Sikkim has many beautiful and unexplored places beyond the usual tourist hubs of Gangtok, Lachung and Yumthang Valley. There are many amazing things to see in South Sikkim that are yet to be explored by travellers.
We list a few of the hidden gems of this Himalayan paradise.
Temi Tea Garden and Factory, Temi
The Temi Tea Garden lies between Damthang and Temi Bazaar along the way to Singtam. It was, established in 1969 by the Government of Sikkim and covers an area 440 acres. This is Sikkim’s sole tea garden and connoisseurs will tell you that it is truly solitaire. The tea produced here enjoys international repute commanding premium prices in world auctions.
The last king of Sikkim initiated tea growing in Sikkim to provide employment for Tibetan refugees fleeing the Chinese invasion of their homeland. Initially a small plantation was started in Kewzing.
This later moved to Temi and a proper processing plant was constructed. Temi tea is planted along steep hillsides ranging from 1200-1800m. The factory is situated at 1500m and the road upto it is lined with cherry blossom trees.
Driving in November when these trees are in bloom is like moving through a pink mist beyond which one can glimpse the gleaming snows of Mt. Kanchendzonga.
The drive upto Temi takes you through mountain sides lush with ferns. Temi Tea Bungalow located here is managed by STDC and can be contacted for accommodation. Visitors may halt for tea and snacks in the bungalow as well.
We went inside the Temi tea factory for a tour of the entire tea production process. The Manager of the Factor, Mani Kumar Tamang was kind enough to let us in for witnessing the marvels of human hands that has been producing the world class organic Temi tea. We are been told that Temi tea has been exporting to many countries in the world across Asia, Europe, America.
Paragliding in Temi Tea Garden
Temi Tea authorities have introduced paragliding in their sprawling premises. The paragliding takes off from TEMI tea point, Section 1 and a flight usually lasts for about 4-5 minutes on air. The flight literally takes you off into a splendid journey overlooking the magnificent tea estate, the valley, and the massive mountain range including the Mount Kanchenjunga right infront of you.
The Paragliding at Temi Tea Garden also gives the provision of recording your experience with a go pro video. The cost of the paragliding with the recording comes at a price of Rs. 3000. However, without the video, it costs Rs. 2500 per person.
We also heard that they are introducing mountain biking. Well, this is one stop for some real adventure amidst the lush green tea slopes. A perfect combination of tea and adventure tourism. Where else will you find this?
Stay at Cherry Resort
Nestled amidst the thick layers of tea bushes, is a resort owned by the Sikkim Government. Cherry Resort gives unmatched views of the Mount Kanchenjuna and the River Tista gorge nearly 8000 metres below the garden. Set on the slopes of the garden, Cherry Resort offers breathtaking views of the hills of Sikkim and Himalayas.
Cherry Resort is open throughout the year. But what makes it really different and unique is the spectacular view of the blossoming Cherry in the months of October and November. The entire area looks amazing during these two months.
Explore parts of Namchi
Namchi is the largest township in South Sikkim. It is a flourishing urban area with lots of shops, establishments. There are also few really good souvenir shops that sells amazing cutlery, local handicraft items and other memorabilia. We bought a set of 6 cups that cost us Rs. 900.
There are quite a good number of hotels and homestays in Namchi. So, this place makes for a brief stopover in your journey to explore South Sikkim.
Chardham Temple, Namchi
The Chardham Temple at Solophok Hill is a relatively new establishment in this district. It is about 5 kms from Namchi town. You can easily get a cab from Namchi to visit Chardham temple.
The four Dhams that are there inside Chardham are Jagannath Dham, Dwarka Dham, Badrinath Dham and Rameshwaram Dham. The unique attraction of the Chardham temple is the 87 feet high statute of Lord Shiva on a sitting posture. This temple has also replicas of 12 Jyotirlingas for devotees. Additionally, there are also a Sai Baba temple and a statute of Kirateshwar.
Organic Farming in Villages
Sikkim is incidentally the first state in India to have gone completely organic with its farming and horticulture sector. All the horticulture and farm produce from Sikkim is free of fertilisers and pesticides. This makes the state an organic state.
Once you venture out from Namchi towards the rural areas, you will be surprised to discover many such villages who have been growing up farm and fruits produce organically. Apart from the main market in Namchi and Temi, there are some pockets where you will find few villagers all lined up with their organic produce.
You can also go out and explore these organic villages. Try and take a help from a local guide if need be. This is one step closer towards organic sustainable farming that paves the way towards a healthy lifestyle.
Homestays in South Sikkim
When in South Sikkim, come out of the rushed touristy hubs of Gangtok and Lachung. Slow paced travel is the name of the game in this district. You must have stayed in several over priced hotels and resorts. Here, give a chance to the lovely homestays and their owners ever eager to help you and share a laugh over a hot cup of tea or coffee with their warmth, love and hospitality.
There are various pockets where homestays are available in and around Namchi and Temi area.
However, we stayed at a brand new homestay which just got opened. This is called Orchid Villa Homestay. This is located in a place called Ganchung which is around 30 kms from Namchi town. Orchid Villa homestay has got 10 double bed rooms with breath taking views of the mighty Mount Kanchenjunga and the sprawling Temi Tea estate. You will be woken up with a layer of fog whispering on your ears. Their rooms are priced at Rs. 2400 and Rs. 3000 for double bed depending on the room category. Foods are charged separately. They also organise trekking and camping in nearby areas.
There are also couple of budget homestays which are Sarika Homestay and Aansham Kutir (near Temi Market). Sarika homestay are priced at Rs. 2000 per double bed room while Aansham Kutir has two double bed rooms with attached bathroom which are priced at Rs. 1200 per night with four meals. Aansham Kutir is perhaps the only homestay with such low tariffs we have come across. They also organise Trekking in and around the paddy fields and Bird Watching.
Most of these homestays offer you a sneak peek into traditional and authentic Nepali culture. Upon request they will also organise bonfire in the nights and a musical performance of Nepali songs.
Amit Sengupta and Mousumi Kar are travel writers at www.black-board.in and filmmakers based in Kolkata. They can be found on Instagram at @traveleramit and @zindagi.gulzarhai...