錫金蓮師洞 Guru Rinpoche Caves in Sikkim


This writing had been a victim of my procrastination during the past 2 years. The disease hasn’t been cured completely so let me post some pictures and do a preliminary write-up for the time being.

札西頂: 一切的中心 / Tashiding – The Center of All

121008 NorthCave 08(LR)01


According to Rigdzin Godem, Sikkim is a holy place and Tashiding is the center of this sacred mandala while the four Guru Rinpoche caves are situated in the four cardinal directions.

121006 TashiDing 11(LR)01 121006 TashiDing 03(LR)01
121011 Tashiding 001(LR)01121006 TashiDing 12(LR)01


Since Tashiding is such a holy place, plus all those sacred stupas, it is a must to come paying respect and offering prayers whenever on our way to and from the caves.

121006 TashiDing 69(LR)01121011 Tashiding 16(LR)01-2
121011 Tashiding 14(LR)01121006 TashiDing 68(LR)01

Making offerings and prayers here was such a happy thing to do. I can easily spend a whole day here.

121011 Tashiding 15(LR)01121006 TashiDing 02(LR)01 121006 TashiDing 80(LR)01


Tashiding is said to be the place with 1 billion cities of dakinis. There are a lot of sacred imprints on rocks, such as foot prints of dakinis or the door to the hidden lands.

121006 TashiDing 05(LR)01121006 TashiDing 76(LR)01
121006 TashiDing 01(LR)01121011 Tashiding 11(LR)01121006 TashiDing 52(LR)01

南蓮師洞 Southern Cave: Lho Khandro Sang Phuk


This is the cave with easiest access and hence most people only come to this one. It only requires a 10 minutes walk down to the valley from where you can park the cars.

121010 South Cave 021(LR)01121010 South Cave 016(LR)01
121010 South Cave 013(LR)01121110 Cave 003(LR)01


The cave is slightly underground but not very deep. You just need to crawl through a very narrow passage to enter the inner chamber. The last passage is said to be the image of a particular deity. I won’t name which one so that you can look at the rock and use your own imagination.


121010 South Cave 006(LR)01121010 South Cave 002(LR)01


There is hot spring from the river. You can sit by that big rock and soak your feet. In high season, the cottage will be open to allow a bath I think. Somehow  I never came here in that high season.

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東洞 Eastern Cave: Shar Chog Bey Phuk

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 006(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 020(LR)01


There is motor road to this Eastern Cave now so the access is very convenient as well. From the road, it is also a 10-20 minutes walk down.

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 005(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 021(LR)01
121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 008(LR)01 121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 018(LR)01
121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 015(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 012(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 011(LR)01


This cave is however very deep underground, the kind of place where it seems you can walk miles down there and get lost. A flashlight is a must if you decide to go down.

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 014(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 013(LR)01


This cute dog had been leading us along the road to the cave and was faithfully sitting in front of the gate when we climbed out.


北洞 Northern Cave: Byang Lhari Rinchen Nying Phuk



Northern Cave and Western Cave are not accessible by car and requires a one day trekking from the nearest village. The journey to this Northern Cave is especially harsh. But several months after I went, I realized it is where Lhatsun Namkha Jigme revealed the terma Rigdzin Sokdrup, “The Practice of the Life of the Vidyadharas”, from which the “Riwo Sangcho" comes from, hence I have been very grateful to the friend who picked this cave over the Western Cave for me.

第一天:札西頂 –拉章 / Day 1: Tashiding to Labdang



So in order to go to Northern Cave, we took the public transportation from Tashiding to Labdang. The road was bad so even if you hire your own car, you will need to hire a jeep and someone who really knows the road.

When we went to have lunch before the jeep departed, we actually left our  2 backpacks and 2 duffel bags on the street unattended (just like what the picture above shows). I was a bit worried, but when we finished lunch, coming out of the restaurant, these bags were still there intact. That’s another reason why I love Sikkim. It’s just not like other parts of India where you need to watch out all the time.


There was another passenger on the jeep. He is from Labdang and agreed to be our guide for the trip. So the jeep dropped us directly somewhere near his place, then we walked for 10 minutes into the mountain to his house.

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 021(LR)01121006 Labdang 01(LR)01



The guide is Nepalese descend and his place is like a small shangrila to me. There are a few cottages together. Next door is his grandfather’s and others are his cousins’.  They grows a lot of things in the compound and have chickens, goats around.

We wandered into one of his cousin’s place as we heard the chanting of a lama doing a one-man puja there. They are all very nice people. They gave us tea and let us just sit there by the fire and enjoy the moment.

121006 Labdang 07(LR)01121006 Labdang 15(LR)01121006 Labdang 13(LR)01121006 Labdang Village 002(LR)01


Before it gets dark, the rooster and hens would walk over a wooden stripe  to get back to their elevated shelter. First time seeing chickens can be trained to do something.

121006 Labdang Village 001(LR)01121006 Labdang Village 004(LR)01


The guide let us stayed in the best room in his place. The Nepalese wooden cottage is very clean, and warm at night. The family cuisine was also good.

第二天:拉章-山上 (9 公里) / Day 2: Labdang into the Mountains (9 Km)

121007 To Cave 04(LR)01北洞就在那山裡面的某一處,遠方的山頭還有雪。


Northern Cave is further inside the mountain from where I stayed.  Somewhere in the opposite range in the picture.

The 2012 rainy season lasted longer than usual. The local community  has not cleared the road to the cave yet. We were the first group trying to go that year. I was very surprised that our guide was willing to bring us in after I saw how much work he and his nephew had to do. They literally had to cut a road out of the jungle for us.

121007 Village to the Lodge 001(LR)01兩千多米的海拔,我們要走九公里的山路,翻過兩個山坳才能到蓮師洞。按一般人的腳程,單程要走五到七個小時,當天是無法來回的,所以晚上要在當地人為朝聖者所搭建的一個小屋裡過夜。

The altitude was 2000+m. 9 km to the cave, for the locals, it is a 4-5 hours walk, for city dwellers, probably 5-7 hours, so there is no way to do a day trip. You have to spend a night at a shelter house the community built near the cave.


This kind of trail only happened in the very beginning. Once we got to the other side of the mountain, there was no trail at all. The guide just took turn to cut a one-man wide passage out of the thick rainforest.


121007 Village to the Lodge 005(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 020(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 012(LR)01


In some places, we had to climb though land slides. Those are the times I’d thank Robert for teaching me rock climbing basics in Fontainebleau.

For the parts where the safety fence that locals built were completely out of shape, you can only chant mani and pray those grasses on the cliffs can provide you some support .

121007 Village to the Lodge 006(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 002(LR)01

But the view is good. At least in the beginning when you still have energy to appreciate and explore.

121007 Village to the Lodge 013(LR)01
錫金的蘭花很有名。Probably orchids.

121007 Village to the Lodge 015(LR)01121009 Cave back to Labdang 001(LR)01

看了蘑菇就覺得肚子餓。Cute mushrooms.





121007 Village to the Lodge 024(LR)01 121007 Village to the Lodge 023(LR)01  121007 Village to the Lodge 022(LR)01

The real challenge was leeches. I didn’t realize there was such a thing until after 1/3 of the trail, I saw those blood coming out of one guide’s leg after he took out some leeches, even at that time I still thought it was due to those nasty sharp vines. Then those guys finally enlightened me by pointing at my own bloody pants. After I rolled up the pants, I saw leeches on my leg for the first time in my life – not one or two, but more than a dozen.

They were tiny. Most are not even 1 cm long. Yet they are vicious. Like motion detectors, they would know before you  come and stand up on the leaves, twisting and waiting for you. Once you pass by, they jump over to you, then they follow your pants or shoes to seek the soft skins to satiate their blood thirst.


121009 Cave 9(LR)01


Fortunately when we got closer to the destination, probably due to the high altitude or something, the leeches all suddenly disappeared. Even those biting into you became inactive.

The shelter house is still several hundred meters from this sign and the Cave is probably 1 km away.

121007 Village to the Lodge 027(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 028(LR)01



This stream before reaching the house was like heaven. We ran out of water so refilled ourselves with this cool and sweet nectar. Also, took the leisure to stop and wash off the dead leeches on my feet. Though it was freezing and my feet turned purple, but it feels great.





The house is just a roof with walls for people to tug in for the night. No power but there is running spring water outside.

Since it was getting dark, so we decided to stay put and wait until the next morning for the cave.

Our guides made a fire and cooked some instant noodles they brought up as dinner. Then we all tugged in at 6pm. You do need a warm sleeping bag. My light one, said to be good for 10 C, was definitely not warm enough.  The guides simply wrapped themselves in a blanket so I should’ve asked them to bring a blanket for me instead.

121007 To Cave 05(LR)01

第三天:北洞-拉章 (11 公里) / Day 3: Up to the Northern Cave – Back to Labdang (11 Km)



So today, 1 km to and from the Cave, plus the 9km to get back to Labdang, a total 11 km to go.
121009 Cave 3(LR)01121008 NorthCave 05(LR)01
121009 Cave 4(LR)01121008 NorthCave 06(LR)01


Although it feels walking in a special zone throughout the journey, the feeling got even stronger when getting closer to the cave.

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It’s a half open cave. Our guides helped us put up some prayer flags.

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I was amazed by all those statues and big butter lamps brought here by previous visitors.

121008 NorthCave 03(LR)01


Sang offering and various prayers. It feels like something flowing in the air, like an unheard song, invisible, vibrating, making your mind clear and joyful.


121009 Cave 24(LR)01121009 Cave 14(LR)01

Though we started early, we spent a lot of time at the cave and it was almost 10 when we got back to pick up our luggage and had some breakfast. Next time I will spend more than a night there.



121009 Cave 12(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 021(LR)01

回去的路上,連小背包都讓嚮導幫忙背回去。即使如此,還是到晚上七點多,天都全黑了才回到拉章。我的腳程就是來回都要9個小時 [汗]



Though I passed my little backpack to the guide, it still took me 9 hours to get back to Labdang. For them, since they don’t need to cut trees and make roads anymore, it probably took them only 3-4 hours to get back.

And they are super sweet. When I was tired and hungry on the road, one of them came back to us at around 4 pm to bring us some hot tea and warm roti!

121007 Village to the Lodge 003(LR)01121009 Cave back to Labdang 004(LR)01

第四天:拉章-札西頂 / Day 4: Labdang to Tashiding

121009 Labdang 9(LR)01

Love this place I stayed in Labdang.

121008 NorthCave 07(LR)01-2121009 Cave back to Labdang 005(LR)01




On the previous night I took out those leeches in front of the guide’s house, my blood on the ground was still visible this morning. In total, I had 32 bites on my torso and 100-200 bites on my legs/feet. A great cleansing with all the blood I offered to this pilgrimage!

121009 Labdang 15(LR)01 這是拉章村的公車站。旁邊有個社區辦公室,一定要去那邊交錢支持他們的開路和維護聖地的工作,每人只收20盧比,5毛美金都不到。


This is the jeep stop in Labdang. The community has an office nearby. They only charge 20 Rupee per person for their hard work on making roads and maintaining the shelter. Please do support them.

For my guide, even though we did not talk about price upfront, this morning he charged a very reasonable 4000 Rupees for the two of us, including brining us up there, home stay, meals and everything. So  I offered  a tip for their hard work. Make sure you can find this guide if possible. Too bad I forgot his name already 😦

121009 Labdang 17(LR)01


Beautiful lights on the way  back  to Tashiding.

121009 Labdang 2(LR)01


關於 bella.chao
a simple wandering being on less beaten tracks in samsara

2 Responses to 錫金蓮師洞 Guru Rinpoche Caves in Sikkim

  1. Banmar Chien says:


  2. IC Chao says:


    Do you think, I’m qualified to go there? What is the best month to go?

    Take care about yourself!!




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