Deep in the interiors of the remote North-eastern Himalayas, India Untravelled takes you back in time in a village of small tea farmers near Darjeeling , and then transports you on foot through breath-taking landscapes, to the lost kingdom of Sikkim, the last state to be annexed by India in 1975.
On this intimate journey from Darjeeling to Sikkim: Introduction to the Northeast Himalayas, you find yourself plucking, rolling and sipping the world’s finest organic teas on a family-run mountain farm. You hike along undulating hills covered by tea plantations, surrounded by majestic mountains, through charming villages, and finally across the Rangeet River, to Sikkim.
You acquaint yourself with Sikkim in its laid-back capital city of Gangtok, staying at a B&B-café-bookshop, where coffee and conversations flow smoothly. Your journey continues into the heart of West Sikkim, where you stay in a beautifully restored heritage Sikkimese hut built with natural materials, overlooking the snow-capped peaks of the Kanchendzunga Range (visible on clear days) and set amid an organic farm of walnut trees, orange orchards and seasonal vegetables.
We recommend that you ditch private cabs on this trail, and adopt the local mode of transport – shared taxis, the fabric of life in this remote region. For INR 100-300, shared taxis give you a chance to interact with locals on long journeys, and in a state with no public transport, are environmentally more efficient than private taxis.
There is much to love on this trail. The mountains echo with chants and prayers from Sikkim’s many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. The locals, although initially shy, slowly warm up and are always up for a chat. The Sikkimese cuisine is an indulgence in organic, healthy food. Momos, Wai-Wai (instant noodles), and the locally brewed Hit Beer (must try!) are sold everywhere. And the serenity of living in the lap of the revered Mount Kanchendzunga for a few days is something that words can’t describe.
Pluck, roll and sip organic tea: Staying on a small tea farm in the mountains of Darjeeling district, you can trace the journey of the world’s finest tea from leaf to cup.
Local brews: Keep warm the way locals do – sip from a bamboo stem with a bamboo straw, the warm thomba,fermented from millets. Try the locally brewed Hit Beer in Sikkim.
Colonial tea estates: If Darjeeling conjures up images of sprawling tea estates for you, you’ll find yourself surrounded by one just minutes from your tea farm; only you and the tea, as far as you can see.
Hike from Darjeeling to Sikkim: A mostly flat and downhill walk from your tea farm to a southern village of Sikkim, along sprawling tea estates, rolling hills, dense forests and the Rangeet River. You walk into Sikkim across a rickety bridge above the river!
The café culture of Gangtok: Stay in a B&B with a café and bookshop, and sample the alternative art scene of the city.
Traditional Sikkimese homestead: Indulge in the old-fashioned luxury of a traditional Sikkimese farming estate (stones in the lowest layer, wood above, and a tin sheet cover), restored from the late 1800s.
Organic farm food: Indulge in seasonal organic veggies and fruits grown on the farm, and cooked with Sikkimese recipes. Try the famous Bhutanese Ema Datchi while you’re at it!
Village walks: Discover Sikkim on foot - quaint mountain villages (isolated homes as opposed to clusters), monasteries hidden away atop isolated hills, valleys wearing colors in summer and a white coat in winter.
The Darjeeling to Sikkim: Introduction to the North-east Himalayas trail is a perfect introduction to the natural beauty, culture and life in this remote region. This trail can be customized based on your travel days and interests.
PLEASE NOTE: You need a medium level of fitness to embark on this trip. Reaching the farm in Darjeeling involves walking down for 10 minutes on a stone path, and the walk from Darjeeling to Sikkim takes 5 hours (mostly flat and downhill, some uphill stretches). You’ll be helped with your luggage but need to carry yourself ☺
Days 1 & 2: Farm-stay at an organic tea farm in the Darjeeling district
The Darjeeling to Sikkim: Introduction to the North-east Himalayas experience can start in Bagdogra, which is connected to the rest of India by domestic flight connections and is the nearest airport to both Darjeeling and Sikkim. Or at the New Jalpaiguri train station in Siliguri. From Siliguri, you can hop onto a shared taxi, and drive 3 hours to Darjeeling town. You will be picked up from Darjeeling town, to travel further to the village of Mineral Spring, an hour away.
Your first farmstay is quietly tucked away in a valley surrounded by the mighty Himalayas, where locals organically grow tea, seasonal crops and vegetables on small patches of land. Staying in a cozy hut designed with local materials, tea bushes grow and are pruned and plucked right at your doorstep!
Spend your time at the farm plucking, rolling and sipping the world’s finest black tea. Take a dip in the natural in-house pool on a warm summer afternoon. Chat with your host, who has grown up in these mountains, about life in Darjeeling. Get a first hand perspective on the separatist Gorkhaland movement. Read, write, paint, draw, do the things you love, in the quirky outdoor cafe at the farm, with the mighty Himalayas forming an inspiring backdrop.
Walk a few minutes away from the farm to find yourself in a sprawling tea estate stretching into the horizon. Go on a guided walk along the hills slopes of Mineral Spring, stopping for traditional lunch in a village home. Take a day trip to Darjeeling town and discover its sights if you must. Or walk in the surrounding mountains, chat with the hill folk, shadow the tea pluckers, refill that cup of tea, and reminisce about the colonial times gone by.
*Day 3: Walk from Darjeeling to Sikkim
Partake of one of the most unique (and local) experiences in the eastern Himalayas! You walk from Darjeeling, along tea estates dotting the landscape, past charming hill villages, through stunning mountain trails, into dense forests, across the pristine Rangeet River, and on a rickety river bridge, to Sikkim. If you’re lucky and the skies are clear, you’ll catch glimpses of the snow-capped Kanchendzonga Range every now and then. This is a gentle walk, flat and downhill in most parts, with only some uphill stretches, and takes 5 hours on an average level of fitness. You cool your heels in the river, take photography and resting breaks, and indulge in a packed picnic lunch along the way.
In the first village of Sikkim across the border, you taste your first plate of momos and the locally brewed Hit Beer – indulgences that make the ache in your feet worthwhile!
A taxi will meet you with your luggage at the border, and drive you to Gangtok.
You tuck in at a Bed & Breakfast (B&B) in quiet part of Gangtok, 10 minutes away from the hustle-bustle of the city’s happening MG Road.
Days 4 & 5: Explore Gangtok
Thus begins your acquaintance with Sikkim. Your B&B is set close to one of Gangtok’s quiet residential areas, and literally at your doorstep is a charming bookshop and café, where you’ll be served breakfast. Browse through books by authors from Sikkim and the region, and spend hours chatting with your host over delicious coffee and sandwiches – this is your best chance to sneak a peak into Sikkim’s alternative art scene and discuss everything from local books and food to travel and politics!
Over the next two days, explore the sights and sounds in and around Gangtok. Walk to MG Road for your first traditional Sikkkimese meal, find your way to a local monastery in the late afternoon (usually 4pm) to join their prayers and chants, drive to Sikkim’s biggest monastery at Rumtek, catch a panoramic view of the city from the Hanuman temple top, and treat yourself to hot chocolate and a great view at Baker’s Café. Get chatting with the friendly locals, and hear about the transition of Sikkim from an independent kingdom to India’s last annexed state – stories that will soon be lost in time.
Days 6, 7 & 8: Stay at a traditional heritage house in West Sikkim
Hop on to a shared taxi from Gangtok in the morning or afternoon, and make your way like the locals do, up the winding mountain roads to a small village near Rinchenpong in West Sikkim.
Villages in Sikkim typically comprise of individual homes scattered across the mountain slope, and not clusters of homes together as in many other parts of India. And so when you arrive at your estate, it’ll be you with the mountains, snow-capped on clear days, misty on others. Meet your host, who has grown up on this very estate, believed to have been built in the late 1800s, and transformed the surrounding land into an organic oasis of walnut, mandarin and rhododendron trees, and seasonal veggies.
Cozy up in the old-fashioned luxury of your hut, climb up to its small loft to feel the tranquility of the mountains and spot colorful birds, indulge in traditional Sikkimese dishes cooked from farm to table, chat with your friendly host about life in these remote parts, walk down into the valley of red rhododendrons for spectacular views of the mountains beyond, or just do nothing in the lap of Mount Kanchendzonga (visible on clear days from the farm).
Spend your time in West Sikkim exploring the surrounding villages and monasteries on foot. Stroll back in time to traditional Bhotiya and Lepcha houses, catch glimpses of everyday life in these isolated villages, chat with the friendly locals, visit the local bazaar for a hot plate of maggi, join the monastery chants in the afternoon and feel the mountain echo with prayers, spot rare species of birds, and do day trips to the nearby villages of Yuksom and Pelling if you like. But most of all, slow down, soak in the natural beauty, let the calm of the mountains soak your soul, and fall in love with the simple joys of life in Sikkim.
On the last day of your trip, take a shared taxi to Siliguri to catch your flight or train home, carrying with you fond memories and stunning photographs of your journey from Darjeeling to Sikkim in the northeast Himalayas!
*Note: The walk is only for Indian nationals as international tourists are not allowed to cross into Sikkim from this point.
Contact us at email@example.com to get the detailed itinerary for this trip or to book your dates.
Twin sharing: INR 23,500 per person
Solo traveller: INR 37,700 per person
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Best time to visit:
The best months to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim are from October to April, when the weather is pleasant during the day, chilly at night, and chances of clear skies are high. Nature is unpredictable, and whether you can see the snow-capped Kanchendzonga Range or not, is really upto your luck! The locals expect the clearest skies in October / November. Monsoons paint Sikkim a lush green with seasonal waterfalls, but also bring leeches to the hills – so the months from June to August are best for rain lovers.
You need a medium level of fitness to embark on this trip. Reaching the farm in Darjeeling involves walking down for 10 minutes on a stone path, and the walk from Darjeeling to Sikkim takes 5 hours (mostly flat and downhill, some uphill stretches). You’ll be helped with your luggage but need to carry yourself ☺
What to pack
Weather in the mountains can be quite unpredictable. It’s best to pack in layers, and be prepared for warm, sunny afternoons as well as cold evenings. Carry good walking shoes, umbrellas, sunhats, essential medicines, binoculars for birdwatching, and a camera to capture some unforgettable moments. Don’t forget a good water bottle so you can refill filtered water at your accommodations instead of buying plastic mineral water bottles.
“Thank you so much for arranging everything. The three of us thoroughly enjoyed our stay at all the three places and our hosts were more than wiling to help us with whatever we wanted. The trail from Darjeeling to Sikkim was splendid and I am looking forward to more such trails. Overall, we had a great experience.”
~ Susan, travelled with friends in October 2014.
“The Northeast Experience was among the best trips I have ever taken in India. India Untravelled's careful curation of accommodation and activities enabled a rich, varied, comfortably-paced and unforgettable experience. Our group of three women enjoyed interacting with local hosts and guides, observing rural lifestyles and being close to some of the most pristine natural areas in India. The Darjeeling to Sikkim trek and the homestay in West Sikkim were the highlights of our trip, and we will recommend this experience to any adventurous and discerning traveller.”
~ Manda Foo, Singapore, travelled with friends in February 2015
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