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Gangtok Travel Guide

Gangtok Travel Guide

Sikkim is a beautiful state with multiple tourist destinations. It is one of the smallest states, in fact, the second smallest state of the country. Sikkim is landlocked by China in the north and west and Nepal in the East. The state beholds the highest lake of India, Gurudongmar Lake, and as well as many other high altitude travelling destinations of the country.

Nestled within the mighty Himalayas, Gangtok is the state capital and the main town of the state Sikkim. Located at an elevation of 5410ft with the spectacular view of the third highest peak of the world, Mt.Kanchendzonga and mild weather throughout the year Gangtok serves as a perfect hub for the tourists. Gangtok serves as the base for tourist spots throughout Sikkim.

With the literal meaning of ‘hilltop’, Gangtok is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. A visit to the place will mesmerize you with its abundant beauty, magnificent landscapes and its tranquil nature. One can get to involve themselves through the Sikkimese culture of the state. In Gangtok, one can find the mixed ethnicity of Lepchas, Indian Gorkhas and Bhutias.

During the ancient days, Gangtok served as the transit point for the traders trading between India and Tibet. Being a cosmopolitan town Gangtok offers all kinds of amenities for the tourists like hotels at different budgets, ATMs, multiple food joints serving various cuisines, cyber cafes, shopping hubs and many more.

 

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MG Marg is the heart of the town. Besides, it’s the first spit free and litter-free place in India. With multiple shops, restaurants, banks, etc located at MG Marg vehicles are not allowed to enter this road. One can relish their evening and enjoy the atmosphere of the town by sitting at the iron benches that are stretched throughout the marg. One can also visit Lal Marg that is just located beside MG Marg. At Lal Marg you can find multiple shops that sell souvenirs at a very cheap rate.

 

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Gangtok has been situated at the lower Himalayas and has a great variety of flora and fauna which includes elm, oak and pine trees. Gangtok is full of coniferous trees and houses varieties of orchids.

With such a pristine landscape, variety of nature and mainly a cool & pleasant
climate Gangtok never fails to attract tourists from all over the world.

How to Reach

Gangtok being a cosmopolitan town in the heart of mountains is well connected from various parts of India. The ways through which you can get into this beguiling town of Sikkim are pointed below.

By Air:

You can directly fly to Pakyong (PYG). Pakyong is the one and the only airport in Sikkim located 35kms away from the town of Gangtok.

You can opt to fly to Bagdogra International Airport (IXB). Bagdogra is well connected with flights from Kolkata and Delhi. The best way to reach Gangtok by air as flights are more often to Bagdogra rather than Pakyong. However, this airport is 120kms away from Gangtok. From Bagdogra, you can hire a shared cab or your own private vehicle to Gangtok.

By Train:

New Jalpaiguri (NJP) is the nearest railway station. NJP is well connected with trains from Kolkata and other major cities of the country. From NJP you need to hire a shared cab, taxi or a private vehicle to reach Gangtok.

From NJP you can also hire an auto up to Siliguri and board the bus operated by SNT (Sikkim Nationalised Transport) that is going to Gangtok.

Within Gangtok:

To travel within Gangtok you can hire a taxi from the local taxi stand that is just a few minutes downhill from MG Marg. From there you can hire a shared tax or a private one whichever suits you. However, for making a trip to the sightseeing points it’s better to hire a private taxi.

Apart from the above, you can also hire a private vehicle for your whole journey form beforehand.

Best Time to Visit

The enchanting town of Gangtok mesmerises you with a variety of views. Depending on the view you want to relish you can visit the town during various times.

One of the best times to visit Gangtok is during the months of October to Mid-December. During this time the weather is pleasant, the sky remains blue with white clouds floating in it offering you with the clear view of snow-capped mountain ranges including Mt. Kanchendzonga.

If you want to experience the blanket of white snow then you must visit Gangtok during the months of January and February.

Want to experience the colourful nature of Gangtok? Then it is best to visit the towns during the months of March to May. At this time you will get to experience the colourful Rhododendrons in its full bloom.

Places to Visit

The hilly town of Gangtok offers you with many exquisite places for sightseeing as well as for a day trip. Let’s take a trip through them.

Rumtek Monastery:

Located at a hilltop 23 KMs away from the main town of Gangtok it is one of the most consequential and largest monasteries of Sikkim. The monastery belongs to the Kagyu sect of Buddhist and is primitively known as Dharma Chakra Centre. Rumtek Monastery is bounded by green Himalayan mountains on all its sides which adds soothingness to your eyes while feeling your soul with spiritual solace. The traditional architecture of the monastery affixes the charm of it. From top of the monastery, one can get a magnificent view of the whole town of Gangtok.

 

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Rumtek Monastery comprises a house for the monks and a beautiful shrine temple. The place also preserves a golden stupa and various sculptures that date back to the 16th century. In addition, it also preserves exclusive religious sculpture of the world and some uncommon religious objects. The prayer hall inside attracts a huge number of tourists because of its statutes, thangkas and murals.

To take a complete tour of the Rumtek Monastery it takes around 1-2 hours. There is an entry fee of Rs 10 and the place is open from 6 AM to 6 PM.

Ganesh Tok:

Located 7KMs away from Gangtok Ganesh Tok is located at a lovely viewpoint from where one can witness the marvellous glory of Mt.Kanchendzonga. Ganesh Tok is basically a small temple devoted to Lord Ganesha. It is so small that only a single person can fit in at a time.

 

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The comforting environment and the surreal nature of these places take you a step closer towards the natural beauty of Gangtok. The stairs of the temple are beautifully decorated with colourful flags which affixes more beauty to its nature. The balcony of Ganesh Tok is the main attraction of the place which presents with the surreal beauty of the green hills, landscape and the snow-capped mountains. One can visit Ganesh Tok from 6 AM to 7 PM.

Hanuman Tok:

Hanuman Tok is a temple that is dedicated to Hanumanji. It is somewhat similar to that of Ganesh Tok and also located near to it. Hanuman Tok is maintained by the Indian Army. The tranquil and serene beauty of the place along with the view of snowy mountains attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world.

One can visit the place from 5 AM to 7 PM. You can also visit the place before 5 AM to catch hold of the spectacular glory of sunrise over the third highest peak of the world, Mt.Kanchendzonga. The gratifying beauty of the place will leave you speechless and make a perfect spot to relish your soul.

Namgyal Institute of Tibetology:

Also known as NIT (Namgyal Institute of Tibetology) is an abode of prehistoric Tibetian culture and history. Located amidst the lush green mountains NIT museum showcases the glorious past of the Tibetian culture and religion. Both these museums and the library of NIT serves as the main attraction for the tourists.

 

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The founding stone of NIT was set by the Dalai Lama. It also pioneers in preserving the age-old Tibetian culture and literature. NIT encourages and endorses the preservation, study and research of Tibetian history, literature, religion, culture, art and architecture. Although photography is not allowed inside the NIT premises still you can capture the traditional and historical Tibeatian ideology through the lens of your eyes.

NIT is open from Monday to Saturday (except second Saturday) from 10 AM to 4 PM. It is closed on Sundays and any governmental holidays. A fee of Rs 10 is levied upon entering the institution.

Do Drul Chorten:

Nuzzled in Gangtok, Do Drul Chorten is one of the most important stupas in the whole of Sikkim. The Chorten was formed in 1945 and contains 108 prayer wheels. Tibetian mantras are encrypted in the prayer wheels which can be chanted while rotating it.

 

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Do Drul Chorten has a dharma (religion) preaching centre located at its premises. The main stupa of Do Drul Chorten is surrounded by Chorten Lhakhang that houses two large statues of Guru Padmasambhava. This little but serene place helps tourists to find solace within their soul. Do Drul Chorten is open every day from 8 AM to 6 PM.

Ranka Monastery:

Even known by the name of Lingdum Monastery, Ranka Monastery is located 20kms away from the main town of Gangtok. It is one of the most beautiful and pictorial monasteries of Sikkim. Spread over a vast area Ranka Monastery offers exquisite views for the tourists. When compared with the other monasteries of Sikkim it is relatively a newer one and thus less known among the tourists. The beauty of this place has attracted the view of some filmmakers and so some movies have been shot in the premises of the monastery.

 

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Ranka Monastery is considered as one of the most pictorial monasteries as it is abided by lush green forests on all its sides. There is a 2 storeyed building the monastery where young lamas are taught the teaching of Buddhism. During the break, one can spot the courtyard full of young lamas playing among themselves. If you wish then you can also click some pictures with the young lamas if they are willing to do so. Besides, you will also find a gift shop and a restaurant at the monastery premises.

There is an energy park and waterfall (detailed in later points) just near the monastery which adds to the charm of the place. If you are in love with adventure sport then one can try paragliding at this energy park. Ranka Monastery is open from 6 AM to 6 PM.

Himalayan Zoological Park:

As the name conveys Himalayan Zoological Park is home to various species of birds and animals. Located 3kms away from Gangtok, at Bulbulay Himalayan Zoological Park, it is one of the first zoological parks to be formed in the North Eastern frontiers of the country. One can find various faunas like Himalayan Red Panda, Snow Leopard Cat, Himalayan Palm Civet, Himalayan Black Bear, etc at this zoological park. The glorious Mt.Kanchendzonga affixes to the beauty of the place.

Himalayan Zoological Park is spread over 250 hectares of land with a road constructed for 2.5kms where one can either walk or drive to view the various faunas. Along with the habitats, one can find some souvenir shop, drinking water points, food joint, toilets and a watchtower to catch a glimpse of the whole place.

The zoological park of Gangtok is open from 9 AM to 4 PM from on all days except Thursdays. Please take note of the fee structure of the Himalayan Zoological Park.

National adults: Rs 25
National Kids: Rs 10
Foreign nationals: Rs 50
Small vehicle: Rs 40
Big Vehicle: Rs 100

Flower Exhibition Centre:

Flower Exhibition Centre is located at a walking distance from MG Marg just beside the White Memorial Hall and below the Ridge Park. The centre exhibits various kinds of flowers that are found all over the state. The Annual Flower shows take places at the Flower Exhibition Centre of Gangtok during the months of April and May. During this time various orchids from throughout the state are displayed at this centre. Members from neighbouring states are summoned to showcase the flowers of their states during the Annual Show.

The aura of various flowers soothes one soul and gives them an ambience to relax one’s tired souls. One can also get themselves photographed amongst the bright and hued flower bushes. Besides, one can take a refreshing stroll around the artificial pond and a wooden bridge constructed over it. Flower Exhibition Centre is worth a visit for all flower and nature lovers.

One requires to pay a fee of Rs 10 while entering the exhibition centre. The centre is open every day from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.

Tashi View Point:

Located 8kms away from the heart of Gangtok, Tashi Viewpoint is one of the most magnificent viewpoints of Gangtok. This viewpoint was formed by Tashi Namgyal who reigned Sikkim from 1914 to 1963. Later developed by the tourism department of Sikkim it offers striking views of Mt. Kanchendzonga and other snow-capped mountains. Besides, it serves a fine picnic spot for the locals because of the presence of food joints and resting sheds.

From Tashi View Point the tourists can catch a beautiful view of Labrang Monastery and Phodong Monastery. One can also view a mesmerising sight of dawn light making the snow-capped mountains glow like dazzling fire. Tashi View Point is nothing less than a paradise for both the tourists and the locals.

The viewpoint is open every day from 5 AM to 6 PM. Generally, there is no amount of fees levied to enter the place but if anyone wishes to catch a closer view of the snow-capped mountains through the binocular then they need to pay a fee of Rs 10.

Enchey Monastery:

Enchey Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim. It is 200 years old and is located 3kms northeast of Gangtok. Enchey Monastery is considered as one of the holy sites and a solitary temple by the locals as well as the tourists. The place is beautifully bounded by flowery meadows, tall pine trees and the view of Mt.Kanchendzonga which adds a different charm to the place.

According to the ancient history of Buddhism, Lama Drutop Karbo who was a famous tantric with flying power flew down to this place and built a hermitage over here. This hermitage was later renovated to this Chinese Pagoda under the rule of Sidkeong Tulku.

The monastery presently houses 90 monks. The massive prayer hall has a metallic roof and consists of multiple images of Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava and many other deities. There is a wheel of Law in Enchey monastery which ripples the chants of the monks. One can also view Chaam Dance (traditional dance of Buddhism) at this monastery.

The place is open every day from 6 AM to 4 PM.

Banjhakri Waterfalls:

Banjhakri waterfall is located at an energy park that is 10-12kms away from the main town of Gangtok. The main attraction of this energy park is the Banjhakri Falls that cascades down from a height of 40ft. The park is beautifully landscaped with green gardens that affix to the beauty of the waterfall. Along with the waterfall, a swimming pool and a rest house is present at the park.

The energy park of Banjhakri waterfall is open every day from 8 AM to 6 PM. A fee of Rs 50 is levied to enter the park.

Gangtok Ropeway:

One of the most thrilling things to do in Gangtok is to take a ride at the ropeway. Gangtok ropeway was established in 2003. The cable cars can carry a total of 24 passengers at a time. The total distance that is covered by the cable cars are 2kms (to and fro). Generally, the cars are always full and you need to wait for your turn. However, the view of Mt.kanchendzonga from the ropeway station is worth the wait.

The ropeway has a total of three stations known as Tashiling, Namnang and Deorali. Deorali is the lowest base station, Namnang the middle base and Tashiling is the highest base station. One can board the cable cars from any of these three stations, however, the most famous one is the station that is located at Deorali, which is also the starting point of the ropeway, just near to the market area of Gangtok.

One needs to climb up the staircase to the ticket counter for boarding the cable cars. Once you get the ticket you need to wait for your turn to board the car.

Gangtok ropeway is operational every day from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Please note the fees to enjoy the ride through the cable cars.

Adults: Rs 110
Kids (from 3-6 years): Rs 70
Kids (below 3 years): no fees
Video Camera: Rs 100

Nathula Pass:

Nathula Pass along with Tsomgo Lake and New Baba Mandir is taken as a day trip from Gangtok. In order to visit these places, one needs to hire a taxi from the local taxi stand. Tsomgo Lake and New Baba Mandir don’t need any special permit to visit but Nathula Pass being very close to the border of China requires a permit which can be obtained from the Sikkim Government. However, one should keep in mind that you cannot obtain the permit for Nathula Pass by yourself. You need to contact a local tour operator who will help you to get the permit for Nathula.

Nathula Pass is remarked as one of the highest motorable roads in the world. It is a mountain pass that connects India to China. Nathula is located above 14450ft of sea level and thus cold throughout the year. The word ‘Nathu’ connotes listing ears whereas the word ‘la’ connotes pass. Nathula Pass is known for its open border for trading between both the countries of India and China. It is one of the three open borders that are used for trading purposes. Apart from it the place has an inextricable beauty with an amazing environment.

 

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A visit to Nathula Pass completely depends on your fate. Being a close border at a high altitude permit to visit the place is issued if any dispute between the countries takes place or if the weather turns bad. May to early November is considered the best time to visit the place. During winters the place is covered by a thick blanket of snow and thus it is not recommended to visit the place during the winters. However, if you love snow and chilled temperature and if you are issued with a permit then you can visit the places during the winters.

Being an international border, foreigners are not allowed to visit Nathula Pass. only the citizens of India with Indian nationality are permitted to visit the high pass. The Indian Nationals need to apply for a permit to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department of Sikkim. However, one cannot apply for the permit by themselves. They need to contact a registered travel agency to apply for the permit. One needs to give a copy of valid Identity Proof and two copies of the picture to apply for the permit. Nathula Pass is open only for Indian Nationals from 8 AM to 3:30 PM from Wednesdays to Sundays.

Tsongmo Lake:

Tsongmo Lake is popularly known as Changu Lake amongst the locals and the tourists. Situated at an altitude of 12400ft it is considered as one of the highest lakes of India. Tsomgo Lake is located on the Gangtok-Nathula highways and is a must-visit for all the tourists. The lake is enveloped by snow-capped mountains and with the overwhelming beauty of alpine forests.

 

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Tsomgo Lake has numerous myths associated with it. The locals consider it as a holy lake. It is a glacial lake and thus receives its water from the melting snow. Tsomgo Lake is famous for the change in its watercolour. During the summer the fringe of the lake is spotted with various aquatic flowers which add a colourful splash to the water of the lake. In the rainy season the water changes to a dazzling aquamarine colour. During the winter the water of the lake freezes and a translucent layer of snow covers up the water. With such variations in its beauty the lake never fails to attract the national as well as the foreign tourists.

New Baba Mandir:

New Baba Mandir is located 64kms away at a roadside place between Nathula La – Jale La pass. One can find the shrine of Baba Harbhajan Singh at this place. This temple is highly worshipped by the army personnel as Baba Harbhajan Singh was an army who left his soul for the sake of the nation and its people.

There is a legend associated with Baba Harbhajan Singh. Baba Harbhajan Singh was actually a sepoy who lost his life while he was on duty at the border. His dead body was found after 3 days it went missing. The soldiers deployed at the Indo-China border believe that his soul led the soldiers to find his body. According to the locals and the soldiers posted at the same border where baba was posted even till date not only the Indian soldiers the Chinese soldiers see his Baba Harbhajan Singh wearing his uniform performing his duty and protecting the border at night. He is worshipped as a saint who protects and guards the life of Indian soldiers.

New Baba Mandir is actually a copy of the original Old Baba Mandir that is located at Kupup Valley near Nathang. The new mandir was constructed for tourist convenience as to visit the original one needs to travel up to Nathang which is a detour from Gangtok. Moreover, Nathang being situated at a high altitude most of the time it is covered under a blanket of snow which makes it impossible to visit the place. However, if you like to visit the old and original Baba mandir then you need to take a tour to the famous well known Silk Route of Sikkim.

Inside the New Baba Mandir, one will find a large frame of Baba Harbhajan Singh. On one side of this temple, there is an office and a dining place for the saint. The locals and the tourists believe that if they leave their water bottle at this temple and collect that bottle and drink it after few days, all their wishes will be granted. The mandir is open every day from 8 AM to 6 PM.

Hotel Recommendations

Gangtok being a popular tourist destination caters all types of tourists. One can find hotels ranging from 2 stars to 5 stars in Gangtok. Here are some budget hotel and standard hotel recommendations that can be suitable for both backpackers as well as standard travellers.

  • Hotel Tibet (Budget)
  • Hotel Doma Residency (Budget)
  • Hotel Silverline (Budget)
  • Hotel Ma Yang (Budget)
  • Nettle and Fern (Standard)
  • Hotel Sonam Delek (Standard)
  • Lamaz Residency (Standard)

 

About Author

Born and brought up in Kolkata I met Krishnandu in 2012. We fell in love and got married in 2016 and travelled to Bhutan for our honeymoon. We travelled throughout that year to various places and that is when I developed my passion for travelling. After our dream trip to Ladakh in 2018, I started noting down my travel experiences on a random basis. Krishnandu then urged me to pen down travel blogs. So I finally started scripting informative travel blogs that would help you to gain precise information about a destination.

4 Comments

  • Stanley
    August 2, 2020 at 6:17 PM

    Sikkim is bad luck for me. The last time I enquired with you, that trip was cancelled last minute because Visa fees increased too much. This year I bought air tickets for Sept to India and looks like it must be cancelled because of the pandemic, but i am not giving. I will surely go in future, it looks like Laddakh, very appealing to me.

    Take care, especially on the virus, always wear mask, never touch your face if your hand has touched something out of your home, and keep distancing whenever possible.

    Reply
    • Suparna Acharya
      August 2, 2020 at 10:00 PM

      Hi Stanley,

      Thank you very much for your concern. Keep up your spirit hope that the pandemic ends soon and you can visit this beautiful part of Northeastern India, Sikkim.

      Reply
  • Pratap Biswas
    August 2, 2020 at 8:13 PM

    Very informative and interesting writing. Thank you very much sir, Hope this pandemic will come to the end soon and we can plan tour again.

    Reply
    • Suparna Acharya
      August 2, 2020 at 9:57 PM

      Hi Pratap,

      I’m glad that you liked it :). Yes, we all hope that the pandemic ends soon and we can plan accordingly.

      Reply

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