Yuksam Experience: The destination is around 180 kilometers from the New Jalpaiguri station and around 200 kms from Bagdogra Airport. The traveling time although should take around 5 hours but because of stretches of bad roads, it takes around 7 hours to reach Yuksam. It is around 2 hours from pelling another popular destination in Sikkim.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: There is not much to shop. Yuksom is a smalll village with very beautiful scenic beauty. There are lot of trekking routes which can be availed from here.
Activities & things to do: Well the best thing to do is to sit and watch the mountains. It is an ideal place to relax.
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: One can travel by train to New Jalpaigarsuri or travel by air to Bagdogra. The roads in the hills are mostly broken, so people with back problems should ideally travel in big cars with good shock absorbers or else may just land up with a Disc Prolapse.
Yuksam Experience: No one on any blog or website that I had read prior to going to Sikkim gave an accurate description of Yuksom - for instance, see descriptions here and here; one of those that gave a somewhat accurate description of the place was ghumakkar. It was either explicitly described as a town, or the town-status was implied in the fact that it was the original capital of Sikkim, a lot of tourists and trekkers visit it regularly etc. Hence after a long and scenic drive from Gangtok, we were expecting to reach a town slightly smaller than Gangtok, whereas Yuksom is actually just a bit bigger than a hamlet.
The main market of Yuksom consists of a few small shops clustered together – a few grocery shops, some chai-snacks-cold drink shops etc. Though we had no plans of hitting any happening night-spots or malls in Yuksom, we were a bit concerned at it’s lack of urban sprawl as we had not completed shopping for our trek and had planned to buy some stuff in Yuksom before setting out early the next morning. However, once we had visited the market and assured ourselves of the availability of the essential items we required, we cheered up and spent (wasted ?) some time on the non-essential stuff - typical touristy trinkets such as T-Shirts that proclaimed ‘Zongri’ in large capital letters with total disregard for the correct spelling - ‘Dzongri’.
We also relaxed and relished an atmosphere totally different from what we were accustomed to. Yuksom market is a place clearly set apart and away from the plains. The way you see garlands of shampoo and pan masala strung across the front section of small grocery shops everywhere else, the grocery shops in Yuksom’s market had woolen caps and gloves dangling down in the front section – proof that trekker’s concern themselves far more with staying warm than with personal hygiene (or lack of it); alternately proof of the ever-present opportunity to fall ill due to cold and the corresponding lack of will (and opportunity) to bathe.
Unlike other busy, crowded city markets, where one is serenaded by a cacophony of voices and horns and one’s olfactory senses often assaulted by the smell of diesel, here there is silence and calm, and the clean, fresh smell of rain and greenery, occasionally interspersed with the sizzling sound of something being fried accompanied by a delicious mouth-watering smell. The mountains are clearly visible in the distance and loom large on the horizon. You can sit on a bench outside a tea-stall, sip tea and gaze at them for hours, either reverently, excitedly or apprehensively, depending on what experience you anticipate during the trek ! In case you visit, Guptaji’s shop is highly recommended by a close friend of mine, especially their cheese - and - tomato toast.
As Yuksom is the base for starting the Dzongri/Goecha La trek and far more foreigners than desis go on the trek, the market is full of firangs. In fact, Yuksom itself is full of firangs. This is reflected even in the sizes of shirts stocked in the shop I mentioned earlier – the one that sold the ‘Zongri’ shirt – this shop is the only one which sells all kinds of trekking stuff such as track-shirts, jackets, waterproof trouser etc and their smallest size is ‘L’; as the shopkeeper told us, all foreigners have broad shoulders !
Though most people that come to Yuksom do so because it is the starting point for the Dzongri – Goechala trek, I think it is also the perfect place for a nice, relaxed holiday for those who are comfortable with solitude and silence and don’t hanker for the hustle-bustle, bright lights and crowds of a large city.
Apart from a lot of small lodges and rooms available, there is one 3 star hotel too, Hotel Tashi Gang. This is a scenic place to stay in, with a chorten just outside it’s gates, a well-maintained garden and rooms that have balconies with a view of snow-covered peaks. The interiors are warm and well done-up, and the service is good, if a bit slow at times. One can while away quite a few hours sitting on the balcony, looking out, reading books, chatting with one’s companions and just chilling peacefully. For a change of scene, one could amble down to Guptaji’s for cheese-tomato-toast and tea.
For those who are more active, Yuksom is surrounded by hills and forest and offers nice walks. The walk to Sachen is a lovely walk that can be completed in 3 hours – even if you amble slowly and take breaks on the way to admire the view, maybe spot a few birds too. It involves crossing 3 rope bridges across streams, this has just the right degree of adventure – it is different, it is fun, is very picturesque with the river below, hills around and multi-coloured prayer flags dangling from the bridge and it is not at all dangerous though the bridge sways gently as you walk across. The walk to Sachen and back is prefect for a day long hike, even for kids (note : it is 3 hours one way, so the kids will need to walk for a long time).
There are also some places of historical and cultural significance nearby. I did not find the time to visit any of these, but am mentioning them as this post would be incomplete without this information. The coronation throne, Dubdi monastery and Khecheparu Lake are all supposed to be worth a visit.
All in all, one could easily spend 4-5 days in Yuksom, and return to work feeling fully refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Food, sight-seeing and shopping: Cheese-and-tomato-toast in Guptaji's
Activities & things to do: Part of overview
Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: Yuksom can be reached by road either from Bagdogra or Gangtok. Be sure to leave either city early in the morning, for it is a long drive and the roads in the latter half of the drive are in a bad condition.
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