The Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary or Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is situated in the Singalila range in western part of the Indian state of Sikkim. It forms a natural border with Nepal in the west. The sanctuary also borders West Bengal in the south by the Rambong Khola stream. It spreads across 104 km 2 across the Singalila Range and is sandwiched between Singalila National Park in the south and Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve in the north. Its altitude ranges from 2,200 m to 4,100 m.
The sanctuary houses a wide variety of biodiversity- sub-tropical forest, mixed broadleaf forest, conifer forest and alpine meadows, but rhododendron blooms are the main attraction. Several species of rhododendron bloom in this area- the popular red variety, the comparatively lesser-known pink and white varieties bloom in abundance here.
BEST TIME TO VISIT-
The best time to visit is in the spring (April-May) when the entire region turns into a sea of red.
But if you want a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga, then October to November is the best times as the clear skies make it easier to spot the mountain. The area is surrounded by snow from December to March.
HOW TO GET THERE-
The Varsey Sanctuary can be reached from three points, Hilley, Dentam and Soreng. Hilley is the most popular entry point due to its proximity to the destination.
One can take a night train or bus to New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri. From there, there are jeeps available to Jorethang (fare Rs 70 per head). From Jorethang, it’s another jeep-ride to Hilley (fare Rs 50 per head). From Hilley, a four-km walk takes you to the final destination. One passes through beautiful pine forests and the distance is covered within an hour. As an alternative, one can also take a jeep to Ribdi and then walk eight km to Hilley (porters are available). For the return journey, the jeep must be booked in advance.
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