Q.Â My parents, both senior citizens, and I are planning a trip to Sikkim in the summer of 2017. We are interested in sightseeing and enjoying nature, rather than visiting overcrowded tourist spots. We are open to good homestays too. May I request your recommendations for a travel itinerary spanning 5-6 days, including accommodation? We will travel from Kolkata.
What a good choice: Sikkim is perfect for a quiet, relaxing, green holiday. Equally, this is also an excellent place to experience the intimacy and warmth of a homestay, of which there are now plenty. You don’t indicate a budget for your trip, but since you’re travelling with elderly people, I’m basing my recommendation on what will be least taxing for them.
Sikkim can be accessed either by rail or air from Kolkata. It’s best to fly to Bagdogra, from where Gangtok is 4hrs by road. For an unhurried trip, I’d suggest that you limit the travel to just two places. Spend two or three days in Gangtok and the remaining at one more destination. In Gangtok, those looking for a stay at a remove from the city should head to the Hidden Forest Retreat. Located 3km from town, the hotel is family-run and offers the intimate feel of a homestay. It’s set on three lush acres of land, with a garden alive with the soothing sounds of nature. Much of the food is sourced from the in-house organic vegetable garden. Tariffs start at â‚¹3,000 for doubles; see hiddenforestretreat.org. This is the most luxurious yet homey stay in Gangtok, but cheaper homestay options include Tamang House (from â‚¹1,250 doubles; gangtokhomestay.com) and Reep Lee (â‚¹1,200 per person; sikkimhomestays.com). All of these can advise on sightseeing in and around Gangtok for the time that you choose to spend here.
Next, a recommended destination is the Yangsum Heritage Farm, located in Rinchenpong village, about 40km west of Gangtok. A 19th-century farmhouse was converted into a gorgeous homestay. Set in idyllic countryside with the great Kanchendzonga for backdrop, it offers a perfect rural experience and also an excellent base from which to take gentle hikes (walks, really), go birdwatching, and the like. The folks here can also organise tours of the surrounding monasteries. Tariffs are in the region of â‚¹5,000; see yangsumheritagefarm.com.
If Yangsum is over-budget, try basing yourself at Yuksom, also in West Sikkim (4.5hrs by road from Gangtok). The Limboo Homestay here is not luxurious but is set in a lovely garden (â‚¹1,000; limboohomestay.com). Or consider Dzongu in north-west Sikkim, home to the Lepcha community (70km/3.5hr from Gangtok). Gyatso Lepcha, a passionate advocate of ecotourism, runs a simple but charming homestay called Mayal Lyang, and offers an immersive experience of the Lepcha way of life (from â‚¹1,500 per person; mayallyang.com). The same folks who run Reep Lee in Gangtok have a Dzongu homestay as well (â‚¹1,200; sikkimhomestays.com).