A journey to Sikkim necessarily means awakening the senses and discovering the pristine and mystic beauty of the land. What one will find most fascinating is the journey itself-a continuum of sights, sounds, and feelings. Sikkim is a dream that one can realize and enjoy, now that the area is open to all. It is a state cloaked in the mystery of remoteness, and far away from the din and bustle of the modern world.
Located in the eastern Himalayas, Sikkim is bound by Tibet (China) in the north, West Bengal in the south, Tibet and Bhutan in the east and Nepal in the west. The state is spread below Mount Kanchanjunga (8,534 m), the third highest peak in the world. The locals worship the mountain as a protecting deity. The elevation of the state ranges between 300 m and over 8,500 m above sea level.
A part of the lesser, central, and Tethys Himalaya; Sikkim is a mountainous state without any significant flat land. The larger part of the state is made up of Precambrian rock and is comparatively younger than the Northern, Eastern and Western portion of the state. The rise of the mountains is northward. The state is cut into steep escarpments in the north and except in the Lachung and Lachen valleys, is thinly populated. In contrast to Northern Sikkim is Southern Sikkim, which is lower, more open, and fairly well cultivated. The drainage of the rivers in the state is towards south. The Rangeet and the Teesta are the major river systems of state. These rivers cut through the valleys and in addition there are 180 perennial lakes at different altitudes. The state has many hot water springs like Phur-Cha, Ralang Sachu, Yumthang, and Momay. The snowline starts at around 5,248 m in Sikkim.
Buddhism, the major religion in the state, arrived from Tibet in the 13th century. It took its distinctive Sikkimese form four centuries later, when three Tibetan monks of the old Nyingamapa order, dissatisfied with the rise of the reformist Gelukpas, migrated to Yoksum in western Sikkim. Having consulted an oracle, they went to Gangtok looking for a certain Phuntsong Namgyal, whom they crowned as the first Chogyal or 'Righteous King' of Denzong in 1642. Being the secular and religious head, he was soon recognized by Tibet, and brought sweeping reforms. His kingdom was far larger than today's Sikkim and included Kalimpong and parts of western Bhutan. Over the centuries, the territory was lost to the Bhutanese, the Nepalese and the British. The British policy to diminish the strong Tibetan influence resulted in the import of workers from Nepal to work in the tea plantations of Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong and these soon outnumbered the indigenous population.
After India's Independence, the eleventh Chogyal, Tashi Namgyal, strove hard to prevent the dissolution of his kingdom. Officially, Sikkim was a protectorate of India, and the role of India became increasingly crucial with the Chinese military build-up along the northern borders that culminated in an actual invasion early in the 1960s. The next king Palden Thondup was a weak ruler and in 1975, succumbed to the demands of the Nepalese majority of becoming a part of India.
Fairs & Festivals
The people of Sikkim celebrate the anniversaries relating to birth, enlightenment, and nirvana of the Buddha, besides the Buddhist New Year and the harvest festivals. Several festivals are celebrated in Gangtok and its adjoining areas.
The Buddhist festival of Bumchu is held in the Tashiding Gompa during January.
The festival of Chaam is held in the Enchey Gompa during January-February and is marked by dancing. This dance is a mask dance held every month at Gangtok, Pemayangtse and Phodong. Losar marks the Tibetan New Year and is celebrated during February-March at Pemayangtse and Rumtek. Tse Chu is a Buddhist dance held in May at Rumtek. Saga Dawa (held in Gangtok during May) and Drukpa Teshi (celebrated statewide during July) mark the anniversary of the Buddha's first teaching. Phang Lhabsol is a mask dance celebrated statewide during August. Dasain, celebrated during September-October, is marked by exchange of gifts and animal sacrifice.
Best Time to Visit
Due to its location and altitude, there is an immense variation in climate and vegetation in Sikkim. In the state, the climate is tropical up to 1,624 m, temperate between 1,624 m-4,222 m, alpine above 4,222 m, and snowbound at 5,248 m.
The best time to visit Sikkim is between mid-March and June but especially, April and May, when the rhododendrons and orchids are in full bloom. However, temperatures can be high, especially in the valleys. During monsoons, from the end of June till early September, rivers and roads become impassable, though plants damaged by the incessant rain spring back to life again and bloom towards the end of August. October, when orchids bloom once again, and November tend to have the clearest weather of all. As December approaches, it gets bitterly cold in the high altitude areas, and remains that way until early March, though interspersed with spells of clear weather.
How to Reach
BY AIR -The busiest route in and out of Sikkim is the road between Gangtok and Siliguri. The town of Bagdogra at a distance of 124 km from Gangtok has the nearest airport. Flights from Bagdogra can be booked at the Indian Airlines office on Tibet Road in Gangtok (Phone 03592-23099). There are regular flights to Guwahati, Calcutta, and Delhi from Bagdogra.
BY RAIL -The nearest railway stations from Gangtok are New Jalpaiguri (125 km) and Siliguri (144 km) connected to Delhi, Calcutta, Guwahati, and other important cities in India.
BY ROAD -The Sikkim National Tourist Agency (Phone 22016) has daily bus services to Siliguri (5 hours), Darjeeling (7 hours), Kalimpong (3 hours) and Bagdogra (4½ hours). Share jeeps and taxis are a faster alternative to commute.
Sharing its borders of Nepal, Bhutan and China, the landlocked state of Sikkim has been blessed with verdant valleys, refreshing air, serene ambiance and snow-clad peaks. One of the best destinations in North East India, Sikkim is dotted with several natural as well as man-made wonders. All the tourist attractions in Sikkim are worth-visiting and allure travelers from all around the globe.
The list of places to visit in Sikkim includes high-altitude passes, monasteries, glaciers, lakes, flora and fauna, temples, colorful markets and so on. Adventure is also one of the best things to do in Sikkim. This place is perfect for a peaceful holiday with your loved ones.