Is Namchi Worth visiting: Namchi Roadtrip

Is Namchi Worth visiting: Namchi Roadtrip

In South Sikkim, Namchi is easily one of the best places you can choose to visit. An all weather destination, Namchi offers everything you may desire - whether it is walking through virgin mountains, visiting serene monasteries, or indulging in cream rolls and Assam tea at a quaint mountain cafe, they all make Namchi worth visiting!

Zoomcar's Airport Service


Time to up the ante. With the advent of self - drive car rentals, we decided to make our summer holidays mini - road trips. We rented out a self - drive Scorpio from Zoomcar and with the airport service. Effectively, Zoomcar brings the vehicle to the airport and on your return you simply leave it in the parking lot. Be warned though - this service is a total sham, to be polite. On the morning of our departure the local Zoomcar rep called and informed me that I would have to pick up the vehicle from the company depot. The depot is about 1.5Kms from Bagdogra airport, and apparently that is what 'airport service' meant. After much haggling and pleading he agreed to pick us up from the airport at an additional charge of RS. 300.

As soon as we landed, this chap started hounding me on the phone 'come out fast, I can't wait any longer for you.' At some point he got it through his thick skull that I wouldn't come out without all our bags and decided to drive around for a bit till we made our way out.

We exited the terminal building to find he's shown up in a Tata Hexa to pick us up. Which was great, except we'd booked a Scorpio. At this point he informs us that we will have to use the Hexa to go to the company depot, where we transfer to the Scorpio. Apparently the car has a Geo - Lock which means unless he assigns the car to me, it cannot exit the company lot or some such rubbish.

Anyway, we loaded all our bags and headed to the depot. It turns out, this is about 5 kms away, and takes a cool 20 minutes to travel. There, he assigns us the Scorpio, I retransfer all bags to the new car and only then can we head out. In all, this added an hour to our schedule, throwing everything off kilter. The distance to travel was barely 105Kms, but being the mountains, slated to take 4 hours. Add the additional hour thanks to Zoomcar's ineptitude, and we started our trip feeling a little pissed off.

Driving from Bagdogra to Namchi


After the initial glitch thanks to Zoomcar, we headed out towards Siliguri. Since it was a little past noon, we stopped by in the market to pick up a few fruits. Unlike most tourist - friendly places, for some strange reason the hostility literally radiated off the locals towards us. Very strange and unwelcoming!

Our first stop was Namchi in Sikkim, and we headed on NH 10 towards Kalimpong. The road was quite nice, if a little crowded, and in about an hour or so we started ascending the Himalayas. Other than the fact that the Scorpio came with a speed monitor, the car was a breeze to handle. It didn't go above 80kmph, but that didn't matter in the mountains. What counted was the excellent thrust and power of the engine. That, coupled with the weight of the car gave it excellent grip on the roads. Our friends followed in a regular tourist Innova. After a brief stop for some excellent Chinese lunch served at a roadside restaurant by a lovely Bhutia family, we were soon winding our way up to Kalimpong.

Once we'd crossed the plains, the quality of the roads deteriorated slightly up until Kalimpong. West Bengal infrastructure development (or the lack of it!) at your service I guess. From Kalimpong onwards, the roads improved dramatically. Other than diversions where road work was underway, it was a pleasure driving through the mountains. At several small villages that we passed, there were police on the roads, cheerful chaps who made one feel safe! Just the drive on those brilliant roads through the Himalayas made Namchi worth visiting! Having left Bagdogra airport around noon, we reached the Summit Sobralia Resort & Spa, Namchi, around 1730Hrs.

A short break to stretch our legs just before we began the last ascent to Namchi
A short break en route Namchi from Bagdogra


The Summit Sobralia Resort in Namchi


The Summit Sobralia Resort & Spa is a new property in the old Namchi part of town. It was disappointing to walk into a 4 storied hotel in the mountains, however, this was only up until the reception. The staff was extremely warm and gracious. The property has a nice little lawn at the back and the rooms are spacious, well laid out and extremely comfortable.

This is a Club Mahindra affiliate property and at a nominal surcharge they upgraded us to a family room. This is a spacious room consisting of 2 King - sized beds, a living room area and a nice balcony. The rooms opened up to views of the Himalayas, and it was spectacular!

We quickly unpacked, only to find that Behbe, my wife's unofficially adopted 3rd child (although they're barely 12 years apart in age) and the girl who manages the kids, had not tightened the bournvita box properly and the entire thing had spilt onto the kids clothes. If that wasn't bad enough, moisture had seeped in and it had all stuck firmly onto the clothes. The resort guys out - did themselves by starting their washer and dryer, and by next morning managed to fix pretty much all clothes for us! Whatever initial disappointment still remained on first sight of the property quickly dissipated, and the sheer service - orientation made the Summit Sobralia Namchi worth visiting.

A view of the Summit Sobralia resort from the front lawns
Pre lunch saunter around the resort grounds


We spent the next 3 days exploring Namchi, which is a beautiful, quaint little town. Absolutely secluded, all one has to do is step out of the hotel and walk Westwards to wander away into the mountains. Each morning we'd have breakfast in the lawns adjoining the sole restaurant in the resort. The lovely weather and the lush green lawns overlooking the majestic mountains made it the stuff dreams are made of and made the offbeat destination that is Namchi, totally worth visiting.

Back lawns of the Summit Sobralia that overlook the pool. Great spot for Breakfast & dinner
And a post breakfast photoshoot in the lawns adjoining the restaurant


Across the 3 days we were there, we explored pretty much the entire place on foot, averaging around 15kms a day. The places worth exploring here are:

1 - Char Dham Temple:


About 4Kms uphill from the Summit Sobralia, this is a collection of temples representing the 4 pilgrimage sites holy to Hindus. The walk was idyllic, with the weather cold and refreshing. At different points we went off - road, wandering off into the jungles to emerge on the next bend of the road - reasonably safe with walking paths, and highly recommended! The temple complex itself is massive, with a collection of smaller temples besides the chardhams.

Entrance to the Char Dham complex, Namchi
The triumphant trekkers upon reaching the Char Dham complex!


The first thing that greets you is a massive 87 feet tall idol of Lord Shiva, overseeing the entire mountain. Incarnated in Sikkim as Lord Kirateshwar, Shiva is the deity of the Kirati people. The temples include miniaturised replicas of Badrinath, Rameshwaram, Jagannath and Dwarka besides several other smaller temples. But is the Char Dham namchi worth visiting? Well, the hike is brilliant, the architecture & layout is pretty neat, and all said, it certainly merits a visit. Curiously enough, Darjeeling tourism makes a mention about Char Dham, rather than Sikkim tourism!

On the way back, a must - visit is the Garden Restaurant, which is around 2Kms downhill from the temple complex. This is a botanical garden / nursery constructed on the side of the mountain. It features a 2 storied cafe that serves local cuisine besides shakes and other desserts. While the service leaves a lot to be desired and the food is average, the ambience, decor and view is truly spectacular!

Beautiful flower nursery en route to Char Dham, Namchi
The garden restaurant (not sure if that's the actual name though!), waiting for our lunch order


2 - Praachin Shiv Mandir


On one of our treks along the same road, we came across a nondescript sign that said 'Praachin Mandir'. More for the adventure of it than anything else, we set off along the steps cut into the mountains to explore this temple. The walk is through lush green forest, with clouds meandering around you. Words simply cannot describe the sheer natural beauty of the place. A steep climb of about 45 minutes brought us to this old temple.

The moss - line steps are a little treacherous, but certainly worth the effort
Trekking up to the Prachin mandir - the picture in no way does justice to the actual location!


The place was shut, it being around noon but no one seemed to care. We spent a few minutes soaking in the scenery, before heading back. "Ew what's this!" one of the girls suddenly exclaimed. We glanced down to find leeches grimly hanging on to our socks and pants, up to the knees! The kids immediately tried pulling off the leeches, drawing blood. The sight of blood was enough to get them to stop, and we continued walking down.

About halfway down we came across a small hut. The local gent living there gave us some salt which got the leeches to curl up and fall off. From there we made quick time to the main road and stopped to catch our breath at a dhaba. They served up hot tea & chilled beer, making the whole sojourn eminently satisfactory. All said, the beautiful morning trek up to this lesser known temple made Namchi worth visiting!

Entrance to the Praachin Shiv temple, Namchi
Finally we get to the Summit!


3 - Samdruptse Monastery:


About a couple of kilometres downhill from the Summit Sobralia is this beautiful monastery, constructed in 1997. One evening we strolled across to visit the monastery. The first thing that greeted us was a magnificent, gold coloured statue of Guru Padmasambhava! Although the monastery was shut at this time, the head Abbot was kind enough to let us in the main prayer hall . The energy inside was sizzling - that's the best way I can describe the sensation one gets once inside! Incredibly peaceful and buzzing with spiritual energy.

Inside the spell - binding Samdruptse monastery
The Llamas were kind enough to allow photography inside the main temple area


There were quite a few young chelas milling around (it being a holiday that day, they had the day off from studies and chores!) and looking at us with curiosity. We spent an idyllic couple of hours exploring the monastery, simply soaking in the peace and sense of gravitas that abounded here.

Chelas live and learn at the complex within the Samdruptse Monastery
In conversation with a chela. No, he didn't deign to respond to most questions!


Right atop the building is a small stone - lined room filled with hundreds upon hundreds of butter lamps. For a nominal fee of RS. 5 per lamp, the Abbot allowed us to light them and make a wish. By the time Ritika, our friends Shradha, Aditya and Nitaji were done, we'd lit close to 200 butter lamps. This gave the whole room an ethereal look!

Lighting butter lamps is linked to Tantric Buddhist practise
Lighting the traditional butter lamps. The peace has to be experienced to believe it


At the back of the monastery are the living quarters of the cook and her husband, who takes care of odd jobs. The lady still cooks on wood fires over here, in traditional utensils which add to the aura of the place. If you happen to be in the South of Sikkim, this is certainly a place you cannot give a pass.

Food is still prepared for the Llamas and Chelas using a traditional wood fired stove at the Samdruptse monastery
Food readied to be prepared on the traditional wood - fired stove. Don't miss the white butter on the kindle to help the fire going!


3 nights were absolutely perfect for Namchi. We were more inclined to walking in the mountains and missed out on visiting a few quaint cafes. Nevertheless, Namchi served as a brilliant starting point for our holiday, a harbinger of better things to come!

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