Sikkim Travel Guide – Everything you need to know about Sikkim
“Welcome to Sikkim – where nature smiles…” is the first thing you would see while entering Sikkim. It is one of the states in the North East India, and the fact that makes it all the more special is that it shares borders with Nepal, China, and Bhutan. This Sikkim travel guide is based on my experience of one month of backpacking in this beautiful state.
Some Facts about Sikkim:
- 2nd smallest state in India.
- Became 22nd state of India on 26th April, 1975.
- Capital: Gangtok.
- Has had a total of four capitals: Yuksom, Rabdentse, Tumlong and Gangtok.
- Most common Languages: English, Hindi, Nepali, Sikkimese, Lepcha.
- Main Festivals: Sikkimese New Year, Saga Dawa, Khecheopalri Mela.
- Most common Food: Thukpa, Chow Mein and Momos.
Best time to visit Sikkim:
Some people say that Sikkim has only two seasons throughout the year: monsoons and winters. During monsoons, there is a high risk of landslides. Even though the peak travel season is from October to November, the best time to visit Sikkim is from March end to the first half of June.
If you want to visit during snowfall, best possible time is from December to February. However, you can always find snow in the North Sikkim.
How to reach Sikkim:
Currently, you can enter Sikkim only via the road route. Sikkim is connected to Siliguri via NH 31, which goes until Gangtok. It is also connected to the hill stations Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal.
If you plan to fly: The closest airport is Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal. From there, you can either take a shared cab or board a bus for Gangtok. Although there is a helicopter service available from Bagdogra to Gangtok too, but it is very costly and much less preferred.
There is another airport in Pakyong village which is 35 kms away from Gangtok. It recently received its commercial operating license, and is expected to have regular flights soon.
If going via a train: The closest railway stations are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri. You can book a private/shared cab or board a bus from there.
Budget for Sikkim:
Although it depends on the number of days that you are planning to travel for and the places you intend to visit, the approximate per day cost for traveling within Sikkim would be around 1200 INR (food and accommodation). Additionally you can add the flight/train fare depending on your choice. You can find many budget hotels in Sikkim, so it caters to all kinds of spenders.
Places to visit in Sikkim:
Sikkim has something to offer for all types of travelers and tourists: mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, rivers, and temples. One can do many activities in Sikkim, such as trekking, river rafting, hang gliding, paragliding, mountain biking, taking a yak safari, shopping for traditional Sikkimese handicrafts and woolens, etc.
Sikkim is divided into four parts, viz. North Sikkim, East Sikkim, West Sikkim, and South Sikkim. Different travelers prefer to visit different parts according to their preferences. Here are some of the most famous places to be visited in Sikkim:
- Gangtok and its Day Tour: It includes the famous MG Marg in Gangtok, Banjhakari Falls, Gonjang Monastery, Tashi View Point, Ganeshtok and Hanumantok temples. Tashi View Point is amazing for watching sunset and the changing colors of the sky and Mount Kanchenjunga turning golden with it. Gangtok looks beautiful from Ganeshtok.
- Gurudongmar Lake: This is one of the highest lakes in the world and is an absolute beauty. Visiting it in itself is a surreal experience.
- Lachung, Lachen, and Yumthang Valley: Lachung and Lachen are villages in the North Sikkim, which are homes for Tibetan and Bhutia people. Yumthang is an alluring valley which is located approximately 22 kms from Lachung.
- Tsomgo Lake: This picturesque lake is a must-visit lake in Sikkim and is rich in natural beauty. Here you can see land, water, snow, and the mountains altogether. You can delightfully enjoy the Yak ride here and take the whole round of the lake on a Yak.
- Nathu La Pass: This pass is the border and connects Sikkim with China. Located in the Himalayas, it is a delight to soak in all its beauty.
- Yuksom: It used to be the first capital of Sikkim. It is a historic town in West Sikkim which is filled with natural beauty. The key attractions here include Norbugang Park, the Dubdi Gompa, and Khangchendzonga National Park.
- Dentam: People visit Dentam for Singshore bridge. It is said to be Asia’s second highest suspended bridge, and it feels great to be there.
- Ravangla: Famous for Buddha Park, hikes and treks, Ravangla offers beautiful mountain views. It is located in South Sikkim and is a home for Tashiding Monastery.
- Namchi: Namchi is the capital of South Sikkim and offers beautiful scenic views of the woodland mountain valleys. It is also famous for the tea gardens, rock garden, and Namchi Mahotsav. People usually visit Namchi for Char Dham.
- Dzuluk: Dzuluk (Also known as Zuluk) is a small village preferred for those who want to encounter snowfall in Sikkim and it provides some amazing views of Mount Kanchenjunga. It is also famous for the Nag temple, and the curvy road through Jelep-la Pass.
- Pelling: Pelling is a small town regularly visited by tourists and travelers to get a view of Mount Kanchenjunga. One can also visit the ruins of Rabdentse, the ancient capital of Sikkim after a hike of about 3 kms from here.
- Teesta River: Famous for river rafting and kayaking, Teesta River is filled with beauty in both the summers, and the winters when it is frozen. One of the attractions also includes bird spotting.
Some Tips while traveling in Sikkim:
- Carry some passport size photographs, as at some places, permits are required.
- Keep your documents and identification proofs handy.
- To cut the costs, you can always choose to travel in shared cabs (within the city as well as the state), which have very nominal rates. Sikkim offers a well-organized cab system.
- Nathula Pass is located at a high altitude, so to keep away from any breathing problems, avoid alcohol, and take small steps. Also, do not forget to buy popcorn on the way, it helps in avoiding acute mountain sickness.
- If you decide to hike to Rabdentse ruins, it is better to take a local guide along, as it a forest area and the way is a little confusing.
- While traveling to Gangtok, try to sit on the left side to get a view of teesta river.
- Don’t miss out on Chaang, a homemade millet beer served in a bamboo glass.
- Do not litter and do not take a piss at the roadside.
- If you can, do reserve one or two days for Darjeeling.
Sikkim is a gem and the nature truly smiles here. Given a chance, I would definitely go again. I would recommend everyone to visit Sikkim at least once in their lifetime.