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    Yak Riding in Sikkim: A Comprehensive Guide to Exploring the Himalayas on the Back of a Furry Friend

    Yak riding in Sikkim is a unique experience that allows visitors to explore the breathtaking landscapes of Sikkim from the back of a furry, sure-footed yak. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about yak riding in Sikkim – from its history to where you can go yak riding, what to expect and even some useful yak riding tips for beginners. So read on to learn all about this iconic Sikkimese activity!

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    A Brief History of Yaks in Sikkim

    Yaks have been domesticated and used by people in the Himalayan region for thousands of years. Yak riding in Sikkim first emerged as a recreational activity with the rise of tourism in the 1960s and 70s. Intrepid visitors demanded local experiences and traveling on yaks offered an authentic way to explore Sikkim’s remote, high-altitude regions.

    As Sikkim’s tourism industry expanded exponentially since the 1990s, commercial yak safaris tailored for tourists became popular. Today, travelers from across the world flock to Sikkim to partake in the singular experience of discovering the Himalayas on the back of a yak.

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    Why Go Yak riding in Sikkim

    Yak ride in Changu Lake

    Yak riding in Sikkim offers a unique perspective that simply cannot be matched by vehicles or walking. Here are some key reasons why this iconic activity should be on every Sikkim itinerary:

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    Access Remote Regions

    Yaks thrive in high altitude mountain terrain where motorable roads do not exist. Yak safaris are often the only way to reach remote destinations like the base of Kanchenjunga, Gurudongmar Lake or the higher reaches of Dzongri. A yak ride opens up panoramic vistas that most visitors never get to admire.

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    Discover Off-The-Beaten-Path Trails

    Beyond the popular routes, Sikkim has hundreds of hidden gems that can only be explored on a yak. Intrepid travelers can venture on multi-day yak treks to little-known mountain hamlets, lakes and viewpoints for an exclusive experience.

    Immerse in Local Culture

    Interacting with yak herders offers unparalleled insights into the indigenous lifestyles and traditions of communities like Lachungpas and Lachenpas for whom yak rearing is a way of life. Witnessing the extraordinary intimate bond between herders and their yaks is a highlight.

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    Enjoy Comfort & Stability

    With their stocky frames, sure footing and gentle ambling gaits, yaks provide comfortable, stable rides ideal for mountain ascents and descents. Their shaggy coats and furry tails also make great backrests!

    Revel in the Views

    Whether it is the emerald valleys of Dzongri, the crystalline waters of Gurudongmar Lake or the epic massif of Kanchenjunga – the sweeping Himalayan panoramas look extraordinary from the back of a yak. The elevated yak riding perspective will leave you awestruck.

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    Make Lasting Memories

    A yak safari is an experience that is certain to be etched in your memory for a lifetime. The sights, sounds and sensations of exploring Sikkim perched atop your very own yak riding in Sikkim create magical memories to cherish.

    Where to Go Yak riding in Sikkim

    Yak riding in Sikkim

    Sikkim offers bountiful locations for unforgettable yak safaris. Here are some of the best places for yak riding adventures in Sikkim:

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    Dzongri & Goecha La Trek

    The route from Yuksom to Dzongri and the Goecha La base camp is Sikkim’s most popular yak trek. After an uphill trek to Dzongri, yaks take over for the steep ascent to the Goecha La viewpoint. The fabulous Kanchenjunga vistas here make this a must-do yak ride.

    Tsomgo Lake

    The ride to the stunning turquoise waters of Tsomgo Lake (altitude 12,313 ft) on the old Silk Route is a short but beautiful yak riding in Sikkim. Witness the incredible transformations of the landscape over just 8 km on yakback.

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    Gurudongmar Lake

    This high-altitude lake situated at 17,004 ft near the Tibetan border is regarded sacred. The challenging yak safari presents mesmerizing vistas of mountains and valleys dotted with prayer flags.

    Lachung & Yumthang Valley

    The 2-day trek from Lachung to Yumthang Valley via scenic destinations like Yumesamdong hot springs and Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is gaining popularity as an extended yak riding adventure.

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    Chopta Valley

    Best accessed via a yak safari from Lachen, the verdant Chopta Valley is ringed by magnificent mountains and dotted with secretive lakes like Gurudongmar and Cholamu. Multiple yak trekking routes are possible here.

    Green Lake Trek

    Considered one of Sikkim’s most beautiful high-altitude treks, the route to Green Lake offers incredible views. Yaks are indispensable for covering the steep rugged terrain and crossing rivers on this trek.

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    North Sikkim

    Destinations like Katao and Phuni Valley near Lachung in North Sikkim are perfect for multi-day yak riding in Sikkim. Experienced yak herders can customize suitable itineraries exploring deep into these remote regions.

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    What to Expect on a Yak Ride in Sikkim

    Yak Ride

    Yak riding is suitable for most travelers as yaks chosen for tourist rides are usually docile and well-trained. However, some key things to expect are:

    Yak Handlers

    Yaks meant for riding usually have an assigned handler who leads the yak on foot. Listen to their instructions on mounting, sitting posture and descending carefully.

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    Slower Pace

    Yaks amble at a very leisurely pace averaging 4-5 kmph. yak riding in Sikkim is best enjoyed slowly, taking in the views rather than rushing through. Allow ample time for even short distances.


    Travel essentials like water, snacks, extra layers etc are loaded in saddlebags neatly lashed onto the yak. You can access them anytime during brief rest stops.

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    Ascents & Descents

    Yaks are remarkably surefooted and will comfortably handle ascents and tricky terrain. However, be cautious and go slow while descending on a yak, leaning back to avoid toppling forward.

    Basic Accommodation

    Multi-day yak treks usually halt at yak herder settlements. Expect very simple homestay-style accommodation and facilities on such extended yak safaris.

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    Bond with Your Yak

    Yaks have endearing personalities. Take time to know your yak’s quirks and form a real bond with them for the most rewarding experience. Carry treats to pamper them post-ride!

    Yak Riding Tips for Beginners

    Yak Riding Tips for Beginners

    Here are some handy yak riding in Sikkim tips for first-timers to master this activity smoothly and safely:


    Allow time for proper acclimatization to altitude before lengthy or strenuous yak rides to avoid altitude sickness. Take it easy the first couple days.

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    Dress Warmly

    The wind-chill atop a yak can be significant. Wear plenty of warm breathable layers and carry an extra fleece. Windcheaters and woolen caps are essential too.

    Sit Up Straight

    Posture is key for balance. Sit up straight yet relaxed. Keep your legs secure around the yak without clutching too tight. Hold the saddle horn lightly for support.

    Find Your Center

    As the yak begins walking, find your balance by adjusting your seating position. Look ahead, not down. Keep a steady centered posture for a smooth ride.

    Pack Essentials

    Make sure you pack and wear essentials like sunscreen, sunglasses, medication, energy bars, windcheater, flashlight, power bank etc. on your yak riding in Sikkim. The saddlebags store extras safely.

    Capture Memories

    Don’t forget to take awesome photos and videos of your epic yak riding adventures in Sikkim’s stunning landscapes! They will make great mementos.

    With its stunning Himalayan scenery, ancient cultural heritage, and friendly yaks ready to carry you into the high mountains, Sikkim is a dream destination for unforgettable yak riding in Sikkim. So be daring, pack your bags, and go experience this iconic activity in India’s most pristine state!

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