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Quiet villages sprawled over mountains, bright green paddy fields swaying with the wind, tranquil monasteries, scrumptious momos, clouds casually strolling by amongst people, terrible roads and friendly people. Moreover, the people here are kind and warm folk who can work their way to your heart. This city is sure to leave it's impression on anyone who visits. Here's a Gangtok sightseeing guide listing all the top places to visit in Gangtok in order to help you plan a visit to the city.
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How to Reach Gangtok
Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim, a state in north eastern India known for it's safety, organic farming and it's pivotal role in safeguarding the environment. Sikkim shares it's boundaries with 3 counties - Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet as well as the Indian state of West Bengal. Here are a list of ways to reach Gangtok:
Until 2018, Bagdogra airport (located in Silliguri, West Bengal) was the closest to Gangtok. The Bagdogra airport is situated roughly 124 km from Gangtok city. In October 2018, Pakyong airport was inaugurated. Not only is it Sikkim's first airport, it's also one of India's top 5 airports located at high altitude. Pakyong lies 30 km from Gangtok city.
Sikkim does not have any rail connectivity, although projects to bring railways to Sikkim are underway. As of now, Silliguri railway station in West Bengal is the closest railway station to Gangtok.
Places to Visit in Gangtok
Gangtok is a beautiful city perched on the eastern Himalayan range. Despite being at a high elevation of 1650 m, the city manages to keep lively and buzzing with lots of places to see in Gangtok. The city is haven for those who love mountain views, Tibetan food and shopping centers. Take a look at the places to visit in Gangtok so that you don't miss out on the best sightseeing spots in Gangtok:
1. Rumtek Monastery
The Rumtek Monastery in Gangtok, sitting gloriously on a hill is the largest monastery in Sikkim and among the most popular Gangtok attractions. The complex houses the main shrine temple, the monastery, a retreat center, a monastic college, a golden stupa and other religious and community establishments. The gratifying walk up to the monastery takes you through a line of prayer bells, souvenir shops, sprawling green landscape and benches offering unobstructive views of mountains. Also known as the Dharma Chakra Center, the monastery is the seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The monastery is thus famous around the world, especially among the Tibetan Buddhists. Do note that foreign visitors will require a special permit. The visiting fees, however, are minimal. Among all the Gangtok attractions, I found this one to be the most peaceful and tranquil spot.
2. Nathula Pass
A trip to Sikkim is wasted is you haven't visited the Nathula pass. Located at a distance of 56 km from Gangtok and at a height of 14,140 ft above sea level, it is one of the five officially agreed Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies to improve relations. It is a mesmerising moment when you witness the Indian and Chinese soldiers standing face-to-face guarding their respective nations. The valour of the Indian Army personnel is evident in that moment.
Only Indian nationals can visit this famous Gangtok attraction. Furthermore, a permit is required to visit Nathula pass. You can talk to a travel agent or apply for the permit yourself. A limited number of vehicles are allowed daily, so be sure to apply on time. If there is heavy snowfall, the road to the pass closes. Standing on the Indo-Chinese border, witnessing the gallantry of the soldiers, puts the Nathula pass right on top of the must-visit places to see in Gangtok.
3. Tsomgo Lake
A placid lake sitting in the midst of rugged landscape and steep mountains, the Tsomgo lake lies on the way to Nathula pass. The lake is located roughly 40 km from Gangtok and 10 km before Nathula pass. It is undoubtedly one of the top sightseeing spots in Gangtok. Tourist attractions such as yak rides are offered here. There are also plenty of food stalls set up nearby, selling Tibetan delicacies like momo and thupka as well as hot drinks which provide relief from the extreme cold weather. The lake can be visited en route the Nathula pass. In case you do not get a permit for the Nathula pass or the road to the pass closes, you can still visit the lake. The lake is undeniably one of the cleanest lakes in India.
4. Baba Harbhajan Singh Shrine
Though the official version of the Indian army soldier Harbhajan Singh's death is that he was a victim of battle at Nathula, where many battles took place between the Indian Army and the PLA during the 1965 Sino-Indian war, according to legend, Baba Harbhajan Singh drowned in a glacier while leading a column of mules carrying supplies to a remote outpost. His remains were found after a three-day search and was subsequently cremated with full military honours. The legend further claims that the late Singh who helped the search party find his body. Still later, through a dream, he instructed one of his colleagues to build and maintain a shrine in his memory. Some Indian soldiers believe that in the event of a war between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian soldiers of an impending attack at least three days in advance. You visit this shine on returning from Nathula pass as it's located only 8 km from the pass.
5. Ganesh Tok and Tashi Viewpoint
Both Ganesh Tok and Tashmi Viewpoint are close together. Ganesh Tok is a temple with balconies that overlook valleys, mountains and clouds passing through them. There are ladies who will dress you up in a traditional costume for a minimal fee to have your picture taken. The costumes are rentals. Tashi view point is exactly what the name says - a view point from where majestic views of misty mountains can be enjoyed with a cup of warm chai tea. These are popular tourist points and thus fall under the list of Gangtok sightseeing spots.
6. Shop at MG Road Gangtok
A clean stretch of approximately 1 km, the Mahatma Gandhi Road or MG Road of Gangtok is located right in the heart of Gangtok city. A pedestrian-only zone, the street is lined up with shops, cafes and food stalls. There are benches lined up throughout the centre of the street. In the evenings, locals come here to eat, shop, meet-up or simply to take a stroll along the street lit up with lamps. It's the perfect place to be with your loved ones in the evening.
7. Banjhakri Waterfall
Banjhakri falls is a tiny waterfall located near Rumtek monastery in Gangtok. This popular Gangtok sightseeing place is located less than 5 km from Gangtok city. It's enclosed by a beautiful garden that also comprises of a park for children. Murals in this area are painted brightly to depict the culture of Sikkim state. There are a few tiny shops nearby which sell the usual delicacies found in the mountains.
Hotels in Gangtok Sikkim
Imagine waking up in your hotel room only to see clouds right outside your window as you enjoy a steaming cup of tea, nestled in a cosy blanket. That's the dream. Avoid booking a hotel right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Gangtok city. While it might seem like a good option to stay inside the city but you don't want to be missing out on breathtaking views from your window, do you? Plus, most of the places to visit in Gangtok are outside the city so you won't be missing out on much action by staying on the outskirts of the city.