Lachen is the sister town of Lachung, tucked away in the Himalayan surprises, surrounded by the Lachen Chu river and mountain ranges. It is located at an altitude of 8838 feet and a distance of 109 km from Gangtok, is the starting point of treks further north into the Himalayas, and also to the nearby Gurudongmar Lake & Chopta Valley. As with all the areas in North Sikkim, travel to town requires permits, due to being close to the China border. This can be obtained from a travel office from Gangtok.
What to see
The town carries all the beauty of a small hill town, with wooden houses, narrow curvy roads, grazing cattle, and beautiful sights of the hills. The growth of tourism in the area has led to more concrete and brick houses, but the old charm remains. There is nothing much to purchase in the town, but the pleasant environment of the town itself is a treat for the eyes. A walk around the town in the early morning or evening is a light exercise as well as a delight for those who relish old-world sights. Lachen monastery is a short walk, and a beautiful site showcasing Buddhist culture. The inhabitants of the town are mostly Bhutias or Tibetan Buddhists but they know Hindi.
The most envied site close to town is Gurudongmar Lake, which is 67 km. It is advised to set out early in the morning to intercept the most beautiful views of the area and the lake itself. Surrounded by mountain peaks all around, the water of the lake is clear as crystal and shines out in the otherwise sparsely vegetated region. Gurudongmar is the second-highest lake in India, and the steep climb slows down the journey. As you drive on, you can see the height and density of vegetation changing as you go further. On the way, you can see small house-shops dotted around the roads, apart from military bases. There are incense stands outside houses at regular intervals, giving a different flavor to the mountain air.
Lachen is one of the most scenic spots in Sikkim and shows the undiluted, untouched farmland of the hills of India, recreating the old-world charm. Most hotels in town are homestays and the hospitality of the people can be experienced first-hand. It is also the starting point of treks in the mountains, which require extensive planning and permits. Professional mountaineers and trekkers will need to plan their treks way in advance, as per the season.
When to reach
Winter between October To February
Winter is a perfect season to visit Lachen if you are an adventure seeker. October marks the beginning of winter in Lachen and the season carries on till February. During winter the temperature of Lachen varies between -5°C to 15°C. At times it gets cold so it is advisable that you carry heavy woolens in winter. It is a great time to capture striking views of snow-capped mountains. During this time also visit the frozen Gurudongmar Lake which is around 63 km from Lachen for an adventurous experience. It also serves as a base for Chopta valley.
Summer between March To June
Although it’s a summer season from March to June in Lachen, the weather is still pleasant and ranges between 10°C to 28°C. You will never feel too hot here. It is a favorable time for sightseeing as you can easily explore its locales and attractions. Another highlight of the summer season in Lachen is the annual Yak Race, Thangu, full of thrill and adventure.
In Monsoon between July To September
Although the monsoon season has its charm in Lachen, however, due to heavy rainfall avoid this season visit Lachen. Monsoon is not considered a favorable time to travel to Lachen. Travelling can be difficult and full of hassles. Also, you won’t be able to enjoy outdoor activities and will have to stay inside most of the time. The temperature ranges from 15°C to 22°C during the monsoon in Lachen.
How to reach
Lachen is reachable via road from all the major towns of Sikkim. Tourists from the main cities like Gangtok and Pelling can book a good SUV to take the journey to Lachen. The journey itself is extremely pleasant, and nothing short of a day trip. The 8 to 10-hour drive to Lachen from Gangtok is rough in places, so it is important to start early in the day, as night driving is not safe in the hills.
The great news is that there is a new airport Pakyong Airport that has opened in the Pakyong village in Sikkim which is around 35 km from Gangtok. The airport is around 135 km from Lachen and hence can save your travel time to almost around 5 to 6-hour. You can directly fly to Gangtok from the major cities of India. At present only a few aircraft fly to and from this airport. It is located at an altitude of 4,590 feet and is one of the highest altitude airports in India.
A journey by train to Lachen is quite interesting. The nearest railway station to Lachen is New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri, West Bengal. It is around 155 kilometers from Lachen. Lachen is around 107 km from Gangtok and the most convenient and the only way to reach Lachen is to first come to Gangtok and then drive down to Lachen. This railway station is well connected to some of the major cities of India such as Kolkata and Delhi.
Lachen can be easily reached by road from any place in Sikkim. You have to first arrive at Gangtok to reach Lachen. Once you reach Gangtok ask your travel agent to get you the permit issued which is mandatory to visit Lachen. Stay for a day in Gangtok and the next day leaves early morning with your permit for Lachen.