The capital of Sikkim, Gangtok, is a hill resort and one of the most frequently visited places in the north-east. It is known for its scenic beauty and striking views of the mount Kanchenjunga, 3rd highest peak in the world. This small capital city of Sikkim showcases Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the mountain breeze, exotic orchids and chirruping birds in a colourful melee. Gangtok makes for a perfect base for tourists, trekkers, and explorers. However, in spite of the crowds, the town is amazingly clean. Plastic bags are banned and the public toilets are well-maintained. The locals too are welcoming and helpful.
Gangtok has a few good places to visit – the Institute of Tibetology, Institute of Handicrafts and Handlooms, Rumtek Monastery, and Dharma Chakra Centre – you’ll need to drive away from the bustling town for the real treasures. These include the Tsomgo Lake and the Jhakri Waterfalls, which you’ll come across on a drive to Nathu La, the second highest mountain pass in the world.
Lamaism is big around the area. Monasteries like Enchey Monastery, Do Drul Chorten, Tashiding, and Pemayangtse are worth visiting.
From here, the beautiful hill town of Pelling is a short 125-kilometre drive away. It makes for a perfect overnight trip. Then there is the Gurudongmar Lake – not very big but certainly one of the highest and the most beautiful in the world.
While you are in Gangtok, make the most of all the good Tibetan restaurants in the vicinity and don’t forget to try out some cakes and pastries from the many pastry shops on MG Road.
In and Around
Tsomgo Lake is a two-hour drive from Gangtok on the Gangtok-Nathu La highway. About a kilometre-long and 50 metres deep, Tsomgo Lake is popular as a tourist attraction and a holy site as well. It’s encircled by lush green landscapes on all sides. A small Shiva temple, some food stalls and several beautiful plants and flowers can be seen at the Tsomgo Lake. Tourists can also enjoy a yak ride around the lake. On days without sunshine, you’ll often see the Changu Lake hidden in a veil of mist.
Do Drul Chorten
Arguably the most popular stupa (a dome-shaped Buddhist shrine) in Sikkim, Do Drul Chorten was built in 1945 by a Tibetan Buddhist named Trulshik Rinpoche. Surrounded by 108 prayer wheels on which Buddhist mantras have been engraved, monks and tourists swirl the wheels, which is equivalent to completing 108 beads of recital. The gold plated steeple atop the Chorten is what Do Drul is famous for.
About 25 kilometres east of Gangtok and at an altitude of 5,800 feet is Sikkim’s biggest monastery, the Rumtek Monastery. Built in 1740 and rebuilt in 1979, the monastery features a golden stupa containing the relics of the 16th Karmapa, with several other sacred Buddhist artefacts.
On the road to Nathu La at 7,200 feet, this temple is managed by the Indian Army. The views of Gangtok and the nearby lush hills from here are spectacular.
Nathu La Pass
The views from the second highest mountain pass are absolutely stunning. It’s wiser to start for the pass at the break of dawn and arrive there by morning. En route you’ll come across two beautiful sights; the Jhakri Waterfalls and a stunning glacial lake called Changu (Tsomgo Lake).
Singhik is a sleepy little town in Sikkim known for its unmatched natural beauty. For tourists, Singhik is like a paradisiacal retreat from the cacophony of the cities. The Singhik Viewpoint is situated just on the wayside of Singhik and provides stunning views of Kanchenjunga and Mt Siniolchu. If you move downwards from the Singhik Viewpoint, you can see the confluence of Teesta and Kanaka rivers.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the waters of Banjhakri Falls are a treat to the eyes and senses. This is an ideal spot for a delightful picnic with family and friends.
The Tashi Viewpoint is one of the best places to go to with a pair of binoculars, water and some sandwiches. From the Tashi Viewpoint, you get the perfect view of the snow covered peaks of Kanchenjunga. The Phodong Monastery and the Labrang Monastery are also easily visible from here. The Tashi Viewpoint was commissioned to be built by the late king of Sikkim – Tashi Namgyal.
Seven Sisters Waterfall
On the road to North Sikkim on the National Highway, you will come across one of the most picturesque and pristine waterfalls in the region called the Seven Sisters Waterfall. Located 32 kilometres away from Gangtok, the Seven Sisters Waterfall is an extremely captivating waterfall, which got its name because it is said to fall in seven stages.
Located 17 kilometres from Gangtok, the historical town of Kabi Longstok is where the friendship treaty was signed between the Lepcha chief Tekung Tek and the Bhutia chief Khey Bum Sar. A stone pillar was built to mark the location of the place where the treaty was signed. You can also visit the small Buddhist monastery located here.
Phurchachu Hot Springs
Situated close to one of the four holy caves in Gangtok, Phurchachu Hot Springs are also considered to be sacred. The holy cave here is known as the Kadosangphu or ‘Cave of the occult fairies’. The water of these springs is rich in Sulphur and is believed to have medicinal value. The springs overlook the beautiful Rangeet River and are a scenic site frequented by many tourists every year.
Ganesh Tok is a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh, located at an altitude of about 6,500 metres above sea level. It is situated next to the television tower on the hillock on Gangtok–Nathula Road. This is a really tiny temple with place only for one person at a time and you would have to crawl to get into the temple. But one you are in, you will get a nice panoramic view of Gangtok and the surrounding areas.
Institute of Tibetology
The main attraction here is the museum which houses around large number of Buddhist icons, antique paintings, thangkas, statues, shrines, tapestries, masks and other religious works of Tibetan Art. Moreover, the place also boasts of having more xylographs and has the translation of Buddha’s original teachings by eminent scholars from all over the world.
Only one of its kind in this region and is still in operation. It takes the passenger to the highest point of the city of Gangtok covering the distance of about on1km in only seven minutes. The lower terminal station is located at Deorali Market, the intermediate terminal at Nam Nang and the upper terminal station is below Secretariat (Tashiling). One can truly enjoy the panoramic view as the Ropeway goes over the City.
Himalayan Zoological Park
This park exhibits a wide species of Himalayan fauna like the black beer, barking deer, snow leopard, civet cat, red pandas and the spotted deer.
Pemayangtse Monastery is situated at a distance of 112 kilometer from Gangtok. It is Sikkim’s most important Gompa. Framed by snowcapped mountains Pemayangtse Monastery makes a stunning sight. It was built during the reign of the third Chogyal Chador Namgyal in 1705. Since then it was rebuilt many times. The main festival takes place in February.
Tashiding Monastery is located in West Sikkim at a distance of 145 Kilometers from Gangtok. Tashiding Monastery holds a strategic position on the top of a hill between Rathong and Rangit rivers. Tashiding Monastery has one unique characteristic: the monastery is gold topped. It is regarded as one of the holiest Buddhist Gompas in Sikkim.
The principal trekking area is the Dzongri area of West Sikkim. The trekking routes pass through beautiful villages.
The season between October to mid-December is considered best season to visit Gangtok.
How to Reach
Gangtok doesn’t have its own airport; however the nearest airport lies at Bagdogra in West Bengal. Located at a distance of 124 kms from Gangtok, Bagdogra Airport is well connected with Kolkata, Delhi, Patna, Imphal and Guwahati. From the Airport, one can take regular buses, coaches and taxis that take around 4 hours to reach Gangtok.
As Gangtok also doesn’t have its own railway station, the city relies on two nearest railway stations at New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri. These stations are connected to all the major cities of India. Located at a distance of 126 kms and 114 kms, these places are well-connected to Gangtok by road. From station itself, you can take regular tourist buses, coaches, taxis or jeeps to reach Gangtok.
Gangtok has a well-developed network of roads. National Highway 31A connects Gangtok to Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and other mountain locales. Keeping in mind the weather conditions, the road has been touched up with metal. Regular tourist buses, coaches, taxis and jeeps commute daily to and fro from Siliguri, Bagdogra, Darjeeling and Kalimpong to Gangtok. From Gangtok, Bagdogra, Siliguri, Kalempong and Jalpaiguri lie at a distance of 124 Kms, 114 kms, 75 Kms and 125 kms respectively.
Stay / Eat
Where to Stay
Bojoghari, 3rd Mile,
Near Tashi View Point,
Hotel Ricasa, Gangtok
Bojoghari, 3rd Mile,
Near Tashi View Point,
Summit Golden Crescent Resort and Spa
Sinchey, Sinchey Road,
Gangtok , Sikkim
Where to Eat
Secretariat Road, Below Royal Palace,
Ground Floor, Hotel Pandim, Gangtok
MG Road, Gangtok, Sikkim
MG Road, Gangtok, Sikkim