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West Sikkim walks


The numerous trails crisscrossing the countryside of West Sikkim take you into the heart of the Singalila forests. Best visited between mid-April and mid-May, when the rhododendrons are in full bloom, the Varshey Rhododendron Sanctuary (aka Barsey or Varsey) covers 104 square kilometres, which range in altitude from 2840m to 4250m and are home to black bear, red panda and pheasant. Entry permits (Rs50 [Rs25]) for the sanctuary are available from forestry departments at Hilley, Soreng, Uttarey and Gangtok, and the most popular trail is the 8km round-trip from Hilley to Varshey (3030m), which offers majestic views. You can extend the walk to Uttarey (3–4 days with tented accommodation), from where you can either take transport to Jorethang and points en route, or continue on foot to the small town of Dentam. From Dentam, a river-valley trail leads to Rinchenpong (4–5hr), a good base for West Sikkim treks; another trail from Dentam leads east up the ridge to Pelling (4–5hr). There are numerous permutations and possibilities to trekking in this region including an extension, with prior arrangement with tour operators and the appropriate permits, into the long high-altitude Singalila Ridge trek to Dzongri and beyond.

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