Visiting Sikkim in December: FAQ

By Mridula Dwivedi January 16, 2007 69 Comments

After coming back from the Kuari Pass Trek in June, 2006 I was restless as to where would we go in December. When a colleague suggested Sikkim, I liked the idea and when I told him, so did Sesha. We did check out a few packages for Sikkim Tourism but in the end we decided to do it ourself.

But my biggest worry was, “Would I freeze to death in Sikkim in December?” “Would there be too much snow?” Of course, I searched on the inetrnet and was reassured that people do go to Sikkim in December and come back to tell the tale.

So, now that I am back I decided to do a FAQ for going to Sikkim in December.

Q. Is December the right month to visit Sikkim? Will it be too cold?

A. Right month would depend on what you want to do in Sikkim. Flowers would not be in bloom but most of the tourist areas are accessible in December and less crowded. So if December is the only time you can manage to get those leaves, a visit to Sikkim is possible.
At lower regions like Pelling and Gangtok, it was not really that cold in December. Pelling is at a height of 6,800 feet (2,085 m) and Gangtok has an altitude of 5,840 feet (1769 m). The weather forecast may say that temperatures vary from 15 degree Celsius (high) to 0 degree (lowest) in December. The thing is that days are quite sunny and 15 degree does not feel bad. 0 degree happens (if at all) when you are safely tucked inside a bed at night. Of course, heavy woolens are required but I could keep the cold at bay by using multiple layer of clothing and a heavy jacket. And I am a person who finds cold extremely difficult to handle. So, my feeling is that at places like Pelling and Gangtok, December is quite OK.
In fact, it became quite crowded in Gangtok from 25th December to 31 December. Since we do not book our hotels in advances, that gave us a mild anxiety attack but there were still vacant rooms available in Gangtok in December.

Zero Point (Altitude 14,600 feet, 4450m), Beyond Yumthang Valley, North Sikkim

Q. Will a trip to Yumthang be possible in December or the routes get closed due to snow?

A. No, the routes do not normally close. We were able to visit Yumthang (11800 feet, 3596m) in December without any difficulty. In fact, there was no snow at the Yumthang valley itself. To see the snow, we had to go to what is called as ‘Zero Point’ (14,600 feet, 4450m). It is definitely much more colder at these heights. But Yumthang valley and Zero Point do not offer accommodation. One has to visit the area and come back. So, wrap yourself properly and when it becomes too cold outside crawl back into the vehicle that took you there. Our shared jeep group could take Zero Point only for 45 minutes but that was enough for everyone of us. For my visit (December 28, 2006) there was not really any need to wear snow boots in the area.

The place where night accomodation is offered on the Yumthang trip is usually Lachung (8800 feet, 2682 m) and I found it cold. But we carry good sleeping bags with us and I use it in addition to the hotel supply of quilts. This is also due to the fact that I find cold extremely difficult to handle. The hotel rooms at Lachung are very basic and not heated.

Q. Will a trip to Nathu-La be possible in December or the routes get closed due to snow?

A.A trip to Nathu-La is possible in December, the routes are open. However, as the Sikkim Government Website informs us “Nathula is open only for Indian nationals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The visitors have to get the permit to visit the place by applying to the Tourism Department through a registered Travel Agency.” For the Indian nationals, the trip is possible. On my visit (December 30, 2006) there was no need to wear snow boots in the area.

Q. Can foreigners visit Nathu-La, the India China border?

A. If you look at the Sikkim governemnt website link above, it says as of now Nathu-La is open only to Indian nationals on specific days (look under the Nathu-La section).

Q. Will the Tsomgo lake (also known as Changu Lake) be frozen in December?

A. Tsomgo/Changu Lake is on the way to Nathu-La and the tourist jeeps make a stop here for lunch (even otherwise). On my trip (December 30, 2006) it was not frozen. However, a friend who visited Sikkim in February said it was frozen then. I had my lunch here on my way back from Nathu-La, and I found it really cold but bearable. Also, while going we made a brief stop and the weather was clear. On the way back, a thick fog had developed and I could not take anymore pictures of the lake due to the fog.

Q. Can foreigners visit Tsomgo/Changu Lake in Sikkim?

A. Again, quoting from the Sikkim government website, “Foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for the visitors permit through a registered travel agency.” (look under the Tsomgo Lake section).

Q. Do I need to book al the tours before reaching Sikkim in December?

A. That depends on your comfort level. We did not pre-book hotels, or tours for Yumthang and Nathu-La (December 2006) and had no problem with anything. But we are backpackers. So, if you do not want to pre-book from your city, it is OK. We asked for a trip to Yumthang for next day and we had no problem in getting the permit.

Nathu-La is open only on specific days,so the trip requires a little bit of extra planning. For example I booked my 30th December tour to Nathu-La on 27th December and got the permit.

If you have any other question for going to Sikkim in December, please leave a comment. I would try to answer it as soon as possible.

Also, the information above should be treated with caution, as the guidelines and rules of the Indian government could change.

The weather is a fickle thing and what is true in 2006 may not remain the same in other years. Also, what is reasonably cold for one person may not be so for another. I have tried to give you my impressions an hope that it may help you for planning a trip to Sikkim in December.

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69 thoughts on “Visiting Sikkim in December: FAQ”

  1. Yes, it is way too much :) Thanks for pointing it out. The error and other typos stand corrected now. I posted this one in a hurry. Note to self: the post would not run away if saved in the draft mode.

  2. Nice FAQ – very helpful indeed. I must say, that though I don’t post many comments, I am a regular reader to all your travel posts now ! Thanks for the wonderful pictures…

  3. Nice FAQs. I have never crossed bihar towards east. Can you tell me the expenses on boarding, lodging and conveyance. I always tour on shoe string budget.

  4. I went to Sikkim in February and t was awesome …the snow had melted a bit abd the Tsongo lake was not frozen , but there was enough snow at nathulla . I had only visited Gangtok , Pelling and Yuksom – could not go to North Sikkim…however Arunachal this Dec was freezing …sub zero,15000 feet

  5. Pooja, good to see you here after a long time. The Sikkim trip was good fun for us, I hope the memories will last till I go for another trip :)Kartik, thanks a lot for taking time and leaving a comment. And a bigger thanks for reading what I write :)Thanks Prashanth.Karnail, I will leave out the train fare of reaching New Jalpaiguri as it can be checked from the Indian railway site.A shared jeep ticket from New Jalpaiguri to Gangtok is Rs 150. The same for Pelling is 300. We paid 300 rupess for the hotel per day in Pelling (but some were paying 500 too for the similar rooms in the same hotel). In December (and cloder months in general) in Pelling a lot of rooms are empty, so one can get rooms for even less. Even in Gangtok one can find rooms for 350 or less if one tries. My hunch is that in season the rates may be a bit on the higher side.Food cost, again a wide variety of options are available, from very low to high. But if you are used to Delhi rates (or any metro) even the high end restaurants in Gangtok are much less expensive. Hope this helps, if I have left out something, do let me know.

  6. Backpakker, while I was writing the reply, your comment came in. Thanks for the Feb information. If the picture of the lake on your blog is anything to go by, Arunanchal Pradesh is going to be on my agenda.

  7. Brilliant, i’ll this for future reference. Your posts have only spurred me on.Anyways, the XT is good camera – the more you use it the more get better :)Cheers.

  8. Akshay, good to hear that you found the FAQ on Sikkim useful.I guess I would get better with the camera if I play with it more but when I reach home, all I can think of is a good cup of tea.I might go somewhere in Feb and I will surely take tons of pictures then and i hope some of them would come out well too.

  9. Another of my friends travelled to a few more NE states this year and had a good trip too. Hope I’ll be able to do that some time soon!

  10. 12s, as far as I know tourists cannot cross the border via Nathu-La at this point. Only traders can go upto a specific point, though even the trade was closed during the winter. I also cannot make out if you are an Indian national or not. Because as of now Govt. of India does not allow foreigners to go up to Nathu-La. Hope this helps.

  11. This may be slightly off topic, but is it possible to trek from Sikkim into Bhutan? or for that matter, into China? I’m currently planning a trek in Sikkim that will span a month, so any information would be helpful. Thanks!

  12. Hello Mridula! An excellent blog, and a very informative article about Sikkim. Am going there next week with my friends, and I stumbled upon your travelogue while hunting for info. The Yumthang Valley picture is excellent! Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm!Sincerely,Sushanth

  13. Still remains a great blog for travel to Sikkim during December which I am planning this month. Thanks for all the information. Keep up the good work – Amit Bhatnagar

  14. hi,me and a few guys from work are planning to go to Sikkim this month end and i was wondering if you could give us any sort of "places to visit" in Sikkim. We would be staying in Gangtok for 6 days and would like to know the places we can visit in this time span (major places of attraction and must visits), It would be great if you could help me out! :)regards,karthik

    1. 6 days in my opinion for Gangtok is too long. One good day trip from gangtok is Nathu-La. North Sikkim is also beautiful. Give it a try.

  15. Dear Mridula

    Thanks a ton for the useful info. Im planning a trip with my husband and 3 yr old son during the Xmas break. Is it a good time to travel. What is the itinerary that you would suggest for a one week trip. Also any decent hotels that you can suggest. I know im asking for too much but the problem is I once organised a trip to Darjeeling and it was an absolute fiasco – badly treated and cheated…dont want it to happen again. Thanks Sai

    1. Hi Sai,

      I am weak in the hotel department. Xmas break is a good time to see snow. When we did this trip my husband and I would stay at budget places which we would book only after arriving hence I really do not have a hotel recommendation. I would say try and search for hotels there. If you need more discussion write an email, we can then discuss it in greater detail.

  16. Excellent info at this blog
    Can someone guide me as to howmany days would be needed to explore N E INDIA if i start my trip from Guwahati.What are the ‘must see or experience” places in this region other then the regular Darjeeling.

  17. can it be possible to reach darjelling from lachung in a single day? how much distance and time require for it?

  18. Your FAQs are very useful and I am planning a trip to Lachen & Lachung on this new year. I want to know that can I go there on my private vehicle, is it possible ? I mean do we need any kind of permit for that ?

    And one more thing is it possible to go to Lachen from Siliguri on the same day ?

    I am looking forward to your reply, it will help me in planning my tour..

  19. Very Good Information. I have planned for visit to Gangok, Yumthang, Pelling Nathula and Chhangu Lake this December end from 21-31 December and would share my expenditure afer my return.

  20. Dear Mridula,
    Thanks a lot for the blog! Very informative and helpful. After reading this I finalized my family tour to Sikkim in December 2013! 25Dec to 2 Jan. Mumbai-
    26,Nathula and back-
    28,yumthung and zero point and back to Lachung-
    30, Gangtok sightseeing shopping-Bagdogra.
    Yet I have 2 days more. I would love to have your suggestion-modification, Please. We are family of 4, age 50, 45, 24, 19. Should I add Pelling? Or stay a night more on above mentioned place?

      1. Are you Gujarati? I am Gujarati. I would like to know that will a trip to Gurudongmar be possible in December or the routes get closed due to snow?

  21. Very informative and cleared a lot of doubts! Very happy to hear that Yumthang Valley and Nathula Pass will be accessible in December. And just a question.. In Sikkim, can we actually experience a ‘snowfall’ at any place in December?

    1. Thanks Prathima. I think you can if you go beyond Yumthang Valley but not sure. I remember a very light snowfall on the way to Nathu-La.

  22. Hi Mridula

    Really liked your blog. We are planning a trip in december end (25th to 1st Jan) and we have aged as well as infant (2 yr) with us. Will it be a problem?

    1. Hi Monal,

      Not sure how high you plan to go. Not sure how a two year old will react to altitude. A doctor would know best. Gangtok etc should not be a problem but do check with a doctor.

      1. We would reach bagdogra on 24th and would be using taxi from there. Also we would cover only gangtok, pelling and darjeeling. We are planning to visit till changu lake but wont go beyond that..
        Please let me know your suggesstion.

  23. Hi,
    Iam planning 4-5 days trip to sikkim, I wanted to know the places we can explore in 5 days, Also I have a choice either to go in 2nd week of December or in last week of December i.e on Christmas time, I have no problem with snow fall but a little worried if the roads will be dangerous due to fog and snow.
    If you can help me with my queries, it would be grateful

  24. Hi Mridula,

    I am planning to visit Dzongu in North Sikkim in the last week of December. Will the roads be clear?Any suggestions??

    1. Anwesha we reached up to Zero point but could not go to the lake because of there were no takers for a shared jeep. I don’t think normally there is any problem up to Zero Point.

  25. Hi,
    I’m from Bangladesh. I along with my wife and another family plan to travel to Gangtok, Tsongmo lake on 2nd week of this month.Will we need special permission ? Can we see snow in Tsongmo lake at that time? It will be helpful for us if you let me inform it.
    With thanks.

    1. Wish you a good trip Dr. Biswas. This is the latest website of the government and the information remains the same- foreigners have to be in a group of two or more. Any travel agent should be able to do it for you. Hope this helps.

  26. want to go to sikkim in mid feb 2014 ( winter month) for 3 nights – 3/4 person. plz suggest what r d best places to vist in winter ( 3 nights stay) , where to stay – want to c a nice monastery, nature , flowers . if possible also include approx cost .

  27. hey Mridula, that was a nice blog. I went through lot of comments as well.. however, Im planning a trip to Sikkim this nov end – dec start with my wife. We should be good for 7 days excluding travel time. I found these places i.e. Gangtok,
    Bagdogra, Pellang, Nathula pass, Lachung, yumthung and zero point to be doable during this time. We are even hoping for some snow. Could you help us plan the itinerary, that would be really great.


  28. Hi Mridula,

    Need few info. to visit Nathula in last week of December.
    -On or after 28th December if the route to Nathula remains open and easily accessible.
    -Can we get XUV, Safari, Scorpio on hire from Gangtok.
    -Temperature in that region. Accordingly we will plan necessary protection.

    Married recently. Me and my wife will be the only members in this route. We will start from KOLKATA on 25th Dec by flight and visit Pelling first. On 28th Dec will reach Gangtok. It will very helpful if you can please suggest us an itinerary from Gangtok to Nathula-Yumthang-Zero Point- Changu Lake- Old Babamandir- Gurudongmar etc. Is there any possibility of road block due to snowfall in any of these route during this time?
    Our return flight will be on 4th Jan from Bagdogra.


    1. Hi Tuhin, as far as I know if the weather condition is fair Nathu-La would be open. It would be cold, I would recommend thick woolens. I went in a normal vehicle so I have no idea about SUVs. Temperature cold around 4 or lower. Congratulations to you and your wife! We could not do Gurudongmar as there was no one was willing to share a jeep.

      Weather is completely unpredictable, I cannot predict it. Even weather department gets it wrong 😀 I would say go and enjoy whatever you can do!

  29. Hi Mridula,
    Happy I came across your blog. It is quite comprehensive. I am planning to visit with my parents from Dec 23rd to Jan 1st. Is it too much time to spend there? Could you help me plan an itinerary in and around Gangtok (places in North and south Sikkim). Any travel agents you recommend who could help with permits and also charge a decent fare for day trips to NAthuLA etc.?

    Looking forward to your response.

    1. Hi Parinitha

      I think one week is enough, certainly not too much. I visited long back in 2007 so I do not have travel agent contacts. About planning the itinerary the places I visited are Pelling, Gangtok, Nathu-La, Yumthang and Zero point. Hope this helps a little.

  30. Hello Mridula,

    Very informative blog. Cheers to that!!

    We are group of 7 people (mixed group age avg. around 26 years). We are planning a road trip to Sikkim on our bikes from 21st to 26th Dec 15.
    I have a few queries though, would appreciate your inputs. (extreme cold won’t be an issue for us)

    1) Restriction to outside Sikkim vehicle in North-Sikkim. is it true?
    2) Accessibility to north Sikkim (Gurudongkar lake) on bike due to ice on roads? if u have spotted any in while travelling?
    3) Similarly feasibility to NathuLA on bike?

    Ankit Negi

    1. Ankit but do they give bike permits to Nathu-La? I am not sure. About ice in the roads in December it would be a serious issue. I could not visit Gurudongkar as there were no other takers for a shared jeep. I also do not know about the restrictions on non Sikkim vehicles. Sorry about that.

      1. Regarding zero point when we went there was a lot of snow and our jeep skidded off the road. Had to be pushed back on the road. I have no idea about bikes but you need to figure it out.

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Travel Tales from India

I am Mridula Dwivedi and I started blogging on 'Travel Tales from India' in June 2005. Within a few months of the launch my travel blog found a mention on both the BBC and The Guardian. I also featured in a National Geographic Skoda Yeti Video.

I quit my job as a professor in May 2015. I am having a blast ever since. I do not miss my work but sometime I do miss my salary! Somewhere along the journey I ended up acquiring a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur! I now wonder why?

You can write to me at mridulablog at gmail dot com For advertising queries please check out my advertising page.

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