Sikkim, located in the north-eastern region of India, is a small state with a big heart. Travelling across this Himalayan state is particularly highlighted by the dramatic contouring of the scenery from thick woodlands to colourful meadows to few barren patches to the panoramic views of the snowcapped mountains. Occupied by warm-hearted people offering some of the best hospitality and boasting of magnificent treks, snow activities and scenic views, Sikkim is truly a destination people fall in love with!
The third highest peak in the world and jewel of the state, Kanchenjunga is visible from almost anywhere you stand. Characterised by freezing winters and cool summers, the state plays host to a large number of tourists all year round. Until 1975, when it was merged with India, Sikkim functioned as an autonomous kingdom with its own monarchy. Since then, it has become an integral part of India with a distinctive culture which has evolved into a multifaceted one. Influenced by the peaceful coexistence of the dominant Nepalese community with the native Bhutias and the immigrant Lepchas, one will find many monasteries and Hindu shrines in close proximity to each other.
Accessible mainly via road from the neighbouring states, the newly inaugurated Pakyong airport near the capital city of Gangtok highlights government efforts towards better connectivity. Regarded primarily as a peaceful hilly escape during the harsh Indian summers, Sikkim’s abundance of natural beauty is arguably second to none compared to anywhere else in India.
Extremely alluring, pleasantly boisterous and wreathed in clouds – Gangtok, the capital city of the Sikkim can also give you a spectacular view of Mt. Kanchenjunga, at a distant skyline. The pristine hill station nestled in mountains and clouds is also a base for a whole lot of trekkers to the Himalayan mountain ranges. The mesmerizing prismatic beauty and the beautiful winding hill roads are even more breathtaking if seen from a bird’s eye view in a cable car.
The name meaning hill-top, Gangtok can be safely said to be one of the most beautiful hill stations in the country. With everything in just the right amount from a blend of cultural identities to urbanization, Gangtok is a breathing and dynamic bit of paradise of the northeast. It has an amazing view of mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain peak in the world. Also like everything around it, Gangtok is abundant in natural beauty and has various natural attractions such as the Tsomgo Lake, Ban Jhakri falls, Tashi viewpoint and more. Other places to visit include the Enchey Monastery, Ganesh Tok, Do Drul Chorten Rumtek Monastery, etc. Also, river Teesta is one of the best spots for white water rafting in North East India.
(2) North Sikkim ( Lachen / Lachung)
One of the most uninhabited areas of the country, yet extremely beautiful and charming, North Sikkim shares its boundary with China and Nepal.
Mangan is the headquarters of the North Sikkim district. It is one of the most mystically beautiful though unexplored areas due to the harsh conditions found here. Located at an altitude of 956 meters the town of Mangan serves as a base for trekking and hiking trips in the mountains and forests. North Sikkim is famous for the Gurudongmar Lake which is one of the highest lakes of India. It also has religious importance. Apart from lakes, there are some important monasteries in this area too.
(3) West Sikkim (Base of Kanchenjunga)
West Sikkim, located at the foothills of Mount Kanchenjunga, offers one of the best views of Southeast face of Mt. Kanchenjunga.
West Sikkim offers one of the best views of the south-east face of Mt. Kanchenjunga. This place is also famous for few of the oldest and holiest Buddhist Monasteries of the world. With the beautiful amalgamation of nature and religious history, the calm and peaceful environment of Pelling makes it a famous tourist destination in Sikkim. West Sikkim owes its tranquility and calmness to the beautiful and age-old monasteries like Sangachoeling and Pemayansgtse Monasteries. The Kchehepalri Lake, situated in the midst of a dense forest is considered holy and is mesmerising to devotees and tourists alike.
(4) South Sikkim
Surrounded by beautiful forests and majestic hills, South Sikkim is the perfect vacation spot for someone looking for a retreat in the midst of nature in its most natural form.
The town of Namchi is the headquarters of South Sikkim and it is situated at an altitude of 5500 feet at a distance of around 100 kms from Gangtok. South Sikkim, since years has been famous for its monasteries and stupas and devotees flock to this town for its religious significance. But recently, this district has risen to the position of an eminent tourist destination. Ralang Monastery, Siddheswara Dham, Statue of Guru Rinpoche are among the popular attractions here.
(5) Aritar (“Waterfalls, Lakes, Temples and Monasteries”)
Known for its pristine beauty, temples and monasteries, Aritar is an important town in East. The entire region is surrounded by lush green forests and beautiful streams and is a delight for anyone who wants to spend time in a lesser known area.
While you are here, you get a chance to caress the untainted form of nature, the luxuriant greenery leaves your soul enchanted and the existence of the wild animals around leaves your soul enthralled.
(6) Do Drul Chorten
Do Drul Chorten is one of the most important stupas in Sikkim, nestled in the stunning valleys of Gangtok. Built in 1945 under the supervision of late Truslshi and Rimpoche, the Stupa has around 108 Mani Lhakor or prayer wheels. These wheels are engraved with important mantras which can be chanted by rotating them. The quaint serenity and calmness of Do Drul Chorten has attracted tourists and devotees since years.
The Korten Stupa was once believed to be haunted by evil spirits until the very respected Lama Trulshig Rinpoche came to this place and built a stupa in 1946. The diety engraved on top of this stupa is Vajra Kilaya who is considered to be one of the most prominent chortens in Sikkim. Inside the monastery is the complete set of Dorjee Phurba, holy Buddhist texts and other religious paraphernalia. Do Drul Chorten has a dharma preaching centre on its premises which was established by Dodhrubchen Rinpoche. The stupa is surrounded by Chorten Lakhang housing two huge statues of Guru Padmasambhava. This is a quaint little place for people seeking solace in the hill town.
(7) Nathula Pass
Nathu La, one of the highest motorable roads in the world, is a mountain pass in the Himalayan peaks that co-joins Sikkim and China. Situated on the Indo-Tibetan border 14450 ft. above sea level, Nathu La is one of the most important Himalayan passes in the country. Nathu means ‘listening ears’, and La means ‘pass’. Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between India and China and is famous for its picturesque beauty and beautiful environment. The temperature here remains low for most parts of the year, and it becomes a hotspot for tourists during summer.
Nathula Pass is situated on the Indo-Chinese border and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in India. Several tourists flock here every year for trekking in the valley and enjoying the scenic beauty. There are a number of waterfalls that gush along the way from Gangtok to Nathu La. It also offers an opportunity to see beautiful snow peaks encircling the area. The region also supports Himalayan wildlife like Tibetan gazelle, snow leopard, yaks, Tibetan wolves, etc. Nathu La Pass has a rich variety of flora apart from a spectacular wildlife range.
(8) Rumtek Monastery
The Rumtek Monastery is one of the largest and most significant monasteries in Sikkim, perched on top of a hill 23 km from Gangtok. Originally called as the Dharma Chakra Centre, it belongs to the Kargyu sect of Buddhists who originated in Tibet in the 12th century. Verdant green mountains surround the monastery and thus serves as a visual treat besides being a focal point for spiritual solace. If you climb on top to the Rumtek Monastery, you can have a breathtaking view of the whole Gangtok town situated right opposite the hill. Besides this, the architecture of the striking monastery is one of the finest in the world.
The glorious Rumtek Monastery houses a beautiful shrine temple and a monastery for the monks which were established with the aim of spreading the Buddhist teachings around the world. The sublime structure has a walkway around it on which the monks, pilgrims and visitors perform Kora (a circuit round of the monastery). The splendid Rumtek Monastery has preserved a golden stupa and various other sculptures which belonged to the 16th Karmapa. It also serves as the storehouse for many uniques objects besides storing some of the world’s unique religious scriptures. The massive prayer hall inside the stunning monastery is a place worth seeing that is decorated with splendid murals, statues and thangkhas.
(9) Tsogmo Lake
Perched between the mountains at a dizzying height of 12400 ft above sea level, the Tsomgo Lake is one of the few high-altitude lakes in India situated on the Gangtok – Nathu La highway. Also popularly known as Changu Lake, it is a part of every tourist’s itinerary and for a good reason – the overwhelming scenic beauty. Enveloped by steep snow-capped mountains and resting between a bright green carpet of alpine forests, the charming beauty of Tsogmo Lake is bound to leave you in awe. The lake’s mesmerising scenic allure combined with its legendary significance to the locals definitely makes it a must visit attraction of Sikkim.
Tsomgo Lake is a glacial lake that derives its water from the melting snows of the mountains around it. This glacial lake is famous for its colour changing waters. Monsoons see a bright aquamarine lake whereas, in the winters, it freezes into a translucent cover of ice. As the summer approaches in mid-May, the periphery of this lake is dotted with a thousand blossoming flowers that lend the waters a riot of vibrant colours.
In the Bhutia language, ‘Tso’ means lake and ‘Mgo’ mean head and essentially means ‘source of the water’, holding immense religious and cultural significance to the Bhutia people. Considered as a sacred lake by the Sikkimese, Changu Lake is associated with many myths and legends. They say the Buddhist monks used to analyse the colour of the lake to forecast the future!
(10) Ganesh Tok
Ganesh Tok is a small temple and a loved viewpoint in Gangtok. Situated on top of a hill, the quaint place has mind-stirring views – the Kanchenjunga hill can be seen in its true form of glory from here and is at its best especially in the morning. The Ganesh Tok viewpoint, situated at a distance of 6500, offers stunning views of the mountains dusted with snow. The temple (dedicated to Lord Ganesh) is, however, so small that it can only fit one person at a time. The sublime place takes you a step closer to nature with its surreal surroundings and comforting ambience.
The Ganesh Tok Temple itself is quite small. Colourful flags are tied across the stairs making it stand out. There is a place where shoes can be kept safe, and hands can be washed before entering the temple. There is also a lounge and a balcony in front of the temple which is the main attraction of the place. The serene Ganesh Tok is surrounded by hills, landscape, and beautiful mountains. It is so overcrowded that the devotees have to go down on all fours to worship Lord Ganesha.
Hanuman Tok, dedicated to Lord Hanuman is situated near Ganesh Tok at an altitude of 7200 feet at a distance of 11 km from Gangtok and offers an amazing view of the Kanchenjunga range. The temple has a religious significance attached to it and offers a peaceful surrounding. It is known for fulfilling the wishes of its devotees. Ganesh Tok should definitely be visited at least once to experience its beauty and break away from the monotonous routine. It is a perfect place for all nature lovers and photographers.
(11) Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
One of the very few of its kind, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is an abode of centuries-old Tibetan-Buddhist culture and its history. NIT preserves the glorious past of the country, the religion and its precious culture with utmost dedication and that shows in the excellent collection in the museum and the library which are the main attractions here. As important as its role is for the pursuers of Asian culture and Buddhist studies, with its quiet and serene charm, it is a paradise for the tourists as well, especially for the occasional history-enthusiast. Photography is not allowed inside, but you can take some time off technology and take in all you want with the lens of your eyes.
In spite of being primarily a place for study and research of Tibetan and Buddhist culture, The Namgyal Institute has emerged as a major tourist attraction in Gangtok. It promotes and supports the study, research, and preservation of Tibetan history, art, literature, architecture, religion, philosophy and anything and everything else that comes with that. With a foundation stone laid by the great Dalai Lama himself, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is among the pioneer of preservation and promotion of Tibetan art and literature.
Built in the Tibetan architectural style amidst the lap of lush green nature, the façade rises majestically with its tall golden towers, attractive and significant murals and colourful frescos. The exquisite and greatly maintained pieces in the museum and the library – the statues, the manuscripts, the art pieces, the rare literary works and encyclopaedia, the relics and remains – all speak of a culturally rich past and thanks to NIT, an academically prosperous future.
(12) Himalayan Zoological Park
The Himalayan Zoological Park is located in Bulbuley, 3 km away from Gangtok and is the place for all the wildlife lovers. With an altitude of 1780 meters, one gets an amazing view of the Mount Kanchenjunga from here. Established in 1991, Himalayan Zoological Park is the first one of its kind situated in the North-Eastern part of India. The park fulfils all the requirements of a zoo where the creatures are kept under regular conditions and safeguarded as well as tamed without irritating them and ensuring that they live in their normal habitat. Spread over 205 hectares of land in the mountainous terrain, the park is home to a variety of fauna including the snow leopard cat, goral, Himalayan palm civet, Himalayan red panda, Himalayan monal pheasant, crimson-horned pheasant, and Himalayan black bear.
The Forests, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim maintains this first ever zoological park of Sikkim. A 2.5 km road runs through the park where you can either drive or walk. In case you decide to walk, be prepared since it will take a long amount of time to reach the habitats. So, it is advisable for you to hire a car for about half a day and explore the zoo. Some facilities present at the zoo include café, souvenir shop, drinking water points, washrooms and a watchtower for you to get an amazing view of the entire area. Do visit the Himalayan Zoological Park in Gangtok to be a part of the natural habitat of a variety of species and enjoy the wonderful natural beauty surrounding the place.
(13) Hanuman Tok
Hanuman Tok is a very famous temple of Gangtok which is named after Lord Hanuman and is maintained by the Indian Army. Situated at the height of 7,200 feet the regal temple is juxtaposed against the Kanchenjunga peak which is the third highest peak in the world. The eclectic beauty of Hanuman Tok makes you enjoy it thoroughly keeping you close to nature.
The sight of the enormous hills around the capital city of Gangtok is captivating, and after you reach the top, the snow-dusted peaks of Kanchenjunga and the spectacular range of the Himalayas leave you awed. You can visit Hanuman Tok before 5:00 AM to view the sunrise, the beauty of which is beyond description. The glorious sight of the place is sure to leave you speechless. The serenity of Hanuman Tok makes it a perfect spot for you to relax, meditate and get all charged up.
(14) Tashi View Point
Situated 8 km away from central Gangtok, Tashi Viewpoint is a scenic beauty from where travellers can get a view of the magnificent Mount Sinilochu and Mount Kanchenjunga. It was built by Tashi Namgyal who was the king of Sikkim between 1914 and 1963, and that is how the place got its name. Developed by the tourism department of Sikkim and nestled in a perfect location, one can get a beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains from Tashi Viewpoint. This spot also serves as a fabulous picnic place for local, as well as foreign tourists, due to the presence of a cafeteria and sheds bordering the site of the viewpoint.
The splendid Tashi Viewpoint does not have a match due to its unpolluted environment which has been developed in a manner that helps the tourists understand the trance of the Himalayas. The picturesque ambience, in addition to its serenity, plays a major role in helping the travellers enjoy a view of the Phodong Monastery and Labrang Monastery from here. Tashi Viewpoint is no less than a paradise for all the local and the young people who assemble here during the weekends to enjoy and be a part of the incredible sightseeing.
For the overseas travellers, it is advisable to visit the place during the morning time to experience a more explicit and transparent view of the mighty mountains juxtaposed against the golden hues of the rising sun. So, if you ever plan a trip to Gangtok, do not miss out on visiting Tashi Viewpoint to help you break away from your monotonous life in an environment filled with peace and harmony.
(14) Banjhakri Falls
A new sightseeing destination for the tourists and spread over an area of two acres of land, the Banjhakri Falls is situated at a distance of 10-12 kilometres from Gangtok on the way to Ranka monastery. The waterfall which falls from a rocky height of about 40 feet and cascades down with a lot of force is the main attraction of the Energy Park present here. Beautifully landscaped gardens abound the waterfall along with beautiful statues of Lyam Lymay, Mangpas, Lepcha, and Ban Jhakri ancestors. The entrance of the park also comprises of several recreational activities and refreshment stalls. In addition to several resting places, there is a swimming pool present for the visitors as well.
The name Banjhakri is composed of two words- ‘Ban’ meaning forest or jungle and ‘Jhakri’ meaning traditional healer. According to mythological tales, a Ban Jhakri is a man who possesses some powers and exists in folktales in the Nepali Community of Sikkim. It is the belief of the local people according to which a Banjhakri resides in the forest and lives in the rock caves where he worships the spirits. All the ethnic communities which are present believe in these mysteries even today since they form a part of their culture and tradition.
You will come across numerous ethnic sculptures along with figurines showcasing the Jhakri culture throughout the Banjhakri Energy Park. The figurines present in the park depicts various rituals, healing ceremonies, and the induction process followed in the life of a Shaman. Banjhakri Falls is a beautiful and relaxing stop while exploring the beautiful city of Gangtok. With the beautiful surroundings and lush environs, the place will definitely help you break away from the fast moving life of the city and unwind.
(15) Cable Car Ropeway ( Gangtok)
A cable car rope way ride is one of the prime things to do in Gangtok. Besides offering a spectacular bird’s eye view of the valley below, the ride also lets you enjoy brilliant panoramic vistas. There is a provision of a one way ride; however, we recommend you experience a full two ways ride. The 2 kms ride (to and fro) has 3 stations that it stops at both going forward and coming back.