By Journey Man
Sikkim is the jewel of north-eastern India. This is one state that has continuously revelled in all manner of development and environmental progress. It is one of the smallest states in India, but one of the most developed.
Sikkim is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and northeast, by Bhutan to the southeast, by the state of West Bengal to the south, and by Nepal to the west. The capital is Gangtok, in the southeastern part of the state.
A part of the Eastern Himalayas, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to the Kanchenjunga, the highest peak in India and third highest on Earth. Sikkim’s capital and largest city is Gangtok. Almost 35% of the state is covered by the Khangchendzonga National Park.
How to Reach Sikkim from Delhi
There is no direct connection from New Delhi to Sikkim. However, you can fly to Bagdogra airport, and then take a taxi to Jorethang.
Alternatively, you can take a train to New Jalpaiguri then take a taxi to Gangtok.
For long a sovereign political entity, Sikkim became a protectorate of India in 1950 and an Indian state in 1975. Its small size notwithstanding, Sikkim is of great political and strategic importance for India because of its location along several international boundaries.
It has an area of 2,740 square miles (7,096 square km) and has a population of 607,688 ((2011 census).
The districts of Sikkim
Sikkim has four districts – East Sikkim, North Sikkim, South Sikkim and West Sikkim. The district capitals are Gangtok, Mangan, Namchi and Gyalshing, respectively. These four districts are further divided into 16 subdivisions; Pakyong, Rongli, Rangpo and Gangtok are the subdivisions of the East district. Soreng, Yuksom, Gyalshing and Dentam are the subdivisions of the West district. Chungthang, Dzongu, Kabi and Mangan are the subdivisions of the North district. Ravongla, Jorethang, Namchi and Yangyang are the subdivisions of the South district.
In this edition we will be talking about travel in East Sikkim.
The east district is the most populated with Gangtok being the main administrative and business centre. Apart from the modern attractions of the capital town, in the east you will also find the beautiful Tsomgo Lake, the historically important Nathula pass, as well as many monasteries and temples. Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and heart of all the business hubs.
Popular Places & Attractions in Sikkim
The thrill that Sikkim offers is beyond comparison; marked with 28 mountain peaks, 80+ glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes, five major hot springs, 100+ rivers and streams, this Northeastern State has enough challenges to quench the thirst for adventure. Not to forget, Sikkim is also home to the third tallest mountain peak, Kanchenjunga, also called Khangchendzonga that measures 8,568 m in height. In fact, this smallest state of India does house several 5 thousanders, like Frey Peak (5830 m), Mount Jopuno (5603 m), Lama Wangden (5868 m) and Brumkhangse (5635 m), evidently making it one of the best destinations for mountaineering for those who relish an added pinch of thrill.
Dzuluk or Zuluk or Jhuluk or Jaluk is a small hamlet located at a height of around 10,000 feet (3,000 m) on the rugged terrain of the lower Himalayas in East Sikkim of the Indian state Sikkim. This place is relatively an emerging and offbeat destination in East Sikkim. Today it is fast emerging as a new tourist destination. It derives its tourism importance due to the excellent view of the eastern Himalayan mountain range including the Kanchenjunga.
It was once a transit point to the historic Silk Route from Tibet to India. The silk route that connected Lhasa (Tibet) to Kalimpong was in use even a few decades ago until the Chinese invasion of Tibet. It was commonly used by traders travelling to Tibet through Jelep-la (“La” stands for mountain pass) as an overnight base. The route started from Kalimpong and passed through Pedong, Aritar, Dzuluk and Jelepla to Chumbi valley in Tibet.
Zuluk or Dzuluk is a small village which was once a transit point to the historic Silk Route from Tibet to India. It is relatively an emerging and offbeat destination in East Sikkim. This small village accommodates a population of around 700 people. There is also an Indian Army base at Zuluk, which has been used as a transit camp for the army movement to the Chinese border, a few kilometres away. It is the very first village within this whole Silk Route circuit to offer home-stay facilities for tourists. 14 km from Zuluk, the Thambi View Point offers a panoramic view of the entire Mt Khangchendzonga range. Zuluk is open to Indian nationals only who need to apply for Protected Area Permit.
Dzuluk is surrounded by wild forest, some of the forests are completely virgin. Sighting of Deer, Wild Dog, Himalayan Bear and the red panda is not very uncommon. Some tigers have also reportedly been sighted in the area.
A variety of birds can also be seen such as Blood Pheasant, Himalayan monal, Kalij pheasant, Snow Pheasant and others. During the summer months, the area and its surrounding hills are covered with thousands of blooming rhododendrons. Dzuluk during these months is a riot of colours due to the variety of rhododendrons that can be seen here.
Best time to visit Zuluk: October to February winter, cold and snow. March to May cold. June to September — the monsoon season.
Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim. Established as a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the 1840s, the city became capital of an independent monarchy after British rule ended, but joined India in 1975. Today, it remains a Tibetan Buddhist centre and a base for hikers organizing permits and transport for treks through Sikkim’s Himalayan mountain ranges.
The name meaning hill-top, Gangtok can be safely said to be one of the most beautiful hill stations in the country. With everything in just the right amount from a blend of cultural identities to urbanisation, Gangtok is a breathing and dynamic bit of paradise of the northeast. It has an amazing view of Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain peak in the world. Also like everything around it, Gangtok is abundant in natural beauty and has various natural attractions such as the Tsomgo Lake, Ban Jhakri falls, Tashi viewpoint and more.
Other places to visit include the Enchey Monastery, Ganesh Tok, Do Drul Chorten Rumtek Monastery, etc. Also, river Teesta is one of the best spots for white water rafting in North East India.
Best time to visit Gangtok: Gangtok experiences pleasant weather during the summer season. The temperature hovers 18°C to 25°C during the season. It is the best time to visit Gangtok if you would like to escape the heat.
Nathu La, one of the highest motorable roads in the world, is a mountain pass in the Himalayan peaks that co-joins Sikkim and China. Situated on the Indo-Tibetan border 14450 ft. above sea level, Nathu La is one of the most important Himalayan passes in the country. Nathu means ‘listening ears’, and La means ‘pass’
Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between India and China and is famous for its picturesque beauty and beautiful environment. The temperature here remains low for most parts.
Located on the Old Silk Route, Nathu La connects Sikkim to China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. It was sealed for almost 4 decades after the People’s Republic of China suppressed a Tibetan uprising in 1959. However, when the former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited China in 2003, talks to open the strategic route were resumed. The Nathu La Pass was reopened in 2006 and since then, it has served as an official Border Personnel Meeting(BPM) Point.
Since it is one of the three open trading border posts between India and China, Nathu La Pass has played a key role in the Sino-Indian
Trade. It has also shortened the distance between the important Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage sites, thus strengthening the economy and improving border relations with China.
Best time to visit Nathu La: Summer, between the months of May to October is the appropriate season to visit here.
Lakes – Tsongmo Lake:
Tsomgo Lake, also known as Tsongmo Lake or Changu Lake, is a glacial lake in the East Sikkim district of the Indian state of Sikkim, some 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the capital Gangtok. Located at an elevation of 3,753 m (12,313 ft), the lake remains frozen during the winter season. The lake surface reflects different colours with change of seasons and is held in great reverence by the local Sikkimese people. Buddhist monks prognosticate after studying the changing colours of the lake.
After the winter season ends in middle of May, the periphery of lake has scenic blooms of flower species of rhododendrons (the state tree of Sikkim), primulas, blue and yellow poppies, irises and so forth. Also seen in the precincts of the lake are several species of birds including Brahminy ducks. Wildlife seen includes the red panda.
Tourist attractions at the lake site include joy rides on decorated yaks and mules where kiosks offer a variety of food and drinks. There is also a small Shiva temple on the bank of the lake. As the lake is located in a restricted area it is essential for all Indians visiting the area to obtain permits. In the case of foreign nationals, a special permit is essential.
This is one of the few and awesome high altitude lakes in India. The lake becomes doubly attractive with the reflections of the surrounding hills on the water. From Gangtok which is at 5410 ft, the altitude rises to about 10,000 ft in just 15kms. You can imagine how steep the gradient would be on this stretch of the road.
Best Time To Visit January to March