Nestled in the lower part of the eastern Himalayan ranges, Gangtok is an amazing tourist destination. The hill station, located at an elevation of 1650 meters above sea level, is known for its thrilling view of the majestic Kanjenchunga, the third highest mountain in the world. It houses many attractive sights and captivating locations that lures scores of tourists to the destination every year. The moderate climate may be another factor that persuades tourists.
If you are tired of the heat in the Indian subcontinent, you can enjoy a pleasant trip to this location which will cool your very soul. Apart from the awe-inspiring sight of Kanchenjunga ranges, there are many exquisite locations in Gangtok that will capture your imagination. The glaciers, lakes, and high points in the region are remarkable. Many historic Buddhist monasteries also dot the place making it one of the prominent pilgrim centers of Tibetan-Buddhism.
Gangtok became a center of Buddhist pilgrimage after the construction of Enchey Monastery in 1840. During the reign of the British in India, the place became a major stopover on the trade route between Tibet and Kolkata. Since 1894, the city also served as the capital of Sikkim under the rule of king Thutob Namgyal. The scenic beauty of the mountain ranges and the dense forest started attracting tourists to the place. Now tourism is one of the major industries which provides income to the common people in Gangtok.
Gangtok tourism gives you the opportunity to relish the beauty of Kanchenjunga. The deciduous forest in the region consists of Birch, Oak, Elm, Poplar, rare Orchids, and coniferous trees. Tourists enjoy the visit to Tsogmo lake, Nathu La pass, Zoological park, and Ganesh Tok. The cable car ride is an exciting experience that gives a panoramic view of the steep mountain. Adventure lovers can involve trekking, paragliding, and parachuting. A stroll through the MG road in Gangtok is a great experience. You can do some shopping and enjoy the local cuisines of Gangtok from the cafes. Hence the visit to the tourist destination will be a complete tour package.
Top attractions in Gangtok
This tourist attraction in Gangtok is a small temple located on top of a hill. Dedicated to Lord Ganesh, the temple may be one of the smallest ones that you have seen. It can only fit one person at a time. Nevertheless, the meditative atmosphere created by the enchanting location attracts tourists to it. The colorful flags tied along the stairs, lounge, and balcony make it a great location for tourists. Many visit the place just to enjoy the stunning view of the Kanchenjunga. Hence the place is a must-visit during your visit to Gangtok. But make sure that you visit the spot early morning as it can get crowded later in the day.
Do-drul Chorten is a Tibetan Buddhist monument built in the year 1945. The stupa contains in it a complete set of Dorjee Phurba, Holy books, and other religious objects. You will be enthralled by the massive white structure with 108 prayer wheels around it. The statue of Vajra Kilaya – the most prominent Chorten in Sikkim – is placed on top of the monument. It is believed that the Do-drul Chorten stupa was haunted by evil spirits until Trulshing Rinpoche arrived and exorcised them. Two statues of Guru Rinpoche, Chorten Lakahng, and Guru Lakahng surround the monument. Hence it is one of the most visited places in Gangtok. You can also go to the nearby monastery of young Lamas that houses huge images of Padmasambhava and his different forms.
Cable Car ride
Offering a panoramic view of the Gangtok town, green valley, and the mountains, the cable car ride is an exciting experience. It gives you a bird’s eye view of the landscape. Though the gondola travels at a slow pace, the height at which it moves is enough to excite many. Deorali is the boarding point and Tashiling is the destination with Namnang station in between them. You can choose to ride to and fro or get down at any of the stations. The whole ride is about 1 kilometer long. Do not miss out on the opportunity to see Gangtok from the cable car.
Himalayan Zoological Park
Established in 1991, the Himalayan Zoological Park in the first of its kind in the North-Eastern part of India. It is located at a distance of almost 3 kilometers from the Gangtok town. Spreading over an area of 205 hectares of land, the zoo keeps its animal population in its natural habitat. You can drive slowly through the 2.5 kilometers stretch of road in the park enjoying the views the place offers. But if you love to hike, you surely can take a stroll which will give you more time to get a good look at the species in the area. You can see rare varieties of animals like Snow leopard, Red Panda, Blue Sheep, Yak, Himalayan Thar, Himalayan Leopard, and so on.
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a roof under which the remains of the great Tibetan- Buddhist culture and history is preserved. The center is a research facility of Tibetan Buddhist studies maintained by the NIT. The four golden-domed towers in the corners and large windows of the structure leave no doubt about the influence of the traditional Tibetan architecture. Inside you will find small and large statues of Buddha, mural paintings, and art pieces. The library consists of rare scriptures, literature, and encyclopedia of the Buddhist and Tibetan culture. If you are a history lover, this is a paradise for you.
Nathu La Pass
Connecting Sikkim with China, Nathu La is one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world. It is located at a height of 14450 feet above sea level. The name translates to ‘Listening ears’. Known for its extreme climatic conditions and excellent views, the pass attracts riders and other tourists. The lofty mountains touching the blue sky on either side of the road are marvelous. Tourists are stunned by the incomparable beauty of the scenery from such a height. The Nathu La pass in Gangtok also serves as one of the three open trade border posts between India and China. During winter the area experiences heavy snowfall and temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius. During summer the climate is more comfortable and hence most tourists prefer this time of the year to visit the spot.
Reshi Hot springs
Reshi may be the most famous hot spring in Sikkim, not just because of the strategic location but also the religious significance attributed to it. From ancient times the spring was used for bathing by the pilgrims visiting the Lho Khandeo Sang Phug monastery and cave nearby. A soak in the spring is believed to cure all kinds of skin diseases. The presence of Sulphur in the water may be the reason for this. You can enjoy an adventurous trek in the area and relax with a dip in the hot water in the spring. It will surely be a once in a lifetime experience. So never miss out on this popular tourist spot in Gangtok.
Rumtek is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim. The large construction originally belongs to the Kargyu Buddist sect and is called the Dharma Chakra Center. Perched on top of a hill, the spot provides an excellent view of the Gangtok town. The golden idol and numerous sculptures make the place an interesting location for the visitors. There are also many rare religious scriptures and splendid sculptures in this fine architectural marvel. The building is adorned with intricate mural paintings and statues. You will feel an instant calmness if you care to spend some time in meditation in the huge prayer hall.
A glacial lake located at a height of 12400 feet above sea level, Tsogmo is a great tourist attraction in Gangtok. The placid water body with its deep blue color is located in the Gangtok – Nathu La highway. You will surely enjoy a picnic in the banks of the lake. The water in the lake is famous for its color-changing property. During Monsoon the water assumes aquamarine shade, whereas in winter it freezes into a translucent cover of ice. During summer, Tsogmo reflects the colors of blossoming flowers in its banks and is most beautiful during this time of the year. It is assured that you will be so immersed in the mesmerizing beauty that you will lose track of time.
Tsuklakhang Palace, also known as Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel and Monastery is a Buddhist monastery located in the heart of the Gangtok town. The beautiful structure contains a main assembly hall in the center. This was where the Sikkim royal family held events like coronation, marriages, and victory ceremonies. The monastery has a large depository of Buddhist scriptures and literature. The altar is engraved with mural paintings and divine words of Buddha and other Bodhisattvas. The monastery celebrates many festivals like Phang Lhabsol and Losoong. Tourists flock this spot when the monks perform the famous mask dance called Chaam. Losar is another dance festival that attracts tourists. The serene environment and natural beauty make the monastery a must-visit place in your Gangtok tour.
Best Time To Visit Gangtok
The best time to visit Gangtok is during the autumn and summer seasons. The time between mid- September and December is great as the landscape is adorned with green vegetation and you can also see a clear view of the Kanjenchunga ranges. Summer which falls between March and May is the blooming season of Rhododendron flowers. The pinkish-blue shade of the blossom fills the valley is an ecstatic sight.
Winter in the region is cold. There are many snow adventures during this time of the year. If you are lucky, you may be able to see rare snowfall in the Gangtok valley.
It is better to avoid monsoon which occurs between July to early September. There is a risk of landslide in Gangtok during this time of the year.
How To Reach Gangtok
You need not worry too much about how to reach Gangtok. You can take a flight or train if you want. But we recommend that you drive to the place if you are from the vicinity, or hire a taxi.
- By Air: The nearest airport to Gangtok is Bagdogra in West Bengal. It is almost 124 kilometers away from the destination. You can hire a cab or a shared taxi from the airport and reach the tourist destination in 2 hours. Depending on the weather condition, helicopter service is available from the Bagdogra airport to Gangtok.
- By Rail: The New Jalpaiguri station in Siliguri is the nearest railway station to Gangtok. Taxi services are available from the station to the destination which is 148 kilometers away. You can reach the spot in 3 to 4 hours.
- By Road: There are public transport vehicles from nearby cities to Gangtok. A shared taxi is very common in these areas. If you prefer to drive yourself, you will have a wonderful time. You can reach Gangtok from Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Kolkata. The roads are mostly in good condition. So you need not worry about that.