Sikkim is one of the most underrated states in the country which isn’t exactly on the tourist’s radar. Thankfully, this hidden paradise on the earth is still unaffected with the pollution and bustling noise of the cities. If you’re seeking a laid-back holiday then Sikkim is the only destination you should be heading next. Sikkim is also a favourite place of adventure enthusiasts seeking fun and frolic time amidst nature. Owing to the myriad adventure activities, it has now become a prime destination for mountaineers and thrill-seekers. The captivating beauty of the state cannot be described in words alone. You have to experience it on your own. This handful of important information on the state will help you in planning your perfect holiday.
Best Time to Travel
The climate of Sikkim remains pleasant throughout the year so it can be visited anytime as you wish. If you love snow and lush vegetation, then winters (preferably October to Mid-December) are the ideal time to capture the state in its coolest form. However, if you wish to spend your vacation amidst greenery when flowers are at full bloom, then you must travel the state in summers (March to May). Monsoon lovers can get the ultimate travel adventures from June to August.
How to Travel
Sikkim has got its only airport in Pakyong but the flight service from/to the state hasn’t been started yet. However, you can easily book a flight to the nearest airport i.e. Bagdogra airport in west Bengal and then rent a cab to Gangtok or take a regular bus (which takes around 5 hours to reach Gangtok). For a pocket-friendly trip, you can opt for a train to reach Siliguri station or Jalpaiguri station and then take a cab to Gangtok. To save five hours of exhausting journey, you can also take a helicopter service (from Bagdogra) to reach Gangtok. The helicopter services are subjected to weather conditions.
- Inner Line Permit: Foreigners must obtain Inner Line Permit (ILP) to explore Sikkim. This permit is available in all Indian Missions, Sikkim Tourism Offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, District Magistrates Office of Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Rangpo. The default duration of this permit is 30 days (can be extended for another 30 days).
- Protected Area Permit: Tourists who wish to trek the inner region of the state needs to get Protected Area Permit (PAP) at Gangtok. They can get the permit only if their trekking program is registered with an authentic travel agency. Foreigners are not permitted to visit places like Nathula and Gurudongmar Lake.
Budget travelers can explore Sikkim in 5 days under 10,000 INR including the cost of accommodation and meals. There is no dearth of accommodation to suit all budgets in Gangtok. You can choose to stay in a luxury resort or an affordable hotel, the choices are endless. The state has plenty of food options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
People and Culture
There are three dominant ethnic groups in Sikkim i.e. Nepali, Bhutiyas and Lepchas. All of them have their unique culture and identity with different customs and believes which together has become the culture of Sikkim. Sikkim is a state where Hindu and Buddhist community stays together peacefully. These communities follow their system of belief, practice their faith, and stick to their customs and traditions without any prejudices against other faiths.
Food in Sikkim is heavily influenced by the ones consumed by the local communities especially- nepalese, butias and lepchas. Nonetheless, these famous cuisines are must to gorge upon when on a trip to Sikkim. Fermented food is the main USP of Sikkimese dishes.
- Thukpa: A typical Tibetan noodle soup with meat chunks or vegetables.
- Kinema curry: Fermented soybean fried in spices and usually served with cooked rice.
- Momos: These authentic steamed dumplings with vegetarian and non-vegetarian fillings served with spicy chilli sauce are a must-try dish in Sikkim.
- Sel roti: Round-shaped bread made with fermented rice batter and deep-fried in oil. The roti is served with curry preferably potato or meat.
- Mesu pickle: A tangy pickle made from the fermented bamboo shoot.
- Sishnu: Nettle leaves soup served with cooked rice.
- Chaang: A cereal-based fermented alcoholic drink which is sipped from a bamboo pipe.
Things to do in Sikkim
Sikkim is a heaven for adventure freaks offering numerous sports activities to work up the adrenaline rush. Here are the things you can do to enjoy a memorable stay in this mystical land-
- Paragliding: The view of lofty mountain, snowy peaks, dense forest, lush meadows and glittering streams from 30 feet up in the air is something to experience when travelling Sikkim.
- Cable car ride: To enjoy a bird’s eye view of the picturesque landscape, a cable car ride is the best choice to experience nature’s beauty.
- Yak safari: Add a bit of spice to your trip by opting for Yak safari in Tsomo lake, Dzongri and Chopta valley.
- Trekking: One of the main reasons why this state calls out to travel junkies is trekking. An ideal trekking destination in India, Sikkim has places with serene environment, lofty mountains, gushing waterfalls, steep slopes, exotic flora, flowery meadows and divine trails which are everything a trekker looks for.
- Bunjee jumping: Bunjee jumping is another popular adventure sports in Sikkim to pump your adrenaline to the next level.
- Cave exploring: Sikkim has four holy caves which are a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Located at four cardinal directions of Tashiding (West Sikkim), i.e. Sharchog Beyphug (East), Lho Kando Sangphug (South), Nub Dechenphug (West) and Jhang Lhari Nyingphug (North), these caves are the ones that must be visited by ardent Buddhists once in their lifetime. Apart from these holy caves, there are tons of other caves tourists can explore.
- Helicopter ride: Fly like a bird in the sky with helicopter rides and capture the raw form of nature which is a visual delight in itself.
- River rafting: Rafting in the thunderous rapids of the Teesta river is one-of-a-kind adventure that you mustn’t miss under any circumstances.
- Mountain Biking: Sikkim is a land of bike lovers who wish to explore the ethereal beauty of the land on two wheels. Mountain biking is an enthralling activity to fulfill that. The dramatic terrain of the state makes the experience more challenging and exciting for adventure junkies.
Tourist Places in Sikkim
Sikkim is packed with ample of places that are worth exploring. From small cities to quaint little towns nestled in the mountain, there are places that can bewitch anyone. If you are planning to travel Sikkim sooner, then make sure to add these places to your bucket list for an ultimate adventurous trip.
- Gangtok: This magnificent land of monasteries has a plethora of places to explore. Gangtok is a perfect destination to spend peaceful holidays in the lap of nature and capture the soul of the state. There are tons of great places to shot on your camera. Snow-clad Nathu la pass, Tsomo lake, Kyongnosla alpine sanctuary, Rumtek monastery, Ganesh tok, Hanuman tok and Ban Jhakri falls are some popular tourist attractions in Gangtok.
- Lachen: A small hamlet near Gangtok, Lachen has everything a nature lover desires- Picturesque mountain, pristine air, crystal-clear water, lush green vegetation, and serene atmosphere. The town is also a base to the key Himalayan treks in the state. It’s a place where you can simply bask in everything nature has to offer. If you are tired of populated places and want some “me” time, then Lachen will not disappoint you anytime soon.
- Lachung: A beautiful town lying 120 km away from the state capital is well-known among wanderlusts for amazing landscapes, breathtaking views of cascading waterfalls, gurgling streams, and enriched meadows. It’s an ideal getaway for those seeking solitude and peace away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. Lachung Gompa, zero point, Yumthang valley and Katao valley are must-visit places in here.
- Pelling: A drive to pelling might seem bumpy at first but on reaching the place, you’ll feel blessed to be present here. Pemayangtse monastery, Kanchenjunga Falls and Rimbi Falls are some iconic places you must pay a visit to. From dancing waters, seductive waterfalls, to the cheerful laughter of kids, there is nothing that won’t make your trip a memorable one.
- Namchi: Namchi is a sparsely populated area where you can get the spectacular view of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal. Temi tea estate is one of the popular tourist attractions here where you can spend some time amidst tea garden and sip the soothing tea whilst enjoying the view. Samundragupt hills and Solophok chardhaam are other famous spots worth visiting.
- What to buy: Sikkim gives you ample options for shopping souvenirs for your dear ones like Thangka paintings, prayer wheels, Temi Tea and Churpi, Tibetan crockery items, bamboo artifacts, Lepcha weave bags, Choksee tables,
woollencarpets and blankets embellished with traditional Sikkimese motifs and dyes.
- Festivals to Attend: Khecheopalri Lake Festival, Gangtok Winter Festival, Sikkim International Flower Festival, Namchi Mahotsav, Kanchenjunga Tourist Festival, and Losoong.
- Do not forget to carry warm
woollenclothes as the temperature can drop anytimeeven in summers.
- For adventure sports activities, do not forget to pack the safety gears and essential
- Contrary to popular belief that Sikkim is a Buddhist state, Hinduism and Buddhism are the religions that co-exist and thrive peacefully here.
- Sikkim is among the few states in India that is completely safe for female solo travelers or women in general.