Tholung Monastery trek: A mythical journey

Author: Sushil Subba
Date: 2021-09-23

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Trek duration: 2 days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Location: Tholung

Best time to trek: March-June and October & November

Highlights: Tholung River, Tholung Monastery, Devta Dhunga, sacred caves

Ever wanted to visit a place that is surrounded by interesting myths and legends? If yes then I have a perfect place and a perfect tale about how a bunch of us wanted to find some solace for a couple of days trekking in the hills of Sikkim.

Rural landscape of north Sikkim

The rural landscape of north Sikkim

In the month of March, my friends and I planned a trip to Tholung, located in the remote North-West region of Dzongu in Sikkim, on the edge of the Khangchendzonga biosphere. Dzongu, one of my friends named Tashi began to explain, is the land of the Lepcha community, the original inhabitants of Sikkim, now consigned to a few restricted areas with land rights. The way he described it sounded very cool but I still didn’t know what it actually was. I asked him, “What’s so special about Tholung?” He replied, “We are gonna visit the Tholung Monastery. It is among the most sacred monasteries in Sikkim and stores precious Buddhist artifacts and relics that are taken out once every three years for display. The brass chorten within the monastery contains the ashes of Lama Latsun Chembo, the patron saint of Sikkim.” To me, it sounded like a prologue of some Indiana Jones movie.

We all got so thrilled that we shouted, “Say no more! Fix the damn date. We’re going there as soon as possible.” My friend smiled and said, “Told you guys would love it but it’s 8000ft above sea level, so we’ll have to take bags of cooked corn and some trekking gear as well.” One of my friends asked in a concerned voice, “The journey seems tough. Has anyone been to that place before? I guess we need an experienced guide for that.” We agreed and started asking questions like how we were going to get there and how we might not get enough network coverage to look for directions. Tashi then told us not to worry since his colleagues had been there a year ago so he knew a thing or two about the trek. After shopping for trekking gear and saving some money, we made plans to go after a week. In the days before the trip, we began to start listing things that we might need on the journeyfrom towels and brushes to tents and cameras. 

Before any trip, it’s important to do some research. This is what I found about the trek we were going on: 

  • Tholung falls in the restricted area of North Sikkim for which an inner line permit is required by Indian nationals. 
  • To reach Tholung, you have to travel by road up to Linzey. From Linzey, you need to walk 20 km towards Tholung; the walk takes approximately 5 hours. 
  • You will see the thundering Tholung River and cardamom groves inside the dense forest.

Heading to Linzey- the starting point of the trek

The day had finally arrived and we began our adventurous journey to Lingzey from Gangtok. Linzey is the base camp for the trek. It is roughly a 6-hour journey. On the way to Lingzey, we stopped by Kabi Lungchok and Phodong Monastery. We finally reached Linzey by evening and checked into the Bhagiratiganga Himalayan Homestay.

If you love a cultural experience, take the time to walk around the village to observe the traditional Lepcha houses and talk to the locals. 

Package: Homestay Experience in North Sikkim


Admiring a chorten on the way

Day 1 of the Trek: Tholung

Early morning, after breakfast, we started our trek to Tholung. We hiked through scented cardamom fields and passed a few Lepcha villages along the way.

After an hour or so, my friends and I reached Tholung River. We went past rock cliffs to mystical waters and hot springs. The area is said to be home to a very large variety of bird species and is a delight to watch whenever a new kind of bird flies by. We probably walked for 3 hours when we decided to take a break. Some of our friends were new to walking like this so they were really exhausted. After taking some refreshments, we moved on as it would soon be getting dark. After trekking for about 6 hours, we finally reached Tholung somewhere in the night and checked into the “blue guesthouse.” 

Stacking stones near the river

Stacking stones near the river

Day 2 of the Trek: Visiting Tholung Monastery

I woke up the next morning to birds chirping and the sun shining on my face. After a lazy breakfast, we trekked to the sacred Tholung Monastery. Once you are at the monastery, you will clearly understand why the Sikkimese chose this place to safe keep their ancient treasures—its vantage location made it easier to guard the place. 

Tholung Monastery

Tholung Monastery

The surroundings are just as thrilling. We saw a beautiful waterfall that cascaded down in the deep ravine. The Lepchas believe that the departed soul passes through the waterfalls before moving on to the spirit world. There are also a few caves around the area that are believed to have been the meditating places of Guru Rinpoche. After visiting the caves, we visited a sacred rock known as Devta Dhunga and headed back to our guesthouse. 

Day 3: Return to Lingzey and back to Gangtok

The following day we returned and stayed at Linzey before heading back the next day. We must have been habituated by now since we covered the route in a much shorter amount of time, or maybe we all just wanted to go home since it had been days. However, it brought us immense joy and pride that we had visited a place that felt like a time capsule of the myths and legends that Sikkim holds.

North Sikkim trek packages

Trek to Dzongri

Yumthang Tarum Trek-Lachung

Panch Pokhri Trek

Trek to Goecha La

Hike to Lama Angden Base Camp

Trek to Keushong Lake-North Sikkim

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  • Near Co-Operative, Middle Sichey Gangtok, East Sikkim, India, 737101