Pelling Summer Palace: Roadtrip from Namchi

Pelling Summer Palace: Roadtrip from Namchi

Pelling Summer palace

The erstwhile Pelling summer palace is now the Elgin Mount Pandim hotel. This is most certainly worth a visit, any time of the year. Pelling is a jewel hidden in the Sikkim Himalayas, as yet largely untouched. The resort is a perfect getaway to commune with nature, while still enjoying all creature comforts that a good mountain resort can offer.

Namchi to Pelling Roadtrip


How long should it take you to cover 70Kms on the highway? There is no straight answer to that. If it's any national highway on the plains, about an hour and 10 minutes. If you're in the mountains, maybe 90 minutes to a couple of hours at the most. Unless of course you're in Sikkim - Namchi to Pelling, which is all of 69Kms, took us 3 hours to cover! Winding roads, not too well paved in parts, sheer drops at some places, streams meandering across the road in others - all in all, total value for money if you're looking for an adventurous drive! Through the course of this drive we ascended around 500 meters to get to Pelling town. From there a further 3 kms distance and 300 meters ascent got us to our destination, The Elgin Mount Pandim resort.

Facade of the Elgin Mount Pandim Resort
Facade of The Elgin Mount Pandim


The Elgin at Mount Pandim was the Pelling summer palace of the Chogyal, or king of Sikkim, and it shows. Strategically located on a mountain overlooking the Kanchenjunga range, the palace is a kilometre or so from the Pemayangtse Monastery. Enter what serves as the lobby today & you cannot but help notice the under - stated opulence of the place. The most exquisite materials cover every inch. Be it the rich mahogany and teak furniture, the luxurious rugs, ornate oriental lamps or delicate china in which tea is served, everything speaks of lovingly curated pieces of art liberally sprinkled with well thought - through randomness. The rooms are all in a line, built in a ground + 1 structure. Each room is done up quite nicely, no ostentatious luxury, but quite comfortable and spacious.

The lobby features luxurious antique furniture from the days of the Chogyal
Richly appointed main lobby of the hotel - set up like a comfortable living room, which is what it probably was in the good ole' days!


As we woke the next morning, we discovered the best part about this place. Every single bedroom window opens out to breathtaking views of MT. Kanchanjunga! Between 0700 to 0930Hr or so, it feels like you could just reach out from the window and caress the mountain range. Later than that of course the cloud cover comes across. I don't know if this is a June phenomenon though. Irrespective, those 2 hours of sighting are totally worth the trek to Pelling. Of course, the fact that the Elgin is like straight out of a fairytale, totally adds to the allure. Later on through this expedition we tried several times to view the MT. Kanchenjunga, with little luck!

Glimpse of the MT. Kanchenjunga from the bedrooms of Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling
Mt. Kanchenjunga as seen from our bedroom window - yes, all rooms have this spectacular view!


But what really got our attention were two of the most gorgeous, regal looking White Samoyeds on the property! This is a breed of Russian dogs, traditionally used as herders in Siberia. The ones at the Pelling summer Palace were fully grown specimens typifying the friendly, loving nature of their breed. We spent pretty much every one of our 3 days here exploring the area on foot. We were accompanied on every one of those excursions by the two Samoyeds. The first time we had to check with the hotel management, but from thereon each time we left, we just informed them, put the dogs on their leashes and took them out from the enclosure that was home to them! On their part, they happily accompanied us wherever we went, walking along as we wished with nary a complaint.

The Elgin Mount Pandim features beautiful lawns rolling away down the valley
Facade of the hotel seen from the lawns. the windows all belong to the guest bedrooms


The food at the Pelling Summer palace isn't anything to write home about. Having said that, it is reasonably palatable and served in a gorgeous banquet hall converted to a restaurant. The staff is very hospitable, service is top of the line and overall the hospitality is excellent. Amongst all the places we explored, there are 3 which I'd highly recommend for anyone visiting Pelling:

1 - The Pemayangtse Monastery:


In case you're wondering what is it with us and monasteries - Sikkim is the most prominent seat of Buddhism in India. It has some of the most splendid monasteries of the country, the Pemayangtse being arguably the jewel in the crown. From the Elgin, this is a trek of about a couple kilometres, during which you ascend another 300 odd meters. This steep climb brings you atop a cliff that overlooks the Elgin. So far we thought the views of the mountain from the Elgin were spectacular. The views from the monastery easily dwarf this in comparison!

Lazy city bums that we are, as usual by the time we got here it was the noon break time at the monastery. Luckily, there were a few young initiates hanging around, who kindly allowed us a free run of the place. The Samoyeds were apparently regular visitors here. The chelas happily recognised them and agreed to look after them while we explored the monastery.

The monastery dates its origin to 1705, and is the premier seat of Buddhist learning in Sikkim. In fact, the head of the Pemayangtse monastery had anointed every Chogyal with the holy water. All this history aside, each floor that we visited was stocked with 'jewels' of indescribable value. One floor was stacked with shelves upon shelves of rare books. Another had antique paintings depicting the Guru Padmasambhava and his consorts in various 'poses'.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the monastery, our jaws literally dragging on the floor in wonder. At some point we figured we were probably entering places we aren't supposed to! Not wanting to impose on the hospitality of unwitting hosts, we decided to leave. All said, a place certainly worth visiting. Out of respect for their privacy, we took no photographs here. Also, we didn't meet any elder from the institution and it didn't seem right to take pictures without asking.

2 - The Pelling Summer Palace Ruins:


As it turns out, the Elgin is what used to be an outhouse of sorts for the Chogyal. The actual palace is a building on a much grander scale, and a couple of kilometres east of this place. So off we went with our ubiquitous Samoyeds to explore this palace. The only thing left of the palace now are its foundations.

The ruins of the Chogyal's summer palace still feature well manicured gardens
Some attempts are being made to restore the ruins to their former glory, meanwhile the Samoyeds are reasonably satisfied with the gardens!


Having said that, one can't help wonder at the scale and beauty of what it would've been in it's heydays! Spread across a few acres, atop a plateau of sorts, the palace complex has a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. The only thing maintained today are a few of the flower beds, besides of course, the lush green flora of local origin. One can spend a leisurely couple of hours exploring the ruins, reminiscing about life in the good old days. Thankfully the Mughals never made it this far East. If they had, propagandists masquerading as historians would've credited them for these gardens too!

Panoramic view of the pelling Summer palace ruins
A panoramic view of the summer palace ruins and the forests beyond. Or at least as panoramic as one can get with a point-and-shoot camera


3 - Pelling Town:


A 3 km trek from Elgin gets you to the main town. Again, I use the word 'town' very liberally, because the place, thankfully so, is a largish village. The main square has several small eateries serving traditional Sikkimese and Bhutia cuisine. Spicy momos, mouth - watering thukpas and the ever - present noodles make up the menus. We spent a happy evening gorging on these delicacies without any trace of guilt. And rightly so, because the trek back to the hotel digested whatever we'd eaten, and then some more! If you miss civilisation (which some people of our party did) and yet cringe at the thought of over - crowded hill station markets / mall roads (which the rest of our party did), then an evening at the Pelling market won't disappoint!

Walk up to the pemayangtse monastery
Heading back from Pelling town, stuffed to the gills and satisfied with life!


Overall, the Pelling sojourn was thoroughly enjoyable. It's secluded location, which is yet within a stones throw away from the main market is an ideal retreat. We would've loved to spend more time just trekking through the mountain paths abounding in the vicinity of the resort. However, every good thing has to come to an end! So we packed up, ready to head to our next destination. We slept fearing it may not match up to the Pelling experience, and hoping that it would!


Reading next

Is Namchi Worth visiting: Namchi Roadtrip
Things to do in Kalimpong: Pelling to Kalimpong

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