Dzongu: The Hidden World of the Lepchas
“live in this isolated paradise with an experience of organic farming”
One of Sikkim’s best kept secrets, Dzongu is a blissfully unspoiled land nestled in the foothills of the majestic Kanchenjunga mountain. On this curated tour, we travel to this remote and highly restricted land of the Lepchas. The Lepchas are the original inhabitants of Sikkim. This is a unique homestay experience, perfect for those who seek a sense of calm and solitude in the midst of nature. Exploring deep in the mountain valleys of North Sikkim, we experience organic farming with locals while gaining a remarkable insight into the customs and traditions of a unique community.
- Explore the little-known Dzongu, a restricted, remote area in the foothills of the Kanchenjunga
- Experience organic farming with the locals and gain practical knowledge on local agri-practices
- Soak in the mesmerizing views of the third highest mountain in the world from your homestay
- Trek through lush forests, cardamom groves and paddy fields for a dip in a natural hot spring
- Enjoy a bath under a breathtaking 300 feet high, cascading waterfall in the middle of the forest
- Meet the lepchas in their hidden hamlets and discover their fascinating culture and traditions
- Go on monastery tours and birding walks on serene, secluded trails of ancient mountain villages
Day 1: Aachuley: The Himalayan Arrival
A four-hour picturesque drive from Siliguri on winding hilly roads brings us to Sikkim, the east-himalayan wonderland and abode of the mighty Kanchenjunga mountain. Our trip starts from Gangtok, the beautiful capital of Sikkim and one of the cleanest hill stations of the country. Always featuring at the top in the list of best places to visit in north-east India, Gangtok has a lot to offer to all kinds of travellers.
Apart from its magnificent views and stunning sceneries, Gangtok is a confluence of people from various ethnicities and a melting pot of different cultures. The place has a pleasant climate and a subtle city life full of beautiful people, colourful houses, exquisite monasteries, vibrant markets and charming cafes. After our arrival here by late afternoon. We venture out to explore the main area of the city and if time permits, visit a few selected places of interest. We call it an early night to prepare and rest for our North Sikkim road trip starting tomorrow.
Day 2-4: Mayal Lyang-Into The World of Lepchas
On the second day, we start our journey towards North Sikkim, the least inhabited and most secluded part of the state. Although there are quite a few regions in the north which have become highly popular and touristy in recent times, on this tour we will be visiting the remote and lesser known valley of Dzongu, a highly restricted place and one of the most beautiful offbeat destinations of Sikkim.
A pristine land of striking natural beauty, the sparsely populated Dzongu is almost a virgin territory isolated from the rest of the world. Bordered by the Teesta River in the southeast and the Kanchenjunga mountain range in the west, Dzongu has been the homeland of the nature-loving Lepcha people since ages and is specifically reserved for them. Special permits need to be arranged to visit this undisturbed, hidden paradise of Sikkim. In Lepcha legends, teachings and folklore, Dzongu is said to be the bridge to Mayal Lyang, the hidden place where all Lepchas are thought to originate from and are to arrive finally. With turquoise-coloured glacial streams and icy-cold rivulets, cascading giant waterfalls and thrilling hanging bridges, bubbling natural hot springs, thick canopy of lush jungles and remote isolated villages surrounded by formidable jagged mountains, Dzongu is an untouched treasure trove that offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of Lepchas.
It takes us 4-5 hours from Gangtok to reach the pretty village of Lingthem in Dzongu. En route we stop at Kabi Lungchok, site of the “Treaty of Blood Brotherhood” between Lepchas and Bhutia, a significant chapter in Sikkim’s history. Moving on from there, our scenic road trip along the lazily meandering Teesta river, becomes even more enthralling as we approach closer to Dzongu crossing long bridges, bumpy roads and tiny settlements on the way.
The village of Lingthem is perched high at the heart of the forest and provides one of the best views of Kanchenjunga Mountain in all of Dzongu. Over the course of our three-day stay here at Lingthem, we explore the village and its monastery, go on refreshing nature and birding walks, take in the awe-inspiring views of Kanchenjunga Mountain and head out on an adventurous day-long jungle trek that ends with a natural hot spring bath. We stay with a local family here exploring the Lepcha way of life.
One of the main highlights of this trip is an experience of farm-work in the mountains of Sikkim, the first organic state of India as well as the world. Here at Lingthem, we learn about the various crops grown here and understand the basic process of organic farming activity. We also learn about the local agri-practices, techniques of organic farming and educate ourselves on how the agri-produce reaches the market in such remote mountain areas. To enhance our practical knowledge, we take guided tours around the village’s cardamom plantations, potato farms and paddy fields. Finally, we get our hands dirty, get involved in the farmlands and help the locals in their daily routine while learning the ropes of how our food is actually grown.
Day 5-6: Exploring the Secluded
After three rejuvenating days at Lingthem, we proceed deeper into Upper Dzongu on the other side of the valley crossing the massive riverbed of Rungyung Chu. We drive to the edge of the river at Mantam and thereafter cross over on foot over a surprisingly long suspension bridge that takes us to the other side. With the gushing torrents of the river below and impressive vistas on either side, every step on the bridge is a sheer delight. This awesome river crossing could well be our most thrilling and memorable walk of the trip.
On the other side, we hop on to another vehicle and commence our short journey on curvy roads to the village of Tingvong. Tingvong is another Lepcha village situated in the Upper Dzongu area in the midst of large cardamom plantations, orange orchards and paddy fields. The place is surrounded by lush greenery and offers breathtaking views of the valley and nearby mountains.
Lepchas in Tingvong have been settled here since ages. The original inhabitants of Sikkim are a peace-loving, simple, and hospitable community who believe they are the natural descendants of the mountains. They worship Mother Nature and all her elements are considered sacred for them. They have embraced Buddhism and all its complex rituals over the years without abandoning their strong age-old shamanic traditions.
Here in the tranquil settings of Tingvong village, we spend two days exploring and being in oneness with nature and also gaining a deeper understanding of Dzongu’s Lepcha culture. Our stay here is at a beautiful village homestay with lovely hosts. The interaction with the hosts and other locals gives us an amazing opportunity to immersively experience their original culture, learn about their age-old traditional practices, and also relish the authentic local cuisine. We take leisurely strolls on serene paths of the village and venture out on forest birding walks. Passing through contoured paddy fields and cardamom groves we hike up to the secluded hamlet of Kussong village for some outstanding views of the snow-capped mountains. From picnicking on the river bed close to a lazily flowing emerald stream to taking a bath under a 300 feet high, 5-step cascading waterfall, we create some unforgettable memories over these two days.
Day 7-8: Till we meet again
It’s finally time to bid adieu to this captivating offbeat wonder of Sikkim. We say our final goodbyes to our homestay hosts. We hope to see them again soon and come back to this extraordinary place snuggled in the lap of nature surrounded by the imposing Kanchenjunga mountain ranges. From Tingvong, we will be heading out early in the morning and follow the scenic roads back to Gangtok. Coming back from the slow and serene surroundings of a remote, sparsely inhabited region, Gangtok now seems too fast, noisy and crowded.
On arrival, we keep the day’s agenda and our plans flexible. With a curated list of sightseeing options in and around gangtok, we decide whether to venture out and soak in the touristy vibes or chill at one of the charming cafes of MG marg or even rest and relax at our cosy hotel rooms enjoying the splendid views of the hill station.
Next day, we travel back to Siliguri and onwards to our respective destinations, scrolling through hundreds of photographs that have filled our colourful phone galleries. As we reminisce about the fantastic memories we created during the past few days, we also think about the countless wonderful souls we encountered along the way and the lovely interactions we had with them.
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