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Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary

Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is magical during spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom covering the whole terrain with motley of colours and lovely fragrance. The Sanctuary is located in West Sikkim at an elevation of 2900 m spreading over 104 sq km across the razor sharp Singalila Range, a natural international border with Nepal. The Rambong Khola forms a border in the south separating the park from the state of West Bengal.

The vegetation at Barsey is a mix of five forest types such as the subtropical moist deciduous forest, wet temperate forest, moist temperate forest, sub-alpine forest and alpine meadows. About 600 varieties of rhododendrons, out of the 1000 known varieties in Sikkim, are found at Barsey. Some of the more common animals found here are the Himalayan red panda and black bear.

Flora: The sanctuary is domicile to numerous species of rhododendron, primula, magnolia, oaks and pine as well as bamboo and varieties of shrubs. The rhododendron species found here are arboreum, cinnabarinum, falconeri, barbatum, campanulatum hodgsoni, Acer caudatum, Betula utilis, Pieris ovalifolia, Prunus rufa, Pyrus foliolosa and P. macrophylla.

Fauna: The wild animals found here are leopard, leopard cat, marbled cat, Himalayan yellow throated marten, common otter, Himalayan palm civet, cannidae wild dog, Indian fox, jackal, Himalayan black bear, wild boar, red panda, barking deer, serow, Assamese macaque, rhesus macaque, Himalayan langur, crimson horned pheasant, monal pheasant and kaleej pheasant, crestless porcupine, rufous tailed hare, Chinese pangolin, flying squirrel, giant squirrel and Himalayan mouse hare.

Climate: The climate is wet and cold most part of the year. July is the wettest month; with the average annual rainfall exceeding 250 cm. Snowfall is experienced in the higher reaches above 2500 m. The best time to visit is from March to May and October to December when the skies are clear.

Accessibility: Barsey can be reached from three points at Hilley, Dentam and Soreng. Tourists generally prefer Hilley since it is approachable by road till the last 4 kms after which one has to trek up. The park is 160 kms drive from Gangtok. Sombaria, which lies about 25 km before the road ends at Hilley, is the last major town. The sanctuary is west of National Highway 31A. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra while the nearest railway station is at New Jalpaiguri.

Accommodation: There is a charming hut amidst the forests at an altitude of 10,000 feet offering a commanding view of the Singalila Range. And for those on a shoe string budget, dormitory facility with bedding is also available. Booking has to be done from the Tourism Department of Gangtok or directly at Barsey.

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