Sikkim is sheer magic. With its unique culture and natural landscape, Sikkim is a picture of perfection and pristine purity. Perhaps, there is no part of the world, which offers a spectacular scene with every turn of the road as Sikkim. Bounded by foreign nations on three sides, it shares its boundary with the sister state of West Bengal. Surrounded on three sides by precipitous mountain walls, Sikkim appears as a small rectangular Gem. Sikkim is like a stupendous stairway leading from the western border of the Tibetan plateau down to the plains of West Bengal, with a fall of about 5,215 metres in 240 kms. Sikkim, in the west is bound by the north-south spur of the Great Himalayan Range which includes the world's third highest peak, Khangchendzonga and down to its south is Singalila ridge. In the north it is bound by Dongkia range and also partly includes the Tibetan Plateau. In the east it is bound by the Chola range. The average steepness is about 45 degree. Sikkim is the main catchment area for the beautiful river Teesta, which has its main source from Chho Lhamo lake in the north and is further strengthened by many streams and rivers of which Tholung, Lachung, Great Rangeet and Rangpo are important drainers. It also has about 180 perennial lakes, among which Khachoedpalri, Gurudongmar, Chho Lhamo and Men Moi Tso are some of the most scenic.
Gangtok is a municipality, the capital and the largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. It also is the headquarter of the East Sikkim district. Gangtok is located in the eastern Himalayan range, at an elevation of 1,650 m (5,410 ft). The town's population of 100,286 (2011 Census) belongs to different ethnicities such as Nepalis, Lepchas and Bhutia. Nestled within higher peaks of the Himalaya and enjoying a year-round mild temperate climate, Gangtok is at the centre of Sikkim's tourism industry.
The precise meaning of the name "Gangtok" is unclear, though the most popular meaning is "hill top". Today, Gangtok is a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, with the presence of several monasteries, religious educational institutions, and centre for Tibetology.
How to Reach GangtokBy Air
The nearest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal and is 124 kms (about 4 hrs drive) from Gangtok, which is connected, with all the major cities in India. You can also avail the helicopter service operated by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation daily from Bagdogra to Gangtok, which takes about 20 mins. Moreover, a new airport is about to be inaugurated at Pakyong which about 32 kms from Gangtok.
Gangtok is connected by road with Siliguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong by the National Highway 10 (NH10). There are regular Sikkim state transport buses between Gangtok and Siliguri.Private buses, jeeps and taxis can also be hired from Siliguri and Bagdogra.
The nearest railway station is at New Jalpaiguri, which is about 125 kms from Gangtok(about 4 hrs). New Jalpaiguri is well connected with all the cities in India.
Important places to visit
Government Institute of Cottage Industry
It is now known as the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms as well as the Government Institute of Cottage Industries(GICI). Started during the time of the Chogyals of Sikkim, as a venture to preserve, protect and propagate the authentic Sikkimese arts, handicrafts and skills of local and village artisans, it has become one of the major attractions for people visiting Sikkim where beautiful souvenirs like carpets, hand carved tables (choktses), traditional handcrafts, furniture, handlooms carpets and other products are produced & exhibited for sale. Closed on Sundays, all government declared holidays and second Saturdays.
Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology (SRIT)
This internationally acclaimed centre of Tibetan Studies & Research houses a vast collection of rare Buddhist books, manuscripts and over 200 Buddhist icons. About a kilometer downhill from the main market of Gangtok, amidst a small forest of oak, magnolia and birch trees stands the Institute of Tibetology. The building accommodating the Institute is an example of Tibetan architecture. It is world renowned and is one of the few of its kind. It has one of the world's largest collection of books and rare manuscripts on the subject of Mahayana Buddhism plus many religious works of art and incredibly finely executed silk embroidered thangkas. There is an entry fee.
Palace of The Chogyal
If you happen to be in Gangtok during the last week of December, do not miss going to the Palace of the Chogyal (Monarch), as it is open to public only during the week of the Pang Lhabsol festival. The festival is celebrated only in Sikkim and commemorates the consecration of Mount Kanchendzonga as the guardian deity of the region. The Tsuklakhang or the Royal Chapel lies within the palace grounds, and is the place where royal marriages and coronation ceremonies took place. In its beautifully carved and painted wooden interiors, it houses an impressive collection of scriptures and images of the Buddha.
Permanent Flower Show
White Hall, close by the White Memorial Hall and just below the Palace Ridge park is the more recent Flower Show Hall. In recent years this show has become quite popular and famous as there are flower exhibitions throughout the year in accordance with the seasons and the flowers in bloom. There is entry fee.
Located on a hilltop above Gangtok this monastery rebuilt in 1910 belongs to the Nyingmapa order and was once the hermitage site of Lama Drupthob Karpo renowned for his power of flying. An important seat of the Nyingma order, the Enchey Monastery meaning the Solitary temple, was originally built with the solace that no other construction would be allowed near it is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master known for his flying powers.
The White Hall has historical value and is situated on the Ridge. It is a two storied structure and has typical British architecture and was built in 1932. It is so called not because it is painted white but because it was built in memory of the first Political Officer of Sikkim, Claude White. There is an Officers' Club and a badminton court in the White Hall.
The Ridge is a small stretch of plain and flat road above the town of Gangtok. It is just about fifteen minutes walk from the main market. The Ridge has the White Hall and the Chief Minister's official residence, known as the Mintokgang, meaning "blossomed crowned hilltop" on one end and the beautifully designed Palace Gate with a pagoda rooftop on the other end. A statue of Nehru, the late Prime Minister of India, adorns the roundabout above White Hall. Situated on the Ridge is also a resting shed using Tibetan architecture.
Tashi View Point
It was built by the late King of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal, and is situated 6 km from Gangtok town on the North Sikkim Highway, from where one can have a clear view of opposite hills, besides Mt. Khangchendzonga. This site offers a breathtaking panorama of the majestic Mt. Khangchendzonga and surrounding hills and Siniolchu. On the opposite hill, the Phodong and the Labrang monasteries can be seen. A resting shed and a small cafeteria situated at Tashi View Point provides shelter and other amenities to the tourists.
Khangchendzonga Mountain peak
Shrouded in heavy mist, the guardian deity Khangchendzonga or Kanchenjunga both protects and intimidates the inhabitants of the magical kingdom of Sikkim. An awe-inspiring mass of rock clothed in dazzling white snow, this Himalayan giant is the world's third highest peak at 8,585 m (28,169 ft). The name itself means 'House of Five Treasures' represented by its five soaring summits.
Situated about 5 km uphill from White Hall on a bifurcation road of the Gangtok-Nathula Highway, is a temple devoted to Hanuman, a God worshipped by the Hindus. On selected points on the road to the temple, breathtaking views of Gangtok and the adjoining rolling hills can be seen. From the temple itself, the snowy peaks of Khangchendzonga present a panoramic picture. One also gets a bird's eyeview of the Selep waterworks, which supplies drinking water to the Gangtok town, a few hundred feet in altitude below Hanuman Tok. The temple at Hanuman Tok is maintained by a unit of the Indian Army and can be found to be spick and span.
Perched between the mountains below the Jelepla Pass, the Menmecho Lake lies 20km ahead of the Changu Lake. The lake is formed by the melting snow of mountains and is the source of the Rangpochu River. Menmecho Lake is known for its trout and also has a fish-farm close by.
Himalayan Zoological Park
The park is located exactly across the road opposite Ganesh Tok and covers an area of 205 hectares. This area is also known as Bulbuley and extends almost upto Hanuman Tok. Although a 3 km long jeepable road runs right through the park. There is a paved cement path that passes by fenced open air enclosures housing the red pandas, Barking Deer, bears and other animals of Sikkim in a semi natural habitat.
The most exciting experience is viewing the town and the mountains around from the helicopters hovering over the region. Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation arranges for the flights that can carry up to 5 passengers at a time. The flight over Gangtok Valley is of 15 minutes duration and that for Khangchendzonga is of 75 minutes. There are other flights for North, West and South Sikkim also besides the Gangtok-Bagdogra flight.Sa-Ngor-Chotshog Centre
Located on a beautiful hill top it is a Tibetan refugee monastic institution established in 1961 by Luding Khen Rimpoche, Head of Ngorpa, sub-sect of the Sakya Order, with the blessings of HH Sakya Trizin and HH the Dalai Lama. This is the only monastery of the Sakya Order of Tibetan Buddhism in Sikkim.Khecheopari Lake
The Khecheopari Lake, 27km from Pelling, seems just straight out of a dream. The Lepchas attach a great deal of religious significance to the waterbody and believe that each leaf that drops in this wishing pool, is swept up by a bird. The Khecheopari Lake is popular with trekkers, and if you happen to be here at dusk, you might be lucky enough to see some locals offering prayers and floating leaf-lamps on the lake waters. Out of sheer respect for the sentiments of the locals, it is advisable neither to swim in the water nor litter the lake area.
Gangtok meaning 'lofty hill' was said to have been a small village until it gained the status of an important pilgrimage centre. Gangtok rose to prominence as a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site after the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840. In 1894, the ruling Sikkimese Chogyal, Thutob Namgyal, transferred the capital to Gangtok.