Barsey (also Varsey) is a wildlife sanctuary in West Sikkim. At a height of 10000 ft, Barsey has to be reached by trekking. It's quite an offbeat destination and therefore doesn't have a lot of tourist/commercial activities. Barsey shares a border with Nepal and is a home to an exquisite flora and several endangered species of animals including the elusive Red Panda, Himalayan Brown Bear, and Musk Deer.
Spring is a perfect time to visit Sikkim and enjoy the clear mountain views and the abundant pink blossoms. Rhododendron is the state tree of Sikkim and plenty of trees can be seen throughout the state. But the best place to experience the beautiful riot of spring colours is Barsey due to its large concentration of rhododendron trees.
PC: Mathias Appel
Of the three access points from Hilley, Dentam and Soreng, Hilley is the most preferred one because it can be reached by a motorable road. Barsey can be reached by walking for 5 km from the sanctuary gate at Hilley.
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Sikkim does not have its own airport or railway station. The nearest airport at Bagdogra (160 km) and nearest railway station New Jalpaiguri (150 km) are both in West Bengal. A state transport bus or shared jeeps can be taken up to Jorethang. From Jorethang shared jeeps can be taken to reach Hilley or Okhrey.
Best Time To Visit
To see the spring bloom, March and April are the best months to visit Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. May sees a little blossom and June through September experiences rainfall. The wet months are best to be avoided as the damp forest houses numerous leech colonies and it's not a pleasant experience.
The next trekking season commences in October and runs up to December. You won't see any rhododendrons during this period but the clear weather makes trekking comfortable and pleasant. The autumn-winter weather also facilitates stunning views of Kanchenjunga and other snow-capped mountains and is quite an experience.
A permit is required to enter the sanctuary. A nominal fee and camera/video camera charges have to be paid at the Sanctuary gate. If you are hiring a porter for your luggage, there'll be porter charge.
Where To Stay
There's a basic trekker's hut, Guras Kunj, inside the sanctuary that can be booked for an overnight stay. It has no electricity and has basic arrangements. Many trekkers prefer to stay overnight inside the sanctuary to experience the tranquillity, clear skies, mountain views and a spectacular sunrise. Alternatively, there are plenty of simple homestays at Hilley or Okhrey, which is a small Sherpa village around 9 km from Hilley.
The hike from Hilley to Barsey is a short 4 km trek. The route is easy and can be covered in 1-2 hours in a moderate pace. Most tourists start early, reach Barsey, explore the forests and return on the same day. It is recommended to camp overnight to view a sunrise over the Kanchenjunga, famed for being the third highest mountain in the world and highest in India.
The trail inclines gradually through the colourful rhododendron forest. In the short walk, you will walk past many glacial streams. The slightly wider streams have wooden bridges over them. The forest explodes with a burst of colours with the pink and white flowers dotting the entire route.
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With subtly changing landscapes, the grassy trail ascends and descends slightly, never too much to leave you breathless if you a moderately fit person. The splendid Kanchenjunga range constantly accompanies the trek unless a sudden hailstorm or thunderstorm decides to show up in the mountains covering the peaks under gray clouds.
A camping ground on the premises of the Guras Kunj is where many seasoned trekkers prefer pitching tents. If you are lucky and the weather is still clear, a small trek to a nearby hillock can be undertaken to witness a spectacular sunrise.
Things To Carry
A sturdy backpack, extra pair of clothes, socks, warm clothes, rain jacket, food and water bottle, sunglasses and a cap. Carry a camera (fully charged and with extra batteries) to capture the stunning views of Kanchenjunga and the heavenly pink bloom.