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World Tourism Day 2018: Sikkim: Paradise Untapped – Top 15 Places To Visit In Sikkim

As the monsoons bid adieu and the winter season is ahead of us, it’s the best time to visit the land of picturesque glaciers and quaint meadows, Sikkim. As perfect timing has it, with the inauguration of Pakyong Airport this Monday, September 24, one can expect a surge in tourism in the area.

travel Updated: Sep 27, 2018 14:01 IST
Saumya Sharma
Saumya Sharma
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Travel,Mountains,Mountains are calling
Sikkim is a must-visit for both the quiet reader sitting in a cozy corner at a quaint café or the social media buff sharing visual travel diaries on Instagram(Gurudongmar Lake clicked by @farawaylens on Instagram )

Nestled in the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains, flourishes the idea that is sure to become a memorable trip for any traveller who visits Sikkim. Having gained the status of the cleanest state in India and the only state that grows their food organically, this pristine beauty is worth every minute of our time, even though some of us may be chained to our desks most of the days of the year.

It’s like Sikkim has opened its arms for us all and it’s time to visit the soulful terrains.

From the crystalline glaciers to the lakes and hot springs, from the flora and the fauna to the picturesque mountain passes and a tête-à-tête with the culture, people and food, Sikkim is truly a melting pot of all things magical. It’s a must-visit for all kinds of travellers, be it the quiet reader sitting in a cozy corner at a quaint café or the social media buff sharing visual travel diaries on Instagram.

We have the top picks for you to have the perfect getaway experience in Sikkim.

Gurudongmar Lake

One of the highest lakes in the world, located at 5430 m. The lake is fed by glaciers and located to the north of the Kangchengyao range. The lake joins the Tso Lahmu to form the source of the Teesta River, and remains completely frozen from November to Mid-May. Legend has it that the lake’s frigid state is linked to the visit of Guru Padmasambhava to the lake, on his way back from Tibet. When he saw it, he realised that the location was worthy of veneration. However, since the lake remained frozen for the major part of the year, it could not serve any drinking water needs to the people of the state. The guru then agreed to help the people by placing his hands in a small area of the lake which stopped freezing during winter, facilitating drinking water to the people of the state. Since then, Gurudongmar Lake has been considered sacred. It has also been claimed that the lake was blessed in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Ji, the spiritual leader of Sikhism, when he had passed through the area.

Himalayan Zoological Park

Notably one of India’s better-maintained zoos, the Himalayan Zoological Park occupies an entire hillside with a splendid view of Mt. Khangchendzonga. The star attraction is the red panda, also called the red cat bear, Sikkim’s animal emblem. One can also hope to see the Snow Leopard, Goral, Himalayan Palm Civet, Himalayan Black Bear and Crimson-Horned Pheasant at the park. The best time to visit the area is Mid-February to May and Mid-September to December.

Khangchendzonga National Park

The Khangchendzonga National Park includes a diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world’s third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga (or Kanchenjunga). The national park is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Khangchendzonga Falls

Feel the sprays of this torrential fall as they cascade down granite rocks while you enjoy this breathtaking beauty. Marvel at the beauty of nature creating a perfect symbiosis of sound and sight.

Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary

Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary located in the Yumthang Valley of Flowers, North Sikkim, is home to 24 species of rhododendrons, which burst with colour every Spring/Summer between March till early May.

Solophok Chardham

This unique Pilgrim Centre has a main temple, 108-feet tall that houses an 87-feet-high statue of Lord Shiva in a sitting posture at the Solophok Hill. Apart from the Shiva statue, this Pilgrim Centre also has replicas of the twelve Jyotirlingas, to offer one platform for Shiva devotees.

Buddha Park

The Buddha Park plays host to a beautiful statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, visible from all directions of Southwest Sikkim and some parts of West Sikkim. The park area is beautifully landscaped making it a haven for visitors who can enjoy the serene surroundings.

Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

Established in 1958, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology has since promoted and sponsored research on the history, religion, language, art and culture of the Tibetan people. The institute’s library has one of the largest collections of Tibetan works in the world outside Tibet.

Samdruptse

Samdruptse Hill, situated at an altitude of 2134 m plays host to Padmasambhava’s (Guru Rimpoche) statue that overlooks the city. It is believed that Samdruptse is a dormant volcano and only constant prayers can hold it from erupting.

Tsuklakhang

Serving as Gangtok’s central Buddhist temple, Tsuklakhang has intricate interiors including a pair of carved dragon columns. Back in the day Sikkim and the then-independent Tibet enjoyed close relations, hence the best artists were chosen from Lhasa and Shigatse to paint the Gangtok Tsuklakhang’s murals. The monastery compound’s serenity is sure to help you calm your anxieties and refresh your mind. One can also get a glimpse of the private Chogyal Palace while wandering in the grounds.

Tashi Viewpoint

If you’re sitting down to enjoy the view or are on the road exploring, you might have to wait for the cloud cover to vanish so you can register the full view at one go so it stays with you as a fond memory. From the Tashi Viewpoint, you can take in some of Gangtok’s best glimpses of the Khangchendzonga. This road also leads up to the iconic Nathu La Pass which reopened in 2006 and is manned by the BRO (Border Roads Organisation).

Singshore Bridge

The highest bridge in Sikkim, this 230 metres-span suspension bridge is an engineering marvel and was constructed to reduce the travel time on the Dentam-Utterey road, but ended up becoming a tourist attraction instead. Who’s complaining, though?

Yumthang Hot Springs

When you set out for Yumthang, it’s the journey that matters as much as the destination. On the way to the springs and the pool that you can choose to bathe in (basis the time allowed) or just soak in the greenery and the purity of the locales, you’re in. You and your camera are going to be happiest!

Rachna Books, Café Fiction and Bookmans BnB

An award-winning bookshop, Rachna Books is a cultural hub in Sikkim, as they’re more than just about books. They have storytelling events, book readings, musical evenings, film screenings and a lot more. Rachna also owns a quaint café called Café Fiction which serves French-press, filter coffee, Temi and other tea infusions and snacks. That’s not all, they also run a BnB called Bookmans Bnb where you can sleep and wake up to gorgeous views.

Temi Organic Tea Factory

Situated at about 1720 metres, this 1969 factory complex processes Sikkim’s most famous teas, which are produced completely organically, sans pesticides or industrial fertilisers. Also visit the Golden Tips – Tea Boutique that stocks a fine selection of various tea flushes in beautiful packing. You can also taste upto 48 types of tea in a cafe-style tasting area at the store.

With Dasain (Dusshera) and Diwali coming up, it would be a great idea to plan a trip so you can also see the state at its festive best. If you happen to get to Sikkim in December, you could also witness the Mahakala Puja, a week-long festival held at the Old Ralang Gompa monastery.

Go on, the mountains are calling you again!

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First Published: Sep 27, 2018 13:28 IST