So Akash and I went to the Himalayas in spring. That was last year and we had already spent 3 weeks in North-West India. March in 2018 was warm, with Jaipur being quite hot during the day. The dust, pollution, and the heat got us bad and both of us fell sick in Rajasthan. I knew that we had to go somewhere cooler and North-East was closer to Calcutta, my hometown. Calcutta was also reeling under humidity that spring and so up the mountains, we went. That was Akash’s first time in the mountains and though he was a bit motion sick on the first day, that sturdy toddler fared well for the rest of the trip. Children anyway are tougher than we think and the two of us spent a lovely two weeks enjoying Sikkim spring. This itinerary was slow, keeping in mind that I was traveling alone with a baby and the highlight was the rhododendron blooming in Sikkim. You can speed up this trip and/or make it more active by adding trekking, camping, hiking, etc. I preferred to just relax and unwind.

Highlights of our 2 weeks Sikkim spring itinerary

  • Arrival at Bagdogra Airport ( taxi to Ghoom, our first point of stay) Vikkyz Homestay ….4 Nights
  • Ghoom (20 minutes shared taxi ride to Darjeeling for visiting the Mall and the Temple)
  • Ghoom (20 minutes shared taxi ride to Darjeeling for visiting the Botanical Garden)
  • Ghoom (20 minutes shared taxi ride to Darjeeling for visiting the tea gardens)
  • Shared Taxi ride to Okhrey from Darjeeling via Jorethang (Jorethang and Okhrey are in West Sikkim, another state)
  • Okhrey Stay at Royal Barsey Homestay…5 Nights
  • Okhrey to Hilley for Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary trek
  • Okhrey to Siliguri
  • Siliguri Stay at Hotel Mayor near the Gurudwara… 5 Nights
  • Siliguri (visited the tea gardens)
  • Siliguri (visited the Chilapata Forest)
  • Siliguri (visited the Bengal Safari Park)
  • Back to Kolkata …2 Nights and fly out

Red rhododendrons at Okhrey

Sikkim Spring 2018 itinerary Travel Facts

  • Start Point – Siliguri, West Bengal
  • Finish Point – Siliguri, West Bengal
  • States Covered – West Bengal, Sikkim
  • Duration – 14 Days
  • Theme – Family/Child-friendly, Nature, Rural Tourism
  • Suitability – For all ages as well as for travelers with restricted mobility (though the Barsey trek is not possible for mobility restricted travelers)
  • Optional Add-ons – Camping and hiking day/multi-day trips from Darjeeling, Onward Trip to Pelling in Sikkim, Multi-Day trek from Barsey to Pelling

Wild strawberries growing near our homestay at Okhrey

Overnight Stay Points on this Sikkim spring itinerary

  • Ghoom (the quieter alternative of Darjeeling)
  • Okhrey
  • Siliguri

You may also like: The rest of the other trip itineraries

Transportation Details for this Sikkim spring trip

  • Flew into Bagdogra (IXB) airport from New Delhi with Indigo Airlines. (12000 INR= 1 adult + 1 child)
  • Hired a private car to bring us to our homestay in Ghoom. (3000 INR)
  • Every day shared taxi transfer to Darjeeling from Ghoom (20 INR one way). This is super convenient. All you have to do is flag one down and squeeze in. Pay for two seats if you don’t want to get squashed and hop off wherever you want.
  • Shared Jeep transfer from Darjeeling main market to Jorethang in Sikkim ( 450 INR paid for 3 seats)
  • Private Jeep transfer from Jorethang to Okhrey (3000 INR/got fleeced)
  • Taxi transfer from Okhrey to Hilley (600 INR return. Though this is only a 20 minutes drive, this price is set in stone. The other option is to walk, wait endlessly for a shared jeep passing by or beg a drop from the other tourist vehicles).
  • Okhrey to Siliguri via Ghoom where I had kept the rest of our luggage (5000 INR)
  • Private tuk tuk sightseeing in Siliguri (ranged from 300-600 INR)
  • Shared tuk-tuk transfer in Siliguri (20 INR maximum)

White creamy magnolias in full bloom

Transfer time between points

  • Delhi to Siliguri direct flight (2.5 Hours)
  • Siliguri to Ghoom (4 Hours with breaks since Akash was having motion sickness)
  • Ghoom to Darjeeling (20 minutes one way)
  • Darjeeling Chowrasta to Jorethang main bus stand (2.5 Hours. Expect bad roads)
  • Jorethang to Okhrey (2 Hours. Excellent road)
  • Okhrey to Hilley (20 minutes one way)
  • Okhrey to Siliguri via Ghoom (8 Hours with stops)

Orchids growing at our homestay in Okhrey

Places where we stayed during this trip

  • Vikkyz Homestay in Ghoom (Approx. 700 INR/night with breakfast and dinner. Super hospitality and great views. Not for mobility restricted. Has Wifi)
  • Royal Barsey Homestay in Okhrey (Approx. 500 INR with all meals. Super hospitality. Expect a rustic local home atmosphere and negligible internet. No Wifi)
  • Hotel Manor in Siliguri (3500 INR/night with breakfast and Wifi. Good hospitality. Conveniently located)

Magnolias in full bloom at Okhrey

Sikkim Permits and other Requirements

This was a bit of a hassle since I travel with an Indian passport and Akash is a German national. As a minor, he could not avail an ILP (Inner Line Permit) without an accompanying adult and I certainly did not need one in my own country. Moreover, he as a foreigner was required by law to have one to visit Sikkim. So, at every checkpoint, there was a usual delay on how to deal with the situation with the kind officers finally permitting us to go without Akash’s ILP. So, all foreign travelers please note that,

  • Sikkim being a border state sharing its boundaries with 3 other countries, all foreign travelers are required to obtain ILP for security reasons.
  • These can be obtained from all Indian Missions, Sikkim Tourism Offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, District Magistrates Office of Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Rangpo on the strength of an Indian Visa. The 30 days duration Permit is issued on the spot without any delay provided photocopies of the passport and visa along with two passport photos of the applicants are made available. The permissible duration of the stay for foreign tourists is 30 days initially.
  • The State Government is authorized to extend the same by a further period of 30 days. The extension of the permit can be obtained from FRO at Gangtok and the office of the Superintendent of Police of the North, West, and South Districts.
  • For those interested in going trekking in the interior region of the state, the Tourism and Civil Aviation issues Protected Area Permit (PAP) at Gangtok which is available for a certain specified area for groups consisting of two or more foreigners subject to the condition that the trekking programme is arranged through a registered travel agency. Here is the list of approved agencies permitted to obtain PAP for their guests.
  • Nathula and Gurudongmar lake are located in the international border areas. These are not open to foreign nationals.
  • Since Nathula and Gurudongmar lake are in international border areas, Indian tourists, as well as locals, need a permit to visit these areas. Permits for Nathula and Gurudongmar lake are issued by the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department. To obtain permits contact any of these approved travel agents.
  • Beyond Singhik all areas in North Sikkim are accessible only with required permits. Bikers need a special permit to ply in Protected areas, private vehicles are not allowed in protected areas.
  • OCI holders need Inner Line permits to visit Sikkim on the strength of a valid Indian visa. You can apply online for Inner Line Permit here.
  • As per the rules of the Sikkim State Government, out-of-state motorbikes are to obtain permission from the Home department of Govt. of Sikkim.  You can obtain get more information here.
  • For more information on ILP, PAP, etc check out this detailed informative post.

Pink rhododendrons at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary

Highlights of Sikkim Spring

March to April is a great time for visiting Sikkim. Though a bit wet and with a chill in the air, the days are fresh with clear views of the Kanchendzonga. Flowers bloom everywhere and this is the perfect time for adventure activities.

  • The average temperature in March, April, and May in Sikkim – Max: 20°C, Minimum: 11°C.
  • March marks the beginning of Sikkim spring.
  • Rhododendrons bloom in Barsey-Uttarey, as well as Okhrey.
  • Primula flowering takes place at Changu Lake and Nathu La.
  • It is a good time to visit the Valley of Flowers in Yumthang, Sikkim.
  • Also a perfect time and weather condition for all adventure activities like trekking, river rafting, camping, etc.
  • Lakes are no more frozen.

2019 is forecasted to witness mega blooming f rhododendrons at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. Though rhododendrons bloom every year, this occurs every three years and the next mega blooming is in 2022. 

Wildflowers at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary

Wildflowers growing on a moss-covered tree trunk

White rhododendrons are rare to see.

Flowering trees near Okhrey

Our comfortable Okhrey homestay

Follow the rest of the Sikkim series