The rapidly swelling town of Pelling, situated 2085m above sea level, is most notable for its expansive views north towards the glaciers and peaks of Kanchenjunga. High above forest-covered hills, in an amphitheatre of cloud, snow and rock, the entire route from Yoksum over Dzongri La to the Rathong Glacier can be seen. Frenetic building activity has somewhat detracted from Pelling’s quiet charm, and the area is a magnet for Bengali travellers; the main drag from the crossroads to Lower Pelling is chock-full of hotels and not much else. However, on a clear day, you can gaze in awe at the world’s third-highest peak from any of the numerous hotel terraces in Upper Pelling, and there’s easy access to attractive walks in the hinterland. One noticeable element missing is a bazaar, although a few shops are now beginning to appear.
A new road blasted up the steep ridge from near the helipad just above Pelling makes a good 4km walk to reach the small but highly venerated Nyingmapa monastery of Sanga Choling, one of the oldest gompas in Sikkim and another of Lhatsun Chenpo’s creations. Gutted by fire, it was rebuilt in 1948 and houses some of the original clay statues including a stunning Samantha Bhadra.