Nestled in the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains, Sikkim is 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.
Here are a few places to visit 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!
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 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!