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Best time to visit Gangtok

Discussion in 'Sikkim' started by HarrietPelling, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. HarrietPelling

    HarrietPelling New Member

    One of the destinations to visit on my holiday list is Gangtok. I have wanted to visit Gangtok since a long time, but instead visited other places which have mostly been covered now.

    The most important thing to know is that when the best time to visit Gangtok is so that the weather is right, facilities services are all available and it is during the tourist season.
     


  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, welcome to the forum!

    Gangtok.
    (Images from Kailas, Indrajit, KS Bluechip and Sagnik)

    Overview

    Gangtok is the capital of the northeastern state of Sikkim. Located over 1,600 metres above sea level, the city can also be considered as a hill station. With its rich heritage, undeniable cleanliness and amazing views of the Himalayan ranges, Gangtok is truly a must-visit destination in the state. Being a part of the northeast though, it's important to understand that the city experiences quite different climates all throughout the year as compared to the hill stations of the north or the south. In this guide, we would highlight such differences and also discuss when is the best time to visit this hill station.

    Best Time to Visit Gangtok

    We can divide Gangtok's seasons into five, namely: spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter. Generally, the climate of Gangtok is very mild and salubrious all throughout the year, barring a few months during the last season. Each season of Gangtok offers something different for the tourist so depending on your interests, you can find the best season for your trip to the hill station.

    Spring.
    (Images from Shankar, Invincible and Invincible)

    1. Spring (February to March)

    The short-lived spring season extends from February to March only. This is the transition period from winter to summer so temperatures begin to climb a bit. During the month of February, temperatures remain below 20°C, more or less. By March, temperatures usually reach around 22°C so still very mild and pleasant. Rainfall occurrence during this season is uncommon though on some days, you might still experience precipitation. Days are usually bright and sunny but mornings can still experience a bit of fogginess.

    During spring, you can usually get away with light woollen clothing. Days can be warmer so even with just your usually cotton clothes, you can get by through them. Nights can be a bit chilly so you might need some light woollens or jackets still. Further, this transition period brings about a charm in Gangtok, as the flowers and plants start blooming again after the harsh previous season. Hotel rates are on the mid-range since this is neither the off-peak tourist season or the peak tourist season. Crowds won't be much of an issue as well since tourists flock to the region only by the end of March, as the summer season begins.

    For sightseeing, it won't be any problem during this time since there are no rains nor heavy snowfall that can ruin your itinerary. The climate permits for covering all the religious attractions of the city like the Hanuman Tok, Ranka Monastery, Enchey Monastery and Gonjang Monastery. This is also the best time for exploring the commercial hub of the city, which is MG Marg. Here, you can enjoy strolling around or shopping, plus the fresh air since no vehicles are allowed in this area. If you still have time, you can ride the Gangtok Ropeway or even venture into one of the largest stadiums in India, the Palzor Stadium.

    One festival celebrated during this time is the Flower Festival, held in the Flower Exhibition Centre. This is a medium-sized glasshouse where a variety of flowers including orchids, bromenads, cyclamens and more can be seen. This festival usually begins during the month of March. The vibrant Losar Festival, or Tibetan New Year, is also celebrated either during February or March. Tibetan Buddhists celebrate this festival with fervour, usually being involved in rituals and other traditions that emphasises their unique culture.

    Summer.
    (Images from Nanda, Sagnik and Andrej)

    2. Summer (April to May)

    The next season is spring, which extends from April to May, another short duration season. Summer is the warmest time of the year yet still mild enough to be enjoyed by tourists. During the month of April, temperatures remain around 25°C. By May, temperatures hover around 25°C still, but can increase at times. Rain showers are common by the month of May, especially around the end of it. Usually though, days remain very bright and sunny so you can enjoy the clearer views of the Himalayas, specifically the Kanchenjunga.

    During summer, light cotton clothes would suffice. But if you're someone who gets cold easily, do bring some jackets and pyjamas for night time use. In this season, Gangtok is covered in a blanket of colours, from green, to pinks, to yellows, which make it alluring. One downside is that hotel rates could be on the higher side. Make sure you book or reserve for your hotel room in advance as this is the peak tourist season. Crowds are inevitable on the most popular attractions as well. But if you want to explore Gangtok fully without worrying about the weather, or even the tourist facilities availability, then this is the best time for that.

    If you want to experience snow even in summer, do visit Nathu La, a high altitude pass between Tibet and India. En route, don't forget to visit the Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial as well. Summer is also the best time for wildlife spotting so don't miss such attractions like the Himalayan Zoological Park and Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary. The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is in full bloom during summer as well, but takes around seven hours to reach from Gangtok. Of course, it's also possible to cover the religious attractions in Gangtok during this time, which were mentioned above. Do visit the Tashi View Point as well for a clear vista of the Kanchenjunga ranges from here.

    The Sikkim Summer Festival is celebrated during this time during the month of May. This festival is very vibrant, with flower competitions, games and cultural performances. The famed Yak Safaris can also be done during this time. The Sakewa Festival is also celebrated during this time, usually on the month of May. This is a harvest festival of the Rai tribes, specifically the Kirat Rais. The focal point of the festival is the Sakela, a significant dance performed by the members of the tribe using their traditional ethnic costumes. This dance gives tribute and gratitude to Mother Nature for the upcoming harvest year.

    Monsoon.
    (Images from Indrajit, Dycvoelectecr and Amitra)

    3. Monsoon (June to September)

    The monsoon is a long wet season extending from June to September. During the month of June, temperatures remain roughly the same but precipitation occurs largely by the end of it. During July, the hill station receives its highest amount of rainfall for the year. It is not unusual to experience rainfalls every day for this month. Rainfalls usually occur during morning and afternoon, accompanied by thunder and cloudy skies. During August, rain showers are still rampant though lesser in intensity. By September, rain showers are least intense and you can enjoy a few sunny days as well.

    During monsoon, temperatures are usually bearable but when it rains, it can get more chilly. As such, it's a must to bring some light woollens, raincoats and other rain essentials. If you intend to walk a lot, then bring some rain-proof shoes or boots. One downside during this season is the occurrence of landslides due to the rains, which can lead to road blocks. As such, you cannot cover all the attractions of Gangtok, especially the high altitude ones. Road transfer can also be quite difficult during this time since rains can bring about flooding. On the other hand, you can enjoy the discounted rates on hotels and travel agencies since they are trying to lure customers in. If you love serenity and would like to avoid the crowds, no doubt that the monsoon is the best season for you to visit Gangtok.

    Attractions like Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake can be skipped during this time as the approach road to them are dangerous. Instead, opt for within the city attractions like the religious attractions mentioned above. There are also some waterfalls in Gangtok that become alive during this season. Like the Banjhakri Waterfalls, located a bit further from the city centre. This waterfall has been turned into a full-blown park and has an assortment of adventure activities that one can try. The waterfall itself is small and requires a bit of climbing to reach but quite clean and beautiful. The water cascades into two sections which gives it a picturesque view. Other waterfalls such as the Bakthang Waterfalls and Kyongnosla Waterfalls are also worth visiting.

    There are many festivals celebrated during this season in Gangtok. The Saga Dawa Festival is celebrated during the beginning of June. It is auspicious for the Buddhists as it celebrates the birth, attainment of enlightenment and nirvana of the Lord Buddha. During the month of August, the Tendong Lho Rum Faat is also celebrated. This festival is important to the Lepchas, who consider the Mount Tendong as the main saviour of the race and hence, celebrate this festival to educate the younger generation about the importance of nature. The World Tourism Day is also held during this season in September not just in Gangtok but in the whole state of Sikkim.

    Autumn.
    (Images from Swapno, Rima and Aditya)

    4. Autumn (October to November)

    Another short-lived season is autumn, which extends only from October to November. Temperatures during these months usually remain below 20°C. Rain showers are very rare and if they do occur, they are light and not long lasting. Autumn is that transition period between monsoon and winter so temperatures are mild and climatic conditions are pleasant. Snowfall occurrence is rare on Gangtok proper but you might be able to experience it on higher altitude areas near the hill station.

    Autumn is one of the best seasons to visit Gangtok. Temperatures are bearable that you can get away with light woollens, pants and closed shoes. By night time, you might need quilts to survive as it can get very chilly. This season can be considered as a mid-peak tourist season, where you can still find some tourists but not as plenty as in summer. Hotel rates are on the mid-range, not as high, but not as low. You can also rely on personal room bookings since tourists aren't too plenty yet anyway. Gangtok remains quite green and lush, owing to the past monsoon season. You can enjoy the hill station's beauty without worrying about the rains or snowfall yet.

    For sightseeing, you can pretty much cover any attraction that the city has. Of course, you can't miss Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake, the prime attractions of the city which require at least a day or two to cover. An offbeat attraction you must visit is the Menmecho Lake, just a few kilometre off the Tsomgo Lake. This mystical beauty lake is also known for its huge trout population. Do take advantage of view points like the Tashi View Point and Shanti View Point, where you can get clear views of the mountains and city, respectively, before winter season sets in. Other attractions like the religious sites, gardens, wildlife sanctuaries and parks can also be visited during this time.

    Gangtok also celebrates the nationwide Diwali Festival during October, an auspicious festival for the Hindus, Buddhists and even Jains. The premises is simple, the victory of good over evil, which is highlighted by the lighting of the candles and lanterns during the festival. In the recent years, Gangtok has banned the use of fireworks for this festival, making it unique and even more peaceful. For the Buddhists, during November, the Lhabab Duchen is celebrated, which is a tribute to one of the major events of Buddha's life, his descent back to the world.

    Winter.
    (Images from Rodriguillo, Abhishek and Rupak)

    5. Winter (December to January)

    The last season is winter, which extends from December to January. During December, temperatures usually remain below 15°C but it can climb even lower than 10°C at times. During January, temperatures remain usually the same, but around 2°C lower. Rain showers are very rare and snowfall also doesn't occur usually on the city. For snowfall, you have to go to the higher altitude areas near Gangtok. Winter is the coldest season of the hill station so you have to be prepared when going to Gangtok during this time.

    If you love solitude and the cold climate, winter is the best season for you. Many tourists throng to Gangtok during this time as well, since Christmas vacation allows for some getaway. But you need to bring some heavy woollens, more so if you intend to reach the higher altitude areas near the city. Bonnets, gloves and snow-proof shoes are also necessary. Hotel rates are on the higher side and even travel agencies might quote higher prices. The snow-capped peaks are majestic during this time but fogs can hinder your view of them during the morning. Crowds can be experienced at the most popular tourist attractions.

    During this season, sightseeing in the city won't be an issue. You can cover the monasteries and view points easily but the temperature can render you uncomfortable. Reaching attractions like the Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake can be treacherous due to the bumpy roads. However, their white, snow-covered beauty can be more appreciated during this season. You can avoid the waterfalls during this season since they won't be as majestic to see.

    Aside from the Christmas and New Year festivities, a popular festival held during winter is the Red Panda Winter Festival. This festival is celebrated in the MG Marg and is very enjoyable for the whole family. This festival pays tribute to the endangered species of the red panda. With vibrant cultural performances, food stalls and various activities, it has become an important part of the winter season in Gangtok. Also celebrated during December is the Loosong or Namsoong Festival, a Tibetan festival that pays tribute to the end of the harvest season. Its main highlight is the masked dance performances held at the Enchey Monastery.

    Conclusion

    So which, do you think, is the best time for you to visit Gangtok? Well, it depends really on your interests and preferences. In your case, since you would rather be there during the tourist season, then opt for either the spring, summer or winter seasons. If you want to enjoy sightseeing without any limits, opt for the former two, but if you want a snow enhanced experience, opt for the latter. If you're an offbeat traveller, then your best option is monsoon, when you can enjoy the greener side of the hill station. Autumn is another good season, where temperatures are just mild for sightseeing and crowds are still sparse.

    I hope this helps you!:)
     
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