Photo credit: Shreyans Bhansali - flickr
Nestled in the lap of the Eastern Himalayas, lulled to sleep by a cool and refreshing breeze is the sleepy little city of Gangtok. The capital of Sikkim offers a panorama of the most delightful scenic beauty constituted by the magnificent peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, a blooming cover of rhododendrons interspersing the luxuriant foliage of the region and clear blue skies.
The famous Mt Kanchenjunga stands tall and intimidating in the horizon. In the earlier days, Gangtok has served as a transit point for traders between India and Tibet, but today the city has emerged as an important business and administrative centre.
Gangtok will surprise you with its impeccable cleanliness as, unlike other cities, the streets are free of littering and spit stains. The main street, M.G.Marg, bustles with people and is, undoubtedly, the most hip and happening place in Gangtok with hordes of people thronging the market for shopping.
Photo credit: Kalyan Neelamraju - flickr
Situated at an elevation of 5,800 feet, Gangtok is blessed with matchless natural beauty and a beautiful weather. A bi-cable Zig-back ropeway has been instituted to help visitors enjoy a bird’s view of this delightfully beautiful city. Besides its natural beauty, Gangtok also attracts a number of tourists throughout the year due to its rich Buddhist heritage.
[There are many treks for the adventurous to do around magnificent Sikkim]
The Gangtok Tour offers a visit to number of Buddhist monasteries, the most notable being the Enchey monastery, and stupas which has made Gangtok an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination. The Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology, also known as the Tibetology Museum, has a huge collection of masks, idols and scriptures of the Buddhist era. You will also find rare Sanskrit, Tibetan and Lepcha manuscripts conserved at the museum.
Tourism in Gangtok is the major industry of the state. A large number of visitors flock to Gangtok each year to rid themselves of the heat, stress and chaos of the cities.
Photo credit: Shreyans Bhansali - flickr
Places to visit while on a Gangtok Tour
1) Rumtek Monastery
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Situated at a distance of 24 km from Gangtok, the Rumtek is the largest monastery in Gangtok. It is located at an altitude of 1500 metres and was originally built by Wangchuk Dorje, the ninth Karmapa, in the 16th century. It is believed that the architecture of the Rumtek is based on that of the Tsurphu monastery in Tibet.
[Check out other tours and experiences we offer at Gangtok]
There is an adjacent building from where a Golden idol of the 16th Karmapa can be viewed. Mask dances are performed at the Rumtek monasteries on special occasions and religious festivals such as the Saga Dawas (birth anniversary of Lord Buddha); Guru Trungkar Tshechu (birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava) and Gutor Cham during Losar, which is the Tibetan New Year.
In course of time much of the monastery was destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1966 and was called the Dharma Chakra centre. The Rumtek monastery is one of the main sightseeing places for a Gangtok tour.
2) Nathu La Pass
Photo credit: Shayon Ghosh - flickr
The Nathu La pass lies about 54 Km east of Gangtok on the Indo Tibetan border. The pass remains open only four days in a week i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and you will need prior permissions from the Army to visit the pass.
Being located at an altitude of 14,140 ft, the scenic beauty of the place is indescribable. The temperature hovers around -3 degrees Centigrade and the landscape is covered in snow as far as the eye can reach.
[Experience and authentic Sikim experience as you hike the Khangchendzonga trek]
The Changu Lake at 12,400 ft is another place with mesmerising beauty. The temperatures and the topography make the region uninhabitable, but you will find defence personnel manning the borders even in such freezing temperatures.
3) Pemayangtse Monastery
Photo credit: Dhillan Chandramowli - flickr
This monastery is located at a distance of 140 Km from the capital city Gangtok. The Pemayangtse is one of the most important and premiere monasteries in Gangtok and serves as the headquarters of the Nyingma order of monasteries.
The monks of this monastery are chosen from Bhutia youth who are celibate and devoid of any physical abnormality. Interestingly, only the monks of the Pemayangtse are entitled to hold the title of ta-tshang. The head lama of Pemayangtse has the privilege of anointing the leaders of the erstwhile royalty of Sikkim with holy water.
[Go on a Sikkim Darjeeling biking tour against the scenic backdrop of The Himalayas]
The Pemayangtse is a beautifully designed and built monastery with paintings and statues of saints and Rinpoches, adorning the exteriors, set against a backdrop of the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas. Inside the monastery, you will find colourful paintings of great historical significance and is often included on a Gangtok tour
The monastery is situated at a height of about 2,085 metres and provides an excellent vantage point for viewing the Mt. Kanchenjunga. There are many statues of guru Padmasambhava inside the monastery. There is also the impressive seven-tiered zang-thok-palri or the celestial palace of the guru. Nyingma Buddhist tradition or red hat runs the monastery. There are a lot of dense forests around the monastery.
4) Hanuman Tok
Photo credit: Wasin Waeosri - flickr
The Hanuman Tok is an important temple near Gangtok. The temple is dedicated to Hanuman whom the Hindus worship with devotion. It is about five and a half kilometres away from Gangtok and is situated on the Gangtok-Nathu La highway at an altitude of 7,200 ft. The temple is maintained by a division of the Indian Army and is frequented by visitors on a Gangtok tour.
The royal family of Sikkim is cremated at a place very near to the temple. You get a wonderful view of Mt. Kanchenjunga from Hanuman Tok.
5) Rabdentse Ruins
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Rabdentse was the second capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim. It was destroyed by an invading Nepali army and today only ruins of the city can be seen. Although destroyed, the beauty of the architecture of the city can be gauged from the remnant pillars of the palace and chortens, attracting tourists that are on a Gangtok tour
6) Ban Jhakri Falls
[Experience the grandeur of Sikkim and Eastern India on our tour]
Situated just 4 km from Gangtok, the Ban Jhakri Falls boast of scenic splendour. The white misty spray of the waterfall is flanked by luxurious vegetation and flowers in myriad colours. The area has been developed into an energy park and you can taste some delicious trout at the park’s cafeteria.
7) Tashi Viewpoint
Photo credit: Mukesh Chapagain - flickr
Constructed by the King of Sikkim, the Tashi viewpoint provides a fantastic view of the Mount Kanchenjunga. Besides, the Phodong and Labrong monasteries can also be viewed from this point. Complete with a park and cafeteria, the Tashi Viewpoint is fully equipped for the relaxation and entertainment of tourists.
8) Tsomgo Lake
Photo credit: Roopesh Chander - flickr
[Visit beautiful mountain lakes on the Green Lake Trek in Gangtok]
Tsomgo in Bhutia language means ‘source of the lake’. This beautiful lake is situated at a height of 12,000 feet along the Gangtok Nathu La highway. It remains frozen for most part of the year i.e. till mid-May. However, it thaws between May and August, triggering a spurt of blooming tulips, irises and rhododendrons around it. The picturesque beauty of the lake is enhanced by a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva near it. As the area is restricted, you will need special permissions to visit this lake.
9) Enchey Monastery
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[Take a cultural holiday in Sikkim, visiting beautiful temples and monasteries]
Believed to have been started as a small meditation centre by Lama Drupthop Karpo, an exponent of tantric Buddhism who could fly, the Enchey Monastery is the one of the most religiously important monasteries in Gangtok. The people of Sikkim hold it in high regard as, according to local belief, Guru Padmasambhava had subdued the spirits of the Khangchenzonga, Yabdaen and Mahakala here. The Enchey Monastery is also believed to house of the spirit of the protecting deities.
10) Do Drul Chorten
Photo credit: lionel.viroulaud - flickr
The Do Drul Chorten is a pristine white stupa which was built by the head of the Nyingma order, Trulshik Rinpoche, in 1945. The stupa houses various religious objects and artefacts pertaining to Buddhism.
11) Local Cuisine in Gangtok
Photo credit: Pankaj Kaushal - flickr
We all have tasted local momos and dumplings at road side eateries and Chinese restaurants. But do not miss the authentic taste of Nepali and Tibetan cuisines, while on a Gangtok tour. Do not forget to try Thukpa, a kind of soupy noodles, which is based of Tibetan cuisine. If you are fond of pork, you will love the pork curry served with bamboo shoots at the local restaurants.
The cuisine is Sikkim uses different kinds of ferns, nettle and fermented rice products in the food, imparting it an unforgettable taste. You will also find non-vegetarian pickles in handy bottles for sale in the market.