Discover the Bhutias (12 days)

A little girl and her reflection, Darap village, near Pelling, Sikkim

©Sukanto Debnath

specialThe Bhutias are the landowners and the aristicrats of Sikkim. Their ancestors migrated from Bhutan through Tibet.  Their culture is very much like Tibetan in that they practice Tibetan Buddhism, momos and noodles  are a large part of their daily diet and the women wear the long dress called Bhaku similar to the Tibetan chuba.  Men work in the government or in commerce and  women hold government administrative  jobs.  Bhutias are also a part of Sikkim’s mountain life  living in villages near Mt. Kanchenchunga.  Discover the Bhutias takes you on a journey which streches to the far corners of Sikkim to see the Bhutia’s customs and traditions.    

Day 1 – Bagdogra/Gangtok
Arrive in Bagdogra where you will be met and driven to Gangtok. Check in to your hotel.

Day 2 – Gangtok
Today you tour Sikkim’s capital city.  Morning visit Dodrul Chorten, the Institute of Tibetology and the Handicraft Emporium.  In the afternoon drive to Rumtek, the main monastery or gonpa for the red hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the Kagyupa. Drive to Enchey monastery, a 200 year old gonpa which belongs to the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Day 3 – Gangtok
In the morning, tour to the orchard gardens.  Sikkim is said to grow over 500 different species of wild orchids.  Your afternoon is free to explore as you wish.

Day 4 – Gangtok/Nathala Pass/Tsongmo Lake/Gangtok
After breakfast drive the Nathala highway East to Tsongmo Lake.  This road used to be part of the old trade route from India to China and is near to the Tibetan border..  Enjoy the spectacular views en route.  Tsongmo Lake is only 400 kilometers to Lhasa, Tibet.  This picturesque lake is sacred to the Sikkimese people.  The lake is so clear that trees and any other forms of nature reflect itself in the lake.

Day 5 – Gangtok/Phodang
Drive to Phodang where you will check in to your hotel. Visit the Phodang monastery which houses old mural paintings and shelters around 260 monks. Quite similar to Rumtek, the main annual Puja is performed at Phodang Monastery Sikkim on the 28th & 29th days of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar, the time when the religious dances are performed.  Tour Tumlong Palace ruins, once the capital of Sikkim.

Day 6 – Phodang/Lachung/Yumthang
Drive to the village of Lachung which is at 8000 feet.  The Lachung monastery is a focal point for all religious ceremonies of the local inhabitants.  Drive on to Yumthang, the valley of flowers, at an elelvation of 11,800 feet.  Yumthang is a paradise for nature lovers because of its blend of flora and fauna, hot springs and breathtaking scenic grandeur. The valley is also the home of Shighbha Rhododendron Sanctuary which has 24 species of rhododendrons.

Day 7 – Yumthang/Yuksom
Drive to Yuksom, which lies on the edge of the Khangchendzonga National Park, the largest Protected area in Sikkim. Picturesque hills are covered with thick broad-leaved forests of oak, birch, maple, chestnut, magnolia, rhododendron, silver fir, ash, and alder. Bhutias reside here in villages practicing centuries old traditions.

Day 8 – Yuksom
Visit Dubdi monastery and Kartok gonpa.  The Dubdi monastery was established in 1701 and professes to be the oldest monastery in Sikkim.  It is located at the top of a hill about an hour’s walk from Yuksom. It was also known as the Hermit’s Cell after its reclusive founder Lhatsun Namkha Jigme. Kartok gonpa is named after a lama who was present at the coronation of Sikkim’s first king, or chogyal.

Day 9 – Yuksom/Tashiding/Ravangla
Drive to Tashiding. The village and monastery of Tashiding are perched on top of the hill rising between the Rathong River and the Rangit River and provides breathtaking views of the scenery below. Tashiding gonpa dates back to the year 1717 which coincided with reign of the third Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal. It is located on a site blessed by the great Guru Padmasambhava.  Drive onward to Ravangla from where you have a wonderful view of Kanchenchunga mountain..

Day 10 – Ravangla
Visit Ralong gonpa and a Bon monastery.  Drive to Damthang and trek to Tendong Hill, one of the most prominent landmarks of South Sikkim. Tendong is immersed in myths and lore passed down through generations. Tendong, believed to be a dormant volcano, offers a beautiful short trek through forested hill tracts. The hilltop offers a 360-degree panorama view of Sikkim Snow Mountains and distant plains of Bengal.

Day 11 – Ravangla/Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary
Drive to the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary.  “Maenam-la” means the treasure house of medicines as the sanctuary is rich in medicinal plants.  The Maenam sanctuary is home to the red panda, goral, serow, barking deer, marbled cat, leopard cat, Himalayan black bear, wild dogs, flying squirrel, civet cats, blood pheasant, common hill partridge, magpies, black eagle, blue necked pitta, sunbirds and other exotic wildlife. Its temperate forest is famous for its flora of rhododendron, magnolia and orchids.   The sanctuary is under strict protection by the Government of Sikkim.

Day 12 – Depart Ravagla/Bagdogra
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

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