Planning a 2 weeks vacation which should include a trek in Sikkim or Darjeeling area and a later trip to Bhutan spanning 2 weeks.

Below is the email conversation which enabled the prospective trekkers to take right decision as per their choice and expectations. Read trekkers enquiries in GREY and our response in BLACK. Thank you for reading with patience!

My husband and I are planning a trekking tour in Sikkim in April and are seeking your guidance on our draft itinerary and are looking forward to your proposal.
We would like to trek from Yuksom to Dzongri La in 4 days.
The itinerary is the following:
Very early morning pick up in Darjeeling by car and drive to Yuksom. Start walking in Yuksom around noon to reach Tsokha in the evening.
2nd day – Tsokha to Dzongri / Dzongri La
3rd day – return from Dzongri La to Tsokha, start around noon to reach early evening.
4th day – walk Tsokha – Yuksom (5-6 hours) and drive by car to Gangtok where we spend the night.
5th day explore Gangtok and area by car/foot
6th day leave Gangtok to be in arrive in the evening in at border to Bhutan, stay there for night. Include monastery and other sightseeing in the 7-8 hours drive. Next morning cross border with Bhutan travel agency.

Thanks for your feedback, we have a good fitness level and like hiking. Fully aware that the 1st day of the trek is a tough day with more than 1000 m in altitude.
We don’t mind driving in the dark and getting up early if this is OK for the driver.

Greetings. Thank you for reaching out to us, HIMALAYA TREKKERS (HT). We would be more than happy to plan your trekking trip to Sikkim.

However at first glance, your schedule looks hectic, and can be pretty tiring. It’s always tempting to fit more places/things to see within a short schedule, but can be at risk as well.

Regarding permits for Non Indian nationals in Sikkim: We have broken down the Permit Requirements here in detail. In brief, to enter Sikkim you need one RAP ( Restricted Area permit) or previously known as ILP ( Inner Line Permit). It would be issued free of cost when you enter Sikkim or you can get it from Darjeeling. You can visit all the tourist places with this permit. To trek, however, you need  another permit called PAP (Protected Area Permit). You can not trek solo in Sikkim if you’re a foreigner. PAP is only issued for at least two foreigners. It can only be issued by a registered travel agency from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Dept of Gangtok(capital of Sikkim). We charge an additional 3000 as a Permit Processing Fee to the foreigners. We’ll include this in the package for you.

Note: You can get Sikkim entry permit from their office in Darjeeling also. However we need another day to process your Trekking Permit/PAP from Gangtok (meantime you complete Darjeeling and reach Yuksom).

Although it is not impossible to complete your itinerary (assuming you are fairly fit persons), although you have to be careful about the following:

1) In April, it is possible to start in the early morning, say around 5 am from Darjeeling. However the drive to Yuksom will take around 6 hours. Then there will be some permit procedures before you start your hike to Tsokha. It gets dark in Sikkim by 6 pm around mid April. (Sikkim is in eastern India and we have only one timezone).

2) You should be get acclimatised very well during the trek. In two days, literally you will be gaining an altitude of ~ 2000 m, to reach Dzongri. I hope you have not faced any acclimatisation issues in the past, while rapidly gaining altitude.

3) Dzongri La, i.e. Dzongri Pass is quite a distance from Dzongri. It takes ~ 5/6 hours for a round trip from Dzongri. You need to skip this on in the given itinerary but only Tsokha to Dzongri that day and camp.

4) Note that Yuksom to Gangtok is also around 6 hours of drive.

Please feel free to revert for any queries or any inputs which you may like to share with us.

Thanks for your feedback and advise, much appreciated. We trust your input as you have the knowledge and we only can assess our abilities from past experiences. 

Please see below our comments and questions. We would appreciate if you can provide us with an itinerary and cost for the trip. does your company also offer trips to Bhutan? We would love to have support from one travel agency for our whole trip. From Bagdogra to Paro, which we will leave on the 18th around noon.

  1. We are OK to start at 5 am and spend if necessary the last hour walking in the dark of safety is not compromised. We can bring headlamps.
  2. No, we haven’t.
  3. Oh, we weren’t aware. In other itineraries we read it felt more like 1 hour. Obviously, as this is the reason why we are going there, we would need to spend sufficient time exploring the area.
  4. We are aware and OK to do so if the driver is OK to drive in the dark.

As I read your email, following are my suggestions:

Regarding Bhutan travel: Recently last November we did a recce trip to Bhutan including Thimphu, Punakha and Haa valley (we skipped Paro due to shortage of time) with a self driven car. As of now travelling to Bhutan has permit relaxation for Indian tourists. We recommend that you book through a registered Tour Operator from Bhutan. HT can only take “bookings” from you, but has to arrange through only a local tour operator. We say many foreigners travelling to these places with good quality Bhutanese Tour operators.

If you are running short of time, you may consider getting a flight from Bagdogra (IXB) to Paro (PBH), though not operated daily. On the other hand if you travel by car then you go to Jaigoan border in India and Phuentsholing on the other side in Bhutan. During this drive you will cross some nice stretch of foothills forests (localled called Dooars) and tea gardens.

About Dzongri and Sikkim trip: In my opinion you may consider stripping the idea of travelling towards the capital region, i.e. Gangtok. It’s mostly a concrete city with hotels, as I have seen it.

On the contrary West Sikkim has also beautiful and pristine monasteries, around or on your way to Yuksom. Check our monastery circuit trail in West Sikkim to get an idea. Also it’s worth to stay a night and sleep at Yuksom before you have a fresh start to Tsokha.

I will be able to suggest an itinerary catering most, if you may share your arrival to Bagdogra and leaving out to Bhutan.

Also we can arrange all car transfers starting at your arrival at Bagdogra and till Bhutan border including Darjeeling and Sikkim.

Please feel free to add anything which comes in your mind.

This is good advice! Let’s try to strip out Gangtok and spend more time in West Sikkim and check option to fly from Bagdogra to Paro or by car. 

We will land in Bagdogra on the 5th around noon and would like to stay 2 nights in Darjeeling and surrounding just to overcome the jet lag and explore this beautiful area. 

We have already booked a flight from Paro to Delhi on the 18th around noon. Latest on the 14th we want to be in Bhutan because otherwise it’s too short. I like your proposal for Bhutan including Thimphu, Punakha and Haa valley and no Paro. Which tour operator do you recommend – really interested in knowledgeable guide who are able and willing to introduce us to culture and ways of living in Bhutan and design a peaceful and insightful journey other than taking us to the tourist places. Culture and nature are our key priorities.

We also looked at the monastery circuit trail you mention in your mail and find it very appealing. So I was considering that as an alternative to the Dzongri trek especially because it might be less visited.On your homepage I found a suggested itinerary. Does it make sense to combine day two and three in one so we can save one day? If we do that, porters and horses might be an interesting option.

What about the Singalila Trek? Would it be possible to hike only a part of it or is it a circuit itinerary you have to do completely?

Here I first summarise my understanding on your proposed trip(s)/tour(s) as of now :-). Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • You have approximately 2 weeks, 5th April noon landing at  Bagdogra and 18th April noon flying out from Paro.
  • It is a must to include both India & Bhutan within the travel.
  • Some hiking option(s) with a local cultural quotient in it within your travel.

Now certainly one would like to get the most out of an itinerary, based upon their particular preferences and liking. I would like to know more about your expectations from the tour.

A note: Sikkim/Darjeeling area in eastern Himalayas, is known for its dampness and prolonged monsoon. Afternoons are cloudy, prepare for pre monsoon rains, even in early April. Mornings are clear on high altitude and normally produce reasonable good views of the high mountains. Mid April will rarely produce clear mountain views like one may get in Late Oct/Nov (Autumn). On the contrary during mid April, i.e. spring time,  it is Rhododendron/Magnolia flowering season inside misty jungle and very charming in its own.

Below I will try to elaborate about various hiking options:

1) Dzongri trek: A moderate  hiking trail, however, reducing duration makes it strenuous in nature. Trail offers splendid Kanchenjunga views and other high mountains above 6500 m, from a very close distance. Once you start walking there will be no village monastery etc. However there will be other hiking groups camping around. This you should consider if your focus is more on going to high altitude and somewhat serious hiking exercise. Here you will get required information about Dzongri trail which you will cover:

2) Monastery Circuit trail: This is more of a very relaxed low altitude hike, who are particularly keen on staying in simple homestay, 3/4 hours of leisurely hike, spending more time in villages around and last but not the least, visiting pristine and holy monasteries. If hiking is your main focus, you may still visit Dubdi and Hongri monastery and return to Yuksom in a day’s hike. Here is the details link:

We may suggest a part of the above with Dzongri trek within your itinerary. This covers two main essence of Sikkim, its high mountains and some off the route cultural essence as well.

Suggested itinerary:

5th April: Around noon arrival at Bagdogra. Around 3 to 3 and a half hours drive to Darjeeling.

6th and 7th April: Around Darjeeling, various sightseeing (HMI/Zoo, Tea gardens etc). On 7th April after lunch (by 1 pm) drive from Darjeeling to Yuksom. 5/6 hours. Your ILP for Sikkim will be processed at Melli check post (around 15/20 minutes time). Homestay accommodation e.g. Limboo Homestay (they serve organic vegetarian food only).
8th April: Explore Yuksom and around. After breakfast visit Coronation Throne site, Kathok Lake, local monastery. Later hike to the Sikkim’s oldest monastery Dubdi. This will be around 3 hours round trip. After lunch we may visit Gufa Dara village, around 30 mins hike. We can explore the small village and local community. Night stay at Yuksom. We process your Trekking Permit/PAP today from Gangtok. Alternatively after breakfast you may have a day hike to Dubdi and then further to Hongri monastery and return in the afternoon.

9th to 13th April: Trek to Dzongri and back. 5 days/4 nights , Additional night at Dzongri to explore the area and Dzongri La/Lampokhri lake side. If we start early from Tsokha on 13th then we will reach Yuksom in 5 hours. Then we can drive from Yuksom to Bhutan border at Jaigaon on Indian side. 250 Km drive, should take around 8 hours. (meet your Bhutan tour representative here). Night stay at Jaigaon, India.

14th to 17th April: Enter Bhutan Phuentsholing (permit/visa process at immigration office), Bhutan Thimphu, Punakha, and Paro. Essentially a sightseeing tour, though roads are better than Indian Himalayas!

18th April: Flight around noon from Paro to Delhi.

3) Singalila trek: This is probably a perfect blend of some fantastic high mountain views along with staying in homestay/lodge and getting some local cultural insights. You will already be in Darjeeling, it’s easy to reach the trek base and start hiking. This trail is inside Darjeeling, India and very often going inside Nepal. Most of the homestays are in Nepal side. Flavour wise this may resemble to Tea House treks in Nepal. Here is the route details link:

There are advantages and disadvantages of this tour! Main disadvantage is that literally you will be left with no time for Sikkim. On the other side, spending more time in Darjeeling area and Bhutan is the main advantage. Maybe you can keep Sikkim for your next visit (may ? (Ethnically and culturally Sikkim and Darjeeling area have many things in common)

Suggested itinerary:

5th April: Around noon arrival at Bagdogra. Around 3 to 3 and a half hours drive to Darjeeling.

6th and 7th April: Around Darjeeling, various sightseeing (HMI/Zoo/Natural History museum, Tea gardens, Toy train ride, etc) and certainly enjoying the old colonial remnants of the Chowrasta/mall area, nice walks around. You may skip day tour of “many sightseeing” by car and instead walk comfortably at your own pace and explore the town and around.

8th April: Have your breakfast early, start by 7/7:30 am and drive to Maneybhajung, ~ 30 Km, 1 hour or so. After processing entry permit we will hike to Tumling, 12 Km 6/7 hours. Initial steep climb to Chitrey (please check our usual itinerary, I am hence modifying and fine tuning it). Lodge/homestay.

9th April: We will club Day 3 and Day 4 of usual itinerary and directly reach Sandakphu skipping Kalapokhari. From many past experiences we have seen European hikers including kids were comfortable doing this. ~ 18 Km, 8/9 hours. Sunset views from Sandakphu. Hotel accommodation.

10th April: Explore Sandakphu. Witness sunrise views, after breakfast walk on the lovely Phalut road. On a clear day You will literally walking straight towards Kanchenjunga and Sleeping Buddha, on flat gentle track. Return for lunch, 4/5 hours round trip. Evening sunrise for Hotel rooftop.

11th April: After breakfast trek down to Timburey. A very friendly homestay in the village.

12th April: Start early morning and walk an hour or so to the Srkhola bridge, motor road head. From here we will drive to Jaigoan, around 240 Km, 8/9 hours. Meet your Bhutan tour representative here. You may even stay on the other side of the border, i.e. Phuentsholing (much cleaner and calm place than Jaigaon).

13th to 17th: 5 days Bhutan tour. In my opinion choose Paro (Taksang Monastery etc ) instead Haa. Thimphu and Punakha.

18th April: Flight around noon from Paro to Delhi.

Regarding your Bhutan travel part:

As I wrote earlier, its better to book directly through a local registered tour operator. As per their govt policy they maintain their motto of “high value and low impact” tourism. This has empowered local operators to provide high quality services to international tourists. You will get good quality accommodation (similar to 3 start) and transfers in SUVs (e.r. Toyota Landcruiser/Prado) in their suggested fees.

There are trails in Bhutan as well. However to get an essence of the high and interior Himalayas, one should probably take on the longer duration hikes, like one From Paro to Gasa/Laya, some 10 days of trek. To visit Tiger’s Nest monastery (Taktsang, Paro) you may have a short half day hike.

We have some reference of Bhutan Tour operator(s). We may try to check, if you think you may need some help on this.

Suggesting a right itinerary for the right person(s) is most important in my opinion. I will look forward for your further inputs. Also feel free to edit, remove, add any part of any itinerary, if you like so.

We looked at your option 3 and like it a lot. There are only a few questions- when reading more about the trek, I learnt that a street has been build to Sandakphu. We were wondering how this impacts the experience – what are your thoughts?

When reading this paragraph we were asking ourselves – how much it might rain in the afternoon and if this would be the same for Dzongri ( we assume so). Nevertheless we understood that you recommend doing the trek as it holds various beauties- correct? What kind of equipment do we need ? 

Regarding the night at the border. We are aware that Jaigaon is less favourable but want to avoid paying 250$ Fee only for staying the night across the border. Do you have any idea if we can circumvent this? My husband is living in Bangalore but not an Indian National. 

Please be so kind and recommend agencies in Bhutan. We really like the way how you develop the program for us and trust you.

I am glad that you liked the option 3, i.e. Darjeeling with Sandakphu trek (a.k.a Singalila Ridge trek) for your India trip part.

Below are some facts and my opinion for your enquiries:

Yes there is a motor road to Sandakphu , if you call so! Initial half is a narrow concrete road, rebuilt a couple of years back. Last half is gravel dirt road. Trekking trail till Sandakphu will have some common portion with the road almost half, but it is so for 15 years or more. There will be many shortcuts, detours and walks inside Nepal also. This should not be much of an issue, despite movement of noisy old Landrovers. Note that your descent from Sandakphu to Srikhola via Timburey is through pristine forest mostly and no motor road in the vicinity. 

You are correct, Dzongri and Sandakphu trail should behave very similar, weather wise. If it rains or snows on one, most likely the other will very likely get the same. 

Four things are a must for any Himalayan Trek and are your personal equipment.

  1. a) A Trekking shoe – mid/high ankle rubber sole, waterproof membrane
  2. b) A Rucksack (40-50 L)
  3. c) A Warm jacket – can be synthetic, fleece or down jacket
    d) Windproof & Waterproof jacket/clothing – outer layer.

As a general guide here is an article on what type of equipment you should get and a elaborative list of things to carry.

Indeed your time of visit i.e. spring is recommended for Singalila trek. There are fantastic mountain views, both from Tumling and Sandakphu. Also your tour has an additional day at Sandakphu. Hopefully you will get good sunrise or/and sunset views. Spring brings life to the forest. Be it flowers or birds or butterflies. I personally like to walk inside misty and foggy forest, which is a spring speciality.

I enquired with a Bhutanese Tour Operator today, whom I met at Phuentsholing last November. He helped us to book one night of hotel at Thimphu and the road permit of our Indian car, the minimum mandatory things we needed. Here is a summary of our conversation:

  • Tour Fee for foreigners is non negotiable and USD 250 per person per day. Surcharge is USD 30 per person per day on the top of minimum daily tariff, i.e total of USD 280 per person per day, as you are 2 persons. This will include all accommodations (3 star quality), breakfast and dinner (lunch during sightseeing on your own), all transfers/sightseeing inside Bhutan in SUV like Toyota Prado/Hyundai SantaFe. A standard tour guide/escort will be there apart from the usual driver.
  • Visa Fee for Bhutan i.e. USD 40 per person is to paid separately.
  • Once you confirm/pay a tour with them, they will send an invitation along with options/range of hotels. Once you choose, they will inform Bhutanese authority. Then you apply for a Visa with USD 40 as fee. Their representative and tour guide will meet you at Jaigaon and carry out the immigration process.
  • They can help in a workaround for an accommodation at Phuentsholing. The Immigration Office remains open till 9 pm, so they can get your visa upon your arrival. Then you can pay the usual hotel fee (maybe ~ INR 3000 to 4000 for a standard room) instead paying USD 280 * 2 persons for that night.

Did you check with any direct Bhutan agencies?  What information could you gather?

Good morning and thank you very much for the additional information. The Trek sounds great and exactly what we are looking for. 

May I ask you for the price and if you could supply porters too? I am not sure if I want to carry the big backpack all the time 😉

Concerning Bhutan we are in contact with 2 – 3 agencies. We are trying to get an impression about the opportunities there because we are looking for a mix out of a bit of trekking, some culture and some spiritual experiences like meditation.

To check these things before pricing:

Do you want us to add anything extra, car transfers airport etc or only TREK FEE? – I.e. Manebhanjan to Srikhola along with one porter (He can carry up 2 no of rucksacks/similar up to 17/18 kg)? I assume the trek high standard quality accommodation and upgrade meals with a decent English speaking local guide. Anything more you would like to specify here? e.g. car transfer by Toyota Innova etc.

Did any of the agencies in Bhutan shared something interesting apart from usual itineraries? I see a potential about an itinerary starting from Phuentsholing – Thimphu – Punakha Dzong – Gasa – Laya – Gasa – Paro, tight, but possible. Our recce plan was this, but only “foreigners” can go to these places (Gasa and further to Laya) not the Indians! This may give you something really untouched in the Kingdom of Bhutan :-). You will get very limited information through Googling. It’s worth a research from your end in my opinion.

Share this:
  • We are a family of five (children ages 14-11) interested in doing a trek in Sikkim, the Singalila trek during Oct 26 – Nov 1. The dates are fixed, but we could consider also the Barsey Sanctuary or another one.
  • We have teenage kids who can do a medium trek. Last Christmas we did the Poonhill trek in Nepal to give you a reference.
  • Our preference is staying in lodges or tea houses but no tents. But we would like to see Sikkim, not only Darjeeling.
  • We would like a good guide and porters for the proposed trek.

Darjeeling and Sikkim are adjacent, though it takes time to travel from one to another. Say for an example Darjeeling city to Gangtok is about 6/7 hours of drive. Also for Non Indian’s/foreigners, entry to Sikkim is either via Melli (for West Sikkim) or via Rangpo (for Gangtok and North/East Sikkim).

You have total 7 days assuming an afternoon/evening flight on 1st Nov from Bagdogra. Touching Sikkim and Darjeeling both can be tedious and tiring with a significant portion travelling in car.

We would like to understand more here about your trip preferences. Is including both Sikkim and Darjeeling your priority? If only one, then which one? How much important is the hiking part to you?

E.g if you decide only to stay inside Darjeeling district (West Bengal) then a Singalila Ridge i.e. Sandakphu trek along with Darjeeling city will be a suitable option. This will give a feel of complete hiking experience with a night or two relaxing in Darjeeling city or around.

In case of only Sikkim option, we would suggest couple of days in Gangtok area first (we process your Trekking Permit/PAP meantime inside Sikkim) then moving to West Sikkim and try Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary trek. This is a short and fairly easy trek in contrary to Sandakphu.

  • Our main interest is to do a good hike and see as close as possible the Himalayas. Staying in lodges is preferred to tents, but not a must. Getting some glimpse of the Sikkim culture is also something that we would like to achieve.
  • We have some additional days to accommodate the trek and visits. We could arrive to Bagdogra on Oct 25. We could stay as long a Sunday Nov 3 for the return flight. We are interested in perhaps staying the last two nights Nov 1-3 in a place like the Glenburn Tea Estate.
  • One option could be to do the Sandakphu trail Oct 25-31. Then perhaps dedicate Oct 31-Nov 1-2 to do a short Sikkim visit (around Pelling?) and then drive back to Glenburn Tea estate and then airport for late flight on Nov 3. Is that feasible?

It’s really nice to see the details of your planning, much appreciated. It helps in our understanding too.

As now you have more days, your proposed itinerary looks more complete. As I understand it, here are my thoughts:

1) Day 1 Chitrey: This is a small hamlet with few houses, one homestay/lodge and a monastery. Set up is very basic rooms, triple quad sharing type, more like 2+1+ 1/2+1 type of bedding. 3 Km below Chitrey is a small town on India/Nepal border called Maneybhanjung. Here we have arrangements with a local homestay, which is clean with attached toilet and running hot water. They serve home food which I felt tasty. Also the Sandakphu road from Maneybhanjung via Chitrey is closed by 2 pm (you have to reach Maneybhanjung by 1 pm, as there are foreigner permit formalities here). It takes around ~ 4 hours from Bagdogra to Maneybhanjung with a lunch break at Mirik town. Next day you can start trekking from Maneybhanjung in the morning to Chitrey and then to Tumling as per itinerary. Many Europeans travellers stay first night at Darjeeling, then next day morning drive an hour ~ 30 Km to Maneybhanjung and trek to Tumling with us. Here the climb from Maneybhanjung to Tumling becomes moderate as there is a steep uphill till Chitrey, which is 3 Km additional than our standard itinerary.

2) Pelling is a nice tourist town, with great views of Kanchenjunga. I am hopeful that you will get ample views of the mountains already in your trek. You may consider your Sikkim base at Yuksom, 40 Km further from Pelling. You can still visit Pemayangtse monastery, Rabdantse ruins, Khechepalri lake, Kanchenjunga falls etc, on your way, or short detours. At Yuksom you will get good hotels as well as nice homestay accommodations. There are places in and around Yuksom, the first capital of Sikkim. A lake, monasteries, Coronation site. On top of that, a nice 3/4 hours hiking to Dubdi monastery, Sikkim’s oldest. Holiest of these monasteries the one at Tashiding is 25 Km away one a different road than Pelling. To summarise Yuksom should give you more “Sikkim flavour” than touristy Pelling. Here you will get some idea about Yuksom and around:

Note: It will take 6/7 hours to reach Pelling from Srikhola by car and another 1 hour and half (max) to Yuksom. Glenburn Tea Estate is somewhere in between Srikhola to Pelling/Yuksom.

We look forward for your thoughts.

  • Thanks so much for all the information and sorry that we are taking a long time to design our trip. We would like to make sure we do the right thing. We have decided to skip Pelling and the Glenburn Tea Estate. We can concentrate on doing a Sikkim trek. Even though the drive to Yuksom is long my family is keen on seeing real Sikkim so I guess it is worth. Perhaps we could do the drive in two section: Airport to Chamong and then Chamong to Yuksom?
  • From Yuksom we would like to do a trek. I have seen the Dzongri trek that looks great, but not sure if too demanding for my kids. More ambitious than the monastery trek, which we also like. Our priority is to do a strong trek, but if possible staying in homestays. For me getting as close to the Kanchenjunja to get a close view would be important. Along the way, experiencing the Sikkim culture and monasteries is also important. Is the Dzongri trek the right one? If not, can we do some hybrid between Dzongri and the monastery trek.

Apart from logistical support our activities include suggestions and travel consulting that you take a well informed decision.

If you look at our Dzongri trek itinerary, it is of 9 days, Bagdogra to Bagdogra. We designed it in a relaxed manner that it is not strenuous like our Goecha La itinerary. Your kids should complete Dzongri trek without much difficulties  following our itinerary. Please share their prior hiking experiences if any than Poon Hills trek. However that leaves you with no other option to explore around apart from the trail and Kanchenjunga within your vacation plan. Also there is no homestay on the trail, but very basic Govt. Trekkers Hut without bed or bedding at Tsokha and Dzongri.

I would be more inclined towards an itinerary comprising Sandakphu trek, Chamong (just 10 Km from trek base Maneybhanjung) and Yuksom. Now you may decide the order of visiting after finalising the places that we cover. Ideally Day 1 seems good for Chamong or maybe 2 nights as well. Staying in a Tea Estate in Darjeeling adds value. Also think of taking a late afternoon/early evening flight in case you are returning directly from Yuksom to Bagdogra.

Sandakphu will be an ideal blend of trail, where you will hikes 5/6 hours a day (we can make it strenuous if you wish!) and stays are in homestay majorly. It does have cultural things to note along with revered view of Sleeping Buddha and Kanchenjunga.

3 nights at Yuksom and exploring monasteries and cultural aspects would certainly worth high for the Sikkim part.

What do you think?

Sounds good. Can you suggest the detailed itinerary for the Chamong, Sandakphu trek and Yuksom? The dates should be Oct 25-Nov 3 and please add the cost.

We will send you an itinerary and corresponding cost based on the following:

1) Your rooms preferences if any, like 2 rooms or a big family room/suite to stay ,where it is available (like Sandakphu)

2) Do you wish us to book Chamong Tea Estate by us, or you can do it online?

3) We will arrange the transportation required as per itinerary. Do you have any vehicle preference? Most common option is Tata Sumo/Mahindra Bolero type vehicle, and we can try Toyota Innova as well. Should we put this in invoice or there is an option of paying it directly to the driver too.

  • Family room is fine. If not possible we can do two rooms (adults + kids).
  • If you can arrange the Chamong tea Estate better. Car: whatever is more comfortable and safe. We need seat belts for everyone. If possible we prefer to pay you. Total days should be Oct 25-Nov 3. We can arrive early on Oct 25 and late on Nov 3.

We will be more than happy to arrange for your family to Sikkim and Darjeeling. This part of the Himalayas is damper than the rest. Sporadic rainfall may happen even in in late Oct. Electric heaters are not available inside the rooms. Keep adequate layers of warm clothing.

Also due to unavailability of rooms at Chamong, we propose a similar property, Tumsong Chaibari.

As per the conversation we have had in the last few days, here is the itinerary for your trip:

Suggested itinerary:

Oct 25 (Day 1): Arrive Bagdogra and transfer to Yuksom by Innova. () 160 Km. Arrive latest ~ 10 am. Inner Line Permit/RAP processing at Melli (after 70 Km) enroute, on Sikkim West Bengal border. Have your lunch on your own here or at Jorethang 30 Km further. 8 hours. Your guide for Yuksom will meet and greet you. Stay at Yuksom in Limboo Homestay/equivalent.

Oct 26: Explore Yuksom. After breakfast visit Coronation Throne site, Kathok Lake,monastery, colony area. After lunch in the afternoon visit Tashiding Monastery by car, 50 Km round trip. Night stay at Yuksom.

Oct 27: Today morning after breakfast we hike to the Sikkim’s oldest monastery Dubdi. This will be around 3/4 hours round trip. After lunch we will visit Gufa Dara village, around 30 mins hike. We will explore the small village and local community. Night stay at Yuksom

Oct 28: Start early after breakfast and drive from Yuksom to Maneybhanjang via Pelling. We will take a detour and visit Kanchenjunga Falls, Khecheopalri lake, Pemayangtse monastery and Rabdentse ruins around 180 Km, 10/12 hours with Sightseeing. Check here to get an understanding on the probable route. Have lunch on your own (maybe at Melli depending on time). Night Stay at Maneybhanjang. Homestay is at our Maneybhanjung base coordinators home.

Oct 29: Have your breakfast while we work the permit requirements. You may drive 3 Km uphill to Chitrey or start the walk from Maneybhanjung instead (Steep 3 Km climb, may take 1 to 1 and half hour). From Chitrey we follow our usual itinerary and trek to Tumling via Meghma (lunch)- 9 K, 5-6 hours.  Lodge accommodation at Tumling

Oct 30: Trek to Kalapokhari – 12 Km, 6-7 hours. After a Km or so the entry to Singalila National Park, with a check post. Lunch at Kaiyakata via Gairibas.  Lodge accommodation at Kalapokhari.

Oct 31: Trek to Sandakphu- 6 Km, 3-4 hours. Last 3 Km or so hike from Bikheybhanjung to Sandakphu is steep. Have your lunch at Sandakphu. In the afternoon walk on the Phalut Road to get magnificent views Sleeping Buddha. Lodge/hotel accommodation at Sandakphu.

Nov 01: Witness Sunrise. Early morning conditions may be windy and cold. After breakfast, trek down to Timburey- 15 Km, 7-8 hours. The downward trek is through beautiful jungle and glades in between. You may find bear claw marks or an elusive Red Panda if you are really lucky. Portions of this stretch are steep downhill.

Nov 02: After breakfast walk for 1/1.5 hours to the road head Srikhola, Drive to Tumsong Chaibari the Tea Retreat  – 75 Km, 3-4 hours. Last stretch of the track to Tumsong is not suitable for Innova and will need a high ground clearance vehicle (like Sumo/Bolero). Lunch at Tumsong.

Nov 03 (Day 10): After breakfast comfortably pack and depart for Bagdogra airport.  70 Km drive may take around 3 hours. Earliest flight you may take around 2 pm in the afternoon.

Thanks so much for the proposal, it follows what we discussed.

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Initially two prospective trekkers enquired about our early November Goecha La fixed departure trek. Their dates were not matching with our group departure date and they had plan to arrive couple of days later. They were keen on a right trek which should throw some challenges on the trail. Moreover they were open for treks in Uttarakhand too. Below is a series of questions and answers before arriving to a decision.

Thanks for getting back to me. We will arrive in Delhi from the UK on the 3rd Nov so I think we need a private trek. Is this possible to arrange with you. We are happy to pay more for this.

Of course, we can arrange a customised private trek for you two. However, it becomes overhead expensive to arrange any trek for a smaller group. We need to send the whole set up with our support staffs even with a smaller group. TREK FEE for a Customised Private Goecha la trek following the previously mentioned itinerary will be ₹ XXXXX+ 5% GST per person from Yuksom to Yuksom. You can offload your main rucksacks to our horses to reach from one campsite to another.

If this looks too expensive you can consider Sandakphu Trek. It’s a scenic tea house trek on Singalila ridge on Darjeeling -Nepal border. Four out of fourteen eight-thousande’s are visible in this trek. We can arrange a Premium Customised trek for you two of you in this trail. We’ll charge ₹ XXXXX + 5% GST per person from Chitrey to Srikhola.

Kindly let us know which one works for you, we’ll revert in accordance.

Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. We would be OK spending the amount for the right trek. Could you organise any treks in the Uttarakhand region? If possible we would like to avoid getting another flight from Delhi. Or would you always recommend Sikkim?

Following my email I have been looking on your website. Is Har Ki Dun the trek to do in November? We are keen to do a moderate trek but it looks like that might not be possible in November in Uttarakhand. Sorry for all the questions! just trying to work out the best option. Many thanks

As a matter of fact, arranging treks for foreigners is much easier in Uttarakhand than in Sikkim. Thanks to the easier rules & regulations regarding the hiking permits for foreigners as compared to Sikkim. Anyways since your initial query was for Goecha la, I thought you’re interested to explore the Eastern Himalayas only.

You were correct when you mentioned that moderate level treks in Uttarakhand are not accessible in November since Uttarakhand is situated at a higher latitude (and thus lower snowline) as compared to Sikkim. Har Ki Dun is a beginner’s level trek and doable in November or even in December (though no permits in December at present). Let me suggest two other routes which are not very difficult but definitely you’ll find these more challenging than Har Ki Dun. Regarding the beauty of the trails, they are as good as Har Ki Dun, if not better.

Kuari Pass on Curzon’s trail:

In the year of 1905 the then Viceroy of British India tried to penetrate deep into the hills which is now in Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand. Previous year he had successfully sent a British Expedition team to the forbidden land of Tibet. This charismatic adventurer entered the British parliament in 1886 and from then on he didn’t only build his reputation as a brilliant orator or ruthless administrator, he became a renowned explorer of the exotic orient. In the late nineteenth century, he travelled extensively in the interiors of Russia, Central Asia, Persia and then further East to French Indo-China, Siam (Thailand) and even to Korea. The following itinerary will follow the footsteps of this great adventurer in Garhwal Himalaya. The trail is famously named after him and called “Lord Curzon’s trail”. Later in the year of 1934 mountaineering legend Eric Shipton would spend near about 4 months roaming around this area. Our itinerary goes like :

Day 1: Haridwar to Ramni (via Nandaprayag, Ghat) – 260 Km by car – 12 hours – Camp.
Day 2: Ramni to Jhinji over Chechna Vinayak Pass – 9 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 3: Jhinji to Pana – 10 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 4: Pana to Dakwani – 11 Km – 6/7 hour. Camp
Day 5: Dakwani to Tali Forest camp over Kuari Pass – 8 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 6: Trek to Auli via Gurson Bugyal – 7 Km – 3/4 hours – Drive to Joshimath – 1 hour – Lodge.
Day 7: Drive from Joshimath to Haridwar – 275 Km by car – 10/11 hours

Check out this link for pictures and route details of Kuari pass on Curzon’s trail trek.

There’s another trek which I can think of. I’ve combined two easy treks and have come up with the following itinerary :

Customised itinerary of Brahmatal with Bedni Bugyal trek:

Day 1: Drive from Kathgodam to Lohajung – 220 Km by car 10 hours
Day 2: Trek to Bekhal Tal – 6 Km – 4/5 hours
Day 3: Trek to Brahma Tal – 6 Km – 4/5 hours
Day 4: Brahma Tal to Tilburi via Khamila Top/Jatropani – 8/9 Km – 7/8 hours
Day 5: Trek to Rann ka Dhar/Upper Wan village – 6/7 Km –4/5 hours
Day 6: Trek to Gahroli Patal – 6/7 Km –4/5 hours
Day 7: Trek to Ali Bugyal forest camp via Bedni Bugyal and kund – 8 Km – 5/6 hours – camp
Day 8: Trek to Didna via Ali Bugyal – 8 Km – 5 hours – homestay
Day 9: Descent to Kuling village – 2/3 hours – drive to Haridwar – 285 Km – 11/112 hours

*The map of the trail is attached with the mail. To get a better idea you can check out both treks explained separately in the following two links :

Please check Brahmatal and Bedni Bugyal trek details for detailed route information and pictures.

Please don’t hesitate to revert to get rid of any doubts. We are happy to help.

Thank you very much for your help so far. The first trek you suggest looks perfect. Could you let me know the total costs of the trip including taxi if we left on 5th November? And how we should get to the start from Delhi? Can we get the train? Many thanks

My we suggest another improvement in the itinerary of Curzon’s trail? I think if you’re looking for something challenging, this will spice things up!

Adding Pangarchula to Curzon’s trail makes sense, specially when you just add an additional day. Pangarchulla peak @ 4550 m/14925 ft offers unobstructed views of the region along with gracious Nanda Devi.

From last year there are restrictions in camping on the north face of Kuari Pass a.k.a Winter Kuari Pass trek. We can only camp inside forest at Tali. So basically you will cross Kuari Pass and reach Tali Forest to camp. Next day early morning (probably latest by 4 am, if not earlier) you can push for the summit with your light daypack. Weather can turn bad on high altitude from noon onward. It would be around 5 hours climb to Pangarchulla main summit (there are two, lower one named as Mini) from Tali camp. Return should not take more than 3 hours. Overall it will a strenuous day of 8 to 10 hours hike and will surely entice your adventure spirit.

Here are some pictures and details of Pangarchulla trek approaching from Joshimath.

Kuari pass on Curzon’s trail with Pangarchulla itinerary:

Day 1: Haridwar to Ramni (via Nandaprayag, Ghat) – 260 Km by car – 12 hours – Camp.
Day 2: Ramni to Jhinji over Chechna Vinayak Pass – 9 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 3: Jhinji to Pana – 10 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 4: Pana to Dakwani – 11 Km – 6/7 hour. Camp
Day 5: Dakwani to Tali Forest camp over Kuari Pass – 8 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp

Day 6: Early morning push for Pangarchulla summit, ~ 16 Km, 8/10 hours hike and return to same camp.
Day 7: Trek to Auli via Gurson Bugyal – 7 Km – 3/4 hours – Drive to Joshimath – 1 hour – Lodge.
Day 8: Drive from Joshimath to Haridwar – 275 Km by car – 10/11 hours

Please note that there is a chance of fresh snowfall on higher altitude during early November (snowline is significantly lower than Sikkim). In fact last year we had two groups in the 2nd week of November who got fresh snowfall up to 8/10 inches in my estimation. Logistically our team is one of the best in the area and managed to cross even with horses. Additionally hiking can be challenging in such scenario while trudging on fresh snow. However physicality wise this would be half decimal less (6.5/10) in my opinion.

Regarding travel to Haridwar from Delhi, train would be the most convenient. There are multiple trains for this 4/5 hours long journey, including overnight trains. If you have not been in this area before, you may wish to stay a night at Haridwar or Rishikesh (25 Km away towards your journey to base camp Ramni). While returning you get the same trains as well as frequent bus services.

We will arrange private transfer to base camp from Haridwar and return from Joshimath to Rishikesh/Haridwar. One way fare is ₹ 6000 for a Tata Sumo/Mahindra Bolero type vehicle. Either we can include it in invoice with 5% GST or you may pay directly to the driver.

Hope this helps in understanding. Please feel free to revert or any input which you may like to share.

Thank you for this new itinerary. The Pangarchulla peak does sound amazing but I am a bit worried about getting altitude sickness. If I did suffer from it, would it be possible to revert to the previous route? Are the other parts of the trek at a lower altitude?

Can you please provide us your prior hiking experience(s) including high altitude? Did you face any acclimatisation issues or any signs of AMS before?

The good thing about Curzon’s trail is that it provides ample opportunity to acclimatise. Camping grounds till Pana (i.e. first 3 nights) are well inside treeline, and the highest one Dakwani on the fringe of the treeline-meadows. The camp on the north side of the pass, i.e. Tali is also inside forest.

Now for the Pangarchulla summit day, you start from Tali camp and return to the same camp again. It is true that the main summit is almost at 15000 ft, but essentially you walk high, but sleep low inside forest cover. Also there is always an option to return to Tali camp from an intermediate point, in case you find any altitude problem. This is kind of an optional day in the itinerary, if everything goes well, you push for this challenging summit on this day.

On a different note, highest point of Goecha La trek is higher than Pangarchulla. There are instances that trekkers have suffered due to altitude problem at Dzongri and ahead.

Please get back to us with more questions 🙂

I have done a lot of skiing, but sometimes feel a bit unwell over ~3,500 metres. Hopefully I will be OK and I have very good fitness level. So this sounds fine. Could you send over the costs? Many thanks

Your camping grounds will be within 3500 m. I would suggest to carry medicine(s) which your doctor may suggest. Also our support team will carry portable oxygen cylinder for any urgent situation (though in rarest occasions trekkers have used this on treks).

So we plan to follow the below itinerary :

Day 0 (4th Nov): Transfer to Haridwar from Delhi
Day 1 (5th Nov): Haridwar to Ramni (via Nandaprayag, Ghat) – 260 Km by car – 12 hours – Camp.
Day 2: Ramni to Jhinji over Chechna Vinayak Pass – 9 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 3: Jhinji to Pana – 10 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 4: Pana to Dakwani – 11 Km – 6/7 hour. Camp
Day 5: Dakwani to Tali Forest camp over Kuari Pass – 8 Km – 5/6 hours. Camp
Day 6: Early morning push for Pangarchulla summit, ~ 16 Km, 8/10 hours hike and return to same camp.
Day 7: Trek to Auli via Gurson Bugyal – 7 Km – 3/4 hours – Drive to Joshimath – 1 hour – Lodge.
Day 8 (12th Nov): Drive from Joshimath to Haridwar – 275 Km by car – 10/11 hours

There are frequent trains available from Delhi to Haridwar. It’s better to pre-book your ticket and get a reservation.

After you reach Haridwar, We’ll arrange your transit to our trek base Ramni. The cab (the ones like Tata Sumo/Mahindra Bolero will cost you ₹ 6,000. Accordingly, we’ll arrange your return cab to Haridwar from Joshimath, fare will be the same. So both way it will cost you ₹ 12,000 for transportation.

TREK FEE from Ramni to Joshimath will be ₹ XXXXX + 5% GST per person.

Note: Consider this as a Standard Package in contrast to our Economic/Budget package for group departures. Base overhead is high for both packages anyways, so it would be nice to add few extra things without much cost difference. Also it is a 8 days trek regarding logistics cost (As this involves crossing a pass, sending and returning logistics to a base). We will provide camping stools and table with upgraded meals.

Please feel free to revert for any queries or package related information.

Thank you for this. The costs sound fine. We are going to check flights from the UK and get back to you next week if that’s OK? I just have one more question. What will the temperature be at night? Will it be very cold?

Post monsoon is usually colder than pre-monsoon. In November at late night / before dawn the temperature at the coldest campsite may plummet to -5° C. With the windchill effect it might feel like -10° C.

However, inside the tent, the temperature will be around 10°C warmer than outside.

And if you carry all the three upper layers mentioned in this link: , that should suffice for this trek. If you still feel cold you can always increase the number of base layers (T-Shirts). If you feel cold inside the sleeping bag, put another layer on and get into the bag. You can also fill your water bottle with boiling water after dinner and keep it inside the sleeping bag at night. Don’t forget to make sure that the bottle doesn’t leak.

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