Sikkim offers the magical feel of a Himalayan fairytale land. It is an amazing place of hidden valleys, mystical monasteries, snow-fed lakes and a mountain setting covered with flowers and forests.
This former kingdom is home to three major population groups - Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali - providing a colorful composite of cultures. Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world at 8,586 m, dominates the landscape and is revered as Sikkims guardian deity.
Sikkim is a state of India tucked in the Himalaya across Nepals eastern frontier. It is crammed in between Tibet (China) to the north, Bhutan to the east and the Indian state of West Bengal to the south.
Gangtok (population 50,000 and elevation 1,780 m) is the capital of Sikkim. It is a charming, laid-back town straddling a ridge with houses spilling down the hillside. The places to visit are Enchey Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery; Institute of Tibetology which houses rare statues, manuscripts, ritual objects and thanka paintings; Do-Drul Chorten, an impressive stupa ringed by prayer wheels; Government Institute of Cottage Industries for fine souvenirs like choktse (carved low tables), thanka paintings and carpets; and the exotic market of Lal Bazaar.
Rumtek Monastery, a 24-km drive from Gangtok, is the seat of the Gyalwa Karmapa Lama. The sacred Tsomgo Lake (elevation 3,780 m) is situated 38 km to the east of Gangtok amidst picturesque mountains. The famed Nathula Pass (4,392 m) on the old caravan trail to Tibet is 20 km further on from Tsomgo Lake.
In north Sikkim, Yumthang (3,782 m) is a mesmerizing scene with yaks grazing on flower-carpeted meadows against a backdrop of towering peaks. The 134-km drive from Gangtok to Yumthang takes you through Kabi Longstok, where Sikkimese history began in the 13th century with the signing of the treaty of brotherhood between Lepcha and Tibetan chiefs; Phodong Monastery, one of the six major monasteries in Sikkim; Chungthang (1,586 m), a sacred place blessed by Guru Rimpoche; and Lachung (2,684 m), an idyllic valley surrounded by mist-shrouded mountains.
In west Sikkim, Pemayangtse Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist lamasery of the Nyingmapa Order, is a 112-km drive from Gangtok; Sangacholing Monastery, built in 1697, is one of the oldest in the state; Khecheopalri Lake is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists; Yuksam is Sikkims original capital; and Tashiding Monastery, built in 1717, is famed for its stupa.
In south Sikkim, Namchi, a 78-km drive from Gangtok, offers panoramic vistas of the snow peaks; Tendong Hill (2,623 m) and Menam Hill (3,141 m) provide unmatched views extending from the Himalaya to the plains of Bengal; and Temi Tea Garden is an opportunity to see how the aromatic leaves are grown and processed.
PERMITS & TRANSPORT
In addition to an Indian visa, foreign travellers must possess an Inner Line Permit to visit Sikkim. If you are visiting the interior regions, you also require a Protected Area Permit which is obtainable in Gangtok. Tour arrangements should be made through a registered travel agent who will handle the official formalities.
Transport services are provided by four-wheel drive vehicles. Taxis are available for getting around Gangtok. Sikkim Helicopter Service operates sight-seeing flights to different points in Sikkim.
Sikkim is a mountainous land crisscrossed by deep ravines.
Access: From Kathmandu, fly to Bhadrapur in east Nepal (1 hour), then drive to Kakarbhitta (Nepal-India border, 34 km), to Siliguri (36 km) and to Gangtok (110 km, 3 hours 30 minutes). There are also daily helicopter flights from Bagdogra airport near Siliguri to Gangtok (20 minutes).
Season: March-May and October-December are the best times to visit. Bring light woolen clothing during summer (maximum temperature 20.7 degrees Celsius) and heavy woolens during winter (minimum 7.7 degrees).
Adventure: Trekking, mountaineering, rafting and yak safari.
Accommodation: There are modern hotels and restaurants in Gangtok. Comfortable resort lodges are available in the outlying areas.
For more information, contact Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, MG Marg, Gangtok, Sikkim, India; Tel: 91-3592-22064; Fax: 91-3592-25647; Websites: www.sikkim.nic.in; www.sikkiminfo.com; www.sikkimindia.com
MD Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd.,
Tripureswor, P. O. Box 3525, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel: 260327, 256003 . Telex: 2611 EMC NP. Fax: 977-1-261159.
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Last Updated: 24 July, 2000
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