Sikkim in India

LAND OF MYSTIC SLENDOR

Sikkim offers the magical feel of a Himalayan fairytale land. It is an amazing place of hidden valleys, mystical monasteries, snow-fed lakes and a mountain setting covered with flowers and forests. This former kingdom is home to three major population groups — the Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese — providing a colorful composite of cultures. Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world at 8,586 m, dominates the landscape and is revered as Sikkim’s guardian deity. Sikkim is a state of India tucked in the Himalaya across Nepal’s eastern frontier. It is crammed in between Tibet (China) to the north, Bhutan to the east and Darjeeling to the south.

GANGTOK


Gangtok (population 50,000 and elevation 1,780 m), the capital of Sikkim, is a charming, laid-back town straddling a ridge with houses spilling down the hillside.

The places to visit are Enchey Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery; Institute of Tibetology which houses rare statues, manuscripts, ritual objects and thanka paintings; Do-Drul Chorten, an impressive stupa ringed by prayer wheels; Government Institute of Cottage Industries for souvenirs like choktse (carved low tables), thanka paintings and carpets; and the exotic market of Lal Bazaar.

AROUND SIKKIM

Rumtek Monastery, a 24-km drive from Gangtok, is the seat of the Gyalwa Karmapa Lama. The sacred Tsomgo Lake (elevation 3,780 m) is situated 38 km to the east of Gangtok amidst picturesque mountains. The famed Nathula Pass (4,392 m) on the old caravan trail to Tibet is 20 km further from Tsomgo Lake.

In north Sikkim, Yumthang (3,782 m) is a mesmerizing scene with yaks grazing on flower-carpeted meadows against a backdrop of towering peaks.

The 134-km drive from Gangtok to Yumthang takes you through Kabi Longstok, where Sikkimese history began in the 13th century with the signing of a treaty of brotherhood between Lepcha and Tibetan chiefs; Phodong Monastery, one of the six major monasteries in Sikkim; Chungthang (1,586 m), a sacred place blessed by Guru Rimpoche; and Lachung (2,684 m), an idyllic valley surrounded by mist-shrouded mountains.

In west Sikkim, Pemayangtse Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery of the Nyingmapa order, is a 112-km drive from Gangtok; Sangacholing Monastery, built in 1697, is one of the oldest in the state; Khecheopalri Lake is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists; Yuksam is Sikkim’s original capital; and Tashiding Monastery, built in 1717, is famed for its stupa.

In south Sikkim, Namchi, a 78-km drive from Gangtok, offers panoramic vistas of the snow peaks; Tendong Hill (2,623 m) and Menam Hill (3,141 m) provide unmatched views extending from the Himalaya to the plains of Bengal; and Temi tea garden is an opportunity to see how the aromatic leaves are grown and processed.

VISA

In addition to an Indian visa, foreign travellers must possess an inner line permit, issued by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs or New Sikkim House, both in New Delhi, to visit Sikkim. The permit is valid for 15 days. If you are visiting the interior regions, you also require a protected area permit which is obtainable in Gangtok from the Department of Tourism. Tour arrangements should be made through a registered travel agent who will handle the official formalities.

GETTING THERE AND AROUND

Gangtok is 146 km (or 4 hours 30 minutes) from the Nepalese border town of Kakarbhitta via Siliguri. It is 5 hours by road from Darjeeling and 7 hours from Bhutan.

The closest Indian airport is at Bagdogra, 124 km from Gangtok, where scheduled flights operate from Kolkata, New Delhi and Guwahati. Taxis for Gangtok (4 hours) are available at the airport. Sikkim Tourism Development Corportation also operates daily helicopter flights from Bagdogra airport to Gangtok (20 minutes). The closest railway stations are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri (121 km) which are connected to Kolkata, New Delhi, Guwahati and other major Indian cities. Taxis and buses for Gangtok are available at Siliguri.

Transport services are provided by four-wheel drive vehicles. Taxis are available for getting around Gangtok. Sikkim Helicopter Service operates sight-seeing flights to different points.

GENERAL INFO

Sikkim is a mountainous land crisscrossed by deep ravines.

Season: March-May and October-December are the best times to visit. Bring light woolen clothing during summer (maximum temperature 20.7 degrees Celsius) and heavy woolens during winter (minimum 7.7 degrees).

Adventure: Trekking, mountaineering, rafting and yak safari.

Accommodation: There are modern hotels and restaurants in Gangtok. Comfortable resort lodges are available in the outlying areas.

===================================================================================