Yuksom is the last town to the northwest of Sikkim and falls under the Geyzing subdivision. It is also the beginning of the popular Kanchendzonga trekking trail. Further, it was the first capital of the Kingdom of Sikkim. Yukom is an ultimate tourist destination, mostly visited by trekkers and avid travelers. A gentle valley on an altitude of 1780m, Yuksom is at the base of giant mountains. It is like a small plateau at the foothills of the mighty Kanghedzona mountains.
There is not much to see in the village except for few monasteries and the coronation throne- the first site of Sikkim’s Kingdom. Mostly surrounded by hills and mountains, it doesn’t give a good view of the snow peaked mountains like Pelling does. It is mostly beloved because of the popular trekking trail.
For a hill town, the sun rises late here because of the surrounding hills. The hotels are good and mostly cheaper than at most places. Though their rates can soar during peak seasons, especially during March and April. The town lies in the Kandchendzonga National Park, and is therefore home to many animals and birds. The town is pleasantly surrounded by greenery.
The road from Pelling to Yuksom is small and precarious. This is as far as the taxis go.
Yuksom is literally translated as ‘meeting place of the three learned monks.’ It was these three monks from Tibet who selected Phuntsog Namgyal to be the first king of Sikkim Kingdom also giving the title Chogyal or Religious King. Even the coronation throne is still a place of interest in Yuksom. Chogyal established the first capital of Sikkim Kingdom at Yuksom in 1642 AD. The Chogyals ruled for 333 years and later shifted capital to Rebdantse near Pelling.
The villagers have been successful in promoting eco-tourism. The village is frequently visited by foreigners. The locals also tap on tourism, especially trekkers who stop here before heading to Kanchendzonga trail. Apart from running successful businesses like hotels, shops and restaurants the locals also act as guides and porters for trekkers. Yuksom has shops that cater well to the needs of trekkers.
Most of the hotels and shops are located at one particular strip of road. There are prominently two restaurants located side-by-side known as the Gupta and the Yak restaurants. There are more hotels and they can be quiet cheap during off season.
During my stay in Yuksom, I came across an amateur local photographer. He had taken a keen interest in collecting butterflies. I was fortunate to have a look at some of the work he had done, and I found it interesting. He would go to a valley nearby to catch butterflies and identify them. He was no Lepidopterist (one who collects and study butterflies) but such passion also reflects the mindset of the locals in understanding and conserving its rich natural resources and wildlife. Yuksom being the head of Kanchendzonga National Park will attract more nature lovers in the coming years.
Yuksom is different from other destinations in the sense that it is a small village with its tourism centered on trekking and outdoor adventure. It is the perfect place for nature lovers, the perfect place to start a journey where only a few people have travelled.
Except for the coronation throne and the monasteries, there’s nothing much to indicate that it was once the capital of Sikkim. Though tourism thrives, youngsters are drawn towards cities for better job opportunities. I was on a taxi with a gentle guy who was a constable with the Delhi police. He had gone home for vacation and was leaving for the city. We travelled together as far as Siliguri and parted ways there. The rich can build businesses on what they have but the poor still looks for a steady job and income. Leaving this beautiful place for a polluted city like Delhi for few thousand rupees was something he had to trade.
The road to Yuksom is small and dangerous. Look out for two beautiful waterfalls cascading down the road from above. The drivers are cautious enough to drive slowly. It gives enough time for one to take in the surrounding beautiful landscapes.