It’s incredible to think that the second smallest state of India…Sikkim can boast of so many wonderful destinations. Tourists have been visiting Sikkim for decades but so many of its lovelier places are yet hidden and unexplored. It’s difficult compiling a list of the ten best places to visit in this lovely little Himalayan Kingdom but the ones mentioned on this list below simply cannot be missed.
Sikkim appeals to a wide range of tourists… the destination hopper, the spiritual seeker, the nature lover, the birder, the adventure tourism junkie and anyone else who has an eye for beauty.
- If you are planning to visit Darjeeling or Sikkim, the eBook on Darjeeling & Sikkim can be very handy in knowing all the best places, sightseeing tours & operators, eateries, nightlife, shopping and lot more, and would serve as a guide to effectively make your tour plan.
Gangtok is definitely the most visited place in Sikkim for many prominent reasons. Firstly it enjoys great transport connectivity to major tourist hubs (Siliguri/NJP, Darjeeling, Kalimpong) and can be used as a base for important treks and sightseeing tours. Secondly it has got awesome hotels, great food and a buzzing nightlife scene along with plenty of shopping options. Thirdly in itself it’s a very pretty place that stands on a ridge that’s about 5,500 feet in altitude and remains sheathed in clouds at times.
There are lots of things to do in this beautiful city… you could try soaking in its beauty from the cable ropeway that runs from Deorali to Tashiling Secretariat… the Khangchendzonga, Gangtok town and surrounding valleys are clearly visible. Once you get down at Tashiling… you can walk down to Ridge Park and if you arrive in season, you can see the flower show in its full glory. Ganesh Tok…another major attraction is perched on a ridge about 7 km from Gangtok and it offers mountain views along with a spiritual destination. Go 9 km uphill from the city and you will arrive at the serene Hanuman Tok that’s an important religious destination and a view point. You can check out the sleep water works, lukshyama (royal crematorium) etc. from here.
Other nice attractions of Gangtok are Namgyal Ressearch Institute of Tibetology (it has rare Lepcha, Sanskrit manuscripts). Once you are done with sightseeing… enjoy the lively atmosphere of MG Marg that’s an open promenade (plenty of benches to rest your feet) flanked by shops, restaurants and bars on both sides. Gangtok also happens to be one of the few places where gambling is legalised… you can try your luck at Casino Majhong and Deltin Denzong Casino.
Read all about Gangtok Tourism
2. Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass
A day trip from Gangtok to Tsomogo Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass is hugely popular among tourists . Most tourists consider these places as the next stop after Gangtok has been explored. These fall under the Protected area category and you need to get a permit issued to visit them (your travel operator will arrange this for you).
The Tsomgo Lake (Changu Lake) is nearly 40 km away from Gangtok….and it’s considered to be the highest one in Sikkim (3780 meters altitude). Brahminy ducks and many other exotic species of birds have made this lake their home. You will see a small Shiva temple on the shore of the lake. The waters of the lake originate from the melted snow from the mountains nearby. In summers there are wildflowers all around the lake and during winters the lake is completely frozen over and creates an incredible sight. You will see Yaks all around… most tourists opt to circle the lake via a Yak ride.
Read all about Tsomgo Lake, what to expect and how to visit.
It’s recommended to visit Nathula pass (14,140 feet altitude) only between March to October. It remains completely snowed over otherwise. India’s state Sikkim is connected to China’s Autonomous Area (Tibet) via this pass and this was a part of the ancient silk route. You can see Chinese soldiers on the other side of the fence in Nathula and tourists find it entertaining to smile and shake hands with them. 3 km below Nathula is the Indian Trade Mart at Sherathang… you can check out shopping options here. Kupup which contains the world’s second highest golf course and Gnathang monastery is nearby. You can also check out the world’s highest altitude ATM that runs on generator here. Nathula’s extreme altitude may cause breathing problems…asthmatics and infants should be kept away.
Read all about Nathula Pass, what to see and how to visit.
Baba Mandir is also known as Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple…this is located between the Jelepla and Nathula Pass at an altitude of 13,123 feet. Baba Harbahajan Singh originally worked for the Punjab regiment before he died here and then reincarnated himself in dreams of his colleagues… prompting them to build a temple in his memory. He is regarded to be a sort of guardian deity of this area.
Covering these three places will require a full day’s time.
Read Baba Mandir to know all about the temple, its history and how to visit.
3. Lachung / Yumthang Valley / Zero Point
Lachung is a prominent tourist destination in the northern part of North Sikkim. Together with Yumthang… Lachung sees a lot of tourist traffic…in the recent past tourists have also started including Zero point in their schedules. All three places are full of incredible flora, in fact Yumthang is known as the flower valley…these places have even been compared to Switzerland for their stunning natural beauty. Lachung is actually a small mountain hamlet that’s about 118 km from Gangtok… nature lovers will have a great time here.
The Gompa (1880 built) in Lachung is 30 minutes away from the main market…. its perched against the backdrop of snow clad peaks. Do note the giant wheels and exquisite murals inside the Gompa. 22 km away from Lachung is Chungthang that has Chungthang Monastery and a sacred stone carrying Guru Padmasambhava’s footprints along with a beautiful point that shows the confluence of two rivers Lachung and Lachen Chus.
Near Lachung there is the Shingba Rhodenderon Sanctuary that has an incredible variety of Rhodenderons.
Just before you enter the Yumthang valley (this is 25 km from Lachung) there is a hot sulphur rich spring with great medicinal properties….don’t forget to take a dip here. 7 km away from the springs is a Shiva temple. 23 km away from Yumthang lies the famous zero point (tourists can’t go further than this point). In Yumthang you will see a whole riot of rhodenderons and the peaks of Pauhunri and Shundu framed against the Teesta River. If you have time you can opt for fishing in the nearby rivers Puniya Chhu and Yumthang Chhu.
The road from Yumthang to Zero Point is rocky but filled with the delicate fragrance of Azalea flowers. The zero point is very close to the Indo Chinese border and is at an altitude of 15,300 feet above sea level. If you love snow then this is a great place to enjoy it… the area is covered by snow for most parts of the year. You can also check out hot springs at Samdong near the river Sebu Chhu.
Read Lachung, Yumthang & Zero Point for full description with tour plans.
The pretty little town of Pelling has been a well-known name in the tourist circuit for quite some time now. Its altitude at 6800 feet gives visitors a nice mountain view of the peaks Koktang, Kabru, Pandim, Kanchenjunga and Siniolchu etc. Peling has several beautiful monasteries as well.
Once in Pelling, you can visit the 1705 built famous Pemayangtse monastery that’s one of the most well-known monasteries in Sikkim. Don’t miss the amazing thangkas inside and the 7 tiered wooden abode model of Rinpoche… Take a long walk (about 1 hour) to the Sanga Choeling Monastery that’s on a hilltop behind Pelling town. This is an even older monastery…built in 1697 and houses rare clay statues…the views from here are fantastic.