By Chaitali Das
Situated in West Sikkim, district of Geyzing, Yuksom is a place of history, spirituality and eco-diversity. This remote hamlet has a population of around 2000 which is surpassed by the tourist population during the peak season. Apart from being the base camp for those trekking to Khangchendzonga National Park, Yuksom is known to be a place to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of nature. There are many beautiful tourist attractions within and nearby Yuksom.
History of Yuksom
Yuksom was the ancient capital of Sikkim. It was here that the first rulers of Sikkim were coronated in 1642. It is said that three lamas who had left Tibet, due to conflicts of religious interests, found the first ruler of Sikkim (named Phunstok) near the present day city of Gangtok and anointed him king at Yuksom. Yuksom means “a place where three lamas met”. It is said that these three lamas, played an important role in forming the first kingdom in Yuksom.
- Best time to visit: June to October. The valley is filled with colorful flowers and there is greenery all around. The temperatures during these months is very pleasant.
- Get down at: New Jalpaiguri
- Onward Journey: Shared jeeps or cars to Gangtok or Pelling are available right outside the New Jalpaiguri railway station. When you reach Gangtok or Pelling, it is advised to rest for the day and take another hired car next day to reach Yuksom.
- Hotel Location: Try to find accommodations near the Yuksom Market, it would help you visit many of the nearby attractions.
Tourist attractions of Yuksom
Established in 1701, this is the oldest monastery of Sikkim. Visitors have to walk for 1.5 KM from the Yuksom Market to reach this beautiful monastery. When you reach the monastery witness some of the well preserved ancient manuscripts, as well as the enshrined image of Lama Chenpo (one of the three lamas who founded the Sikkimese kingdom here). There is also a water driven prayer wheel, which you should not miss.
- Entry Fee: Rs. 20
- Timings: 6 AM – 5 PM (it would be a good idea to visit after 9 AM).
- Restrictions: There is a strict no photography rule inside the monastery.
- Tip: This 1.5 KM trek might take a few hours, if you are not used to walking on steep terrains. So you should start from Yuksom accordingly. You must try to return back to the main city by 4 PM as the road back leads through a dense forests.
- Did you know: This monastery is also known as “Hermit’s Cell” because of its remote and inaccessible location.
Lakes are revered in Sikkim, and Kathok is one such lake. The waters from the lake were used for the coronation of the first king of Sikkim. A shrine called Kathog Lhakhange was also built near the lake, but later destroyed during the Gurkha wars of 1643. The hike to the lake is about an hour from Yuksom Market. The lake itself is very small; but it is so tranquil and clean that you can hear the slightest flutter of the prayer flags that dots the lake’s shores. Go around it and look at the amazing orange fishes residing in the lake.
- Entry Fees: Rs. 20
- Timings: The lake is open only during the morning.
- Restrictions: Locals believe that the lake is sacred, so don’t wash your hands and feet in them.
- Did you know: The lake is said to change colour to reflect what one is thinking. It is thought to possess the soul of Kathog Rigdzin Chhenpo, one of the three lamas, who sanctified the waters of the lake. Many purification rituals are held here, every year.
Situated opposite to Kathok Lake, this park was built to house the coronation throne of first king. The Norbugang Chorten and a prayer wheel (turned by water) is situated within the park. The coronation throne is the biggest attraction of the park, as it was the place where the history of Sikkim started. The throne is situated under a pine tree. There are three other seats representing the three lamas who coronated the king. The Norbugang Chorten is believed to contain water and soil from each corner of Sikkim.
- Entry Fees: Rs. 20
- Timings: 9 AM – 5 PM
- Did you know: There is a foot print near the throne, said to belong to one of the three lamas who performed the coronation.
Other nearby attractions
Pelling: It is the nearest city and one that possesses a rich wealth of natural beauty. The city is known for many revered monasteries such as Pemayangste Monastery, Sangachoeling Monastery, etc. It would take 1 hour to reach Pelling from Yuksom.
Khecheopairi Lake: One of the most sacred lakes in Sikkim, for both Hindus and Buddhists. This pristine lake is dotted with prayer flags and huge fishes can be seen swimming within its clear waters. The lake is shaped like a footprint and it is believed that the footprint belongs to Lord Shiva or Goddess Tara, depending on whom you are asking! There is also a legend that states the lake is never dirty as whenever a leaf falls on the water a bird would carry it away.
Khangchendzonga Falls: Monsoons are the best time to visit this waterfall. When filled with water to the brim, its beauty is spectacular. The waterfall is 9 KM away from Yuksom, this is one place you should not miss when visiting the area.