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Sikkim Information


 The Sikkim Himalayas, the epitome of the world’s mountainsm, famous for its unrivalled scenic brilliance encompasses a wonderland, which for its sheer splendor and magnificence remain unbeaten elsewhere in the globe. For a holiday in the clouds where the mountains are just about impending, Sikkimg offers a wonderland of unparalled beauty. With its frothing  rivers, forlorn valleys and lonely dales, the majestic mountain peaks, exhilarant turquoise hued lakes, crystal clear as mirrors, the dense foothills, gapping chasms and startling gorges, and the lush paddy fields, Sikkim is a heaven for all and sundry.

Sikkim lies in the eastern Himalayas in the lap of Kanchenjunga, the guardian deity and the third tallest peak in th world. To the north of Sikkim lies the vast area of the Tibetan plateau; to the east is the “forbidden kingdom” of Bhutan and on its western fringes is the kingdom of Nepal.

The history of Sikkim before the 17th century is not recorded and is a little hazy. In 1642 A.D., Sikkim’s first king was consercrated and was called the “Chogyal”, one who rules with righteousness. His direct lineage, the Namgyals ruled this erstwhile kingdom until it became the 22nd state of the Indian union in 1975.

The enchanting little state covers an area of 7096 sq km measuring about 110km from north to south and 64 km from east to west with elevations ranging from 800 to 28000 feet above sea level. This is what gives Sikkim a vast variety of flora and fauna and makes it a hotbed of bio-diversity. Indeed, Sikkim has 4000 varieties of plants and shrubs. Some 600 to 1000 species of orchids along with a variety of plants and flowers that create a visual delight.

The population of Sikkim mainly consists of three ethnic groups namely the Lepchas, the first known settlers and the original inhabitants of the land, the Bhutias who trace their ancestry to Tibet and the Nepalese, the largest ethnic community, basically inhabit Sikkim. 90% of the populace lives in the villages.

Sikkim, the small but beautiful kingdom is situated in the eastern Himalayas. Sikkim is termed as the Switzerland of the east, a heavenly paradise on earth. It covers an area of 2818 square miles 7325 square kilometers. It is rectangular in shape with seventy miles in the north to south and forty east to west. Geographically it is 28 Degree 07' 48'' degree and 27 degree 04' 46'' north latitude, and 88 degree 00' 58' and 88 degree 55' 25'' east longitude. In the north it is bounded by Tibetan plateau to its east is Bhutan and Chumbi valley of Tibet and in the southern side is bounded by West Bengal India. There are two passes in the eastern boundary with Tibet Nathula pass (4700 metres) and Jelepla(4016 metres ). To the west lies Singalila range which forms the most important boundaries between Nepal and Sikkim with a pass named Chiwabhangjang (3400 metres). There are two important rivers In Sikkim Teesta which starts from Tashidrag Glacier in the north and Rangit which is a tributaries of Teesta river.

Business and Economy
The main markets for shopping are Old market, New Market and Lal market. Here one finds shops of all kind which offer good range of items to be purchased. For a tourist there are many attractive items to be bought as carved furniture, the dresses, Lepcha weave bags, Carpets & Durries with intricate designs and colourful
decorations. One can also buy wooden and bamboo artifacts. For a collector of handmade decorative pieces Gangtok is a paradise.      
The items from Gangtok leave a long lasting impression on the mind of the visitor. The Hindi speaking Marwaris dominates many of the shops in the Gangtok market.

The handicraft and handloom directorate office and the showroom are on crossing of MG Marg and New market. The Gramin Vikas Agency showroom is also located here. In these showrooms you can buy carpets, masks, bright Choktse tables, Thangka hangings.Besides the places of interest, Sikkim also offers the added attraction of shopping.

Visas and Permit  
1.Passport valid for a minimum of six months beyond the date of intended departure from India should accompany visa applications.

2. Paste one photo and staple the other one on the form at specified place.

3.Foreigners holding other nationalities (other than the country where applying for visa), should submit proof of long-term (at least three years)/ permanent residence in the country (where applying). For citizen of other countries, a reference has to be made to their country of residence for which an additional fee is applicable and will involve extra processing time. Please refrain from making inquiries about the status of application during this time.


East of Sikkim

With the capital city of Gangtok  positioned here, East district is the nucleus of all administrative activity in Sikkim. Besides this, the celebrated Rumtek monastery, the Dharma Chakra centre and the seat of His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa is also located here. Apart from the usual shopping for souvenir and artifacts in Gangtok, the east district offers scores of interesting places to visit.

The Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms is the shopper’s stop and the place to catch up memento hunting. You can also get up close with the craftsmen in process of weaving, wood carving and painting of ethnic Sikkimese designs on carpets, blankets shawls and magnolia wood tables.

The world’s  largest treasury of invaluable old Tibetan and Lepcha Books and manuscripts, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, is also located in Gangtok.

In close vicinity to this is the Do-Drul Chorten monasterym, build by the venerable Trulshi Rimpoche, head of Nyingmapa order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. This monastery was built to commemorate good over evil.

Tshuklakhang or the royal chapel is inside the palace ground. It is the principal place of worship and assembly and the repository of vast collection of Buddhist scriptures and invaluable thankas. The ceremonial preceding of Kagey Thuetor – the worship of the snowy range, and the Gungsar celebration of the Tibetan New Year are performed here.

Another important seat of the Nyingmapa order is the Enchey monastery. It is built on the site sanctified by lama Ruptob Karpo who was known for his powers of flying. This 200 years old monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of the district.

The one and only Sakya monastery in Sikkim, Sar-Bgor-Chotsog centre, is located 5km away from Gangtok. It was established in 1961 by His eminence Luding Khen Rimpoche, head of Ngorpa, sub-sect of the Sakya order.

On a ridge 7km away from Gangtok is the Ganesh Tok from where viewers gets a bird’s eye view of sprawling Gangtok town. Across the hills Mt. Kanchenjunga and Mt. Siniolchu loom over the horizon.

A little distance away is Hanuman Tok, with a Hindu temple. Devotees from all over come to offer prayers.

Encapsulating a verdant expanse of 205 hectares is the Himalayan Zoological Park about 8km away from Gangtok. This is the natural habitat of the engendered red panda, barking deer, spotted deer and the Himalayan back bear.

Besides this sanctuary there are others like Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary which is being developed as s short trekking trail, the Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden that houses over 50 different trees species and Kyongnosla Alpine sanctuary on the way to Tsomgo.

40km from Gangtok is the Tsomgo Lake. Tsomgo literally means “the source of lake” in Bhutia language. This placid lake is about a km long, oval in shape, 15metres deep and is considered sacred by the locals.

An uphill drive for about 40 minutes from Tsomgo Lake brings you to the Nathula Pass. Perched at an altitude of 14200 feet, it serves as the borderline between India and China. 

West of Sikkim

If you are in a lookout for nature, adventure or history, the west is the district to visit. The best time to visit is from April to May and October to November.

Yuksom was the first capital of Sikkim. According to the historical records, it was here that the first Chogyal of the kingdom of Sikkim was consecrated in 1641 A.D. by three learned lamas. The consecration ceremony is still intact at Norbu Ghang Chorten in the form of stone throne and a footprint of the head lama on a stone.

Pelling is a budding urban settlement in the western region due to the tourists’ influx. Many hotels and lodges have mushroomed offering various categories of accommodation facilities. Situated at an altitude of 6800ft, it offers a good view of the entire mountain ranges.

Mounted on a hilltop about 2.5km away from Pelling Pemayangtse Gumpa, at an altitude of 2085metre. It is one the oldest and the most important monasteries of the Nyingmapa order of Tibetan Buddhism in Sikkim. To this day, it is only the monks from this monastery who enjoy the courtesy of the title of “Tasang” or pure monk.

Gyalwa Latsun Chembo constructed one of the oldest gumpas, the Sangachoelng monastery, in 1967. Situated in a ridge above Pelling one has to be prepared to spend at least 40 minutes trekking up through rich forest covers and the steep hilly slope in order to reach this monastery.

The Dubdi monastery is the oldest monastery established soon after the consecration of the fist Chogyal. The monastery is located in a hilltop above Yuksom surrounded by verdant forest. Trekking negotiating steep slopes for approximately 32 to 40 minutes can only approach it.

Tashiding monastery is situated on top of a heart shaped hill with the backdrop of the scared Mt. Kanchenjunga. The monastery was built in 18th century by Nadak Sempa Chempo. It is famous for having the most sacred chorten known as “thong-Wa-Rang-To” meaning savior by mere sight. It is believed that the mere act beholding it is supposed to wash away all the sins of the devotees,. Bhumchu, the sacred water festival is yet another important feature of Tashiding.

Both Budhists and the Hindus of the state consider the Khecheopalri Lake the most sacred of lakes. The lake remains hidden in the rich forest cores. It is believed that birds do not permit even a single leaf to float on the lake surface. It is also known as the wish fulfilling lake.

 The highest bridge in Skkim and the third highest in the world, the Singshore bridge is  about 25km from Pemayangtse. The height of this bridge is 680 ft. The area also gas Khandu Sangphu or hot springs and caves. A place worthy visiting!

About 20 minutes drive from here is Uttarey. It serves as abase camp of adventure tourism for Singalila range trails.

The most popular trekking trail in Sikkim is the Yuksom-Dzongri trail. The route passes through almost entirely uninhabited and remarkably pristine forest, tiny yak herders’ summer settlements, remote monasteries and extensive pastures up to 4000 metres to Sonora, which has the spectacular views of the mountains.

One of the famous rhododendron sanctuaries, Varsey is at an elevation of 10000ft. The motorable access is only up to Hilley. An easy 4km trek leads to the sanctuary. The place has a magnificent view of the mountains. Apart from a large variety of rhododendrons, it also houses numerous medicinal plants.

North of Sikkim

Perhaps the most beautiful of the districts, the north offers an exquisite experience for lovers of nature and alpine scenery. Yumthang alone is enough to satiate the most demanding, with its panoramic Valley of Flowers.

Kabi Lungtsok, this historical place is 17km from Gangtok on the north Sikkim highway. This is the place where the blood brotherhood was signed between the Lepcha chieftain Thekong Tek and Bhutia chief Kye Bhumsa.

At a height of 8610ft, is the beautiful dale of Lachung, resplendent in its crown of snow-capped mountains, awesome waterfalls and luminous streams. It has been described as the “most picturesque valley of Sikkim” by Joseph Dalton in his “Himalayan Journals”.

This Bhutia village gas a unique local self-governing body called the Zumsa that substitutes the Panchayat. The Lachung monastery on the slope opposite to the highway is the focal point of all religious functions perfeormed on auspicious occasions.

Yumthang at a height of 11800ft and 140km from Gangtok is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and magnificent scenic grandeur.

This is where the tree line ends and the rhododendron groves cover the landscape in a surreal shade. It is also called the “Valley of Flowers” because in spring wild flowers carpet the land. Besides this there are hot springs, which have healing medicinal properties.

Straddling the confluence of the Lachen and Lachung rivers is Chungthang, the valley believed to be blessed by Guru Rimpoche. In this small township one can visit the holy Guru Lhedo where the foot and palm prints left by the patron saint can be seen.

The Phodong monastery is one of the in major monasteries in Sikkim. This monastery along with Phensong monastery is famous for their mask dances. The remotest and the most inaccessible monastery in Sikkim is at Jolung in the Lepcha heartland of Dzongu.

Singhik offers the most spectacular view of Mt. Kanchenjunga and its ranges. At an altitude of 14500ft, it is the Chopta valley where one can actually walk on the frozen rivers during winter and be overwhelmed by the riots of colour in spring.

The waters of Guru Dongmar Lake are believed to possess the miraculous powers of granting issues to barren couples.

Cho Lhamu at 17000ft and Yumtso at 16000ft lie in the extreme north at the source of the Teesta river.

South of Sikkim

Some of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim are located here and a 135ft high image of Guru Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Sikkim, has been erected at Samdruptse, near the district headquarter, Namchi. One can indulge in mountain biking and nature trails here.

Namchi is a well laid out township that has major monastries like Ahley monastery of the Tamang community and Nadak monastery nearby.

The beautiful rock garden is 6km from Namchi, where one can find some of the rare flowers, orchids and Timbur. The artificically created garden has a children’s park too.

The Temi Tea Estate, an organic tea garden, is spread out on a gentle hill slope originating from Tendong Hill.

14km north of Namchi is the state Biodiversity Park and Medicinal plants and Herbal Garden, the first of its kind to come up in the entire country.

Reminiscent of a town from the wild west, Ravangla is a sleepy hamlet at about a height of 7000ft, this township comes alive during the Pang Lab Sol festival when the warrior dance is performed at the Mani Chokarling by the locals.

6km from Ravangla is a quaint Sikkimese village named Tinkitam. It is the natural habitat of the rare orchid Paphiopedilum Faireanum or “lady’s slipper”, as is commonly known.

Menam peak is a 12km uphill trek from Ravangla. The route winds through a thick forest of oak, chestnuts, magnolia and rhododendrons. A natural habitat of Red Panda, the Himalayan black bear and many species of deer, this area is designated as a wildlife sanctuary.

The name Tendong Hill means “upraised horn” from Lepcha lore where the land was submerged in a great flood. Even today, prayers are offered on the offset of monsoons,