Yuksom literally means the meeting of three great lamas. These lamas came from Tibet and established the Nyingmapa order of Tibetan Buddhism. They also crowned the first choygal of Sikkim in Yuksom in 1641. Yuksom is also the entry point of the Khangchendzonga National Park. Yuksom is the base camp for various trekkers and the mountain climbing course organized by the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. Loveable Yuksom is historic and charming it’s the main trailhead for the Khangchendzonga Trek, but lack direct views of the high mountains. The Community Information Centre offers internet connection in an unlikely hut near Kathok Lake.
Tourist Attractions in Yuksom The tourist attractions in Yuksom are Tashi Tenka, Norbugang Park, Dubdi Gompa and Kathok Wodsallin Gompa.
Tashi Tenka When Yuksom was Sikkim’s capital, a royal palace complex known as Tashi Tenka sat on a slight ridge to the south with superb almost 360 degree views. Today barely a stone remains but the views are still superb, to find the site take the small path marked by two crumbling little whitewashed stupas near the village school. The site is less than five minutes walk away through tiny Gupha Dara, a sub-hamlet of around a dozen semi-traditional houses.
Norbugang Park Norbugang Park contains a prayer house, chorten and the supposedly original Coronation Throne (Norbugang). Standing beneath a vast cryptomeria pine it looks something like an ancient Olympic medal podium made of whitewashed stone. Just in front is a spooky footprint fused into the stone. This was supposedly left by one of the crowning lamas: lift the little wooden guard-plank to see it. From murky Kathok Lake, anointing waters were taken for the original coronation.
Kathok Wodsallin Gompa Kathok Wodsallin Gompa near Hotel Tashi Gang exudes a wonderful Chinatown kitsch and enshrines a big gilded Padmasambhava statue. Similarly colourful is Ngadhak Changchub Choling, accessed through an ornate gateway opposite Hotel Yangri Gang.
Dubdi Gompa High above Yuksom, Dubdi Gompa is set in beautifully tended gardens behind three photogenic, coarsely hewn Stupa. Established in 1701, it is one of the Sikkim’s oldest monasteries but the cubic prayer house looks vastly newer. There’s no resident monk so if you want to look inside, locate the caretaker before you start the steep 45-minute climb from Yuksom’s village clinic. The way rises through thickets of trumpet lilies and some lovely mature forest.
Kathok Wodsallin Gompa Kathok Wodsallin Gompa near Hotel Tashi Gang
Dubdi Gompa Yuksom exudes a wonderful Chinatown kitsch and enshrines a big gilded Padmasambhava statue. Similarly colourful is Ngadhak Changchub Choling, accessed through an ornate gateway opposite Hotel Yangri Gang.
Trekking in Yuksom The trail to Dzongri and Goecha La heads uphill beyond the Hotel Tashi Gang, passing a police post where trekking permits are carefully checked. The route initially follows the Rathong Valley through unspoilt forest then ascends steeply to Bakhim (2740 m) and the rustic village of Tsokha (3050 m), where spending two nights helps with acclimatization. The next stage climbs to pleasant meadows around Dzongri (4025 m). Consider another acclimatization day here, spent strolling up to Dablakang or Dzongri La (4550 m, four-hour round trip) for fabulous views of Mt. Pandim (6691 m). From Dzongri, the trail drops steeply to Kochuran then follows the river to Thangsing (3840 m). From huts here or at Samiti Lake (4200 m), an early morning assault takes you to head-spinning Goecha La (4940 m) for those incredible view of Khangchendzonga. Readers have recommended an alternative viewpoint reached by climbing an hour up from the left side of Samiti Lake. The return is by essentially the same route but with short cuts that are sometimes a little overgrown. Alternatively at Dzongri you could cut south for about a week following the Singalila Ridge along the Nepal-Sikkim Border to emerge at Uttarey, from where public transport runs to Jorethang.
Yuksom to Tashiding Trek For this long but highly rewarding one-day trek, starting in Yuksom is easier than coming the other way. No trekking permits are required. Start down the pathway between hotels Yangri Gang and Penathang. The most attractive but longest route leads around behind the Phamrong Falls (heard but not seen) then rises to Tsong, where Susan Chetri plans a homestay at her family’s typical half-timbered house. From the terrace there are terrific views. Look for the blue-framed home towards the eastern end of the village: it’s on the right side of the main trail when heading for Tashiding. Beyond Tsong the trail divides. The upper route leads up fairly steeply to lonely Hongri Gompa, a small, unusually unpainted ancient monastery building with a superlative ridge top location. Local folklore claims the gompa was moved here from a higher location where monks kept being ravaged by yeti. Till this point the route is relatively easy to follow, with recently laid stone grips. But descending from Hongri there are slippery patches with lurking leeches. At Nessa hamlet, finding the way can be mildly confusing. A few minutes beyond in attractive Pokhari Dara (Where a tourist lodge is mooted beside the sweet little pond), the trails divides again beside the village shop. Descending takes you the moare direct way to Tashiding. Continuing high along the ridge brings you to Sinon Gompa very high above Tashiding. The final approach to that monastery has some fascinating, ancient mani walls but the descent to Tashiding is long and steep by the short-cut paths or almost 10 km of long switchbacks by road.
Tashiding in West Sikkim was built by the half sister of Chador Namgyal in 1716 on a spot consecrated by Guru Rimpoche, between the Ratong and Rangit rivers on a ridge overlooking both. It is considered to be the most sacred Chorten in Sikkim the sight of which is thought to bring blessings. Little Tashiding is just a single, sloping spur street forking north off the Yuksom-Legship road, but its south-facing views are wide and impressive. Walking 400 m south from the junction towards Legship, a series of atmospheric mani walls and brightly photogenic Tibetan inscriptions will take you to a colourful gateway at the Km 14 post. From here an obvious if sometimes slippery moss-stone footpath leads somewhat
Tashiding Sikkim steeply up to the ancient Tashiding Gompa in around 40 minutes. Founded in 1641 by one of the three Yuksom lamas, the monastery’s five colourful religious buildings are strung out between more functional monks quarters. The giant-sized prayer wheel with Tibetan script is picked out in gilt. Beautifully proportioned, the four-storey main prayer hall has delicate filigree top knot and looks great from a distance. On closer inspection most of the exterior décor is rather coarse, but wonderfully wide views from here across a semi-wild flower garden encompass the whole valley towards Ravangla. Beyond the last monastic building, a curious compound contains over a dozen white chortens, including the Thong-Wa-Rang-Dol, said to wash away the sins of anyone who gazes upon it. Smaller but more visually exciting is the golden Kench Chorgi Lorde stupa. In January or February, the monastery celebrates the Bumchu festival during which lamas gingerly open a sacred pot. Then, judging from the level of holy water within, they make all important predictions about the coming year. Each spring, pilgrims came here for the Bumchu festival to drink water from the sacred pot which has never run dry for over 300 years.
Accommodation in Yuksom There are trekker’s huts at Bakhim, Tsokha, Dzongri, Kokchuran, Thangsing and Samiti Lake. Most have neither furniture nor mattresses. So one has to bring a mat and good sleeping bag. Huts sometimes get booked out during high trekking season, so some camping might be involved. You or your porter will need to carry supplies, but limited food (and tongba) is available at Dzongri.
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