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India Travel Guide

Places To See In Sikkim

Places of interest in Sikkim narrate the Himalayan folklore.

Sikkim is divided into four districts, namely East Sikkim, West Sikkim, North Sikkim and South Sikkim. Each of the districts of this beautiful Himalayan kingdom is endowed with places that are sure to capture the interest and the imagination of tourists.

East Sikkim

Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and is also the district capital of the eastern region of Sikkim. Perched at an altitude of 5,500 feet, the name Gangtok aptly means hilltop. One of the popular tourist destinations in Sikkim, Gangtok truly has a cosmopolitan flavour.

Religious Places - Monasteries

Do-Drul Chorten - Reverend Trulshi Rimpoche, the head of the Nyingma order of Buddhism built this famous stupa in 1945. This gold-topped stupa houses complete mandala sets of Dorjee Phurba (Bajra Kilaya), a collection of Kan-gyur relics or the holy books and various other religious objects including the complete Zung or the mantras.

Surrounding the famous stupa is 108 Prayer Wheels or the Mani-Lhakor. The devout Buddhist turns these wheels while reciting chants to invoke the Bodhisattva. Two giant statues of Guru Rimpoche also known as Guru Padmasambhava surround this sacred structure. Located within the portals of the Royal Palace, the Tsuk La Khang monastery is the imperial gompa of the erstwhile royal family of Sikkim. Walls and the altar are adorned lavishly and houses the idols of Buddha, Bodhisattva among others. Buddhist festivals like Phang Lhabsol and the Tibetan New Year; Losoong is celebrated at this monastery every year. Chaam dance is performed during the festivities.

Temples

Hanuman Tok - Located on the bifurcation road of the Gangtok - Nathula Highway, this temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman can be reached after a 5 km uphill climb from the White Hall. The Indian Army maintains the temple. The area provides picturesque views of Gangtok and its adjoining hills. The snow-capped peaks of Mt. Khangchendzonga can also be seen. One can also catch a glimpse of the Selep Waterworks, which provides drinking water to Gangtok. It is located a few hundred feet below Hanuman Tok.

Ganesh Tok - This small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh, is located on a hillock on the Gangtok-Nathula Road. The area offers spectacular views of the town of Gangtok and the Raj Bhawan. On a clear day, tourists can capture breathtaking views of Mt. Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu as well.

A garden full of pine trees adjoins the Ganesh Tok.

Wildlife

Himalayan Zoological Park - This area also known as Bulbuley, is one of the more recent establishments in Sikkim. The Zoological Park houses some of the native fauna of Sikkim. The park is located across the road from Ganesh Tok. Visitors can see and observe Red Pandas, Barking Deers, Bears and other animals in large enclosures, which simulate their natural environment.

Institutes

Cottage Industries Institute - Also known as the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms, the place was set up with the purpose of propagating and keeping alive the traditional arts and crafts of the region. The institute set up by the Chogyals of Sikkim brings together local artists and craftsmen. Visitors can view and purchase from the exquisite collection of traditional hand carved furniture, hand-woven carpets, handicraft items, blankets and shawls among many other things that are on display at the venue.

The institute is closed on all Second Saturdays, Sundays and on all Government Holidays.

Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology - It is recognized the world over as an important centre for studies in Buddhist religion and philosophy. Founded by Palden Thondup Namgyal, the institute has a large repository of Tibetan literature, rare Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, paintings, thangkas, statues and other important Buddhist religious icons.

The institute is open throughout the week including government holidays from 10 AM to 4 PM.

Tashi Viewpoint - Tourists abound this popular scenic spot located at a distance of 4 kms from the Gangtok town centre. Built by the Late King of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal, the viewpoint offers breathtaking views of Mt. Khangchendzonga. The hills opposite Mt. Khangchendzonga housing the Phodong and the Labrang monastery can also be seen from this viewpoint.

Parks and Gardens

Saramsa Gardens - The garden established by the Department of Forests is famous for its exotic orchids and other rare tropical and temperate plants. Also known as the Ipecac Garden after the name of the species grown here, the Saramsa Gardens is a popular recreation and a picnic spot as well. A large greenhouse at the Saramsa Gardens accommodates various species of plants including the medicinal variety.

Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden - Maintained and operated by the Department of Forests, Government of Sikkim, the botanical garden is famous for its rare and exotic species of Himalayan plants and trees and orchids. The garden is located very close to the Rumtek Monastery.

Water Garden - Located on National Highway 31-A at Martam Khola, the garden is a popular picnic spot. The water garden is at a distance of 16kms from Gangtok city centre.

Others

Flower Show Hall - Sikkim is one of the ecological hotspots in India, in line with this the flower show held close to the White Hall Complex in Gangtok has become a year round feature. The Spring Orchid Festival draws a large number of tourists and other nature lovers to the venue.

The Ridge - This small stretch of plain, flat road is at a walking distance of 15 minutes from the main market in Gangtok. The White Hall and the Chief Ministers Official Residence known as the Mintogang meaning the blossomed crowned hilltop is on one end and the Palace Gate with its characteristic Pagoda rooftop at the other end of the Ridge. A resting shed built in traditional Tibetan style is also located on the Ridge. The area is lined with numerous plants and trees. The Ridge is a treat to watch when the flowers and trees are in full bloom.

White Hall - Located on the Ridge, this two-storeyed structure was built during the British times. Named after the first political officer of Sikkim, Claude White. The White Hall houses an Officers Club and a Badminton Court.

Sikkim Time Corporation Limited - Set up in 1977, the Sikkim Time Corporation Limited or SITCO was one of the first industrial units set up in this part of the country. Located at a distance of 1.5 km from Gangtok town centre, SITCO today has over 4 units, which manufacture quality mechanical watches and watch crowns. Watches can be bought at ex-factory price from a showroom located within the campus.

Open from 9 AM to 5 PM on all days except Sundays and national holidays.

West Sikkim

Geyzing or Gyalshing is the district capital of West Sikkim. The district capital is about 117 kms from Gangtok. The bountiful nature seems to be at its best at Geyshing located at an altitude of 6,500 ft. The region also serves as the base point to mountaineering and trekking expeditions to the Himalayas.

Religious Places - Monasteries

Sanga-Choling Monastery - Built in 1697 AD, the Sanga-Choling Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in the region. It is situated on a ridge above Peeling and the Pemayangtse Monastery. The path to the monastery takes one through forest cover and a 40-minute uphill trek.

Heritage Sites

Rabdentse Ruins - Rabdentse was the seat of the erstwhile monarchy till 1814 AD. It was the second capital of Sikkim after Yuksom. The area today lies in ruins, but nevertheless tells a story of the glorious past. The ruins are at a walking distance from the Pemayangtse Monastery. The view from the top of the ruins captures everything from the deep valleys of the region to the lofty peaks of Mt. Khangchendzonga.

Norbugang - The Archaeological Survey of India maintains this ancient historical site. Within walking distance from Yuksom, this area is marked by a stone throne shaded by a 300-year-old fir tree. This was the place where the first chogyal king of Sikkim was consecrated by the three lamas.

A footprint in stone in front of the throne is believed to be that of Lhatsun Namkha Jigme, one of three lamas who consecrated the first Chogyal of Sikkim. A nearby chorten contains soil and water from all over Sikkim.

Lakes

Khecheopalri Lake - Known as the Wishing Lake, this lake is worshipped by both Buddhist and Hindus. The tranquil surroundings comprising of verdant green forests add to the sanctity of the Khecheopalri Lake. No commercial activity is allowed near the lake. There is a Trekkers Hut and Pilgrims Hut both owned and operated by the Department of Tourism. The Lepchas surround the adjoining areas.

Others

Geyzing - Also known, as Gyalshing is the district capital of the Western district of Sikkim. Buses and taxis regularly ply from Gangtok to Geyzing located at a distance of 117 kms. from the state capital. At an altitude of 6,500 ft. Geyzing enjoys temperate climate with snowfall in winters. Geyzing is also directly connected to Darjeeling and Kalimpong via Jorethung.

Palling - This scenic, laidback village lies at a distance of 125 kms from Gangtok and 133 kms from Siliguri. Situated at an altitude of 6800 ft above sea level, Pelling offers spectacular views of the mountain ranges surrounding the area. This locational advantage has been hugely responsible for the growth of Pelling as a tourist destination. Several hotels, lodges have mushroomed in the recent past, transforming this tiny hamlet into a bustling town.

Yuksom - Also known as Yuksam, this village has its name etched in all history books. Yuksom was the first capital of Sikkim and this was the place where the first chogyal of Sikkim, Phuntsog Namgyal was consecrated by the three wise lamas. Situated at the edge of Khangchendzonga National Park, the village of Yuksom is a biodiversity hot spot. Yuksom lies at a distance of 32 kms from Pemayangtse Monastery. An all weather road connects the two places. The trek to Dzongri and to the base camp of Mt. Khangchendzonga starts from Yuksom.

Bersay - This village situated at an altitude of 10,500 ft. is famous for its Rhododendron forests. To experience the rhododendrons in full bloom, plan a trip between mid March to April end. Spread over 104 sq. km. the Bersay Rhododendron Sanctuary is located on the Singalila Range, which forms a natural border with Nepal. There are three access points to Bersay from Hilley, Dentam and Soreng. The road from Hilley to Bersay is packed with tourists during the rhododendron flowering season. The forests are ablaze with a riot of colours, from bright red to a more peaceful and serene white, rhododendrons of all hues cover the landscape of the region. Set against the backdrop of the awe-inspiring mountains this is truly a sight not to be missed.

North Sikkim

The largest of all the four districts, Mangan is the district capital of North Sikkim. Known for its sublime beauty, the northern part of Sikkim is often called the Switzerland of India. The rugged mountainous terrains of the region render many parts of the district inaccessible to tourists or require special permits. High pastures, frozen lakes, ancient monasteries, holy chortens and strikingly high mountains like Mt. Siniolchu are part of the landscape of this region.

Religious Places - Monasteries

Phodong Monastery - Situated at a distance of 39 kms from Gangtok, the Phodong Monastery is one of the six major monasteries in Sikkim. Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal is credited with building this monastery belonging to the Kagyu tradition. Noteworthy feature of this monastery are the paintings, which adorn its walls.

Phensang Monastery - This monastery belonging to the Nyingma order was built in 1721 AD during the time of Jigme Pawo. The monastery was gutted down in a fire in 1947 but was rebuilt in 1948 by the effort of the Lamas. Chaam festival celebrated on the 28th and the 29th day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar is a big affair at the monastery.

Labrang Monastery - Located close to the Phodong Monastery, the Labrang Monastery was built after 100 years of the former one. Literally meaning the Dwelling of the Lamas, the Labrang Monastery was built to commemorate Latsun Chembo of Kongpu (Tibet), credited with founding the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism.

Heritage Sites

Chungthung - This area is the point of origin of the Teesta River. The Lepcha community dominates this region located at a distance of 95 kms from Gangtok. The place popular with tourists visiting the village is a rock, which is believed to have been the rock on which Guru Padmasambhava had rested. The rock also bears his footprints. A small paddy field adjoins the area. This is believed to be the area where Guru Padmasambhava had sprinkled a few grains. Paddy has grown there ever since defying conditions that are ideal for its sustenance.

Kabi Longstok - Situated enroute to Yumthang from Gangtok, this place has its name etched in Sikkimese history. This was the place where in the 13th century the treaty of blood brotherhood was signed between the Lepcha and the Tibetan chief. A small memorial stone marks the area.

Lakes

Guru Dongmar Lake - At an altitude of 17,000 ft., the Guru Dongmar Lake is perhaps one of the highest lakes in the world. Held in great reverence by Buddhist and Hindus, the lake is situated very close to the Indo-China border. It is believed that this lake was touched and sanctified by Guru Padmasambhava also known as Guru Dongmar. The tranquil and serene water of the lake always appears milky white. Pilgrims make a trip to this sacred lake, the waters of which are said to have curative properties as well.

Scenic Viewpoints

Singhik - To capture some great shots of Mt. Khangchendzonga, head to this area in North Sikkim. Several nature trails 1-3 days long originate from this area. The snow-capped peaks of Mt. Siniolchu are also visible clearly from this area.

Yumthang Valley - A haven for nature enthusiasts. Yumthang also called the Valley of Flowers, is bestowed with the most diverse flora and fauna, truly a visual treat to the eyes and the senses. Situated at an altitude of 11,800 ft., Yumthung is famous for its Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. The sanctuary boasts of 24 different species of the plant. Yumthang Tsa-Chu, a hot water spring close to the Lachung Chu River is famous for its medicinal and healing properties. Foreigners require the Inner Line Permit to visit this area.

Wildlife Sanctuaries

Kanchenjunga National Park - Known to be the largest wildlife reserve in Sikkim, the Kanchenjunga National Park is a biodiversity hotspot spread over 850 sq. km. in North Sikkim. The national park also holds the gigantic Zemu glacier in its periphery. Ranging in altitude from 1829 to 8585 metres, the park touches the base of Mt. Kanchenjunga on its western border. The varied elevation also supports the growth and survival of different species of flora and fauna.

The animals that be found in this area include the Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Tibetan Antelope, Wild Ass, Barking Deer, Musk Deer, Flying Squirrel, Himalayan Thar, Tibetan Wolf, Red Panda among many others. This eco-reserve is home to more than 550 species of avian fauna including Blood Pheasants, Osprey, Himalayan Griffon, Snow Pigeon etc.

Many species of medicinal plants can also be found here at the park.

Others

Mangan - The district capital of North Sikkim lies at a distance of 65 kms from Gangtok. A self-sufficient hamlet, Mangan still preserves the cultural traditions that are unique to this region. Famous for the Phodong and the Phensang Monastery, tourists can also enjoy exhilarating views of Mt. Siniolchu, a range of Mt. Khangchendzonga.

Lachung - This predominantly Bhutia village has emerged as a tourist hotspot in recent years, owing to its proximity to Yumthang (25 kms). Lachung is known for its monastery, which acts as the point of congregation for all religious festivities associated with the community. To catch a glimpse of the local traditions, a visit to the monastery on any auspicious day would be a good idea.

Lachen - This area of North Sikkim has just been recently made accessible to domestic and foreign tourists. Gangtok to Lachen takes about 6 hours. This small hamlet is known for its monastery. Lachen is also the origin point for the Green Lake Trek and the trek to the Kanchenjunga National Park. Tourists can visit the Chopta Valley, Gurudongmar Lake and the Cholamu Lake (the source for the River Teesta). Gurudongmar Lake is however off limits to foreign nationals.

Chopta Valley - Imagine walking on frozen rivers This dream can be very much achieved at the Chopta Valley. This region of North Sikkim is accessible from Mangan through Thangu. This heavenly abode lies at a dizzying altitude of 13,200 ft. and is covered with alpine vegetation, orchids, rhododendrons etc. Tourists can also trek to the Muguthang Valley (15,500 ft.) from the Chopta Valley.

Yumesamdong - Situated at a distance of 15 kms from the Yumthang Valley, Yumesamdong is a land of perennial snow. Sheppards on yaks can be seen roaming the area. This place is known for its 15 hot water springs, known for their medicinal properties. The water from the springs has been diverted into several pools for one to have a nice soak.

South Sikkim

Namchi is the district capital located at a distance of 78 kms from Gangtok.

Religious Places - Hills and Mountains

Tendong Hill - Situated at an altitude of 8,530 ft., the Tendong Hill is perhaps one of the best-known landmarks in south Sikkim. Tendong in Lepcha means the upraised horn, legend has it that when floods struck the area, a boat is supposed to have saved lives by rising above the flood waters in the shape of a horn. Till today, the people here believe the hills to be their protector and saviour and worship the hills to protect them from any more calamities in the future.

Wildlife Sanctuaries

Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary - This wildlife sanctuary spread out in the southern district of Sikkim is easily accessible by buses and taxis from Namchi. True to the meaning of Maenam treasure house of medicines, this area is a haven for medicinal plants. Situated above the Tendong Hill, the sanctuary is home to the Barking Deer, Red Panda, Serow, Goral, various species of cats etc. Among the birds, one can hope to see the Blood Pheasant, Magpies, Common Hill Partridge, Black Eagle etc.

Others

Namchi - Known for its spectacular scenic locales, Namchi literally meaning Sky High, is nestled among snow-capped mountains at an altitude of 5,500 ft. Namchi is also the district capital of South Sikkim. On top of the Samdruptse Hilltop is erected the world's tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava (118 ft. in height), the patron saint of the Buddhist and the Hindus.

 

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Tourist Information - Sikkim
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