Yumthang Valley- Zero Point , Sikkim



Have you ever in your travel experience put yourself at a place which has touched your body, mind and soul leaving you groping for yourself? Does such a place really exist? Or is it just imagination? As I pinch myself back to reality, I know I am witnessing this grandeur. The higher altitude of North Sikkim is quintessentially the answer. 

Valley of Flowers, Yumthang valley

My destination was Yumthang Valley. As I move from the busy streets of Gangtok gaining height, the hamlets are replaced by the un-ending forest cover and serpentine ways. Lachung is the last hamlet on the map towards Yumesamdong (Zero Point). This small hamlet perched on tall hills is itself quaintly beautiful and provides basic staying options. Lachung is perched at 9600 feet above sea level and hence remains under a cold cover even in May with temperatures at 4-5 degrees. Rains are unpredictable and further drop the temperature. The ever blushing weather beaten faces of the locals appear like some make-up artist has done a generous layer of blush. The women folk here appear dominating and independent, running the house errands and working too. The women folk are hard workers running utility stores and working in the fields. The men folk generally work out of the village in towns as drivers serving tourist and private transport. Life is tough in this part of the world.

Lachung Village

Its best to explore Yumthang Valley in the early morning hours and hence camping at Lachung is the only option. Early mornings at Lachung can offer snow peaked mountains or just a gloomy sky. The clear skies indicate you are on a good start. Yumthang Valley - Shingba rhododendron Sanctuary and Yumesamdong ( Zero Point) all fall in line.

Lachung Village

The Yumthang valley is poetry in making. The gigantic hills and mesmeric valley calls for attention. Visited by a handful of tourists, Yumthang yet remains unexplored from the mainstream Sikkim. The gigantic hills bifurcated by the sprawling valley and the meandering Yumthang river have much to it. This altitude is bathed in a delicate sunlight, the greener lawns spotted by a local house or two. The landscape is dominated by the mountains here, but the greens play their charm. The heavy veil of clouds float through the valley playing peek-a boo and displaying mesmeric vistas. The colorful prayer flags are ubiquitous and seen fluttering all along the way.

 On the way to Yumthang valley

On the way to Yumthang valley

On the way to Yumthang valley

The series of bends leads to a richly carved and vibrant gate marking the start of Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is a high altitude sanctuary. The highlight of the sanctuary is the colorful rhododendrons that bloom here between April and May every year. The Sanctuary comes live with Rhododendrons locally known as Buransh. They come in a palette of red, blood red, and white, off white, yellow, pink and lavender colors.  Spread over an area of 26 sq. kms at varying altitude from 10,000 – 13,000 feet, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary   has around 24 varieties of rhododendrons.

Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary gate

View from Shingba rhododendron Sanctuary gate

The colorfully intricate gate of Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary had a backdrop of mammoth rugged snow dusted mountains. At the gate couple of kiosks offer inputs on what can be expected at Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. Angling at the Yumthang River, trekking, mountain biking, camping and bird watching. The gate opens to a sight never seen before. The landscape spotted with small trees decked with the colorful flowers. The mammoth mountains stand rugged and bold. The sky azure against the cottony white clouds. The winding roads lined with rhododendron trees could make for a cover page picture of a glossy magazine. The land below is strewn with the dropped flowers and equally by the remains of the yaks, who graze around. As altitude is gained the landscape is dotted by pine and rhododendrons equally.

Kiosk at Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary gate

Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary 

Rhododendrons in full bloom at Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary 

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

Yumthang valley comes next in line at 11,800 feet. It has gained private attention as compared to Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. Yumthang valley is also known of Valley of flowers in Sikkim for the colorful flora of this land. The huge valley has the serpentine Yumthang River meandering along. The ice cold emerald waters of Yumthang River, the snow peaked hills, the alpine meadows and flower beds are alluring. Lavender flowers dot the entire valley ground and the yaks graciously eat only the grass leaving the flowers intact.


 Valley o flowers, Yumthang Valley
 Yumthang River at Yumthang valley

Prayer flags at YumthangValley

This place is ideal for basket lunches with your family. The sun basks the land now and then. The backdrop of the snow covered hills against the meadow is a calming experience. Lots of small shops line the valley of flowers. A quick tea, coffee, maggi or a breezer is a call away. Woolens and artifacts can also be bought here. The local ladies work here in hostile environment braving the numbing cold and winds. It would be really generous in buying some stuff here. Lachung being the last stop of civilization, the locals majorly depends on tourists for their income.

 Flower bed at Yumthang valley

Flowers in bloom at Yumthang Valley

Leaving the valley of flowers, as I gained altitude, the trees gave away and the lineage of gigantic scree dusted mountains came dressed in a cover of snow. The sky was azure all through. The narrow mud roads snaked through the arid mountains with colossal landslides. The ribbony roads swirled left and right leaving a beautiful pattern as you look down in the valley. Somewhere a waterfall silently plunged in the distance and the clouds hovered low. The rocks, mountains, snow, clouds and the earthly elements created an enigma, which remained less captured by the camera too. All this while the cold was numbing and it took courage to slide the vehicle windows down and take in the nature wholly.

 On the way to Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

If you are the fun loving kinds seeking joy from shopping and churning cities, this is not a place for you. For the one who seek quiet and want to embrace nature, you will be lost to this land. Such is the charm of this place that you wish to explore far and high.


Much of the tourists get filtered at Valley of flowers as Yumesamdong’s altitude does not suit all. At 15,000 odd feet, Yumesamdong remain under the snow cover perennially. With temperature stuck at zero and below, this place is also called zero point. Yumesamdong requires a special permit as this place has close proximity to China border and also comes under the army confines. A special fee of Rs. 3500/ vehicle is charged as permit.

Valley view on the way to Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

The approach to Yumesamdong is rather another place on the earth. The snow mountains dominate the landscape here. The Yumthang River cuts the road at one point and can be crossed over a rumbling bridge. Secluded barracks can be seen camouflaged in the landscape, marking the army’s presence. The river narrows here and holds freezing water. The icicles can be seen hanging at places. The air gets thin as you reach Yumesamdong. Breathing could be an issue and to add to the woes, the sun glares sharply here.  It takes effort to move out from your vehicle for the cold and low oxygen levels. You might feel faint after taking a step or two. Yet, at this altitude where one can barely stand, a vendor or two sell tea and hot food.

Army barracks on the way to Yumesamdong (Zero Point) 

 Bridge over the Yumthang river on the way to Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

Yumesamdong is merely a milestone to achieve and offers plain monochrome landscape against a cobalt sky. The zero point is like a beautiful snow kingdom. The journey to Yumesamdong is arduous but  ideally not be missed as it displays the apex of nature.

 Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

 Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

 Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

 Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary and upper limits rests under heavy snow in winter. Summers are equally cold because of high altitude and unscheduled rains. Rains are torrential up to Lachung. The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary remains relatively under moderate rains because of higher altitude. April- May are the best time to visit here. The formidable truth is these places are perched at high altitudes and hence the approach is difficult. Yet, that’s the reason this place remains less visited and known.

Text By - Jyoti Rane
Photos By - Amit Rane & Jyoti Rane
www.myodysseys.com

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