The picturesque little town of Namchi in Sikkim lives up to its name. “Nam” means “sky” and “Chi” means “high” in Sikkimese. Situated at an altitude of 1,675m above sea level and offering spectacular views of the Khangchendzonga Range and Rangit Valley, the capital of South Sikkim has developed as a mecca for trekking, bird watching and religious tourism. People flock here to admire the two oversized statues of Guru Padmasambhava (at Samdruptse) and Lord Shiva (at Siddhesvara Dham). The trekking routes are dotted with breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys of Kalimpong and Darjeeling in West Bengal. The crowning glory is the view of the confluence of two rivers – Teesta and Rangit. Here are 7 reasons to add Namchi to your 2022 travel itinerary.
Guru Padmasambhava, Samdruptse
A breathtaking 135-foot-tall statue of Padamasambhava, painted in copper and gold, rests on a lotus plinth atop the ridge of Samdruptse. A short distance upriver from Namchi (about 7 km), it is the tallest statue of Padamasambhava in the world. Looking over the town and across the hills, it is also visible from parts of Darjeeling. The foundation stone was laid by the Dalai Lama in 1997. Also known as Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava blessed Sikkim over 1200 years ago. The statue is therefore a fitting tribute to this patron saint of Sikkim. Padmasambhava (or lotus-born) is known in Tibet as one of the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism. His face is angry and smiling. Be warned – it’s a pretty tough hike from the parking lot. The views from Samdruptse Hill – known as “the hill that grants wishes” – are spectacular with the Khangchendzonga massif visible on the right side. Samdruptse is 7 km from Namchi, 2 km from the Damthang-Ravangla road. From the parking lot, a short cable car ride takes you up to an atmospheric rock garden and back.
One of the oldest monasteries in India, Ngadak was built during the reign of Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal in the 17th century. The place is a magnificent reflection of the ancient architecture of Sikkim. It was previously the palace of Pedi Ongmu, the Sikkimese queen who temporarily overthrew her half-brother Chador Namgyal in 1700. It is believed to be haunted possibly because of its dark history. Pedi Ongmu was assassinated by Chador’s followers in 1717. After his death, the palace was turned into a monastery. Due to its age and the fact that it has withstood several natural disasters, the old structure of stone and wood is supported by iron scaffolding. A new monastery has been built next door. Inside its prayer hall you will find some of the best contemporary monastery paintings in Sikkim. It is believed that anyone who comes here must make a promise to return. The word “ngadak” means “promise”. In the distance, you can see the statue of Padmasambhava at Samdruptse, glistening in the sun. It is located about 2.8 km from Namchi town on the Namchi-Ravangla road. Look for the Kolkata restaurant – you need to turn into the small uphill path opposite.
This kitschy and colorful complex of pilgrimage centers, spread over a sprawling 7 acres atop Solophok Hill, is home to replicas of the four dhams (sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites) – Badrinath, Puri, Dwarka and Rameshwaram. At the center of it all is a towering 87ft statue of Shiva placed on a 108ft high temple with murals depicting his story. Surrounding the temple are replicas of the twelve Jyotirlingas, as well as a statue of Kirateshwar (a hunter incarnation of Shiva) and a Nandi bull. Park your vehicle in the spacious car park. From there you will have to walk. If you, or someone in your party, has mobility issues, you can request a battery-powered cart to get around. The resort also houses a budget hotel, the Yatri Niwas, with basic rooms and a vegetarian restaurant. Char Dham is about 5 km from Namchi town.
Shirdi Sai Mandir
Located in Assanthang, a few kilometers from the Namchi district headquarters, the golden-hued two-story building features two halls on each floor. The first floor lobby ceiling has been painted in shades of blue and looks a lot like a planetarium for some reason. A marble statue of Shirdi Sai Baba seated on a raised platform takes center stage. Brightly colored murals depict the life of Sai Baba and also feature Vishnu in different incarnations. The temple has a garden from which, on a clear day, you can even get a panoramic view of Mount Khangchendzonga.
Namchi Stone Garden
You can only hear birdsong and cicadas in this quiet and secluded place located between Namchi town and Samdruptse (about 3.5 km from Namchi). Two kitschy dragons above a footbridge lead to a path that winds up the hillside. The garden has a variety of local plants, flowers and trees, as well as pretty water features, bridges over the pools and an old children’s play area. You get great views of the Khangchendzonga from here. The Sandruptse cable car stops here. However, the valley station of the cable car at the bottom of the garden does not have a ticket office at the moment, so you will have to collect it from its Samdruptse point.
If you like being suspended in a glass cabin above the mountains, take the tour for a different perspective of Namchi. You will be able to see Samdruptse hill, the gigantic statue of Padmasambhava and even Khangchendzonga on a clear day. Managed by Damodar Ropeways & Infra Limited (DRIL), the ropeway operates between PWD Guesthouse, Samdruptse Hill and Namchi Rock Garden, covering a distance of approximately 2.1 km. At first, the cable car went from Rock Garden to Samdruptse Monastery. You must bring a valid photo ID to reserve a ticket.
Treks, hikes and more
If you are an avid hiker/hiker and wildlife enthusiast there is Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary and Tarey Bhir if you like ridge walking. The Indian Himalayan Center for Adventure and Ecotourism organizes mountaineering courses.
Geology enthusiasts will find Mamley very interesting. It is home to the Buxa Formation, made up of dolomitic stromatolite limestones declared a national geological monument by the Geological Survey of India (GSI).
Sports fans must visit Bhaichung Stadium, built to honor one of Sikkim’s most famous citizens, footballer Bhaichung Bhutia. A good time to visit – if you love football – would be during the football tournament, The Gold Cup, which features teams from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Bagdogra Airport, Siliguri, (West Bengal) is an international airport with flights like Air Asia, GoAir, SpiceJet, Indigo, etc. connecting major cities. Taxi from Bagdogra (114 km/3.5-4h) to Namchi costs around 3,000-5,000 rupees. There is also the helicopter service from Bagdogra to Gangtok (35min) to save time.
New Jalpaiguri (NJP), Siliguri serves as an entry point to Sikkim, NE, etc. with trains like North East Exp, DBRT Rajdhani, AGTL Sundari Exp, Mahananda Exp etc. connecting many cities. From NJP to Namchi (110 km / 4.5 hours) by taxi costs around Rs 3,000
The city lies on the road between Melli and Jorethang and is well connected to other cities in Sikkim and West Bengal.
You can rent cars and jeeps in the market area. And buses run regularly between Namchi and Gangtok, Pelling, Jorethang, Kalimpong and Siliguri.
Where to stay and eat
An upcoming tourist destination, Namchi offers many options for stays, from standard to luxury, as well as homestays where local hosts provide a memorable experience. Namchi town has many decent restaurants and cafes where one can go for delicious delicacies. They serve everything from delicious alu dom-roti and steamed momos to pizza and pasta. You can head to cafes like Crumbs n Whips for continental fare (think pies, pizza, pasta, and shakes).