even more clearly as you move up towards this monastery.
Tholung Monastery -
Tholung Monastery is located at an altitude of 8000 ft and the monastery was founded in the 18th century by Lhatsun Chenpo Lama who was deployed to preserve spiritual relics and ancient manuscripts and keep them safe from the Gorkha invaders. Tholung monastery is a treasure of ancient Buddhist relics and manuscripts, religious scriptures belonging to the earlier Lamas and Chogyals as well as many holy artifacts. These treasures are put on display for the public once every three years in the Kamsil Ceremony under the supervision of the government of Sikkim. Reaching the monastery is not an easy task. The route to the monastery is an arduous 18-20 km trek from Lingthem and goes along the Tholung river through dense forests and cardamom groves. The monastery serves as a resting point for the trekkers on their way to Kusheong Valley. The present monastery was reconstructed in 1980 as the earlier monastery was ruined.
This is one of the most rewarding treks of Dzongu. You will pass through stunning sceneries and beautiful agricultural lands and the small populated Lepcha villages. Kusheong Valley is surrounded by tall trees and the valley is carpeted by seasonal flowers during June and July. There is a beautiful lake with crystal clear water that makes the place even more alluring. The hike from Dzongu starts at Passingdang and takes three days to reach Kusheong. In these three days, you will experience an unparalleled view of nature as well as see a variety of birds. You will also pass through the Tholung Monastery on this trek. The valley lies at an altitude of close to 5000 ft is nearly inaccessible for the most part of the year due to heavy snow. A clear sunny sky will make the day for the photographers. Kusheong trek requires a total of 6 long days.
The Lingzey Waterfall is the most beautiful waterfall in Dzongu. This waterfall lies at a distance of 8 km from Passingdang village in Lower Dzongu. This is a three-tiered waterfall dropping from a height of 250 ft. You have to cross the beautiful Charmel village and a large cantilever bridge to reach the falls. You have to hike through a surrounding forest and the sight and the sound of the forest are absolutely a delight to the senses. The scent of the fresh morning dew is also riveting. Once you cross the cantilever bridge and walk down for some time, you will reach the majestic Linzey Falls. Tholung River is the source of the Linzey Falls. There is a resting point near the waterfall where you can simply sit and gaze mesmerizingly at the waterfall.
Magan Bridge Walk
The traditional bamboo bridges are made from long sections of split bamboo and can be seen at Rungkyoung and Passingdong and above Tholung Monastery. These bamboo bridges are an ingenious feat of grassroots engineering. When a place for constructing these bridges is chosen, a skilled archer attaches a thin thread made of bamboo to an arrow and shoots it to the other side. Along this, two parallel canes are pulled over and attached on both sides. Currently, parts of the bamboo construction are usually replaced with thick metal cords to make the bridges more durable and easier to maintain. Crossing such bridges can be fun, but it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The bridge sways from side to side and underneath is the fast-flowing river. But if your soul is searching for adventure, then crossing the bridge is quite recommended.
Chopta Valley lies in the heart of the upper regions of Lachen, resting in the height of 13200 ft. It is 17kms away from Lachen the Chopta valley is in its most beautiful state one can find in all of Sikkim, Chopta Valley comes on the way to Gurudongmar lake the one can manage time to stop by and visit both the locations. The view of the valley will thrill your mind as you see the valleys and little houses, the snow-capped valleys, the valleys are covered with exquisite flowers, we can also see the Rhododendron, the state flower. Chopta valley cannot and should not be missed on your trip to Lachen. The trip to Chopta valley is a little off-beat trip than what the normal plan has to offer. The maximum temperature is 20 degrees and the minimum temperature is 10 degrees at the time of April to June. Chopta valley is the best for trekking when during trek there are many amusing biodiversities one will discover in the journey.
Thangu Valley is a small town where a small group of people has settled, it is 5km away from Chopta Valley, and hence is a beautiful place to visit and to spent time. Thangu valley is best when visited in the time of May, there are flowers blooming which gives you a great relaxation. Life would have never been that beautiful as you see the scenic beauty view of these astounding valleys and mountains. Thangu Valley is at an altitude of 13000 ft and will find amazing alpine vegetation. Thangu valley is the best spot for hiking with adventurous experiences.
Green lake happens to be the most famous place for trekking, it has a beautiful dense forest with exotic flowers like Blue poppy and a variety of flora and fauna. It is itself a wonderland in the midst of North Sikkim. The Lake is amazingly blessed with a breathtaking view of Mt Kanchenjunga.
It is settled at an altitude of 1437 m, and one is suggested to prepare oneself for the drastic climatic changes. This is the best place to start the trek and the beauty is worth the money and time spent by you. Green lake is one of the offbeat destinations in North Sikkim, it is one hidden solitaire of Lachen. Green lake is worth visiting, it has the most amazing views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. It is a true paradise to the visitors.
Chungthang is a small town in North Sikkim, the distance from Gangtok to Chungthang is almost 95 kilometers. The town has an Indian army base camp which also has a medical camp in Chungthang. Chungthang is not so very popular when it comes to vacation, it is not as popular as Yumthang Valley, Chopta Valley, etc. Therefore, this place is rich in biodiversity, there are numerous varieties of Orchids, plants, and animals. Chungthang is seated at an elevation of 1,790 meters, it is one of the offbeat destinations, not all include Chungthang into the plan, but it’s worth adding it in the plan, if you’re a nature lover and have a passion for photography this town is the best pick for you. Chungthang is not the perfect place for halt but definitely, it is the best place for scenic beauty and a close look at the biodiversity. It’s a small town and can be explored in a day.
In terms of accommodation, visitors can stay at any of the villages in Dzongu. The entire area is divided into Upper Dzongu, with villages like Tingvong and Kissong, and Lower Dzongu, with villages like Passingdong and Lingdong. If you are visiting during the months of December to January, then do not miss the Namsoong Festival, which has become quite an attractive festival of the year, attracting hundreds of people – both locals and tourists alike.
Here are some of the places we have mentioned, where you can make your perfect stay. Dzongu is a remote place where hotels are not available, the only means of accommodation is homestays.
- Mayal Lyang Homestay - Mayal Lyang means the ‘Hidden Land’ or ‘Land blessed by God’ in the Lepcha language. A small walk around the place will explain why we chose to call it so. Untouched by the tourist hustle bustle, this place has hidden treasures behind every other tree. Life here moves at its own pace. You tend to forget what it was back at your place.
- Rumlyang Homestay - Located just 20 min away from the main stand of Dzongu, will definitely give you an outstanding stay in this place. It is equipped with the best rooms according to nature's watch, homely food, hygiene washrooms and lots of exciting places to explore in nearby places.
- Dongu Lee Homestay - Dongu Lee is the only home that has taken seriously to provide travelers with proper services in terms of sanitation and other facilities. It has a well-fitted toilet & bath. Dongu Lee has five double-bedded rooms in a cottage-style house which is very much accessible from the road. The balcony provides a scintillating view of the adjacent hills on the opposite side including that of the meandering Teesta river which divides Dzongu from other parts of North Sikkim. Dzongu Lee rooms are simple but comfortable.
- Tingvong Homestay - This homestay is one of the best possible accommodations available at Tingvong village at upper Dzongu, maintained by Dupden Lepcha. Rooms are simply decorated with attached bathrooms, wooden furnished all over, food arrangements are available with the homestay.
Organic Food & Local liquor Tasting
The people of Dzongu lead a self-sustained life as far as possible. All the vegetables and crops are grown with organic manure. Apart from oil and the necessary spices, everything else one would get to eat will be locally grown. The Lepcha way of cooking is still on earthen ovens with log fire, using very little oil and spices, usually boiled or roasted. The fare is relatively simple but delicious. They even cultivate some varieties of fish in the natural lakes, which taste quite delectable. Almost all households have livestock of country chicken and sheep, which can also be made available on request.
Two locally brewed liquors are famous in this region and are commonly offered complimentary by the homestays. Chee is made from fermenting millets. Partially it can be equated to be an organic form of Beer. Generally served in hollow bamboo mugs with a thin bamboo straw to sip with, it packs a mild punch. Barack is brewed from some part of the cinnamon plants. Colorless in appearance, the taste is slightly pungent.
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 traveling 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.