VARSEY RHODODENDRON SANCTUARY, West Sikkim
The Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is a butterfly shaped rhododendron sanctuary which lies in the south west corner of the West Sikkim above Sombaria Town. Spreading over 104 sq. km, across the razor sharp Singalila Range, which forms the natural international border with Nepal, this sanctuary is known for its wide variety of rhododendron and several other species like Oak, Primula, Pine and Magnolia. There are three points of entry into this sanctuary from Hilley, Dentam and Soreng. Tourists generally prefer Hilley since it is approachable by road. The bridle path from Hilley to Barsey is a favorite amongst tourists especially during the Rhododendron flowering season. The faunal value of Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary includes Leopard cat , Himalayan Yellow Throated Marten , Himalayan Palm Civet, Himalayan Langur, Crimson Horned Pheasant, Monal Pheasant, Kaleej and many diverse species of birds.
The Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary spans over the razor sharp Singalila Range. The climate is wet and cold favoring the spread of the dominant genus Rhododendron. July is the wettest month, with the average annual precipitation being in excess of 250 cm. The reaches above 2500m receive regular snowfall in winter. Clear skies can be experienced only from November to May.
The place’s natural essence certainly gives a welcoming vibe to the visitors. The sanctuary is one of the best places to visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers. It offers scenic view of the Khangchendzonga Mountain and attractive blooms of rhododendron flowers. Also, it has several trekking trails like that from Uttaray and Dentam.
A beautiful Tourist Trekker's hut exists in Barsey, amidst the Rhododendron forests at 10,000 feet, commanding a glorious view of the Singalila Range. Boarding and Lodging facilities are available.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Varsey is during the months of October to May. However, during April and May one can witness blooming of a wide variety of rhododendron flowers and make the ideal time to plan a visit here.
HOW TO GET THERE
Airways: The nearest airport is in Bagdogra, West Bengal about 5 hrs drive from Gangtok, 12 km west of Siliguri and about 140 km from Hilley. 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 118 km from Sombaria. You can take a taxi to reach Sombaria via Jorethang, which takes about 4-5 hours and then Varsey is just 18 km away via Hilley.
Roadways: Varsey is about 55 km from Gyalshing, the West District Headquarter and about 130 km from Gangtok, the capital city.