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Places to see in Gangtok

Discussion in 'Sikkim' started by RiyaChandal, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. RiyaChandal

    RiyaChandal New Member

    A friend and I are going to Gangtok for a holiday in October this year. We are quite confused with what places to see in Gangtok.
    Although we have seen some places to see mentioned on websites, but we don't know if they are worth visiting or not, and we don't want to waste any time there.

    I thought it would be best to join the forum and ask users to which places we should go and see in Gangtok during our seven days stay there.
     


  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, welcome to the forum!

    Gangtok.
    (Images from Sujay, Invincible, Giridhar and Drmarathe)

    Overview

    Just this year, The New York Times released its 52 Places To Go in 2017 and the list included the state of Sikkim. That's not all, the list cited special mention of the Kanchenjunga National Park and the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, which are attractions both found in Gangtok. With its salubrious climate and overwhelming cleanliness, Gangtok serves as a model city of the state, truly a depiction of what Sikkim is all about. With the ravishing Himalayan peaks from a distance, you are afforded the best views of these vistas from any point in the city. Not to mention the delicious food, warmth of the locals and the number of adventure activities that one can indulge in here. In this guide, we would highlight the best places to see in Gangtok, those that are worth visiting if you only have a short time on hand.

    Places to See in Gangtok

    Religious
    • Hanuman Tok - The Hanuman Tok is located to the eastern side of Gangtok, about 11 kilometres away from the city centre. The temple is situated about 2,195 metres above sea level, providing for magnificent vistas of the Kanchenjunga. For pilgrims though, especially Hindus, the temple is revered highly as it is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. According to mythology, this was where Hanuman rested whilst on his way to Lanka to bring the cure, the sanjeevani herb, to Rama's brother, Lakshman. The temple has a colourful facade, with murals of nature and of the deity as well. The vibrancy of the temple, with its red and yellow facade, is sure to delight the tourist. It takes a bit of climbing to reach the temple, seniors can utilise the walkway instead of the stairs. The temple is also maintained and managed by the Black Cat division of the Indian Army so it's not unusual to find soldiers giving the guests a tour of the temple or even applying tilak to guests.
    • Ranka Monastery - The Ranka Monastery is around 12 kilometres to the southwest of Gangtok's city centre. As with any other Buddhist monastery, the facade of this monastery is very vibrant, with hues of red, yellow, green and more. Opened in 1998, this is a fairly newer monastery, home to young monks. The approach to reach the monastery can be covered by vehicle, but only by high ground clearance ones as the roads are quite bumpy. Ranka Monastery has the same features of usual Buddhist monasteries, like prayer wheels, bells and colourful flags. Inside the main temple, you would find statues of the Lord Buddha and heavily painted walls that is sure to attract your attention. Ranka Monastery also goes by the name of Lingdum Monastery, so don't get confused.
    • Rumtek Monastery - Next we have the Rumtek Monastery, located around 19 kilometres to the southwestern side of Gangtok. In contrast, this monastery is older, built around the 16th century by Wangchuk Dorje, under the Karmapa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is also known as the Dharma Chakra Centre and is home to around 150 monks. It is considered as one of the oldest and largest monasteries in the state. It has the same colourful facade, with several structures comprised of a living quarters for the monks. Due to the tensions of the various sects claiming different candidates to be the 17th Karmapa leader, the monastery is highly guarded by the Indian Army, there are strict checks prior to entering the place. Interestingly, the supposed 17th Karmapa leader, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, recognised by both the Tibetan Government and Chinese Government, is still not in the monastery due to political and security reasons. This makes the Rumtek Monastery a place without its leader, another feature that makes it unique.
    Rumtek.
    Rumtek Monastery Prayer Wheels (Image from Sivakumar)
    • Enchey Monastery - The Enchey Monastery is just around four kilometres away from the centre of Gangtok. This monastery was established in the 19th century under the blessing of Lama Drupthob Karpo for the Nyingma sect of Buddhism. It is not a grand monastery and is in fact smaller than the previously mentioned ones. Its best feature though is the relative quietness and tranquility that one can feel here. The views of the Himalayan mountains can be seen here during clear days as well.
    • Do Drul Chorten Stupa - The Do Drul Chorten Stupa is just a short distance from the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. This is a large stupa surrounded by smaller stupas, established by Trulshik Rinpoche during the 20th century. The stupa is imposing because of its large size and white facade. Surrounded by hundreds of prayer wheels, the ambience all the more becomes more serene. When monks surround the place and you hear their chanting, it's a spiritually-laden experience that you won't be able to forget.
    • Gonjang Monastery - The Gonjang Monastery is located eight kilometres to the north of Gangtok. This monastery was founded in the late 20th century and was even blessed by the 14th Dalai Lama. It is a small monastery withy very colourful exteriors. The main monastery is also very vibrant housing a statue of the Lord Buddha along with other deities. The murals also depict the various poses and forms of the Lord Buddha. Within the premises is the housing for the monks who live here, who are under a hundred in number. From the monastery, you can enjoy the views of the surrounding town of Gangtok.
    View Points
    • Tashi View Point - Just a nine-minute walk from the Gonjang Monastery is the Tashi View Point. It takes more than 50 stairs of climbing to reach this view point. It's worth it though because once you reach the top, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga ranges. However, the climb might not be as feasible for seniors or very little children. This attraction can also be skipped during monsoon or foggy winter days as you won't be able to enjoy the views during these times. The best time for this view point is summer, when skies are clear, and even without a telescope, you can spot the mountains from the distance.
    • Ganesh Tok View Point - The Ganesh Tok View Point is just a short distance to the east of Gangtok. This view point has a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha so it can be considered as a religious attraction as well. Most tourists though flock here for the view point giving one a vista of both the city and the mountains. This is a more commercialised view point as there are some food stalls here serving hot noodles and beverages. You can even buy souvenirs from a small shop here. On a cloudy day, this attraction can also be skipped as it isn't worth climbing the stairs just to find misty views on the top.
    • Shanti View Point - Located en route to the Rumtek Monastery is the Shanti View Point. The word shanti literally means peace and truly, this view point embodies that feature. Aside from the gorgeous view of the city of Gangtok here, you can enjoy the serenity and isolation since not too many tourists flock to this view point. The best time for reaching this view point is during early morning when the sun is yet to rise, so you can enjoy the changing of the hues of the sun from here.
    Culture
    • MG Marg - MG Marg is literally the centre of Gangtok, where you can find an assortment of shops, restaurants and commercial establishments. The street was named after Mahatma Gandhi and even houses a memorial statue for him. It is a long street with a central paved pathway where you can find some benches in. The commercial shops are located to its sides and you would find both local and tourists all around. The best part is that no vehicles are allowed here so you can enjoy the breath of fresh air from all areas. You can enjoy souvenir shopping here for local handicrafts that you can take home to your loved ones.
    • Namgyal Institute of Tibetology - The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is located about five kilometres to the south of Gangtok. This institute was opened to the public in the year 1958 and was blessed by the 14th Dalai Lama. It is a complex comprised of a research centre, a library and a museum. For tourists, the latter is the section that is opened for them. This museum is fairly small, just one room, and contains artefacts that relate the history of Buddhism. The museum has a large collection of thangkas, Tibetan cloth scroll paintings, some depicting the life of Buddha artistically. Statues, manuscripts and ancient musical instruments can also be found here. There are even odd collections of artefacts made from human bones, like the skull bowls and a trumpet made from thigh bones.
    Namgyal.
    Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (Image from Abhishek)

    Nature
    • Flower Exhibition Centre - The Flower Exhibition Centre is located on the Ridge Road of Gangtok. It is the venue for the annual Flower Festival of Gangtok held during March. The Flower Exhibition Centre is a small enclosed attraction, almost like a glass-house, where you can view a wide variety of colourful flowers from. Some of the species of flowers here that you can spot are orchids, petunias, roses, cosmos, neoregelias, myosotises and more. For the budding botanists, you can buy seeds of flowers here so that you can start your own garden at home.
    Adventure
    • Nathu La - Nathu La is truly an adventurous attraction near Gangtok. It is around 56 kilometres to the east of the city, in the border of India with Tibet. Located about 4,300 metres above sea level, this is a high altitude pass that's sure to test your patience and physical fitness too. Do keep in mind that permits are required to visit this pass but you can get them easily from legitimate tour operators. The pass also remains closed during Mondays and Tuesdays so do plan your trip accordingly. Nathu La usually remains covered with snow all-year round, though due to climate change, it has some off days when you won't be able to find snow. More than a border point between India and Tibet, Nathu La showcases the bravery and sacrifice of the Indian Army as they stand guard here through harsh conditions. No photography is allowed in the border area but you can usually interact with the friendly soldiers here.
    Nathula.
    Nathu La (Image from Indrajit)

    Lakes
    • Tsomgo Lake - Tsomgo Lake is located around 40 kilometres to the east of Gangtok, en route to Nathu La. This is another restricted access attraction so make sure you apply for a permit prior to embarking on your journey to the lake. Usually, tour operators combine a trip for the two attractions, the pass and lake, since they are located close to each other. The lake is located on an altitude of around 3,753 metres above sea level, surrounded by mountains on its three sides. It has changing sceneries depending on the season. During summer, you can enjoy the lush greenery around it and during winter, the snow-capped mountain beauties dominate it. Do enjoy a yak ride here if time permits, since this is one of the few places for doing so.
    Tsomgo.
    Tsomgo Lake (Image from Rutujakorlekar)
    • Menmecho Lake - Further ahead of Tsomgo Lake is the Menmecho Lake, around 22 kilometres to its southwest. This is a fairly smaller lake but off the tourist track. Vehicles are not allowed near the lake so you need to trek for about four kilometres to reach it from the last motorable road. It is famous for its wide population of trouts but you can only fish here during summer or monsoon, as the lake freezes during winter season. This lake is not yet commercialised so do bring your own food or beverages if you intend to include it in your itinerary.
    Waterfalls
    • Banjhakri Waterfalls - The beautiful Banjhakri Waterfalls is located five kilometres to the north of Gangtok. It is a unique waterfall in that the main waterfall cascades from around 40 feet in height and then it has this step from which the water falls again from a shorter height. To reach the main waterfall, there are stairs that are quite steep in height. For the seniors and little ones, they can just stay beside the small waterfall which is equally entertaining. The Banjhakri Waterfalls is a commercial attraction of the city and in fact, has been developed into a full blown park. There are gazebos and statues which add to the beauty of the place. For the thrill seekers, adventure activities such as rope walking, tire crossing, bungee jumping and even paragliding can be enjoyed near the waterfalls.
    • Bakthang Waterfalls - The Bakthang Waterfalls is a smaller cascading waterfall, about seven kilometres to the northeast of Gangtok. This is a thinner and less impressive waterfall but can be covered easily en route to the Gonjang Monastery. Unlike the previous waterfall, you can't get too close to the Bakthang Waterfalls. There's a small bridge here from where you can view the waterfall in or even take pictures in. Activities such as rock climbing and zip lining can also be enjoyed here for additional surcharges.
    Wildlife
    • Himalayan Zoological Park - The Himalayan Zoological Park is located off the Jawaharlal Nehru Road, under seven kilometres to the east of Gangtok. The zoological park was established in 1991 and is famed for being home to the endangered red panda species. Uniquely, this zoological park is so vast that even with the enclosures, it's hard to spot the animals residing here. The zoological park is spread over 500 acres of lush lands and is home to a wide variety of animals. It can take a couple of hours to cover the 2.5 kilometres path laden for visitors here. Some of the other animals that you can spot here are the snow leopards, Himalayan palm civets, Himalayan blue sheep, leopards cats and more. When planning your itinerary, keep in mind that this attraction remains closed during Thursdays.
    Himalayan Zoo.
    Himalayan Zoological Park Red Panda (Image from Nanda)
    • Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary - The Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary is located around 30 kilometres to the west of Gangtok. This is a small wildlife sanctuary which allows for nature trails within its premises. The forests here are of various types, owing to its unique location, comprised of tropical grasslands, subtropical conifers, subalpine conifers and Himalayan shrubs. There are varied trails that one can undertake here but don't worry, most of the paths are amidst stone-clan ways so quite easier to complete. This sanctuary is a bird watcher's haven as species of birds such as babblers, warblers, partridges and barwings can all be spotted here. Mammals that you can spot here are deers, red pandas, foxes and Himalayan black bears.
    • Kanchenjunga National Park - The Kanchenjunga National Park has been granted the UNESCO World Heritage Site status recently. It is located about six hours away from Gangtok. This national park offers thrilling treks for the true blue wildlife lovers. There's one note though, these treks are not for the faint hearted as they can take several days to complete. The most popular trek begins from Yuksom, the nearest base to the national park. Permits are also required for this national park so do plan for that in advance. Just like the former sanctuary, the landscapes here vary from tropical forests, to subtropical ones and yes, alpine ones. Spotting animals might be difficult due to the thick vegetation but animals such as snow leopards, gorals, takins, red pandas and Himalayan black bears do reside here.
    Conclusion

    This ends our sightseeing guide on Gangtok, the crown of Sikkim. A city teeming with spirituality, it's hard to shake it off even when you leave its premises. Majestic mountain views and beautiful natural attractions are just some more of the features of Gangtok. Its charm never ceases to amaze the tourists and hopefully, it will become a more accessible region with the completion of its very first international airport. As of now, endure the long journey to reach this beautiful city, it's all worth it.

    :)