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Sunday, August 2, 2009

India Travel: Gangtok - "the lofty hill" in Sikkim in North-East India

General Information :
- Altitude: 1600 meters.
- Language: Nepali, Sikkimese, Bhutia, Lepcha, Hindi, English.
- Best time to visit: Gangtok enjoys a gentle, moderate climate all year through. Mercury levels range from an average maximum of 22°C in summer (March to June) to an average minimum of 4°C in winter during December to February. Best time to visit is September to March.

All good things in life come in small packets and Gangtok is a good illustration. Be it the rich flora, the beautiful people, or the serene Buddhist monasteries, this small town, occupies an important position in the itinerary of tourists in search of tranquility from the humdrum of modern life. The eastern state of Sikkim lies couched between the borders of Nepal and Bhutan. Gangtok became the capital of the state in the 19th century and lies to the south of the district of East Sikkim. It is a hilly town and spreads down the western side of a long ridge flanking the Ranipul River.

Location of Gangtok on Google Maps:

View Larger Map

Tourist Maps of Gangtok and Sikkim (link,
Gangtok In and Around Map (link)

An air of enchantment hangs over the city, indeed the whole valley; the mysticism, the stupas, the monasteries reach out as soon as one has crossed the border. While across the hills and valleys comes the sounding of the long trumpets by robed lamas.

Places to Visit :
1. Do Drul Chorten : It is regarded as the most important ’stupa’ of Sikkim. This stupa also has sacred gold-topped shikhara with 108 prayer wheels.
2. ENCHEY MONASTERY : The Enchey monastery literally means the solitary temple. This place especially attracts attention during the religious dances or ’Chaam’ performed in January.
3. Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology : The institute promotes research on Mahayana Buddhism.
4. Pemayangtse Monastery : This Monastery is located at the hill top and gives a wonderful view of the Himalayan ranges and the surrounding hills of the region.
5. Government Institute Of Cottage Industries : t was established with the purpose of promoting the manufacture and sale of local handicrafts. Thankas (also spelt as Thangkas), hand carved wooden tables - known as Choksees and exquisitely woven woolen carpets.
6. Lachung : This is the area inhabited by the Lachungpas, a hardy mountain people who consider themselves quite different from the Bhutias and the Tibetans. The lush green, terraced hillsides, even in winter, were a testimony to the grit and determination of these people.
7. Phurchachu Reshi Hot Springs : These springs are considered holy as one of the four holy caves is located here. This holy cave is called the "Kadosangphu" or 'Cave of the occult fairies' and lies on the south of the four cardinal points.
8. Orchid Sanctuary : The sanctuary is famous for its rare and extensive collection of orchids.
9. Namgyal Institute : Namgyal Institute was built in the year 1958 to promote research in Mahayan Buddhism and Tibetan language and traditions.
10. Tsuk La Khang : A depository of a large collection of scriptures, this is the principal place of worship and assembly for the local Buddhists. The Tsuk la Khang is also characterised by the beautiful and impressive building with mural covered interior, lavishly decorated altars or images of Buddha, bodhisattvas and Tantric deities and the many fine works of woodcarving.

Excursions from Gangtok :
1. Kabi Longstok : 25-km from Gangtok, here is a spot amidst tall trees, where the treaty of brotherhood between, the Lepcha Chieftan - Tetong Tek and the Tibetan chief Khye Bhumsa was signed.
2. Changu Lake : 35-km from Gangtok.
3. Chungthang : 95-km from Gangtok.
4. Ganesh Tok : 7-km from Gangtok.
5. Hanuman Tok : 11-km from Gangtok.
6. Menmecho Lake : 20-km from Gangtok.
7. Phoodong Monastery : 40-km from Gangtok.
8. Tashi View Point : 8-km from Gangtok.
9. The Ipecac Garden : 14-km from Gangtok,
10.Yumthang : 149-km from Gangtok.
11.Yumthang Hot Springs : 135-km from Gangtok.
12.Nathula : It is a mountain pass situated about 56 km from Gangtok at an altitude of about 14,200 ft and is covered with rich varieties of alpine flora and fauna.

Places To Stay In Gangtok
1. Heritage Hotels
* Norkhill Heritage Hotel, Paljor Stadium Road
* Himalayan Heights Hotel, Palzor Stadium Road
2. Luxury Hotels
* Royal Plaza Hotel
* Hotel Tashi Delek (4 Star), Mahatma Gandhi Marg
* Nor-Khill Hotel (4 Star), Paljor Stadium Road
* Hotel Dew Pond (3 Star), P.S. Road
* Hotel Central (3 Star), 31A, National Highway
* The Oriental (3 Star), Mahatma Gandhi Marg
3. Deluxe Hotels
* Hotel Rigwa, M.G. Marg
* Orange Village
* Sidlon Residency
* Hotel Sonam Palgey
* Shambhala Mountain Resort
* New Castle
* Chumbi Residency
* Hotel Rendezvous

How to reach there ?
- Nearest Airport Bagdogra Airport (16km)
- Nearest Train Stations New Jalpaiguri (124 km)
- Main Road Highways NH 31A

External articles:

1. Long journey - section of Gangtok (link): Bike journey with photos of difficulties
2. Sikkim’s Gangtok: The Place where great journeys begin (link)

Sikkim is bounded by Bhutan to its east, Nepal to its West and China to its north. The southern boundary is shared with the state of West Bengal. The topography of Sikkim is such that the entire state is covered with beautiful hills and mountains. Not just a tourism destination, it is also a paradise for naturalist and environmentalists owing to its wealth of flora and fauna. There have been many expeditions related to zoological and botanical research leading to the discovery of a number of plants and animals. It is also the spiritual center for Buddhists all over the world and has around 250 monasteries, each having its own peculiar history and traditions.

3. Hotels in Darjeeling and Gangtok (link)
4. Forum post on trip to Darjeeling (link1, link2, link3)
5. Gaga about Gangtok (link)
Our first stop was at the Rumtek Monastery. The Monastery consists of the main shrine-temple, a retreat centre, a monastic college (Shedra), a nuns’ hostel, some stupas, a protector’s shrine, and some other establishments for the community. I was awed by the vibrant basic colors of the walls, festoons, and chandeliers in the monastery.

6. adventures of mak & mainu (link): Many photos of Gangtok as well
So there we were finally, the long awaited Gangtok. Saw the sikkimese people with their chic clothes and finest shoes, supposed to be brought in from china. We checked-in to Sonam Palgey hotel, touted to be one of the best in the area, located right under the Gangtok ropeway. After a warm shower and some rest we went out to explore the area. Started with the Rumptek Monastery, seeing the monks in their maroon robes reminded me of those Dalai Lama movies, the peaceful serenity of the monastery was capturing.

7. Gangtok Hill Station (link)
Gangtok in Sikkim is well connected by roads, rail and air transport. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra in West Bengal. There are helicopter services from Bagdogra to Sikkim. The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, which is connected by regular trains from different cities in India. One can easily reach Gangtok by road from the airport and the railway station. The city is connected with West Bengal by all weather roads which connect Siliguri and Kalimpong in West Bengal with Sikkim.

8. Love to travel (link)
The nearest train station to Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri which has direct connections to New Delhi, Kolkata, and other major cities in India. It is a 10-12 hour journey from Kolkata. From New Jalpaiguri, you can either hire a taxi from the station itself or take an auto-rickshaw to the Siliguri bus stand. From there, you have the option of traveling to Gangtok by state bus, roughly a 5-6 hour journey.

9. Alistair D'Souza (link)
Gangtok is 140 km from Bagdogra Airport. You can take a vehicle from the airport to gangtok. No need of booking anything in advance.

10. Travelling India (link)
11. One step closer to Freedom (link)
The road to Gangtok was really breathtaking. Its surely a must try. But today, it had a lot of traffic snarls with the mud and rocks still being cleared with bulldozers. In one place, we were held up for almost an hour. Maybe there was a landslide here last night, I wondered. But the delay there, gave me a unique oppurtunity to take photos of the Kanchenjunga peak which was slowly coming out of the clouds. Let me tell you one thing. The first time you see a mountain peak for real is very special. I have seen many photos of this peak before. But only when you stand here, you get to see the relative size of the peak with everything else around you. That, my friend, you can't get in a photo. For people like me from the plains, its truly a breathtaking experience to see a mountain peak.

12. Travel & Work, Work & Travel (link). Some great photos of Gangtok.
To my amazement, and utter joy, she stayed for a bit. And then she also rubbed up against the fence and I got a chance to touch the soft, soft fur. That touch seemed to have lasted, because for the next minute or so she pushed into the fence, and I dug my fingers further into her fur. Behind her ear, on her shoulder blades, neck, even (and I admit my foolishness in going this far) but was able to pet her underbelly a bit.

13. Destination Gangtok (link)
The tourist attractions in Gangtok include museums, monasteries and quaint surroundings. The Deer Park is a must-see tourist spot commanding a breathtaking view of the valleys neighboring the city of Gangtok against the backdrop of the elegant Mt. Kanchenjunga. The park is home the rare red panda and the Himalayan Bear. Dul Dul Chortena also features among the popular tourist attractions in Gangtok that was built under the direction of the late most respected Rimpoche and is a place of worship for the Tibetan Buddhists.

14. Discover India (link)
The inhabitants of Gangtok are chiefly dependent on tourism, which is the most important occupation for the residents. A number of superior international standard hotels have turn up in the recent years to cater the escalating demand of tourists. All these hotels are extravagantly built and decorated and offer service which is a combination of conventional hospitality along with modern professionalism.

15. Guide to Gangtok (link)
The name Gangtok is derived from the Tibetan word for 'hillside,' and the city currently has a population of around 80,000 - a mixture of indigenous Sikkimese and people of Lepcha,Bhutia Nepalese and Tibetan ancestry along with people from across India settled and engaged in trade and business activities.

16. Adrian Cycling across Sikkim (link)
I'm now in Gangtok, which seems a very pleasant place so far. It's got a wide pedestrianised main street with no litter. This is a first for me in India (outside of shopping malls) and it's very nice. I'm not sure how they enforce it – I suspect large fines and men with sticks. Sikkim is noticeably quite wealthy, which I believe is partly because the Indian government put lots of money into their economy to lure them away from any loyalty to China.

Photos of Gangtok:

1. Gangtok city view on rope way (link)
2. Gangtok picture gallery at India Travelinfo (link)
3. Photos of Gangtok on Slideroll (link)
4. Many photos of Gangtok at SikkimInfo (link)
5. Photos of Gangtok at (link)
6. Gangtok Photo Collection (link)
7. Photos of Gangtok on Flickr (link)

Videos detailing different experiences in Gangtok:

Surviving in Gangtok in Rs 3,000

Gangtok town

How to Get Lost Two backpackers: part 2 of 7: India (Sikkim, Gangtok, Kolkata)

Gangtok - Sikkim - India

Gangtok: A Beautiful Memory

Gangtok calling: This video was taken en route to gangtok when i was about to reach Teesta.

Gangtok: The land of Mystic Splendor

Beautiful Snow Fall in Gangtok (26.05.2009)

Gangtok (Sikkim) Road Trip

Gangtok Videos, Sikkim, India

Helicopter ride from Bagdogra to Gangtok: Beautiful experience flying over the Himalayas

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