Sikkim is captivating, offbeat and unknown – a perfect destination for those seeking enchantment or adventure. Amidst the grandeur of Soaring Mountain peaks this primeval land offers visitors a truly singular experience.
Sikkim is situated on the flanks of the eastern Himalayas and is bounded by Tibet in the north / northeast, Nepal in the west, Bhutan in the south – east and the Indian state of west Bengal in the south. Although hardly 7,096 sq km in area, Sikkim nevertheless has dramatic elevation variations ranging from a low of 244 m to as high as 8,586 m, with Gangtok (1600 m) as its capital.
Set amidst this primeval backdrop of rustic villages is the setting of the Kanchenjunga Marathon – actually more than a marathon, it is a journey of the senses that will always live with you.
From the majestic beauty of her mountains, Mt. Kanchenjunga, 8596 m. India’s highest peak, Mt. Pandim, Frey's peak, Koktang, Kabur and Rathong, some of the most beautiful mountains of the world, to village life and ancient customs – Sikkim will leave you captivated.
Located at the heart of the Himalayan range in northern India (State of Sikkim), the Kanchenjunga National Park includes a unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world’s third highest peak, Mount Kanchenjunga. The Kanchenjunga National Park has been protected as a national park since 1977. On 17th July 2016 the Kanchenjunga National Park was inscribed on the UNESCOs list as a ‘World Heritage Site’.
Travelling to Sikkim
Access to Sikkim
The closest Indian Airport is at Bagdogra, 124 km from Gangtok, where scheduled flights operate from Kolkata (Calcutta), Delhi, Guwahati and other states of India.
Travel time from the airport to Yuksam is 4 hours.
From Kathmandu, Nepal:
Fly to Bhadrapur in the east Nepal (1 hour), then drive to Kakarvitta (Nepal-India border, 35 km), to Siliguri (37 km) and to Yuksam (110 km., 4 hrs). Or fly to Biratnagar also in the east.
For detailed information regarding flights to Bhadrapur, from all sectors in Nepal, please contact us
The closest Railhead is at New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri which are connected to Kolkata (Calcutta), New Delhi, Guwahati and other major Indian cities.
Gangtok is at a distance of 110 km from Siliguri and will take 4 hours from Siliguri to reach Gangtok. Gangtok is connected by road with Bhadrapur, Nepal, (5 Hrs), Darjeeling, (4 Hrs), Kalimpong (4 Hrs), and with Bhutan, Phuntsholing (6 Hrs).
Sikkim is dived into four sub–divisions or districts. They are East Sikkim, North Sikkim, South and West Sikkim.
Gangtok and East Sikkim
Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital sprawls over a forested hill that overlooks Mt. Khangchendzonga, guardian deity of the land to the Sikkimese Buddhists. Since 1894 to 1975 it served as the royal and administrative headquarters to the former kingdom, and even today it still bears a regal character around the areas that have not been affected by urbanization.
In the Sikkimese Bhutia language ‘gang’ means flat and ‘tok’ means hill. Today, the ‘flat hill’ is better known as ‘the Ridge’, which then apparently was the area of choice to erect the king’s Palace, 'Tsuk-La- Khang', the Sidlon's (dewan's) quarters, 'Mintokgang', and the state secretariat, ‘Tashiling’.
Every spur extending off Gangtoks hill is the setting of a significant site. Above the Ridge of the palace grounds is the Enchey Monastery, and around a hundred meters below is the main bazaar and commercial hub, the half-kilometer long straight and flat street. On the next spur below is the Lall Bazaar, which used to be an open-air grocery market but has since 2006 acquired new trappings, a concreted enclosure housing the original market plus several more layers that include shops as well as a parking lot. Further below on a saddle leading to next spur is Deorali, now a busy street on the road to Gangtok bustling with shops on both sides, and crowning the tip of its hillock is Sikkims most revered shrine, the Dodrul Chorten. Sites around Gangtok
Cottage Industry Institute
The Directorate of Handicraft and Handloom was established with the aim of keeping alive the traditional arts and crafts of Sikkim. It is a repository of exquisite hand woven carpets, blankets, shawls including hand carved furniture.
The Dodrul Chorten is one of the largest stupas in Sikkim and a very sacred icon to the Buddhists. This chorten was built in 1945 by Trulsi Rimpoche to commemorate the victory of good over evil.
This 200-year old monastery is an important seat of the Nyingmapa Order, and is built on the site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo, a tantric master known for his flying poweress. Its annual chham (masked dance) is performed with great fanfare once every year around January.
Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary
This is Gangtok’s nearest wildlife sanctuary, only 25 kilometers away from the town with a designated area of 51.76 square kilometers. A tranquil area especially recommended for bird watching and for nature lovers, the forest cover include oak trees, chestnut, mulberry and thick bamboo groves.
At a road distance of 7 kilometers above Gangtok, Ganesh Tok offers a spectacular birds- eye-view of the town below and a spectacular panorama of the Khangchendzonga range in the horizon.
Higher up, and 11 kilometers from the town, this is yet another view point for a majestic gaze into the valley below and the horizon ahead.
Himalayan Zoological Park
Also known as Bulbuley, this is a recently established zoo of Sikkim’s native faunal species. Situated 8 kilometers above Gangtok and spread over a sprawling expanse of 205 hectares, its inmates can roam around almost freely in a semi-natural habitat. Species in captivity include the Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bears, Spotted Deer and Barking Deer.
The Flower Show venue is located near the White Hall below Mintokgang. Exhibitions are held during flower blooming seasons with the Spring Orchid Festival being the grandest among all.
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Renowned worldwide as a premier study center for Buddhist religion and philosophy, this institution houses some rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, thangkas, and over 200 rare icons.
Also known as the Dharma Chakra Center, the monastery is situated on a hill opposite Gangtok at a distance of 24 kilometers, a 45 minutes drive. Built as a replica of the original Karmapa monastery in Tsurpu, Tibet, this monastery replaced the seat of the Kagyupa sect from 1959 when the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa came into exile.
Pal Zurmang Kagyud Monastery
Situated in Lingdum at a distance of 20 kilometers from Gangtok, this monastery is the seat of the 12th Gharwang Rimpoche, a place worth visiting for its exquisite architecture.
Tsomgo Lake (Tsangu)
This serene lake lies in the heady highlands towards the Tibet/China border 40 kilometers northeast of Gangtok at an altitude of 3,780 meters. The vantage height of this lake also offers a splendid view of the high Himalayas in the not too distant horizon.
Tashi View Point
Prior to the construction of road-heads to Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok, Tashi View Point was where one went for an early morning view of the sunrise over the mountains.
The Sikkimese often contends that North Sikkim is as beautiful as Switzerland. You may hear it when you get there, or see it repeatedly mentioned in various brochures and guide books. Why? Several decades earlier, a European guest of our late king had passed a remark to that order, and now the legend lives. True to this erstwhile visitor’s remark, many others after him have also reiterated the fact that North Sikkim is indeed truly beautiful.
Although much of North Sikkim can be toured with ease in the comforts of surface transportation, the remarkable Green Lake region offering a unique trekking experience does call for several days of rigorous walking with logistical support of a camping outfit. The rewards of this trek are fantastic close up views of Mount Kanchenjunga and another Himalayan beauty, Mount Siniolchu proclaimed by many zealous international mountaineers to be the most beautiful peak in the world. Visit North Sikkim if you are in quest of an exhilarating holiday experience.
The journey to the North follows the North Sikkim Highway, an adventurous drive through high hills and deep river valleys that ultimately ends up in the foothills of the Himalayas where gentle meadows overlook snow-clad rocky mountains. The ever-changing views along the way include rustic wayside hamlets surrounded by terraced fields, monasteries, torrential mountain streams with lush green forests everywhere.
Sites around North Sikkim
Situated 17 kilometers from Gangtok along the North Sikkim Highway, this is the historical spot where blood brotherhood was solemnized between the Bhutia chieftain Khey Bum Sa and the Lepcha priest king Thekong Tek in the days of yore. Beneath a canopy of a dense virgin forest is a memorial stone pillar that marks the spot.
Situated 27 kilometers along the North Sikkim Highway is the Phensong Monastery. It was built in 1840 by Lama Jigme Pawo, and is regarded second only to the Pemayangtse Monastery for the Nyingmapa sect. It holds its annual chham on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar.
One of the six premier monasteries of Sikkim, Phodong Gompa is situated 38 kilometers from Gangtok. This monastery belongs to the Karma Kagyu sect and was built by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal in 1740.
Just four kilometers from Phodong is the Labrang Gompa, a monastery unique among all others in Sikkim for its unique architectural design.
The Dzongu hills of North Sikkim, an area largely inhabited by Sikkim’s indigenous Lepcha people had been proclaimed a special reserve for its occupants since the times of monarchy in the state, with the rule still in effect even today.
A small hamlet some 70 kilometers along the North Sikkim Highway from Gangtok, Singhik perhaps offers the most magnificent view of the Khangchendzonga range. More than anything else, it is the viewing angle from this position that enhances the beauty of of Sikkim’s guardian deity.
An idyllic mountain village set amidst apple orchards and lofty peaks on both sides, Lachung at an altitude of 2,500 meters above sea level permeates an ethereal alpine glow. Peopled by a hardy stock of Bhutia who pride in calling themselves Lachungpa, this is a unique settlement having its very own self-governing body called the zumsa where all local disputes are settled by consensus.
Set at an elevation of 3575 meters above sea level, the Yumthang Valley is Sikkim’s undisputed natural paradise that is easily accessible via road. (There are of course many more areas in Sikkim that surpass Yumthang’s scenic grandeur, but these remain off the beaten track.) In the summertime the attractive scenery of this area reaches its zenith when an immense variety of alpine flora of cascade the meadows, hills and the valleys.
Set at an altitude of 2750 meters, slightly higher than that of Lachung, Lachen too has its apple orchards and alpine views. Lachen is the starting point to some of North Sikkim’s most interesting treks.
Yet another dazzling Himalayan spectacle that is accessible by road in North Sikkim is the high altitude lake of Gurudongmar. One of Sikkim’s highest lakes, it is set at an altitude of 17,100 ft / 5,148 m. and lies on the northern side of the Khangchengyao Range high in the Tibetan Plateau. The stream emerging from the lake is one of the sources to the Teesta River.
The lake remains completely frozen from November till mid-May except for one small part of the lake which is said to have been touched and blessed by Guru Padmasambhava. Held sacred by the Sikkimese Buddhists, its waters are supposed to have healing properties.
To the unfamiliar, and at the mention of the name, Green Lake, it is quite likely conjure an image of a beautiful high altitude emerald water body, but sadly this no longer holds true. By the turn of the last century, this lake had disappeared completely. In 1899, D. W. Freshfield observed the phenomena (of the dry bed) in the midst of the Zemu and the Green Lake glaciers. However, all that is offset by the superb close-up mountain-views from here, especially that of Mount Siniolchu, a symmetrical marvel of nature considered by many mountaineering veterans to be the world’s most beautiful peak. And of course, another glorious sight of Mount Khangchendzonga, but this one is definitely a pick above the rest. A spectacular close-up of the world’s third highest mountain barely 10 kilometers away reveals almost every minute detail on its surface. The smooth outlines that one is so accustomed to while viewing it from afar now appears more like a razor’s cutting edge while along the slopes coarse chunks of granite protrude above the snow cover unmasking this indomitable mountain’s mold.
South and West Sikkim
Sikkim’s south and west districts are relatively more populated because of a milder climate due to lower hills with more arable space for farming as opposed to the north district where the precipitous topography and chill factor rule out the possibility of cultivating grains. Here, the hills ascend to altitudes of 2,000 meters or less on an average. Only the extreme west is mountainous, but this is Sikkim’s classic trekking region, Dzongri. And to get there from Gangtok, one has to traverse the highways and byways of the South and West districts.
When Sikkim first opened to tourism, the few places open to foreigners for holiday vacations beyond Gangtok were around this area and limited to overnights in Pemayangtse, Yuksam, Tashiding and taking the Dzongri trek.
In recent times however, almost every area accessible by vehicular road is open to tourists and also includes the opening of some new trekking routes.
Sites around South Sikkim
Temi Tea Garden
Established only in 1965, Temi Tea Estate is built over the remains of a forestry office and nursery. Its landmark, an old British bungalow, was built by Scottish missionaries in the early 1900’s and used as a leprosy clinic until it was sold to the state. Temi’s tender tea bushes are in their prime today and considered by many to be one of the best in the world. For over a decade now, its premium stock has been fetching record prices in the London tea market. The garden spreads on a gentle slope below Tendong along the highway leading to West Sikkim.
A symmetrical hill rising to a height of 2,640 meters, Tendong looks like a dormant volcano, and it could well be in view of the fact that during the course of mudslides exposed sections
of earth around this hill occasionally reveal veins of lava-like elements. Its mossy virgin forest that includes flowering trees like magnolia and rhododendron is well worth exploring. From the top of the hill, there is an excellent view of the mountains and the plains of Bengal.
At 3,235 meters above sea level, this is the highest point on the ridge that divides Sikkim’s two major river systems, the Teesta and the Rangeet. Once again, this is a vantage point for great views into the horizon: northwards, the Himalaya and to the south are the plains of Bengal. 3,500 hectares around this hill has been demarcated as the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, a reserve for the Red Panda, Leopard Cat, Civets and several avifaunal species including the Blood Pheasant.
A picturesque village overlooking snow-capped peaks and situated below Maenam Hill, Borong is also known for its hot springs, the Borong Tsa Chhu.
Sites around West Sikkim
Situated at 2378 meters on the hill high above Gyalshing is Sikkim’s premier Nyingmapa monastery, Pemayangtse, whose monks above others enjoy the privilege of performing all royal ceremonies. Inside the monastery is the fabulous Santhokpalri, which is said to have been revealed in a dream to Dungzin Rimpoche and was carved by him single-handedly. Built as a small temple by Lhatsun Chempo in the late 17th Century, it was only three generations later that it was reconstructed into its current size by the Lama Jigme Pawo in the reign of the third Chogyal Chador Namgyal. Its main chaam (masked dance) is held two days prior to Losar (Tibetan New Year).
Till a few years back Pelling was an insignificant roadside hamlet on the highway tri-junction one kilometer beyond Pemayangtse but with the popularity of tourism in West Sikkim and the demand for more hotel rooms, this quiet ridge-top settlement is rapidly evolving into a boomtown. This is the likeliest spot where you as a tourist will spend at least one night on your sojourn to Sikkim, and with no regret. The views are superb and the natural forest nearby has some excellent trails for short hikes leading to the surrounding religious and historical sites.
Sanga Choling Monastery
Higher up on the next ridge above Pelling, Sanga Choling, one of Sikkim’s oldest monastery which was built in 1697 stands calm and serene atop a dense forested hill. Rabdentse Ruins Some distance below the Pemayangtse Monastery lie the remains of what use to be the former kingdom’s second capital that was established around 1670 by the second Chogyal, Tensung Namgyal. It was abandoned after a hundred years following a major Nepalese invasion in which Sikkim lost a large chunk of her territory to the invaders.
Twenty kilometers beyond Pemayangtse at an altitude of 1,951 meters, this small and tranquil lake is a pilgrimage spot sacred to the Sikkimese Buddhists. Strangely, not a single leaf is seen floating on its waters. Legend has it that all day long, the birds of the forest
dutifully pick them up. Nearby Khechiperi are typical villages that depict a now forgotten lifestyle. The whole area is also an excellent site for bird watching.
Though it was the cradle of Sikkim’s Buddhist civilization, Yuksam has seen little development over the centuries. It’s remoteness from the center, as well as for losing its status as the capital long ago, are probably two of the key reasons why it remained in the backwaters. However, with the introduction of trekking in the Dzongri region in recent years, its idyllic landscape is gradually transforming into that of a busy tourist hangout with several new hotels and shops coming in.
Yuksam has two sites very sacred to the Sikkimese; Norbugang Chorten, the site of the first Chogyal’s coronation, and Dubdi Monastery, the second oldest monastery in Sikkim built around 1701.
Set atop a most peculiar heart-shaped hill, the monastery of Tashiding and the area around are of great religious significance to the Sikkimese Buddhist. According to Buddhist scriptures, it is said that Guru Padmasambhava blessed the sacred land of Sikkim from this very spot. Here, just the simple act of gazing into the sacred chorten, ‘Thong Wa Rang Dol’ will cleanse away one’s sins. Its meaning, ‘Savior by mere sight’. Inside the monastery, a pot of holy water is kept sealed only to be revealed and its droplets given to devotees once every year at the Bumchu Festival. This occurs on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar.
Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary
At 3,300 meters above sea level, Barsey is just the place where you will want to be when rhododendrons are abloom in springtime. A mere four kilometers from the road head at Hilley, it takes about an hour of easy walking to get there where one has the option to camp or stay in the tourist hut.
This is Sikkim’s classic trekking region. Spectacular close up views of Mt. Khangchendzonga and her subordinate peaks is the major highlight of a trek to Dzongri. From Dzongri there are several routes further beyond with the trail to Goecha La being the most popular one. Treks to the Dzongri region can range from as little as 5 days till as long as 2 weeks depending on where one wishes to go.
Join one of our one to three months training courses with a dedicated Sikkimese marathon runner staying with local people and sharing their life and cultures.