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Sikkim Tourism

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by briannagodess, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Sikkim is one of the most beautiful states in India. It is a landlocked state, meaning it's surrounded almost entirely by land. It is also the least populous state in the country, with most of its inhabitants being Nepali. Despite being the second smallest state, it boasts of being one of the most geographically diverse regions in the country. Sikkim is bordered by Nepal, China, Bhutan and West Bengal. About 40% of the total area of Sikkim are covered with forests, making it the best getaway for nature lovers.


    Legend and History of Sikkim

    Sikkim was derived from two Limbu words: su which means new and khyim which means palace or even house. Su khyim or new palace is believed to have been a reference to Phuntsog Namgyal's palace at that time.

    Tibetans also have a different name for Sikkim, Drenjong which means valley of rice. The Bhutias (Tibetan origin) call the region Beyul Demazong which means the hidden valley of rice. The original inhabitants of Sikkim, called the Lepchas, also has a different name for Sikkim. They call it Nye Mae El which means paradise.

    During the pre-historic times, Sikkim was inhabited by three major tribes, namely: Naong, Chang and Mon. A bit later, the Lepchas came to the region. Their exact origin was unknown, some believe that they came from the South of the Brahmaputra Valley. Others believe that they came from Tibet or Burma. However, the Lepchas believe that they are indigenous to the region.

    With the conflict in Tibet, many red hat Tibetans migrated to Sikkim. These are now known as the Bhutias who occupied the lands in Sikkim not occupied by the Lepchas. They also converted some Lepchas into Buddhists but for the most part, the Lepchas remained aloof. The Bhutias also chose Phuntsok Namgyal as their king during this time and his monarchy reigned for a long time.

    During the 13th century, Guru Tashi of the Minzang dynasty in Tibet had a vision that he should go to Drenjong. So he did go, together with his family and they came upon the temple being built by the Sakya king. The workers were unable to lift the pillar for the temple. So Guru Tashi's eldest son single-handedly raised the pillar and he came to be known as Khye Bumsa, which means the superior of a thousand heroes.

    Over time, Khye Bumsa married the daughter of the Sakya King and his father also died. On the other hand, he had built a relationship with the Lepcha chieftain named Thekong Tek. The latter blessed him with three sons and prophesied that his offsprings would be the leader of Sikkim.

    The fourth son of Khye Bumsa, named after his father, was Guru Tashi. He did became the first ruler of Sikkim. After him, Sikkim was ruled by Jowo Nagpo, Jowo Apha and Guru Tenzing. Thereafter, Phuntsok Namgyal, Guru Tenzing's son, became the ruler of Sikkim. The Namgyal dynasty ruled over Sikkim for about 330 years.

    During the 1780's, Tenzing Namgyal succeeded the throne but it was also the time that the Nepali ensued wars upon the region. The Nepali were successful in conquering some of the lands in Sikkim. The Chinese intervened and finally, the Nepali were defeated. In 1793, Tsudphud Namgyal succeeded the throne.

    The Nepali continued their expansion of the lands in Sikkim. With the help of the British, they were completely defeated by 1816 and the Treaty of Titalia gave back these seized lands to Sikkim. The region of Darjeeling was gifted to the British with an agreement that an annual subsidy would be given to the Sikkim rulers.

    When India became independent during the year 1947, the then ruler of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal, gained a special status of protectorate from the government. When he died in 1963, his son succeeded the throne. However, this was met by resistances and in 1975, the Chogyal dynasty was abolished to give way for the election of the second chief minister of Sikkim, Nar Bahadur Bandari.

    Entry Permit for Sikkim

    An entry permit is required for foreigners to travel to Sikkim. Because Sikkim shares an open border with China, it's a must to obtain this Restricted Area Permit or Inner Line Permit for foreigners. There are three ways that you can obtain the RAP Permit:
    • By crossing the Sikkim state border, en route to Gangtok through the Rangpo Checkpoint.
    • At the district Magistrate's Office in Darjeeling, if you have applied for the permit from the Foreigner's Registration Office beforehand.
    • At the Sikkim Tourism Centre in Siliguri, around Pradhan Nagar.
    • Through your visa application.
    Here are the documents that you would need:
    • Passport and Indian visa, with two photocopies for each.
    • Two passport sized photos.
    The process is quick especially at the Gangtok checkpoint although it depends still on the queue of visitors. After which, you'd be given a paper containing your passport data and this would be valid for 15 days. You have to bring it with you at all the times you're in Sikkim.

    Getting There

    1. By Air - Sikkim doesn't have its own airport. The nearest airport is in Bagdogra in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. This is known as the Bagdogra Airport which caters to Siliguri, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri. It has international flights from Bangkok and Paro as well. The airport also has regular helicopter flights to Gangtok. The major cities in India that it caters to are Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Guwahati. From Delhi, here are some of its flights:
    • Indigo 6E 369 - Departs at 14:00 and arrives at 16:00. Flight duration is two hours. Fare is at Rs. 4,014 per passenger.
    • Spice Jet SG 675 - Departs at 13:05 and arrives at 15:15. Flight duration is 2 hours and 10 minutes. Fare is at Rs. 4,070 per passenger.
    • Jet Airways 9W 711 - Departs at 10:25 and arrives at 12:20. Flight duration is 1 hour and 55 minutes. Fare is at Rs. 4,764 per passenger.
    From Bagdogra, you can ride a helicopter to reach Gangtok in Sikkim. Fare would be Rs. 3,500 per person. You can book a ticket through the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation or in the Bagdogra Airport as there is a counter there. There are two helicopter flights daily to Gangtok and from Gangtok:
    • Bagdogra to Gangtok - 11:00 am and 2:30 pm
    • Gangtok to Bagdogra - 10:00 am and 11:35 am
    Your other option would be a taxi to reach Gangtok from the airport. Fares vary but it's between Rs. 2,800 to Rs. 4,200. The journey time can be about 5 to 6 hours as the distance to cover is 150 kms or so.

    If you're in a budget, there are shared taxis or jeeps from Siliguri to Gangtok. Reaching Siliguri from the airport is easy and can cost around Rs. 350 with a taxi. The ride from Siliguri to Gangtok can be quite treacherous although you'd only pay about Rs. 250 per passenger.

    There are also buses plying from Siliguri to Gangtok. You can find them in the SNT Terminus in Siliguri, right next to the shared jeep stand. Here are their timings:
    • 7:30 am, 8:30 am, 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm.
    2. By Bus - There are no direct buses from Delhi to Sikkim. You can board a bus going to Muzaffarnagar first and then another bus to Siliguri. There's not many buses plying this route though:
    • Shive Bhole Nath Travels (AC Seater/Sleeper) - Departs in Nangloi Metro Station at 7:00 pm and arrives in Siliguri at 3:30 pm. Fare is at Rs. 1,520 per passenger.
    From Muzaffarnagar, you need to ride another bus to reach Siliguri:
    • Raj Bus Service (AC Seater/Sleeper) - Departs at 4:30 pm and arrives at 3:15 am. Fare is at Rs. 450 per passenger.
    • Mitruka Pushparaj (AC Seater/Sleeper) - Departs at 8:15 pm and arrives at 6:00 am. Fare is at Rs. 500 per passenger.
    And then, from Siliguri, you need to go to the SNT Terminus to ride another bus to Gangtok. Or you can opt for a shared taxi. The timings for the bus are the same as the ones posted above.

    From Kolkata, there are direct buses to Siliguri both state operated and privately operated. Here are the timings for the NBSTC Buses:
    • NBSTC Rocket Bus Service - This is a non-AC bus service from the NBSTC. This bus leaves at 8:00 pm and arrives at 10:00 am. Ticket fare is at Rs. 245 to Rs. 300 per passenger.
    • NBSTC Royal Cruiser Bus Service - This is a Volvo bus service from the NBSTC. This bus also leaves at 8:00 am although it can be earlier. It reaches Siliguri at 10:00 am or 9:00 am. Fare is at Rs. 745 per passenger or more.
    For the private buses, they depart from Esplanade and Ultadanga in Kolkata. Here are their timings:
    • Greenline (Volvo AC Seater Bus) - Departs at 7:00 pm and arrives at 6:30 am. Fare is at Rs. 1,200 per passenger.
    • Shyamoli Paribahan (Volco AC Seater Bus) - Departs at 6:30 pm and arrives at 6:00 am. Fare is at Rs. 1,100 per passenger.
    • Rajdhani Express (Non-AC Seater Bus) - Departs at 5:30 pm and arrives at 8:00 am. Fare is at Rs. 650 per passenger.
    • Ghosh Travels (Non-AC Seater Bus) - Departs at 6:00 pm and arrives at 9:00 am. Fare is at Rs. 600 per passenger.
    Again, from Siliguri, you have the same timings as above.

    3. By Train - Sikkim doesn't have its own railway station. The nearest railway station is either at Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri. Here is the timing for the Siliguri Railway Station train from Delhi:
    • Mahananda Express Train No. 15484 - Departs daily at 6:35 and arrives at 14:20.
    Then, from Siliguri Railway Station, you can just ride a taxi to reach the bus stand or directly go to Sikkim.

    Here are the timings for the buses from Delhi to Jalpaiguri:
    • Avadh Assam Express Train No. 15910 - Departs daily at 7:45 and arrives at 18:58.
    • North East Express Train No. 12506 - Departs daily at 6:45 and arrives at 9:15.
    • Dibrugarh Rajdhani Train No. 12424 - Departs daily at 13:55 and arrives at 10:45.
    From Jalpaiguri, you can ride a taxi to reach the bus stand in Siliguri.

    4. By Private Vehicle - The distance between Delhi and Sikkim is about 1,600 kms and it can take you 2 days to reach the latter. Here's the route you have to take:
    • Delhi > Kanpur > Lucknow > Gorakhpur > Muzaffarpur > Siliguri > Darjeeling > Gangtok > Sikkim.

    Sikkim Quick Facts
    • Region - Northeast India
    • Capital - Gangtok
    • Largest City - Gangtok
    • Official Language - Nepali
    • Other Languages - Sikkimese, Lepcha, Hindi, Tamang, Limbu, Rai, Newari, Gurung, Magar, English, and Sunwar.
    • Attractions - Monasteries, Waterfalls, Lakes and Wildlife.

    Best Time to Visit Sikkim

    Sikkim has five seasons, namely spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter. Spring season is between March to May. Temperatures range between 13°C to 25°C. It's a good time for trekking and sightseeing. Flowers are also in bloom during this time so it's a great sight to see.

    Summer season is from May to early June. Temperatures range between 13°C to 28°C. Flowers are also in bloom during this time so you get to see the orchids and the rhododendrons. If you'd like to do some trekking, this is also a good time to do that. The plains receive tropical climates while the higher regions have colder climates.

    Monsoon season is between the end of June to September. The region receives moderate to heavy rainfall. It is also common for landslides to occur during this time. It's not a good time to visit Sikkim as the roads can get blocked and accidents can happen.

    Autumn season is between end of September to November. Post-monsoon season, the waterfalls become alive due to being fed by the rains. This is also the time when flowers envelope the region after a long rest due to the monsoon rains. You can try out the adventure activity like white river rafting as well.

    Winter season is between December to February. The region is extremely cold this time, especially from December to January. Temperatures range between 7°C to 18°C. If you'd like to see snowfall though, this is a good time to visit Sikkim and you can also participate in winter activities. However, bring your thicker clothes and woollens as it can get very chilly.

    So with this, the best times to visit Sikkim would be from March to June and from September to November. December and January can be very chilly but it's also a good time for those who want to enjoy snow.

    Places to Visit in Sikkim

    Sikkim can be divided into four regions or districts, namely: East Sikkim, North Sikkim, South Sikkim and West Sikkim. The headquarters of East Sikkim is Gangtok. The headquarters of North Sikkim is Mangan. The headquarters of South Sikkim is Namchi. The headquarters of West Sikkim is Geyzing.

    East Sikkim - This district occupies the Southeastern part of Sikkim. Its capital is Gangtok, which is also the capital of the state. This is a very sensitive area and not all places here can be accessed especially by foreigners. This district is then subdivided into Gangtok, Pakyong and Rongli.

    1. Gangtok - This is the largest city of Sikkim. It is about 1,650 metres above sea level. This is also the centre of the tourism industry of the state. Gangtok has several Tibetan monasteries which also makes it the centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Here are some of the attractions in Gangtok:

    • Do Drul Chorten Stupa - This stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche in 1945. He was the head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism. There are Kangyur relics, Dorjee Phurba and other religious items inside the stupa. There are also about 108 prayer wheels beside the stupa. You can also find the Chorten Lakahang and the Guru Lakhang beside it.
    • Ranka Monastery - This is also known as Lingdum Monastery. This is a fairly new monastery and is under the Zurmang Kagyud lineage of Buddhism. It's about 20 kms away from the city centre of Gangtok. In the main monastery building, you'd find a statue of Buddha and the surrounding walls have intricate hand paintings and thankas. It's best visited during the Tibetan New Year or Losar when masked dances are portrayed.
    • Rumtek Monastery - This is also known as the Dharmachakra Centre. This was built under the direction of Changchun Dorje during the middle of the 1700's. In 1959 though, when Ranging Rigpe Dorja arrived in Sikkim, the monastery was in ruins. With the help of the royal family of Sikkim, the monastery was renovated and completed after four years. The monastery is the largest of its kind in Sikkim. However, it is still under the Karmapa controversy with two sects fighting over it, the Tsurphu Labrang and the Karmapa Charitable Trust.
    • Enchey Monastery - The present monastery was built in 1909 under the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. However, a small monastery has existed in the location since the 1840's, built by the 8th Chogyal. The presiding deities of the monastery are Khangchendzonga and Yadbean, which are believed to grant the wishes of the devotees. The location of the temple is such that the views of the Kanchendzonga Ranges are stunning from it. Enchey literally means solitary hence the other name of it is Solitary Monastery.
    • Phensang Monastery - This monastery was built during 1721 under Jigme Pawo. This monastery is under the Nyingma sector of the Tibetan Buddhism. It is home to over 300 monks. It is best visited during the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar. During this time, sacred dances are performed in the monastery.
    • Dodrupchen Monastery - This monastery was built by Dodrup Chen Rinpoche. Since its establishment in the 1960's, many monks have resided in the monastery. Now, it is home to about 500 monks and nuns, with about 10% of the latter. There are religious items, texts and artworks here.
    Nature and Wildlife
    • Kanchenjunga Mountain - This is the third highest mountain the world. It has recently been opened up for trekking in the Indian side of it. Some of the treks within this region are the Goecha La Trek and Green Lake Basin Trek. You would need permission though to be able to access this region of Sikkim.
    • Himalayan Zoological Park - This is about 6 kms from the city centre of Gangtok. You can spot many rare and even endangered animals here. Some of them are the red panda, Himalayan black bear, snow leopard, Tibetan wolf and barking deer. It's also a haven for bird watchers as you can spot rare species of birds here like the golden pheasant, silver pheasant and kalij. There's a nominal entry fee for visitors and do keep in mind that it's closed during Thursdays so plan accordingly.
    • Kangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve and National Park - The park is between 1,829 metres to 8,550 metres above sea level. There are many mammalian species here like the musk deer, snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, wild dog, red panda and Tibetan wild ass. There are also about 550 species of birds here with the newly discovered Himalayan forest thrush. Aside from an Inner Line Permit and Restricted Area Permit, you also need a permission from the State Chief Wildlife Warden to enter the park.
    • Phurchachu Hot Springs - This is located near Kadosangphu, one of the holy caves of Gangtok. The Rangeet River is also located nearby the hot springs. The water from the springs is believed to have medicinal value due to its high content of sulphur.
    • Tsomgo Lake - This is also known as Tsongmo Lake or Changu Lake. It's about 40 kms away from Gangtok. Tso means lake and mgo means head, giving it the name source of the lake. The lake is frozen during the winter season that can sometimes last until May. When the ice does melt, you get to see the blue water of the lake along with the blooming flowers all around.
    • Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary - This is about 30 kms West of Gangtok. It is about 2,749 metres above sea level. The sanctuary is home to many species of birds and even the rare rufous headed hornbill has been spotted here. The mammals that you can spot here are the Himalayan brown bear, red panda and barking deer.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Gardens - This is nearby the Rumtek Monastery, about 24 kms from Gangtok. You can find several species of botanical plants, flowers and herbs here. The garden was built during the year 1987 by the Forest Department. There's also a lake and a waterfall inside the park. There's a separate area for children as well, with swings, seesaws and slides.
    • Banjhakri Waterfalls - This is close to the Ranka Monastery, about 7 kms from Gangtok. It's a 100-feet waterfall surrounded by a man-made park. There are paved pathways, footbridges and even a lake with a dragon at the centre. Ban Jhakri means Jungle Priest. There's a Nepali folklore here claiming that the Jhakris can help cure people off evil spirits. The wives of the Jhakris are called Jhakrinis and they're believed to be evil spirits who even eat up human beings.
    • Namgyal Institute of Tibetology - This museum was constructed during the year of 1957 although it was completed in 1958. It was opened officially by India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The institute hires researchers to undertake several studies about Sikkim.
    • Ganesh Tok View Point - There's a temple here with the same name, Ganesh Tok. Aside from being a pilgrimage site, it's famous for the stunning views that you get to see here. The temple has a separate viewing area/balcony that you can climb to reach. From it, you get to see the Kanchenjonga Peak, Gangtok and the valleys below. It's just about 6 kms from Gangtok and you can also enjoy eating in the small cafe here.
    • Nathu La - This is about 54 kms from Gangtok. It's a mountain pass and the ancient Silk Road in Sikkim. It is about 4,310 metres above sea level. Nathu means listening ears and la means pass, thus it can be translated as Listening Ears Pass. The pass was just opened in 2006 to allow for an easier trading route for merchants although they are only allowed to pass few days a week.
    2. Rongli - This is a small town in the Eastern District. The Rangpo River runs throughout the town. It's a very serene and untouched part of the state which makes it one of the best offbeat destinations you can go to. There's not much to do except enjoy the beauty of this part of Sikkim. Here are some attractions in Rongli:

    • Keukhola Waterfalls - This is a small waterfall en route to Rongli. It's best visited after the monsoon season though as the rain feeds the falls. During summer season, there's not much you can view here so you can skip it.
    • Rangpo River - This river is a tributary to the Teesta River. Like mentioned above, it runs all throughout the town of Rongli. It flows from East to West forming different channel patterns like braided, meandering, straight and blocked.
    • Lampokhri Lake - This is also known as the Aritar Lake. It is one of the oldest lakes in Sikkim. You can try boating here as there are facilities for that. Otherwise, you can walk along the newly paved pathways around the lake.
    • Mankhim - Lampokhri Lake is connected to Mankhim through a narrow jungle path. This is a hilltop viewpoint offering a stunning view of the Lampokhri Lake from above. You can also view Mount Kanchenjunga from it. There's a small temple and monastery at the peak that you can also visit.

    North Sikkim - This is the largest out of all the four districts of Sikkim. Most of the residents here reside in Mangan or near Mangan. It is subdivided into two divisions: Mangan and Chungthang.

    1. Mangan - This is about 67 kms from Gangtok. It is the district headquarters of North Sikkim. It is known as the Cardamom City of India. Mangan also serves as the base for higher regions in Sikkim like La Chung and La Chen. Here are some of the attractions in Mangan:

    • Labrang Monastery - This monastery was constructed in 1814. It is under the Nyingma sector of Buddhism. The name Labrang means the Lamas Dwelling. It is dedicated to Latsun Chembo of Kongpu in Tibet.
    • Sirijonga Yuma Mangheem - This is a heritage house built in the year of 1983. It was replicated out of the Sirijonga Yuma Mangheem at Martam in West Sikkim. An annual festival called the Manghey Sankranti is celebrated here.
    • Singhik View Point - You can find this in Singhik, a small town in the Mangan district. From the peak, you can unobstructed views of both the Siniolchu and the Kanchenjunga ranges. Below the peak, you can also visit the confluences of the rivers of Rongyung Chu and Teesta. There's also a government tourist lodge here that you can stay in for the night.
    • Rong Lungten Lee - This is about 8 kms from Mangan. It is a replica of the traditional Lepcha house in Namprikdang. You can find various artefacts here showcasing the culture of the Lepchas. It is best visited during the annual festival of Namsoong, which is either on December or January.
    • Seven Sisters Waterfalls - This is about 32 kms from Gangtok, en route to Mangan. The water from the falls cascades into three steps. You can trek a bit further to see the fourth step of the cascade. It's especially more beautiful after the monsoon season.
    2. Chungthang - This is about 95 kms from Gangtok. It's located at the confluence of the Lachen and Lachung rivers. It is about 1,790 metres above sea level. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava visited this place and even left his footprint on a rock that he once rested in. Paddies grew beside the rock which is quite unusual especially for the terrains in the region.

    • The Holy Rock - This is supposed to be the rock where Guru Padmasambhava rested. It bears his footprint and even has a small opening where water continually flows through. Around the rock, there's a small area where paddy is cultivated. This is where the Guru dropped rice and eventually lead to the growing of paddies here. It's an unusual phenomenon as rice isn't known to grow in any other nearby area.
    • Chungthang Monastery - This monastery is surrounded by stone houses and edifices. It also has a rich collection of Buddhist paintings. Outside the monastery, you can visit the various waterfalls and other natural sceneries in the town.
    3. Lachen - This town is about 2,750 metres above sea level. Lachen means big pass and is a popular base for Chopta Valley and Gurudongmar Lake. An annual yak racing festival is held here during summer called the Thangu. It is about 129 kms from Gangtok and usually visited together with Lachung.

    • Lachen Monastery - This is also known as Ngodub Choling. It was built during 1858 AD and has around 8 monks at that time. Originally, it was just a small monastery built by Lama Karchen Dorje Drak. Later, Gelong Gonpu from Solo Khombu in Nepal came here and renovated the monastery. After which, Ngawang Kunzang Rinchen came to the monastery and completed the tenure of three years but was requested by the people to stay here for his lifetime. In 1977, the monastery was fully reconstructed with the help of the state government.
    • Gurudongmar Lake - This is one of the highest lakes in the world at about 5,430 metres above sea level. It was named after Guru Padmasambhava. The story goes that Guru Padmasambhava visited the lake during his journey to Sikkim. The people pleaded with him to help them as they have no source of water during that time which is winter, as the lake was frozen. So the Guru placed his hands on a small part of the lake and the ice melted thus providing water to the locals.
    4. Lachung - Lachung is about 124 kms from Gangtok. Lachung means small pass and the roads leading to it can be quite difficult and rough hence the journey can take much longer. It is also the last town before the Indo-China Border. Here are some of the attractions in Lachung:

    • Lachung Monastery - This monastery was established during the year 1880. It is under the Nyingma sector of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also known as Samten Choling. The monastery was previously under the Bon worshippers but was renovated by the locals to strengthen the Buddhist faith in the region. During the year of 1930, a statue of Buddha, a statue of a Guru, a statue of Chenrezig made of copper and Kanyur & Tengur books were brought from Tibet as basic religious treasures for this monastery. There's also an annual masked festival held here during the winter.
    • Yumthang Valley - This is about 3,564 metres above sea level. It is also about 150 kms away from Gangtok. It is also known as the Valley of Flowers. You cannot visit this during December to March as the roads leading to it are closed. It's best visited during the summer, spring and autumn months when the valley blooms with its numerous flowers. Skiing is also done here during the winter season.
    • Zero Point - This is also known as Yume Samdong. From Yumthang Valley, it can take you an hour or more to reach it. This is considered as the end point and you are not allowed to go any further after this road. This is also the place where there's snow almost all-year round. The views of the snow-clad mountains and grazing yaks are all worth it despite the distance you need to cover to reach Zero Point. You can also visit the hot springs here, near the Sebu Chhu River.
    • Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary - This is located in the Yumthang Valley, surrounded by the Chuba Sagochen Mountain Ranges and the Chomzomei Tso that extends till the Lava Pass. It is about 4,500 metres above sea level. There are about 40 species of rhododendrons here and many more species of other plants and trees. It is best visited during the summer, spring and autumn seasons to witness the blooming of the flowers.
    • Tso Lhamo Lake - This is just about 4 kms from the Indo-China Border and about 5 kms away from the Gurudongmar Lake. The water of this lake is crystal blue, as opposed to the milky white colour of the Gurudongmar Lake. It also attracts many species of migratory and resident birds.

    South Sikkim - This is the most industrialised part of Sikkim. Most of the roads here are in good conditions as compared to the other parts of the state. It is subdivided into two divisions: Namchi and Ravong. The district is also well-known for its Namchi tea.

    1. Namchi - This is the district headquarters of South Sikkim. Nam means sky and chi means high. The region is about 1,315 metres above sea level. It is about 78 kms from Gangtok. Some of the attractions in Namchi are the following:

    • Ngadak Monastery - This is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim. It was built by Tenzung Namgyal during the year 17th century. Ngadak means promise and it is believed that devotees who make their wishes here can have it granted.
    • Char Dham - This is a pilgrimage and cultural centre in the Solophok Hill of Namchi. Its other name is Siddheswar Dham. It was established in the year 2011 by the Sikkim Government. Inside the complex, you can find the large statue of Lord Shiva, above the temple. Inside the temple, you can find murals depicting the story of Shiva. You can also find replicas of the Badrinath Dham, Jagannath Dham and Dwarka Dham inside it. There's another temple here dedicated to Sai Baba.
    • Samdruptse Monastery - This is one of the newer monasteries in the state. The name Samdruptse means the wish fulfilling hill. It was established on the year 1997 but took 3 more years to complete.
    • Buddhist Padma Sambhava - This is the largest statue of Guru Padmasambhava in the world. It is also located in the Samdruptse Hill and hence can be visited together with the monastery.
    • Ralong Monastery - This is a Buddhist monastery belonging to the Kagyu sector. It was built after the fourth Chogyal came back from his pilgrimage. The monastery has a collection of Buddhist paintings. It also hosts the annual festival during September called Pang Lhabsol.
    • Temi Tea Garden - This is the only tea estate in Sikkim. The organic process of making tea have been undertaken by the garden as well. It was established in 1969 on the slopes of the Tendong Hills. It produces an average of about 100 tonnes of tea each year.
    • Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary - This sanctuary houses a variety of medicinal plants and herbs. It is also the home to animal species like the red panda, goral, barking deer and leopard cat. Inside the sanctuary, there's also a monastery that you can visit called the Maenam Gompa, established during 1969.
    • Baichung Stadium - This is a football stadium established during 2011. It is dedicated to Baichung Bhutia, India's renowned football player. The Gold Cup Football Tournament is held in this stadium every year.
    • Namchi Rock Garden - The Namchi Rock Garden is an artificial garden, just above the Ngadak Monastery. It is the home to orchids, timbur and flowers. It also has a children's park that you can visit inside. There are also waiting sheds, waterways and view points inside the garden.
    • Ralong Hot Water Springs - This is about 30 kms from Namchi. You can find this on the banks of the Rangit River. The water from these springs have medicinal value. You can also find one of the holy caves of Sikkim near it.
    West Sikkim - This is the region that trekkers love as the high-altitude treks here are challenging and adrenaline pumping. Geyzing is the district capital of it and other cities here are Pelling and Yuksom. You would need another permit for the high-altitude treks though.

    1. Geyzing - This is the capital of West Sikkim and is connected to Darjeeling and Kalimpong. It is about 823 metres above sea level. Some of the attractions in Geyzing are the following:

    • Pemayangtse Monastery - This was built by Lama Lhatsun Chempo in 1705. It was then reconstructed by the third Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal, Jigme Pawo. It is under the Nyingma sector of Tibetan Buddhism. The monks in this temple are usually from the Bhutias of Sikkim. Only monks of pure Tibetan lineage, celibate and don't have physical abnormalities can join the monastery. It is about 2,085 metres above sea level and its walls depict statues of paints and Rinpoches. It is best visited during the Cham Dance Festival held annually during the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar. The lamas dress up in colourful costumes and perform dances during this time.
    • Vershey - This is an easy trekking route that one can undertake in Geyzing. Vershey is a small sanctuary for rhododendrons and other plants. The Kanchenjunga Ranges can also be seen from it. Other plants that you can see here are orchids, magnolias, silver firs and hanging mosses.
    2. Pelling - This is about 10 kms away from Geyzing. It is famous for its stunning views of the Himalayas and the Kanchenjunga mountains. Aside from that, it's also a base camp for the higher altitude treks in Sikkim. Here are some of the attractions in Pelling:

    • Sangachoeling Monastery - This was established in the 17th century by Lama Lhetsun Chempo. The name Sangachoeling means Island of the Guhyamantra Teachings. To reach the temple, you need to walk about 4 kms through a steep climb. It is one of the temples in the Buddhist Circuit in Sikkim. It belongs to the Nyingma sector of Buddhism and only men are allowed inside.
    • Tashiding Monastery - This monastery was founded in 1641 by Ngadak Sempa Chempo Phunshok Rigzing. It is under the Nyingma sect of Buddhism. There are many legends about how the place was chosen as the site for a monastery. The first one is that Guru Padmasambhava shot an arrow in the air and it landed in this place, where he sat in meditation and eventually a temple was built in. Another legend is that the three monks who consecrated the first Chomgyal in Sikkim saw a light leading to this place. The first Chomgyal then consecrated a small shrine here and named it the Thongwa Rang Grol. Another legend is about the Bhumchu Festival in the monastery. It is believed that the holy water in the monastery was gathered by Guru Padmasambhava himself and it is opened once a year during the festival.
    • Dubdi Monastery - This is a Buddhist monastery of the Nyingma sect of Buddhism. It was established in 1701 and is also part of the Buddhist Circuit. Dudbi means retreat and the monastery is also known as the Hermit's Cell. The monastery has an elaborately painted interior, complete with various important sculptures and manuscripts.
    • Khecheopalri Lake - This is about 34 kms from Pelling. Its other name is Sho Dzo Sho meaning Oh Lady, Sit Here. It is also a part of the Buddhist Circuit. A unique feature of the lake is that it doesn't have leaves floating on it and birds dutifully pick them up the moment they do drop on the lake. The lake is important to both Hindus and Buddhists. Legend has it that the lake represents the thorax of the human body, Yuksom represents the third eye, Tashiding is the head and Pemayangste is the heart. It is also believed that Guru Padmasambhava preached to the 64 yoginis in here. Another legend states that the lake has the shape of the foot of Buddha. Others believe that the footprint is of Shiva, while others say it's of Goddess Tara.
    • Khangchendzonga Waterfalls - This is about 28 kms from Pelling. It was discovered by Topjor Bhutia, a local tour operator, during the middle of the 1990's. Before that, the waterfalls aren't known as it's quite hidden. Now, it's one of the most popular attractions in West Sikkim.
    • Rimbi Waterfalls - This is about 12 kms from Pelling. The waterfall leads to Rimbi River and you can even do fishing in here. It's best visited during or after monsoon season although it has its fair share of visitors even during summer.
    • Singshore Bridge - This is the highest bridge in Sikkim and the second highest bridge in Asia. It is about 100 metres in height and 200 metres in length. The views from the bridge are stunning, especially with the lush greenery, surrounding waterfalls and the mountains around. There had been talks about creating a bungee jumping site around the area but it has not been confirmed.
    • Rabdengtse Ruins - The town of Randengtse was the former capital of Sikkim between 1670 to 1814. It was destroyed by the Gurkha Army and now only the ruins of the former structures here can be seen. It was established in 1670 by Chadok Namgyal, son of Phuntsog Namgyal. It is also a part of the Buddhist Circuit that one must complete in Sikkim. The ruins in the town are comprised of a palace and three chortens.
    3. Yuksom - This was the first capital of Sikkim, established in 1642 AD by Phuntsog Namgyal. The name Yuksom means meeting place of the three learned monks pertaining to the three monks who came to Sikkim and selected Phuntsog Namgyal as the first king of the state. It is also the gateway for trekking Mount Kanchendzonga.

    • Kartok Monastery - This is opposite the Kartok Lake. It was named after one of the three lamas who played a part in the coronation of Phuntsog Namgyal. It exteriors are painted a bright red and it has flags all over it. It's one of the most important monasteries in the Southern part of Sikkim.
    • Phamrong Waterfalls - This is the highest waterfall of Sikkim. It is located between Yuksom and Gerethang. Just like other waterfalls, it's best visited during the monsoon season as the pressure from the rains make it more alive. There's a path leading to a closer area within the falls so you can enjoy its beauty. There are no eateries nearby as of the moment but the government has been working on building a cafeteria near the falls.
    • Norbugang Coronation Throne - This is where the three monks coronated Phuntsog Namgyal as the first king of Sikkim. It's also the place where the three lamas gathered and preached about Buddhism. There's also a prayer hall, prayer wheel and stupa within the park. Nearby, you can also visit the Kathok Lake, which is considered as a holy place by the locals and pilgrims.
    • Tashi Tenka - This palace was built back when Yuksom was the capital of Sikkim. It is in ruins now but from where it's located, it offers a panoramic view of the town of Yuksom. It used to be the abode of the royal family in Yuksom.

    Things to do in Sikkim
    • Trekking - There are many trekking opportunities in Sikkim. Some of the popular short treks in Sikkim are the following: Damthang to Tendong, Pemayangste to Sangacholling, Ravangla to Maenam Hills and Yuksam to Khecheopalri Lake. More difficult treks involve: Goecha La Trek, Dzongri Trek and Khangchendzonga Trek.
    • River Rafting - River rafting lovers can enjoy the rapids at the Teesta River. The rapids here range between 2 to 4. Even beginners can try their hand at rafting within the grade 2 and 3 rapids. The views of the greenery and nearby villages add to the enjoyment of rafting in Sikkim.
    • Cable Car - You can also enjoy a cable car ride in Gangtok. It has three parts namely: lower station at Deorali Market, the intermediate terminal at Nam Nang and upper terminal station at Tashiling. It is open between 8:00 am to 4:30 pm daily. It covers a distance of one km for about seven minutes. You can board at any of the stations mentioned above.
    • Explore the Holy Caves of Sikkim - In total, Sikkim has four holy caves believed to have been blessed by Guru Rinpoche. The Hidden Cave of the East can be found in Tashiding, an hour's walk from Ravangla. The Secret Cave of the Dakini can be found in the South of Tashiding, en route to Reshi and Nayabazar. It is also known as Tatopani and there's a stupa and monastery outside of it. The Cave of Great Bliss is located in the West and it's a one day walk from Khecheopalri Lake. The Cave of the Heart of the Deity can be found in the North of Tashiding. You need a special permit to access it and it is covered with snow almost all-year round.
    • Paragliding - The annual Sikkim Paragliding Festival is held during the months of October to November. It's the best time for paragliding as the sky remains clear and the temperatures are just moderate enough for the activity.
    • Yak Safari - Exploring the Tsomgo Lake on top of this majestic creature can be quite fun. Although the ascent is quite slow, at least it gives you ample time to enjoy the beauty all around you.

    Accommodation Options in Sikkim

    East Sikkim - Most of the best hotels can be found in Gangtok. They range from budget hotels to luxury hotels. There are over 100 hotels here so you won't need to worry about finding a room here. In the other towns like Pakyong and Rongli, you would be able to find some guest houses and home stays.

    Hotels in Gangtok
    • Delight Hotels Sushanta Awaas - This is located in the commercial area of Gangtok. Attractions like the Rumtek Monastery, Gangtok Ropeway and Tsomgo Lake are easily accessible from it. Their Standard Room is at Rs. 1,499 per night. This tariff already includes the breakfast. Rooms are very simple but comes with amenities like television, bed and attached bathroom with hot water. The hotel also serves delectable meals for the guests. Their address is: Nam-Nag Road, Gangtok, Sikkim, Gangtok, 737101. Their contact number is: +91 33 65411612.
    • Bamboo Grove Retreat - This was the former residence of the late Chum Dorji Wangmo Barfongpa. It is located right at the heart of the city. There is also ample parking space and lawns for the guests. Their Standard Room is at Rs. 2,300 per night. Rooms have television and attached bathroom with 24 hours of hot/cold running water. They also have a multi-cuisine restaurant and WiFi in the lobby area. Their address is: Kazi Road, Near Keepsa Hotel, Gangtok, Sikkim 737101. Their contact number is: +91 98320 73429.
    • The Elgin Nor-Khill Gangtok - This was a royal guest house built by the King of Sikkim in 1932. Their Deluxe Room is at Rs. 9,650 per night. It offers a view of the garden and the Kanchenjunga Peaks. It has a fireplace, choice between twin beds or king-sized beds, attached bathroom and direct dial facility. The hotel also has different restaurants that you can choose from. Their address is: Paljore Stadium Road, Gangtok, Sikkim 737101. Their contact number is: +91 3592 205 637.
    North Sikkim - There are a few hotels in North Sikkim. Most accommodations here are in the form of guest houses and specialty lodging.

    Hotels in Mangan
    • Munlom Nature Resort - This resort is located in Gyathang, a village in lower Dzongu. They used environment friendly materials in the construction of the resort. Their Single Cottage is at Rs. 2,800 per night. It has all the basic amenities and can accommodate up to three people at a time. Their address is: Hee-Gyathang, Sikkim, India. Their contact number is: +91 96797 42923.
    • Hotel the Planter's Home - This hotel is away from the noise of the city. Their Deluxe Room is at Rs. 3,000 per night. It has a king-sized bed, television with cable connection, WiFi, tea/coffee maker and telephone. The hotel has a restaurant and bar as well. They also provide laundry services for the guests. Their address is: Dr. Lobzang Tenzing Marg, Pentok, North Sikkim, Mangan, Sikkim 737116. Their contact number is: +91 3592 234 286.
    Hotels in Lachen and Lachung
    • Tenzing Retreat - This is located in Lachung, although it's just a few minutes away from Lachen as well. Their Deluxe Room is at Rs. 2,200 per night. Rooms have mountain views with a common balcony. Rooms have LED television, tea/coffee maker, bathroom with 24 hours hot/cold running water and heater. The hotel also has a multi-cuisine restaurant. Their address is: Thomchi, Near SBI, Lachung, Sikkim 737120. Their contact number is: +91 94323 24780.
    • Delight Hotels - This hotel has a branch in both Lachung and Lachen. Their Super Deluxe Room is at Rs. 4,999 per night. The tariff also comes with the breakfast already. Rooms have cable television, attached bathroom and comfortable bed. Their address in Lachung is: Near Lachung Police Station, Lachung, Lachung, Sikkim 737120. Their address in Lachen is: Gumpha Road, Lachen, Gurudongmar Road, Lachen, Sikkim 737120. Their contact numbers are: +91 84200 58636 and +91 33 6541 1612.
    • Yarlam Resort - Their Deluxe Non-Valley View Room is at Rs. 10,000 per night. It has an attached bathroom, either king-sized or twin-sized beds and television. The hotel has a restaurant and a bar. They also offer laundry services for guests. Their address is: Near Army Camp, Lachung, Sikkim 737135. Their contact number is: 03592 281663.
    South Sikkim - There are some hotels in Namchi although they're not that many. It's best to book them in advance especially during peak tourist season.

    Hotels in Namchi
    • Mount Narsing Village Resort - This is about three kms away from Rabong. The hotel has an exquisite view of the mountain ranges of Mount Narsing, Mount Jopuno and Mount Kabur. Their Standard Room is at Rs. 1,000 per night. There's also a lobby/dining hall with a fireplace in the resort. Their address is: Legship-Rabongla Road, Bakhim, Sikkim 737139. Their contact number is: +91 87686 30400.
    • Summit Sobralia Resort and Spa - The Char Dham in Namchi is just a few minutes away from the resort. Their Executive Single Room is at Rs. 8,000 per night. The valleys can be seen from the window of the room. It has luxurious amenities and interiors as well. The resort also has different restaurants and a spa. Their address is: Chardham Road, Old Namchi, Sikkim 737101. Their contact number is: +91 3595 210131.
    West Sikkim - This district has a number of hotels as compared to South Sikkim and North Sikkim. Most of the hotels are in Pelling so you can just make it your base and explore Geyzing and Yuksom from there. Or you can opt for guest houses in the other two towns.

    Hotels in Pelling
    • Summit Newa Regency - This is one of the few four-star hotels in the district. Their Deluxe Room is at Rs. 1,760 per night. It has heater, working desk, television and attached bathroom. The hotel has a restaurant and a spa. Their address is: Pelling Rimbi Road, Lower Pelling, Near SBI Bank, Pelling City, Sikkim 737113. Their contact number is: +91 83888 77888.
    • Hotel Takura - This is a great budget hotel in Pelling. Their Deluxe Room is at Rs. 1,500 per night. It has WiFi, heater, attached bathroom and satellite television. The hotel also has a multi-cuisine restaurant. Their address is: West District, SH-510, Pelling Rimbi Road, Pelling, Pelling, Sikkim 737113. Their contact number is: +91 98327 90281.
    • Cherry Village Resort - This resort is a few minutes of driving away from major attractions in Pelling. Their Cherry Village Cottage is at Rs. 2,483 per night. It has a great view of the surrounding village and comes with basic amenities. Their address is: Pelling-Rimbi Road, Darap, Pelling, Sikkim 737113. Their contact number is: +91 77973 93199.

    Cuisine in Sikkim

    The cuisine in the state is called Sikkimese. The most staple food of the Nepali is rice. Aside from that, dairy, meat and fermented foods are also part of their diet. Here are some of the must-try dishes when you're in Sikkim:
    • Momo - This is hot, steamed dumpling with stuffings like minced meat, vegetable and cheese. Usually, it's accompanied with chilli sauce and hot soup. You can find momos in street food stalls around Sikkim. But even higher end restaurants serve this delectable dish.
    • Thukpa or Gya Thuk - This is a noodle-based soup with vegetables or meat. It's a typical Tibetan style of noodles and best eaten during the cold winter months.
    • Saelroti - This is a special kind of bread mostly prepared during festivals. It is made using fermented rice batter which is then deep fried. It is usually eaten with potato curry although it can also be eaten on its own.
    • Chaang - This is fermented cereal-based alcohol. A trip to Sikkim won't be complete if you won't try this out.

    Any experiences that you can share with us about travelling to Sikkim? Comment below!:)
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