Gangtok at an elevation of 1,650m (5,410ft) is a city, the capital, and the largest town of the state of Sikkim. Nestled at higher peaks towering by the Himalayan Mountain Ranges, is a heritage for rich culture and traditions with the touch of modernity. It is one of the most famous touristic Hill stations in India.
Gangtok, being blessed with spectacular natural landscapes and pleasant temperate climate which exist all around the year also serves as a gateway for campers and trekkers to the Himalayan mountain ranges. While giving a picturesque view of Mount Kanchenjunga- the world’s third-highest peak on the west side of the city, Gangtok offers heart-rending opportunities for exploration. Gangtok thus has always been the heart in Sikkim’s tourism industry.
Buddhist monasteries, Stupas and Pagoda-roofed houses adds radiance to the already awe vista beauty of the place. Expansion of the place in accordance with tourism aspects as such being tagged as the “Switzerland of the East” is justified because of its cleanliness and the abound greenery.
The best time to visit the place is during March to Late May when the wild Rhododendrons blossoms give out vibrant touch to its surroundings and October to Mid-December.
One can never get enough of the beauty and culture it has to offer coupled by the hospitability of the people where every tourist is being treated as one of their own.
Culture and Traditions
Major native tribe dwelling in harmony are the Lepchas, Bhutias and the Tibetans. Besides the nationwide celebration of various festivals, some unique festivals like Buddha Jayanti, Birthday of Dalai Lama, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Dhuechein, etc. are regarded with great esteem. Folk dances and folk songs of the Sikkimese go hand-in-hand with the rich culture the state is known for. Famous folk dances includes Lu Khangthamo, Gha To Kito, Chi Rimu, Gnungmala Gnunghey, etc including mask dances such as Enchey Chaam, Kagyed Dance, Rumteck Chaam and Gouthor usually performed on ceremonial and festive occasions.
Though known throughout the country, nothing beats the popular and traditional touch in every veg and non-veg momo (vegetables and meat wrapped in thin flour wrapper) the Sikkimese are known for. Famous noodles based dishes includes Wai-Wai, Thukpa, Gyathuk, Wonton, while other cuisines famous cuisines includes Shah-Phaley (Sikkimese patties), Gack-Ko soup. Churpee (harden cheese of cow’s or yak’s milk) and Chhang ((local froathy millet beer) are also well known among locals and an attraction to tourist.
Abundance in culture and local food varieties in addition to nature’s beauty it has to offer have always played the major role in Gangtok Tourism industry.
Football and cricket are the most popular sports in Gangtok while archery being a traditional sport.
The best places to visit in Gangtok
The natural beauty and the soothing ambience of rich culture together turn the hill city of Gangtok into heaven. The picturesque beauty of the Kanchenjunga and the Teesta River flowing on the rocks are the added-on gifts to the mountain lovers. Gangtok Tourism offers a bunch of attractions for the visitors.
1. Tsongmo Lake
Tsongmo Lake, also known as Changu Lake, always remains on the top of the bucket list of the tourists. It is a glacial lake, 40 kilometres (25 miles) away from the Gangtok city. It is situated at an elevation of 12,313 ft from the sea level. If you visit there in winter you can find the oval-shaped lake to be fully frozen. At seven seasons of the year, the surface of the lake reflects seven different shades of colours.
A small temple of Lord Shiva, situated on the bank of the lake is quite popular among the visitors. During Guru Purnima, people gather at the lake with the faith that the lake water possesses a healing quality. If you are a nature lover then the middle of May will be the perfect timing for you, when the flowers of rhododendron, primroses, blue and yellow poppies blossom. Gangtok Tourism offers some joy rides also there during summer.
As this region is a restricted area, the Indian nationals require an Inner Line Permit and the foreign nationals require a special permit to reach there.
2. Rumtek Monastery
Rumtek Monastery, also known as the Dharmachakra Centre, is considered as one of the most important sacred places among the Buddhist people around the world as the most significant hub for Kagyu teachings. Although originally, it was built in the mid-18th century by the 9th Karmapa Lama Wangchuk Dorje, the attractive Gompa architecture that we can see there now, was built by the 16th Karmapa Lama Rangjung Rigpe Dorje.
It was initially restricted to Buddhist monks only. In the year of 1966, it was opened for all. It is situated on a hill 23 kilometres away from the Gangtok city. From the top of the monastery, the view of the whole Gangtok city injects an aesthetic feeling into the visitors. The Gompa architecture, the golden stupa, murals, and sculptures make this place a point of artistic interest also.
The scheduled visiting hour of the sacred place is 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM and the required entry fee is 10 INR per person.
3. Nathu La Pass
A trip to Gangtok always remains incomplete without a visit to Nathu La pass. It is the mountain pass that connects Sikkim to the Autonomous region of Tibet. Nathu La, situated at an altitude of 14,140 ft from the sea level, is 54 kilometres (34miles) long on the Indian side. As a consequence of the Sino-Indian war in 1962, the pass remained sealed for a long period. In 2006, following several Sino-Indian trade agreements, the pass has been reopened. If you add this pass in your bucket list, then you have to visit it in summer as it remains closed during winter due to heavy snowfall.
Gangtok allows Indian citizens only to visit the pass with an Inner Line Permit.
4. Tashi Viewpoint
Tashi viewpoint, located 8 kilometres away from Gangtok city, is the most popular viewpoint of the Kanchenjunga and Siniolchu. If the sky is clear then the picturesque view of the snow peaks of the mountain will mesmerize you. This viewpoint is quite popular among the tourists for the aesthetic view of the sunrise from here. Phodong and Labrang monasteries, situated in the lap of the opposite hills will give you a photographic view under the soothing sunlight. It was named after Tashi Namgyal, former king of Sikkim founded this viewpoint.
The viewpoint remains open from 5:00 AM to 6:00 PM. No entry fee is required there. But if you want you may get binocular on rent, for only 10 INR. Several cafeterias and food joints are present there at the surroundings for refreshment.
5. Seven Sister Waterfall
Seven Sister waterfall is a must-visit spot of Gangtok. It is the most beautiful waterfall in Sikkim. At a distance of around 32 kilometers from the Gangtok city, the beautiful waterfall is located on the Gangtok-Lachung highway. The seven falls residing together side by side make the nomenclature justified. Also, the waterfalls in seven stages, although only four are visible among them. During the rainy season, the waterfall comes into life and water makes a terrific roaring sound while falling on the limestone. A waiting spot and viewpoint have been made by the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Gangtok has made a small footbridge also over the stream so that the tourists can get a close view of the mesmerizing beauty.
6. Phodong Monastery
Located at a distance of 38 kilometres from the Gangtok city, Phodong Monastery is one of the six important Monasteries in Sikkim. It is situated at an elevation of 4500 ft from the sea level. It was founded in the first half of the eighteenth century by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal. It is also considered one of the three significant monasteries of the Kagyu sect. Its murals and sculptures attract art enthusiasts from all over the world. Each year, according to the Tibetan calendar, on the 28th and 29th days of the 10th month, the Phodong festival takes place there, where the monks together perform the Chaam Dance.
7. Do Drul Chorten Stupa
Do Drul Chorten Stupa is a significant point of spiritual interest among the visitors. It was built in 1946 by Trulshik Rinpoche, an important person of the Nyingma order of Buddhism. According to the myth behind the stupa says that the place became haunted with evil spirits. To drive away from the spirit the renowned hermit established the stupa. Holy religious antiques including a set of Dorjee Phurba and Kangyur are preserved there. 108 Mani Lhakors are present around the stupa. Murals of Padmasambhava and Guru Snang will never fail to grab the attention of art lovers.
8. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is an institute for studies and researches on Tibetan Buddhism. It was established in 1958 to promote research on Tibetan culture, history, religion, art, language, and philosophy. For the tourists who want to explore Sikkim as the only hub of Tibetan culture in India, this is a place that must not be missed. There is a museum of Tibetan iconography and artworks which is considered as the largest collection of Tibetan documents outside Tibet.
Visitors can visit there every day in the week except the Sundays, and second Saturdays of each month, along with the holidays declared by the Government. The scheduled visiting hour is 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. An entry fee of 10 INR is required to enter there.
9. Ganesh Tok
Ganesh Tok is a place where Hindu culture made a fusion with Tibetan culture. It is a small temple, decorated in Tibetan style, with colourful flags. The temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha is situated 11 kilometres away from Gangtok city, at an elevation of 7200 ft. Although it is too small to accommodate two people inside at a time, it is quite popular among the tourists as a viewpoint. This place, surrounded by nature, always gifts a piece of tranquil to the visitors.
No entry fee is required there. The temple remains open from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
10. Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple
Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple is not any temple dedicated to any mythological deity. It was established to express reverence towards an Indian Army personnel named Baba Harbhajan Singh who was drowned in a glacier. Several folklores about his moving spirit are quite popular among the local people. The temple is situated at a distance of 50 kilometers from the Gangtok city towards the Nathula border. Each year, during summer, Gangtok tourism permits the tourists to visit there issuing an inner line permit.
11. Ban Jhakri Falls
Located 10-12 kilometers away from Gangtok city, Ban Jhakri Falls has become a new attraction of Gangtok. A beautiful waterfall along with an Energy park and statues of Lyam Lymay, Mangpas, Lepcha, and Ban Jhakri ancestors, is considered as one of the most favored picnic spots. It includes several food joints and a swimming pool also.
An entry fee of 50 INR is required there. From 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM it remains open.
12. M G Marg
A trip remains incomplete without shopping and M G Marg is the shopping hub of Gangtok. This place is considered as the heart of the city. As this area is made for pedestrians, vehicles should be parked outside the market place. The buildings on both sides are painted in green as per the Government instruction to convey the ‘Green City’ message. Gangtok tourism offers a smoke-free, litter-free shopping experience to the visitors. The market place remains closed on Tuesdays.
13. Himalayan Zoological Park
If you want to explore the wildlife living in the climate of Sikkim, Himalayan Zoological Park is there for you. At an elevation of 1780 meters, the zoological park has been made in a place named Bulbuley, at a distance of 3 kilometres from the heart of the city. It was established in 1991, in such a way that all the creatures can live there safely in their natural habitat. You can meet snow leopard cat, Himalayan red panda, Himalayan monal pheasant, crimson horned pheasant, and Himalayan palm civet with an amazing view of Kanchenjunga.
You can explore on foot as well as by car. But since it will take a long time to reach from one habitat to another by walking, most of the visitors decide to hire a car available there for half a day. For refreshment, café, food corners, and a watchtower are present there.
The zoological park opens at 9:00 AM and closes at 4:00 PM every day in the week except Thursday. For adults, the entry fee is 25 INR while for kids it is 10 INR and for foreigners, it will cost 50 INR. Additionally, for the small vehicle, you have to pay 40 INR and for the big vehicle, you have to pay 100 INR there.
14. Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary
Gangtok tourism offers another spectacular habitat of Himalayan flora and fauna, 20 kilometres away from the Gangtok SNT bus stand. The sanctuary, situated at an altitude of 1524 – 2749 meters, is an extension of the Kanchenjunga National Park. Various types of rhododendrons, ferns, bamboo, and oak can be seen here. For bird lovers, this place is heaven. Black eagle, maroon oriole, yellow-billed blue magpie, Nepal tree creeper and so many other species of birds are found there. Among animals, Himalayan brown bear, red panda, and barking deer are very popular among the visitors.
Visitors are allowed to go there between 8 AM to 3 PM. An entry fee of 5 INR is charged by the forest department.
15. Sa-Ngor-Chotshong Centre
Sa-Ngor-Chotshong Centre, also known as the crown of Sikkim, is one of the most important monastic institutes for Tibetan studies. It has become an important destination of Gangtok tourism due to its architecture and artworks. This monastery of the Ngorpa sect was established in 1961. This is the only monastery in India where the Sakya order of Buddhism is followed. The murals and thangkas cover the walls of the monastery. This place is located around 5 kilometres away from the city. As from March to June the climate remains tourist-friendly, it will be the best time to visit. Also, if you want to see this beautiful monastery covered in snow, you have to visit it in winter.
So, if you visit Gangtok, do not forget to leave your footprints in the above-mentioned tourist places.
Special things to do in Gangtok
From tranquillity to adventure, from spirituality to activities, Gangtok has a lot to quench your thirst of wander. Here a list of exciting things to do in Gangtok is given below.
1. Kanchenjunga Trek
A Gangtok tour remains incomplete without Kanchenjunga trek through Goecha La pass. This is basically a trek through the Kanchenjunga National Park, starting from Yuksom and ending at Goecha La. The picturesque scenery of flora and fauna is sufficient to drive the nature lovers crazy. The Rhododendron flowers and Oak trees will never fail to mesmerize you. You will find three major viewpoints, named Dzongri top, Thansing, and Goecha La, during the trek to please your eyes with the aesthetic view of the snow-capped peaks of the mountains.
The peaks, you shall meet during the trek, are Jupono (5650 meters), Tenchenkhang (6010 meters), Pandim (6691 meters), Kabru Forked (6100 meters), Kabru Dome (6600 meters), Kabru S (7318 meters), Simvo (6812 meters), Koktang (6147 meters), Kabru N (7353 meters), Rathong (6679 meters), Talung (7349 meters) and Kanchenjunga (8586 meters). The ambiance of Samiti lake, on the way of the trek, may stop your legs from moving further.
This trek may appear to be challenging, depending upon the weather. You will get clear weather if you plan to participate in the trek during winter. At monsoon the trek remains closed due to heavy shower.
2. Teesta River Rafting
The river Teesta has always played a crucial role in the lifestyle of the people of Sikkim. As the rivers flow over a number of terrains, it attracts the tourists for river rafting. Gangtok offers professional rafting guides and safety jackets for rent during the session. At Triveni, near Teesta Bazaar, multiple organizers are there to organize these activities and to provide rafting guides. After the water sports have been launched, Triveni, where Rangeet meets Teesta, has become a major spot of attraction for a picnic. Melli is the most popular spot there for rafting. Most of the tourists include river rafting into the schedule as a part of camping as the landscape of the valley is quite adored among the nature lovers.
December to June is the best timing to experience rafting there. It generally costs around 900 INR per person.
You can turn your Gangtok trip into the most adventurous trip ever, with paragliding over the mountains. It will be an exciting experience to fly like a kite over the snow-peaked mountains and the spectacular lakes. Gangtok tourism offers professional paraglide pilots also for the amateur paragliders. Checking for physical fitness will be done at first and only eligible people will be allowed there for the adventurous sport. People weighing more than 90 kg or having respiratory problems are instructed not to participate there. Generally, the paragliding is done at an altitude of 1440 meters to 2000 meters.
The period of May to October is the best time for paragliding. The sport costs around 2550 INR to 4500 INR per person.
4. Cable Ride
Unlike paragliding, if you want to get a close top view of the Gangtok city, then you must experience a cable ride over the city once. This is basically an arrangement of a two-way ride in cable carriage carrying 24 passengers at a time. You will come across three stations, named Deorali, Namnang, and Tashiling in the 1 km long journey. Deorali is the lowest point and Tashiling is the topmost point. You will experience two completely different views while experiencing this two-way ride.
The ride costs 110 INR for tourists over the age of 6 years, 70 INR for tourists below the age of 6 years. For the kids below 3 years, Gangtok tourism has kept the ride totally free. It remains open from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM every day.
5. Helicopter Ride
If you want to have the aerial view of the Gangtok city from a mid-range altitude, then a helicopter ride will be perfect for you. You can experience the amazing scenic beauty of the Himalayan ranges, lakes, woods, and the Buddhist monasteries from the sky. Since the helicopter flies over some restricted areas also, the Ministry of Defence does not allow photography while having the helicopter ride.
The ride will be confirmed over prior booking on the official website of Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC). The charges are different for different services.
6. Hang Gliding
For sports lovers, Gangtok tour remains incomplete without hang gliding activity. This is the newest one among the sporting activities in Gangtok. Just like an eagle you can fly over the mountains and the valleys and you shall be spellbound with the aerial view of the city. Necessary gears generally provided from the gliding points. The gliding points are located at Yumthang and Jorethang.
Starting from middle of May up to the month of October, the sport remains open. It costs around 7500 INR per person. You can rent a Go-Pro camera with 1000 INR to record the precious moment of your adventurous experience.
7. Mountain Biking
The idea of biking over the terrains of the Himalayan Mountains is never skipped by the adventure lovers. Riding on the bends of hill cut roads amidst the woods, tribal villages, rocky streams and cardamom fields will make you spellbound and this will be something you can never forget in your entire life. The most popular mountain biking routes among the tourists are Gangtok-Ranka-Martam (29 km), Yuksom-Kheochepari (25 km), Sirwani-Temi (27 km), Temi-Rabongla (28 km), Pemayanstse-Rinchenpong (45 km), Maenam-Borong (12 km), Tashiding-Yuksom (32 km).
8. Cycling on Silk Route
This is a thing which the mountain lovers never want to miss in their Gangtok trip. The 900 km long silk route is a part of the 10,000 km long ancient trade route that establishes a connection between Central Asia and the Mediterranean Sea. Until Tibet became an autonomous region of China, it was used not only to trade horses, tea and wool, but also to set up a cultural bridge between India and China. A cycling over this ancient road, built on the mountains, remains at the top of the bucket list of the adventure lovers. 32 hairpin bends in your whole journey will definitely thrill you.
If you are a nature lover and want to see the vibrant flowers of rhododendrons and primroses, then April to June will be the best season for you to explore the silk route. But the ideal time to experience the thrill of cycling on the zigzag path of the silk route is October to March as the weather remains safe and pleasant that time. It takes around 7 days to complete the cycling. Cheap accommodations are available on the way to take rest and boost the energy up for the next day. It costs around 20,000 INR per person.
9. Yak Safari
A trip to Gangtok may offer you an experience of yak safari that can inject sonorous enthusiasm and pure essence of joy into you. Around 40 kilometers away from Gangtok city, Tsomgo Lake, also known as Changu Lake is one of the most important tourist attractions in Gangtok. During the winter season, when the lake remains frozen, yak safari is offered to the tourists to provide the exclusive experience to them. This calm animal of the cow family is covered by long hair to protect the body from cold. The yaks, trained for tourism purposes, are generally decorated with rugs and ribbons. Every tourist, willing to ride on a yak, is given a trainer also while riding.
The cost for a yak ride to the bridge is around 40 INR. If you want to go up to the viewpoint it will cost around 80 INR, and up to Kemang it will cost 250 INR. An additional amount of 10 INR is charged for photography.
10. Exploring Nathu La Pass
Nathu La is a Himalayan mountain pass connecting the Indian state of Sikkim and the Chinese autonomous region of Tibet. At an altitude of 14,140 ft from the sea level, a journey through the pass will not fail to mesmerize you. Nathu La is an important trade border between India and China. In 1962, as a consequence of the Sino-Indian war, the pass was closed. In 2006, following several bilateral trade contracts between the two nations, the pass was reopened as a restricted region. Only Indian citizens with proper inner line permits can visit there. During winter the pass remains closed due to heavy snowfall. On Monday and Tuesday, the pass remains closed.
11. Click Photos of the Vibrant Flowers
Gangtok, the land of Rhododendrons, is known for the picturesque beauty of the blossoms. Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, in Yumthang, has become popular as ‘Valley of Flowers’ as more than 24 types of Rhododendrons are found there. It has become the favorite destination for the flora-lovers. The backdrop of mountains and the blue sky make the valley more aesthetic.
12. Dip your leg into hot water spring
Never forget to taste the unique experience of taking a dip into Yume Samdong hot spring, located at Yumthang. This place is widely popular among the visitors for a steam bath at the freezing temperature. This hot spring is known to have the power to heal joint pain, arthritis, and some other orthopedic problems also. Gangtok tourism has made two separate pools also there for men and women. If you want a day to relax with chilling activity, you should include this into your bucket list.
13. Taste Sikkimese Dishes
Gangtok can be considered as a heaven for the foodies as Gangtok tourism offers plenty of mouth-watering traditional dishes of Sikkim. Sikkimese traditional dishes are the perfect fusion of Nepalese, Bhutanese, and Tibetan recipes. Although vegetarian options are also available there, this is a heaven for non-vegetarian people. The most delicious dishes that Gangtok offers to its tourists are gundruk soup, sinki soup, sael roti, momos, paneer cheese, thukpa, Tibetan bread, yak cheese etc. Chaang, a local brewed alcoholic beverage, is must try for the alcohol lovers. It is generally served in a bamboo vessel.
14. Spend a night at Zuluk
Zuluk is a small hamlet 90 km away from Gangtok, situated at an altitude of 9,400 ft. Although the night stay at Zuluk is a quite offbeat thing to do during the Gangtok trip, its craze among the tourists is increasing every day due to the jaw-dropping view of the Eastern Himalayan range and Kanchenjunga from here. Once the village was treated as the transit point to the Silk route. Only Indian citizens are allowed to visit there with an inner line permit.
15. Shopping at M G Marg
M G Marg is the biggest shopping destination of Sikkim. The market place impresses tourists with Chinese and Tibetan goods and handlooms. Traditional clothes, cups, artworks, Feng Shui, rugs, jackets, and lamps are the major attractions here. Also, plenty of restaurants, pubs, and street food corners are present there to impress the foodies. It is a pedestrian-only area. All the buildings here are painted green to spread awareness about environmental issues. The high concern of the Government for Gangtok keeps the place totally clean and litter-free.
So, whenever you will plan your trip to Gangtok, include these in your bucket list and make your trip adventurous and exciting.
Best time to visit Gangtok
Tourists, trekkers, and honeymoon couples rush to Gangtok during the peak season ranging from September to June. Autumn is the best time to enjoy the breathtaking scenic views of the enchanting peaks and lakes. The months from October to mid-December and from March to June are the ideal time to visit Gangtok.
The months of July-August are not preferable due to the incessant rains, devastating landslides, and roadblocks. Dense fog covers the atmosphere, and it becomes difficult to drive through it. The temperature is quite pleasant during the monsoon months ranging from 17-22 degrees.
The temperature from October to February is usually when the climate is mystic and pleasing. It ranges between 4-7°C and is the best time for trekking, river-rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, and other adventurous activities. The cold, dry, and bright weather draws the maximum tourist during these months.
The spring months are also the best time for sightseeing as the roads are blooming with flowers. The bright, sunny weather accompanied by vibrant flowers provide a visual treat to your eyes. Most travelers find the months of October-February the best time to visit Gangtok.
How to reach Gangtok
One of the many reasons behind the popularity of Gangtok is its easy accessibility and scenic beauty. You can reach Gangtok by road, railway, and airway from any part of India.
The closest railway station to Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri which is 117km away from the hill station. The railway station is connected to all parts of the country, including minor parts. You can easily avail of railway transportation from major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, and Kolkata to reach Gangtok. Most tourists prefer to avail of railway transportation to reach Gangtok.
You can hire a taxi or private jeeps from New Jalpaiguri to Gangtok. Alternatively, you can take a state-run bus from Siliguri bus terminus to Gangtok. It will take you around 4-5 hours to reach the majestic hill station.
The nearest airport to Gangtok is Bagdogra airport in West Bengal. It is located at a distance of 125km away from Gangtok. Many popular carriers like Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet, and others run regular flights to Gangtok. All the major cities in the country are linked to this airport. From Bagdogra airport, you can catch a shared cab or private car that will take you to Gangtok within two hours. The scenic beauty of the majestic mountains and shimmering river makes the car ride enchanting.
You can also avail of TSA helicopter services from Bagdogra to Gangtok. It operates daily and takes around 20 minutes to arrive at Gangtok. However, they often get canceled owing to adverse weather conditions.
Gangtok is well connected to the nearby tourist destinations by roadways. You can reach Gangtok from Darjeeling, Sikkim, Siliguri, and Kalimpong via the National Highway 31A. You can find an innumerable number of state-run buses between Siliguri and Gangtok. You can also opt for private buses, taxis, shared cabs and taxis from Bagdogra, New Jalpaiguri, and Siliguri.