Top 20 Things to Do and See in Sikkim
City life may be one big celebration with back to back parties, crazy shopping, and weekends in Spas… but despite all these great things you can’t deny that by the time the weekends you end up feeling jaded and low. Guess you need to take a break! Let yourself loose and try going back to the land where the disturbing honks of vehicles do not compel you to open your dreamy eyes… yes you got it right! There can be no place other than the lap of Mother Nature to unwind and shoo away all the stress and ennui.
Sikkim, the landlocked state of India, is the antidote that can soothe your strenuous nerves with its fresh air, forested mountain valleys and long stretches of snow-clad mountain peaks. One of the best holiday destinations in North East India, Sikkim encompasses some of the best treks of the country where the strains of walking on the arduous mountain trails are seized by the vistas of adjacent forest. Where clouds play hide and seek with the beautiful silver-fir trees, and cherry red Rhododendron willingly gets united with snow white Magnolia to adorn the walking trails. Detached from the complexities of metro life, people of this Himalayan state are simple, slightly shy and behave in a charming manner.
Let’s embark on a virtual tour to know what all we can see and do if we plan for a holiday tour in Sikkim.
Trekking in Goecha La Trek
Enclosed by majestic mountain ranges of the Himalaya from all sides, Sikkim, the wonderland of North-East India, brings brilliant opportunity of testing the strength of your legs. Each trek stands different from the next and even the novice trekker can walk on some of them with minimum precaution. For guaranteed fun of trekking in Sikkim the trail of Goecha La is unbeatable. Described as a tranquil high altitude trek in the Himalaya, Goecha La reaches ranges from easy to moderate and brings opportunity of walking through the awe-inspiring Tshoka Rhododendron forests and the vast Dzongri and Thangsing meadows. The actual trek starts from Yuksom at 5700 ft and meandering through the deep green forest of Sachen, picturesque Tshoka Monastery, lush green meadows of Dzongri, cascading Kokchurung, and Thangsing it reaches Lamuney, the last highest point for camping at a height of 13,693 ft. En-route, let your eyes enjoy the vistas painted by the sparkling blue water of Samiti Lake, Goecha La Pass and sky-touching mountain peaks of Kanchenjunga and Pandim. If you are an early riser, witness the beguiling sunrise from Dzongri Top.
River rafting on the Teesta
The lifeline of the Indian state of Sikkim, Teesta beautifies the natural panorama of the state. One of the best spots to try adventure activities in Sikkim, the river presents some great rapids that can be tamed only by the avid rafters with adequate experience. Those thrill seeking souls who love to navigate through wild rapids can satiate their thirst impeccably. Meandering down the rough and rugged rapids of this mountain river, the rafters can get enough tides to get an adrenaline rush. The rapids in Teesta range between grade 2 and 4 where the rapids between 2 and 3 let the beginners to try their hands at. The riverbank is dotted with green patches of paddy field, deep green forests, small villages and scattered white sandy beaches where setting a camp will work like icing on the cake.
Bird Watching in Kewzing
Sikkim appears to be a birding paradise when you step out in Kewzing. Whether you are an ornithologist or a normal birder, the dense forest of Kewzing serves as an undisturbed accommodation of total 200 species of birds, some of which are indigenous to Sikkim. The Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary is popular for housing Satyr Tragopan, a rare species of pheasants found in Eastern Himalaya. Among the commonly found species of birds, the Fire-tailed Myzornis, Sultan Tit, Puff-throated Babbler and Streaked Spiderhunter are a few. Well! If your bird loving soul is not yet satisfied head to Pelling (24 Km from Kewzing) where you can see exotic species like Scaly Laughingthrush, Rusty Cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Red Faced Liochichla, Scarlet Finch, Cutia, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler. The adjacent areas of Khecheopalri Lake, Yuksom Valley, Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary and Dzongri are popular bird watching spots in Sikkim where one can capture some of the best bird pictures.
Cable Car Ride in Gangtok
One of the top things to do in Sikkim, cable car ride in Gangtok brings opportunity of witnessing the stunning views of the picturesque Gangtok town from the highest point of the city compelling one to visit the town the second time. The ride covers a distance of one km in just seven minutes and allows one to enjoy a bird eye view of the busy city engaged in mundane tasks. There are three terminal stations for this ropeway ride with its lower station at Deorali Market, the intermediate terminal at Nam Nang, and upper terminal station is at Tashiling. Every day the ride runs between 8 am to 4. 30 pm and one can join the ride from any of the three stations.
Yak Ride near Tsomgo Lake
The admirer of eco-tourism might like the idea of exploring the vicinity of this picture perfect lake. One of the best places to visit in Sikkim, the lake is located at a height of 12,400 ft and enclosed by ethereally beautiful views of snow clad Himalaya. The lake changes appearance with the changing season. As the winter approaches the lake water starts freezing and a carpet of white snow covers the adjacent hills, while in late spring season the lake vicinity looks stunningly impressive with trees blooming in vibrant colours. The yaks that are hired on rent are decorated with colourful woollen items, and bells and strings which hang from their neck making them look fierce yet adorable.
Visiting Rumtek Monastery
If you are looking forward to sightseeing in Sikkim and confused about what to see in Sikkim, start your trip from Rumtek Monastery in Gangtok. This picturesque monastery depicts typical Buddhist architectural style and impresses the first timers magnetically. The monastery is also known as the Dharma Chakra Centre and claimed to be one of the largest monasteries in Sikkim. The most impressive element of this shrine is the Golden Stupa that contains relics of the sixteenth Karmapa. Other than the main temple, the monastery complex encloses monk quarters, a monastic college, nunnery and several related accommodations. However, monasteries like old Sanga-Choeling monastey (only accessible on foot from Pelling), Pemyangtse (near Pelling in West Sikkim), the Enchey monastery (in Gangtok), Karma Kagyu monastery (in Phodong in North Sikkim) also are popular tourist attractions in Sikkim.
Flower Exhibition at White Hall
Nature worshippers would love visiting this flower show at White Hall, Gangtok. Sikkim houses ample varieties of seasonal flowers along with bright orchids and unnamed wild varieties. To have a glimpse of the Sikkimese flower species, visiting the flower exhibition at White Hall is worth trying. The exhibition mainly takes place during the month of April – May for this is the season the flowers gardens of Sikkim bloom in riots of colour. The exhibition has gained popularity in recent years as it has got international recognition. These days seasonal exhibitions are also organised all through the year where one can get an idea about the seasonal flower varieties of Sikkim. So, if you are in Gangtok, try to find out whether the exhibition is on or not. However, to know more about flowers in Sikkim, Deorali Orchid Sanctuary in south Gangtok and Kyongnosia Alpine Sanctuary are the best options of flower watching in Sikkim.
Mountain Biking from Gangtok to Rangpo
Perhaps the longest mountain biking route in Sikkim, Gangtok-Rangpo is ideal for those mountain bikers who dream of cycling through the rugged and dramatic trails of the Himalaya. The enigmatic view of the countryside, lifestyle of the Sikkimise people and the landscape painted by magnificent flora and fauna is best experienced on a bike through the lush green hills. Group mountain biking in Sikkim is organised both in spring and fall. However, solo bikers can go for biking any time they have a tendency. There are several other routes for mountain biking in Sikkim which include Rangpo – Yungthum route, another elongated route that can truly satisfy the adventure bug inside you. Other popular mountain biking routes are Gangtok – Temi, Gangtok – Melli etc.
Enjoy the Sikkimese Nightlife
Even if you are in a city, you cannot calm down your mind when the boozing bug bites you. Fret not! Though Gangtok town might not look like a metro but it has Cafe Live & Loud, which will satisfy your thirst of partying to your heart’s content. Ask me, what you can’t get there! A live music club is waiting for you inside. It is one of the oldest music clubs in North-East India where you can enjoy the real fun of listening to live music. The acoustically designed music club has a large lounge area along with sitting space overlooking the main Tibbet Road. The interior of the bar looks stunningly impressive with excellent graphics on the ceiling and as the night starts getting darker the interplay of shadow and deem light creates a dramatic environment and motivates all to shake a leg. However, if one wants to try a different taste Pub 25, Lounge 31a, Orthodox, and Indulge are some of the best bars in Sikkim. X’ cape is one the most popular nightclubs of Sikkim.
Eating out in 9’INE Native Cuisine
Well, I guess foodies wouldn’t love going back from their favourite spot without trying the local culinary. They can try their taste bud with rousing foods in the multi-cuisine restaurants of Sikkim. But, those who are very particular about the overall dining part must try a lunch or dinner in restaurant 9’INE Native Cuisine. Starting from food to hospitality each part matches the guest’s class and taste impeccably and compels one to visit the hotel once more. The hotel brings delectable Tibetan food with mouth watering aroma of fresh spices. Local delicacies like sisnoo, gundruk ka jhol, fermented soyabean chutney, scrumptious pork curry are a must try. Restaurants like Taste of Tibet, Gupta Restaurant, Gangtalk are some of the best eateries in Sikkim.
Try Sikkemese Tongba
Just like Feni of Goa, Tongba is a native drink of Sikkim produced in common households. The drink is made from whole grain millets that are cooked and fermented. The fermented grains are then dried and stored for several months. The fermented millet is kept in a bamboo tumbler and boiled water is poured into it to make the beverage complete. In Sikkim, offering Tongba is regarded to be a show of respect to the guests. Some of the restaurants serve this alcoholic beverage on demand. So, if you are in any local restaurant, do not forget to ask them to serve you Tongba for sure.
Caving in the North Lha-ri-nying phu
Popularly as the Old Caves of God’s Hill, this cave is believed to be one of the holiest caves in Sikkim and presents wonderful opportunity of watching the interiors of the Himalaya. The cave is located to the north of Tashiding (in West Sikkim near the Tashiding Monastery). From Tashiding a three days walk will take you to the mouth of the cave. Enjoy the thrill of this fun-filled activity and if you are the religious type, get blessings of the local deity. However, for caving, Sikkim presents three more exclusive caves called Kahdosangphu (cave of the fairies), Pephu (secret cave), Dechhenphu (The cave of happiness).
Leisure Walk in Rinchenpong
Take a break from the regular adventure activities and go out for village walk. Rinchenpong is a small town in West Sikkim which is 40 km west of Gangtok. The densely forested hills of this quiet retreat create a tranquil environment allowing you to bath in the serenity thereby transforming your holidays in Sikkim remarkable. The hotels in this area offer stunning views of Kanchenjunga and you would love witnessing the view of the crimson sun rays piercing through the peaks of Kanchenjunga and reaching your bed. Wake up and move out to go for a leisure walk. Fresh air, picture – perfect ambience and not-so-busy lifestyle of the locales will call you to spend some time with them. Don’t forget to get a local to accompany you when you are visiting the village, as otherwise the shy local people might not open up to you.
If you are a history buff and scavenging through the history of the bygone era is your agenda behind visiting the place, then Sikkim will whet your appetite. The state has got enough options to explore and learn about antique mountain culture. The best place to know about Tibetan ethnicity is the fortress-like building of Namgyal Institute of Tibetology in Gangtok. Let your knowledge bank get filled with the immaculate nuances of Tibetan culture and Vajrayana Buddhism. Do not forget to explore each nook and corner of the museum as the entire building is packed with antique artefacts like ancient manuscripts, thangkas and several Tantric ritualistic objects including human skulls, bowls and thigh-bone trumpets and many more.
Cuddle Local Lifestyle
There cannot be any activity more exciting than spending some time with the Sikkimese tribal people. If you are out of home to get relief from extravagant life, try living like them. Instead of going for hotel choose a homestay option. For the best homestay option in Sikkim, reach Dzongu, a triangular region in North Sikkim. It is a vast stretch of land inhabited by the Lepchas, an indigenous tribe of Sikkim. The houses are dotted in different levels of the mountains where abundant greenery encloses them from all sides. Take a short walk by the side of river Rongyung Chu, go for angling or sit idly to feel the tender touch of Mother Nature. Have fresh food that are grown locally, go around the market and above all do not forget to taste the home made alcoholic beverage.
Festivals in Sikkim
Though the festivals of Sikkim are mostly religion centric, yet their vibrancy and customs associated with them mesmerise tourists. The beliefs, ethnic touch, dance, song, costume and the associated mysticism generate a dramatic environment which is even enjoyed by the irreligious souls as well. Almost all through the year, the festivals take place and most of these are organised following the Buddhist calendar. Among the most popular religious festivals in Sikkim Saga Dawa is believed to be the holiest and celebrated with great pomp and show. The festival is organised either at the end of May or beginning of June. Apart from the religious rites, the main attraction of this celebration is the lama masked dance, which is a must see. However, if you would love to take part in the seasonal festival of Sikkim, then Tharpu Monsoon Festival (August), Gangtok Winter Festival (Dec 9- Jan 11) are the best options for you. Losar Festival (February) is the gala event of new year celebration of Sikkim.
Try Going Organic
Perhaps Sikkim is the first state in India that has felt the actual need of going organic. That is why the local markets of Sikkim have started selling organic items. The government has declared its objective of converting the state into a completely organic land within the year 2015. So changes are apparent in local produces. Try consuming organic foods during the time you are in Sikkim and indulge in a nutritious vacation. You can also take some organic products on your way back home.
Paragliding in Sikkim
Glide like an eagle, let the moment be captured in digital lens and post it on Facebook. I am sure you can’t stop your notification box from getting filled within minutes. And why not! It truly deserves. Witnessing the surreal beauty of this mesmeric land flying above the hilly abodes, lofty mountains, and unbound greenery let one feel rejuvenated and brings memories to be cherished for a long time. However, for the best paragliding experience try visiting Sikkim during the annual Sikkim Paragliding Festival. The festival is held in Gangtok during the month of October and November when the temperature remains moderate and the sky look clear and sunny.
Try Being Religious
I would not suggest you to turn religious overnight. But, if you do believe in the divine presence of the supreme soul, then your upcoming vacation in Sikkim would turn more fun-filled. If one visits the monasteries keeping deep religious belief at heart one will truly feel blessed. Meditate inside any old Buddhist Gompa, or pay homage to the deity residing inside the shrines of the temple town of Namchi. Well, do not forget to light a butter lamp whenever you visit a monastery. According to common belief it will bring love, peace and prosperity to one’s life.
Shopping on MG Road
Anyone who visit Gangtok, does not forget to buy Chinese Feng Shui items like laughing Buddha, Dragons, New Year Lamp or even the dresses worn during Tibetan festivals. Mg Road is the ideal market where you can find all ethnic items. Try buying a unique cup found in this market that is printed with special Sikkemese designs and comes with a lid. Try local artefacts of Sikkim that looks stunning. Hand woven blanket, carpet, wooden and bamboo items are some of the items you can take back home. Be cautious while buying anything from the local market. Try bargaining because the vendors hike prices. You can also try buying authentic Sikkemese items from Tibetan Handicrafts Centre.
Now that you have got the list of activities to do in Sikkim your most important query of what to do and see in Sikkim is solved. So, apply for a week’s leave with a ‘convincing’ mail (no matter the reason of taking leave is real or fake) and pack your bag to head to Sikkim, the wonderland of North-East.
Oh! And do not forget to obtain permits for the visit before you head to Sikkim. Foreigners need to get Inner Line Permit to enter Sikkim. Offices that issue permit are available in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi; Middleton Street, Kolkata; and Hill Cart Road in Sikkim. However, Indian nationals need to obtain permit from the Police Check Post in Gangtok to visit particular places like Tsogmo Lake, Lachung, Yumthang Valley, Gurudongmar Lake etc.
N.B: Check if your camera is fully charged. I know you would start clicking photos from Bagdogra (airport). Till then ciao…