Sikkim is often called as North East India’s Switzerland due to it´s beauty. Sikkim is a small, yet beautiful state situated among the ‘Seven Sisters’ in the North-Eastern side of India. Make sure that you get all your permits and visa ready as its not easy to access this part of India. If you manage to get there, you will discover the green blue mountains and the ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture. The state shares its borders with three countries Nepal, Bhutan and China, with Nepali being its foremost lingo. Sikkim is also regarded as one of the last Himalayan Shangri-las.
A rich mixture of cultures due to its proximity to Bhutan, Nepal and China, gives Sikkim a cultural edge over many other states and once you are there, you are bound to experience this cultural flavour. Sikkim is regarded as a 7096 square kilometres of eco-garden offering sheer beauty and nature. Snowy peaks, crimson sunrise and sunsets, bamboo forests, medicinal plants, flora and fauna, Sikkim is rich in almost everything a tourist can long for.
World’s third highest mountain Mount Khangchendzonga lies here. While at Sikkim, you will experience Khangchendzonga’s view from almost all corners of this small state.
Monasteries add the religious and peaceful edge and you can drench in the beauty of waterfalls, caves, lakes and hot springs at high altitude. There are many species of animals found here like Goral, Himalayan Black Bear, Serow, Musk Deer, Lesser Cats, Leopards, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Marmot, Martens Weasel and more.
Shopping at Sikkim can be as delightful as sightseeing, you will find some of the best souvenirs and mementos. You can get local handicrafts at the Government Institute of Cottage Industry in Gangtok or at the Dalai Lama Trust Fund shop in Hotel Tibet.
Sikkim offers beautiful canvas wall hangings, prayer wheels, jewellery, rugs and carpets from Tibet. Sikkim tea and aromatic cardamoms are especially recommended.
There are many places that sell handicraft but major shopping areas in Gangtok are Lall Market, New Market at Mahatma Gandhi Marg and The Old Market. You can buy weave bags, furniture, paintings, wooden and bamboo artefacts, carpets, dresses, shawls and knitted garments.
Sikkim celebrates several festivals and most of them originates from the Buddhist culture and which are celebrated by monasteries in February and March. There are other festivals like the Chaarm festival celebrated in December and January at Enchey and Buddhist dancing at Rumtek in July.
Sikkim, like any other tourist hot spot, offers a wide range of accommodation. There are guest houses and hotels from budget to high standard.
In the North-East of Sikkim the cuisine has blended traditions, it is a mixture between Chinese, Indian and Tibetan cuisines, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is available. Traditional delights are sold on every street, especially well-known is Café Tibet. People here eat simple yet healthy food so be prepared not finding traditional western meals.
Sikkim’s capital city Gangtok has a lot to offer to everyone. It is the largest city of Sikkim and is known for Enchey Monastery which is extremely significant for Buddhists. While in Gangtok you can do several things such as exploring Khangchendzonga peak, plan a trip to the Deer Park and explore wildlife at its best or visit Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden and Himalayan Zoological Park.
Sikkim is considered as India’s meditation destination and it is home to about 200 monasteries and some of the most famous ones are Rumtek, Tashiding, Pemayangtse, Enchey monastery, Karma Kagyu, a 200-year-old monastery, and Sanga Choeling.
One of the most popular treks Sikkim has to offer is the trek from Yuksom to Dzongri peak and, if you are ready to undertake the challenge, then further on to Goecha peak. If you are a foreign national you will have to get an additional trekking permit as it is mandatory for foreign nationals. You can get them at any Tourism office in Gangtok.
Borong is a renowned village in Sikkim facing snowy mountains Known for its hot springs. The village can be reached through a trek route from Namchi or Damthang to Tendong. People usually come here for the traditional winter spas.
Chopta Valley is another beautiful place known for it´s alpine vegetation, orchids and rhododendron shrub, the valley is visited by many tourists each year. You can find an array of various kinds of plants in this area.
If you are heading to the Chopta Valley, you have to go through Lachen, home to Bhutia and Tibetan communities. Lachen also is a road to Gurudongmar Lake and the Lachen Monastery. Within 35 kilometers from Gangtok lies Tsomgo Lake which is worshipped by people of Sikkim because lamas used to predict the future by seeing the colour of the lake.
Another must see is the Himalyan Zoological Park and the purpose of the park is to preserve the wildlife. The total area of this park is 205 hectares and the best time to visit is between February-May and September-December. The Deer Park, established in 1950s, can also be visited to see several species of deer. There is a belief stating that the park was opened to celebrate Lord Buddha’s reincarnation as a Musk Deer.
Even if you perhaps never heard of Sikkim, it is a life changing journey for most of the people who visit it. The Tibetan Buddhist culture surrounded by Chinese, Indian and Bhutan influences is an extraordinary place to experience. While in India you should definitely visit Sikkim – one of the last Himalyan Shangri-las.