Perched at the end of a ridge with a grand panorama of the entire Parekh Chu watershed including the Kanchenjunga massif, the hallowed monastery of Pemayangtse, 118km from Gangtok and a mere 2km from Pelling, is poised high above the River Rangit. It’s a 9km journey along the main road from Gyalshing; or you can take a steep, 4km short-cut through the woods past a line of chortens and the otherwise uninteresting remains of Sikkim’s second capital, Rabdantse, now made into a pleasant park.
Pemayangtse, the “Perfect Sublime Lotus”, founded in the seventeenth century by Lhatsun Chempo, one of the three lamas of Yoksum, and extended in 1705 by his reincarnation, is one of the most important gompas in Sikkim and belongs to the Nyingmapa sect. The views and the surrounding woods create an atmosphere of meditative solitude. Surrounded by outhouses featuring intricate woodwork on the beams, lattice windows and doors, the main gompa itself is plain in comparison. Built on three floors, it centres around a large hall which contains images of Guru Rinpoche and Lhatsun Chenpo (the latter was an enigmatic Tibetan lama who is the patron saint of Sikkim), and an exquisite display of thangkas and murals. On the top floor, a magnificent wooden sculpture carved and painted by Dungzin Rinpoche, a former abbot of Pemayangtse, depicts Sang Thok Palri, the celestial abode of Guru Rinpoche, rising above the realms of hell. The extraordinary detail includes demons, animals, birds, Buddhas and bodhisattvas, chortens and flying dragons, and took him just five years to complete.