India's second smallest and
least populous State, Sikkim, is a jewel embedded in snow-clad
mountains. Barely 100 kms from North to South and 60 kms across, the small
State is entirely mountainous with elevations ranging from 250m in the South to
over 8500 m. In just a few hours of travelling by road you can leave behind the
sub-tropical heat of the lower valleys and get to the cold of the rugged
mountains that reach up to the areas of perpetual snow. The third highest
mountain in the world, the majestic Kanchenjunga (8598 m), lies in the
Northwest and is revered by the Sikkimese as their protective deity.
land of myths and legends, Sikkim is inhabited by gracious Lepchas, Bhutias and
Nepalis. While the Lepchas were the earliest settlers, the Bhutias made their
way here from neighbouring Tibet in the 14th century. The Nepalis, who now form
the majority community, settled here during the 18th and 19th centuries. Thus,
Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism (practiced by the Nepalis) are the two religions
that play a dominant role in the lives of these hill folk.
of the popular Jammu &
Kashmir to tourists for a few years in the mid-90s brought Sikkim much more
into focus and thousands of tourists looking for a cool retreat have now
'discovered' this largely unspoiled, fascinating land. The State has responded
by significantly upgrading the accommodation, transport and communication
facilities. A regular helicopter service provides an opportunity for
sightseeing by air and discovering Sikkim's mystique and rugged beauty. You can
get a most memorable close-up aerial view of the awesome Kanchenjunga as well
as the nearby Mt. Siniolchu, believed to be the most beautiful mountain peak in
The capital, Gangtok (1750 m), is a blend of the
modern and traditional, where present day concrete multistoreys cling to the
hillside amidst chortens, stupas and monasteries; where you see lamas in their
colourful maroon and saffron robes mingle among local youth in jeans and
A 40 km drive eastwards, on a narrow road which snakes
precariously along steep mountain sides, brings you to the serene Tsomgo
Lake (3700 m) which remains frozen for the greater part of the year.
However, between May and August it comes alive as rhododendrons, primulas,
irises and poppies burst into bloom on its banks and on the nearby hill slopes.
Barely 20 km from there, at Nathu La, lies India's border post with
China. Though not open for visitors, the post boasts of the world's highest
Conference Hall (4400 m) where Indian and Chinese military officials discuss
points of mutual interest at periodic conferences.
The State is dotted
with Buddhist monasteries, notably the Enchey Monastery at Gangtok,
Rumtek Monastery 24 km from Gangtok, and those at Pemayangtze,
Tashiding and Dubdi - each with its own history and significance for the
people of Sikkim. Yuksom, the first capital of Sikkim, where the first
Chogyal was consecrated in 1641, lies 32 km from Pemayangtze in West Sikkim.
Apart from being considered sacred by the people, it is also the start point
for the treks to Dzongri and other places farther North, as well as to the base
camp for Kanchenjunga.
Ideal for adventure activities, Sikkim
offers opportunities for treks through breathtaking mountain routes, mountain
hiking to remote areas to witness colourful festivals and intriguing rituals
(including dances in fearsome masks), white river-rafting, and
The three-month periods before and after the South-west
monsoon are the best for visiting Sikkim. However, the monsoon months (May to
September) have their own special charm. Rain water cascades down the craggy or
emerald green mountain slopes in scores of milk-white rivulets and waterfalls
to join the Teesta river and its many tributaries that flow through the State.
Snow-white clouds rising from the river valleys come rolling by, engulfing the
whole countryside in sublime tranquillity. It is truly an unforgettable