Location : North-eastern part of India
Capital City : Gangtok
Major Festivals : Mask dance, Lossoong, Kanchendzonga festival
Mostly Visited For : Adventure sports, Buddhist monasteries
Praying To The Rising Sun; A Buddhist Monastery At The Backdrop
The whole of Sikkim can be summed up in just a few words. A perfect destination for vacationers in quest of enchantment, tranquility or adventure. A jewel embedded in snow clad mountains, Sikkim is a primevial land that is unlike anywhere else, where one dreamy day blends into the next. Nestling in the lap of the eastern Himalayas, Sikkim's rugged and dramatic terrain is a land of mystery and myths that cast an enchanted spell on every visitor. Sikkim's guardian deity, 8686 mt high Kanchendzonga, dominates the landscape and provides a very significant charm that exerts a insurpassable influence on the land and lives of the people. Once renowned for being one of the last Shangri La's, the former hill kingdom has made rapid progress since it became a state of the Indian Union in 1975. Today, Sikkim has opened its gate in three major directions - North, South and West - that are fast evolving into favoured holiday hang-outs all around the world owing to its reputation of cleanliness, scenic beauty and political stability. No doubt, this queen of hills offers you a holiday that is more than a dream - a voyage of adventure and discovery. So splurge on...
Gangtok - In A State of Bliss
A holiday in Gangtok will surely take you to the pages of a fairy-tale book. It is a land where prayer flags flutter in the breeze, mystery-laden mists unveil ambrosial sun-kissed peaks and wheels spin in the hands of Lamas mumbling prayers to God. At 5,800 ft, Gangtok offers mindblowing views of the Himalayas, especially from Tashi Viewpoint. Spend your holiday afternoons exploring the main bazaar with its impressive array of handicrafts and Tibetian artefacts, or visiting the Institute of Cottage Industries, just above the town. The latter is a curious storehouse of handwoven woollen carpets with traditional motifs, shawls in Lepcha weaves and exquisitely carved 'Choktse'. Plan your vacation during spring, when the whole city dolls up in colourful flowers and alluring orchid shows (Flower Festival). Also worth visiting is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, housing ancient manuscripts and valuable 'tankhas' (Buddhist religious paintings).
Trekking Above The Brahmaputra River Is A Real Charm
To the adventure lovers, trekking in Sikkim is an experience of many dimensions. For sheer exhilaration nothing can match the view of the mountains which seem to reach the heavens. When misty rains wrap the lush slopes in lacy tufts of clouds, you will find yourself trekking at 14,000 ft or more. Aah! What a holiday it would make. You may chance upon the shy musk deer on one of your treks, or wave out to the exotic Red Panda perched among the tree tops. Don't miss the thrill of a yak safari. The cruise over the rugged hills to ancient monasteries is truly an unforgettable experience. Besides, Gangtok also serves as a base camp for many mountaineering expeditions. Go for a mindblowing round of watersports at the Aritar Lake (East Sikkim). Enjoy a different vacation at Assam Limzay, where village tourism and home stays are being promoted to enable visitors to experience local culture. You can also pick up enchanting souvenirs made of bamboo and other local artefacts.
Explore Buddhism from a closer perspective while in Sikkim. Caressing nearly 200 'gompas' (monasteries) in its mist-clad sleeves, Sikkim is known for its Buddhist shrines that not only play an important part in the cultural and religious life of the people, but also enthralls every visitor by demonstrating ancient rituals in practice. There are art treasures as well. Visit the famous 'gompas' of Sikkim and you will be amazed to see the lifelike frescoes of hoary Buddhist legends that adorn the walls of these serene alcoves. Remember to see the ancient Tibetian manuscripts, rare silk and bracade 'thangkas', and exquisitely carved wood work that are unique to this corner of the country. Drive just 24 km from Gangtok amidst picturesque countryside to visit the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre (or Rumtek monastery) built in the 1960s by his Holiness, the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. Rumtek houses some of the world's most unique art objects, ancient manuscripts and icons.
Musicians Playing at Lossoong Festival
If you happen to be in Sikkim during the festive time, your spirit will spring up with the merriment of this snow clad state, its esoteric costumes and unbelievable play of armours. When on a holiday, don't miss the jaw-dropping 'mask dance', a spectacular event that has to be seen to experience. Known all over the world for their perfect foot work and grace, the mask dances are performed by lamas - costumed in gaily painted masks, ceremonial swords and sparkling jewels - in their monastery courtyards, who leap and swing to the rhythm of resounding drums, rhythms of horns and chanting of monks. However, two festivals that predominantly mark the Sikkimese calender are; Kanchendzonga festival and the one dedicated to 'Lossoong', the Sikkimese New Year Day. Celebrated in September, the two day Kanchendzonga festival is praised for the famous 'Singhi Nach' (Lion dance) that portrays the ferocious god of Kanchanjunga with a crown of five skulls, riding over a mythical snow lion and holding aloft the banner of victory.
When in Sikkim for a vacation, you just can't bypass the spree of shopping. There is so much to pick up in this small but little country. Sikkim is known for its exquisitely woven woolen carpets and blankets embellished in contemporary designs and traditional Sikkimese motifs, made from pure sheep wool and coloured with traditional vegetable Sikkimese dyes. Visit the Government Institute of Cottage Industry in Gangtok, and you can have the pleasure of shopping some of the best examples of Tibetian art - canvas wall-hangings, eight lucky signs, thangkas or religious scrolls - that augment the beauty of every house. Don't forget to pick up Sikkim Tea, famous all over the state for its exotic flavour and taste. Shop for a couple of packets of "Solja" and "Khangchendzonga" tea to relish a high Indian flavour in your home.
The best way to approach Sikkim is through Gangtok. The nearest airport is Bagdogra, 124 km away and takes around 3 hours by private taxi. There is also a daily helicopter service Gangtok-Bagdogra-Gangtok. The helicopter connects with flights from Delhi and Kolkata, and leaves for Gangtok between 1 pm and 3 pm. The main link between Gangtok and the rest of the country is through Siliguri (110 km). One can also go to Gangtok from Darjelling (90 km) and Kalimpong (70 km). Foreigners require an Inner Line Permit to enter Sikkim. Valid for 15 days, this permit is issued by the Indian Ministry for Home Affairs, or Govt. Of Sikkim, New Sikkim House, New Delhi. Entry permits are also granted at the Rangpo Check Post, West Bengal-Sikkim border point on the National Highway. But these are valid for only two days, to enable you to reach Gangtok and take a regular permit. For visiting the interior areas, Protected Area Permit can be obtained from the Deptt. Of Tourism, M.G Marg, Gangtok.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Sikkim
A Creed Called Sikkim
Where Buddha Is Life
Sikkim on A Trek
Enjoy An Evening With The Locals
Visit The Temi Tea Garden
Glorious Golden Triangles (I & II)
Beauty of Madhya Pradesh