East Sikkim occupies the south-east corner of the state, with its capital being Gangtok which is also the capital of the state. A traveller heading for Gangtok or North Sikkim from Bagdogra/Siliguri enters through this region, where entry permits to the state are checked in Rangpo.As a traveller ascends towards the mighty Himalaya by this route, they will thoroughly enjoy the landscapes and scenic views the state has to offer.
How to reach ?
- National Highway no. 31 serves as a connecting link between the state capital Gangtok and Siliguri. Gangtok is also well connected to Kolkata (721 km) and Darjeeling (139 km) with a good network of roads. There are regular buses plying between Siliguri to Sikkim and vice versa. Tourists can reach various towns of Sikkim through easily available cabs/taxi.
- The nearest railhead to Sikkim is in New Jalpaiguri near Siliguri at 117 km from Gangtok.
- Bagdogra near Siliguri, 120 km from Gangtok is the nearest airport to the state. Another special Helicopter service has come up in Bagdogra for reaching Sikkim You can use this service once in a day and four people are allowed at one time.
Places to Visit
At a staggering altitude of 1,870 metres this capital city is covered in clouds for a large part of the year. However, with a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga and the higher Himalayan range the city is remarkable for its location.
Unlike most hill stations in India, Gangtok can easily be recognised as the cleanest city you would ever come across. Recognising the importance of tourism, the government along with the help of people has highly organised and maintained the capital with fraud and cheating literally unknown to the city. The city boasts Accommodations, Food & beverage to the world standards and has easy access to tourist’s facility such as Transportation, Health Care, Banks and Communication centres. Devoid of tall building, large stores, book shops etc. this place is ultimately a GREEN ESCAPE from a typical city life.
Tourist spots and things to see in and around the capital:
Regarded as the most important monastery in Sikkim, Enchey monastery is centrally located near the TV tower in Gangtok. The monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa order and is about 200 years old. It was originally a small heritage centre and only became a proper monastery in 1909. There are about 90 monks in the monastery and the three gods worshipped here are Buddha, Loki Sharia and Guru Padmasambhava.
Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms
Founded in 1957 as the Handloom and Handicraft centre of Sikkim, directorate of handicrafts is a kilometre uphill from the market. This organisation has been established to conserve and pass around the art and craft skills of the artificers of Sikkim. The items of sale here include thankas, choktses or lacquered tables, carpets, masks, handmade papers etc.
Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a premier institute and research centre located a kilometre downhill form the main market of Gangtok. The institute, itself a fine example of Tibetan Buddhist architecture, is a repository of relics and books on the Tibetan culture, and is the main attraction because it houses around 200 Buddhist icons, antique paintings, thankas, statues, masks, coins and other religious works of Tibetan Art. Moreover, the place also boasts having more than 30, 000 xylographs and has the translation of Buddha’s original teachings by eminent scholars from all over the world. The museum is renowned for having one of the world’s biggest collections of rare manuscripts of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. Adjacent to the Tibetology Institute, is the Do-Drul Chorten. The towering chorten is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels inscribed with the holy mantra, om mane padme hum.
Located 7kms away from Gangtok, this temple is situated in a ridge and is dedicated to Lord Ganesh. The view from here is truly breathtaking with snow peaks proving bird’s eye view of the sprawling town, while across the hills Mt Khangchendzonga and Mt Siniolchu loom over the horizon. At present the temple is surrounded by a beautiful pinetum, bulbylay zoological park or commonly known as Himalayan Zoological Park and smriti-van, wherein visitors plant saplings in the memory of their dear departed.
Located 11 kms away from Gangtok, this hindu temple is dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god. The temple has a panaromic view and a short distance before the staircase leading to the temple is a burial ground of the royal family of Sikkim. According to the local legends, when hanuman was flying with the “sanjveeni” (mythological life saving herb) mountain to save Ramas brother Lakshmana he rested in the spot where his temple lies for some time.
14 kms away from Gangtok, Saramsa gardens also known as Ipecac garden is known for preserving several orchids and many tropical and temperate plants. Spread across six acres of land, visitors can see ipecac plantation growing through the park and hence the name. Recently, the garden is considered an excellent tourist spot in the state.
White Hall and Flower Exhibition Centre
White hall is named after John Claude White, the first British political leader in Sikkim during the British Raj in India. Close to White hall is the Flower Exhibition Centre, where flower shows are held throughout the year. Orchid show during the spring tourist season is the most popular amongst those.
Excursion in East Sikkim
Located 24 kms away from the capital is the Rumtek Dharmachakra Centre. Known for being a replica of the original Kagyu Monestary in Tshurpu, in eastern Tibet the place is a must see.
Zurmang Kagyud Monastery
Close to Rumtek Gompa, this place is worth visiting for its religious and exquisite architecture and serene atmosphere.
Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary
Located 25 kms from Gangtok, having an area of 51.76 sq this unique wildlife sanctuary has been very popular amongst the tourists. The main vegetation found are oak and bamboo, rhododendrons and orchids. The richly forested area is known to be the home for various species, animals and birds and in recent times has been an ideal trekker’s destination.
Kyongnosla Alphine Sanctuary
Located 31 kms from Gangtok, this wildlife sanctuary is situated among the area adjoining the Changu Lake along the nathula road. Known for keeping rare animals like the red panda, the Himalayan marmot, Tibetan fox, and also for preserving rare endangered ground orchids and rhododendrons this sanctuary is rich in both flora and fauna
For people who are familiar with/interested in the history of Sikkim this place is a must go as this is where blood brotherhood pact between the Lepchas and the Bhutias was signeed. 17 kms north of Gangtok on the Northern Highway there is a memorial pillar marking this historic spot.
Former capital of Sikkim, it is located in the North Sikkim District. Ruins of the place that served as the capital of Sikkim for the large part of 19th Century, has been a place of interest for many tourists.
Most popular among the travellers is the Tsongmo Lake or Changu Lake, This oval-shaped glacier like lake situated some 40 kms away from Gangtok on the old trade route to Tibet, visiting this place gives you pleasure beyond compare. At an altitude of 3,780 metres (12,400 ft) the lake freezes over completely in the winter. The road to Nathu La passes the lake on north side, the drive to Tsongmo is quite spectacular, with numerous waterfalls and mountain torrents breaking the breath-taking green.
SIKKIM TRAVEL TIPS
From my observation on the maiden trip to sikkim i wish to state the below for the benefit of all.
1. Sikkim is a real shangrila and unlike other commercial destinations like ooty or darjeelig. Let us keep it as such.
2. It is exceedingly sparsely populated and there are no landgrabbing builders or fancy five star groups building resorts to commercialise the place, nor any real estate rat race. It is populated with tribals and monks who follow a primary occupation, or at the most a poor govt job or as a resort worker.
3. Sikkim is such a quiet place that you can hear your breath and you need to just whisper to be heard. Let us maintain this serenity by not holding obsecene drunken parties or karaoke competitions, which was my experience at the cherry resort at darap. Courtesy an obscene group of several attention seeking adults Sikkim is not a casino hillstation.
4. Tourism persay does not promote economy. It fattens the rich resorts. Remember sikkimese waitresses and cooks dont go home for the night during seasons. In their parlance going home at the end of the day is a day off. Never mind the service tax, tip them generously.
5. The sweet guileless smiling faces of sikkimese is a thing to be etched in your heart.
6. When i questioned the driver as to why no one has a bath at any of the waterfalls, the reply was not on account of ecological amiability, govt orders etc, simply because the sikkimese are exceedingly shy people.
7. Sikkimese girls are sweet, pretty and dressed in wester attire, but not easy, they are shy and have high moral standards.
8. Sikkim is a no smoking state, dont leave behind stubs carelesslessly to start a wildfire.
9. In your entire trip sans gangtok pelling or jorethang you are unlikely to encounter cars before or behind your own vehicle, you might just see a few of the locals trying to hitchhike
10. Sikkim has a sparse and lean police as crimes pretty rare, morals need not be enforced by the law.
11. If hiring a travel agency, pls ensure that your driver has taken his meals on time through the resort. It so happens that travel agencies pay their people a paltry sum of less than 4000 INR be it drivers or office clerks. Either of them slog 13 hours a day and are always on a war footing. The drivers might get a daily allowance, but may end up saving the money by skipping their lunch, as they are from poor families, if so pls get them their meals. Pls keep a keen eye for such subtle things for some of the locals are too proud to confess their hunger.
12. Try buying the local souvenirs like chinese cups, local bakery products. For instance the Lotus bakery near the pemayangtse near pelling gives out its proceedings to educate the poor sikkemese children. The chances are hight that sikkimese shops can give you back the change for either they dont do much business plus they lack proper coins and notes, if it is a paltry sum, let them get to keep it.
13. Sikkimese are a proud but shy lot, let us not be condescending enough to pat their heads and give the chidlren snacks etc. Education is rare and when present, incomplete.
14. Sikkim is not for the hedonist but the for the solace seeker.