Sikkim: Nature's Garden
Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains. The state is bordered by Nepal to the west, China's Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the east. The Indian state of West Bengal lies to the south. Sikkim is the least populous state in India and the second-smallest state after Goa. ikkim is a popular tourist destination, owing to its culture, scenery and biodiversity. Sikkim has four districts – East Sikkim, West Sikkim, North Sikkim and South Sikkim. The district capitals are Gangtok, Gyalshing, Mangan and Namchi respectively.
The official languages of the state are Nepali, Lepcha Bhutia, Limbu and English.The main religions folowed in Sikkim are Hinduism and Buddhism. The mighty Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest peak overlooks the beautiful Sikkim. The magnificent mountains, lush green vegetation and beautiful rivers make Sikkim a popular tourist destination. You will be amazed at its rich flora and fauna. Species of birds are found in abundance here.
Steeped in the mighty Himalayas amidst natural exuberance, Sikkim attracts tourists with its various Sikkim Holidays. This beautiful state enjoys five seasons-winter, summer, spring, autumn and monsoon, offering visitors ample opportunities to have fun of adventure on their Sikkim Visit. Hinduism and Buddhism are the main religions and the official languages of Sikkim are Nepali, Limbu, Lepcha Bhutia and English. Lepchas are known to be the oldest inhabitants of the state. On their tours to Sikkim, tourists come across the majestic Kanchenjunga peak that overlooks the state and high mountains, lush green vegetation and charming rivers further multiply their joy.
Arts & Handicrafts
Beautiful and popular art and handicrafts of Sikkim are the manifestations of the creative minds and aesthetic feelings of its artists. Sikkim is not only popular for its natural beauty but also a destination radiant with impressive handicrafts. In order to preserve and promote this traditional art of Sikkim, the Sikkim Government is establishing several platforms in the form of Handicraft and Handloom Institutes.
Dance, Music & Culture
The truest beauty and richness of Sikkim's culture can be seen in its dance and music. Different dance forms are dedicated to different themes and events. Some marks the importance of the harvest season, some represents prosperity and some are dedicated to natural beauty. Sikkim has its own unique musical instruments. All the dance forms go along with the musical instruments. The Popular dance forms of Sikkim are: Lu Khangthamo, Gha To Kito, Chi Rimu, Gnungmala Gnunghey, Be Yu Mista, Rechungma, Enchey Chaam, Gouthor Chaam, Kagyed Dance, Rumtek Chaam
Fairs & Festivals
Hinduism and Buddhism are the predominant religions in Sikkim so most of the fairs and festivals are celebrated according to the respective calenders. Its colourful festivals are the manifestations of its beautiful culture. Dance and music are an integral part of their fairs and festivals. Chaam is one of the most interesting dance form which is performed by talented artists during the celebrations. Monasteries are the venue for this cultural activity and colourful and vibrant masks are its main highlight. Some of the most famous festivals of Sikkim are: Saga Dawa, Drupka Teshi, Losoong, Kagyed Dance Festival, Phang Lhabsol.
There are about 200 Sikkim Monasteries belonging to various religious sects that not only influence the cultural heritage and lifestyle of the people but also demonstrates the ancient rituals in practice. Devoted Lamas robed in red, chant ancient mantras to the rhythm of drums and trumpets while soft lights flicker from decorative lamps; feel the peace of being one with nature and close to almighty with prayers and whirring wheels. Some monasteries are - Pemayangtse Monastery, Rumtek Monastery, Enchey Monastery, Phodang Monastery, Tashiding Monastery & Phesang Monastery.
Food & Cuisine
Noodle-based dishes such as thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are common in Sikkim. Momos – steamed dumplings filled with vegetables, buffalo meat or pork and served with soup – are a popular snack. Beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are widely consumed in Sikkim, as is tongba, a millet-based alcoholic beverage which is also popular in Nepal and Darjeeling. Sikkim has the third-highest per capita alcoholism rate amongst all Indian states, behind Punjab and Haryana. 'Chang' is an important drink of Sikkimese which is made from fermented millet.
How to reach
Air: The nearest airport is Bagdora in north Bengal, 124 km from Sikkim. It connects Sikkim with the major cities of India. Rail: The nearby railway stations are Siliguri (144 km) and New Jalpaiguri (125 km). It connects Sikkim to Delhi, Kolkata, Lucknow and other main cities of the country. Road: Sikkim is well connected to all its cities and cities around it by road.
Accommodation & Hotel
Several accommodation options are available in Gangtok and other places offering great hospitality. Some of the known hotels are the Tashi Delek hotel, Norkhill Heritage hotel, Himalayan Height hotel, Chumbi Residency, Dho-Tapu Guest House and Hidden Forest Retreat.
Climate & Best time to Visit
Sikkim has a pleasant climate except during rainy season. The average annual temperature is around 18°C. Best time to visit is between March-May. Come to Sikkim and enjoy the picturesque views of Kanchenjunga, lush greens, lakes snow-capped mountains and colorful butterflies flitting from one place to another.
POPULAR ATTRACTIONS & TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN SIKKIM
1) GANGTOK: The Capital of Sikkim – Gangtok (which means ‘hilltop’), sprawls down the west side of a long ridge flanking the Ranipul River. The scenery is spectacular and there are excellent views of the entire Kanchenjunga Range. A good time to be here is around Buddha Purnima(May) to enjoy the famous Saga Dawa festivities. Walking in colourful procession, the holy monks carry the holy books of Buddha’s teachings from the Tsuklakhang Monastery in the palace to different parts of town.
2) Tsomgo Lake: Just a 2-hour drive from Gangtok, the tranquil lake called Tsomgo Lake lies at the altitude of 12,400 feet. The water is derived from the melting snows off the surrounding mountains.
3) Tea Estate: Sikkim's only tea garden, the Temi Tea Estate is flanked between Namchi and Singtam. The garden covers a large area and is at altitude between 4000 ft and 6000 ft. The tea has a fragrance and belongs to the group of Darjeeling.
4) Monasteries: Monasteries form an integral part of Sikkim. There is a plethora of monasteries in Sikkim. In fact there are almost nearly 200 monasteries or Gompas belonging to either the Nyingmapa Sect or the Kargyupa Sect but Sikkim also has monasteries of the Gelugpa, Sakyapa and Bon faith. Here you can feel the peace, which would soothe your mind and soul and take you more close to the almighty.
Rumtek Monastery: The picturesque 24-km drive from Gangtok to the impressive Rumtek Monastery takes you through some of the prettiest areas around the town. This lavishly-built monastery is said to be a replica of the Tsurphu Monastery of the Kagyupa order, in Tibet. It is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, but visitors can imbibe the tranquil air and beautiful location while soaking in the significant cultural elements, which make it a must- visit.
Pemayangtse Monastery : The 17th century Pemayangtse Monastery (Perfect Subline Lotus) of the Nyingmapa order is perched at a height of 2085 m surrounded by snow- capped mountains, soaked in the haunting beauty of Khangchendzonga and its retinue of peaks. Enshrined within are numerous ancient icons and objects of worship.
Tsuklakhang (The Palace Monastery): It is located in the grounds of the palace of the former rulers, the Chogyals of Sikkim. Built in traditionally Sikkimese style, it is Capital’s most accessible monastery and has interesting murals and images of the Buddhist pantheon.
Enchey Monastery : An important seat of the Nyingma order, the Enchey Monastery meaning the Solitary temple, was originally built with the solace that no other construction would be allowed near it. It is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master known for his flying powers. This 200-year-old Monastery has in its premises images of god, goddesses and other religious objects. Every year around January 'Chaam' or religious masked dance is performed with great fanfare for two days.
5) Pelling : One of the most favourite travel destinations is Pelling situated between the Monasteries of Pemayyangtse and Sanga-Choling. It can be reached by bus or jeep services from Gangtok which is 125 kms away and from Siliguri, 133 kms away. Most of the tourists visit during the months of March-June and September-December. From here one can visit the Khechopari Lake, rRimbi Waterfalls, Kanchenjunga Waterfalls, Changay Waterfalls, Sigshore Bridge, Dentam Bazaar and Yuksam which was the first Capital of Sikkim.
6) Orchid Sanctuary: Sikkim is homeland of vivid and exquisite orchids. One can see around 454 species of orchids in Orchid Sanctuary. The best time to visit the sanctuary is between March to early May and the end of September to the beginning of December.
Orchidarium: There is another, much larger, orchid sanctuary, called the Orchidarium. In spite of its name; this is essentially a botanical garden in a green and landscaped fold in the hills. Paths wind down past streams, tree ferns and flower beds. At the bottom are enormous conservatories where masses of orchid plants thrive in their preferred environment.
Adventure sports :
For the tourists who are thrill-seekers and adrenaline-junkies, the State has lot to offer starting from the trekking, water sports, mountain biking, yak safari, hang gliding and browsing through the wildlife of the area.
The captivating landscape, with an incomparable diversity of flora and fauna, Sikkim is a refreshing treat to the trekkers. Sikkim is the ultimate destination for a trekking holiday, offering everything from easy and short excursions to the long challenges of the snowy peaks, invoking visions of the spectacular Himalayas, the lush meadows, green woodland and fragrant orchards.
Some of the trekkers huts that can be named are located at Pemayangtse, Khecopalri, Yuksam, Tsokha, Dzongri, Thangshing, Zemagthang, Chaurigang, Tashiding, Varsey, Yangang, Rabongla, Sang and Sikip. Small hotels have started coming up on the route to the trekkers hut and at many base-stations.
Water Sports :
Being situated in the Himalayas, the State of Sikkim is home to lush meadows, orchids and white waters of the Teesta and Rangeet Rivers offering you beautiful views of the mountains and lots of water sport activities. White water rafting and kayaking is organised on the Teesta and the Rangeet Rivers. The two rivers in the West District offer a roller coaster ride over the frothing and white waters leaving you breathless and wanting for more.
Exciting Helicopter Rides :
Sikkim Helicopter Service organises these mountain flights which is one of the most exciting experience for its spectacular view and photography.
West Sikkim Flight: The route is Gangtok-Singtam-Geyzing-Yuksom-Dikchu-Gangtok and it takes around 60 minutes. You can see Rumtek Monastery, Temi Tea Estate, Rabang/Meenam Hill, Tashiding, Pemayangtse Monasteries, Waterfall near Yuksom and Kanchenjunga Range from the helicopter.
Yumthang Flight Route - Gangtok-Mangan-Chungthang-Lachen-Zemu Glacier-Green Lake-Lachen-Gangtok. You can see the landmarks of Teesta Valley between Mangen and Lanchen, Lanchen Monastery, Zemu Glacier, Green Lake, views of Kanchenjungand close-ups. It takes around 70 minutes.
SHOPPIN: You can check out the canvas wall hangings, thankas, prayer wheels, Tibetan carpets, rugs and jewellery, particularly the exquisitively carved dragon sets in silver and gold inlaid with precious stones, which are unique to Sikkim. Sikkim tea and cardamom are other good buys. You can wander up lush green mountain trails, in the very footsteps of those early travellers. Acquaint yourself with a land that is bizarre at the same time fascinating. With its endless intriguing trails, mountains, flora and fauna, Sikkim offers you a dream – a voyage of adventure and discovery.