Extremely alluring, pleasantly boisterous and wreathed in clouds – Gangtok, the capital city of the Sikkim can also give you a spectacular view of Mt. Kanchenjunga, at a distant skyline. The pristine hill station nestled in mountains and clouds is also a base for a whole lot of trekkers to the Himalayan mountain ranges. The mesmerising prismatic beauty and the beautiful winding hill roads are even more breathtaking if seen from a bird’s eye view in a cable car.
The name meaning hill-top, Gangtok can be safely said to be one of the most beautiful hill stations in the country. With everything in just the right amount from a blend of cultural identities to urbanisation, Gangtok is a breathing and dynamic bit of paradise of the northeast. It has an amazing view of mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain peak in the world. Also like everything around it, Gangtok is abundant in natural beauty and has various natural attractions such as the Tsomgo Lake, Ban Jhakri falls, Tashi viewpoint and more. Other places to visit include the enchey monastery,ganesh tok,Drul Chortenm romtek monastery, etc. Also, river Teesta is one of the best spots for white water rafting in North East India.
Best time to visit:
The best time to visit Gangtok, is between October and mid-December. Clear views of the Himalayan peaks are guaranteed in these months. Between March and May, lush Rhododendron flowers in bloom is a sight worth visiting. January and February means snow in the higher altitudes.
Nathu La Pass
Nathu La, one of the highest motorable roads in the world, is a mountain pass in the Himalayan peaks that co-joins sikkim and china. Situated on the Indo-Tibetan border 14450 ft. above sea level, Nathu La is one of the most important Himalayan passes in the country. Nathu means ‘listening ears’, and La means ‘pass’. Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between India and China and is famous for its picturesque beauty and beautiful environment. The temperature here remains low for most parts of the year, and it becomes a hotspot for tourists during summer.
Nathula Pass is situated on the Indo-Chinese border and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in India. Several tourists flock here every year for trekking in the valley and enjoying the scenic beauty. There are a number of waterfalls that gush along the way from Gangtok to Nathu La. It also offers an opportunity to see beautiful snow peaks encircling the area. The region also supports Himalayan wildlife like Tibetan gazelle, snow leopard, yaks, Tibetan wolves, etc. Nathu La Pass has a rich variety of flora apart from a spectacular wildlife range.
MG Road, Gangtok
MG Road is the heart of Gangtok and its most happening place. It is the central shopping hub of this beautiful state capital with various shops, restaurants, and hotels lined up along both sides. MG Road is an open mall or boulevard square which is widely regarded to be the town centre and is the best shopping destination for tourists. This is a great place to take a leisurely stroll or just sit on the benches and revel in the eclectic ambience.
The first thing one notices when on this approximately 1 km stretch of road is the cleanliness. There are boards everywhere which say “Welcome to M.G. Marg, Spit, and Litter Free Zone”. The entire area is free of smoke, litter, and vehicular traffic. It’s a pedestrian-only zone, and vehicles are not allowed. The buildings on both sides of MG Road in Gangtok are painted green in line with the government’s green initiative. This place is also famous for the Gangtok Food and Culture Festival which is an extravaganza held in December every year and thronged by connoisseurs from all over.
The Statue of Unity overlooks MG Road which comprises of the figures of Bhutia Chieftain Khye Bumsa, the Lepcha leader Thetong Tek and his wife Ngo Kong ngol. This statue promotes peace, love, and harmony. About midway is an imposing statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Other eye-catching additions are the Victorian lamps and various benches along the path. Gangtok’s MG Road looks stunning after dark when the lights are lit making it a much-thronged place in this quaint hill town.
The Rumtek Monastery is one of the largest and most significant monasteries in Sikkim, perched on top of a hill 23 km from Gangtok. Originally called as the Dharma Chakra Centre, it belongs to the Kargyu sect of Buddhists who originated in Tibet in the 12th century. Verdant green mountains surround the monastery and thus serves as a visual treat besides being a focal point for spiritual solace. If you climb on top to the Rumtek Monastery, you can have a breathtaking view of the whole Gangtok town situated right opposite the hill. Besides this, the architecture of the striking monastery is one of the finest in the world.
The glorious Rumtek Monastery houses a beautiful shrine temple and a monastery for the monks which were established with the aim of spreading the Buddhist teachings around the world. The sublime structure has a walkway around it on which the monks, pilgrims and visitors perform Kora (a circuit round of the monastery). The splendid Rumtek Monastery has preserved a golden stupa and various other sculptures which belonged to the 16th Karmapa. It also serves as the storehouse for many uniques objects besides storing some of the world’s unique religious scriptures. The massive prayer hall inside the stunning monastery is a place worth seeing that is decorated with splendid murals, statues and thangkhas.
Perched between the mountains at a dizzying height of 12400 ft above sea level, the Tsomgo Lake is one of the few high-altitude lakes in India situated on the Gangtok – Nathu La highway. Also popularly known as Changu Lake, it is a part of every tourist’s itinerary and for a good reason – the overwhelming scenic beauty. Enveloped by steep snow-capped mountains and resting between a bright green carpet of alpine forests, the charming beauty of Tsogmo Lake is bound to leave you in awe. The lake’s mesmerising scenic allure combined with its legendary significance to the locals definitely makes it a must visit attraction of Sikkim.
Tsomgo Lake is a glacial lake that derives its water from the melting snows of the mountains around it. This glacial lake is famous for its colour changing waters. Monsoons see a bright aquamarine lake whereas, in the winters, it freezes into a translucent cover of ice. As the summer approaches in mid-May, the periphery of this lake is dotted with a thousand blossoming flowers that lend the waters a riot of vibrant colours.
In the Bhutia language, ‘Tso’ means lake and ‘Mgo’ mean head and essentially means ‘source of the water’, holding immense religious and cultural significance to the Bhutia people. Considered as a sacred lake by the Sikkimese, Changu Lake is associated with many myths and legends. They say the Buddhist monks used to analyse the colour of the lake to forecast the future!
Ganesh Tok is a small temple and a loved viewpoint in Gangtok. Situated on top of a hill, the quaint place has mind-stirring views – the Kanchenjunga hill can be seen in its true form of glory from here and is at its best especially in the morning. The Ganesh Tok viewpoint, situated at a distance of 6500, offers stunning views of the mountains dusted with snow. The temple (dedicated to Lord Ganesh) is, however, so small that it can only fit one person at a time. The sublime place takes you a step closer to nature with its surreal surroundings and comforting ambience.
The Ganesh Tok Temple itself is quite small. Colourful flags are tied across the stairs making it stand out. There is a place where shoes can be kept safe, and hands can be washed before entering the temple. There is also a lounge and a balcony in front of the temple which is the main attraction of the place. The serene Ganesh Tok is surrounded by hills, landscape, and beautiful mountains. It is so overcrowded that the devotees have to go down on all fours to worship Lord Ganesha.
Hanuman Tok, dedicated to Lord Hanuman is situated near Ganesh Tok at an altitude of 7200 feet at a distance of 11 km from Gangtok and offers an amazing view of the Kanchenjunga range. The temple has a religious significance attached to it and offers a peaceful surrounding. It is known for fulfilling the wishes of its devotees. Ganesh Tok should definitely be visited at least once to experience its beauty and break away from the monotonous routine. It is a perfect place for all nature lovers and photographers.
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
One of the very few of its kind, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is an abode of centuries-old Tibetan-Buddhist culture and its history. NIT preserves the glorious past of the country, the religion and its precious culture with utmost dedication and that shows in the excellent collection in the museum and the library which are the main attractions here. As important as its role is for the pursuers of Asian culture and Buddhist studies, with its quiet and serene charm, it is a paradise for the tourists as well, especially for the occasional history-enthusiast. Photography is not allowed inside, but you can take some time off technology and take in all you want with the lens of your eyes.
In spite of being primarily a place for study and research of Tibetan and Buddhist culture, The Namgyal Institute has emerged as a major tourist attraction in Gangtok. It promotes and supports the study, research, and preservation of Tibetan history, art, literature, architecture, religion, philosophy and anything and everything else that comes with that. With a foundation stone laid by the great Dalai Lama himself, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is among the pioneer of preservation and promotion of Tibetan art and literature.
Built in the Tibetan architectural style amidst the lap of lush green nature, the façade rises majestically with its tall golden towers, attractive and significant murals and colourful frescos. The exquisite and greatly maintained pieces in the museum and the library – the statues, the manuscripts, the art pieces, the rare literary works and encyclopaedia, the relics and remains – all speak of a culturally rich past and thanks to NIT, an academically prosperous future.
The third highest peak in the world, the majestic Kanchenjunga, also spelt Kangchenjunga, is one of the most stunning mountains. Surrounded by Nepal, Sikkim and Tibet, Mt Kanchenjunga was first scaled in 1955 but since then has been declared sacred. Kanchenjunga’ is a Tibetan name which means ‘The Five Treasures of the High Snow’. The treasures represent the five repositories of God, namely gold, silver, gems, grain and holy books. There are a lot of trekking routes in and around Kanchenjunga which will take you through woody forests and serene countryside.
Kangchenjunga Mountain near Darjeeling is the third highest peak in the world, with a peak elevation of 8,586 m. In the Kirat religion of Sikkim, the mountain is regarded very sacred and in the local Limbu language, it is also called Sewa Lungma. Out of the five peaks of Kanchenjunga, four can be viewed from many points in Darjeeling and Gangtok. Out of the many points in Darjeeling from where you can have a spectacular view of the peak,Tiger hill is one of the best. If you’re in Gangtok, the Goecha La trek in Sikkim is the standard base camp for trekking up the range.