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East Sikkim

Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5,500 feet. With a spectacular view of the Mt. Kanchenjunga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business center and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities.

Gangtok is a cosmopolitan town which offers the tourist all possible amenities. Hotels are available in a range of prices along with a variety of eateries serving cuisine for all tastes. Shopping complexes, cyber cafes, night clubs and pool parlors abound for those so inclined.

MG Marg, the main street of Gangtok town is a great place to chill out. The country’s first litter and spit free zone, no vehicular traffic is allowed into the marg. You can sit at the Titanic Park or at the various benches stretched across the mall and take in the carnival like atmosphere, especially during the tourist season. The Mall is lined with shops on both sides of the road so shopping becomes an added pleasure.
MG Marg is also the venue for the annual Gangtok Food and Culture festival held in December each year when Sikkim’s multi-cultural cuisine, along with music and dance performances is showcased. This event attracts a large number of locals and tourists each year.

Exploring Gangtok

Most places in Gangtok can be covered in a day. To visit other places located around Gangtok may take three to four days depending on one’s choice.

Tsomgo Lake:

Lake is 35 km from Gangtok, located at 12,400 ft, the lake is 1km long, oval in shape and 50 ft deep. Fishing or dirtying the lake is prohibited. In fact prayer wheels have been installed here to underline Tsomgo’s sanctity. Spending a time and playing in the snow can be fun if you ride in well decorated yaks.

Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple:

Popularly called as Baba Mandhir, this temple is built in memory of Harbhajan Singh, a sepoy in the 23rd Punjab Regiment who disappeared on border patrol in 1960s. Few days after he went missing, stories have it that he appeared in a dream and expressed the desire that a monument be built in his memory.
A Samadhi was then built at 13,123 ft between Nathu-La pass and Jeep-La Pass. Believers also say that Baba visits every night, puts on his uniform and does his round as the sheets in his camp bed get reportedly crumpled every morning and polished boots turn muddy by evening.

Nathu-La Pass:

Pass is 52km from Gangtok, located at 14,400 ft, Nathu-La links India with Tibet (Autonomous Region Of China). The Old Silk Route, reopened on July 6, 2006 after a closure of 44 years and today imports yak hair, yak tails, silk brocades, clothes, blanket etc.

Aritar Lake:

Located in Rongli Sub-Division, on the southern tip of Rache-La the historic tri-junction border of Sikkim, West Bengal and Bhutan. It is 70 km from Gangtok, it is the only natural lake in Sikkim at 4,600ft, which is artificially construction to facilitate boating for the tourists. Lampokhari festival is held around the lake with colourful programmes during Ramnawami or Chaite Dasai, which falls in March-April.

Tashi View Point:

It is 8 km from Gangtok. The best place to get the entire view of Gangtok and Kanchenjunga Range through the binocular set. Reach here before 5:30 am and you can see the sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjunga. The opposite path will lead you to Himalayan Zoological Park.

Himalayan Zoological Park:

Its spread over 105 hectares. The park is a semi- natural habitat of endangered animals like Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Spotter Dear, Barking Deer, Snow Leopard etc.

Ganesh Tok:

Visit Ganesh Tok (6,500 ft), located just beyond Tashi View Point to get a panoramic view of sprawling Gangtok town together with the rolling hills and snowcapped peaks over the horizon. A cafeteria serves you hot tea/coffee and snacks.

Hanuman Tok:

It is 3 km above Ganesh Tok, situated at 7,200 ft, which offers the best view of Mt. Kanchenjunga and Selep Water Works, which supplies drinking water to Gangtok.

Do-Drul Chorten:

This stupa is best known for its gold-topped dome visible from various places around Gangtok. Built by Trulshik Rinpoche in 1945 to ward off foreign invasion and to commemorate the victory of good over evil, it is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels and other smaller stupas, including Jhang Chub Chodten built in memory of Trulshik Rinpoche, a great spiritualist and interpreter of Buddhism. Always turn these prayer wheels in clockwise movement.

Directorate of Handicrafts & Handlooms:

Set up inn 1957 to promote and preserve Sikkim’s traditional crafts. It is located at Zero point, Gangtok, it is a store house of hand- woven woolen carpets, Lepcha weave, wooden carving, thangkas, cane and bamboo products, handmade papers and other gift items.

Timings: Mon to Sat (9:30 am to 4 pm), Sunday Closed.

Flower Exhibition Centre:

Right below the Ridge park, which has a Sikkimese style gazebo and the White Hall is the Flower Exhibition Centre the venue for the annual orchid show. Rs. 10/- per person is the entry fee. Best time to visit is March to June when Orchids are put on display.

Timings: 8:30 am To 5 pm.

Ropeway:

It is situated at Deorali, Gangtok. It is 1km ride from Chorten Gompa to Tashiling Secretariat. Each cabin having a capacity to ferry 24 people at a time. It offers great view of Mt. Kanchenjunga, aerial view of Gangtok town and the valley below.

Ban Jhakri Waterfalls cum Energy Park:

4km away from Gangtok is the 100ft waterfall known by the name of Ban Jhakri, depicting shaman culture. The one acre area has a manmade lake and a huge dragon adorned at the centre and is surrounded by landscape design in typical Sikkimese architecture. The figurines of Jhakri culture are the most fascinating features here.

Ban Jhakri or jungle priest with long profuse hair jingling like tiny bells, covering almost his entire body, as per Nepali folklore, is believed to be the first shaman, who was taught the knowledge of mastering the spirits by god with a promise to teach and pass the techniques to selected youth boys. Such boys after secretly trained by Ban Jhakri at his cave / house in a deep forest consequently become Jhakris, who possess supernatural power to cure patients from evil spirits. But Ban Jhakri females also called Lemlemma is believed to devour humans if found in her domain.

Kanchenjunga Amusement Park:

It is 20 km away from Gangtok. It spreads over 17.5 acre is a unique tourism attraction fusing cultural ethos of Sikkim with modern amusement amenities. The park has 12 shopping arcades meant for selling handicrafts and other souvenirs of Sikkim. The amusement facilities like musical fountain with laser shows, multilevel plaza, open air theater, ride stimulators, swimming pool, bar and bowling alleys.

Rumtek Monastery:

It is World Heritage Site and it is 24 km away from Gangtok. Rumtek Monastery, seat of the Gyalwa Karmapa, head of Kagya School of Buddhism is one of the largest Monasteries in Sikkim. It demonstrates the best of Tibetan architecture and is an almost replica of the original monastery in Tsurphu, Tibet. The Monastery houses some of the rarest Buddhist religious art object found in the world and is also a world renowned centre for Kagyu teachings.

The main Monastery or the religious centre has a special prayer hall, impressive murals and thangka paintings, 1001miniature golden image of Lord Buddha and a library. Behind the main shrine is the great golden reliquary stupa of the 16th Karmapa, who passed away in 1981. Surrounding the stupa are the statues of 16 previous incarnations of the Karmapa. The Monastery also houses the priceless Black Hat (Vajra Mukut) studded with rubies, diamonds, gold and other precious stones. It was presented to the 5th Karmapa by Emperor Yung Lo of China in the 15th century. Opposite the stupa is the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute, the Shedra, or the monastic college, affiliated with the Sampuranand Sanskrit University in Varanasi. The young monks and Tulks are trained in traditional Buddhist education. On a serene settings atop a hill is a three year retreat centre, Drupdra Yiwong Samten Ling built in 1970s by the 16th Karmapa. Any time is best time to go to Rumtek. But it would be good to be present in May-June during the Tse-chu Chaam or Vajra Kilaya Chaam or in Feb-March during Losar Celebrations.

Namgyal Institute of Tibetology:

Started in 1958, NIT is a renowned Buddhist study centre and philosophy. Built in typical Tibetan Buddhist style, the wall paintings of the veranda depict the four celestial guardian kings located in the four direction of Mount Meru. The museum on the ground floor has a rare collection of statues, rituals objects, traditional art object, exquisite appliqued thangkas depicting the life of Buddha, various manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava and ancient manuscript in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese and Lepcha. Among the manuscript found here are the Prajna Paramita and Astasahastra written in Tibetan golden script, 11th century palm leaf manuscript of the Saratama Prajnaparamita by Ratnakara Shanti and a 12th century Chinese manuscript of the Prajana Paramita Sutra that was brought from South Korea. A casket containing the relics of the two great Asokan missionaries, Madhyama and Kasyapagotra is one of the precious assets of the museum. Five sandalwood images representing Padmasambhav, the three founding lamas of Sikkim and the first King Phuntsong Namgyal constitute an example of Sikkimese art. The Tibetan library on the first floor of the building has one of the largest collections of Tibetan work in the world outside Tibet. On the right is another structure consisting of a library and convention hall.

Timings: Mon To Sat. 10 am to 4pm. Sunday & Government Holiday closed.