Sikkim is one of the far northeastern states of India surrounded by the north and east by China and Nepal to the west. Kanchenchunga, the world’s third tallest mountain, defines the border between Nepal and Sikkim and many of the treks in the region skirt the lower portions of this giant mountain. The weather in Sikkim is much wetter than in the other regions of the Himalaya due to its proximity to the Bay of Bengal and a direct flow of moisture during the monsoon months from May to early October. Dense rainforests are common in the lower elevation portion of treks giving away to beautiful Rhododenhdron forests that peak in bloom in early May and light the hills red with fire. The upper elevation feature beautiful alpine lakes as well as numerous glaciers and ice falls. Access to Sikkim is either by rail or plane to Siligiri and then onward either by helicopter (reasonably priced) or half day taxi ride. Foreign visitors need to be properly registered and should plan at least a few days in advance. Here is a look at 4 of the great treks in Sikkim.
Goecha La Trek
This might be the most exciting trek in Sikkim as it traverses over the course of 10 days from the lowland rainforests near Yuksom to Goecha La which is practically at the base of Kangchenjunga (28,169ft/8,586 m). The trail passes through beautiful Rhododendron forests and even before you reach Goecha La the views from Dzongri Top of both Kangchenjunga and Mount Pandim are stunning and a worthy as a stand-alone trekking destination (see next trek). From Dzongri Top the trail continues to Samiti Lake a beautiful turquiose alpine lake that’s source of the Prek River. Continue onward to Goecha La (16,000ft/4876m) which also serves as a basecamp for those looking to scale the southeast face Kanchenjunga
This is basically a shorter version of the Goecha La trek terminating at Dzongri Top (13549ft / 4130m) and can be done in 4 or 5 days so is a great option for those without as much time. The trek up from Yuksom passes through beautiful Rhododendron forests which are best viewed in early May. Trekkers get an early rise and make the 45min hike up to Dzongri Top to catch a glimpse of the sunrise on Kangchenjunga and Mount Pandim.
Green Lake Trek
This is an 8 day trek in the northern part of Sikkim to the base camp of mount Kanchendzonga. Lachen the trailhead is about a half drive from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. It’s a fantastic trek up a virtual valley of flowers to Green Lake. The trail at first follows the Zemu River before reaching the terminal end of the Zemu Glacier. Continue up the lateral side of the glacier to the base camp at Green Lake. Green Lake is at 5050m / 16,600ft so requires a certain degree of acclimatization. While the Goecha La trek might be the most popular this could certainly be the most beautiful and it’s likely to be less crowded. Foreign trekkers can apply for a trekking permit from Tourism Department after getting clearance from Defense and Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi (Not as bad as it sounds – just let us know a few weeks in advance and it can be arranged).
Singalila Ridge Trek
This trek is best arranged from Darjeeling and lies not in Sikkim but the state of West Bengal. This is a lower elevation trek and one that can be done as a little as three days and extended to five. The trek traverses the Singalila Ridge a long north-south running ridge that divides the mountains of West Bengal and the Himalayas. It is famous for its views of Kanchenjunga and Mount Everest. Depending on the route it’s possible to climb Sandakphu (3,636 m / 11,929 ft) the highest point on the ridge and the entire state of West Bengal for amazing views.