Think about a capital of a state and the logical conclusion is a hustle bustle unequal to the others, but not in Gangtok Hill Station.
When surrounded profoundly with the noise, crowd and tropical heat synonymous to Indian subcontinent, everyone is most welcome in Gangtok- a place where life moves with its own leisurely pace despite being the capital of Sikkim.
Either find solace in watching the clouds taking the shape you wish to see or feel enlightened at the various Buddhist prayer sites that drawn your attention or just experience the silence on the roads irrespective of the mild crowd of people trying to make it to their destinations. At times, tourists find themselves lost in reverie in cable car on rope-way or while trekking on scenic trails but feeling of being taken care of never leaves. All the while, there would be a feeling of overwhelm not exactly to be categorized, because the more one looks around at 5800 ft altitude the deeper meanings and connections are found.
Being the capital of 22nd state of India comes with responsibility and a fair amount of limelight, most of which is duly taken care by the place and the administration since Sikkim merged itself in the Republic of India in 1975. Even when it was not a state but independent country, Sikkim has Gangtok as its capital since 1894 with the decision of King Thutob Namgyal.
The economics of the place has been affected by the war closing routes to Tibet but that has been changed up to great extent by the emerging hospitality and tourism industry. And not without reasons, tourists continue to be beguiled by Gangtok tourism and the opportunities of tryst with Nature it amply proffers being situated in lesser Himalayas accompanied by flirting River Teesta.
The monasteries with their peculiar quietude, simple worshipping rituals and colorful prayer flags; hills showcasing mighty Kanchendzonga, the third in the series of height competition; the greenery sprawled on the slopes of the hill tops on the hill city; festivals and cultural ceremonies that are a coveted sight of the place; all this and more makes visit to the place a delight. Start with-
Enchey Monastery - Built by Thutob Namgyal, this one is among the oldest monasteries, giving the serene view of Himalayas including the Kanchendzonga. The site of this holy place is said to be blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo having tantric powers of flying. The mask dance- Chaam is one of the attractions here.
Rumtek Monastery - Largest Monastery of Sikkim and some 24 Km away from Gangtok, this has its roots in Tibet as the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje placed here his seat to spread teachings of Buddhism. The Golden Stupa containing his remains of mortal presence is one of the main attractions.
Do-Drul Chorten Stupa - Also referred to as Dro-Dul, the stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche in the year 1945. Being the head of Nyingmapa Order, he is worshipped at different places where Buddhism as a religion prevails.
Tsuk La Khang Palace and Monastery - Unique in the way of being located inside a palace, this monastery is of 2 storey housing ancient Buddhist scriptures of immense value. Royal functions used to be a part of it, now replaced by Phang Labsol, the Loosang and New Year festivals.
Phensang Monastery - Located some 9 Km away from Gangtok and established in the year 1721, the monastery is of Nyingmapa Order of Buddhism. The festivals held in the 10th month of Tibetan calendar are main attractions of the place along with the pious calmness.
Hanuman Tok - Dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the temple is at neighboring site of Royal Cremation Ground. The views of Himalayas enhance the appeal of the temple even more. The temple is managed by a division of Indian Army and disciple falls in place naturally.
Ganesh Tok - The temple is located at around 1900 m altitude and might find itself among the highest Ganesh temples. Small, beautiful and attractive, tourists turned devotees can have a great time couples with Himalayan Zoological park located some distance that could be covered in 5 minutes or so.
Lakes and Falls
Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden - Those, who have visited Rumtek Monastery know that this garden is just a short distance away from here. Different varieties of Orchids, tropical and temperate plants and trees are present to be studied and admired. Kids can revel in a area provided only for them to play.
Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve - Having come to Gangtok means that a tourist is planning to explore the places around it as well and this park at some 145 Km away presents the perfect opportunity. Enjoy trekking to make the best of the place.
Vanasthalipuram Deer Park - Developed some 16 Km away, the place is home to different species of deer like Black Buck, rare red panda, birds, etc. Also referred to as Rustomji Deer Park, it was established in 1964 and since then a nice destination to tour.
Himalayan Zoological Park - 230 hectares of land in Bulbulay at more than 6000 ft altitude is covered by lush greenery that is bound to invite animals and birds who find it a perfect place for themselves.
Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary - While making a trip to the Lake Changgu, be sure to visit this place because it holds some of the spectacular alpine flora- medicinal and aromatic. One visit and it refreshes soul unlike anyplace else.
Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary - 20 Km in the east of Gangtok, the place is meant to get a glimpse of wildlife that could not be found in plains or some other places that have not the features resembling to the place.
Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary - One of the important place where Nature put up a show that everyone finds to be appreciating, the place is reputed for innumerable species of colorful Rhododendron. Some of the animals and birds of the altitude could also be seen.
Tashi View Point - The place is near by the Ganesh Tok and provides opportunity of great clicks of snow-draped mountains.
Nathu La - The pass leads to the Lake Tsomgo and give panoramic view of the location in which Gangtok is placed. The mountain pass is often the choice of place for mountain biking as well, now that it is open long after the Sino Indian war.
Saramsa Garden - A public garden which has 1922 as its establishment year, it holds many trees having fruits and of medicinal qualities main of which is Ipecac due to which it came to be known as Garden. International Floriculture is another attraction of it.
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology - The culture and heritage of Tibet which also includes Buddhism religion, festivals, Nature, etc makes visiting this place a great experience. Paintings, Murals, antique scriptures, icons, etc are put to show in a museum which is frequented many numerous visitors.
Rabdentse Ruins - Ruins might not be much of interest for many but they still attracts those who wish to see the past times in whatever has survived from its grasp. This place tells about a palace present here that belonged to Sikkim Royal Kingdom destroyed by the Nepalese invasion.
Kabi Lungchok - The place stands as the testimony of two rulers coming close in a treaty of friendship, they being Lepcha and Bhutia king. A stone pillar marks the place and people coming here can visit a Buddhist monastery located nearby.
White Hall - Typical example of British architecture, it came into existence in the year 1932. The name doesn't indicate the color it is painted with but the fact that it was built in the memory of British Officer Claude White.
Places around Gangtok
Pelling - The hill station with a difference, this one is at a distance of around 116 km from Gangtok and can be a nice addition to the Gangtok tour package with different monasteries and versatile Nature on display.
Namchi - Talk about monasteries, largest statue of Padamasambha in the world, myths and legends associated with chogyals- the former rulers of Sikkim, largest flower show of Sikkim, and everything characteristic of Sikkim could be found here up to the extent of expectation and satisfaction.
Ravangla - At a greater altitude than Gangtok the place is a notch cooler as well. To get clear view of some of the prominent peaks of Himalayan belt like Mt Kanchendzonga, Mt Pandim, Mt Sinialchu and Mt Kabru, no place could be better than this.
Darjeeling - Talk about all the West Bengal with its prominent district Darjeeling and all the hill stations like Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Bagdogra, Mikir and Siliguri come flooding to mind. No trip to eastern hill stations could be complete without it, especially if tourist has time at his dispense.
Things to do
Apart from visiting everything that is mentioned above, one can add to the list few adventures to try of which Gangtok could be a starting point. Count in Paragliding Motor biking, Jeep Safari, River Rafting, Bird watching, Fishing, Peak climbing, trekking, Himalayan Heli Tour and mountain biking. Surely, Gangtok holidays are going to be hilarious with all these activities on platter.
In Gangtok, a comfortable stay is possible anywhere travelers wish to lodge. The serenity of the hill station coupled with the beauty of the Nature and the simplicity of the lives make accommodations inviting. The services offered are as per the budget one would have set aside on such a trip, which includes touring, lodging and eating. So, if one has not actually made any plan as to how go about making the most of the time in Gangtok by picking up places that easily fit the time limit tourist has come with the help of guide hotel manager makes available.
Some of the prominent hotels in Gangtok are Sagorika, Mayfair, Sai Kripa, Keepsa Residency, Anola, Comfort Inn, Denzong Inn, Sonam Delek, Himalayan Retreat, Bamboo Grove and many more.
Being a hill station, Gangtok exudes the pleasant atmosphere which a tourist comes to expect from it. Temperature generally ranges from -5°C to 28°C changing in between to mark all the months from winters to summers. Rainy seasons in the months of Jul and August are noted with 22°C recording the maximum rainfall.
Best time to visit
Rainy seasons are generally avoided for the inconvenience they can cause being on mountain. Rest of the months are well suited to make a trip to Gangtok, for tourists in all the age brackets.
How to reach
By Air : Airport in Bagdogra of W. Bengal is the fastest way to reach Gangtok when united with helicopter service or with the road journey to cover rest of the 124 Km.
By Train : Jalpaiguri at only 114 Km from Gangtok acts a major rail head serving the other hill stations in the region as well. Regular bus services or car / taxi hiring can help to cover what is left of the journey to Gangtok.
By Road : Cars and Taxis can make the journey look go longer, but if the urge is strong various buses could be changed on different national highways to reach Gangtok. Cars and taxis can do the same job, if are a preferred mode of travel. Jalpaiguri remains the connecting place.