Sikkim Destination Guide
There are a manifold of Sikkim tourist attractions for the discerning traveller, from visiting ancient Buddhist monasteries to exploring its mountainous landscapes and unique culture or simply communing with nature.
From finding the most extensive collection of texts and manuscripts of Buddhism to testing you physical strength on the rugged terrain, there’s surely something fascinating and exciting for every traveller.
With a full list of things to do, this Sikkim destination guide page will be very handy. Other attractions in the country can be found at our India destination guide. Sikkim hotels can also be reserved via this site, so you can start making your trip to this serene landscape a reality today.
Things to see & do in Sikkim
Here are a range of Sikkim highlights you may like to discover:
Sikkim's capital, Gangtok ("hill top") is an innocuous town consisting of rather uninspiring concrete boxes sprawling over a sloping terrain. It's pleasant enough, though, as a base to organise trekking tours and visits to other parts of the country. You can find loads of great hotels in Gangtok easily bookable on this website!
This is an average sized greenhouse for nurturing exotic plants. If you're visiting around March, drop in for a look at the orchids. The centre is in Gangtok's White Hall complex, in a scenic stretch of landscaped gardens and tree-lined parks.
Located at an altitude of 1,780 m (5,840 ft) this wildlife sanctuary is about 3 km away from Gangtok. The park sprawls over 205 hectares (about 506 acres) of rugged terrain and is home to the red panda, Himalayan bear and snow leopard, among other species.
About 40 km (25 miles) away from Gangtok lies this snow fed lake, at an altitude of 3,752 m (12,310 ft). The Department of Tourism and private travel operators conduct package tours from Gangtok to Tsomgo. Go for a yak ride around the lake, sip a cup of hot tea and admire the primula flowers in all their summer glory. Protect yourself well with heavy woollen wear as it's always chilly here. Travellers with respiratory problems are advised against visiting Tsomgo.
Further above, at a forbidding 4,404 m (14,450 ft) is Nathu La. In Tibetan, Nathu La means both "listening ears" and "pass". In medieval times this was an important stop on the Silk Route. Nathu La continues to remain an Indo-Chinese trading post on the border between the two nations. Nathu La draws visitors both for its historicity as well as its spectacular flora and fauna. Entry for foreign visitors, however, is restricted.
Savour the ineffable peace and beauty of this 16th century monastery, about 24 km (15 miles) outside Gangtok. Rumtek was established by Wangchuk Dorje, the ninth Karmapa under the patronage of the ruler of Sikkim. It is an important centre of the Kagyu school of Buddhism.
This 18th century monastery is one of Sikkim's oldest and the centre of the Nyingma-pa sect. It has paintings, a fine collection of thangkas and sculptures and statues of Guru Rimpoche and its founder-lama, Lhatsum Chempo. At 2085 m (6,840 ft), Pemayangtse, which means "Perfectly Sublime Lotus", has a spectacular view of mountains on two sides. During Tibetan New Year in February, the monks perform chaam dances.
Explore the nuances of Tibetan culture and Mahayana Buddhism at the Namgyal Institute. Established in 1958, the centre possesses the world's most extensive collections of Buddhist texts and manuscripts, besides exquisite thangkas (painted religious scrolls) and rare ritual objects like a kapali (a bowl fashioned from a human skull, using in Tantric practice).
Pelling is hardly a village; rather it's a stretch of small hotels in western Sikkim that is a must-do for tourists, for the only reason that it offers the most spectacular views of Mount Khanchendzonga. In high season, it's madly crowded but don't let that deter you - the view is genuinely worth the price of your entire trip. Sikkim Nationalised Transport runs bus services from here to Gangtok and Siliguri. Shared jeeps are an alternative mode of transport. You can find some hotels in Pelling available for booking on this website as well.
About 150 km (93 miles) from Gangtok lies the Valley of Flowers in north Sikkim. Yumthang lies at an altitude of 3,575 m (11,800 miles). Explore the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary which has more than 24 species of the state flower. Walk past the Teesta River's tributary that flows by the valley. The valley closes for winter from December to March. Spring is when Yumthang comes into its own, the lush slopes a joyous burst of colours.
This corner of west Sikkim, about 147 km (91 miles) west of Gangtok, is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The Khechoedpaldri hill, lake and valley which were once blessed by Guru Padmasambhava are revered in local culture as a land of hidden treasure. The lake is an important stop on the Buddhist circuit in Sikkim. Interestingly, not a leaf can be seen floating on the lake - they are picked off by birds as soon as they drop onto the surface of the water.
An important religious fair held every March/April attracts pilgrims from India, Nepal and Bhutan. A harvest festival, Cho-Tsho, takes place in October after the cardamom crop is harvested.
Looking for some great sporting action? Sikkim's the right place!
Trekking - Khangchendzonga National Park is a trekking and mountaineering mecca, ranging in altitude from 1,829 m (6,000 ft) to above 8550 m (28,000 ft). Most trekking routes begin at Yuksom, 145 km away from Gangtok. Private travel operators as well as the State tourism Department organise trekking expeditions to Dzongri (4050 m). Other routes go beyond Dzongri to Goechala, Rathong glacier or Khangerteng. A popular trek to Green Lake commences from the village of Lachen. Also consider a monastic trek through Buddhist pilgrimage centres or a rhododendron trek between March and May.
Trekkers must obtain permits from Wildlife Education and Interpretation Centre in Yuksom. Foreign nationals must apply for a Restricted Area permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi
River Rafting - The Teesta and Rangeet rivers offer adventure and thrills for white water rafting enthusiasts. The Teesta's chilly waters are a challenge with their varied rapids. The rushing, turbulence of the Rangeet is best negotiated by those who are experienced in the sport. Both river banks are thickly forested, interspersed with villages and terraced cultivation. At intervals, white, sandy beaches make for perfect campsites. Contact the Department of Tourism or private travel operators to organise the best trip for you. If you've had some experience of kayaking, hire one from Sikkim Tourism and go for a memorable experience on the Teesta.
Yak Safari - If being plunged into icy waters is not your cup of tea, consider a yak safari, an enjoyable way to explore Sikkim's wild beauty. Some popular routes are the Dzongri region and Tsomgo Lake.
Mountain Biking - For the young and restless, mountain biking is an increasingly popular sport. Biker routes typically start at Gangtok and go on to Singtam or beyond to include stops at Rumtek, Temi Tea Garden, Ravangla and Somarey. Bike through tiny Lepcha villages, stopping off for a cup of "chhang" (tea). Primula-strewn mountainsides, groves of rhododendrons, rushing waterfalls and steep gorges are a feast for the eyes and soul. Some travel companies offer not only bikes for hire, but also a support team to help with repairs and transport extra baggage.