Sikkim’s vast, unspoiled mountain ranges are a trekker’s delight and its sanctuaries and national parks serve up vistas of forests of silver fir, magnolia, rhododendron and primulas, the rich wildlife and even views of the majestic Mt. Khangchendzonga and the rank and file of its attendant peaks. In the final instalment of our three-part series on Sikkim's wealth of trekking and hiking trails, we look at four relatively unexplored routes.
Ravangla to Maenam Top Trek
This is a lovely little hike if you want to walk among ancient forests and see plenty of bird life without expending too much time or energy. Ravangla is located on the ridge between Maenam (3,230m) and Tendong (2,590m) peaks. It has a scrub forest, which is home to a number of Himalayan birds, including the verditer flycatcher, blue-fronted redstart, grey bushchat, dark-throated thrush, bluewhistling thrush, greenbacked tit and whitebrowed fantail. The forest around Ravangla is home to the laughing thrush, babbler, cuckoo and hill partridge. If you are lucky, you may even get a glimpse of the rare satyr tragopan en route to Maenam. There are small hotels and lodges to stay at Ravangla.
Walk through the main Ravangla Bazaar, past all the shops on both sides and follow the jeepable road for about 20 mins. This is the road that eventually leads to the Ralang Monastery. The road begins to climb and, after about 20 mins, there is a sign to the right marking the entrance to the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail now leaves the jeepable road and begins to climb steeply through the forest full of oak, chestnut, magnolia, rhododendron, small bamboo and abundant flowers, moss, ferns and creepers. Watch out for the rarely seen red panda, the Himalayan black bear and many species of deer. En route is a small hermitage containing the image of Guru Padmasambhava. Do stop by for a while.
The 4-hr steep climb along a welltrodden path brings the trekker to the top of Maenam (3,200m) that towers above the town. During spring, especially between March and April, the rhododendron display is quite spectacular. On a clear morning, the hilltop has a view of the peaks of the Khangchendzonga Range. The way down should not take longer than 2 hrs. Or, if you have a few more days, you may get a local agency to arrange a gentle hike from Maenam Hilltop to Borong Village, or follow the more treacherous trails down to Yangang Village.
Time 1.5 hours
The bridle path from Hilley to Barsey heads due north along the Singalila Ridge with views of the great Khangchendzonga. Being a gradual climb, the approx 4-km distance should take about 1.5 hrs. While it is possible to leave Hilley early in the morning and be back by lunchtime, it is certainly more fun to stay at Barsey for a night to catch the views and enjoy the rhododendron forests. For those who love nature but don’t relish sweating across long treks, the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary provides an ideal excursion.Located in the south-west corner of West Sikkim and spreading over 104 sq km across the ridge of the Singalila Range, it forms part of India’s natural international border with Nepal.
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The protected forest is home to silver fir, hemlock, magnolia and the rhododendron. During March and April, the trail is ablaze with beautiful rhododendron blossoms and is a delightful day walk with stunning views of the high Himalayas. There’s plenty of action for keen birdwatchers and photographers as well. u Entry permits Trekkers can easily obtain their required entry permits from the Wildlife Check-Post at Hilley Park.
Time 2-3 hours
One of the most amazing and easiest treks in Sikkim, the Barsey-Dentam Trek is a huge draw for adventure lovers and trekking enthusiasts. From Barsey, take the easy trail due north-east to Dentam. Check out the Alpine Cheese Factory here. Stay overnight at the Trekkers Hut or at Alpine Guest House. Or proceed to visit the popular Pemayangtse monastery, or Ravangla (69 km). You can also return to Sombaria or Namchi. Bus services and shared taxis are available.
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