Nestled in the clouds, Gangtok is a beautiful quaint little hill station in the North East state of Sikkim. Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and is situated at the height of 5500 feet in the Himalayas. While the summers are pleasant here, the winters can be quite cold. There are plenty of places to visit in Gangtok and it also serves as a gateway into the further North East for those who are planning onward journeys to other neighboring states.
Spectacular View of Gangtok at night time. Photo from Flickr
We planned our trip to Gangtok in the month of December, boarded our flight from Delhi and landed in Bagdogra. Once there, we took a cab to Gangtok which is about 125 km from Bagdogra. If you are on a tight budget, you could choose to take a shared cab that ply from near the airport. If you are feeling particularly fancy, you could also make use of the helicopter services from Bagdogra to Gangtok. Not only will you reach Gangtok much faster, you will also get a bird’s eye view of the entire area.
There are lots of things to do around Gangtok. If you are visiting in the summers, add Tsomgo lake to your itinerary. You may need to get a visiting permit to get there. Most taxi and tour operators will help you get the permit to visit the place. Once at the lake, you can also visit Nathula Pass, one of the highest passes in India. This excursion will take a whole day because the roads may not always be in the best of conditions. So make sure you have everything you need for an entire day’s excursion. We were not able to get bottled water along the way so stock some water and snacks before you leave.
Most taxi and tour operators offer local sightseeing tours. These are usually six point tours, eight point tours and even twelve or sixteen point tours. Some of the local places of interest include monasteries, temples, a rope way, museums and several waterfalls. Gangtok has two beautiful temples – Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok. Both of these have large statues of lord Ganesh and Hanuman respectively. You could also visit the Do Drul Chorten, Rumtek Monastery, Ranka Monastery and Enchey Monastery, all of which are located very close to each other. It is ideal to visit the monasteries in the morning so that you can witness the enchanting morning prayers.
Banjakhri falls is a beautifully landscaped hydel power project in Gangtok. There is a nice park with elegant statues, fountains, bridges and Gazebos. There is a small hydro power project museum at the site as well. Another great place to visit is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. This is a museum-like space which contains relics from Tibet and gives you a sneak peek into Tibetan culture and a brief history of the country.
Do not forget to try out the bicable zigback ropeway which takes you from Deorali to Tashiling Secretariat in a mere Rs. 30. You can take a two way ride to experience the beauty of the Himalaya’s and see the bustling Gangtok from above or you can take a one way ride, explore that part of Gangtok and then hike back to MG Marg.
We spent five days in Gangtok and then proceeded to Bhutan, which is also very close from Gangtok. It was easily one of the best trips we had planned and we returned with a lot of fond memories and tales to tell. Sikkim is truly the land of the dragons, wreathed in a little bit of heaven.
How to Get There?
By Air: The closest airport is Bagdogra. From Bagdogra you can get a cab or a bus. A lot of shared cabs run on this route too.
By Train: The nearest railway station is at Siliguri. You can take a bus or a cab from there to reach Gangtok. You can also reach Darjeeling and catch a bus or hire a cab to take you to Gangtok.
Where to Stay?
Once in Gangtok, there are plenty of hotels to choose from. MG Marg (Mahatma Gandhi Marg), also known as the “Mall Road” is the main area of Gangtok and is rife with hotels that would fit any budget. If you are looking for budget hotels on MG Road, you may check out hotel Doma Residency, Dongkheala, Karma and Fairview. If you are looking for luxury, you may have to venture a little further where you can find excellent hotels like Suhim Portico, Welcome Heritage and Portico.
What to Eat?
While all of these hotels have their own individual kitchens, MG Road is peppered with beautiful cafes and restaurants serving local cuisines as well. We were really looking forward to sample some authentic Himalayan cuisine and ventured into the Culture café, which is a great place if you like Tibetan food. Gangtok has a large Tibetan population and they can cook up a storm for you. We also tried out Baker’s café which is a small patisserie and café on MG Road. We ordered a great tasting burger, muffins and shortbread here, though there were many different blends of coffee and drool worthy pastries as well.