Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, is a kaleidoscope of magnificent monasteries, beautiful temples, spectacular stupas, quaint cafes and sprawling parks
It is said that, “good things come in small packages”. This epithet stands true for Sikkim. Bordered by Buddhist powerhouses of Bhutan and Tibet, Sikkim is a strong preserver of the region’s tradition, beliefs and spiritual practices. Despite being one of the smallest states of India, Sikkim is a treasure trove of visual delights. Located in the Eastern Himalayan Range at a height of approximately 1,649 m, the flamboyant city is also the ideal base to visit the glacial lake of Changu (3,753 m), Nathula Pass (4,310 m) and the gorgeous organic Temi Tea estates in South Sikkim.
The capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok, is situated at a distance of more than 31 km from the soon to be inaugurated Pakyong Airport. Managed by the Airports Authority of India, the airport was approved by the Centre in 2008 and is the first greenfield airport in Northeast India. The project is being billed as an engineering marvel – it has been built at a height of over 4,500 feet. Also, the airport is built as a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik). Let’s find out the best places to visit while in Gangtok.
Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok
Gangtok houses two beautiful temples, Ganesh Tok and Hanuman Tok, the former being more popular among the locals and tourists. Ganesh Tok, at 1,980 m above sea level-is a small, well-maintained temple of Lord Ganesh. A nearby café serves fresh momos, noodles, parathas and other refreshments. This place provides a sweeping view of Gangtok and arguably is the best vantage point to see the beautiful city. Further up the road at about 2,190 m, lies Hanuman Tok. This place provides an unimpeded view of the majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga. Unlike Ganesh Tok, this temple is quiet and bereft of any commercial influence.
Falling from a height of 30 m, this is a small vertical fall with a few artificial hurdles created by the tourism department. The fall is located in a theme park spread over an area of two acres. It is also an energy park with many solar panels, slides, swings and rides serving as unconventional sources of power. Traditional gazebos, colourful narrow footbridges, manicured garden, flowered pathways, life-size statues and figurines relating to Shaminic culture and exhibits of tribal life make it one of the popular tourist spots.
Situated at an altitude of more than 3,780 m in East Sikkim it is about 35 km from Gangtok city. The Changu Lake is walled by steep, snow-covered mountains. The reflection of small, scattered white puffs of clouds casts the crystal clear water in a soft, diffused glow. Their altering shadows seem like a dramatic light show that plays all day long on the snow-clad hills and the lake. To visit this place, a restricted area permit is required, which can be easily arranged by an authorised travel agent.
Further up the road from Changu Lake, an additional one-hour journey will get you to Nathula (on the border with China), situated at a height of 4,310 m, the offshoot of the ancient Silk Road connecting Sikkim to China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Covered with snow all year round, Nathula is heavily manned by the Army on both the sides.
Built in the memory of late sepoy Harbhajan Singh, the Baba Mandir is considered to be sacred by the Indian Army. It is also one of the four Border Personnel Meeting points for the Indian and Chinese armies. The sepoy’s belongings are still kept inside the temple, and it is believed by the locals and the Army that his ghost resides there and protects the surroundings.
Tarku Organic Temi Tea Estate
Situated at a height of 1,829 m above sea level, Tarku is just 60 km away from the bustling town of Gangtok. The small settlement at one end of the manicured tea estate boasts a higher secondary English medium school, a small hospital and warm, welcoming residents. Cherry Resort is the only accommodation option in Tarku. Just off the Gangtok-Ravangla state highway, Tarku hides inconspicuously amidst the verdant green plantations. Most tourists spend a few moments on the road exploring the tea gardens, click pictures and continue their journey. Little do they know that staying here for a few days can indeed be therapeutic.
Nippy evenings in Gangtok city are best enjoyed on MG Road, a small paved stretch with a plethora of shopping, lodging and dining options for the tourists. It is bustling with people crowding cafés and restaurants and chatting in varied languages amid picturesque surroundings. The beautifully decorated road with lamp posts, park benches and colourful flowers looks quaint and retro chic.