The state capital situated in East Sikkim is a sizzling modern town, perched on a ridge at a height of 5300 ft. Being the capital of Sikkim and set amidst the typical Himalayan landscape, Gangtok is the prime tourism destination in the state. The identity of this town is largely depended upon natural beauty and ethnic people, which combine with the modern city life.
The cool and calm lifestyle of Sikkimese, the monasteries and the enormous Kunchenjunga have always attracted the tourists from all over India as well as from other countries. The scenic beauty of the town is spectacular. There is excellent view of the entire Kanchanjangha snow range from many points of the city. Within the city and its immediate environs are some fascinating places to visit. Rich with culture and natural beauties these places are the prime tourism attractions for the traveler.
Gangtok combines tradition with modernity. It is one of the few hilly towns in the region that can boost of a Casino and Discotheque, yet the traditional Rumtek monastery, one of the most important monasteries for Buddhists, is also located here.
Things to buy
Shopping is a prime attraction in Gangtok. The most favoured shopping destination is perhaps the government run handicraft centre. There is a cottage industry cum training centre cum selling counter, which is a specialist in making of Tibetan handicrafts like carpets, blankets, shawls, masks and other traditional crafts. There are several private shops selling traditional souvenir for the tourists including Thanka paintings, Tibetan masks and other such items.
Due to its altitude Gangtok enjoys a neither-hot-nor-too-cold climate throughout the year. The temperature rarely rises above 25 degrees centigrade in the summer. The winter can be cold and the temperature may get close to freezing point, but snow fall does not take place in the main town but on its upper ridges occasional snowfalls may occur during December to February. The monsoon arrives in the region in mid July and continues till mid September.
Gangtok can be visited throughout the year. You should be carrying light woollen during summer and heavy woollen during winter months. If your tour includes visit to North Sikkim or high altitude sightseeing from Gangtok such as Nathual Pass, you should be carrying heavy woollen even during the summer months, as snow fall in these places may occur even during summer months. No matter which time of the year you are travelling, carrying an umbrella is a safe bet as rain in the hills is quite unpredictable.
Gangtok has the best tourism infrastructure in the state including some very good hotels. The people of the town are also largely dependent on tourism. A number of good hotels are available to cater to the increasing demand of tourists. Many of them luxuriously built and decorated and offer services which is a mixture of traditional hospitality and modern professionalism. Most of the hotels have their own restaurant serving local, Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisine.
There are also a number of good food counters and bar around, where all types of packed and cooked food are available. Sikkim is a heaven for the wine lovers. Gangtok, being a capital town, holds the maximum number of bar counters, where all types of drinks are available at a relatively cheaper price, due to lesser govt tax compared to neighboring states.
Gangtok is also the transport hub of the state. There are several taxi stands all over the town catering to people travelling to different destinations. Inside the town, tourist taxi vehicles are not allowed to ply to reduce congestion. There are smaller Maruti Van taxis available for travelling within the town.
The Deorali mainline taxi stand caters to people travelling to Bengal, West or South Sikkim. On the North of the town a separate taxi stands take tourists to North Sikkim. There are other stands in the town of relatively lesser importance.
Tourist Attractions in Gangtok
There are a number of scenic places in and around Gangtok with natural, historical and religious value. This makes Gangtok the most popular tourist destination of Sikkim
Tashi View Point: The viewpoint is situated at a distance of 6 kilometers from Gangtok on the way to North Sikkim. The viewpoint offers excellent views of Mt. Kunchenjunga and Mt. Siniolchu. Tourists generally come here in the early morning to experience the exotic scenes of the mountains. The viewpoint was named after Tashi Namgyal, the King of Sikkim.
Deer Park: Rustomji Park or Deer Park is where you can see the rare species of animals of the Himalayas like red pandas, Himalayan bears etc. The big statue of Lord Buddha at the entrance and the eternal butter lamp speaks about the noble truths of life. The rich collections of flora and fauna enhances the beauty of the park. The view of mountains surrounding the town is an added attraction for the tourists.
Himalayan Zoological Park: Spreaded over an area of 205 hectares,the Himalayan Zoological Park is a nice place for watching the Red pandas, barking and spotted dears. The place is also known as Bulbulay.
Hanuman Tok: This is a Hindu Temple where everyday a number of devotees come to offer their prayer. The temple, situated at a distance of 11 kilometers from the Gangtok town, offers beautiful spectacle of the mountains down the horizon in the sunny morning. The place is also noted for observing Sunrise over the mountain.
Ganesh Tok: This is also a place of worship for the Hindus. The scene of the entire Gangtok town is one of the main attractions of this temple. The temple is situated at a distance of 8 kilometers from the town.
Saramsa Garden: This is a Park situated on the Ranipul River bank about 14 kilometers from Gangtok. The Department of Forest looks after this garden, which is the collection center of different types of orchids and rare plants found in Sikkim. The garden is also known as a picnic spot and a place of recreation.
Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology (NRIT): This is probably India's most famous and important center of study on Buddhism. The statues and Thankas (Tapestries used in Buddhist liturgy), which are stored here have a great importance both from the religious and historic point of view. One can spot about 200 Buddhist icons and other prized objects of art. In this institute there is a great collection of manuscripts on the philosophies of Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit.
Orchid sanctuary & Flower Exhibition Center: In the Flower Show Venue the flower exhibition is held round the year. This is situated near the White Hall Complex. This is a 'must visit' place for the orchid lovers. The center has an astounding collection of more than 450 species of rare and endangered orchids available in the Himalayas. The best time to visit the sanctuary is April-May when the flowers are in full bloom.
Enchey Monastery: Situated above the Gangtok town the Enchey Monastery is well worth a visit. Lama Drupthob Karpo first built the monastery 200 years ago. The existing monastery was built during the reign of the Sidyong Tulku in 1910. The shape of the monastery is like a Chinese pagoda. There are about 90 monks in the monastery and they follow the Nyingma Order. The Cham is an annual festival of this monastery and it can be seen in the month of January. To preserve the beauty of the monastery the Government has imposed restrictions for any constructions near the monastery.
The capital town can be conveniently reached through National Highway 31A from Siliguri, in West Bengal. The distance from Siliguri is about 120 kms and takes about 4.5 to 5 hours. The nearest railhead is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) that connects all the important Indian cities by regular train service and the Bagdogra Airport having several daily flights to different parts of India and abroad is 12 kms from Siliguri town.
There are helicopter service connecting Bagdogra airport to Gangtok. The service is available throughout the year but is not very regular.