Trekking the Road to Kanchenjunga

  • The 200-year-old monastery of Lachen sits in isolated splendor in northern Sikkim.

    The 200-year-old monastery of Lachen sits in isolated splendor in northern Sikkim.

  • Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain, as seen from Gangtok's Tashi viewpoint

    Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain, as seen from Gangtok's Tashi viewpoint

  • A view of the Teesta River on the drive from Gangtok to Lanchen

    A view of the Teesta River on the drive from Gangtok to Lanchen

  • The matriarch of Shakti Himalaya's homestay in Radhu Kandu

    The matriarch of Shakti Himalaya's homestay in Radhu Kandu

  • The sitting area at the Radhu Kandu guesthouse

    The sitting area at the Radhu Kandu guesthouse

  • A mountain orchid

    A mountain orchid

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Driving, however, is the lazy way to see Sikkim’s mountains up close. The other way is to walk, as I did 10 years ago on a trek to Kanchenjunga. The route took us along a moderately difficult eight-day trail that wound upward through forests of rhododendron and azalea before reaching Goechala, a 4,910-meter-high pass at the foot of the great mountain. On the shores of sacred Samiti lake, the fog was so thick we could barely see two meters ahead; that night, we pitched our tents inside a deserted stone cottage, burning juniper branches to keep warm. The next morning, however, i woke to a staggering view: the-sun drenched south face of Kanchenjunga, so close that I felt like i could almost reach out and touch it.

A decade later, I’m happy to discover that—thanks to an innovative outfit called Shakti Himalayas—exploring sikkim by foot does not have to mean roughing it. the Delhi-based company, which also owns the exclusive 360° Leti lodge in Uttarakhand, has helped spruce up five village houses in southeast Sikkim as homestays for its three- to five-day guided walks. It is exceptionally well done, and gives travelers a unique opportunity to experience traditional village life, without compromising too much on comfort.

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