Nestled in the heart of majestic Himalayas, Sikkim is the least populated state in India with a total population of around six lakhs. Though the second smallest in terms of area, Sikkim remains one of the most beautiful states. Sikkim tourism proffers some of Himalaya’s best-kept travel secrets to the wanderers and adventurers at heart.
Sikkim shares international borders with three countries, Tibet in the north and north-eastern border, Bhutan in the east, and Nepal in the west. Sikkim shares its southern border with the Indian state of West Bengal. This tiny hilly state is home to pristine forests, snow-capped mountains, spectacular waterfalls, misty valleys, and stunning landscapes dotted with quaint villages that boast of a rich tribal culture. The snow-clad peaks of Kanchenjunga dominate the skyline of the region and is the crowning glory of Sikkim.
Sikkim tourism welcomes you to the ‘kingdom of flowers’ with more than 4000 species of wildflowers, trees, and orchids grown in the state. Known to foster more than 500 species of Rhododendron, Sikkim, especially the forests of Varsey and Singba, exhibit bright splashes of red stretched throughout the region. Apart from its bountiful natural beauty and rich biodiversity, Sikkim is known to preserve and protect their cultural heritage. Spirituality is an integral part of Sikkimese society and culture.
Even though Hinduism is practiced, Buddhism is sewed into the fabric of Sikkimese society. Sikkim is a unique blend of different religions with the customs and traditions of different communities. It is also a homogeneous society where different communities mingle freely. Here, Hindu temples coexist peacefully with Buddhist monasteries, Churches, Mosques, and Gurdwaras.
Culture and Festivals of Sikkim
There is a unique blend of different cultures, scrumptious cuisine, communities, traditions, religions, lively people, soulful music, vibrant dance, and customs, which together Sikkim tourism an irresistible choice for travelers. The name ‘Sikkim’ is derived from the Nepali term ‘Su-khim’ which means happiness. The Sikkimese people, despite their religious, traditional, and social differences manage to live harmoniously.
The central communities of Sikkim are the Lepchas, the Nepalese, and the Bhutias. Business people dominate urban areas. These ethnic groups have varying traditions and cultures. The members of all the communities collectively participate in the Sikkim festivals and promote the spirit of universal brotherhood.
Sikkim is a multi-lingual and secular state which promotes various religious beliefs like Sikhism, Christianity, and Islamism. Bhutia and Nepali are most commonly spoken here and of the three, Nepali is spoken by the majority of Sikkimese people. The prominent religious beliefs in Sikkim are Buddhism and Hinduism. Sikkim has a rich culture of cottage arts and handicrafts.
The heavenly beauty of Sikkim is complemented by the various races and tribes of people living there. One of the liveliest dances is ‘Chaam‘ which is performed by wearing colorful masks accompanied by vibrant musical instruments.
Saga Dewa is one of the most promising festivals of Sikkim which celebrates the subsistence of Buddha.
Lhabab Dunchen celebrates the descent of Buddha on the earth from heaven.
Losar is a vibrant and feasting festival of the Tibetans. It is celebrated in February.
Drupka Teshi is another sacred festival of the Buddhists.
Phang Lhabsol is an amazing festival that pays tribute to Mount Khangchendzonga for its uniting strengths.
Dashain is the most religious festival for the Nepalese to celebrate the dominance of good over wrong.
Bumchu is celebrated in January by the Buddhists. Holy water is apportioned among the devotees, and the rest is conserved for the next year.
Tihar is the festival of lights in Sikkim.
Losoong is celebrated after the harvesting season gets over. Chaam dance performance, Archery contest, and vibrant music are some of the celebrations of the Losoong festival.
Hee Bermiok is the annual celebration of Sikkim. It takes place in May, and hundreds of people join in the beautiful carnival of Hee Bermiok.
Some Exceptional Places to Visit in Sikkim
You can rest assured of the fact that you will not run out of places to visit in Sikkim. From lakes to ice-caped mountains and monasteries Sikkim tourism has everything in store to mesmerize its visitors.
1. Tsongmo Lake
Placed between the snow-capped mountains at a giddy height of 12400 ft, Tsongmo Lake is one of the very few high-altitude lakes of India. The scenic beauty of this place is overwhelming making it a tourist favorite place in Gangtok. This is a glacial lake whose only source of water is the melting snow from the surrounding mountains. The fun-fact about the lake is it changes color with every season – it takes the bright aquamarine shade in monsoons and freezes into transparent ice in winter. In summer the fringes of the lakes bloom with flowers, whose colors the lake reflects.
2. Nathu La Pass
Located in the Indo-Tibetan Border and a height of 14450ft., it is one of the highest motorable roads on earth. It is a mountain pass that joins the state of Sikkim and China and is one of the prime Sikkim tourism attractions. It is situated at a distance of 54 km from Gangtok and houses an Indian Army base for the BSF. Nathu La Pass is among the three open trading borders of China and India. If you want to experience heavy snowfall you are recommended to visit this place in winter.
Situated in West Sikkim this place makes to the top list for its natural beauty. Wherever you land your eyes, you will be left overwhelmed with the beauty of the greenery. The village of Yuksom is placed near Kanchenjunga National Park and houses the base camp for Mount Kanchenjunga. Thus, it serves as an exploratory trekking point. The first of Chogyal, the monarch of Sikkim, was crowned in this village way back in 1642. There are several monasteries and other tourist spots of historical significance. You can also visit the famous Khecheopalri Lake here.
A breathtaking town in West Sikkim, Pelling has surely become the must-go tourist spot. The main attraction of this town still boasts of the spectacular sight of the Kanchenjunga including other peaks around it. You can also visit the famous Pemayangtse Monastery which is located at a walking distance of just 1 km. Other than the mesmerizing scenic beauty it has spots for adventure sport to give you an adrenaline rush.
This picturesque town situated in North Sikkim serves as another favorite Sikkim tourism spot. From trees to the roofs of the houses everything is wrapped under a thick blanket of snow. The town is also known as the gateway to Tso Lhamu Lake and Gurudongmar Lake. You can even visit the Lachung Monastery located here as part of your sightseeing. During the summer days, you can get to see the serene green vegetation of this place. Lachen is also the base camp for many trekking routes that lead up to the snow-capped hills, Chopta Valley, Cho Lamu, and Green Lake.
Located in North Sikkim this place has to be on your list when you plan to visit Sikkim. Situated in the spot between the two tributaries of Teesta River, Lachen, and Lachung, this place is a favorite tourist destination. The main attraction being the waterfalls, however, tourists also visit this place to catch a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains. This place gives you the perfect photo-opportunity as it has glistening streams, snow-capped mountains, and spouting waterfall. You can also find apricots, peaches, and apple orchards on the way.
A small town in the laps of the Himalayan Mountains in South Sikkim, Ravangla serves as the perfect tourist destination. You can get a striking view of the forested hills from this town. Ravangla is located on the border of Rangit valley and Teesta Valley. The breathtaking sight of the ice-caped peaks, waterfalls, unique culture and the scenic tea garden is the main attraction of this town. You can also catch a glimpse of the mighty Kanchenjunga, Kabru, Pandim, Sinialchu, and more.
8. Statue of Guru Rinpoche
This gigantic statue of Guru Rinpoche located on top of Samdruptse Hill in Namchi, the headquarters of South Sikkim, is a grand spiritual attraction of Sikkim tourism. This statue being 118ft high is known to be a famous tourist spot. Guru Rinpoche is the other name for Guru Padmasambhava, the legendary Buddhist mystic and the propagator of Tibetan tantric Buddhism. He is known to spread Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan, Tibet, and other countries in the 8th century AD. The statue of him is 118 ft high, making it the highest statue of the Buddhist saint.
9. Kanchenjunga National Park
Housed in the lap of mountains in North Sikkim, this spot has been termed as UNESCO’s world heritage sites. Perched at a height of 28169 ft, is among the very few high altitude national parks. Sikkim shares half of the Kanchenjunga National Park with Nepal. This place is known to be the trekker’s paradise where trek lovers cross kilometers of wilderness to witness the stunning views and unique landscape. If you are lucky enough you can even spot a Himalayan Tahir or a Snow Leopard or any number of endemic fauna.
10. Rumtek Monastery
Known as the Dharma Chakra Centre, Rumtek serves as one of the most significant monasteries in Sikkim. The Karma Kagyu Sect of Buddhists is the one to whom Rumtek belongs. The scene of lush green mountains that surround this monastery makes it surreal and serene. To get a 360-degree view of the city of Gangtok you can climb to the top of the Monastery. Rumtek houses a temple and a monastery that was built to spread the beliefs of the Vajrayana branch of Mahayana Buddhism.
The list doesn’t end here. Sikkim awaits for you to explore its serene and gorgeous places. You are sure to fall in love with every place that Sikkim has to offer you. Sikkim might seem like a small place but it has innumerable gorgeous places in store for you.
Some Exciting Things to do in Sikkim
Clear blue skies, clean, sparkling water, colorful valleys, beautiful Buddhist monasteries, and pleasant weather are some of the things that come to mind when you think of Sikkim. When you are planning your Sikkim tourism itinerary, there are certain things you just can’t exclude. We have compiled a list of things that you must do when you are in Sikkim, and these include both popular activities like trekking and other things that you may not know of!
Keep reading to find out...
1. Kanchenjunga base trek
If you are a trekker, then you simply can’t miss the Kanchenjunga base trek. The trek route will take you from Yuksom to Bakkhim, and you will get to feast your eyes on the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas. The distance covered in this trek is around 90km. The trek is quite challenging for those who have not had any trekking experience before. You will be trekking for 10 days straight.
2. Gangtok Ropeway
Ropeways are a great way to view the entire city while being high up in the sky. Cable car rides are extremely popular with tourists of all ages because the ride is suitable for everyone for old to young. If you are not adventurous enough to go trekking or rafting, you can opt for a cable car ride. It is recommended to board the cable car from Deoroli, which is the lowest station. The ride operates from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM every day.
3. Drive through the Silk Route to the Nathu La pass and visit the Chinese border
You can go on a long drive following the old silk route to visit the Nathu La pass. The pass was used in ancient times as a gateway to Tibet until Tibet was annexed by China and became China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The pass closed in the year 1962, and now it serves as Indo Chinese border and an important location for Sikkim tourism. Only Indian citizens can gain travel permits to visit the Nathu La Pass. The long drive will allow you to take in the breathtaking view of the outskirts of Sikkim that are not inhabited. The travel permits can only be gained through a registered travel agency, and you can only visit the pass on Wednesdays, Sundays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Thursdays.
4. Ride a yak at Tsongmo Lake
After you visit the Nathu La pass, drive 27 kilometers more to reach the famous glacial lake, Tsongmo, also known as Changu Lake. Here you and your family can ride a yak, and if you are lucky, you can spot a red panda as well as Brahminy ducks. The glacial lake stays frozen almost half of the year. The water is said to change colors with different seasons. To visit the Tsongmo Lake, you also need a special travel permit.
5. Spend a night at the Zuluk village
If you are not fond of touristy places and other popular activities, this is something truly offbeat. The village of Zuluk is a tiny village which is located very close to the Chinese border. It was once part of the silk route and is now a military-controlled area. The village offers a view of Mountain Kanchenjunga and is covered in snow during the entire winter season. Once winter is over, the village is covered in wildflowers making it truly spectacular; however, only Indian citizens with permits are allowed entry.
6. Goecha La trek
Goecha La trek is one not to be missed if you are visiting Sikkim. At the end of the 10-day trek, and after covering 90km, you will find yourself at the foot of the Kanchenjunga, and the magnificent Rathung Cha River. Goecha La is situated at a height of 16000 ft, and the journey starts from Yuksom.
7. Paragliding and other adventure sports
The numerous valleys in Sikkim makes it the perfect hub for paragliding. Pangthang, Tashi viewpoint, and Bojoghari village house lots of paragliding agencies. You can visit one of these three places to go paragliding. The best time Tak go paragliding is between November and December when the annual Sikkim paragliding festival is held. You can indulge in water rafting in several mountainous rivers as well.
8. Take photos at the Valley of Flowers
The scenic beauty here is unmatched, which makes this perfect for photoshoots. Located in Yumthang, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary has come to be known as the valley of flowers for having over 24 different types of rhododendron. The land carpeted in colorful flowers with the mountainous backdrop and the clear blue skies, the place is the ultimate heaven for nature lovers.
9. Take a dip and relax at the Yumthang hot spring
The Yume Samdong Hot Spring located a few kilometers away from the Yumthang village in Yumthang valley is said to heal back pains, joint pains, and even arthritis. Whether you are looking to get healed or just want to enjoy a steam bath, you should not miss this hot spring. Due to the immense popularity of the place, the authorities have developed two separate pools for men and women to enjoy their baths in peace.
10. Taste some of Sikkim’s delicacies
Sikkim has a lot to offer when it comes to food as well. Do not forget to try the ‘Gundruk ko Jhol‘, delicious pork curry, soybean chutney in Sikkim style, and, of course, ‘Sisnoo‘!
11. Buy souvenirs at the MG road in Gangtok to take home
Shopaholics won’t be disappointed when they visit the MG road in Gangtok that houses the biggest market in Sikkim. The market has everything on sale from Tibetan goods to Chinese goods. You can find New Year lamps, dragons, Chinese Feb Shui, Tibetan traditional dresses, carpets, cups, and many more things. The markets stay open from 8 AM to 7 PM.
Whether you are a nature lover or an adventurer, Sikkim has something for everyone. So pack your bags and book your tickets today!
Weather and Climate
Due to its steep altitude gain over a short distance, the climate of Sikkim changes swiftly throughout the region. The upper regions are extremely cold whereas the southern part experiences humid weather similar to its neighbor on the south. Due to altitude variation and the great diversity in landform, even the small 7000 km area of Sikkim experiences tropical, temperate, and alpine climate, though most of the inhabited area of Sikkim experiences temperate climate.
Rainfall is heavy and uniform in the months from May to early October. July is the wettest month of the year. Sikkim records its maximum temperature usually in the months of July and August and minimum temperatures in the months of December and January. The state experiences five seasons – summer, monsoon, autumn, winter, and spring in varying degrees. Winters are freezing cold especially in North Sikkim. Temperature, here, often drops below freezing point causing snowfall. Here, monsoons are trickier. Landslides are not uncommon during this time.
Best time to visit
The pleasant weather of the autumn season can be enjoyed from late September to early November before winter sets in. This is the best time to visit Sikkim. The weather is not yet cold enough to warrant heavy woolens but cool enough to need light shawls and jackets. But starting November, the northern part of Sikkim starts getting restricted due to snowfall and road blockages. So, if you have places like Lachen and Lachung in your travel itinerary, late spring and early summer may be the best option for travel.
In the months from March to May, the weather remains pleasant enough. Roads to North Sikkim and also popular tourist attractions like Tsongmo Lake, Baba Mandir open in March, sometimes early April depending on the amount of snowfall. And if you are a nature lover and would like to see the Rhododendrons in full bloom, March to May is the best time. The trekking season in Varsey starting from March does attract a lot of nature enthusiasts from all over.