Gangtok- A Quick travel guide
Sikkim is one of the most favorite tourist destinations of India among tourists and travel enthusiasts. Because of its beauty and habitation in Himalayas, it provides a lot of diverse tourist destinations. The picturesque landscapes of Himalayas may fulfill your enthusiasm or may increase your desire of travelling vigorously.
Sikkim has distinguished biodiversity, lakes, rivers, valleys and mountain peaks etc. It also hosts Mt. Kanchenjunga which rises to 8,586 m or 28,169 feet from the sea level. It is the 2nd highest Mountain peak of India after K2 Mountain and third highest mountain peak on the Earth.
The Gangtok is considered to be a base for hikers and trekkers for going through Sikkim’s Himalayan mountain ranges. So fuel your craving of travelling or wanderlust by picking some tourist destinations of Sikkim for your next trip to the nature. Prepare your favorite bucket list from a variety of very well-known to some hidden jewels of Sikkim.
There are 3 different sectors or set of tourist places to visit in single journey of one week. If you want to visit all the places of Sikkim then you have to take at least 2 or 3 visits or one visit of 2-3 weeks.
1st Set: Gangtok (MG Market), Sikkim Himalayan Zoological Park, Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, Tsomgo Lake, Nathula Pass, Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple, Rumtek Monastery, Do Drul Chorten, Enchey Monastery, Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Bakthang Waterfall, Ridge Flower Park, Banjhakri Falls and Energy Park
2nd Set: Lachung, Lachen, Zero Point Yumthang Valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Tso Lhamo, Kanchenjunga Base Camp, Thangu valley, Mangan, Phodong Monastery, Rangeet River, Teesta River
3rd Set: Pelling, Ravangla, Namchi, Tendong Hilltop, Zuluk, Aritar, Yuksom, Geyzing, Biksthang, Pemayangtse Monastery, Khecheopalri Lake, Singshore Bridge, Rabdentse Ruins, Kanchenjunga Falls, Kanchenjunga National Park, Goecha La, Zemu Glacier.
You can club Kalimpong, Darjeeling of West Bengal or Thimphu, Bhutan to make it large.
Best time to visit:
April to June or September to October
The best time to visit Sikkim starts through from April to June and September to October as the weather is pleasant and temperature ranges from 28-30 degree Celsius.
The monsoon months i.e. July and August are not considered very well for travelling because of heavy rain and landslides etc.
The weather during the winters i.e. from November to March is very harsh with temperature drops to subzero in some parts of Sikkim.
Day 1: Reach to Gangtok and take rest in your hotel.
How to reach Gangtok, Sikkim:
The Bagdogra Airport, Siliguri, West Bengal is the nearest airport which is about 122 kms away from the capital of Sikkim i.e. Gangtok. The private taxi may charge around INR 2500-3500 from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok.
The Pakyong Airport, Sikkim is just 28 KM away from Gangtok. SpiceJet is the only airline which operates its flights from Kolkata and Guwahati under Government’s UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme.
The New Jalpaiguri is the nearest Railway Station which is about 120 kms from Gangtok. It is well connected with major cities of the country like Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati.
There are regular bus services from Bagdogra or Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri to Gangtok which almost take 4 hours to reach there.
Where to stay:
There are several high-range, mid-range and Budget hotels available in the Gangtok which can be chosen according to the need and budget. Always consider your priorities like distance from the main market or tourist attractions, serene and calm environment or great landscapes or from the hotel you may see Mount Kanchenjunga Peaks.
The Government Circuit House, CPWD Guest house and State Guest House are also available which can be booked as per their procedure.
Important Suggestion: Decide your itinerary in advance because you have to take inner-line permit from the concerned authorities for visiting some important places in Sikkim. Accordingly, after reaching to Gangtok, talk to the Hotel Management Staff or your travel agent about your plan or go to Sikkim Tourist Centre, located at MG Road, for inner-line permit. The issuance of permit may take, atleast, a day. Photo identity proof and two passport size photos are required to get the permit.
What to see in Gangtok and nearby:
Here I am discussing tourist places mentioned in 1st set, only:
Gangtok (MG Market)
Ridge Flower Park
Sikkim Himalayan Zoological Park
Do Drul Chorten
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple
Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden
Banjhakri Falls and Energy Park
Day 2: Ridge Flower Park, Enchey Monastery, Sikkim Himalayan Zoological Park, Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, Gangtok Ropeway, Do Drul Chorten, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok (MG Market).
Ridge Flower Park
It is situated on a flat wonderful stretch of a road above the Gangtok Town. It runs along the Ridge road and has amazing collections of different types of flowering plants and shrubs. There is a traditional Sikkimese style Gazebo or exhibition area which holds the annual Orchid show.
Visitors can rest on the benches of the park and soak in the ambience around. You can reach the park after a 20 minutes’ walk from MG Marg main market. Best time to visit this park is between March to June when the Orchids are in full bloom and put on display.
There is no entry fee for Ridge Park but you have to Rs. 10/- per person for entry in Flower Exhibition Center. It opens from 9 am to 5:15 pm daily.
It was established in 1909 in Gangtok hamlet. Its literal meaning is the “Solitary Monastery”. Though it is a small monastery but it is situated on a strategic peak overlooking Gangtok which provides views of the Kanchenjunga peak.
It is believed that Kanchenjunga and Yabdean, the protecting deities of this area, reside in this monastery. According to a legend, Guru Padmasambhava had subdued the spirits of the Kanchenjunga, Yabdean and Mahakala here. Therefore, its religious significance is deeply entrenched in every household in Gangtok and believed that they always fulfill the wishes of the devotees.
It is 3 Km away from the MG road market and 1.7 Km from Ridge Flower Park.
The temple is dedicated to the Lord Ganesh which is very close to Tashi View point. It is located at an altitude of 6,500 ft. It is only 6 km from Gangtok Town Apart from offering prayer to Lord Ganesh, soak yourself in the landscapes around it. Sikkim Himalayan Zoological Park is just opposite to it.
Sikkim Himalayan Zoological Park
It is the first Zoological park of Sikkim. It spread over 205 hectares of land having an elevation ranging from 6500 feet to 8000 feet. A large variety of wildlife, that is usually difficult to spot in the wild, are kept here in semi-natural habitat.
It housed a variety of animals including some endangered ones like Himalayan Black Bear, Clouded Leopard, Leopard, Leopard Cat, Tibetan Wolf, Himalayan Palm Civets, Gorals, Barking Deer, Serow, Himalayan Tahr, Yaks and Porcupine etc.
Apart from the animals, you can see several species of birds like Satyr Tragopan, Golden Pheasant, Lady Amherst Pheasant, Kalij and Silver Pheasant.
It opens everyday from 9.00 AM to 4.00 PM except Thursday. However, best time to visit the park is during mid-February to May and mid-September to December.
This Hindu temple complex was established, in 1952, which is about 9 Km uphill from Gangtok town on a blissful calm and quite hilltop. The temple is dedicated to lord Hanuman and maintained by the Indian army. Popularly, it is believed as a wish fulfilling temple among locals.
The Gangtok Ropeway:
It is one of the greatest attractions in Gangtok and should not be missed. The starting point of the ropeway is Deorali Bazar near Institute of Tibetology. Situated in the heart of the city i.e. just 1.5 Km from the MG Road market. It was built in the year 2003.
It connects to the Tashiling Secretariat via Sikkim Legislative Assembly. The visitors can have a panoramic view of the full Gangtok city while taking a ride in this ropeway.
Do Drul Chorten:
This stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa is a complete set of Dorjee Phurba, Kangyur (Holy Books) and other religious objects. Around the stupa are 108 Mani Lhakor or prayer wheels. It is located about 500 meters above the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology.
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (NIT) is a Tibet museum in Gangtok named after the 11th Chogyal of Sikkim, Sir Tashi Namgyal. The institute employs researchers and one of its new research programs is a project which seeks to document the social history of Sikkim’s approximated 60 monasteries and record this on a computer. Another project seeks to digitize and document old and rare photographs of Sikkim for knowledge distribution.
Gangtok (MG Market)
This is a ‘must visit’ place because it is the main market of Gangtok and your trip may be incomplete without visiting it. Approximately, 1 km stretch of the road named after the father of our nation as MG Road. It’s a pedestrian zone, only. The entire area is free of litter, smoke and vehicle.
This road is more like a long stretch of open mall or boulevard square where locals and tourists take leisure stroll or just sit and relax on the benches laid along the middle and sides of the road and feel the ambience.
The road is lined up with glittering shops, restaurants, cafes & bars etc. It’s carnival like atmosphere out here. The annual Gangtok Food and Culture Festival is held here at MG Marg in December.
Day 3: Tsomgo Lake, Nathula Pass, Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple.
It is located just 38 km away from the capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok. An adventurous ride on snaky road through rocky and strident mountains takes to the Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake. It lies at an altitude of 12,400 ft and is one of the highest lakes in India.
You may be able to see migratory ducks like the Brahmini and beautiful flowers such as Primulas, Blue and Yellow Poppies. You can also enjoy the Yak’s ride.
This area is full of snow and lake remains frozen during the months of January to March. While, the months from April to June are considered best for viewing the amazing views of nearby peaks in turquoise water of the lake and the azure sky above. A festival is celebrated here on Guru Poornima.
Nathu La (Pass)
Once, it was a part of the historic ‘Silk Road’ and now one of the highest motorable pass in the world. The amazing pass is located at a towering height of 14,140 ft above the sea level.
It was re-opened in 2006 after the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India; the others are Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh (or Lipulech) at the trisection point of Uttarakhand–India, Nepal and China.
The pass is open to Indians on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The low oxygen level and snaky roads may lead to mountain sickness, so it is advisable to carry some medicines with you. Also, carry your special area permit to visit the place which I suggested above and you must have obtained though. Photography is prohibited at the border.
Start your journey early in the morning to avoid traffic jams due to adverse weather conditions. Also, the parking space is limited so you have to wait in your vehicle till some vehicles move from the parking.
You must have felt that driving is not easy in the hills but who loves it always enjoys the fun. So enjoy and experience drive on the roads surrounded by snow on both sides while passing through mesmerizing picturesque landscapes.
Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple:
It is one of the best tourist places in Sikkim for those who seek spiritual calmness. But, it is a part of Changu Lake and Nathu La visit. It is located at an altitude of 13,123 ft above the sea level in between Nathu La and Jelepa La.
It is believed that the soul of Harbhajan Singh, a missing soldier in Indian Army, has been taking the rounds of the Himalayas for around 50 years now. There have been numerous tales of sightings of the soldier at night. Now, he is retired from the Army and getting pension.
Day 4: Rumtek Monastery, Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden, Bakthang Waterfall, Banjhakri Falls and Energy Park
Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden:
Located 22 km from Gangtok on the road to Rumtek Monastery is a one of the popular tourist destination. Established in 1987, it is a scenically blessed lush green expanse of land which has mesmerized the visitor with its astounding beauty. Surrounded by lofty mountains, it has a collection of about 1.5 lakh ornamental plants and a huge collection of oak varieties making it a paradise for botany enthusiast traveling to Sikkim.
It is located at a distance of 24 Km from Gangtok at an altitude of about 4,900 ft above sea level. It is known for its peaceful ambiance because of flowing streams, mountains behind, a snow range in front, and a river below. It is home to the community of monks and where they perform the rituals and practices of the Karma Kagyu lineage. At the rear end of the wall of Rumtek Monastery, there is a small alley that leads to the stunning Golden Stupa.
Opposite that building is a college, Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. The monastery is a treasure trove of unique hand paintings, murals and sculptures.
It is located at a distance of 4.6 Km from M.G. Road, Gangtok near a place called Swastik, adjacent to the army cantonment area. A serene waterfalls cascades down the rock forming a small pool down below. The natural spring water source of this falls originates from the dense vegetation above this site which is preserved as a Smriti Ban by the Forest Department.
An offbeat place destined for relax which is completely free from pollution, noise and dust. It offers a cafeteria for tea and snacks and local photography services to take pictures with local costumes and dresses for visitors. Some of the adventure enthusiasts can also try rappelling down the cliff on a prefixed rope which is organized by the local tourism committee of the area.
Banjhakri Falls and Energy Park
The Banjhakri Falls and Energy Park is a recreation centre and tourist attraction. It is in a thickly forested part of Swastik, next to an army camp, about 7 Km from Gangtok. The park’s statuary and other displays document the Ban Jhakri, or traditional shamanic healer who worships spirits living in caves around the falls.
It is a natural waterfall sourced from springs at higher elevation. The cascade is approximately 98 ft high. The well-defined trails, stunning gazebos, and the brilliant footbridges make it one of its kinds. Gazebos have been erected throughout the park.
A museum hall curated by the Sikkim Rural Energy Development Agency (SREDA) has exhibits about renewable energy. The grounds also feature exhibits related to renewal energy like solar water heaters, solar-powered cars, energy drums etc. The park is lit by solar-powered lamps.