Welcome to Sikkim

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Location


Sikkim, is a state of India, having joined India as her 22nd state in a referendum conducted in 1975. The state borders Tibet in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and West Bengal in the south. Sikkim is the least populous and second smallest among the Indian states. As a part of the Himalayas, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kanchenjunga the third highest mountain in the world. Sikkim is a popular domestic tourism destination with hundreds of thousands of Indian nationals visiting yearly. For overseas visitors, it is still a relatively obscure visitors with only tens of thousands of foreigners getting to the state yearly. With increasing awareness and better transport connections, Sikkim is getting easier to visit.

Climate

Due to the undulating terrain of the state, temperature can vary widely throughout due to the altitude. Generally, the towns at lower altitude, Singtam, Rangpo, Jorethang etc, will be warmer while those at the higher altitudes (Gangtok, Namchi, Mangan) can be cold to visitors who are used to tropical climate.
The hilly terrain of Sikkim starts in the south at the border with the neighbouring state of West Bengal. As one continues along the national highway and entering Sikkim through Melli, the altitude starts to rise gently as one drives towards Gangtok (1,650m/5,410 ft), Yumthang (3,564m/11,693 ft), Ravangla (2,134m, 7000 ft) and Pelling (2,150m/7,200 ft).
Sikkim experiences the four seasons - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter with heavy rain during Summer and Winter.

History and Society

Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom alongside Bhutan and Nepal till her merger with India in 1975. It was part of the fabled silk route and during ancient times, merchants would travelled to China for trade. The highest point of Sikkim is Mount Khangchenzhonga (the third highest mountain in the world) and the magnificence of the mountain was revered with the belief that the mountain is also the abode of the guardian diety Dzo-nga.

Over the many centuries, settlers resided in the mountainous regions with the traditional groups being the Lepchas, Bhutias and Limbus. Today, the population of Sikkim is about 650,000 - making it the least crowded state in India. The major religions observed in the state are Buddhism and Hinduism.

Environment



Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom alongside Bhutan and Nepal till her merger with India in 1975. It was part of the fabled silk route and during ancient times, merchants would travelled to China for trade. The highest point of Sikkim is Mount Khangchenzhonga (the third highest mountain in the world) and the magnificence of the mountain was revered with the belief that the mountain is also the abode of the guardian diety Dzo-nga.

Over the many centuries, settlers resided in the mountainous regions with the traditional groups being the Lepchas, Bhutias and Limbus. Today, the population of Sikkim is about 650,000 - making it the least crowded state in India. The major religions observed in the state are Buddhism and Hinduism.

Environment


With over 5000 species of flowering plants, the geographical location of Sikkim allows magnolia, blue poppies, primulas, gentians, geraniums, orchids (600 species), gladioli, poppies, azaleas and camellias. At certain locations, the many variety (30 species) of rhododendron can turn the rural areas into a nature’s colour palette.

Environment

Lakes
Sikkim is also renowned for its lakes which are considered sacred by the locals. The lakes popular with tourists are the Tsomgo Lake in East Sikkim and the Khecheopalri Lake in West Sikkim. Adventurous travellers can attempt to trek to visit the mountain lakes of Gurudongmar and Chho Lamo (source of the Teesta River).
Caves
The four Great Holy Caves are located at four cardinal directions of Tashiding (West Sikkim), namely –Sharchog Beyphug in the East, Lho Kando Sangphug in the South, Nub Dechenphug in the West and Jhang Lhari Nyingphug in the North. Today, these Caves are important pilgrim destinations for Buddhist pilgrims.
Hot Springs
With high sulphuric content, many hot springs (average temperature - 50°c) in Sikkim are well known in Sikkim for their therapeutic value. Some hot springs available for visit include Yumthang Hot Spring and the Yume Samdong Hot Spring (both near Yumthang). The Reshi Hot Spring near Gyalshing, Borong and Ralong Hot Springs.

East Sikkim


Gangtok
Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim with a population of about 100,000. Situated at an elevation of 1,650m, Gangtok is the tourism hub of Sikkim with most tourists making it the first stop before exploring the rest of the state. The town center and main marketing area for Gangtok, MG Marg bustles with activities and shops and is a good stop to charge up and pick up supplies before heading out of the capital. Gangtok is about four hours’ drive away to Bagdogra airport in the neighbouring state of West Bengal.
Pakyong
Prior to the opening of Pakyong airport, access to Sikkim is mainly via roads although visitors can also take the helicopter service. Opened to commercial flights in October 2018, Pakyong is the 100th airport in India and amongst the highest in the world, perched at an altitude of about 1,400m. Currently, it flies twice daily to Kolkata and Guwahati. International flight to Paro is expected to commence in 2019. With the opening of Pakyong, travelling to Sikkim is now much more convenient and comfortable.

South Sikkim


Ravangla
Every year around August-September, Ravangla bustles with activities and crowds as the Pang Lhabsol festival is observed with three days of festivities. Ravangla is also home to the Tathagata Tsal (Buddha Park).

South Sikkim

Forming an arresting vanguard to the mighty peaks of Mt Narsing and towering above all else, peaceful and poised, the majestic statue of the Tathagata commands the heart of the Tsal while the pulse of its influence throbs throughout the hills of Rabong. The statue itself is 98 feet in height; the inclusion of the thri (pedestal or the lotus throne) elevates it to a total height of 137 feet. The proportions of the statue were taken from the Gega Lama, the authoritative Tibetan manual for religious artwork.
Made of 60 tonnes of copper and three-and-a-half kilogrammes of gold, the statue employs the repoussé technique, one of the oldest metal-working practices in the world. Most Buddhist artworks depict the Buddha in a meditative pose while his hands perform various mudras. The statue at the Tsal depicts the sage in the Dharmachakra mudra.
The Dharmachakra mudra is formed when the thumb and index finger of both the hands touch at their tips to form a circle. This circle symbolises the Wheel of Dharma which was set in motion when the Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath.

South Sikkim

The entire complex of the Tathagata Tsal is dotted with important structures. The red-domed Congregation Hall, which can seat up to 2000 people, is one of the biggest venues in Sikkim built solely for the purpose of religious convocations. At the Tongchoe Lhakhang, visitors can light choemis (butter lamps) in memory of their loved ones.

Namchi A famous tourist spot, Namchi is the capital of South Sikkim. It offers great view of snow-clad mountains and green valleys. Home to the large statue (36m/118ft) of the Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, Namchi is also near the Temi Tea Garden, Sikkim’s only tea estate which produces the world-famous Sikkim tea (renowned for its aroma, taste and quality).

Rangpo and Melli The border towns of Rangpo and Melli are entry points into Sikkim where foreigners are required to register and submit their Inner Line Permits (IPLs) before being allowed into the state.

North Sikkim


Mangan
The administrative and commercial centre of North Sikkim, Mangan is about 65 km away from Gangtok and easily accessible by road. Due to its high altitude, Mangan has a temperate climate and is known for its cultivation and production of large cardamom (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardamom). Further up north away from Mangan is the small town of Chungthang which is located at the junction of two roads leading further up north to the towns of La Chen and La Chong.

North Sikkim


Lachen
With an altitude of about 8,500 ft (2,590m), Lachen is the last village stop (with about 200 households) before travellers move northwards to visit the holy Guru Dongmar and Tso Lhamu Lakes. Foreigners wishing to visit beyond Lachen will be required to obtain special passes (in addition to the Inner Line Permits)

North Sikkim


Lachung
Travelling to Yumthang Valley to see the beautiful flowers, Lachung is the last town stop. At 8,610 ft (2,625m), Lachung is also the highest village stop in Sikkim. With its hotels and lodges, Lachung is also good place for tourists to stay overnight.

West Sikkim


Pelling
A hill town close to many waterfalls, trek routes, Pelling is a scenic tourist stop known for the spectacular view of the Mountain Khangchendzonga. In addition to the great view and wonderful nature, Pelling is also near to the important Sanga-Choeling Monastry and Pemayangtse Monastery.
Travellers to Pelling can visit Rabdentse, the second capital of Sikkim. The Rabdentse Palace is a ruins now, and is preserved as an archaeological site for study and visit.
Yuksam
Yuksam is an important town of Sikkim and widely regarded as the first capital of Sikkim. Yuksam literally means “the meeting place of three Lamas”. The Dubdi Monastery, about 300 years old is located near Yuksam and considered one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim.

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