I got an opportunity to visit this natural paradise last year along with my family and few of our friends. During the planning stage, whenever we went to anybody, be it a family member of a friend, and discussed our plan, everybody had a common question- Why Sikkim?
But now after visiting that place even I can suggest all of you to visit Sikkim at least once in your lifetime. I am sure that the following points would be helpful for you if you are planning a holiday in this part of the country.
This thumb shaped state of the North Eastern Region of India is the second smallest state after goa and the least populous one. It is bordered by Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet from 3 sides and from the state of West Bengal from the fourth. Geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas, Sikkim is the land where the third largest mountain peak, Kanchenjunga stands. Culturally very rich and also rich in flora and fauna Sikkim if promoted properly can attract more tourists that it actually does.
Official Language: English, but a sizeable population converse in Nepali, Lepcha, Bhutia and Limbu.
Best Season to Visit: To enjoy a jeep safari and culture tours the best period is March to mid- June and October to December. January to February is very cold with snowfall in the Northern Region. For trekking the best time is spring, summer and autumn coinciding with March to May and October to November.
The state is sub divided into 4 regions- East Sikkim, North Sikkim, South Sikkim and West Sikkim. A combination of natural as well as man-made beauty, Sikkim is a true example of culturally rich scenic beauty. The following is a list of some of the important places to visit out of the numerous places:
1. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology: This institute is one of the most prestigious depository of Tibetan literature, rare manuscripts, paintings, statues and religious objects and other works of art and history. Today it is a world renowned centre for study of Buddhist philosophy and literature.
2. Samarsa Garden: This garden is the home of Sikkim’s most exotic orchids and other tropical and temperate plants. It is maintained by the forest department.
3. Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre: Since the late 1960s, after the arrival of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, the Centre houses some of the world’s most unique religious scriptures and religious rare objects. Traditional in design, it is almost a replica of the original Kagyurpa Monastery in Tsurphu, Tibet.
4. Tsomgo Lake: Tsomgo lake is only 40 kms. from Gangtok town and is situated at an altitude of 12,210 ft. The drive from Gangtok takes about 2Â½ hours by bus. The lake is bout 1 km. long and oval in shape, 50ft. deep and is regarded extremely Holy. It is also a home of Brahmini ducks besides stopover for various migratory ducks. Between May and August, it is possible to see variety of flowers in bloom, including the rhododendrons, various species of primulas, blue and yellow poppies, iris and many other species of floras. It is also an ideal habitat of the Red Panda and various species of birds. Open for both the Foreign and Indian nationals. Foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for the visitors permit through a registered Travel agency.
5. Nathula: 56 kms from Gangtok is a ‘Nathula’ Pass at an altitude of 14,200 ft. bordering between India and China in the Tibetan Plateau. It is one of the highest motorable roads and richly covered by many varities of alpine flora and fauna. A tranquil place to visit. Nathula is open only for Indian nationals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The visitors have to get the permit to visit the place by applying to the Tourism Department through a registered Travel Agency.
6. Lachung: A Bhutia village with a unique local self-governing body called the Zumsa which substitutes the Panchayat. Lachung has emerged as a tourist destination with the soaring popularity of Yumthang Valley which is just 25 kms from Lachung. The village, spreads out on either side of Lachung Chu, has managed to retain its unique culture and tradition. The Lachung Monastery on the slope opposite to the highway is a focal point of all religious function of the local inhabitants. To get a glimpse of the religious functions performed on auspicious occasion a visit to the Monastery should form part of the tour itinerary.
7. Temi Tea Gardens: The one and only tea garden existing in the State produces one of the top quality teas in the international market. The tea garden is spread out on a gently hill slope originating from the Tendong Hill and provides a magnificent view for the surrounding villages. The visit to the factory could be an eye opener for those wanting to know more about tea processing methods.
8. Yumthang, at an elevation of 11,800 ft and 140 kms from gangtok is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and breathtaking scenic grandeur. The valley is also the home of Singbha Rhododendron Sanctuary with 24 species of Rhododendrons. Yumthang ‘Tsa-Chu’ or the hot spring of the left bank of Lachung Chu is immensely popular for its curative properties and healing power.
These were some of the places I visited and recommend everyone to visit them whenever they get a chance. A well planned tour will always be a better option and getting in touch with a local travel agency is always better in a place like this where you have so much to see and so much to admire. A paradise in itself, Sikkim is an ideal holiday destination.
The writer is the Assistant Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz.