Gangtok, capital of Sikkim, is situated at an altitude of about 5,600 feet (1,700 metres).
The city’s name means “Top of the Hill.” Gangtok rises over slopes extensively terraced in corn (maize). It was the governmental seat of the kingdom of Sikkim until the monarchy was abolished (1975) and Sikkim integrated fully with India in 1976. Gangtok has a mix population mainly of Nepalese, Tibetans, and Lepchas. A number of communities surrounding Gangtok were amalgamated administratively under the Gangtok Municipal Corporation, which significantly increased the area of the city and its population.
Gangtok has emerged as a big tourist destination in the last few years. The city is marked by the former royal palace and chapel, two monasteries, the Lall Market, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (a centre for research in Mahayana Buddhism, including a library and a museum), and the Cottage Industries Institute. The noted Buddhist monastery of Rumtek is 5 miles (8 km) southwest, and the royal cremation ground is at nearby Lukshiyama. Also nearby is the Do-drul Chorten (Do-drul Stupa), built by Tibetan Buddhists in the 1940s. The gold-topped stupa is encircled by 108 prayer wheels. Tourists love to visit Nathula border and Lake Tsongomo (also locally called as changgu).
Gangtok has also become home to Sikkim Manipal University. The university attracts a number of students from all over India to pursue their studies in various streams.
Gangtok has government-maintained nurseries for cardamom and subtropical fruits. Deorali Orchid Sanctuary houses some 200 species of orchids found in Sikkim.
Nepali, Hindi, English
How to Reach
Reaching Gangtok is not a hassle as it has superb connectivity with other parts of the country. Airport has also started at Pakyong near Gangtok. It is connected with direct flights to Kolkata and New Delhi.
Gangtok is also conveniently connected to Bagdogra Airport and New Jalpaiguri Railway Station in Siliguri. Siliguri is around 4.5 to 5 hours drive and the route is quite scenic.
Places to visit
Kanchenjunga Mountain is the third highest peak in the world. And from the city of Gangtok, you can enjoy a breath-taking view of this snow-clad mountain. Kanchenjunga peak resonates through the pinnacles of Sikkim and can be seen from most places around Gangtok. If you wish to enjoy a closer view of this mighty mountain, you can participate in treks to the base camp of Mount Kanchenjunga or visit the Kanchenjunga National Park. You can also set a base camp in the foothills of Kanchenjunga and spend a night or two here.
The best time to visit to get the clear views of Kanchenjunga Mountain is during the spring season (March to April) when the sky remains clear and during the winter season (October to December) when the weather remains pleasant and the sky clears post monsoon rains.
The best place in Gangtok to get mesmerizing views of Kanchenjunga Mountain is Tashi View Point. You need to climb a few steps to reach the point.
Kanchenjunga Mountain is the third highest mountain in the world with an elevation of 8,586 meters (28,169 feet).
The mountain lies partly in India (i.e. Sikkim) and partly in Nepal.
It is the highest mountain in India and the second highest mountain in Nepal.
Kanchenjunga Mountain finds its name from its five towering peaks. The name Kanchenjunga translates to ‘Five Treasures of Snow’.
It is an experience to watch the intriguing and ravishing views of the sun rising over the Kanchenjunga.
Trekking in the Kanchenjunga region gives you an opportunity to witness the abundant wildlife species like snow leopard, musk deer and blue sheep while passing through the pristine rhododendron forest and high alpine passes.
Outstanding amongst many other places to visit in Gangtok is Phodong Monastery. This particular monastery was built in eighteenth century. The paintings, sculptures and overall architecture of this monastery has been completed with perfection. You can spend hours humming to the sound of monks performing the rituals. The location of this monastery adds on to the beauty. You can enjoy a scenic view of the surroundings here and spend time unwinding. The popular Cham dance is held annually in this monastery.
The best time to visit the Phodong Monastery is between the months of March to May and October to December.
The monastery remains open for visitors from 8 am to 5 pm.
You must dress appropriately while visiting the monastery
Maintain peace and decorum while you are inside the monastery and do not disturb the monks as that might offend them.
Phodong Monastery is rated as the most beautiful monasteries in Sikkim.
It secures a position in the list of six most important Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim.
The monastery houses over 250 monks.
The monastery was originally built in 1740 AD by the fourth king of Sikkim – Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal.
The monastery is famous for its architectural style. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals, paintings and frescos which never fails to astonish visitors.
Phodong Monastery offers a picturesque view of the mountains and the surrounding valleys.
The Chaam Dance along with religious rituals is performed by the monks on the occasion of the annual festival, which is held on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar corresponding to the month of December to January.
Magnan is a residential community 65 kilometres away from the city of Gangtok. This town offers a stunning range of adventure activities for its guests, thus guaranteeing that no day spent here is squandered. From simply enjoying the view of the panoramic mountains to indulging in a lists of fun sports to submerging yourselves in profound tranquility, there are umpteen things to do here. Here you get the opportunity to enjoy paragliding, mountain-biking and other outdoor activities. This little town is also home to a couple of monasteries.
The place lies at a lower altitude as compared to other places in Sikkim and hence the best time to visit Magnan is between March to May and October to December.
From Gangtok, you can hire a private taxi, car, bus or jeep to reach Mangan.
Do not forget to savour the local cuisine of Magnan which includes Phagshapa, Momo, Gya Thuk or Thukpam, Ningro, Gundruk, Churpi and Sael Roti among others. Chaang is the popular drink in Mahnan which is a must try.
Magnan hosts a three-day music festival every year in the month of December where the bands from within the region and other Northeast states perform.
Magnan is a small and less populated town that offers serene beauty with a sense of calmness and tranquility. The town offers breath-taking views of the Kanchenjunga range.
Adventure enthusiasts can enjoy paragliding, mountain biking, rock-climbing and forest camping in Magnan.
A standout amongst the most imperative and heavenly places to visit in Gangtok, the Tsomgo Changu Lake is a frosty lake arranged 40 kilometres from Gangtok at a stature of 12,310 feet. It is a fable pool of amazing magnificence. The frigid blue waters of the lake mirroring the mighty pinnacles of the Himalayas make for a breath-taking sight. Spend a whole day at this lake since it is an ideal ordeal. You can also picnic on the shores of this pristine Lake. There are couple of street-side stalls here that offer mouth-watering delicacies. Do get your hands on them.
Since the lake is situated 40 km. away from Gangtok city, it is advisable to leave early for your trip so as to reach on time.
Tsomgo Lake is a part of the restricted area, hence you will need a prior permission/permit for which you require photo identity proof and two passport size photos. You can get the permit from the tourism department at MG Marg Gangtok or you can ask your travel agent to arrange for the same.
Due to heavy snow during the winter season, sometimes the roads are blocked.
There is no accommodation facility in the area to stay overnight.
Set at an elevation of 3,753 meters, Tsomgo Lake is one of the highest lakes in India.
The surface of the lake reflects different colours in different seasons. Therefore, it is considered sacred among the local people.
During the winter season (January to mid-May), trekking along the lake coast and yak ride on the snow are major attractions.
During the summer and autumn season, one can observe fine blossom of Primula flowers and other alpine vegetation near the lake.
During October, you can find native birds waddling in the lake’s water.
During December, the lake is partially covered with the thick sheet of ice giving you an opportunity to indulge in ice skating and savouring hot noodles and tea at the nearby eating joints.
A standout amongst the most popular spots to visit in Gangtok, the Nathu La Pass is a pass which associates Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. In the olden days, this pass shaped a piece of the Silk Route, a standout amongst the most vital exchanging courses on the planet. Visiting Nathu La Pass is an absolute necessity when in Gangtok. The wonderful pass can essentially be appreciated by driving or by trekking. The scenic view of the mountains from this pass is a sight to behold.
Nathula Pass remains open only for Indian nationals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The roads are winding so if you have a problem of motion sickness, do carry some medicines.
Do not forget to take the permit from the zonal office before visiting the pass.
Nathula Pass is one of the highest motorable roads in the world set at an elevation of 4302 meters.
Nathula Pass offers breath-taking views of the snow-covered mountains along with picturesque Chumbi valley of Tibet.
A pleasant drive to the pass lets you experience the picturesque beauty and fresh mountain breeze while you make your way on the roads surrounded by snow on both sides.
Ganesh Tok is one of the celebrated vacationer destination in Gangtok, prestigious essentially because of its beautiful architecture. Found near the Tashi View Point and the Bakthang falls, a visit to Ganesh Tok is an absolute necessity while in Gangtok. This temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh and is situated amidst nature. The view from this temple is mesmerizing. Spend time at the gallery close to the temple to enjoy a gander view of the scenic nature.
Ganesh Tok is open to visit from 6 am until 7 pm.
You will have to hike 7 km. to reach the point hence it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes
You will be required to climb the staircase to reach the upper level where the viewing area and temple are located.
You will be required to take off your footwear midway along the staircase.
You can also enjoy a refreshing stroll at the Pinetum garden, situated right next to the Ganesh Tok.
Set at an elevation of 6500 feet, Ganesh Tok is the topmost tip of Gangtok.
It is one of the best places in Gangtok to soak in the mesmerizing views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, other Eastern Himalayan peaks and Gangtok city.
The observatory tower offers the magnificent sight of lush forest valleys and mountains.
Ban Jhakri falls
On the off chance that you wish to appreciate some wonderful touring and picnicking in Gangtok, then head to Ban Jhakri falls. Situated inside the popular Energy Park, the 100-foot Ban Jhakri Waterfall is an excellent spot. Nature rules here, a still quietness hangs all around, just punctuated by the intense spouting of the water gushing on the stones. The Ban Jhakri Falls is of sacred importance to the locals here as they are said to have a power which can repulse insidious spirits. When you are in the recreation centre, make a point to visit the man-made lake. Popular among the locals, this place has visitors throughout the year.
You will be required to pay an entry fee of Rs. 20 per person to enter the park where the waterfall is located.
There is a gift shop and a café on one side of the ticket counter.
Best time to visit the waterfalls is between February and April.
Ban Jhakri Falls are naturally created waterfall which originates from the springs located at a higher altitude.
It is a 100-feet gushing waterfall located within aforested area.
It serves as a beautiful picnic spot where you can spend a nice relaxing time.
Do Drul Chorten stupa
This is a historic destination in Gangtok. The Do Drul Chorten Stupa is a decent place to visit in the city. It was built in 1945-46 by Trulshik Rinpoche, leader of the Nyingma community. This stupa holds centrality in the city due to its said capacity to head out wicked spirits. It includes the conventional 108 Mani Lhakor or petition wheels of Buddhism which have wish-conceding properties. The brilliant best of the stupa reveres the figure of Dorjee Phurpa or Vajra Kilaya.
The best time to visit the place is between October and June.
The stupa is located at close proximity to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Gangtok Centre.
It is open all days of the week from 8 am to 6 pm.
The stupa is considered as one of the finest monasteries in Gangtok. It was constructed in the year 1945 by Trullshi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels all of which have mantras inscribed on them in Tibetan.
The place can accommodate over 700 monks.
Once this place was believed to be haunted by evil spirits. Later a very respected and great Guru Rinpoche blessed the place, cleansing it of all evil.
It is an ideal place for nirvana seekers, history lovers and photography buffs.
A standout amongst the most imperative and noteworthy monasteries in Gangtok, the Rumtek monastery is among the must visit in Gangtok. The religious community takes after the school of Tibetan Buddhism and is particularly eminent comprehensively for its Kagyu lessons. The design of the place is additionally a noteworthy fascination. It is worked in the traditional Tibetan gompa style and is three stories high. Every one of its floors include intriguing sights that are equipped for bestowing the profound information of Buddhism to its devotees alongside the historical backdrop of the faction. The lobbies of this monastery include a vast hand painted and multifaceted divider wall paintings, thankas, silk compositions and statues, every one of them startling in their profundity and magnificence. The best floor of the religious community includes a stupa and a porch.
(Prayer Wheels at Rumtek Monastery, also called the Dharmachakra Centre)
Try to reach the monastery early so as to catch a glimpse of monks doing morning prayers.
The monastery remains open from 9 am to 6 pm.
The walk is long and steep from the taxi drop off location.
You are not allowed to carry cameras inside the monastery.
The architecture of the monastery is considered to be one of the finest in the world and resembles the original one in Tsurphu, Tibet.
It is a world-renowned center for Kagyu teachings.
During its second construction in 1963, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa brought some of the sacred items and rarest Buddhist religious artwork in the form of 1001 miniature golden models of Buddha, Thangkas and wall murals.
Golden Stupa at the Monastery, mystical ancient relics and down the hill river.
Namgyal institute of Tibetology
A place where Tibetan Buddhism is taught, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a famous fascination in Gangtok. Since the district is vigorously influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, understanding it is an extraordinary method. Delightful Tibetan design characterizes the building and its exhibition hall houses a few statues, coins, hand depictions and weaving work (thangkas), Tibetan fine arts and antiquities, and also antiquated compositions in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese and Lepcha. The library of the Institute houses more than 60,000 books among which are the first lessons of Lord Buddha.
The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is open from 10 am to 4 pm, from Monday to Saturday.
The institute is one of the largest repositories of Tibetan works, located outside the Tibet region. It houses the rarest and oldest collection of ritual objects, mementos, religious art, jewellery, Tibetan iconography, documentaries and books on Sikkimese tradition and culture.
It also houses a library which boasts unique Buddhist tomes, some of which are a hundred years old.
The Sikkimese architecture at the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is to look out for.
It is beautifully set amidst verdant forests of oak and birch.
The Tashi Viewpoint is one of the prevalent spots to visit in Gangtok. Really popular for its dawns and dusks, this place offers startling view of the Himalayan Mountain. Tashi Viewpoint is a picturesque place. Come here to enjoy sunrise and sunset and experience the breath-taking view of the city here.
The best time to visit Tashi View Point is from March to June when the weather remains pleasant.
By paying Rs. 10, you can get a closer view of the enthralling peaks, Phodong and Labrang Monasteries from the binocular or telescope that is present here.
There is a nice cafeteria here, where you can eat snacks and drink warm tea while soaking in the beautiful views.
Tashi View Point offers the best sunrise and sunset views. In fact, you can witness the changing of colours on Mount Kanchenjunga as the sun rises and sets.
Tashi View Point is a must visit place for nature lovers as it offers splendid views of the imposing view of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains, specifically Mount Kanchenjunga and Mount Siniolchu.
Gangtok – the best hill station in India, serves as the capital of Sikkim, a tiny state stuck in the eastern part of India.
Gangtok – the perfect gateway to exotic Sikkim – is perhaps an apt way to describe Gangtok – a beautiful town located at more than an altitude of more than 5500 feet.
With Mount Kanchenjunga in the backdrop, Gangtok may look like any other Himalayan hill station. But better delve deeper into it and there you start seeing the difference.
Gangtok has emerged as one of the most popular destinations for tourists in India in the last decade or so.
With a population of simple and loving people, Gangtok will make you fall for it. No wonder there is hardly any parallel of the pace at which Gangtok has emerged as one of the favourites for tourists. Offering a cool climate, Gangtok has a number of attractions, right within the city limits and outside it.
Attractions of Gangtok
(Stay at Cherry’s Gangtok)
Banjhakri Waterfalls & Tashi View Point
Banjhakri waterfalls is a great natural attraction of Gangtok. It is quite amazing to see such a nice waterfall almost within town limits. There is a small amusement park here as well for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Taking permission from authorities using an approved agency, one can visit Lake Tsomgo, a Himalayan glacial lake, often referred to as Changgu by the locals. Located at a high altitude of more than 12300 feet, Lake Tsomgo or Changgu, is some 40km from Gangtok. It may sound less but it is a drive of more than two hours. The lake surface reflects different colours with change of season and is held in great reverence by the local Sikkimese people.
The latest addition to the beauty of Lake Tsomgo has been the installation of cable cars. These were installed there in 2017. People can go to even higher altitudes using this and enjoy a great view.
With special permission, tourists can go further higher to visit to Nathu La Pass, a mountain pass which connects Sikkim with Tibet. It was once a region of active trade between the two regions as it connected to the old silk route.
Since 2006, trade ties through this Pass has been restored. Nathu La is located at an altitude of 14450 feet above sea level.
(Stay at Cherry’s Gangtok)
Gangtok is also home to some of very nice looking monasteries.
The most beautiful and perhaps the most significant one is Rumtek Monastery, the biggest monastery in Sikkim. This monastery belongs to Karma Kagyu lineage. It houses many sacred objects within the monastery complex. One of the most magnificent of these is the Golden Stupa, which contains the precious relics of His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa.
Besides this, one can also visit Enchey Monastery, which was built in 1909. This monastery belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. Besides its religious importance and a great place for tourists to explore more details about Buddhism, this monastery also offers some great scenic views.
Ganesh Tok & Hanuman Tok
(Stay at Cherry’s Gangtok)
Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok are two other places of great religious importance. They are Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Lord Hanuman respectively.
Hanuman Tok, which was established in 1952, is maintained by Indian Army resident units and contributions made by local people. Situated at a distance of around 9km from main Gangtok city, Hanuman Tok is located at an altitude of more than 7000 feet. It offers some great views of Mount Kanchenjunga and Lukshyama – the royal graveyard with stupas and chortens where the royal family members of Sikkim have been cremated.
Ganesh Tok is also quite popular among tourists as well as locals. Situated at some 7km from Gangtok town, the temple is located at an altitude of 6500 feet. This temple also offers great views of Mount Kanchenjunga and Gangtok town.
(Stay at Cherry’s Gangtok)
Gangtok Zoo, close by, has a good collection of animals from the Himalayan regions.
Tourists should make it a point to visit Namgyal Institute of Tibetology to understand more about Tibetan Buddhism and its cultural influence on Sikkim and other areas. It library has some rich and rare collections.
Gangtok Flower Exhibition
Gangtok Flower Exhibition is an attraction which must not be missed. If you are lucky to visit at the time of blooming of orchids and other flowers, the whole place looks just awesome. Deorali Orchid Sanctuary is also one of the best places to visit for orchids.
There is all likelihood you would not have seen so huge varieties of orchids anywhere else. No wonder, orchid is also the state flower of Sikkim. Every year during May an annual flower show is organized here and there is a big display of orchids and native Sikkimese flowers.
Experience Sikkim Cuisines
Last, but not the least, everyone visiting Gangtok must enjoy the different kinds of cuisines on offer here. Sikkim cuisines are delicious and should be tried by everyone visiting Gangtok. The cuisines, in general, are a blend of Tibetan, Nepalese and Lepcha dishes.
Some of the most popular dishes of Sikkim are momo (dumplings); thukpa (a kind of noodle soup of Tibetan origin); phagshapa (a strip of pork fat that is stewed with dry chillies and radish); sha phaley (Bread stuffed with ground beef and cabbage) and gundruk ( a leafy dish of Nepalese origin that is completely vegan and is made out of some leaves of mustard, cabbage or radish).