All good things in life come in small packets and Gangtok is a good illustration. Be it the rich flora, the beautiful people, or the serene Buddhist monasteries, this small town, occupies an important position in the itinerary of tourists in search of tranquility from the humdrum of modern life.
The eastern state of Sikkim lies couched between the borders of Nepal and Bhutan. Gangtok became the capital of the state in the 19th century and lies to the south of the district of East Sikkim. It is a hilly town and spreads down the western side of a long ridge flanking the Ranipul River. The entire Kanchenjunga range can be viewed from the town and, in fact, it is worshipped as a local deity. It is at a distance of 721 km from Calcutta, 584 km from Patna, 140 km from Darjeeling and 589 km from Guwahati. The town experiences a lot of rainfall throughout the year and temperatures are mild.
One of the oft-visited sites of Gangtok is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. It was built in 1958 and is a research center for Mahayana Buddhism and Tibetan culture. Besides being a museum of traditional and old artifacts, one can also buy Buddhist religious books and other objects of craft. Nearby is a gompa for young lamas. The Tsuk-La-Khang or Royal Chapel is the main place of worship and assembly for the Buddhists and is huge repertoire of religious relics. It is open during the Losar festival. Another important monastery is the Enchey Gompa and is worth a visit during the festival season of January to February.
Adjacent to the Namgyal Institute is the Orchid Sanctuary, which is the home of some 500 varieties of orchids. There is a larger orchid sanctuary called Orchidarium, off the main road to Rangpo. Near White Hall, there is a Flower Exhibition Center and seasonal flowers, bonsai and orchids are a delight to the eyes. From April to June and September to November, one can come here.
Places Around Gangtok
Located at a distance of 24 km from Gangtok is Rumtek Gompa, which is a rich monastery and abode of the head of the Kagyupa order of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a very famous site and devotees often flock to it throughout the year. Located at a distance of 35 km towards the northeast of Gangtok is the Tsongo or Changu Lake. Special permits are required to visit this picturesque locale.
Fairs & Festivals
- Several festivals are celebrated in Gangtok and its adjoining areas.
- The Buddhist festival of Bumchu is held in the Tashiding Gompa during January.
- The festival of Chaam is held in Enchey Gompa during January-February and is marked by dancing.
- Kagyat Dance is a mask dance held every month at Gangtok, Pemayangtse and Phodong.
- Losar marks the Tibetan New Year and is celebrated during February-March at Pemayangtse and Rumtek.
- Tse Chu is a Buddhist dance held in May at Rumtek.
- Saga Dawa, held in Gangtok during May, and Drukpa Teshi, celebrated statewide during July, mark Buddha’s first teaching.
- Phang Lhabsol is a mask dance celebrated statewide during August.
- Dasain, celebrated statewide during September-October, is marked by gift swapping and animal sacrifice.
How To Reach
By Road – The busiest route in and out of Sikkim is the road between Gangtok and Siliguri, also the nearest airport and railway station. We would provide you all India tourist permit vehicles for the local transportations and also for the intercity drives too.
Best Time to Visit Gangtok
The best time to visit Gangtok, is in the months of October to mid-December and March to May. The views of the Himalayan peaks and Mt Kanchenjunga can be clearly seen in between October to December. During the months March and May rare Himalayan flowers and especially Rhododendron are in bloom. Summers are not harsh but only days of warm sunshine and clear days. January and February means snow in the higher altitudes and visiting many of the tourist spots are not possible, as roads remain closed. June to September brings heavy rains making travelling dangerous due to landslides. The best time to visit Gangtok depends on your reason to visit, make plans accordingly. Summers are good for honeymoon, sightseeing, adventures and relaxation. Snow lovers appreciate the cold months.