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Tibetan masked dance

East Sikkim - gorgeous and enchanting. Dominating the snow-capped ranges are the five magnificent peaks of Mount Khanchenjunga, believed to be the 'abode of the Gods.' The mountainous tract that descends southwards from this range was called 'Denzong' or the 'valley of rice' by the Tibetans. This is East Sikkim, where legends thrive amidst the mist and the clouds, where myth and history are woven into a magical tapestry.

The state of Sikkim is divided into four districts named after the four directions, East – West – North and South. The East district is the most populous and the hub of economic, cultural and tourism activity in Sikkim. The total area of the district is 964 square kilometre with a population of about 3 lakh people. Gangtok, the state capital is in this district and the area is the most populous district of Sikkim with a average population of 290 per square kilometre.

Gangtok, the state capital is the tourism hub of the Sikkim. Most tourists spend 2 to 3 nights here. If you intend to visit North Sikkim, you must spend a night at Gangtok each way. Most tourist permits to restricted areas are also issued from here. Tsongo, Baba Mandir and Nathula pass can also be visited from here.

Apart from Gangtok and its surrounding area, the other very interesting yet less travelled circuit here is the Dzuluk – Gnathang valley area. This circuit is also known as Silk route although Wool route would have been a more appropriate name as the route was used to trade woollen products with Tibet. The route starts from Kalimpong in West Bengal and passes through Algarah and Pedong before entering Sikkim at Reshi. From here the silk route passes through Aritar, Rongli, Dzuluk, Gnathan valley to reach Jelep La, a pass which connects India with Chinese Tibet.

Due to its high importance from military point of view, the area beyond Rongli is restricted for tourist movement. However special tourist permits are now being issued for tourists to visit this area. Apart from unmatched natural beauty of high mountains, the area is also significant from historic point of view.

The district is also most well connected and offers the best tourism infrastructure in the state. The state capital offers the widest choice of hotels. There is a airbase where regular helicopter flights from Bagdogra to here. The National Highway 31A is the lifeline for road transport to Sikkim and it passes through the middle of the district.

Gangtok- The picturesque and beautiful Gangtok is the most prominent town in East Sikkim and also the State Capital. Buddhists prayer chants resounding from a distance, the pagoda-roofed houses and the numerous prayer flags give the city its characteristic feel. But Gangtok is no longer the sleepy hill town it once used to be. It is now a busy, commercially active and culturally vibrant tourism centre. Gangtok, with its multiethnic populace of Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis is like a fascinating microcosm of the state itself. It is a city where the traditional and the modern coexist in a harmonious blend of culture and practices.

Nathula – There are a number of passes that connect Sikkim with Tibet. Nathula and Jelepla (la meaning mountain pass in Tibetan) are the most famous ones. The Nathula boarder can be visited by tourists as part of day sightseeing from Gangtok. Overnight stay near Nathula is not possible.

Changu Lake – at 12,200 feet, Tsongo or Changu lake is another famous tourist attraction of East Sikkim. Tourists combine visit to Changu Lake, Babamandir and Nathula together as these destinations are nearer to one another.

Baba Mandir – Legendary Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple is located at 13000 feet and 10 kms ahead of Changu Lake. This is the new Temple and the original one is further about 15 kms away close to Tukla. Most tourists visit the new Temple and pay their respect to Baba.

Rumtek Monastery – It is one of the most important monasteries for Buddhist throughout the world and is situated in East Sikkim about 24 kilometres from Gangtok town. Most tourists visit Rumket as part of a day sightseeing tour. However there are tourist-accommodations available in the vicinity of the Monastery and more culturally inclined travellers may stay near the monastery as well.

Aritar is a new and upcoming tourist destination of East Sikkim. It is located close to Bengal – Sikkim boarder. From the Sikkim boarder check post at Rongpo, Aritar is an hour drive. Tourists visiting Zuluk area also often spends a night here before going to the higher altitudes.

Zuluk – is a relatively new tourist destination. The small village of Zuluk is the base from which tourists can visit some very interesting tourist destinations such as Nathang Valley, Tukla, Memenchu Lake, Jelepla etc. Restricted area permits are required to visit this area.

Map of East Sikkim

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