Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim is a veritable wonderland with hot springs, yaks and grazing pastures on rolling meadows surrounded by mountains. Located more than 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) above sea level, the valley has an unspoilt beauty. The lush green forest abounds in pine and silver fir trees and wild flowers like primulas and rhododenrons.
Popularly known as the Valley of Flowers, Yumthang is home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary which has more than 40 species of rhododendron, the state flower. Surrounded by mountains with the river Yumthang Chu flowing by, the sanctuary is serene in its beauty covering an area of more than 40 sq km.
The flowering season from late February till mid-June turns the valley into a riot of colour as vibrant flowers bloom and dance in the breeze. Closed between December and March because of heavy snowfall, Yumthang Valley celebrates spring and summer with a flourish of greenery.
One cannot just fly or drive to Yumthang Valley. First, one has to go to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Pakyong Airport opened near Gangtok in September 2018. Before that, the nearest airport was Bagdogra, in West Bengal. From there, one had to go to Gangtok by road. Yumthang Valley is even farther away – nearly 150 km from Gangtok.
Located near the border with China, the area is under army control. To visit the valley and its nearest town, Lachung, one needs a special permit. It can be obtained from the tourism office in Gangtok and also through tour operators. From Gangtok to Yumthang Valley is a long road trip over difficult terrain where darkness falls early. Travellers need rest, a place to stay. Accommodation can be found in the nearest town, Lachung, about 120 km from Gangtok. The picturesque mountain village, located at a height of more than 8,500 feet (about 2,600 metres), stands on the banks of the Lachung Chu (river) and is breathtaking in its beauty with sparkling streams, waterfalls and apple orchards.
April to May is the time to see the rhododendrons in full glory. The adventure is not complete without a trip to Zero Point more than 20 km from the valley. Located at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet, it is called Zero Point because civilians are not allowed to drive any farther. The India-border is only a short distance away.The view is simply breathtaking. This is where three rivers meet and snow-clad mountain peaks reach for the sky.