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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrNestled in the Himalayan foothills and bordering China, Bhutan and Nepal, the state of Sikkim in Eastern India is one of the most revered tourist destinations for any nature lover from all over the world. Around 40% of the state of Sikkim is covered by alpine forests, thus making it a unique place with different flora and fauna that one can find all around this state.
The capital city of Sikkim is Gangtok .
With the influx of tourism in Sikkim, the city of Gangtok looks like a vibrant, modern town in the heart of the Himalayan range.
History and DemographicsThere is not much known about the early history of Sikkim until the advent of the Lepchas who settled in this region. The Lepcha s were the original inhabitants of Assam and Burma. However, during 1200 AD, the Tibetan clan, Nagmyal, entered the land of Sikkim. With meticulous effort and owing to the shyness of the Lepchas, the Nagmyal clan established their strong base in Sikkim and ruled the country for more than 300 years.
During 1700 AD, Sikkim faced another infiltration of the Bhutanese and the Nepalese tribes. The Nepalese, those who came to Sikkim, took farming as their main occupation. However, the resulting aggression of various tribes in Sikkim, in due course of time, led to massive conflict and confusion.
Apart from this, the imperial British rule was also constantly trying to lay their hands on this untouched land which they finally took into their control in 1861. The aggression of the British Raj led to the formation of an independent territory of Sikkim. During the rule of the British Raj in 1890, China and Britain identified and formed the strategic boundary between the land of Tibet and Sikkim.
Later, after the independence of India, Sikkim was successfully transferred into the hands of the Indian government. Nevertheless, the relationship between the Chogyal and the Indian government maintained a sour relationship for a long time until in 1975, when Sikkim finally received the status of a statehood under the Indian Union territories.
Around twelve different languages are spoken in Sikkim. In any case, the 'lingua franca' of Sikkim is Nepali. Sikkimese and Lepcha are spoken in the remote parts of the state. English and Hindi are also spoken widely, mainly in the urban areas of Sikkim.
Sightseeing in BhutanThe mountainous state of Sikkim offers many places for tourists to enjoy nature, which lies in every directions of the state. The following section lists the recommended places to visit in Sikkim, which has been divided according to their geographical zones:
GangtokThe capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok acts as a central location to reach most of the areas in and around Sikkim. Gangtok is a commercial town located at an altitude of 1,676 meter and the view of Kanchenjunga Mountain from the city is simply an ethereal experience. Gangtok is a cosmopolitan town by nature. With multiple hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls, Gangtok Town has always gained its importance as a crucial position within the state of Sikkim.
Aritar LakeThis beautiful lake located in East Sikkim offers a fantastic view of Mount Kanchenjunga's peak. Surrounded by lush, green forest, this placid lake has been a major attraction to the visitors of East Sikkim. Recently, the lake offers boating facilities and it is indeed a unique experience to cruise on the lake surrounded by serenity and silence. Taking a short trek from the lake will take you to Mankhim Dara where lies Aritar Gumpa, the oldest monastery in Sikkim. Mankhim Dara also offers a splendid 360° view of the surrounding alpine regions which lies adjacent to this place.
RumtekLocated around 23 kilometers from Gangtok, Rumtek is famous for its monastery. The Rumtek Monastery is considered as one of the most important Buddhist foundation in this state which has a strong resemblance to the famous Tsurpu Monastery in Tibet. The monastery is designed inline with Tibetan architecture and it also houses some of the rarest collection of Buddhist artworks. The road to Rumtek is fascinating as it passes through the green forest swaying in the breeze, forming a gentle murmur, which is simply breathtaking.
Changu LakeAlso known as T’somgo Lake, this famous tourist hotspot is a must-see for all visitors in Sikkim. Located around 38 kilometers from the city of Gangtok at an altitude of 3,780 meter, Changu Lake offers a unique experience when the water in the lake is frozen during the winter months. A yak ride, skiing, and frolicking in the snow are some of the necessary adventures that a visitor looks for while visiting this place.
Foreigners, are not permitted to enter the zone alone. You need to be in a group of at least two people or more and you also need to apply for a permit to visit the Changu Lake which is easily available from the government tourist bureau in Gangtok.
NathulaThe Nathula Pass acts as a major corridor between India and Tibet.
Owing to the importance of this location, Nathula is not open to any foreigner. However, as an Indian national, Nathula Pass can be visited from Wednesday until Sunday every week.
Some other popular places in the East Sikkim are the Banjhakri Falls and the Tumin Village.
SorengOn the west of Sikkim lies the Soreng village. This tranquil hamlet has an enchanting beauty mainly because of the presence of green hills that surrounds this area. Soreng is also famous for a wide variety of flora and fauna which inhabits the area. The Soreng village acts as a gateway to the Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. This sanctuary looks spectacular, especially during the months of April and May when the Rhododendron flowers bloom in this natural park.
Soreng village is an important tourist location as there are a couple of decent accommodations available in and around this place. This village also acts as part of the trekking route to D’zongri via the Rathong Glacier.
VarseyLocated at an altitude of 3,048 meter, this location is also famous for the Rhododendron Forest Sanctuary. In order to reach Varsey, you need to reach Hilley as it is the last motorable road available on this track. From Hilley, one needs to take a four-kilometers walk to reach the Varsey Valley.
DentamThis is a picturesque village with a fascinating view of Mount Kanchenjunga, Dentam is probably one of the best spots for a nature lover and the ornithologists visiting Sikkim. Few trekking routes to the upper valleys in Sikkim also begins from the Dentam village.
SombariaThis picture-perfect village is located at the extreme western end of Sikkim. The village of Sombaria is located at an altitude of 1,128 meter and it acts as a major trekking route to the upper valleys within the state of Sikkim. The panoramic view from this village along with the perennially flowing Rangit River and its surrounding greeneries provides a unique pleasure to all the visitors who visits this picturesque spot, away from the daily commotion of the modern city life.
LegshipThis place is slowly gaining popularity among the tourists visiting Sikkim. Known for its hot sulfur spring, Legship is also famous for white water river-rafting on the perpetually turbulent Rangit River.
GyalshingOnce considered as the garden which belonged to the Sikkim’s monarchs, Gyalshing is now a busy town which acts as a major tourist destination for people who wants to travel in and around West Sikkim. Near Gyalshing lies the famous Pemayangste and Rabdentse townships, which are also very famous tourist locations in Sikkim.
YuksumAnother quaint hamlet in the west of Sikkim, Yuksum has a lot of historical significance. It is where the first monarch (Chogyal) of Sikkim was crowned during the bygone days. The Dubdi Monastery in Yuksum is also an interesting place as it is considered as one of the most sacred monasteries in Sikkim. Yuksum also acts as the start point of the trekking route to the base camp of Mount Kanchenjunga (D’zongri) and the entry point of the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve.
RinchenpongThis beautiful hill location is ideal for taking a break from the hustle and bustle of daily city life. The view of Kanchenjunga Mountain, surrounded by lush, green valley makes Rinchenpong one of the best spots to spend some lazy days while visiting Sikkim.
PellingOwing to the clear view of Mount Kanchenjunga and the surrounding valley wrapped in greenery, Pelling has earned its reputation as an important tourist spot in recent times. This gorgeous valley is best for taking short walks into the nearby forests. Pelling can be visited anytime during the year and several accommodations are available in this place which can suit all budgets.
Some other interesting places in West Sikkim which can also be consider worthy of a visit are HeeBermoik, Khecheopalri Lake and Uttarey.
YumthungGoing to Yumthang will make you feel as if you have landed in Switzerland. The abundance of pine trees, Rhododendron forests, snowy peaks, green meadows, and the mountainous river passing through the Yumthung valley offers a commanding view of this place. Yumthung is colorful during April till May when the different varieties of Rhododendron flowers bloom in delight all around this place.
GurudongmarLocated at an altitude of 5,425 meter, Gurudongmar Lake is one of the most revered locations for any adventurous tourist visiting Sikkim. This milky-colored lake is situated in the middle of a vast, cold desert with sparse vegetation all around. Though every visitor in Sikkim attempts to reach this lake, the high altitude of the region poses a major problem among many tourists who aspires to reach this popular spot.
Gurudongmar Lake is located very near to the border of Tibet. Owing to its location and being a major base of the Indian army, foreigners are barred from entering this region.
Some other popular places in and around North Sikkim are Lachen, Phodong, Kabi, Mangan, Singhik, D’zongu and Chungthang.
RavanglaThis beautiful hill town which stands at an altitude of 2,134 meter is famous for its picturesque beauty. Ravanagla is probably the best place in Sikkim to get a view of the majestic Greater Himalayan Range. A visit to Damthang in the early morning, which is around 8 kilometers from Ravangla, will give you a spectral view of the golden mountains shining in the morning sunrise. If you are at Ravangla, be sure to visit Ralong Monastery and the famous Tibetan Carpet Center located near Ravangla Town.
Some other tourist spot in South Sikkim that you may like to explore are Jorethang, Namchi, Solophok, Samdruptse and the Buddha Park.
Trekking in SikkimWith the presence of the Greater Himalayan range, there are a number of trekking route from Sikkim. Some of the popular trekking routes that are worth mentioning are D’zongri Trek, Monastic Trek; Tendong Hill Trek, Himalayan Trek; Tosar Lake Trek, Soreng Trek; Samartek Trek, Singalila Trek; Coronation Trek, Khedi Trek; Monastic Trek, and the Rhododendron Trekking route.
Most of the trekking routes need prior permissions from the Sikkimese government authorities. So if you plan for any trekking while staying in Sikkim, be sure to get a permit beforehand. The best option to obtain an easy permit is get it done through the local travel agencies in Sikkim.
AccommodationWith the influx of tourist, Sikkim offers decent accommodation facilities for its tourists.As Gangtok is considered to be the central location for travelling in and around Sikkim, the recommended budget places to stay in Gangtok are Hotel Chalet Orchid, Central Lodge; Sri Mangalam Residency, Hotel Sonali International; Hotel Pandim, and others.
For mid-range accommodations, you can try Hotel Tibet, Sonam Delek, Hotel Rigwa International, Hotel Delamare, and others
If you are looking to find pampered facilities in a luxurious hotel, the recommended places for such stay in Gangtok are Mayfair Gangtok Resort, Teen Taley Eco Resort, Le Primula, and The Nor-Khill.
RestaurantsTravel and tourism is the thriving economy of Sikkim, for which the state of Sikkim offers several decent places for eating in all parts of this land. Tibetan and Nepalese foods are popular all over Sikkim.
Gangtok also has a large number of eateries which serves Continental, Chinese, Thai, Italian, and Indian delicacies.
FestivalsThe state of Sikkim observes many colorful festivals during different times of the year. Some of the popular festivals of Sikkim are The Kalchakra Puja, Kagyed Dance Festival; Tendong Lho Rum Faat, Tihaar; Lhabab Dhuechen, Losoong; Bumchu, Phang Lhabsol; Losar, Drupka Teshi and Saga Dawa festival.
ShoppingIf you are planning to pick-up some souvenirs from Sikkim, the best option would be to go shopping in city of Gangtok. There are a number of curio shops in Gangtok which sells local handicraft and woolen garments besides the local market and small shopping stalls which also sells different type of indigenous handmade goods.
Some of the recommended places for shopping in Gangtok are M.G. Road, Lal Bazar and the much visited Sikkim Handicraft Emporium.
How to Reach
FlightThe nearest airport to Sikkim is at Bagdogra, which is located in the town of Siliguri. Bagdogra Airport is well connected to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. From the airport, you can hire a prepaid cab to reach Gangtok.
BusThere are regular bus services from Kolkata to Siliguri. From the Siliguri bus stand, you can either hire a cab or take a shared taxi or even board a local bus to reach Gangtok.
TrainThe nearest station to Sikkim is at New Jalpaiguri (NJP) near Siliguri Town which is well connected to other parts of the country. You can hire a taxi or take a shared taxi to reach the state of Sikkim from NJP rail head.
Entry to SikkimAs a foreigner, you need to obtain permits to enter the state of Sikkim. This permit is available from Kolkata, Darjeeling, Siliguri and Rangpo. The permit is valid for a period of 30 days and the process of obtaining this permit is easy and quick. All you need to produce is your passport, visa, and two passport-sized photographs for getting your sanction for entering this wonderful Himalayan state which lies in the north of West Bengal.
Traveling within SikkimLocal shared jeeps are available for traveling in and around the state of Sikkim. However, if you are looking for privacy you can also hire reserved cabs which are available in plenty all across this state.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Dec 11, 2014