A holiday in South Sikkim guarantees views of pictureseque hills and valleys, along with lush greenery, forests and fascinating monasteries.

The headquarters of the district (South Sikkim), Namchi is located a mere 78km away from Gangtok, and is a great recourse for those travellers who want to avoid the sharp twists and turns of moun-tain roads typical of north and west Sikkim.

The name Namchi, or ‘sky-high’, seems to be an overstatement, since the altitude here is no more than 5,500ft, but there are some fine views of the Khangchendzonga Range to be enjoyed. Additionally, the town hosts a flower festival in April–May, as well as the Namchi Mahotsav in the months of October–November.

Shailan Parker
Rolling mists enveloping Namchi's landscape
Rolling mists enveloping Namchi’s landscape

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The gigantic 135ft-high statue of Guru Padmasambhava towers over the forested ridge of Samdruptse, located 7km outside of Namchi. Samdruptse literally translates to ‘wish-fulfilling hill’ in the Bhutia language. The resplendent copper, pink and bronze image is seated on a colossal lotus plinth and faces south. The guru is shown in the Nangsi Zilnon form, or “prevailing over appearances and existences”. He is seen holding a vajra (thunderbolt) in his right hand, a skull in his left, and under his left armpit is the trident of the king of death.

This huge edifice is one of South Sikkim’s highlights, as much a tourist attraction as a place of spiritual importance. It was completed in 2004 and inaugurated by the Dalai Lama, and is said to have cost close to ₹7,00,00,000 to make. Within the complex is a hall with a permanent photo exhibition, exhibiting some-what random archival images from Indian history. You could take a taxi to the statue and back to Namchi, or even walk to the town, as the road that leads back passes by the 16th-century ruins of Ngadak Gompa and Fort. One-way taxis cost around ₹400, and a round-trip approximately ₹600.

Entry ₹10; Foreigners ₹50 Timings Sunrise–sunset

Located between Namchi and Samdruptse is the Namchi Rock Garden, which houses many plants.

In what seems to have become a David vs Goliath friendly competition, the Padmasambhava statue now has to compete, for tourists’ attention, with a massive statue of Shiva that is located within the Char Dham complex. This complex is located on the Solophok hilltop, 5km south of Namchi, and aims at constructing replicas of Hindu pilgrimage sites. There are temples and pagodas on the hill, with the Shiva statue as the most prominent one. 4D Simulator shows (Entry ₹50) are held on the premises.

Courtesy Sikkim Tourism
Massive statue of Guru Padmasambhava at Samdruptse
Massive statue of Guru Padmasambhava at Samdruptse

On your way to Namchi, do visit the Temi Tea Estate, located en route from Gangtok on the Tarku-Damthang Road. Established in 1969 by the Sikkim government, the 450-acre tea garden is one of its kind in Sikkim. The Chogyal had initiated tea growing in Sikkim with a small plantation in Kewzing. From here, the plantation was moved to Temi and a proper processing plant was constructed. The garden sprawls on a gentle slope originating from Tendong Hill and is a great stopover for those looking to experience life as it was during colonial times.

Where to Stay and Eat

Stay at the Cherry Resort (Cell: 09800013666; Tariff: ₹3,000–4,800), located in the Temi Tea plantations. Seven Hills Resort (Cell: 09831095234, 09647783038, 09830203973; Tariff: ₹3,000–4,500) is in Phalidara, 4km from Namchi. Dungmali Guest House (Cell: 09434126992; Tariff: ₹1,000–4,000) is on Solophuk Road.

Mayel Hotel (Cell: 09832427557; Tariff: ₹1,200–2,500) and Green Valley Lodge (Cell: 09832499807; Tariff: ₹500–1,000) are both located near the bazaar. Club Mahindra Baiguney (Tel: 03595-276575; Tariff: ₹7,500–9,000) is a luxury option, 22km from Namchi.

 FAST FACTS

When to Go March to May; mid-October to December

Tourist Office

Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, MG Marg, Gangtok, Tel: 03592-209090, Permits: check , W sikkimtourism.gov.in

GETTING THERE

State Sikkim

Location Close to the Sikkim-West Bengal order, in the South Sikkim District, lying at an elevation of 1,675m above sea level

Distance 78km SW of Gangtok

Route from Gangtok NH710 to Namchi 

Air Nearest airport: Bagdogra (112km/ 3.5hrs). Taxi ₹4,500–5,000; take a taxi with a Namchi permit

Rail Nearest railhead: New Jalpaiguri (107km/ 3.5hrs). Taxi ₹4,500–5,000

Road From Siliguri (102km/ 3hrs), take NH31A to Melli via Teesta Bazaar. From Melli, follow the Rangeet river to Jorethang. Before the suspension bridge at the town’s end, take a right to Namchi Bus From Siliguri, there are good connections to Jorethang. Shared jeep ₹250 per head (min) to Namchi (19km)