A Glimpse of West Sikkim: Pelling and Kaluk

I had made close to half a dozen trips to Sikkim already and visited locations like Gangtok and surrounding places, Silk Route and Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim. But one area that I somehow missed out was West Sikkim. I had seen the Lord Shiva statue of Namchi at a distance from the Darjeeling region during the last trip in March 2021 and decided to visit it the next time. A group of traveler friends got together to make an itinerary to make the trip in March 2022 . Our focus was Pelling, a town from where one can get a terrific view of Mount Kanchenjunga.

The Kanchenjunga Range is the main attraction of West Sikkim

Pelling is a long drive of 5-6 hours from Bagdogra airport. En route we stopped at Abhinay Restaurant before Tista Bazar for lunch. The standard location for Nepali and Bengali thalis, I feel their food is losing charm over the years, though it remains a hot favourite of local drivers.

Retreat Crassula Ovata (Top) and Sunrise from Pelling Helipad

We reached Pelling, located at a height of 600 feet, quite late in the evening after a brief halt at Jorethang. Though it was a steep climb, the roads in this part of Sikkim are excellent alleviating the pain of a long car ride. The hotel where we were booked into was right on top of the town, Retreat Crassula Ovata near the helipad in Upper Sikkim.

View from hotel room (Top). You get good momos everywhere in West Sikkim

The next three days were a blast for many reasons. The topmost was of course the rooms. The hotel has four rooms in each floor, and three of them open up to a grand view of Kanchenjunga. You can see the peaks right from your beds, and the balcony offers an even better view. The helipad which is just three minutes of walk is a destination for sunrise, where you can see the mesmerizing view of sun on one side and its rays lighting up the Kanchenjunga peaks on the other. The sunrise scene kept of reminding me of Tiger Hill, where you get similar views.

Our Group

While we were tempted to stay put in our hotel just gazing at the mountains from our rooms, we also decided to go to some sightseeing “points” during our stay. Ravangla and Namchi are two towns in South Sikkim that we travelled to, and what struck me were the huge statues almost everyplace we went, Lord Buddha at Buddha Park Ravangla, Lord Shiva at Namchi Chardham, Guru Padmasambhava at Sandrupse Hills and Chenrezig at Pelling Top.

Namchi Chardham Temple

My favourite places however were the Kanchenjunga Falls and Pelling Skywalk (from where you get the best view of the Kanchenjunga range). We also came across a cute looking Treehouse Cafe on the way to Ravangla.

Thukpa at Crassula restaurant in Lower Pelling

The food at the hotel was always sumptuous and warm. Dinner and breakfast were part of the deal, and we used to wait to taste the dishes every night. Lunch usually was grabbing a quick momo here and there. On the last day, we had lunch at a restaurant in Lower Pelling run by the same management, where the thukpa here was quite good. 

One quick advice, if you are planning to book at Retreat Crassula Ovata, you have to do it much in advance, the hotel sees huge demand and is always full.

Rangit River

After Pelling, the group split, with the others proceeding to Darjeeling whereas we planned to visit Kaluk, a small hamlet 40 kms away. En route my wife went for a paragliding experience while I gazed up from the valleys. The journey was perhaps the most scenic of the trip, crossing a picturesque valley, a deep forest, Changey Falls and the town of Dentam. We had some excellent momos at a whole in the wall place on the way.

The Sleepy village of Kaluk

The twin villages of Kaluk and Rinchenpong, located at a height of 5600 ft, is starkly different from Pelling. With only around 1500 inhabitants, it is a pristine location with a clear view of the mountains all around. Our stay here was at Mandarin Village Resort, with around twenty rooms spread over a number of cottages. A plantation of organic crops like oranges, lemon and mushrooms, as well as a myriad of flowers are right inside the resort.

Our cottage in Mandarin Village Resort

Our cottage room opened up to a clear view of the mountain range with Mount Kanchenjunga right at the middle. The view could be enjoyed from our room, balcony as well as the open-air part of the restaurant. Also and you could trudge down to a view point to get a great view of mountains as well as the valley below. It is like spending couple of days totally in the nature. 

The restaurant provides a nice view of the mountain range

From the resort we climbed up to the main road (a stiff climb, but taxis are also available) and tooke a walk to the market. The small village of Kaluk-Rinchenpong is scenic at every corner. The place looked organized with a neat secondary school, but did not have too many shops (even no tea shops). Interesting notices all around from the government – The Sikkim government is quite proactive in areas like education, healthcare and human rights. We were told that most of the foodgrains etc come from towns like Jorthang and Namchi. If you are interested, you can visit Uttarey, a village at a couple of hours distance to see the Rhododendron sanctuary at Barse. Another popular place is Singshore Suspension Bridge, the highest bridge in Sikkim. 

View at sunrise from room (top). The restaurant is at an excellent location too

The best meals on this trip came courtesy the chef at Mandarin Village Resort at Kaluk. The young man was very enterprising and took the pains to source ingredients for making local dishes. The vegetarian Sikkimese thali he put together had the local basti rice, a dal which is a smaller version of lobia, Gundruk (a fermented saag) soup, Sikkimese Alu Dam and a local green leafy veg called Duku. The absolutely ravishing food had a salad with onions and gundruk, which literally "flew my sleep" and I used to hijack some of it to the room to relish as a side to drinks. 

Sikkimese Thali (Top) and Chicken cooked with Rai Saag

Another day he made us some exquisite local khichdi with the same basti rice and some very flavourful ghee (from his explanation I gathered that it is made Bilona style). Among the non-veg food I tasted, a chicken dish cooked with rai saag that was a perfect foil to hot chapathis.

Sikkimese style Khichdi

The two days spent here was idyllic, just enjoying the sun and the view and greenery around. A perfect place to laze around in the countryside where you get the true feel of Sikkim. While descending down towards Siliguri (a five hour journey), one thought that it was surprising that couple of days can make you so attached to a place. 


Pelling: Retreat Crassula Ovata, Near Helipad, Upper Pelling, Sikkim 737113. Phone Number 95939 80537. Website: https://retreatcrassula.com/

Kaluk: Mandarin Village Resort, Kaluk Bazar, Kaluk-Rinchenpong Road, Sikkim. Phone Number 9733092230. Website: www.mandarinvillageresort.in

If you need to hire a car, we had a very enterprising driver Mr Rabin (83272 35892) driving us around. He can pick you up from Bagdogra airport on advance intimation.

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