Sikkim is the top most travel destination in India. It is one of the most politically stable and peaceful place in India. This landlocked state is blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes, flora and fauna making it a haven for adventure enthusiasts and naturalists. Lying at an elevation of 8,586 metres, the state’s highest point is the summit of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak of the world. Sikkim has lots to offer a discerning traveller. Foreigners here can visit Gangtok, Rumtek, Phodong, Pemayangtse and the Yuksom -Zongri trekking route on the basis of restricted area permits which can be obtained. There are numerous Lakes and Monasteries which make the hill station vibrant and lively. To experience complete rejuvenation Sikkim is a perfect place to visit.
Gangtok- the capital of Sikkim is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site and a prominent tourist destination. This cosmopolitan city, also the heart of Sikkim is a vibrant area with numerous markets and shopping areas.
Monastaries– Sikkim has nearly 200 monasteries and the existence of these age-old Buddhist monasteries adds charms to the rich culture and heritage of Sikkim. These monasteries are an integral part of Sikkim. To name a few, the most visited monasteries in Sikkim are Rumtek, Pemayangtse near Pelling, other monasteries that are worth visiting include the Karma Kagyu Monastery, Enchey Monastery, and the old Sanga-Choeling Monastery which is only accessible on foot from Pelling.
Nathula Pass: Situated at an altitude of 14,140 feet, Nathula Pass is an idyllic day trip from Gangtok. Known for being a trade route between India and Tibet, this stunning place attracts many tourists throughout the year. The Journey to Nathula is often combined with Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir. Indians require a permit to visit this place and foreign nationals are not allowed here.
Rafting: Teesta River along with its tributary Rangeet is ideal for rafting. This has become a popular sport where the intensity of the rapids makes it amicable for rafting. The banks of these rivers are very scenic with lush green forests on either side is a perfect base to indulge in camping activities.
A Note on the Flora and fauna of Sikkim
The Botanical wealth of Sikkim lies in the diverse flora and fauna in its periphery. It is one of the few regions to exhibit diversity in such a small area. Divided into three botanical zones ranging from tropical, to temperate and alpine, flora of this area boasts of more than 4000 species of plants. Nearly 600 different types of Orchids grow in the tropical and temperate zones. The flora of Sikkim also includes the Rhododendron, the state tree, ideally found in subtropical and alpine regions. The orchid Dendrobium Nobile is the official flower of Sikkim. The lush green dense forests, wildlife sanctuaries and the biosphere reserves of Sikkim are home to a variety of animals. The fauna includes the Musk Deer, Snow Leopard, Barking Deer and many more. Among the animals more commonly found in the alpine zone are Yaks, mainly reared for their milk and meat. Sikkim also houses more than 550 endangered species of birds making it a birdwatchers paradise. The abundant birdlife has Giant Lammergeier, Vultures, Eagles, Whistling Thursh, Minivets, Bulbuls and Pheasants. Sikkim is indeed a naturalists’ haven.
How to Reach:
Sikkim is easily accessible by all modes of transportation. This quintessential state does not have its own airport. The nearest airport is Bagdogra, in West Bengal, which is 125 km away from the capital city of Sikkim-Gangtok. All major domestic carriers like Indian Airlines, Spice Jet and Jet Airways operate regular flights from the important cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. The state is also planning to have its own airport soon. Discerning travellers can avail the special helicopter service which takes you to Sikkim (Gangtok) in 20 minutes from Bagdogra.
Sikkim has a good network of roads. Tourists can easily reach Sikkim by buses, cars and private cabs which ply on National Highway 31, the most famous route between Gangtok and Siliguri. This breathtaking drive has Teesta River gushing on one side with lush green landscapes on the other. Gangtok is also well-connected with Darjeeling and Kolkata.
As Sikkim does not have any rail network in its periphery, the nearest railway stations are New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri. New Jalpaiguri which is around 120 km away from Gangtok, has an extensive rail network and is well-connected with all major cities. Tourists can avail the overnight trains from Kolkata which conveniently reaches New Jalpaiguri in the morning.