Sikkim is a paradise for nature lovers and also tourist destination for all seasons. Sikkim is situated in the eastern Himalayas, spread below the Mount Khanchendzonga (8534 mts), the third highest mountain in the world, and revered by the Sikkimese as their protective deity. It is a landlocked state, bounded by Tibet in the North, Bhutan in the East, Nepal in the West and state of West Bengal in the south. It is one of the smallest states of India having a population just over 6, 00,000.
Sikkim is the 22nd State of India known for its strategic location and as one of the last Himalayan `Shangri – La`, its climate, natural beauty and the fine cultural heritage attract tourist from all over the globe. Sikkim is the most peaceful land divided into four districts, which are known as East, West, North and South Sikkim.
Places of Interest in Sikkim
The Capital city of Sikkim is Gangtok, situated in East Sikkim. GANGTOK means “The town on the hilltop” in Bhutia Language. It lies on a ridge with fine views of the Kanchenjunga. This is the most common tourist destination in the state. Gangtok is mix of traditional hospitality and cosmopolitan outlook.
Rumtek Monastery is the most visited sites of Sikkim. This is perhaps the largest monastery academically and for its historical value is located on a high location away from the crowded town. Built in 1960 by His Holiness the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa it is a replica of the original Kagyurpa Monastery in Tsurphu, Tibet. The centre houses some of the World’s most unique religious scriptures and rare objects.
On the way to Rumtek it situated at an altitude of 1800 meter. The Garden is an enchanting and soothing experience among the lush green vegetation, rare plants and trees and certain species of Himalayan flowers and Orchids. The Garden situated at a place with excellent scenic beauty.
It takes passenger to the highest point of the city of Gangtok covering the distance of about 1 Km in only seven minutes. Each cabin accommodates 24 passengers. The cable car constructed to enjoy excellent aerial view of Gangtok town and surrounding area starting from Deorali via hur-huray Dara it goes up to “Tashiling”.
Tsogmo Lake or Changu Lake is a glacial lake in the East Sikkim, approximately 40 kilometers away from Gangtok at altitude of nearly 12400 feet. Tsomgo Lake is literally known as “source of the lake” in Bhutia language. The lake is regarded extremely holy and head of all lakes in Sikkim.
Scrupulously & appropriately maintained by resident units of the Indian Army this is a hindu temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman which is situated about 09 km uphill from Gangtok at an altitude of 7,200 ft. Popular belief has it that wishes made here are fulfilled.
It is situated on a ridge & is only 07 kms away from Gangtok. From this spot one can get a bird’s eye view of sprawling Gangtok town down below. Adjacent to it is a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Adjoining the temple is a beautiful Pine tree forest reserve.
Tashi view point is about 08 kms away from Gangtok, acclaimed to be amongst the most popular photography point in the Sikkim Himalayas. From this point you get a breath taking view of Mt. Khanchenjanga & Mt. Siniolchu, one of the most graceful peaks in the world. Above the viewpoint is a park that is a popular picnic spot. Tourists can avail of the facilities provided by a small but well stocked cafeteria located here. Ideal time to visit is early morning subject to clear weather conditions.
Built in the memory of Harbhajan Singh, a sepoy in the 23rd Punjab Regiment, the mandir lies between the Nathula & the Jelepla Passes. Legend has it that he appeared in a dream a few days after he went missing & expressed the desire that a monument be built in his memory. His fellow soldiers then built a monument that has over the years acquired the status of pilgrimage. Believers leave a bottle of water, which they collect a few days later to take back home.
Indo-China border (elevation 14,400 ft. / 4,320 m) on the old caravan trail to Tibet till 1962 is 14 km further from Tsomgo Lake. Recently opened for Indian tourists, the pass is poised to have become a favorite tourist spot. Visitors prone to heart problems & high altitude sickness are advised to avoid this trip. Nathula is open only on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday. The visitors need permit on the basis of individual proof of identification to visit the place by applying to the Tourism Department 48 hrs in advance through a registered Sikkimese.
Pelling is the hub of West Sikkim. Pelling is the second biggest tourist destination in the state of Sikkim after Gangtok. Pelling situated at an altitude of 6,100 ft.a quiet village in West Sikkim. It offers the closest view of Mt. Khangchendzonga and its range. Pelling houses the famous Pemayangtse Monastery and has now turned into a bustling tourist destination.
Lachen is located at an alt of 2735m, which is 123 kms from the capital. This new destination of the millennium, only opened on the 20th of December 2000, for domestic and foreign tourists it’s a natures gifted wonderland. The multi-hued mountains, along with snowy peaks and black cliffs, appear to rise from Lachen. Lachen is inhabited by very less number of people.
Lachung is located at an altitude of 8610 ft. Lachung is a very small town with scattered settlements, dominated mostly by Bhutias. It is one of the most exquisite villages in the valleys of North Sikkim. With resplendent snow-capped mountains, dazzling waterfalls and sparkling streams, Lachung has been described as the “most picturesque village of Sikkim”.
A small town situated at the base of Meanam hills. An ideal play to enjoy natural bliss and short treks. Surrounding villages of Yangang, Tinkitam, Kewzing, Barfung & Bakhim are ideal for short stays in the homes of the villagers. Situated in the southern part of Sikkim, a perfect destination for village tourism, flora and fauna.
Borong, also spelt Brong, is a small village near Ravangla in South Sikkim. Ralong Monastery is nearby the village. The village has recently come into prominance due to increased village tourism and eco tourism activity.
Phensang Monastery is another eminent religious place in the northern part of Sikkim. Located on the slope widening from Kabi to Phodong, Phensang Monastery can be reached easily by taking regular buses, jeeps or by hiring taxis from Mangan. The environs of the monastery are one amongst the most picturesque sites in the district. Phensong Monastery was built in 1721 during the ruling period of Jigme Pawo.Belonging to the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism, Phensong Monastery is famous for its annual festival that is observed on the 28th and 29th days of the tenth month (December) of the Tibetan Calendar. At this juncture of the year, ‘Chaam’ (Mask dance) is performed by the monks in the monastery complex. People from all parts of the state come to view this fascinating dance of lamas. Phensang Monastery is also home to not less than 300 monks of the same sect.In 1947, Phensong Monastery came under the spell of devastating fire. After a year of this sad happening, the monks made an effort to rebuild this monastery and their efforts were proved to be fruitful in 1948. In the present times, Phensong Monastery is standing intact amidst the striking hills and spectacular landscape of the region. Every year, tourists and pilgrims from all over the world come to pay their homage at the monastery.
The Enchey Monastery was established in 1909 above Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim in the Northeastern Indian state. It belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. The monastery built around the then small hamlet of Gangtok became a religious centre. The location was blessed by Lama Drupthob Karpo, a renowned exponent of tantric (adept) art inBuddhism with flying powers; initially a small Gompa was established by him after he flew from Maenam Hill in South Sikkim to this site. The literal meaning of Enchey Monastery is the “Solitary Monastery”. Its sacredness is attributed to the belief that Khangchendzonga and Yabdean – the protecting deities – reside in this monastery. As, according to a legend,Guru Padmasambhava had subdued the spirits of the Khangchendzonga, Yabdean and Mahākāla here. In view of this legend, the religious significance of Enchey Monastery is deeply ingrained in every household in Gangtok. It is also believed that these powerful deities always fulfil the wishes of the devotees.
Set up in 1957 as a centre for both preservation and development of the traditional arts and crafts of Sikkim, the institute is located about a kilometer from main Gangtok market. An emporium at the institute sells an array of local traditional items, which are very popular with tourists.
Carpets, available in various sizes and designs, traditional bags and other utility items, foldable Choksis, tables carved in local design, wooden masks and handmade paper are some of the various things available for sale here.
The institute is located on the site that was donated by the late king of Sikkim, Sir Tashi Namgyal in memory of his departed son Paljor Namgyal. The foundation stone of the Institute was laid on 10th February, 1957 by the 14th Dalai Lama and was inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 1st October, 1958. The Institute is beautifully located in sylvan surroundings and extensive grounds. The Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology is a premier institute in the world that was established to conduct research on the language and traditions of Tibet as well as the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.
Saramsa Garden, located at a distance of approximately 14 km from Gangtok, was established in 1922. The place was opened by the Forest Department, which was managed by the Forest Manager, Bhim Bahadur Pradhan from 1922 to 1954. Besides being the forester, owing to immense interest in botany, floriculture and horticulture, he was able to manage the garden well.Initially, the main purpose behind the establishment of this garden was to grow different fruits like pineapple, guava and varieties of oranges and litchie. This was done for the residence of the former British political officer and the Palace. During this time, a famous local variety of banana known as “Chini Champa” was also grown in this garden. In addition, every week, Dati, which is a decorated basket laden with fruits, was sent to British Residency and the Palace.
Namchi meaning “Sky high” in local dialect, the district headquarter town of south Sikkim at an altitude of 4300 ft. It is an ideal place for eco-tourism, adventure tourism on botany, zoology and also an ideal place for the quite holiday home-seekers, nature lover, bird watchers with rewarding walks and trekking trails with the nature’s panoramic view.
Char Dham is a pilgrimage destination situated at Solophok Hill, which is at a distance of about 5 km from Namchi Town. Solophok Hill has a historical and religious significance, as it is believed that visiting this place washes away one’s sins. According to legends, during the Kurukshetra war between the Kauravas and Pandavas; Arjuna used to worship Lord Shiva here. Lord Shiva, pleased with Arjuna, appeared in the form of a hunter and his blessing is said to have helped the Pandavas win the war against the Kauravas.
Yuksom is old capital of Sikkim. The name `Yuksom` means the meeting place of three Lamas. Yuksom has special religious and cultural significance due to various historical monasteries around it. Being the old capital of Sikkim it is of historic importance also. It has a number of famous Buddhist monasteries and historical monuments.
Dzongri located at an altitude of 4,200 m is among the best trekking destinations not only in Sikkim but also in India. The trek to Dzongri is among the tougher ones in Sikkim. The trek to Dzongri starts from Yuksom in West Sikkim. The sights of the milky white peaks all around Dzongri are bound to keep you gazing with awe. Snowfall is common especially during the winter months.
This historical pace is 17 kms from Gangtok on the North Sikkim Highway. This is where the historic treaty of blood brotherhood between the Lepcha Chief Te-Kung-Tek and the Bhutia Chief Khey-Bum-Sa was signed ritually. The spot where the ceremony took place is marked by a me- morial stone pillar amidst the cover of dense forest.
One of the six major monasteries in Sikkim, Phodong monastery is located in the North approximately 38 kms from Gangtok, 4 kms beyond Phodong is the recently renovated labrang Monastery unique in it architectural design.
Guru-dongmar Lake is considered as one of the sacred lakes of this State both by the Buddhist and the Hindus. The lake remains milky in colour through out, and it is be- lieved that Guru Padmasambhava had touched the lake whilst he visited Tibet from this area.
It is located 32 Km away from Gangtok on the NH leading to North Sikkim. To facilitate the tourists to savour the pristine beauty and to be with nature, Sikkim Tourism Department has set up a waiting shed and cafeteria where they can take a break.
Yumthang, at an elevation of 11,800 ft and 140 kms from Gangtok is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and breathtaking scenic grandeur. The valley boasts a large variety of Rhododendrons and other alpine flowers.Yumthang ‘Tsa-Chu’or the hot spring of the left bank of Lachung Chu is immensely popular for its curative properties and heal- ing power.
A small and picturesque hamlet, Singhik is located around 4 kms away from Mangan. The popular Singhik View Point offers the most magnificent view of Mt. Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu . Surrounded by lush green hills, with the Teesta River flowing below it, Singhik is a great place to take a short break in before heading on to the other destinations of North Sikkim .
Chopta Valley is a popular tourist destination in North Sikkim. The valley can be reached from Lachen on the way to Gurudongmar Lake. Lachen is the place where you are most likely to stay overnight if you are traveling to North Sikkim destination of Gurudongmar lake.You will start early in the morning from Lachen and reach Chopta valley in about 2 hours. International tourists are not allowed to travel further North as the boarder to China is very close. Many Indian tourists, not comfortable with the extreme high altitude of Gurudongmar lake (About 17000 ft), limit their tour of the area to Chopta valley.The valley of flowers as it is known is a riot of colors during summer months. As you approach the valley, you can see the tall trees of Lachen area slowly going away and smaller shrubs becoming more common. Beyond Chopta valley greenery wanes even further and the pasture turns quite devoid of vegetation. From here the mountains starts to barren and sharp contrast to green Sikkim hills.
Tendong hill located above Damthang and overlooking South Headquerters town Namtse has become one of the most prominent landmarks in South Sikkim. It can be approached only by trekking which starts from Damthang, a 13 kms drive from Ravangla. The span of the trek route is around 6 kms which passes through lush green forest rich in Spectacular Flora and Wildlife. More than 90 species of birds, Himalayan Bears, leopards and illusive Red Pandas inhabit this forest. Hill top is at a height of 8660 ft offers a spectacular panoramic view of entire eastern Himalayas. This hill is a dormant volcano.Historically this has been a place of recluse for Buddhist Lamas who spend years in meditation amidst the silent scenic grandeur. As per the lepcha folklore Tendong Hill gets its name, meaning “ Upraised Horn” and the myths of Lepchas which passed on through generation are that, Tendong saved them from the great deluge, which submerged the entire world. This lore is an amazing resemblance with Noah’s Ark as Mount Ararat become the savour like Tendong Hill. It is a sacred place. Even today Lepchas pay homage to Tendong Hill on the occasion of Lho Rham Faat.A small monastery and a three storied watch towers are on the top. From the watch tower 360 degree view is really superb. No where from Sikkim offers such an astonishing view of the entire range. Mighty Kanchenjunga glitters like gold leads the show and towering above the all. The entire Singalila range in the west, Chola range in the east, part of Gangtok town, Nathu La, Darjeeling and part of the plains of West Bengal are visible from here.