Located between Maenam and Tedong Hill at an altitude of 7,000ft, Ravangla in South Sikkim is dotted with pretty villages surrounded by alpine trees, and jaw-dropping views of the Himalayas. Khanchengdzonga, Pandim, Siniolchu, and Kabru are some of the major peaks that are visible from various points in the area. Here are 5 reasons why it must be on your Himalayan holiday list
On The Buddhist Trail
Sikkimi has some of the most stunning monasteries and Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Asia. For instance, the Buddha Park located about a kilometer from Ravangla town which features a 130ft statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha (consecrated by the Dalai Lama). About 60 tonnes of copper and some 4kgs of gold was used for the statue built in the repoussé technique, one of the oldest metal-working practices in the world. The statue looks stunning when it is lit up after sunset. The complex houses several eateries serving decent tea and coffee, and plates of alu dom-roti, momos or Maggi-Wai Wai bowls. You can also catch up on your gift-buying here. We particularly liked the silk cushions with Buddhist motifs and the diaries and notebooks by local brand, Sikkimis. Another must-visit is the Bon monastery - one of the two in India (the only other one is in Himachal Pradesh). The monastery at Kewzing is built in an Indo-Tibetan style, and is decorated with paintings of deities, and the Bon Buddha. It’s around 6 km from Ravangla along the Ravangla-Legship route.
Soak in a Hot Spring
If you have any aches and kinks to iron out, visit Ravangla’s two hot springs - Borong and Ralong, located within a distance of 7 kms from each other. High in sulphur, the steaming waters are said to have excellent therapeutic properties. Ralong can be reached after an hour-long walk from Ralong monastery. Borong is 7 km from Ralong, and a 40-minute walk downhill. You can stay in temporary tents and huts, but carry sleeping bags. Both are on the banks of the Rangit river, so you can soak in nature too. The area is also great for gentle hikes and treks. People from Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and other parts of the Eastern Himalayas have been coming to these traditional winter spas, spending weeks soaking in them. They are known as ‘cha-chu’ in local lingo.
Here’s a tip from a seasoned local: You have to do Sikkim’s three important hot springs in a cycle to get the maximum benefit – Borong first, then Polok, and finally the hot springs at Legship in West Sikkim. Or you can just do Polok and Borong. People come and camp for months to cure arthritis, gout, ligament injuries, back issues, skin diseases and even gastric problems. Temporary accommodation is available in the form of tents and huts. During season, stalls selling some vegetables and basic provisions come up.
Best time to visit is from November end to February. During the rains, the water source gets covered by landslides and water.
A Taste of Award-Winning Tea
Its next door neighbour Darjeeling may be famous for its tea, but Sikkim too produces world-class organic tea at Temi Tea Garden. Established in 1969 by the state government, the 453 acre area also has cardamom plantations, cherry blossom trees and enchanting views of Khanchendzonga. You can book a heritage stay at the dak bungalow and take a flashback trip to the days of the Raj. It has a glass verandah overlooking a poppy garden where you can enjoy a cup of Temi and some snacks. You can also sign up for tea tasting or view the tea-making process, and pick up packets of garden fresh tea. The road to the factory is lined with cherry blossom trees - it’s best to come here in winter when the trees are in bloom and the snow-capped mountain ranges are clearly visible. Temi Tea Garden can be reached by car or bus from Namchi, Pelling, Ravangla, and Gangtok. The nearest big towns are Ravangla and Namchi. Read more about it here.
Buy Handmade Paper
You must take time out to visit the small handmade paper unit in Borong village. About 17km from Ravangla town, it is housed on the premises of the Wildflower Retreat. This village cooperative produces handcrafted paper products. The paper produced is of different grades and gets exported to places like Singapore, Bangkok, Thailand.
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The women working here use the ancient technique of paper making using the bark of the papyrus tree which is scaled off, pulped down to make a paste with water, then put through a sieve. The resulting paper is textured and superfine. You can pick up sheets in different colours at the shop here, as well as diaries, envelopes, lampshades and paper figures. Read more about it here.
Meditate In A Cave
Located in Sangmoo village, in a quiet, thickly forested area, this is one of the four Sacred Caves of Sikkim where guru Padmasambhava spent some time in meditation. Around 1921, a lama of Kagyupa sect built a small monastery here. It also has three hermit huts, a rest house and a path that curves around the complex. It can get moss covered and slippery during (and immediately after) the rains. So be careful while making your way down.