The tinier the place, the bigger the attraction. Such is the appropriate tagline for Sikkim, the second smallest state in India after Goa. Located in the northeastern part of the country, Sikkim is rich with tall mountains, serene views, sacred lakes, old-fashioned villages and lively Buddhist Monasteries. So if you adore nature like no other, then this is your wonderland and that’s why we are here to give you an extensive Sikkim travel guide to make your journey blissful and memorable.
In this Sikkim tourism guide, we will take you through the history of Sikkim and how did it become an official state of India, the best places to visit in Sikkim, some more Sikkim tourist places that you can catch up with, the ideal route & time to travel to Sikkim and finally some essential tips to add more memories on your journey. So let’s get started before your plans get any more delayed!
MORE ABOUT “The Land of Alpine Beauty & Ancient Traditions”
Surrounded by multiple nations, Sikkim is connected with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north and northeast, the Koshi Province of Nepal in the West and the Kingdom of Bhutan in the east. In the south, it shares its borders with the Indian state of West Bengal. Besides, it is also located close to the Siliguri Corridor, which borders Bangladesh.
Sikkim is the second smallest state with an area of 7,096 sq. km. in India and the least populated with a population of 6,71,720 residents, per the Aadhar statistics. Geographically located in Eastern Himalayas, it is known to have subtropical and alpine climates. Alpine climates are typical for elevations. Trees fail to grow in this type of climate due to cold weather. Subtropical climates are featured by mild winters and hot summers.
Sikkim was a Kingdom founded in the 17th century by the Namgyal Dynasty. It attained the status of a Princely State of India in the year 1890. After Independence, it remained a monarchy that enjoyed the protection offered by the Union of India in 1947 and the Republic of India in 1950. It became the 22nd state of India in 1973 after the anti-royalist riots took place in the Chogyal palace which also led to the intervention of the Indian Army and finally, the dissolution of the monarchy. The capital of Sikkim is Gangtok, the state’s largest city.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SIKKIM
Get ready as we now take you through the list of the best tourist places in Sikkim:
Nathu La Pass
A vital trade link between India & China, Nathu La Pass is ideal for a splendid view of the Eastern Himalayas covered in snow. The pass remains open only for Indian nationals for specific days of the week. But even if you are an Indian you need a permit from Tourism and Civil Aviation Department to visit the route at least 24 hours in advance. This process can be done efficiently via a registered travel agency. At the time of receiving the permit, a valid identity proof with 2 passport-size photographs is required. Make sure you have an estimated idea of the weather before traveling to Nathu La since the roads leading to the pass are prone to avalanches and landslides.
An interesting story about the Pass is that it was sealed after a Tibetan uprising was suppressed by the People’s Republic of China in 1959. In 2003, then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China and with constant talks for opening the route, 2006 became the year when the Nathu La Pass was reopened after 4 plus decades.
Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial
If you are a genuinely patriotic person by heart, then this Memorial, located in East Sikkim, is a must-visit place for you. Furthermore, the story of the person to whom this memorial is dedicated is thrilling and will give you goosebumps for sure. Also known as “Baba Mandir,” the Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial is a tribute to the brave Indian Army Sepoy who served from 30 June 1965 until his death on 4 October 1968 serving in the 23rd Punjab Regiment. He was just 22 years old, but his legacy began with his death. It is believed that to this day, Baba Harbhajan Singh is serving his duty by coming into the dreams of Indian soldiers & informing them about the plans of the enemies.
To add more to this surprising story, even the soldiers on the other side of the border confirm the presence of a human figure patrolling in the nighttime. So, if this moved you and made you a little emotional, then head over to its location near Nathula Pass and with an approximate distance of 52 km from Gangtok.
The Rumtek Monastery is the largest in Sikkim located 23 km away from Gangtok and based at an elevation of 5,000 feet. This is for the ones who are fond of places that symbolize tranquility even in their existence. The monastery is built in a traditional Tibetan style of architecture and is considered to be the seat-in-exile of the Gyalwang Karmapa, the head of Karma Kagyu which is the sub-school of one of the 4 major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also the place where you can find the Golden Stupa, which holds the ashes and relics of the Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, also known as the 16th Karmapa and the one who inaugurated the place in 1966.
The place is so peaceful that even the Buddhist prayers chanted together by the students of the monastery will resonate deeply with your soul, thus giving inner peace. The monastery is surrounded by evergreen landscapes and flowing streams and its architecture reflects a charming vibrancy with the colorful murals. For those who are on a solo trip, this is the place where you attain absolute solitude.
Hanuman Tok & Ganesh Tok
The Ganesh Tok is located at a 6 km distance from Gangtok resting on a hilltop and the Hanuman Tok is ascended 4 km above the Ganesh Tok. The Ganesh Tok is home to Lord Ganesha’s temple and provides a magnificent view of the city of Gangtok, the Kanchenjunga and other peaks of the Eastern Himalayan region. The temple was built by the lead of Shri Appa B Pant, the former Political Officer of Sikkim. It was built in the years between 1952 and 1953. The road to the temple is decorated with colorful prayer flags which makes the journey much more fruitful in experience.
The Hanuman Tok, established in 1952, is best to view the peaks of the Himalayan ranges. However, a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman will be of premier interest to all travelers. Also, the place is maintained by the Indian Army, so don’t get surprised in case you see a priest in a camouflage-printed uniform! This is a place that will bless your soul with pure serenity in the environment.
Also known as Changu Lake, Tsomgo Lake is characterized by its crystal-clear water which reflects different colors based on different seasons throughout the year. However, the lake gets completely iced during the winter. When the winter gets over in May, you can see different species of flora blooming in the peripheral region. Rhododendrons, the state tree of Sikkim is one of them. Around the same region, you can find some fauna as well, such as Brahminy ducks and red pandas. The lake is surrounded by a splendid view of steep mountains covered in snow.
In the Bhutanese language, the word “Tsomgo” means “source of the lake.” It is indeed a water body for tourist attractions that will stand out amongst similar places because of its pre-mentioned characteristics that are unique in their ways. Also, you can have access to joy rides around the area on animals such as yaks and mules with multiple stalls offering you food and drinks in case you seek some refreshments for your body.
SOME MORE PLACES TO VISTS IN SIKKIM
When you are done exploring the above-mentioned places or you need more suggestions, we got you covered with some more Sikkim places to visit:
Lachung Gompa- It is one of the most alluring Buddhist monasteries. A must-visit when in North Sikkim.
Khecheopalri Lake- A water body kept in the highest regard by the Sikkimese Buddhists, the unique part about this lake is that it remains clean despite being surrounded by thick bushes.
Gurudongmar Lake- Considered holy by Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus alike, it is one of the highest alpine lakes in the world.
Pemayangste Monastery- An ancient Buddhist monastery and a vital one for sure, this place is surrounded by dense forests and magnificent views. It is a couple of kilometers away from Pelling in West Sikkim.
HOW TO VISIT SIKKIM?
Now that we have filled your brains to the brim with all the spectacular places to visit in Sikkim, it would be only fair if we can also provide you with the ideal route to reach your desired destination. If you want to opt for traveling by air, then you can book a flight to Pakyong Airport in the state which is approximately 35 km of distance from the capital city of Gangtok.
A railway station in Sikkim is under construction, so the nearest railway station is Siliguri railway station in the state of West Bengal, which is 145 km away from Gangtok. If you are going by road, then note that National Highway 31A connects Sikkim with other states so you can take any road transport to reach your destination.
SOME EXTRA TIPS ON TOURING SIKKIM
Summer is the best time to go to Sikkim. The weather is ideal for exploring the evergreen richness of nature and all the visiting places are in their welcoming form. If you are a photophile, summer is the best time to visit Sikkim with your cameras ready.
When in Sikkim, do not forget to eat Sikkimese food which includes: Momos, Thukpa, Kinema Curry, Sel Roti, Mesu, Gundrunk and Sinki Soup, Pakku & Shishnu.
In terms of activities, do not forget to try a Yak safari at Tsomgo Lake. You should go out for mountain biking to immerse yourself in a more intimate experience with nature without riding in polluting vehicles. Lastly, get out of your comfort zone and engage in the daring work of river rafting at Teesta River.
In this blog, you went through an extensive travel guide for Sikkim where you informed yourself about the origins of the state as a Kingdom and its evolution, the best tourist places in Sikkim along with some honorable mentions, the ideal routes to visit the place and finally, some extra information to add more pages on your travel diary.
Sikkim is a place where you interact with diverse perspectives from different people living together peacefully in the same place, from residents to Buddhist monks and brave Indian soldiers. So when you plan a trip to this place, know that it can potentially become a life-changing experience for you.