Namchi - A Tete A Tete With The City :
Location : Northeastern India, South Sikkim
Best Time to Visit : February mid to end of May & September mid to December.
Places to See : Samdruptse Hill, Meanam Peak, Ngadak Monastery, The Rock Garden, and Timi Tea Garden
Souvenirs : Paintings on canvas, to bags of cloth, handmade paper products, religious Buddhist items, to wall hangings, the Tashi Tagey.
Namchi - The Tale of the City :
Located at a height of 1675m, Namchi is the headquarters of the district. History has it that there was a time when the Chogyals ruled Sikkim. The Chogyals were the main monarchs of Sikkim and Ladakh. The Namgyal family separately ruled this area. Chogyal means the divine ruler. They ruled Sikkim from 1642 to 1975. History has it that one such Chogyal of Sikkim was cheated by a princess. Pende Ongmoo, Sikkimese princess cheated a Sikkimese Chogyal and she was caught in the process. The Chogyal supporters got enraged and killed her. The place where they killed her is present day Namchi. The locals still believe that the spirit of Pende Ongmoo didn’t rest in peace after this and still roams in the Ghurpisey mountains. They say that her spirit is found at the foot of these mountain ranges. Legend also says the story of the Samdruptse Hill. This is a hill which is supposed to fulfill all wishes. This is where the largest statue in the world of the Lord Padmasambhava going up to 118 feet is found. Earlier this hill was believed to be a volcano which is dormant. Myths have it that the Buddhist saints and monks go up to the hill and pray so that the volcano does not turn violent from being dormant.
Namchi - Down the Ages :
Down the ages, Namchi, the capital of Southern Sikkim, is a tourist spot lying just around 80km from the City of Gangtok, the state capital. The State of West Bengal lies close to Namchi and is the closest Sikkim city. Today, Namchi, the Pende Ongmoo site has limited population which makes it a better place for the tourists to visit. The town has a good literacy rate and the religion here is predominantly Buddhism. Nepali, English and Hindi are the languages spoken here.
Namchi - A Rendezvous :
A rendezvous with Namchi reveals that Namchi translates as the “top of the sky”. Nam means Sky and Chi means High in the language Bhutia. So Namchi, the sky high city of Sikkim, lying around 100 km from Siliguri is today rapidly developing into a good tourist spot with some of the best trekking routes. The tourist can get ready to get hypnotized with the sheer beauty of Namchi. Namchi offers some of the best scenic surroundings to view along with a number of pilgrimage centers. Namchi is the intermediary between West and south Sikkim. Anyone who has to go to the Western part of Sikkim has to cross the Southern Sikkim area and thus has to go through Namchi. It is certainly a good halt for a tired tourist.
Namchi - Travel Kitty :
Any holiday requires us to take a lot of souvenirs back home to help us relive the lovely stay we enjoy. At Namchi, a tourist could just pick up whatever is available in the market. It could be anything from paintings on canvas, to bags of cloth, handmade paper products, religious Buddhist items, to wall hangings, the Tashi Tagey which is the eight lucky signs, to the Tibetan woolen carpets; Namchi would have most of the Sikkim specials. Added to this the Thankas which are so popular in Sikkim with their religious depictions of deities, and the horse saddles and bone trumpets fill the travel kitty. Namchi sometimes also has shops which could give jewellery made out of silver, gold, stones, etc. Besides one could carry cardamom and alpine cheese of the best variety from here. If one is lucky one could also get jams, and good liqueur here. Thus the travel kitty in any city in Sikkim is a traveler’s delight.
Namchi - Joie de Vivre in the City :
The joie de vivre in the city of Namchi is to experience the beauty around, sense the religious touch to the city, and understand that even serenity in a place could give immense pleasure to a person. With its historical stories and mythical beliefs the city is intriguing in itself and this combined with the monasteries and home to the world’s largest statute at Samdruptse hill, the tea gardens also add to the beauty of the place. Namchi has some of the best spots for the tourists and a person coming here would see the following:
Hills and Peaks :
Samdruptse Hill :
This is situated in Namchi and is around 8 km from the main market. The scenic beauty of watching sunrise and sunset here sets a tourist into the mood to fall in love with the place. Besides this, the hill is also considered to be a hill for fulfilling wishes. Samdruptse in Bhutia language means the hill which fulfills wishes. The Dalai Lama laid its foundation in the year 1997. Then began the construction of the statue of Guru Padmasambhava. The statue at 135ft is considered to be the tallest in the world. It was completed in the year 2003.
Meanam Peak :
This is around 12 km from Ravangla. Situated at a height of 10,300 feet, this trek up to the top reveals a lot of dense expanse of forests, which really mesmerize the trekker. A perfect place for an adventure lover, the forests of rhododendrons, chestnut and oak, is also the natural living spot for the Himalayan Black Bear. Notwithstanding the fact that the Red Panda and many kinds of species of deer is also found here. Thus this place has rightly been assigned the distinction of being a wildlife sanctuary. Here is where one also finds the Bhaley Dunga. This is a natural projection of the rock like a rock spur. There is a ridge in the Yangang village which has a ridge. The Bhaley Dunga projects out from this ridge. This is a lovely sight and a perfect treat for the adventure lover, naturalist and the wildlife enthusiast.
Tendong Hill :
Atop a height of 8530 ft, the local language translates Tendong as a horn which shoots up. The lores of the Lepcha tribe relate this place to a flood which totally flooded this place and submerged it. It is said that Tendong Hill came up to save this land. The locals even today, offer prayers at the hill before the rainy season so that the deities don’t get angry and cause another calamity like before.
Ngadak Monastery :
One of the oldest monasteries in the State of Sikkim, this was constructed by Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal. Belonging to as early as the 17th century, the word Ngadak actually means promise. So it is believed that anyone coming here would make a promise to come back again. Namchi is around 3km from here and a tourist is enthralled to see the peace this place spreads and also the serenity that it charms people with.
Serdup Cheling Monastery :
Lying around 1 km from Namchi, this is a monastery that was constructed by the Nyingmapa Buddhist sect. The serene ambience, the tranquil atmosphere and the absolutely quiet surroundings hypnotizes a tourist and the individual actually feels a kind of soul cleansing here. There is a handicraft centre here very close by which sells the best of Sikkimese handicrafts. The entire town of Namchi is visible from here and the tourist gets taken in by the panoramic view of the lovely beautiful region of Namchi.
Duchen Cheling Monastery :
This is a monastery built on similar lines like that of Serdup Cheling Monastery. Namchi, located a kilometer away and this place has the credit being a part of the Nyingmapa Buddhist sect construction. The serenity and tranquility are a part and parcel of this monastery.
Kewzing Monastery :
Lying on the route to Ravangla from Namchi, this is a certain halt for people who want to feel the fresh and clear ambience of a serene surrounding. A tired tourist could halt here, have some rejuvenation and continue. That is the effect that this monastery gives to people.
This is a place where there are depictions of all kinds of pilgrimages like the Chaar Dham Yatra of the Hindus. There are huge statues of Lord Shiva and temples dedicated to the auspicious pilgrimage of Char Dham. Lying around 5 km from Namchi, this is slowly also becoming a cultural hub.
Sikkim Handicraft Centers :
The Kanchenjunga Handicrafts Centre :
Located in a place called Ally Dara, this is very near the Serdup Choeling Monastery and has the prized handicrafts made by people who have won awards for handicrafts.
Besides this there are many places of local crafts here which show the craftsmen at work. Hand knit woolen shawls are a prized pick here.
Natural Retreats :
The Rock Garden :
Set amidst totally tranquil background, the mountains form the main setting here. The idyllic surroundings coupled with the beauty around make this spot ideal for picnickers. Situated around 5 km from Namchi, this place is known for its scenic beauty.
Namchi Garden :
This is a garden with a beautiful array of flowers. In February all flower lovers come here and see the flower show held here every year. This is largest of its kind in Sikkim and people are mesmerized with the vibrant colors and their variety. Orchids are a popular feature here and the rare display of exotic orchids is a wonderful feast for the eye.
Tendong State Biodiversity Park :
Located around 16 km from Namchi, it has the best of varieties of medicinal plants from the Himalayas. The Forest Department of Sikkim takes care of this. Rare species are found here and the Biodiversity Park is a conserved zone. A tourist coming here likes to know more about plants he has not seen and species he hasn’t found.
Rayong Sunrise View Point :
When one goes to Ravangla from Namchi, this magnificently beautiful spot brings a tourist into a tearing halt and he stops to have a look at the beautiful view of the sunrise from here. The peaks seen here belong to Mt. Narshing, Pandim and Jopuno Kabur. The sunrise looks like a huge ball of flame exploding from behind these peaks. Tourists halt here and come here early morning to have a glimpse of the sunrise. It lies around 16km from Namchi.
This is a constructed village for tourists. This model is a unique feel and an intriguing experience with its 75 huts. The special solar system of lighting, surprise a tourist and the intricately paved brick paths with the peaceful surroundings render him totally weak with fascination. The farmlands and the absolutely down to earth simple locals of the village gives a tourist a real taste of authentic village life. Any tourist who has never gone to a village would get to know why it is so attractive and fascinating.
Salleybong Bul Cave :
Popular as a wishing cave, the locals believe that wishes come true in this cave. The distance of the caves is around 30minutes by road from Namchi. Hindus revere this as a holy site.
Tirikhola Dancing Falls :
This is a half hour by road from Namchi. Trekkers and adventure lovers prefer going by foot here. This waterfall is very beautiful and attracts all tourists with its simplicity.
Tea Gardens :
Timi Tea Garden :
500 acres of unending green beauty will set the mood for the tourist coming to this tea garden to ask for more. The tea garden here gives tea of an unusual flavor here. In the autumn season, the cherry trees here start blooming and when a tourist sees this flowery explosion lining the sides of the road, he is totally mesmerized. There is facility of taking the tourist round the tea factory which shows how tea leaves are plucked, dried, powdered and manufactured into the favorite beverage that hits the table every morning at every tea lover’s house. This tea garden lies around 18 km from Namchi.
Fun Retreats :
Rangit Water World :
This is a lake that has been formed by the Rangit Dam. There are facilities for swimming, boating and fishing here. Tourists come here for fun and enjoyment. Children have fun and this place situated around 26km from Ravangla is a good stopover for those who want to unwind with leisure.
This is a lovely place for those who like Wild West. The sleepy nature of this village reminds one of those in the Wild West. At an elevation of 7000 feet, the town is lethargic and sedate most of the times. But there are these festivities for Ihabsol which is a special time for the locals. They get ready and perform a warrior dance at the monastery here at Ravangla called the Ravang Monastery.
Baichung Stadium :
This has been constructed by the Government of Sikkim, in honor of the great football player Baichung Bhutia.
Thus Namchi is today a progressive tourist spot and a small pilgrim centre too. With a history to boast of and legends to relate, the town is a hub of monasteries, parks, and handicraft centers.
One who leaves this place thinks, “Calm is the air, calmest is Namchi.”