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Sikkim is the second smallest state of India. It was an independent monarchy ruled by kings called Chogyals till 1975, when it joined the Indian union. Sikkim has borders with Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and the Indian state of West Bengal. Situated in the Himalayan ranges, the state is entirely hilly with elevations ranging between 300m and 8583m. The highest elevation is Mt. Kanchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world, which is worshipped as the guardian deity of the state.

Lepchas are considered to be the oldest inhabitants of Sikkim. Then came the Bhutias from Tibet, and later Nepalis, and the people from Indian plains. Sikkim is home to the Mahayana form of Buddhism and its colourful Gompas (Buddhist monasteries) are a major attraction. Of these, Rumtek monastery near Gangtok, and Tashiding & Pemayangste monasteries in West Sikkim are the most important.

Gangtok is the main city and the capital of Sikkim. It is a cosmopolitan place with views of snow-covered Himalayas, botanical gardens and monasteries. Gangtok is also an ideal base to visit the southern parts of the state where most of the tourist sites are located. Approachable fromGangtok, Tsongo Lake is located 3720m above sea level and is frozen during the winters. The Chinese border at Nathula Pass is close by. The town of Pelling is in west Sikkim and is a popular tourist spot. The Kanchendzonga National Park is a habitat for the snow leopard, red panda, Tibetan antelope and wild ass.

Phang Lhabso and Losoong are the main festivals of Sikkim. Phang Lhabso is dedicated to the worship of Mt. Kanchendzonga and is celebrated in August/September. Losoong is celebrated in December/January and marks the end of the harvest season.

Foreign nationals visiting Sikkim must obtain an Inner Line Permit. The permits are available at Indian missions and tourism offices in Delhi and Kolkata.


Gangtok, the land of monasteries, is also the largest town of Sikkim. Situated in the Shivalik Hills and lying at an altitude of 1437 m, it’s an important Buddhist Pilgrimage Centre. Gangtok gained religious significance among the Buddhists 
after the construction of the Enchey Monastery in the latter part of the 19th century. 
History of Gangtok It was an important trade centre between the British and Tibet during the 19th century. Gangtok was made the capital of Sikkim in 1894 by Thutob Namgyal, who was a monarch under the British Rule. When India gained independence in 1947, Sikkim chose to be an independent monarchy and Gangtok continued to be its capital. 
However, in 1975, after a period of strife and struggle, Sikkim was finally made an Indian state and Gangtok was made its official capital. The city suffered a major setback in its trade relations with Tibet after the Nathu La Pass was closed following the Sino-Indian war of 1962. However, the Pass has been opened in 2006, and Gangtok has again started functioning as a major trade point between India and Tibet. 
People & Culture of Gangtok The town has people from different ethnicities. The presence of Buddhists, Chinese, Tibetans as well as Hindus gives Gangtok a colourful ambience and every festival is celebrated here with the same fervour. Some of the popularly celebrated festivals are Losum and Losar, among others. 
Most of the economy of Gangtok depends on tourism. A large part of the population of the town is employed in the tourism sector. Of late, eco-tourism has picked up in the region with tourists being offered the opportunity of trekking, rafting as well as mountaineering. Apart from the tourism industry, cottage industries form the other major portion of Gangtok’s economy which deals in watch making, handicrafts and local alcohol processing.
Things to do in Gangtok Gangtok is full of gompas, stupas, parks and gardens. Some of the major attractions in and around Gangtok are the Rumtek Monastery, Pemayangtse Monastery, Tashiding Monastery, Tsomgo Lake, Nathu La Pass, Hanuman Tok etc. Visitors who want to explore Gangtok and its surroundings but do not want to do the planning themselves can opt for the several Gangtok holiday packages available.
Food & Shopping in Gangtok Sikkimese food is a mix of Nepalese, Tibetan and Indian cuisine with rice being the staple. Some of the local delicacies of Gangtok are ningro (fern rings), shisnu (nettle soup), phing (glass noodles) and churpi (yak cheese) cooked with a lot of chillies. Apart from these, momos are available round the corner. There are a lot of restaurants, eateries and fast- food joints in Gangtok. 
Gangtok is full of souvenir and curio shops. One of the best areas for shopping is the road near Lal Bazar which not only has many shops but prices are also cheaper by 30-40% than the shops on M.G. Road. The Sikkim Handloom and Handicraft Emporium sells masks, wall hangings, carpets, leather goods and Tibetan, Bhutia and Lepcha dresses. Other items that are popularly bought include thankas, silk paintings, prayer wheels, Tibetan jewellery etc.  
Travelling to Gangtok Gangtok is connected to other parts of the country via an all-weather highway. The easiest way to reach Gangtok is by shared jeep from Siliguri, in West Bengal, which takes around 4½ - 5 hours. Shared jeeps, the best way to move around in Gangtok, can also be availed from New Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. 
Buses run by the state carrier, Sikkim Nationalised Transport, terminate at the SNT Bus Stand on Paljor Stadium Road. Non-SNT buses stop at the Private Bus Stand, off NH-31A, below Deorali. 
The nearest airport to the place is the Bagdogra Airport (124 km away) in the town of Siliguri, West Bengal. Bagdogra Airport is connected to Guwahati, Kolkata and Delhi with Kolkata and Delhi airports having international connections as well. Taxis are available from the airport to reach Gangtok.
There is a helicopter service also which is run by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation from Bagdogra to Gangtok, once a day. 
Gangtok does not have a railway station, the closest one being at New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, nearly 150 km away. The station has train services from all parts of the country with some of the prominent ones being Bangalore, Guwahati, Kolkata, Hyderabad, New Delhi etc.



Nathula Pass, located at a distance of 56 km from Gangtok, is a pass on the Indo-Chinese border. Serving as a trade link between India and China, this park also once served as the main access for Sikkim-Tibet trade. Popularly known as the Silk Route, this pass is at an elevation of 14,450 feet and is rich in diverse alpine flora and fauna. The Nathula Pass is divided into terms 'Nathu' and 'La', which mean 'listening ears' and 'pass' respectively.

The trade route was closed down in 1961, as a result of the war between India and China. However, in 2006, the trade between the two countries resumed again after conciliation. Passing the Tsomgo Lake on its way, this pass is one of the highest motorable roads in entire India. Covered with snow for most parts of the year, a special permit is required to visit this pass.
At present, tourists are permitted to visit the pass on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. In addition, the Nathula Pass also reduces the travelling distance to some of the major Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites such as Lhasa and Mansarovar Lake.
This pass is also amongst three border posts that connect China and India. The other two border posts are Shipkila (Himachal Pradesh) and Lipulekh (Uttarakhand).

This post first appeared on TRAVEL CRAZY, please read the originial post: here

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