Biking tour of Sikkim in the Eastern Himalayan Foothills
Sikkim is one of the most beautiful and picturesque travel destinations of the Indian Himalayas. Surrounded by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, it is hailed as one of the world’s last utopias by the legendary guru, Padmasambhava. Your views on this trail range from plunging rhododendron-clad mountain valleys to monasteries and the pleasant smiles of its gentle, friendly and cheerful native people. To top it all is the stunning view of the Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain (8598m) stretched by your side on some days of your ride.
As part of any Unventured tour, local experiences like homestays and local yummy cuisine has been added. You will take the road less travelled to spot exotic Himalayan wildlife, tea-tasting sessions at one of the oldest tea estates and not to forget, interactions with locals to understand their culture through their voices. The picture post-card landscapes, some great climbs and thrilling downhill make this a perfect mountain getaway.
Who can do this tour?
The Eastern Himalayan Cycling Expedition is a High Intensity Tour and ideal for well-trained cyclists. The vistas are pristine and the riding distances range between 40-70Km on an average. The trail in Sikkim is a mix of climbs, steep descents, combined with narrow roads reaching an altitude of up to 3500 meters. Cyclists should be in relatively good overall physical shape with at least a moderate degree of cycling experience and should be adept at cycling long duration climbs. Being physically fit will, of course, be a huge asset but as the tour is fully supported the van is always close at hand if needed.
We will climb down and up several valleys as we take the road from Gangtok, through quaint village roads and countryside, to make our way up to Darjeeling. The ascents are, at some sections, steep. Gradients vary between 8-12%.
You will start your tour at the state capital of Gangtok, which is also a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning. On your first day of riding, you’ll go on an easy cycle-ride to get used to the higher altitude, of 1,437 metres (4,715 ft.), and ride to visit the 200-year-old baroque Enchey monastery. The next day you’ll continue your exploration of Tibetan Buddhism as you ride to Rumtek Monastery and make your way southwards. Now your daily ascents and descents begin in earnest!
You’ll be riding down into valleys and then up over passes (none higher than 2,100 m) where you’ll have the Kanchenjunga Mountain Range as your backdrop. There are five peaks in the range; including Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, with an elevation of 8,586 m (28,169 ft.). You will take breaks to visit Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, make a wish at Sikkim’s Tatha Gatha Buddha Monastery, sample tea from local plantations and enjoy a toy train ride in the colonial hill-station of Darjeeling. The lush green landscape, punctuated with colourful rhododendrons and orchids is breathtakingly beautiful and the ancient monasteries and Tibetan Buddhist culture is enriching and the tea is superior- welcome to Sikkim!
Travellers are expected to arrive in Bagdora before 2 pm to depart to Gangtok. This is a 4 ½ hour drive. Once you reach your hotel, you’ll freshen up and then meet for dinner and a trip briefing.
Drive Distance: 125KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• Meet and greet your fellow travellers
• Scenic drive from Bagdora to Gangtok
• Processing permits
You will start your day with a morning session of meditation and prayers at the Enchey Monastery. With the gong of the bell, you bow down in prayer for blessings for a safe and joyous ride. Your first day is an acclimatisation ride around Gangtok. You will climb up to Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok for the surreal viewpoint that oversees the city of Gangtok and for your first sighting of the Kanchenjunga Mountain ranges. You will visit the Institute of Tibetology, where your guide will walk you through the rich history of Tibetan studies, Buddhism and traditional art and detail the 11th-and-12th-century palm-leaf manuscripts, which are preserved in the Museum. The evening is spent walking around Gangtok town and getting ready for your ride the following day.
Ride Distance: 45KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• Meditation and prayers at one of the Holy Monasteries (Enchey)
• Acclimatisation ride to an altitude of 6,500 ft. (Ganesh Tok)
• An insight into Tibetology
You will cycle to Rumtek Monastery, which dates back to the 16th century and is currently the largest monastery in Sikkim. En-route your 23-km ride, you will stop over at the Ban Jakhri falls for some interesting stories about witch-doctors by your guide. Your trail today is through lush green mountains, Sikkimese villages and paddy fields leading you to your accommodation in a picturesque farm close to the monastery. The Rumtek Monastery also houses some of the rarest Buddhist religious art objects found in the world and is also a renowned centre for Kargyu teachings.
Drive Distance: 125KM Accommodation Type: Farm Stay
• About 35km ride to Rumtek
• Stop over at Ban Jakhri falls
• Visit the oldest and largest monastery in Sikkim
Go on an early morning walking tour around the farmstay and understand the Sikkimese way of life through their traditional kitchen setting and their source of self-sustenance. Post a nutritious breakfast, we ride along to Temi Tea gardens following the Teasta River, a 55-km ride with undulating climbs and thrilling down hills. Places of interest near Temi Tea gardens include the Mainam Hill.
Ride Distance: 56KM Accommodation Type: Resort
• Early morning farm walk
• Thrilling downhill ride
• Visit to the Mainam Hill
Your ride today is through picturesque valleys leading to Ravangla, also known as Tathagata Tsal. Today is an easy ride day as you explore the roots of Buddhism and its philosophies through stories of Buddha. Your accommodation is at another farmstay. Spend the evening leisurely and walk around the Buddha Park and soak in the serene views of the Kanchenjunga Mountain ranges.
Ride Distance: 25KM Accommodation Type: Farmstay
• Slow gradient, 15km ride from Yangang to Ravangla
• Visit Buddha Park
• Learn about Buddhism, its art and history
Given the time, early in the morning, you will visit the Maenam Bird Sanctuary in Ravangla. Post breakfast, you will ride to Yuksom – it’s a free-wheel ride down more than 1500m to Legship, then we cycle up to Tashiding and onwards to Yuksom. The total ride distance today is about 56km.
Ride Distance: 56KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• A walk along the fringes of Maenam Bird Sanctuary
• Winding down hill, free-wheeling ride
• Visit an old monastery en route in Legship
Today is a day of rest in Yuksom, a free day to walk around the loveable little historic town. You have an option to laze around in bed till breakfast time or wake up early for a round of bird-watching and hike up to a view point. The town, studded with giant prayer wheels, is also the first capital of the state and houses the coronation throne of the then king. These are places you can walk up to from your hotel. You will walk about, exploring Yuksom and also visit the holy Norbogang Lake to make a wish or two at the meeting point of the three Lamas. Dinner is a sit-down meal sipping on “Chang” (local rice beer) in a Sikkimese home and listening to stories of the land that they have called home.
Hike Distance: 5KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• Rest day
• Hike up the monastery
• Walk about Yuksom town
Another day of some great cycling routes – majority of today’s ride is downhill on good tarmac roads. The descent isn’t steep, so look around and enjoy the breathtaking landscape and stop and take photos. Pelling has the best views of the Kanchenjunga Mountain ranges and you will see them right outside your room from your homestay. Given the time we will drive up to the Pemayangste Monastery and listen to the evening prayers of the monks.
Ride Distance: 36KM Accommodation Type: Homestay
• Mostly downhill and some mild gradient uphill rides
• Surreal views of the mountain ranges
• Evening prayers at a monastery
A day of all terrain conditions, downhill, rolling terrain, muddy roads and then a steep incline climb to end the day. You will push your limits, enjoy the downhill sections and endure the climbs. You will ride down to Jorethang and climb up to Namchi, a small town, and to a quaint homestay. Namchi is synonymous with its beautiful sunsets and viewpoints that look down into the valleys of Sikkim.
Ride Distance: 70KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• Uphill ride
• Witness diversities of 2 regions
• Fun downhill ride
Another long days riding awaits; you’ll ride down from Namche and exit out of Sikkim and continue on towards Kalimpong (part of West Bengal). Although there is a dominant influence of Sikkim’s culture and tradition in Kalimpong and Darjeeling, the people are native tribes of Sikkim. The regions were divided during the time of colonisation based on geographic interests and have since stayed on. There is very little or negligent difference between these regions in the eyes of travellers.
Ride Distance: 52KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• Ride/drive into West Bengal
Today you will ride along winding roads and down into a valley and back up, through forests, villages and farm land. The views on this days ride are particularly picturesque of tea plantations along the many view points on the way. The route will be a slow climb all along getting into Darjeeling town and will make for perhaps one of the longest riding days on the tour.
Ride Distance: 55KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• Long downhill ride
• Witness diversities of 2 regions
• Fun downhill ride
Today is a day of rest at Darjeeling. You will visit one of the oldest tea estates and learn the nuances of processing, making and tasting tea – also a great place to pick up your stash of tea till your next visit. Another unique experience is the toy train ride that takes you around and inside the city of Darjeeling, winding and crossing through busy streets. It’s a one of the few steam engines that is still functional in the country and riding in one is nothing short of pure child-like joy.
Ride Distance: 0KM Accommodation Type: Hotel
• Toy train ride
• Tea tasting
• Walk around colonial influenced Darjeeling
Today, you will bid goodbye but before that you will take one last view of the Eastern Himalayas, the Kanchenjunga Mountain ranges, and the best by far is from the viewpoint over Tiger Hill. You will drive up to Tiger Hill to watch the sunrise over the Himalayan ranges and drive back to Bagdogra for your onward flights.
If you would like to stay longer in Darjeeling or even explore India further, Unventured can assist with accommodation and an itinerary accordingly.
The Eastern Himalayan Expedition is set against the backdrop of the Kanchenjunga mountain ranges with views of snow-capped mountains, river streams and valleys, quaint villages and rich cultural diversity. These are also some of the most beautiful flower-bedecked meadows forming the rich biodiversity of this mountainous land locked state.
This 13 day expedition begins and ends in Bagdogra/Siliguri and includes about 400km of cycling over 10 days. We’ve packed the right mix of cycling, leisure and exploration. You will experience stretches that challenge your limits, cultural experiences, sceneries that indulge your senses and interactions with the locals that expose you to their culture.
Difficulty Level: Intensive due the altitude, high gradient and weather conditions
Preparedness – Physical & Mental
Our Eastern Himalayan Expedition is a good blend of food, nature, culture, history and real world experiences of Sikkim on a cycle and by foot. Whether you are a seasoned cyclist or a regular city commuter, this trail has a good combination of challenging climbs to rolling hills through pleasant country side roads, villages, forest trails and plantations for you to trail leisurely and interact with the locals.
This tour is graded High intensity in terms of distance and gradient climbing, since most of the rides will be done on 100% tarmac roads. We suggest that our guests start mountain biking in their own home country a month before this trip. This is to ensure you take away the unfamiliarity with mountain bikes that occur due to lack of practice, physical unpreparedness; so you don’t hold up the other prepared participants. This tour will include a personal guide, mechanic and a designated driver.
Your tour will be supported with a “support vehicle”, the cycles are 21 speed aluminum 6061 alloy frame mountain bikes. You will also have a well-trained mechanic accompanying you, and a full repair kit with essential spares. We will also be carrying a back-up cycle along the expedition; just so that nobody misses out on the riding experience, should his or her bike have a serious breakdown.
Accommodation: Accommodation will be in 2-3 star hotels and home stays with good hygienic bathrooms offered on a twin-sharing basis.
Transport: A team of 10-12 riders will be supported by one coaster bus with a carrier that will transport both the riders and bikes along with a spare cycle, lunch packs and water. Through the day this vehicle will trail with the riders.
Bhutan, a land with breathtaking sceneries and the highest happiness quotient in the world. What better way is there to experience this country, it’s people and their culture than through the pace of the cycle. The Unventured team is a group of highly passionate and enthusiastic individuals and that passion and enthusiasm shows through every facet of the trip. Right from the initial telephone conversations, the welcome emails, the information snippets, to practice rides and to the actual trip, everything is meticulously planned and flawlessly executed. Accommodation arrangements in Bhutan were brilliant, We got to savour some of the local cuisine along with the traditional Indian meals and the bikes we rode were also well maintained.
The Rides themselves were very well balanced between easy to medium and slightly hard on the last day climb up Chele La Pass. All during the trip, there was plenty of freedom to just stop and take a few photos and the organizers made sure that the group rode together. Every query was answered and every concern was addressed immediately. Bhutan is a beautiful country and every Dzong, every Monastery has a story and we got a chance to learn about their history, culture and customs. Some of the places we traveled to were stunning especially Phobjikha Valley in Gangte. The ride through the valley was surreal.
All in all, this was one of the best trips that I have taken so far with a fantastic group of people. I highly recommend going on a trip with Unventured.