Every year, the monsoons provide a special touch to the Sikkim Himalayas. Thick clouds canopy mountain peaks in July when the weather is at its best, and rain-washed slopes reflect the richest colours of green you’ll ever see. The Teesta erupts in all its ferocious splendour. Wildflowers bloom in little patches here and there, while sunsets paint the sky in vivid hues of orange, pink, and purple. Most importantly, the number of visitors visiting has decreased dramatically. The conditions are great for a committed visitor who wants to see Sikkim in a whole new light.
Guru Padmasambhava, Sikkim’s venerated guardian god, celebrates his birthday in July. Tsungkar is his name.
The Monsoon Delights of East Sikkim
In July, temperatures in Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital, range from 17 to 21 degrees Celsius. Explore the city’s centre, M.G. Marg, which is lined with cafés, booksellers, gift shops, restaurants, and pubs. The immaculately kept avenue, replete with fountains and Victorian lampposts, will transport you to a European city. Take a stroll to the Do Drul Chorten, a majestic stupa in the heart of Gangtok supposed to keep evil spirits at bay. The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a great place to learn about Sikkim’s rich history and culture. Aside from a fantastic library, it holds some of the most rare collections of coins, thangkas, and religious writings. The majestic Tsuklakhang Palace Monastery is a must-see.
Whether it’s raining or shining, you can’t miss a visit to the renowned Rumtek Monastery. The enormous three-story structure, which is 23 kilometres from Gangtok, is the apex of Tibetan Buddhist architecture. The monastery, which belongs to the Karma Kagyu or Black Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism, houses some of the most valuable Buddhist artwork, including thangkas, paintings, and ornate woodwork.
If the weather gods are on your side, you may hire a cab to transport you to Nathula, a renowned mountain pass at 14,000 feet that was originally part of the historic Silk Route connecting India and China via Tibet. In July, the temperature ranges from 8°C to 11°C, which is rather nice. If you make it to Nathula, be sure to stop by Lake Tsomgo, a glacier lake on the route. The almost kilometer-long lake is treasured by locals and is reported to change colour with the seasons. Indeed, it is reported that monks from nearby monasteries use these colour variations to make future prophecies.
The Much-avoided North Sikkim Bleakness
Despite the fact that Yumthang Valley, Lachen, and Lachung are three of North Sikkim’s most popular tourist attractions, they are best avoided during this time of year due to their high altitude. The monsoon rains are notorious for causing landslides, which result in road closures.
Beautiful, Rain-washed West Sikkim
Instead, visit Pelling to take in the sights of West Sikkim. In July, temperatures range from 18°C to 25°C in this little village around 113 kilometres from Gangtok, making it ideal for a monsoon vacation. Though Pelling is little more than a collection of stores and motels, its closeness to some of Sikkim’s most popular tourist sites makes it a perfect base. The picturesque Khecheopalri Lake is located 32 kilometres from Pelling. The lake is treasured by locals as a part of the sacred valley of Demazong, surrounded by lush trees on all sides. Hike up to the historic Rabdenste Ruins for a glimpse into Sikkim’s past. It is known as the kingdom of Sikkim’s second capital.
Lhatsun Chenpo, one of the three monks who crowned Sikkim’s first monarch, erected it in the 17th century. If you’re visiting West Sikkim, the old town of Yuksom is a must-see. This little hamlet, 40 kilometres from Pelling, was Sikkim’s original capital, and it was here that the first Chogyal (king) was anointed in 1641. Norbugang Park, which houses the historic coronation throne or Norbugang, is just a short walk from the main market. Take a taxi to the Dubdi Monastery, which was founded in 1647 by the Chogyal himself. It is said to be Sikkim’s oldest. The finely built monastery is surrounded by lovely planted grounds.
The Cloudbursts of South Sikkim
Because of its lower elevation, South Sikkim is another section of the tiny Himalayan state worth visiting during the monsoons. Namchi, the south district’s headquarters, is around 8 kilometres from Gangtok. The temperature here in July ranges from 19°C to 25°C. Namchi, perched in a unique location, gives some spectacular views of the Kanchendzonga and the Rangit Valley, if the clouds don’t block your view. Samdrupste Hill, a manicured park on top of a hill a short distance from the main town, is worth a visit. The massive statue of Padmasambhava, Sikkim’s guardian god, is difficult to miss. At about 140 feet in height, it towers over the whole town.
Though July is ideal for experiencing Sikkim without the crowds, it is best to keep your plans open. Landslides and blockages are common when it rains nonstop. Gather enough information before visiting any location to avoid impacted regions, and seek advice from locals, since they are the most knowledgeable in this scenario.
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