Summer vacations are around the corner & everyone is looking around for destinations to chill around in the hills.
My pick for the ones who want to cradle their souls into nature’s lap, is the mesmerizing state of Sikkim. I’ve been here for around one year and have never felt as salve ever before. Sikkim carries a fragrance of tranquility in its air which sings you a soothing lullaby & you just soak yourself in its dreamy charm.
How to reach
You have to reach Gangtok via Bagdogra Airport or Njp Railway Stn which is 04-05 hours away by road,depends upon traffic congestion or 45 minutes (35 min fly time) by the Sikkim States Pawan Hans chopper service. The helicopter can accommodate 05 persons only and tickets can be booked online or bought at the airport. Booking details
On reaching Gangtok
The mesmerising charm and the exquisite weather of sikkim will leave you spelbound as would the happy faces and beauty of the local people.
Check in to a hotel. The choice of hotel depends upon your budget and requirements.My recommendation for those wanting to stay in a luxury hotel/resort would be the iconic Mayfair Gangtok which is an exclusive 5 star property having a unique ambiance & soulful aroma. Even if you cannot stay there, it is a must visit for a lunch or dinner if u love to pamper yourself in the lap of luxury.
Other hotels which fall in the 4 star segment & I found exquisite are Orange Villa, Denzong Regency, Summit Regency,Lemon Tree etc. Many other budgetary hotels are available in plenty along and near the MG Marg and Development Area which can be booked online.
A well located Tourist Info centre is located right at the entrance of MG Marg which can satisfy your queries. Vehicles on rent are available at fixed rates and a shuttle service is well poised for local sightseeing needs.
There are a handful of places which can be planned for a day trip with Gangtok as the base.
The road leading to Nathula Pass hosts a number of tourist spots which will take a full day to visit and enjoy. Notable are Bakthang water falls, Tashi View point (for a breataking view of Mt KanchenDzonga) temples Hanuman and Ganesh Tok, Himalayan Zoological Park and Changu or Tsomgo Lake. The flora and fauna of sikkim is a treat for all nature lovers.
Sikkim is also known as the ‘Land of Monasteries’. So if you want to brush yourself with a stroke of Tibetan architecture and spiritualism, then you must not miss the Rumtek & the Inche Monastery.
The Indo – China border pass Nathula is about 56 kms from Gangtok city at an altitude of 14,410 feet. With prior permission from the local authorities & local Army HQs you can visit the pass and view the Chinese check-post & have a real-time glimpse of the Chinese soldiers on this side of IB.(International Border) Nathula pass needs a special pass from Indian Army which you need to get separately.
*The pass remains closed on Monday and Tuesday for visitors.
People who travel with children. Though it is a nice trip to go up there, one will have to worry about altitude and the well being of the little children especially the one with Asthmatic problems.
Also the road is being widened for the last few years to make way for a proper 2 lane (thanks to the Army’s Border Road Organisation) there are still some rough patches and land slide prone zones. It is undoubtedly a little bone rattling drive especially in monsoon season !
A Lifetime Experience. Still, way to Nathula is an experience in itself. The beautiful Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake is nestled amidst picturesque mountains on the way. The view of the lake is a breathtaking experience which exhibits a tranquil charm. A Ropeway takes you for a ride into the clouds & Yak ride is also a delightful activity at the lake.
View Of Tsomgo Lake in Feb 2018
Baba Harbhajan Mandir. One of the landmarks of the visit is the Baba Harbhajan mandir constructed in the memory of an Indian Army soldier who died near the Nathula Pass. He is regarded by soldiers of the Indian army as the “Hero of Nathula”
After the visit, one would be filled with pride, seeing the harsh and inclement area well manned by the Indian Army, bravely against all odds. The trip can be effectively covered till afternoon, if one starts early in the morning.
The heart of Gangtok & one of the best maintained mall Roads till date.
A walk across MG road is a charming experience which offers gleaming, happy faces spreading vibrant energy. You may encounter a dreamy drizzle anytime of the day, so do carry your colourful umbrellas. The road is lined with a score of Cafes, pubs & restaurants which are alive & happening.
I’l mention a few of my favourites though there is a lot of scope of exploring for you.
Gangtok Groove offers Live bands on weekends which will certainly thump your heartbeats
Cafe Live & Loud gives you foot tapping Dj nights along with lip smacking food.
Cafe Sass & Guff, the new hot & quirky place in town with a menu offering a range of delicacies. Read more
O’sm , is awesome in the real sense. Its a favourite of my kids who are punjabi by heart & love the tandoori preparations of the place
The Coffee Shop, is a perfect choice if your taste buds are yearning for some Italian flavours.
Bakers Cafe, offers you an English world charm with lip smacking coffee, donuts and much more
Thakali, is a place for those looking for local cuisine and some amazing cocktails & mocktails
Nimtho, the new in town restaurant which gives you a glimpse of Nepalese village & authentic Nepalese & Sikkimese Cuisine.
Gangtok is known for it’s night life . With many discos & bars Gangtok is the only place in India after Goa which has Superb Casinos.
Mahjong at Mayfair, Deltin Denzong at Denzong regency and Park Royale keep the nightlife alive and kicking. All you would need is the lot of mullah!!Kids are not permitted in most of casinos…hence plan accordingly. Online Virtual Gaming zones(Golden Gaming as the popular one) are also available.
Activities to undertake in Gangtok
There are many refreshing treks & trekking packages available for those looking for a trekking holiday. To develop tourism Sikkim government offers many routes for trekking. Dzongri Trek, Singalila Trek, Goechala Trek, Greenlake Trek , Yumesamdong to name a few.
There are many biking routes which are covered by biker groups & enthusiastic cyclists every year. Even in Gangtok, there are shops which offer bikes on rent for a small biking day tour.
River Teesta at Milli, enroute from Bagdogra to Gangtok offers the adventure activity of river rafting. With a long stretch of rapids in icy cold water it is a long lasting experience.
Paragliding activity at Gangtok gives you wings to experience the magnificent view of the Valley.
Places to visit around Gangtok
There are two axis along which you can work out a plan
Ravangla – Pelling – Yuksam- Temi tea gardens
Pelling offers one of the most magnificent view of the mighty Kanchenjunga. A two night trip to Pelling is a great experience with a picturesque journey from Gangtok. A great no of hotels exist in this small town, is a testament on beauty it beholds. Notable in luxury segment are Elgin hotel, a beautiful heritage property, Norbugang resort and many others budget hotels.
The great buddha park at Rawangla is one of the most beautiful sites, one must not miss. Enroute are one of the most scenic Temi Tea gardens. The gardens display an exotic view of sprawling tea beds & mesmerizing scenery. You can also get the organic green tea from the Garden’s shop.
Lachen – Lachung – Yumthang – Gurudongmar.
This trip is recommended for the avid adventurers.
The saying ‘difficult roads lead to beautiful destination’ stands true for this axis.
It take approx 4- 5 hrs by road to reach Lachen from Gangtok. There the roads divides futher to two axis…one leading to Chaten – Thangu – Gurudongmar Lake and another to Lachen – Lachung – Yumthang valley.
The journey on this route begins with a 4-5 hour drive through mountains ranges covered with snow clad peaks till one reaches Lachen, a small town in North Sikkim located at a height of 10000 ft. Usually, a night halt at Lachen is recommended as it takes around 3-4 hours from Lachen to reach Gurudongmar lake . The route goes through lush green valleys and waterfalls as one reaches the Lachen village.
The closest village from Gurdongmar Lake is Thangu, at about 14000 ft. The drive through the mountain ranges is full of breathtaking views (do carry best of your cameras for most memorable pictures). Buses here are available frequently and one can even opt for a taxi or jeep from morning to evening. Many areas in these stretches are restricted and needs prior approval from state deptt. Passes would be available from the tourist centre at Gangtok.
Once you are back from Gurudongmar, you can plan to reach Lachung and halt for the night. Lachung, is another beautiful village with a splendid landscape.
From here, next morning you can move to Yumthang valley known as the Sikkim Valley of flowers which is again a breathtaking haven, with green pastures & rolling meadows. Next morning you can return to Gangtok.
I hope this write up tempts you to add Sikkim to your bucket list & helps you plan your itinerary. I will be more than glad to help you with any query regarding Sikkim. Just drop in a comment or Ask a query