Updated: Jun 28
Pelling | The Old Silk Route | The North Sikkim
Geographic Location: The capital of North–Eastern tiny state Sikkim, Gangtok is situated at an elevation of 5,047 feet above mean sea level. It is about 125 KM from Siliguri town in West Bengal. Sikkim shares borders with Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. So it is strategically very significant.
Access: One can reach this place by driving through NH31 to Sevoke and from there to Gangtok through NH31A via Teesta, Malli, Rangpo Check Post, and Singhtam. Siliguri (114 KM via NH10), Kalimpong (75 KM via NH10), and Darjeeling (107 KM via NH10) are three nearby big cities that are connected by regular bus service.
From Gangtok, the nearest major railhead is New Jalpaiguri (119 KM) which is one of the busiest railway stations of the Northeast Frontier Railway zone and other major stations like Howrah, Guwhati etc. are linked with NJP.
The nearest major airport is Bagdogra (125 KM). From Bagdogra airport, all types of cab are available to reach Gangtok. A new airport Pakyong has been inaugurated in 2018 and it is 31 KM far from Gangtok.
Brief Facts: Gangtok is a beautiful city in the lap of a mountain. The city has a modern touch and at the same time, tranquillity attracts tourists. Every year a large number of tourists come here from different parts of the country as well as from abroad. Autumns are very enjoyable here. The city has the touch of Tibetan Buddhism. It is the major junction where other major tourist places in Sikkim such as Lachung, Lachen, Pelling, Ravongla, Rinchenpong, Zuluk can be accessed.
Best Time to Visit: September to May is the best season for visiting Gangtok and other places in Sikkim. During spring, due to the natural blooming of flowers of rhododendron, or Junipers, the city looks very beautiful. Winter is biting cold here as the temperature hovers around 5 to 10 degrees Celsius. During the rainy season, the weather remains extremely moist here. But then rain in the hill station is unlike anything else.
Nearest Attractions: There are many visiting places of interest in and around Gangtok city like Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, Tashi View Point, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Banjhakri Falls & Energy Park, Enchey Monastery, Do – Drul Chorten. Here are a few places outside Gangtok.
Rumtek – The largest monastery in Sikkim, Rumtek Monastery is about 24 KM from the city and is close to 300 years old. It has some truly magnificent thangka paintings and is considered the most important seat for the Kargyu sect of Buddhism. The architecture has a Tibetan influence.
Pelling (1,800 M) – Pelling is a small town in the Western part of Sikkim and it is about 129 KM from Gangtok and it takes around 5 hours to drive to reach over there. The upper Pelling offers a breathtaking view of Kanchenjunga Range and from here, the mountains look unexpectedly close. In clear weather, the entire range of gigantic Kanchenjunga comprising the peaks such as Koktang, Pandim, Kabru, Dom, Kumbhakarna, Rathong, Shimbho, Kanchenjunga, Narsing, and Siniolchu can be seen. The exceptional sighting of the mountain ranges would keep wide-angle lens users busy. Kanchenjunga Falls, Pemayangtse Gompa, Sangacholing Monastery, Khecheopalri Lake are a few notable places nearby Pelling.
Tsomgo Lake and Nathu La – Tsomgo Lake is a glacial lake surrounded by steep mountains and it is about 40 KM from the city. The enthralling beauty is situated at 12,000 feet above mean sea level. It is supposed to be the home to exotic migratory birds in winter. Summer is very much enjoyable here. But in the winter the lake remains frozen and the surrounding mountains get covered by snow. From here, there’s only one road forward and it takes travellers all the way to Nathu La (4,310 m) and from here China border can be seen. This road is not open to civilians without permission which can be obtained from Gangtok.
The Old Silk Route – This route starts from the Rongli subdivision and it is one of the most alluring circuits in East Sikkim, comprising the small picturesque village Sillery Gaon, landscaped beauty Aritar, offbeat hamlet Zuluk, elevated and remote Nathang Valley, delightful Kupup Lake, which is situated at an altitude of 13,066 feet above mean sea level, and Jelep La, the 14,390 feet elevated high mountain pass between Eastern part of Sikkim, India, and Tibet, Autonomous Region, China. ‘The Silk Route’ tag derived as the route was a part of the ancient trade route of silk between India and China. Zuluk is located within Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the denizen of Red Panda, Himalayan Bear, and Blood Pheasant, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Rufous Sibia, Bay Woodpecker, Himalayan monal, Kalij pheasant are a few names among the wide range of birds. October to May is the best season to visit this route. Few places on this route also offer a view of Mount Kanchenjungha.
The North Sikkim – From Gangtok, a 2N/3D North Sikkim trip is always a recommended option. Lachen and Lachung are the usual destinations to stay at night on this trip. Lachen is the base to visit Chopta Valley, the exotic barren valley, and Gurudongmar Lake, which is situated at an elevation of 17,800 feet above mean sea level and is one of the highest lakes in the world. Lachung is a mountain village near the Tibet Border and from here Yumthang Valley, the home of Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary and Yume Samdong or Zero Point can be accessed. Beyond Zero Point, due to its proximity to the China Border, visitors are not allowed to go further. Adventure seekers and trekkers can opt for visiting Mount Katao, which is 28 KM away from Lachung and a permit must be obtained from the Indian Army. The route is lined with alpine forests of rhododendrons, pine, and primulas, along with a few serene waterfalls. February to May is the best time to visit North Sikkim.
Things to Do: Picturesque Gangtok is truly enjoyable if one can stick to unplanned long walking. The very lively and pleasantly boisterous Gangtok has its own charm. If anyone is interested in Buddhism and wants to explore the same, then Gangtok is an ideal place since there are many Buddhist Temples and Monasteries in and around the city. It has the Tibetan touch yet is a modern city.
Near Gangtok, River Teesta is a spot, which is famous for river rafting. Trekkers and adventure enthusiasts usually consider Gangtok as the centre, as because a few popular trek routes in Sikkim can be accessed from here. A few of them are Green Lake Trek, Varsey Trek, Singalila Trek, and Yuksom – Dzongri Trek.
Coming on to cuisine, Chinese foods are delicious. Momos, noodles, thukpa, and Tibetan cusine like Thenthuk, Chhurpi Soup can be tasted. Wines and liquor are cheaper here. But locally made wines are not for sale outside the state. Local millet beer Tongba can be tried. Taste of Tibet, Mu Kimchi, Thakali, Al Forno, The Dragon Wok, Gangtok Groove, and Tangerine Lounge & Bar are a few names, where having food would be a true gastronomic experience.
For shopping, Old Market and Lal Market are popular places. From here, you can buy Tibetan Carpets, Sikkim Tea, hand oven winter clothes, locally made ceramic utensils, novelties & wall hangings on Buddhism, Sikkimese Liqueur, and handmade wooden tables.