Hilley and Barsey (or Varsey)
The Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is a picturesque natural sanctuary located in the Indian state of Sikkim, in the eastern Himalayas. It is renowned for its stunning landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and, most notably, its vibrant rhododendron blooms.
Barsey is also associated with Joseph Dalton Hooker, the man who thoroughly documented the flora and fauna of this region, and published the book called The “Rhododendrons of Sikkim” in 1849 – his work is still followed as an authentic text on this subject. Even the golden yellow rhododendron, scientifically called the Dendobrium hookeriana, is named after him.
Rhododendron Blooms: Barsey is famous for its annual rhododendron bloom, which occurs during the spring months of April and May. The sanctuary is home to numerous species of rhododendron, and during the blooming season, the hillsides are adorned with a riot of colours ranging from deep reds to bright pinks and whites. This natural spectacle draws in tourists and nature enthusiasts from far and wide.
Flora and Fauna: Apart from rhododendrons, Barsey is home to a diverse range of plant species, including magnolias, primulas, orchids, and various medicinal herbs. The sanctuary also provides habitat for a variety of animal species such as the red panda, Himalayan black bear, and different species of pheasants and birds.
Scenic Beauty: Barsey offers stunning panoramic views of the Khangchendzonga range and its neighbouring peaks. The meadows and forests create a serene and tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for those seeking natural beauty and solitude.
Trekking: The trek from Hilley to Barsey is a popular trekking route that takes you through the sanctuary's enchanting landscapes. Trekkers can experience the thrill of hiking through dense forests, crossing gushing streams, and witnessing the diverse flora and fauna along the way. The Hilley - Barsey hike is a no-sweat trek which can be completed within a day or two. Varsey is called the Valley of Rhododendrons – they are available in all shades and shapes here. The Hilley - Barsey trail is ablaze with a riot of colours during March and April created by many species of rhododendrons blooming across the valley. The Rhododendron Sanctuary at Hilley Barsey is spread across an area of 104 sq. km along the Singalila Ridge which forms the natural boundary between India and Nepal. The dense forest of Varsey is covered with hemlocks, silver firs, magnolia and rhododendron trees, and bushes.
The trek from Hilley to Varsey is about 4 km and the path bridled with vegetation takes about 1 ½ hour. As you walk along the Singalila, you will be greeted with glorious views of the Kanchenjunga Range. Stay at Varsey overnight to enjoy the rhododendron forests and a sweeping view of the mountains.
The sanctuary is accessible from Hilley, which serves as the starting point for treks and visits to Barsey. Hilley is connected to major towns in Sikkim and is usually the gateway for those looking to explore the sanctuary.
NJP rail station and Bagdogra airport is your point of entry and exit to the region. They are about 140 km away and take close to five hours to reach. The nearest major town is Jorethang about 2 hours drive away. Pelling - the most popular tourist destination of West Sikkim is about 3.5 hours drive away. Gangtok the capital of Sikkim can be reached in about 5 hours.
There are plenty of small teahouses and homestay accommodations available at Hilley from where the treks to Barsey start. Nearby at Okhre village also you will get dozens of accommodation options. The easier option is to stay in one of these accommodations and go inside Barsey for a day trip. If you wish to enjoy the Rhododendron sanctuary to its fullest, you may wish to take the option of staying inside the forest. There are limited accommodation options available at Barsey. You may get in touch with our travel experts for arrangements for your stay at Barsey. For this, you may fill out the enquiry form below or call the phone numbers given on this website.
The Hilley - Barsey Hike
The trek from Hilley to Barsey is a captivating journey through the scenic landscapes of the Himalayas. This trek offers a blend of lush green forests, vibrant rhododendron blooms, and breathtaking mountain views making it a favourite among nature enthusiasts and trekkers.
Starting from Hilley, which is the gateway to the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, the trek takes you through a well-defined trail that gradually ascends through dense forests. The sanctuary is renowned for its diverse range of rhododendron species, which burst into a riot of colours during the blooming season, usually from April to May. The trail is also home to various other flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species, making it an ecologically significant area.
As you ascend higher, you'll pass through enchanting forests of oak, magnolia, and rhododendron trees. The atmosphere is filled with the soothing sounds of chirping birds and rustling leaves, creating a tranquil and immersive experience. The trail is moderately challenging, offering a good balance of uphill climbs and relatively flat stretches.
The highlight of the trek is reaching Barsey, where you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of towering Himalayan peaks. The sight of the majestic Khangchendzonga range and its neighbouring peaks is awe-inspiring and makes the effort of the trek truly worth it. Barsey is a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains, and it serves as a perfect spot for camping and soaking in the serene beauty of the Himalayas.
Trekking from Hilley to Barsey typically takes around 2-3 hours, depending on your pace and the duration of your halts. Trekkers are advised to carry sufficient food, water, and clothing, as facilities along the route are limited. Additionally, it's crucial to be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the Himalayas are known for their unpredictable climate.