Capital: Gangtok. Area: 7,063 sq. km. Population: 5,40,851 (Male: 2,88,484 Female: 2,52,367). Population density: 76 per sq. km. Sex ratio: 875 females per 1000 males Principal languages: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha. Literacy: 68.8% (Male: 76% Female: 60.4%). Districts: 4. Lok Sabha seats: 1. State Assembly seats: 32. Airports: None. Tourist season: End September to mid- November; April and May.
Sikkim is the least populous Indian state. It is landlocked, nestles in the Himalayas and is often referred to as the ‘Switzerland of the East.’ Geographically it is the second smallest after Goa. Despite its small area, Sikkim is geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas. Khangchendzonga, the world’s third highest peak, is located on the border of Sikkim and Nepal. An independent kingdom until 1975, Sikkim has long been considered one ofthe last Himalayan Shangri Las. However, in recent years, Sikkim has become a tourist destination.
How to get there Sikkim has a good network of roads and it can be reached through northern West Bengal. Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri are directly connected to Gangtok and other Sikkim cities. During the monsoon, landslides can pose problems to road transport. The
Hi East Sikkim
Gangtok: Located in the Shivalik Hills of the eastern Himalayan range, at an altitude of 1,437 meters (4,715 ft), Gangtok is the largest town of the state and is also the capital. The town, with a population of a little more than
is packed with a lot of concrete structures which house different ethnic groups like Nepalis, Lepchas and Bhutias, and also the floating population. Although tourism attractions are limited, Gangtok is not a bad place to stay for a day or two while organising trekking or northbound trips. Today, Gangtok is a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture, and has a number of monasteries and religious institutions. The best time to visit Gangtok is between October and March.
Hi Places of interest Namgyal Institute of Tibetology: Built in 1958 and housed in a traditionally styled Tibetan architecture the institute is a research center for Mahayana Buddhism and Tibetan culture. Besides being a museum of traditional and old artifacts, tourists can also
buy Buddhist religious books and other handicrafts. Located a little away on the same road, the Do-Drul Chorten is a massive white Tibetan pagoda surrounded by dormitories for young monks. There is an Orchid Sanctuary inside the campus, which has about 500 varieties of orchids.
Rumtek Village & Gompa: Facing Gangtok at a distance across an enticing green valley, Rumtek village is dominated by its massive gompa complex. Though serene, it gets annoyingly crowded during the high season. The Gompa is the abode of the head of the Kagyupa order of Tibetan Buddhism and many devotees and tourists visit this place throughout the year. The Tsongo or Changu Lake in the Northeast is worth a visit. However, tourists require a special permit for visiting this beautiful spot.
Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden: The JN Botanical Garden is 24 km off Gangtok, and is situated at an altitude between 1800 meters to 2200 meters. Established in the year 1987, it comprises verdant forest home to as many as 50 varieties of trees including oaks. The Garden is beautiful and adjoins the Rumtek monastery and the Fambongla Wildlife Sanctuary.
Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary, located 25 km off Gangtok, abounds in wild orchids, rhododendrons etc. Spread over 51.76 sq. km., this dense forest is a natural habitat to several species of wild animals and birds. The best time to visit is between October and April. Enchey Gompa 8i Viewpoints: This monastry can be reached after a tedious steep hike through gently whispering conifers high above Gangtok. This monastry dates back to 1909, has decent murals and statues of Tantric deities. A colourful event Detor Chaam is celebrated during December-January, and masked dances are an integral part of this event.
From the gompa, you should proceed on the access road to reach the telecommunications tower. From there, you can reach the Ganesh Tok Viewpoint after a 15-minute walk. It offers excellent city views and you can refresh
yourself in the mini cafe. Hanuman Tok is anotherexcellentviewpoint.lt sits on a hilltop around four-km away from Ganesh Tok. It can be reached on foot.
Activities: You can shop for bronze and silver jewellery, turquoise, coral jewellery and beads, carpets, handloom fabrics, thangka paintings and wooden objects. While at the hill resort of Gangtok, adventure lovers can engage themselves in trekking, white-water rafting, yak safari, mountain biking and hang gliding. Many fascinating treks including the Pemayangtse, Khechopalri, Yuksam, Tsokha, Dzongri, Thangshing, Zemathang, Chaurigang, Tashiding, Rabongla, Sang and Sikip can quench the adventure thirst of trekkers.
The West district of Sikkim’s tourist itinerary starts at Khangchendzonga, the snowcapped mountain peak from Pelling. This district is the base from where all journeys into the majestic Himalayas begin. The village Yuksom is the trailhead for multiday group- trek expeditions to Dzongri. Gyalshing is the district headquarters of West Sikkim. Pelling: Almost isolated from the outside world till 1996, Pelling is increasingly becoming popular in recent years. There has been a sea change in Pelling with the mushrooming of high-class hotels and multi-cuisine restaurants. This rapid development can be attributed to Pelling’s vantage location that serves as a starting point for many tourism attractions around Pelling.
Pemayangtse Monastery: It is the most important monastery of the Nyingmapa order and is situated at an altitude of about 2,105 meters, about 6 km from Gyalshing town and less than a kilometer from Pelling. The monastery houses numerous idols and other objects of worship, including the wooden sculpture potraying the Mahaguru’s Heavenly Palace Sangthokpalri. The Rabdanste Palace is in ruins and one has to trek about two kilometers from the main road through dense forest to reach it.
Kechopari Lake : The term ‘Kecheopari’ means the Wishing Lake. The lake is situated at an altitude of about 1,951 meter near the road bifurcating Gyalshying and Yoksum. The interesting feature of the lake is that despite surrounded by a dense forest, its water is so placid and crystal clear that not even a leaf can be seen floating on it. A ten-minute walk uphill from the lake will take you to Kechopari Monastery. A stupa, which is a replica of the Swayambunath Temple of Katmandu, flanks the monastery.
Khangchendzonga Waterfalls: It is located about 15 km away from Pelling enroute to Yoksum. The water gushing down the granite rocks makes such a thundering noise that it is impossible to hear each other. A mist of water droplets lies suspended in the air and can dampen clothes.
Shri Kiriteshwar Temple: This temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is situated at Legship (16 km from Gyalshing on the Gangtok- Gyalshing highway), on the banks of the Rangit River. It is believed that many years ago a rock in the shape of a Sivalinga miraculously appeared at the base of a tree, which prompted the residents to build a temple at this very spot. The temple complex also houses a Dharamsala (living accommodation for worshippers) and a community kitchen. The temple also serves as a stopover for tourists going to Pelling and Yoksum.
Ravangia (Rabongla): The town overlooks a wide sweep of western Sikkim, the gompas of Old Ralang, Tashiding, Pemayangste and Sangachoeling. It offers enchanting views of the snow-capped mountain peaks nearby.
Entering Sikkim requires a permit. Standard Permits are valid for 15 days, and you can get it extended for another 15 days, by applying two days before expiry. Although the procedures are not cumbersome, you need to submit photos and passport photocopies. Permits can be obtained at the places mentioned below:
Indian Embassies abroad when applying for yourlndian Visa;
The Rangpo border post on arrival;
Sikkim House in Kolkata;
Sikkim Tourism in Siliguri; Major Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRROs).
-y Permit Validity The standard permit is valid for visits to the following: Gangtok, Rumtek and Lingdum; South Sikkim; Anywhere on the Gangtok- Singhik road; Most of West Sikkim to which metalled roads extend.
IH North Sikkim
At an altitude of 3,950 feet, North Sikkim’s major attractions are the idyllic Yumthang and Tsopta Valleys. Mangan, the district headquarters, is 65 km away from Gangtok. Tourists need special permits to visit North Sikkim beyond Mangan. North Sikkim can be visited only through an organised tour. A
journey to North Sikkim starts from Gangtok, which is an overwhelming experience of mists coiling up from deep gorges, the strong smell of wild flowers, gushing streams, beautiful birds, hairpin bends etc.
The road from Mangan goes straight to Chungthang, another major town of North Sikkim. At Chungthang (95 km from Gangtok) the road bifurcates with the left heading towards Lachen and the right towards Lachung. Lachen is the base from where tours to Gurudongmar Lake and Chopta valley is organised. Lachung is the base for your tours to the Yumthang valley.
Tourist spots in North Sikkim
Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary: Perhaps this is the only sanctuary, where you can spot about 20 different species of rhododendrons during spring. Located in the elevated Yumthang Valley, Shingba Sanctuary can be accessed easily from Mangan. Ranging between 3,048 meters and 4,575 meters, the sanctuary is a striking place to watch flora and fauna in their full glory.
The sanctuary abounds in rhododendron trees, and there is also silver fir and a well groomed thick mat of moss shielding the soil. The wildlife in this sanctuary consists of a small group of tigers, civets and blood pheasants.
Yumthang: Situated at an altitude of 3,564 meters (11,800 ft) close to Tibet, Yumthang can be reached after a drive of 140 km north of Gangtok. Lachung provides the base for exploration of Yumthang, the valley of flowers, especially the rhododendron and primulas. Yumthang is also famous for its hot springs. These springs, rich in sulphur, are believed to have miraculous healing power. Chungthang: 30 km from Mangan, Chungthang is a tiny village, filled with natural beauty. At an altitude of 1,700 meters (5,600 ft), Chungthang provides a major base to the Indian Army. It also acts a stopover for tourists heading for Lachung or Lachen. Apart from the stunning beauty, Chungthang has a legendary rock, which is believed to have
been the seat of the Saint Rinpoche for some time. This rock is said to have the footprints of Guru Rinpoche. Blessed with tranquility, serenity and natural beauty, Chungthang is worth a visit.
Singhik: The place offers one of the most spectacular views of Mount Khangchendzonga and its ranges. A popular Tourism wayside accommodation for visitors is also available. While driving from Gangtok to Singhik, consider brief stops at Tashi Viewpoint and the Seven Sisters Waterfall at km BO. The area also has a number of interesting short natural trails for 1 to 3 days along the higher ridges of the surrounding hills.
ill South Sikkim
South Sikkim is the smallest and second densely populated district of the state. The terrain is hilly with an elevation ranging from 300 to 5,000 meters. South Sikkim with its district headquarters in Namtse (Namchi) can be a perfect location for travellers. Ravangla is the major tourism destination here and it is known for its serene environment and offers a prominent view of the snow-capped Khangchendzonga. Ravangla is well connected to Gangtok (65 km), Namchi (32 km) and Siliguri (120 km) by road.
|H Places of interest Namtse: Located 78 km from Gangtok, Namchi, also called Namtse is the headquarters of South Sikkim district. The term ‘Namchi’ literally means ‘Sky High.’ Sailing high on hills, Namchi offers a spectacular view of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and the snow-covered mountains. Namchi serves as the base for travel in and around South Sikkim. The town is well connected to Gangtok by metalled road and can be reached easily. Namchi is becoming increasingly popular among tourists due to its beautiful surroundings. The must-see things in Namtse are the famous Rock Garden, Cottage Industry, Doling Gompa and Namchi Monastery.
Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary: A small town at an altitude of 10,000 ft, Barsey or Varsey is famous for its Rhododendron Sanctuary. A visit to the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary would actually be a breathtaking experience for lovers of flora. The sanctuary lies in the West Sikkim district and can be reached through roads via Hilley, Dentam or Soreng from Geyzing.
Varsey is a perfect place for relaxing amidst the snow-capped mountains and aromatic flowers. It also makes an unusual trekking destination in Sikkim. The sanctuary houses wildlife like leopard, leopard cat, Himalayan yellow throated marten, Himalayan palm civet, Indian fox, jackal, Himalayan black bear, wild boar, red panda, barking deer, Assamese macaque, rhesus macaque, Himalayan langur, crimson horned pheasant, monal pheasant and kaleej pheasant, Chinese pangolin, flying squirrel, giant squirrel and Himalayan mouse hare. The best time to visit the sanctuary is between November and May.
Temi Tea Garden: It is the only tea garden of the state which is situated at a point from where you can view the whole Maenaemla and get a dramatic view of Mount Khangchendzonga. This place is the base for hiking to Tendong hill and Maenaemla hill. Samdruptse: Samdruptse (wish fulfilling hill) is a hilltop 7 km away from Namchi, where the famous 135-feet tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava or ‘Guru Rimpoche in Bhutia’ has been installed. The foundation stone of this enigmatic idol was laid by his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and took three years for completion. It is noteworthy that the towering image can also be viewed from as far as Darjeeling and Gyalshing. The hilltop offers a view of Namchi Town, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Mount Khangchendzonga and eastern Nepal.
Tendong Hill: You can see many rare flowers like the Rhododendron, Orchid and other wild flowers while hiking through the forests of Tendong. Upon reaching the top ofthe hill, one would feel like being in heaven as almost
all monks will be praying at the monastry for the safety of their land.
Borong Tsa-Chu: Borong is a small village noted for its beautiful landscape and magnificent views, which is also host to the hot sulphur spring, ‘Borong Tsa Chu’. Borong is reachable by land and is about 33 km from Ravangla. Borong Tsa-Chu is about 45 minutes walk from Borong to the banks ofthe Rangeet River. The trek trail, originating from Namchi or Damthang to Tendong – Ravangla – Maenam – Borong (5-6 days) is one of the most fascinating trails scaling all hill tops along the route. The trek can continue to Tashiding or terminate at Borong and you can drive back to Ravangla.
Adventure Sports in Sikkim
Adventurous activities provide extreme excitement and thrill. However, it is not without dangers! To some people life does not appeal much without risks. Sikkim is the right destination for such adventure-sport lovers. There are myriad adventure sports in Sikkim which would send chills down one’s spine. Be it mountaineering at an altitude of
ft or trekking on the mountainous surface, Sikkim Adventure Sports have something for everyone.
Sikkim offers considerable trekking potential. Trekking through the lush green mountain trails in the early morning with a flash of the pleasant sun is a breathtaking experience. Other sports like Archery, Mountain Biking, River Rafting on those strong currents or Yak Safari becomes an escapade for almost everyone. In addition to this, the tourism department of Sikkim is planning to introduce Hang Gliding, which is also a spine- chilling sport.
Major Trekking Routes: Darjeeling to Khangchendzonga Trek, Darjeeling and Sikkim Trekking, Off Beaten Treks, Singalila Ridge & Goecha La Trek, Sikkim and Khangchendzonga Trek.
Major River-Rafting Routes: Makha –
Sirwani – Bardang – Rongpo (Teesta), Sikip – Jorethang — Majitar— Melli ( Rangit).
Mountain Biking: Sikkim’s best adventure sport is mountain biking. The rugged and dramatic terrain of the Sikkim Himalayas offers exciting biking trails to adventure lovers. Unlike ordinary road biking, mountain biking requires a brave heart, good presence of mind and impeccable driving skills. Yak & Yeti Travels & Expeditions, Zero Point, Gangtok provides mountain bikes for hire. Start your mountain bike adventure from Gangtok.
Gangtok-Ravangla (via Temi Tea Garden); Ravangla-Tashiding;
Gangtok-Ranka-Martam (29 km); Martam-Sirwani (30 km);
Sirwani-Temi (27 km);
Temi-Rabongla (26 km);
Tashiding-Yuksom (32 km); Pemayanstse- Rinchenpong (45 km); Rinchenpong- Jorethang (33 km).
Mountaineering: The mountains of Sikkim boasts of the best mountaineer friendly landscape. The best known peaks in Sikkim – Talung, Jonsong and Tent are all above
feet. In fact, the Himalayas in Sikkim are the quintessence of the world’s mountains. These Mountains are famous for their splendor and exquisiteness. The best season to climb in Sikkim is from May to October.
Yak Safari: For those bored with jeep and elephant safaris, the Yak safari is an unforgettable experience available in Sikkim. Popular trails are Dzongri area and Tsomgo lake. You can ride the yak in Tsomgo lake and in various other trekking points like Dzongri in West Sikkim.
Tourist information Permit extension: Foreigner’s Registration Office, Kazi Road, Gangtok.
Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, M.G. Marg, Gangtok. Ph: 221634.