SILK ROUTE Tour Information

The overview of Silk Route 
The Silk Route in Sikkim is an offshoot of an ancient trade route which came from Lhasa, crossing Chumbi Valley and passed through Nathula Pass and finally took the port of Tamralipta (present Tamluk in West Bengal). From Tamluk, this trade route took to the sea and reached Sri Lanka, Bali, Java and other parts of the Far East. We find the mention of Tamralipta as a busy sea-route on Bay of Bengal in Fa Hein’s accounts as early as 400 AD. This portion of the Old Silk route through Bhutan, East Sikkim and West Bengal was quite less travelled but is expected to have been discovered by traders as early as First Century AD. Most of the Mountain Passes in this region of the Eastern Himalayas are around 14,000 feet above sea-level and stays snow covered from November to April, which makes this route one of the most inhospitable regions on earth. The distance between Lhasa and Tamralipta through this nearly obscure part of the Ancient Silk Route was around 900 kms, which is significantly less than other seaports from Lhasa and this route was comparatively a safer land route option for the traders’ caravans.
Most popularly termed as the South West Silk Route, this is one of the most ancient parts of the route which connected the Yunan Province of China to Tibet and finally to India and as far as Afghanistan. Interestingly, silk was not the most treasured item traded in this part of the route – it was horses and tea, so the Chinese often referred this route as Dianzang Chama Gudao (ancient road of tea and horses between Yunnan, Tibet and India). Other important items traded in this route were sugar, salt, copper and cotton and unlike its counterparts in Central Asia, the caravans in this part of the South West Silk Route comprised horse caravans and not the Bactrian camel caravans.
There were further offshoots of this South West Silk Route from Lhasa and Lanzhou which crossed the Eastern Himalayas and reached Sikkim at different High altitude passes other than Nathu La like Jelep La and Dhonka La. All these routes converged at Eastern Sikkim and finally led to plains of Bengal from where they bifurcated to various sea ports and trade centers on coastal Bay of Bengal like Tamluk in India, and Wari-Bateshwar, Bhitagarh, Mahasthangarh, Bikrampur and Sonargaon in present Bangladesh. A section of the South West Silk Route crossed Lhasa and entered India through Nathu La from China whereas another section of the route crossed Burma (present Myanmar) and entered India through Assam (Kamrup) further to the sea ports of Bengal and present Bangladesh.
During recent times, this part of South West Silk Route through Nathu La was mostly operated by the Lhasa Newars for the last 400 years. The Lhasa Newars were influential expatriate traders from Kathmandu Valley who traded in Tibet for centuries. They traded between Tibet, Nepal and Gangetic plains of Eastern India over the Silk Road, and were a major cultural and economic bridge between Central Asia and South Asia. The Lhasa Newars rode their caravans over the Nathu La and Jelep La passes which were approached from Kalimpong in West Bengal and Gangtok in Sikkim. The Lhasa Newar trading ended after Nathu La was shut down by the Sino-Indian War in 1962.
Much of the modern history of the South West Silk Route through Sikkim would remain unfinished without the mention of Sir Francis Edward Younghusband – the famous British Explorer and Army officer. In 1904, Major Francis Younghusband led a successful mission through Nathu La to capture Lhasa. He travelled through much of present North Sikkim and East Sikkim’s Silk Route corridor to enter Tibet with his troops.

Icche Gaon:-
On the way to Icche Gaon, you can see the Coronation Bridge, an arch bridge which spans across the mighty Teesta river. It was named to commemorate the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937 and was completed in 1941. Enjoy the view of the Teesta river on the way till Teesta Bazar.
Sillery Gaon :-
Sillery Gaon is encircled by Pedong, Rishi and Aritar. The village is the home to the highly revered Sanghen Dorjee Monastery, located near Pedong. The origin of the monastery can be traced back 300 years ago, during the rule of Bhutanese in Pedong.
Reshikhola:-
About 20 KMs south of Rongli, at a meagre altitude of around 2000ft, Reshi or Reshikhola eco-tourism spot. Technically just on the edge of West Bengal, where the river Reshi marks the border with Sikkim, surrounded by evergreen forests and a charming khola (Small rivulet in Nepali), this place was first conceptualized as an eco-tourism destination by a local gentleman named Mr. Sebastian Pradhan around a decade back. In fact, much of what the old silk route has become these days from the view of tourism can be attributed to the effort and farsightedness of this man. He was the one who convinced the locals to start homestays out of their homes in various villages of the circuit. 
Aritrar, Lampokhari and Mankhim:-
Aritrar, at around 4000 ft. and 20 KMs from Rongli is another popular starting or ending point travelers opt for. This infact is a slight detour from the actual old silk route. What makes it worth a visit is an Artificial Lake with boating facilities (probably the only one in Sikkim), a British era Dak Bungalow inside a forest which tourists can stay in, and a hilltop view point offering a majestic sight of Mt Kanchenjunga on a clear morning.
Lingtam:-
Shortly after getting started from Rongli, Lingtam is where the permits will be checked. The names of the travelers are registered to keep track until one exits the region either from the Gangtok side or back here again. Few homestays have sprung up here as well in recent times. There is a small park by the side of the road beside the river with big rocks scattered around. Nice place for a few clicks.
Zuluk or Dzuluk:-
Probably the most popular of all places on silk route, Zuluk at 10000 ft. about 10 KMs up from Padamchen through thrilling hairpin bends, was even in a recent point of reality, a roadside Himalayan ‘bustee’ of about 100 houses.The View Points (Ganek, Thambi & Lungthung)
Zuluk inspite of its elevation does not offer a clear peep to the Kanchenjunga Range and the Trans-Himalaya. Three strategic viewpoints close by are popular for that matter, especially for the sunrise, as it generally gets foggy and gloom in the afternoon in this region.Just 6 KMs out of Zuluk is Ganek, It is more popular for the view of the Zuluk Loops. Around 30 hairpin bends are visible if the weather is clear.Thambi Viewpoint at 11600ft is particularly famous for the sunrise over the Kanchenjunga, besides also offering a majestic view of the loops. The loops look like a serpent laying over a mountain ridge. Carrying a pair of binoculars is advisable.16 KMs from Zuluk, travelling up through exhilarating hairpin bends (around 32), at around 12000ft, Lungthung is in my bet the best of the three. The entire panorama of Kanchenjunga is visible in a poised directness from here. Make sure you start early from Zuluk if wishing to see the sunrise out of here.
Nathang or Gnathang Valley:-
Probably the ‘apple of the eye’ of the entire Silk Route, Nathang Valley at 13500 ft. is magnificent. Originally inhabited by Tibetan yak herders, Nathang Valley in modern times is gaining popularity due to its pristine landscapes. Sometimes also referred to as ‘Ladakh of the east’, it indeed has some similarities. A flat grassy valley interspersed by winding streams of glacial melt surrounded by daunting barren mountains. It witnesses a riot of colors during the blooming season of Rhododendrons between June and September. Unlike any other place in the silk route, this small village of some 50 modest wooden houses are inhabited by people of Tibetan origin.
The valley changes its theme with time. From being engulfed with thick fog where visibility would be less than a meter, to pompous brightness in the sunlit mornings. Around 5 homestays take guests these days, some of which are traditional wooden houses. The altitude of the place makes it quite chilly in the nights, and if it is windy on top of that, it can get quite unbearable. There is a temple on a hilltop at the village. Be cautious before exerting on the steps, but if you get to the top, the view of the entire village and the extended valley will carve a place in your memories forever. Prayer flags adorn all corners of the village which makes it more colorful.
here is a wooden high school in the village, which is quite remarkable given its remoteness. The village gets intermittently inaccessible in winters when it recedes under thick blankets of snow. The surrounding slopes of the village are ideal for skiing and government of Sikkim is in talks with the army to set it up as a destination of winter sports. Apart from the homestays, an old Dafter Bunglow has been renovated recently by the ministry of tourism for accommodation. After Thangu in North Sikkim, Nathang Valley is the second highest place in Sikkim where tourists can stay but again, spending a night at 13500 ft., the body must be acclimatized properly.

Eagle’s Nest Bunker:-
Now this place is elusive. Very few people properly know about where it actually is. Even the locals of Nathang Valley and army officers posted there could not tell us about it, however it definitely is somewhere within a radius of 5 KMs from Nathang Valley on the main road. One of my friend could locate it successfully and witnessed a sunrise which left him, in his words, ‘spellbound’. It is an old army bunker atop a hill. The walls of the bunker have bullet marks from the Sino-Indian war in the early sixties. The location is perfectly strategic giving a 360-degree unhindered view of the surrounding. At sunrise, the bunker floats above a sea of clouds providing views of not only the entire Kanchenjunga massifs, but as far as the plains of Tibet on the North where the great Bramhaputra river (known as Tsongpo River in China) can be seen like a winding stream of molten gold echoing the first lights. Other distant peaks of Tibetan Plateau, western Bhutan, the Tarai plains of Bengal and even the hill town of Darjeeling can be spotted from the Eagle’s nest just like an Eagle would see it. An experience of witnessing a sunrise from up here would truly be mesmerizing.
Kupup Lake(Kupup lake a.k.a. Elephant or Hati Lake):-
On a clear day, if a lake manifests emerald blue hues and appears in shape like an elephant, it will be Kupup Lake. At the centerstage of a glorious adjoining valley, a small village Kupup with a sparse population and a police check post is situated on the banks of it. Bitan Cho, as it is locally called is also referred to as Elephant Lake due to its resemblance of shape.
Memencho Lake:-
Memencho Lake is another gorgeous high altitude lake quite near to Kupup. Unlike Bitan Cho, this lake is surrounded by straight standing conifers on all sides which makes it all the more alluring to the eye especially after a fresh snowfall when the trees wear a layer of white. This lake cannot be accessed directly by a car. A downward trek of 4 KMs through a winding road will have to be made to reach its shores. There is a beautiful view point set up at the banks.  Fed by the melts from the Jelep La Mountains just above it, the lake is known for changing colors with change in light conditions in a day.
Tukla Valley(The Yak Golf Course, Tukla Valley):-
About 15 KMs from Kupup, an untouched valley remains lost in ignorance due to its geographic immediacy with the international borders. Exotic is the word that would probably come closest in describing Tukla Valley. An extension of the lower Tibetan Plateau, at 13000 ft., vast and flat in expanse, with the Trans-Himalayan massifs smiling over it, Tukla Valley has potential to become what Yumthang could manage. Only a small part of the valley is accessible to civilians towards its eastern end. The valley is enveloped in red in the blooming season with rare orchids and rhododendrons. The access to Jelep La (also out of bounds for civilians) goes through the valley. A heroic expedition under Colonel Younghusband of the British Indian Army was led through the Jelep La in 1904 to capture Lhasa. A memorial for the lives lost thereby stands to this day in Tukla.
Another fascinating landmark of Tukla Valley is an Eighteen-hole golf course which has its place in the Guinness book of world records for being the highest in the world at 13025 ft. Called Yak Golf Course, for the reason being, senior golfers are transported across the fields on yaks. The course spreads across natural streams. Tournaments like the Kalimpong Cup has been held here.
Old Baba Mandir or Baba’s Bunker(The Old Baba Mandir or Baba’s Bunker Entrance):-
The new Baba Mandir which is a standard part of the Changu – Nathu La daytrip out of Gangtok these days, is a newly built structure in honor of baba Harbhajan Singh. The actual bunker, in which baba resided falls on the old silk route. It is also maintained with pure belief by the jawans of whichever regiment serves here. One can go inside the bunker and see baba’s bed, shoes, other articles etc. A lot of stories fly around, like how the bed is neatly draped every day and is found crumpled every morning, as if someone has slept on it, or how his shoes are found mud laden after being polished every now and then, etc.  The trekking trail for Memencho Lake goes down from opposite the road from here. The backyard of the bunker is cordoned off and is said to be strewn with landmines laid during the war of 1962 in anticipation of a Chinese invasion which never happened because of “blessings of baba” and was never taken out. Baba’s favorite dry fruits are served as Prasad to everybody visiting here. About 10 KMs from here is the new Baba mandir and shortly following which the Silk Route merges with the conventional road towards Nathu La out of Gangtok.

How to Reach:
NJP is the nearest station, to reach Sillery Gaon from the station it takes about 4 hours to cover the  95 Km distance.

Bagdogra Airport is the only nearest airport & it takes around 100 Km i.e 3 Hours & 41 Minutes to reach Sillery Gaon.

Tour Itinerary

Tour Furnished below


PLAN A:
DAY 1: NJP TO SILLERY GAON/ICCHE GAON……………..SILLERY GAON NIGHT STAY.
DAY 2: SILLERY GAON TO RESHI KHOLA…………RESHI KHOLA NIGHT STAY.
DAY 3:
 RESHI KHOLA TO MANKHIM TOP……MANKHIM NIGHT STAY (SIGHTSCEEN TO ARITER LAKE, MONASTERY)
DAY 4: MANKHIM TOP TO ZULUK………ZULUK NIGHT STAY
DAY 5: ZULUK TO NATHANG VALLEY……..NATHANG VALLEY NIGHT STAY. (SIGHTSCEEN TO KUPUP LAKE, OLD BABA MANDIR)
DAY 6:NATHANG VALLEY TO UPPAR GANGTOK DROP (SIGHTSCEEN TO NEW BABA MANDIR, CHANGU LAKE). 
[UPPAR GANGTOK TO HOTEL DROP BY CAR]. GANGTOK NIGHT STAY.
DAY 7: GANGTOK TO NJP DROP AND TOUR END.

PLAN B:-
DAY 1:NJP TO RESHI KHOLA…………….RESHI KHOLA NIGHT STAY.
DAY 2:RESHI KHOLA TO MANKHIM TOP……MANKHIM NIGHT STAY (SIGHTSCEEN TO ARITER LAKE, MONASTERY)
DAY 3:MANKHIM TOP TO ZULUK………ZULUK NIGHT STAY
DAY 4:ZULUK TO GANGTOK ……..GANGTOK NIGHT STAY.
(SIGHTSCEEN TO KUPUP LAKE,OLD BABA MANDIR,NEW BABA MANDIR,CHANGU LAKE)
 UPPAR GANGTOK DROP [UPPAR GANGTOK TO HOTEL DROP BY CAR].
DAY 5:GANGTOK NIGHT STAY.
DAY 6:GANGTOK TO NJP DROP AND TOUR END.

PLAN C:
Day 1 : Board the train from Howrah / Sealdah Railway station for New Jalpaiguri. Night stay at train.
Day 2 : Arrival at New Jalpaiguri (NJP) railway station and transfer to Echhegaon via Ramdhura.
Day 3 : After breakfast transfer to lower Zuluk ( padamchen)via Rongli. On the way to Lingtham visit Kuekhola Waterfalls. Overnight stay (Homestay)  at lower Zuluk.
Day 4 : After breakfast visit sightseeing (Zuluk-Zigzag), Thambi View Point, Bhulbhulia, Lungthung, Old Baba Mandir, Yak-Golf Course, Nathang Valley, Tukla Valley, Kupup or Elephant Lake. Back hotel. Overnight stay (Homestay) in Lower Zuluk (Padamchen).
Day 5 : After breakfast check out from hotel and transfer to Aritar. After lunch visit sightseeing Aritar Lake & Kali Mandir. Overnight stay (Homestay) at Aritar.
Day 6 : After breakfast check out from hotel and transfer to Pedong via Reshikhola.  Overnight stay (Homestay) at Pedong.
Day 7 : After lunch transfer to Njp railway station to board the train for Kolkata.
Day 8 : Reach Kolkata in the morning. Tour ends with sweet memories.
                                                      
 Note   :   Tour programme may be change.