Katao Valley, North Sikkim
Katao is situated in North Sikkim and is nearly 144 kilometers from Gangtok. Katao Valley is situated at an altitude of nearly 15000 ft. and is far away from the center of Sikkim. Staying at Lachung one can visit Katao. With the panoramic view of snow capped peaks of the Himalayas, it is a rival to the much sought after Yumthang in beauty.
The valley is sparsely covered with poppy, primulas and rhododendron. A military check-post is nearby. Katao Valley is around 24 kilometers from Lachung. The trip to Katao is not in the standard packages of North Sikkim or Lachung tour. Guest has to visit the place at a supplement cost. Technically it is closed to guest but the vehicle arrange for the pass locally and the visit is made possible. Please note that it is not easy to do Yumthang Valley + Zero Point + Katao and return to Gangtok in the same day. One has to stay or reach Lachung on the previous night. Next day morning Yumthang Valley and Katao can be visited and stay at Lachung is necessary. The very next day visit to Yumesamdong and return to Gangtok is the standard procedure.
Sikkim is very close to Peoples Republic of China’s border and the Defense establishment tends to keep things under a very tight leash. Hence it is very difficult to get individual permissions for visiting these areas. As long as you move in groups (More than one guest) under the guidance of tour operators its manageable. By the way, foreign citizens are completely forbidden from visiting few places in North Sikkim and Nathu La pass. Lachung is open and so is Tsomgo Lake.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Best time to visit Katao Valley is October to June as the weather is quite pleasant at that time of the year. During October to February you can play with snow and during March to Mid June you can see the Rhododendrons blooming all along the way. Monsoon season starts from July and ends by September. Heavy rains are expected in this places during these days due to the South-West monsoons. The heavy rains during this time will play a spoilsport with sightseeing plans so it is advisable to void travelling during these seasons.
HOW TO GET THERE
Airways: The nearest airport is in Bagdogra, West Bengal about 5 hrs drive from Gangtok. From Gangtok one has to drive to Lachen to visit this destination. Gangtok to Lachung or Lachen is 5 - 6 hours drive and requires Inner Line Permit (ILP). Sikkim also has got its first commercial airport at Pakyong, East Sikkim but weather hampers the operation of this airport most of the time. If you are lucky enough you can get a flight directly to Pakyong.
Railways: The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) in West Bengal which is about 130 km from Gangtok.
Roadways: Katao Valley is about 144 km from Gangtok, the capital city. You have to halt at Gangtok and start your journey towards North Sikkim the next day early morning after getting the necessary permits.