Gangtok Quick Information

Summarise the city : A trendy yet traditional hill town
Best time to visit (High & peak months) : Mid March - May & October - mid December
Experiences : Himalayas, natural beauty, monasteries, temples, adventure
City calling code : +91- 3592
Recommended no. of days for a tourist : 2-3 days
Best buys : Thangka hangings, bamboo and wooden artifacts, carpets, Lepcha weave bags, Tibetan (dragon) jewelry
Essentials to be carried along : Light woollens and tropicals in summer (umbrellas and raincoats are useful) and heavy woollen in winter
All about the city :

Ensconced on a ridge flanking the Ranipool river, Gangtok at an altitude of 1870 m, is a destination that would lure anyone who has a taste for natural beauty and an inclination or interest in the Buddhist religion and culture. For it is a place that has beautiful monasteries, including the esteemed Rumtek – the head quarter of Kagyu order; vistas as breath taking as the awe-inspiring Khangchendzonga – the third highest mountain peak in the world. If you are flying to Bagdogra (nearest airport to Gangtok), opt for window seat on left for a glimpse of it.

But then, had it only been the monasteries and the natural beauty, Ladakh (another very popular Indian destination) would have easily stolen away a big chunk of tourists from Gangtok. So, there has to be something more to it. And that something is the glamour of this city and the easy accessibility. It’s a beautiful town with broad roads, flyovers, posh markets, fast food outlets, discotheques and all other modern amenities that one can ask for. Hotel ‘The Royal Plaza’ at Gangtok has India’s first land based live casino, and is the only place besides Goa to brag a casino in India. The tastefully lit and decorated and absolutely no traffic M.G Marg (street) is an ideal place to spend the evenings in the town.

Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim, the state that shares borders with 3 neighboring countries viz. Nepal, Bhutan and China. This makes it imperative to put it under special protection. Consequently the tourists, especially the foreigners, are required to obtain a permit to enter the state. Even the Indians need to get permission to visit a few restricted areas. But this is no reason why anyone should give this destination a miss, as the permit can be easily arranged by a registered and recognized travel agent in India. They are also available at all Indian missions abroad. The same can also be obtained from any of the Sikkim Tourism offices.

Gangtok Tourist attractions

Name (Suggested Time Required To See The Place) Description Entrance Charges (If Any) For Foreigner Close Day (If Any) Open / Close Time
Enchey monastery This is a 20th century monastery situated at the town’s northern edge. It is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master who is known for his flying powers. It resembles a Chinese Pagoda in shape. Following the Nyingma order it has around 90 monks. The large prayer hall here is adorned with murals and images of the deities from the Mahayana order of Buddhism.  This beautiful monastery becomes even livelier every year in December/January when the masked dances are organised during annual Cham festival.   No entrance fee No close days
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology At the Southern end of the town is this institute, a Tibetan styled building that was established in 1958 to preserve Tibetan culture and promote the study of Mahayana Buddhism. It houses a precious collection of  Buddhist scriptures, statuettes, holy objects and embroidered Thangkas (a painted or embroidered Buddhist banner that is hung in a monastery or a family altar and occasionally carried by monks in ceremonial processions). Nearby is the Damovar Ropeway. The Namgyal institute is located in a refreshingly colorful and aromatic orchid sanctuary where most of the species of orchid (State flower of Sikkim) found in Sikkim bloom depending on the season. The best time for visiting the Orchid Sanctuary is the month of April and early May in addition to the period between September and December. On the same road ahead lies the Do Drul chorten with a sacred gold topped shikara Inside the stupa, there are a set of Kang Gyur relic (Holy Book), complete 'Zung' (mantras) and other religious objects. Around it are 108 prayer wheels which the devouts turn while chanting their sacred mantras. INR 5 INR 50/person for the ropeway Institute: Sunday and also on 2nd Saturday of each month No close days for ropeway Institute: 10 am – 4 pm Ropeway: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms/Government Institute of Cottage Industries This training cum production centre was set up in 1957 with the aim of preserving and promoting the indigenous arts and crafts of Sikkim. Items produced and sold include woolen carpets, blankets, shawls and exquisitely carved 'Choktse' or wooden table and many other gift items. The most popular of all the products are the woolen carpets with Tibetan motifs and the hand made paper products. Located at zero point, this is a really nice place if one wishes to buy authentic Sikkimese products to take along as souvenirs. No entrance fee Sundays 0930-1230 hrs and 1300-1600 hrs
View Points Mount Khangchendzonga (world’s third highest peak) and the surrounding hills make for great views around the beautiful town of Gangtok. The popular points that facilitate one to savor these views best are the: Tashi view point: Built by the late King of Sikkim Sri. Tashi Namgyal, it is situated about six kilometres away from Gangtok on the North Sikkim Highway. There is a small cafeteria and other facilities for tourists are also available. Hanuman Tok: At a distance of 9 km uphill from Gangtok (a 5 km deviation from the Gangtok- Nathula road) on a serene hilltop lies a temple dedicated to Hindu God Hanuman. The temple is maintained by Indian army people. Besides the panoramic scenery the place also gives a bird’s eye view of Selep water plant that supplies water to the Gangtok town. Marked by chortens and stupas, nearby, is the cremation ground for the members of the Skkim’s erstwhile royal family. Ganesh Tok: At a distance of 7 km from the town, again on Gangtok – Nathula road is a very- very small temple of Lord Ganesh. Adjoining to it is a beautiful pinetum. Enjoy the beautiful scenes of the Gangtok town, Raj bhawan complex and the awesome range of Khangchendzonga with a cup of hot tea or coffee from the cafeteria here.
Himalayan Zoological Park (Bulbuley) Just above Ganesh Tok at a distance of 8 km from Gangtok, is this Zoological Park that spreads in an area of 205 hectares. This area is also known as Bulbuley.The animals that include Red Panda (Sikkim’s State animal, barking deer, civets cats, Tibetan Wolves, Himalayan Black Bear, ‘Kush and Urbashi’ (a pair of snow Leopard living there) are kept in large enclosures so one needs to keep patience in sighting them. 8 am – 4 pm
Ropeway To capture the most stupendous scenes of the city, an easy way out here in Gangtok is to take a cable car ride that brings to your view Gangtok market, valley and assembly hall of state of Sikkim on its 15 to 20 minutes journey. There are 3 stop points on the journey. The lowest point is at Deorali market and the highest point is at Tashiling. There is a mid point stop at Nam-Nang. One can enter from any point and return to same point after touching other two points. INR 50/person No close days 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
Scenic flights Those who can shell out some more money can have an even more exciting experience viewing the town and the mountains around from the helicopters hovering over the region. Sikkim Tourism Development corporation arranges for the flights that can carry up to 5 passengers at a time. The flight over Gangtok Valley is of 15 minutes duration and that for Khangchendzonga is of 75 minutes. There are other flights for North, West and South Sikkim also besides the Gangtok-Bagdogra flight.

Rules And Permits

Sikkim is a sensitive border state. Security concerns make it imperative to put in place special protection.

Inner Line Permit:

This applies to any foreigner visiting Sikkim. It can be collected from Sikkim House in Calcutta or New Delhi. It can also be collected from the entry point into Sikkim, at Rangpo.

Some of the destinations within Sikkim come under Restricted or Protected Categories. These areas can be accessed either with special permission from Sikkim Police, or in the case of certain destinations, the Ministry of Defence, New Delhi has to issue special written permits. Tourists must always check out the status of the planned destination before starting out.

For local sight-seeing

* Taxis and agents not affiliated to TAAS are not allowed to take tourists to Nathula.
* Maruti Vans are not allowed to negotiate the road to Nathula. Only jeeps, Sumos, Maruti Gypsies and Commander vehicles are allowed.
* Vehicles not registered in Sikkim are not allowed to take tourists on local sight seeing or distance travel across the state. Please check out the SK-04 registration plates before hiring a vehicle for sight seeing.
* Any taxi registered anywhere, however, can bring in and take out visitors to the state.
* None of these rules are applicable to visitors traveling in their own private vehicles. However, moving to North District of vehicles registered out of India needs special permission. The Tourism Department should be contacted.

Entertainment :

* Pool bars are not allowed to charge anything like bet money, excepting for their legitimate charges.
* Bars are open till 23.00 hours only. There is no bar in drinking in private or in hotel rooms, unless specified by a particular hotel.
* Drinking in restaurants not designated and licensed as bars is prohibited.

Getting There

Air Rail Road
Nearest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal( 124 kms/5 hrs) Helicopter services between  Gangtok-Bagdogra-Gangtok The nearest railheads are Siliguri (114 km) and New Jalpaiguri (125 km), which are well  connected to Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Varanasi and other major cities of India. Gangtok is connected with good road with Siliguri, Kalimpong, and  Darjeeling etc. It is 75 km from Kalimpong, 94 from Darjeeling, 114 from Siliguri and 119 km from Pelling.

Gangtok Excursions

Excursion (Distance In Kms) Description
Rumtek Monastery or Dharm Chakra centre (24 km from Gangtok/ 60 min) The Chinese invasion of Tibet required the 16th Karmpa (the head of Kagyupa sect of Buddhism) to build an alternative for his Tsurphu monastery in Tibet. Thus was established the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim destined to become the head quarters of the Kagyupa (Black Hat) order. It is the biggest monastery of Sikkim. Besides an immense prayer hall, rich library, impressive murals and thangkas there are 1001 miniature golden images of Lord Buddha. At the rear side is a Golden stupa. The jewel studded chorten holds the ashes and remains of His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa. On the opposite side is the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute of Buddhist study. Sadly due to a dispute the throne of the 17the Karmapa lays vacant waiting for its new incumbent. To be a part of masked cham dances of Rumtek be their either in May/June or two days before Losar. At a distance of 1.5 km from this is the old Rumtek Monastery. It holds the celebrated Kagyed Chaam dance 2 days before Losoong (Sikkimese New Year) Just ahead of the Rumtek Monastery is the Nehru Botanical Garden which has a mix of tropical and temperate plants and trees as well as a big greenhouse of exotic orchids
Tsomgo (Changu) Lake (40 km from Gangtok on Gangtok-Nathula Highway/2.5 hours) At an altitude of about 12,400 ft is this 1 km long and 50 ft deep oval lake. Tsomgo literally means ‘source of water’ and it really is the source for river Lungtze chu. It, however, receives water from the melting snow of the surrounding mountains. The lake remains frozen from December to April while the spring season peppers it with various flowers and alpine vegetation. It is considered sacred and in olden times, it is said, lamas used to forecast the future of the state by observing the color of the lake. Yak and mules rides can be enjoyed by the lake side. Tourist season sees the coming up of temporary stalls for tea and snacks. Snow boots and jackets are also available on hire. It is the top favorite spot for any tourist to Sikkim but unfortunately falls in a restricted area. So, inner line permits are a must for anybody wanting to be there. Keep two photographs ready for that and make arrangements a day before if you are not pre-booked by any travel agency. Foreigners need to be in a group of two or more to able to secure the permit.
Baba Mandir (2 km from Tsomgo lake and about 42 km from Gangtok/2.75 hrs) On the road between Nathula and Zelpla lies Baba Mandir. It is a shrine dedicated to a sepoy of Indian army who died on duty at this place. It is said that he himself directed the corps to his dead body and later appeared in their dreams asking them to build a shrine in his memory. The shrine has his photograph and all the materials that any living person would require. Baba ji, allegedly, performs his duties even to this day. He draws salary and gets annual leaves every year and a train seat is reserved for him so that he can spend his vacations at his hometown in Punjab. The shrine is especially revered by the army personals who generously donate for its maintenance seeking the blessings from Babaji.
Nathu La (56 km from Gangtok, 18 km ahead of Tsomgo lake on the same road/4 hrs)

Thrown open ceremoniously on July 6, 2006, to strengthen trade ties with China, on the fabled silk route of yore, Nathula is an exciting location for North-East tourism. Located at an altitude of 14,450 ft, Nathula (Listening Ears Pass) was a major corridor of passage between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962. At such an altitude it is, obviously, one of the highest motorable roads in the world and also brags the highest ATM (automated teller machine) of the world. The views around are a visual delight.  But unfortunately you can take the imprints only on your heart and mind as photography is strictly prohibited. On a clear day you can even see the road winding down the Tibet’s fabled Chumbi valley (where the Sikkimese kings once had their summer palace). Tourists are allowed to go close to the international border from where you can see Chinese soldiers on the other side of the barbed wire.

Nathula is open for Indian nationals only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturday and Sundays. The visitors obtain a permit from the Sikkim Polics or  Tourism Department through a registered and recognized Travel Agency.

Suggested Holidays Including Gangtok

Holiday Name No. Of Days Destinations Covered & Highlights
Golden Triangle of the East 7 days Gangtok -Kalimpong -Darjeeling

Delhi

Gir National Park

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