Zuluk is a relatively new tourist destination in East Sikkim. It is a small village with a large military settlement, given that the Indo-Tibet border is nearby. The village itself is an attractive tourist destination for visitors looking for a quiet sojourn. For most tourists, however, it is the base from which they explore the higher-altitude tourist destinations of Nathang Valley, Kupup and Tsongmo lake.
Here, one can experience the high-altitude mountains of Sikkim without travelling to North Sikkim, which requires significantly more time to travel.
The famous silk route that connected Lhasa (Tibet) to Kalimpong was in use even a few decades ago until the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Zuluk / Dzuluk used to be a small village on this route. It was commonly used by traders travelling to Tibet through Jelep-la ("La" stands for mountain pass) as an overnight base.
Today it is fast emerging as a new tourist destination. Zuluk derives its tourism importance due to the excellent view of the eastern Himalayan mountain range including the Kanchenjunga from here. A trip to the area requires special permits. The permits though would be arranged by us, and as a guest, you would only need to provide your id proof and photograph.
During the summer months, the area and its surrounding hills are covered with thousands of blooming rhododendron. Zuluk during these months is a riot of colours due to the variety of rhododendron that can be seen here.
You need to pre-arrange a special permit for visiting this restricted area that is issued from a place called Rangli. The permits are also issued from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. At the time of writing this article, the Sikkim government has not come out with a clear policy on tourism in the area. Hence the permit-related issues keep changing and please consult our travel experts for the latest update on the Zuluk permit.
How to Reach Zuluk
Zuluk is about 4 hours from Gangtok (90 km). Technically you may travel from Gangtok to Zuluk through Tsongo Lake and Baba Mandir, but a permit for this route is relatively difficult to get. The more common route goes through Pakyong and Lingtham.
If you are travelling from any other place, such as Darjeeling, Pelling or NJP / Bagdogra, you have to first travel to Rongpo, the entry point of Sikkim. From here a less trodden route will take you to Dzuluk through Rorathang.
People travelling to Dzuluk from East Sikkim adjacent Bengal region, that is the Kalimpong subdivision, would do better to travel through Pedong, Reshi, and Aritar route.
The travel time and distance from different major destinations are given below. The actual travel time will depend on the prevailing road condition at the time of travel. Trying to guess travel time based on distance and average vehicle speed mostly proves futile in this region.
From Gangtok – 90 km, about 4 hours
From NJP / Bagdogra - 160 km about 6 hours
From Kalimpong – 90 km, about 3.5 hours
From Pelling – 150 km, about 7 hours
From Darjeeling – 140 km, about 5 hours
Zuluk is a place which you would visit for the beauty of the mountain and the forests rather than going for typical sightseeing tours. From Zuluk we would highly recommend you to drive further north to visit a number of great attractions. If you have a full day in hand and proper permits, you may visit up to Tsongo lake from here on a day tour. The different tourist attraction on this route is described below.
Thambi View Point
Immediately after crossing Zuluk, your vehicle will start climbing steep mountains. The famous Zig Zag road takes a couple of dozen turns and twists to cover the 14 km distance to the Thambi viewpoint. At an altitude of 11,200 ft, it provides an excellent sunrise view. The entire eastern Himalaya can be viewed from this spot including the Kanchenjunga massif. In front of you is the dense virgin forest parts of which have never been reached by a human. Look out for large colourful birds such as Satyr Tragopan or the Himalayan Monal. You can also walk around and try to locate the original silk route. The stone paved road is still intact in many places.
On the way to the Thambi viewpoint, you can also stop over to the spot where a group of local people has reportedly seen the Yeti. The story of "Yeti", "Bonzhakri" and other folklore seems very plausible sitting beside the small fire in the night under the open moonlit sky. Listing to those stories from the locals may itself turn out to be a good reason to visit Zuluk.
Little ahead (about 4 km) is Lungthung at an altitude of 13,000 ft. Your steep uphill journey ends here and you will start following the mountain ridges now. A couple of small tea stalls can refresh you before you continue your journey further. Much of the population of Lungthung as well as other villages in the area constitutes of Tibetan migrants who had to flee their country at the time of the Chinese invasion. Some old people may still be able to tell you stories of those days if you care enough.
About 4 km ahead of Lungthung is Tukla, known for the battle of Tukla. A contingent of the British army led by Lt. Col Francis Younghusband invaded Tibet through this route in 1903. They faced fierce resistance from the Tibetan fighters and the battle of Tukla ensued. The Tibetan soldiers suffered heavy losses in the face of British firearms. It is said that close to 2000 Tibetan soldiers lost their lives in this battle. There is a memorial here remembering the British soldiers who fought and fell here.
The road bifurcates at Tukla. The road on the left goes to Nathang Valley and the road on your right goes to Old Baba Mandir. Both roads will meet again at a distance of about 7 / 8 km.
The left road will take you to Nathang Valley. The place has come up as an alternative to Zuluk as a tourist overnight destination. However, accommodation options are more limited than in Zuluk. Also as the place is situated at a high altitude, sudden night stay without acclimatization may lead to altitude sickness.
The beautiful Nathang valley is an ideal place for winter snow sports. This is the only place in Sikkim where you can try skiing or snowboarding.
Old Baba Mandir
Your next stop should be the Old Baba Mandir, which you may also visit on your way back. The Old Baba Mandir is less touristic and more authentic. The original Bunker of Baba Harbhajan Singh, dresses, bed and even the writing desk is preserved here. There is a temple in the neighbourhood in the name of Baba Harbhajan Singh.
About 5 km from the place where the roads from Baba Mandir and Nathang valley meet, you will reach Kupup. If you are hungry, you may grab a few bites in the small eateries here. This place is famous due to several reasons, The Yak Golf course of the Indian Army here is said to be the highest in the world (13025 feet, 3970 meters). However, do not expect the usual greenery of a golf course at this altitude. The Kupup lake locally known as Hatisure is shaped like Hati or the elephant. The Younghusband's track that reaches Jelepla also starts near the Golf course. However, the Younghusband's track is out of bounds for tourists.
Another 5 km from Kupup is the tourist destination of Baba Mandir. You can expect to meet a large number of tourists here who have reached here from the opposite direction, that is Gangtok. Tea and coffee shops, as well as souvenir shops, are available here.
About a kilometre before you reach Baba Mandir on your left you can see Memenchu Lake. The road to Memenchu originates from Baba Mandir but requires special permission to reach. There is a cottage next to the lake where you may also spend a night with special arrangements.
Zuluk at an altitude of about 7,000 ft offers pleasant weather during most of the year. The rainy season is a little protracted and heavy to very heavy showers are common. The winter may see snowfall in the area. The summer temperature would be varying near 20 degree Celsius with a substantial difference between the day and night temperature. Tourists visiting the area are advised to carry warm clothing and an umbrella.
Zuluk is surrounded by wild forests, and some of the forests are completely virgin. Sighting of Deer, Wild dogs, and Himalayan bears the red panda is not very uncommon. Some tigers have also reportedly been sighted in the area. A variety of birds can also be seen such as Monal Pheasant, Blood Pheasant, Khaleej Pheasant, Snow Pheasant, and others.
Where to Stay
Just a decade back, Dzuluk was a very off-beat destination with just a couple of places to stay here. Today the area is full of homestays and lodges. The accommodations in the area start at Lingtam which is about 21 km from Dzuluk. There are a number of accommodations on the way at Lingtam, Nimachen, Phadamchen and Dzuluk. Many people also prefer to stay at higher altitude destinations such as Gnathang valley. Each destination has its advantage and disadvantage.
At the time of writing this article in 2018, Dzuluk itself has about 28 homestays and lodges. The advantage of the place is it is close to the sightseeing points you would like to visit the next day. Also, Dzuluk has a great view of the hills. The major problem with the accommodations here is that most of the accommodations here are very basic and lack hygiene. Most of the homestays have soiled and dirty bed lining, which is not easy to clean due to the highly moist weather here. Also, the high altitude of the place makes it quite cold during most part of the year. There is a perennial water and electricity shortage too. We organize accommodation to only three of the accommodations here which are better in hygiene and amenities and are slightly more expensive.
Gnathang valley also has about a dozen homestays. But except for two, which has somewhat workable hygiene and amenity, the rest are below the minimum standard we would like our guests to stay in. Also, the altitude of Gnathang valley is more than 12000 feet. People who visit these places without proper acclimatization may have to face difficulty and altitude sickness. This is especially true for children and the elderly.
Our preferred accommodation is at a lower altitude, at Lingtham (around 6,500 feet) or Phadamchen (around 7,500 feet). These places have better weather, better hygiene in the hotels, better food, and more reliable service. We work with a couple of lodges in this area.
So here is a brief about your accommodation recommendations from us.
Spending 1 night in the area – 1st recommendation Lingtham, 2nd Dzuluk, Gnathang is not recommended.
Spending 2 nights in the area – 2 nights at Lingtham or 1 night at Lingtham and 1 night at Dzuluk or Gnathang.
Get in touch with our travel experts for further suggestions.