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Places to visit near Gangtok

Discussion in 'Sikkim' started by RiyaChandal, Mar 30, 2017.

  1. RiyaChandal

    RiyaChandal New Member

    I'm back again with a new query about the same destination.
    As mentioned in my previous thread places to see in Gangtok I have only asked about the places within Gangtok but I would like to know what places to visit near Gangtok, as we plan to extend our holiday and go to other places near Gangtok.

    We have not decided on how much longer we would stay in Sikkim, and it would be decided once we know what other places there are to visit.
     


  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello again!

    GangtokNear.
    (Images from Kailas, Alakananda, Indranil, Arup and Rajib)

    Overview

    Gangtok can be considered as the prime tourist destination of Sikkim. Most tourist circuits include Gangtok in their itinerary, especially its most important attractions Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake. For those who are true blue wanderlusts though, there are also many excursions that you can take from Gangtok. From the most developed part of the state, you can take the lesser known paths to reach unknown and naturally beautiful destinations. Sikkim is such a diverse state, you have places filled with unending spirituality, then you have places teeming with natural attractions and then there are those still hidden under the radar of many travellers. That's what this guide is for, to let you know and understand what other destinations are there from Gangtok that you can explore.

    Places to Visit Near Gangtok (Under 150 Kilometres Away)

    For a spiritually-laden trip...

    1. Ravangla - The small town of Ravangla is around three hours of driving to the west of Gangtok. It is situated about 2,134 metres above sea level set amidst misty mountain views. Ravangla is home to some religious sites which truly compliment its serene vibe. The Buddha Park, also known as Tathagata Tsal, is the prime attraction of the town. This huge park of around 23 acres has a large 130-feet Buddha statue, made of copper and gilded with gold. With the backdrop of the Himalayan ranges, this statue stands out and exudes spirituality at its best. You can't miss the hall just inside the statue where you would find magnificent murals of the Lord Buddha. A few kilometres from the park is the Ralong Monastery, a 20th century monastery, which has a very vivid facade of red, yellow and green. This is actually a newer monastery, there exists an older version of it that you can also visit, but this version has a good collection of thangkas and Buddhist murals on its walls that are worth exploring. Don't forget to visit the nearby Ralong Hot Springs, about an hour of trekking from the monastery. This is especially a good attraction during the cold winter months as the hot water can be soothing for the body. The unique Bon Monastery is around five kilometres away from Ravangla, in the village of Kewzing. Bon is a distinct religion from Buddhism, believed to be the first ever religion of Tibet. You can also visit other religious attractions such as the Doling Gompa and Tumlong Monastery which are a bit further from the town. Finally, do visit the Samdruptse Hill, where the highest statue of Guru Padmasambhava can be found.

    • Distance from Gangtok - 65 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Buddha Park, Ralong Monastery, Ralong Hot Springs, Bon Monastery, Doling Gompa, Tumlong Monastery and Samdruptse Hill
    Ralong.
    Ralong Monastery in Ravangla (Image from Dhillan)

    2. Yuksom - Yuksom is a bit further from Gangtok, about five hours of driving away. Usually, this small town is a gateway for the famed Kanchenjunga National Park and hence bypassed by the usual tourist circuits. It has a rich history behind it though, having been the first ever capital of Sikkim, established by Phuntsog Namgyal during the 17th century. To get that glimpse of the past, do visit the Coronation Throne of Norbugang, where the first ever king of Sikkim, Phuntsog Namgyal, was coronated. The throne is made of stone and set amidst lush surroundings, a serene place to have your spirits rejuvenated in. Yet another must visit attraction is the Tashiding Monastery, built around the 17th century as well by Ngadak Sempa Chemp, one of the first three lamas of the region. It's a simple monastery but still has that vibrant facade and prayer wheels surrounding it. The picturesque Karthok Lake is also just around 10 kilometres from the monastery. It is a small emerald lake teeming with fishes that can be a serene getaway. It is also surrounded by endless greenery so you can have a small picnic here or just read a book whilst being amidst natural beauty. Last but definitely not the least is the Dubdi Monastery, known as the oldest and first ever monastery of Sikkim. It is around four kilometres from the town centre of Yuksom. This monastery was established by Lhatsun Namkha Jigme and has a bright facade, that is highlighted by a flower-laden pathway. The traditional use of stone in the monastery gives it a rustic appearance.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 119 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Coronation Throne of Norbugang, Tashiding Monastery, Karthok Lake and Dubdi Monastery
    Ravishing beauty of nature...

    3. Pelling - Next we have Pelling, located to the west of Gangtok, around five hours of driving away. Pelling is a marvellous nature getaway, teeming with greenery on most months of the year and sometimes, enveloped in a blanket of snow during winter. It has a number of natural and even heritage sites that one can enjoy. The Kanchenjunga Waterfalls has water originating from the glaciers found in the Kanchenjunga ranges. Its milky white water is ravishing, especially since it's set amidst the lush forests. You need to climb a bit to reach the waterfalls though the trek isn't too arduous. You can even enjoy the adventure sport of zip lining here, quite thrilling as the ropeway passes across the waterfalls themselves. The Khecheopalri Lake is around 31 kilometres to the north of Pelling. It is considered as a sacred lake by the locals and has this phenomenon wherein you won't find any leaves or other materials floating in the lake, because birds pick them up as soon as they do so. For the devout Hindus, the lake is revered holy because it is believed to take shape from the foot of Goddess Tara. Other natural attractions such as the Rimbi Waterfalls and Sangay Waterfalls can also be visited here in Pelling but they're lesser known and not yet commercialised. You also can't miss the Rabdentse Ruins here, though it's more of a heritage site. Rabdentse was the second capital of Sikkim, under the rule of Tenzing Namgyal, who ruled after his father, Phuntsog Namgyal. The ruins in this city are comprised of both the palace and religious site of the city, which you would reach after a short walk amidst the forests. You can also visit the Pemayangtse Gompa, famed for its exquisite murals of Guru Rinpoche, and Sangacholing Monastery, can be reached by trekking through an uphill climb. And before you leave, make sure that you cross the highest second bridge in Asia, the Singshore Bridge, where you can also enjoy the valley views at over 190 metres in height.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 112 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Kanchenjunga Waterfalls, Khecheopalri Lake, Rimbi Waterfalls, Sangay Waterfalls, Rabdentse Ruins, Pemayangtse Gompa, Sangacholing Monastery and Singshore Bridge
    Kanchenjunga Waterfalls.
    Kanchenjunga Waterfalls in Pelling (Image from Sujay)

    4. Rinchenpong - Rinchenpong is located to the west of Gangtok, about four to five hours of driving away. This is a small hill station town that boasts of serenity and tranquility. It is also filled with natural beauty, as it is not yet a popular tourist destination. On your first day here, indulge in a refreshing trek known as the Orchid Belt. This trek is unique in that you are not only exposed to local natural greenery but you would also be understand the local culture through the houses. The trail is easy to undertake but you'd be passing through homes where gardens of orchids are located. The Poison Lake is another attraction here which has an interesting background. According to local stories, Rinchenpong was once ruled by a queen who was not quite happy with outsiders reaching her locality. When the British came to the region, she devised a plan with the local Lepchas and came up with poisoning a lake, the only source of water then. The plan worked and many British soldiers died when they drank the water, hence the name. Interestingly, the lake has been dried up intentionally because locals believe that it is still poisoned. Nearby the lake off a forest trail is the British Bungalow, which has an eerie vibe to it despite the beautiful architecture. Historically, the bungalow was where Rabindranath Tagore used to stay and compose some of his masterpieces in. Rinchenpong is also home to some monasteries that you can visit, the Gurung Monastery and the Rinchenpong Monastery.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 100 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Orchid Belt, Poison Lake, British Bungalow, Gurung Monastery and Rinchenpong Monastery
    Bumpy roads lead to new adventures...

    5. Lachung - Lachung, meaning small pass, is located to the north of Gangtok, around six to seven hours of driving away. Lachung is a haven for the wanderlusts who want a unique adventure. It requires a bit of a bumpy ride from Gangtok so despite the short distance, you need around seven hours to reach it. The scenic beauty of Lachung differs depending on whether it's summer or winter, so it offers different landscapes on various seasons. En route the hill station, you can take photo opportunities with attractions like the Amitabh Bachhan Waterfalls and Naga Waterfalls. Yumthang Valley is usually the first attraction that tourists cover from Lachung itself. It is a vast valley, with the Teesta River flowing within, riots of flowers and plants during summer, or even blankets of now during winter. From here, you can also enjoy the mighty vistas of the Himalayan mountains as backdrops. A few hours from the valley is the Yume Samdong, also known as Zero Point, the last point before the border with Tibet. Located at an extreme altitude, you can find snow here almost all-year round but the presence of oxygen is also very low. Make sure you dress accordingly as the place can be very cold and bring some snow gear if you want to play with snow. The 19th century Lachung Monastery can be covered before you leave the hill station. Though it's not as extravagant as other famous monasteries in the region, it exudes a certain sense of calm that truly compliments its location.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 102 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Amitabh Bachhan Waterfalls, Naga Waterfalls, Yumthang Valley, Yume Samdong and Lachung Monastery
    Yumthang.
    Yumthang Valley in Lachung (Image from Shayon)

    6. Lachen - Lachen, meaning big pass, is also located in North Sikkim, around five to six hours of driving from Gangtok. Lachen and Lachung are at a distance of 47 kilometres from one another so they're usually combined in tour packages. To reach the main attractions of the hill station, you need to embark on bumpy excursions that can truly test your patience. Chopta Valley is a vast valley covered with lush plants and flowers of different hues during summer. It exudes a different vibe in winter, covered in thick snow with the snow-capped mountains on the background. This valley is also a haven for adventure seekers as it can be reached by foot through a mildly arduous climb. A long and winding trip would then take you to the Gurudongmar Lake, a high altitude like situated about 5,400 metres above sea level. Since it is located near the border of Sikkim with Tibet, the lake isn't easily accessible to foreign tourists, but Indian tourists have the advantage of accessing it more easily. It is considered as an auspicious lake by the Buddhists as it has been blessed by Guru Padmasambhava through his feet which lead to that portion of the lake remaining unfrozen all throughout the year despite the altitude. Do visit the Lachen Monastery prior to leaving Lachen, especially if you're planning to include Lachung in your trip and you can't return to the former on going home. This is a 19th century monastery which is also home to some important Buddhist artefacts of the region.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 107 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Chopta Valley, Gurudongmar Lake and Lachen Monastery
    Up on new trails..

    7. Katao - Next we have Katao, a short distance from Lachung and around five to six hours of driving to the north of Gangtok. Katao is a mountain in this region which remains restricted for tourists due to its closeness to the border area. There is no proper permit that you can acquire prior to reaching the region but you do have to ask for permission from the army personnel guarding the area once you reach the place. Entering beyond the army checkpoint is within the jurisdiction of the soldiers there. However, even the journey to Katao is breathtaking in itself, with views of the mountains all around you. The region is covered with snow almost all-year round except for a few months in summer when you can enjoy greenery and rainbow hues of the flowers. It's where you can get clear views of the mountain ranges. Or maybe build a snowman during winter season, maybe play and run around during summer. You can also shake hands with the army personnel who protect the country through these extreme weather and climate conditions. You can visit the Katao Waterfall, a small but picturesque waterfall fed by the glaciers melting from the region. You can also bring your own equipments, if you have them, so that you can enjoy winter activities like skiing or snow boarding here.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 128 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Army Checkpoint and Katao Waterfalls
    Katao.
    Katao (Image from Invincible)

    8. Varsey - Varsey is about five to six hours of driving to the west of Gangtok, close to its border with Nepal. Usually, Varsey is combined with a trip to Uttarey, which is around 65 kilometres away from one another. It is more recommended though, if you're a trekking enthusiast, to begin your journey from Hilled, which is barely five kilometres away from Varsey. The prime attraction of the small town is the Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary which is in full bloom during summer season, usually from March to April. From the sanctuary entrance, you need to trek for about three hours to cover the distance. Inside the sanctuary, there's a small forest lodge where you can opt to stay overnight to truly enjoy a rustic wildlife experience. Throughout the trail, you would be greeted by numerous species of rhododendrons, especially during peak blooming season. For the adventurers, you can expect snowfall and hailstorms during winter season as well. Aside from rhododendrons, you have firs, magnolias, oaks, pines and more. If you're lucky, you might even be able to spot a few of the red pandas residing in the sanctuary.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 138 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary
    Truly offbeat...

    9. Aritar - Aritar is a small town located to the south of Gangtok, close to its border with West Bengal. Recently, it has gained fame for being featured in NDTV Good Times in their show India's Most Haunted. Yes, Aritar's very own Dak Bungalow, once the residence of Claude White during the British rule and was the venue for soldier deaths, is known as a haunted mansion. But is this the only reason to visit Aritar? Definitely not, as the small town has a number of attractions worth exploring. Gnathang Valley is around a two-hour drive from the town and boasts of the same scenic landscapes as the valleys mentioned above. Historically, this valley is important as it was part of the Silk Trade Route between China and India. The best part is that you can enjoy it on various seasons, green-covered in summer or monsoon, and snow-covered in winter. The sunrise over the Eagle's Bunker here is a highlight for most tourist circuits, where you can enjoy the view of the Himalayan ranges from. In Aritar proper, you can't miss the Lampokhri Lake, an emerald lake with boating facilities suitable for families. It is considered as one of the oldest lakes in Sikkim and has a unique shape in the form of a boat. A short distance from the lake is the Mankhim Dara, a view point offering tandem vistas of the town and the distant Kanchenjunga mountain. In fact, this is the best place in Aritar for viewing the mountains, as it is located at the highest point. The view point is also home to an ancient Rai temple, an ethnic group from Nepal.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 68 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Dak Bungalow, Gnathang Valley, Lampokhri Lake and Mankhim Dara
    Nathang.
    Gnathang Valley in Aritar (Image from Mridulbk)

    10. Dzongu - Just three hours of driving to the north of Gangtok is Dzongu, also known as the Land of the Lepchas. The Lepchas are indigenous tribes of Sikkim and this forest reserve is their home. Access to it is very restricted and you can only visit the place after acquiring the required permits. The Lepchas are very one with nature, so much that they have protested about government works such as dams that can threaten the natural cycle of their forest area. Dzongu in itself remains a pristine work of nature, divided into an upper and lower area. It is here where you can enjoy a true exposure to rural life in Sikkim. The most interesting attraction is the Traditional Lepcha Houses, built out of local wood on an elevated platform through pillars, the basement is used for storing poultry. Bathrooms here even in a homestay are traditional so you need to leave all your comforts behind. You can visit the local school or even the Buddhist monastery as well. Wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and from your window, a magnificent vista of the Kanchenjunga mountain. After a tiring tour of Gangtok, Dzongu might be just what you need to be closer to nature and away from the hustles and bustles of city life.
    • Distance from Gangtok - 67 Kilometres
    • Must Visit Attractions - Traditional Lepcha Houses
    Conclusion

    This ends our guide on the places that you can visit near Gangtok. The state capital is a bustling city, filled with endless sites and attractions to cover. But for many, a trip to Sikkim should not only include the capital, but also the surrounding areas which boast of natural beauty more than anything else. Whether you're fond of spiritual trips, or maybe you're more of a natural attraction lover, there are places near Gangtok for these. Further, you can be as adventurous or offbeat as you want to be, exploring the regions less explored in the state.

    I hope this helps you!:)