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Sikkim calling... its the new fav

So far Kashmir was the only 'Paradise' known to us. Its time we explored another...

travel Updated: Nov 18, 2010 10:26 IST

Time stands still at this land
wrapped in mists and clouds.
Called the 'Garden State',
Sikkim, with its incredible
variety of orchids, rhododendrons,
gladioli and a host of
other flowers makes you forget
reality. Tumbling streams and
torrents. Mountain monasteries
and quaint shopping plazas.
The land of the mighty
Khangchendzonga. (read
Kanchenjunga)....the list of
attractions in this second
smallest state of
India is endless.

Small but beautiful, Sikkim is situated in the Eastern Himalayas. Sikkim sits cozy spread below the Mount Khangchendzonga (8534 mts.), the third highest mountain in the world. Amidst the grandeur of the mountain peaks, lush valleys, fast flowing rivers and terraced hills, Sikkim offers a spectacular and unique experience.Within a matter of hours one can move from the sub-tropical heat of the lower valleys to the cold of the rugged mountain slopes that reach upto the areas of perpetual snow.Wander through mountain meadows, cascading rivers or densely forested ridges. Lose yourself in the romantic solitude of the mountains. In the course of your wanderings, watch the electric blue butterfly or hear the thrush and cuckoo serenade you.

Sikkim is home to a variety of 4000 plant species --therefore the tag line -- "Garden State" and besides the floral beauty the state also boasts of some amazing wildlife. Traveling on the serpentine roads of Sikkim is a fascinating experience in itself. There are roads that seem to connect every nook and corner of the state even seemingly inaccessible places.

People of Sikkim are warm, simple and friendly with a natural uninhibited gaiety. The population consists of Lepchas, Nepalese and Bhutias. The Lepchas are the oldest inhabitants of Sikkim followed by the Nepalese and then the Bhutias.

Religion forms the main thread in the fabric of life here.With close to 194 monasteries and Mani Lhakangs, the influence of Buddhism is pervasive. The main monasteries are Pemayangtse and Tashiding in West Sikkim, Enchey in Gangtok and Roomtek near Gangtok, Ralong in South and Phodong and Tolung in North Sikkim.

Gangtok means "top of the hill." The town offers some excellent views of Mt. Khangchendzonga, beautiful scenery, lovely nature walks and trails that can be explored away from the main town. Do visit the Directorate of Handicrafts and Hand loom.

The town of Gangtok is actually your base from where to explore the rest of this state. Cuisine is not a problem with enough variety to go around for all kinds of palates. Getting there isn't much of a fight either, there are regular flights to the nearest airport, Bagdogra in North Bengal.

The two closest railway stations are Siliguri (114 kms.) and New Jalpaiguri (125 kms) connecting Calcutta , Delhi , Guwahati, Lucknow , besides other main cities of India.

Author is the country-head of a leading travel company.

First Published: Nov 18, 2010 10:26 IST