Along the Old Silk Route #3: A day at Aritar
Aritar is a small town in East Sikkim. The lush green valley, bounded by the Mt Kanchenjunga is nestled on the edge of the Himalaya. It is the best place to rejuvenate and revive yourself if you know to explore the hidden treasure of nature. Though it is an offbeat destination of Sikkim, still it is popular for the picturesque Aritar Lake or Lampokhari lake and the tranquility of Aritar Gumpa Monastery. The journey for the old silk route starts from here.
Please read my previous blog posts of “Along the Old Silk Route” series to connect with the mesmerizing trip.
How to reach Aritar?
After having breakfast at the Rishi River cottage of Rishikhola, we went for Aritar. We reached Aritar by car from Rishikhola. You can also visit Aritar from Siliguri (New Jalpaiguri Railway Station) or Bagdogra airport by hiring a cab. It Charges 3000-3500 INR that is a bit costly for one, who travel solo.
Another way to come in Aritar is from Gangtok (3 hours) or Rongpo (2 hours) by sharing a taxi or hiring a cab. The charges are almost the same as hiring a cab. But, if you manage to get a seat in the sharing cab, the charges will be decreased double or triple times.
If you book a package for the silk route, you don’t have to think about all those things. The agency will look after all your travel hassles. It is good for the family trip. As Aritar is an offbeat location, it is quite difficult to cater (hiring and sharing) a cab for Aritar. Even if you manage to get a seat by a sharing taxi or hire a cab from Gangtok or Siliguri by any chance, you will face a problem in the time of return. Either you have to return on the same day with this car or you have to pay another 3500 buck for returning on the next day. I never suggest anybody visit this place for a few hours because it is not the place to see some visiting places and return to your pavilion.
If you really want to enjoy the East Sikkim trip or the old Silk route trip, you need to explore it. The tressure of natural beauty is still hidden. I mentioned in my first post of this old silk trip, that this trip is, basically, for the passionate traveler or the tourists who love to explore the beauty. If you do not stay there if you do not see the lifestyle and struggle of locals you cannot understand the flavor of the place. And at the end of the day, your conclusion will be like that, “There is nothing to see … a worthless trip.” So, I always suggest staying there for a night and completing the ancient old silk route trip within 3-4 days.
How to explore Aritar?
1. Ganesh Temple:
During our journey to Aritar from Rishikhola, we visited a wonderful Ganes temple on the route. The serene view of the lush green forest and the cloud covered mountain, from the hill-top temple, is amazing. The architecture of the temple and the serenity of its surroundings is mind-blowing.
2. Lampokhari lake or Aritar Lake:
This is the old and natural, freshwater lake of East Sikkim. The lake is placed at 4600 feet altitude from sea level. It is basically a boot-shaped lake, surrounded by the emerald green forest and the mountain slopes. The rich, green pine forest makes the green algae water of the lake more stunning. The lake offers boating activity by paying an extra buck over the entry fee.
We didn’t go for boating. My 5 years old son is more interested in feeding the puffed rice to the fishes in the lake than going for the boating activity. The water is so clear that you can see the fishes in the water very clearly. I also found that except boating there were much more activities around the lake. I took some photos of the flowers and the locals and collected info about the festival by mingling with them. That was a great time I passed through the local people of Aritar. Their hospitability is so amazing that I never felt that I came here from the outside.
Aritar hosts the Lampokhari festival in the month of March/April during Ram Navami. This is the biggest festival of Aritar. Local people of surrounded villages and other parts of Sikkim come to perform different programme in traditional dresses. The festival offers cultural shows, flower shows and different cuisine for visitors.
3. Aritar Gumpa Monastery:
After spending some time at the lake surrounding, we went to the Bhutia Gumpha Monastery. The beautiful monastery under the solitary lap of nature situated at the highest point of Aritar, on the way to the Mankhim top.
When I entered the monastery, I heard some Buddhist music comes from the inside. I followed it and came upstairs, where I found a small classroom for the children. After crossing the room, I came to a small room from where the music came. The room e filled up with the children monks who are doing their regular prayer by beating the drum and playing some musical instrument in front of the Buddha’s idol. I stayed there for sometimes and took some photos of them.
I met their Tibetian teacher outside. She is a lady monk. She said the children doing their schooling in the Monastery under the guidance of the senior monks and they are following very hard and strict rules of the Monastery from the dawn to the evening. We all enjoy the tranquil environment of it with a warm interaction with the lady monk of this monastery.
Where to stay?
We preferred to stay at Mankhim instead of Aritar as the homestay at the Mankhim top provides an amazing view of Mt Kanchenjunga. Mankhim is only 3km away from Aritar. There are not so many homestays at Aritar and Mankhim. The charges for the homestays are almost 800-900Rs per head per day.
Karma Homestay: Phone: +91 9593386123/+91 9933409513
Kanchanjunga Mirror Homestay: phone: 9775915047/9647142589
Mobile connections or signal is not so good here. Vodafone/ Airtel/Jio internet connection works sometimes. I’ll suggest don’t bother with your mobile phone/internet connection. Just connect yourself with the essence of nature. You’ll definitely feel fresh after coming back from this nature trip.
Stay updated with more stories and photos of my old silk route trip.