Gangtok

Gangtok, the “Lofty Hill” or the “Hill made flat to build the Gangtok monastery in 1716″. Gangtok is a city, which, till one sees it, one would believe exists only in picture-story books. In the mystery-laden mists prayer flags whip in the breeze; wheels spin in the hands of Lamas mumbling invocations to God, in the distance are the snows, on the streets amidst brightly painted pagoda roofed houses, lined with friendly smiling people are silver, silk and spice and jewellery to gladden an maiden’s heart, from across the seven seas are gadget and goods to delight the collector of “imported goods’, while directly overlooking the city is the hill Lukshyma, the ‘Mother of Pearl’ citadel of the magic mountain, Khang-Chen-Dzod-Nga.

An air of enchantment hangs over the city, indeed the whole valley; the mysticism, the stupas, the monasteries reach out as soon as one has crossed the border. While across the hills and valleys comes the sounding of the long trumpets by robed lamas.

Prime Attractions of Gangtok

Deer Park
Adjacent to the new secretariat and also called the Rustomji Park named after one of the Dewans of the Chogyal of Sikkim, the park has a big open enclosure in which animals native to Sikkim like the red panda and the Himalayan Bear are kept. A big statue of Lord Buddha commemorating his preachings of the noble truths in the Deer Park at Sarnath adorns the park premises. A butter lamp perpetually burns in front of the statue, which is surrounded with flowers of exotic variety. The park commands a fantastic view of the hills, surrounding Gangtok.

Dul-Dul Chorten
Duddul Chortenat Dotapu Chorten, Gangtok was built under the supervision of the late Most Venerable Trulshi Rinpoche after due preparations in 1945-46, in accordance with the prophecy made in 1944 by the Holiness the Dud-Zom Rinpoche.

Government Institute Of Cottage Industries
This institute is located at about half a kilometre uphill from the main market of Gangtok. It was established with the purpose of promoting the manufacture and sale of local handicrafts. Thankas (also spelt as Thangkas), hand carved wooden tables – known as Choksees and exquisitely woven woolen carpets. More than hundred student workers turn out cottage crafts produced here, with textures, plush and exotic, the designs varying from sophisticated simplicity to a brilliant riot of varmillion pitted against intense blue, are durable and popular all over the world second to carpets in popularity is Sikkimese Tankhas, variegated appliqué work Batiks and exquisite dolls, in wood-work are available intricately carved Sikkimese tables, hand-painted masks, lamp-stands, shades and bamboo-craft. Esoteric masks, flashing silks, opulent brocades and embroidered boots, clothe the Sikkimese dancers.

Kabi Longstok
25-km from Gangtok, just before Phodong is Kabi Longstok. There is a spot amidst tall trees, where the treaty of brotherhood between, the Lepcha Chieftan – Tetong Tek and the Tibetan chief Khye Bhumsa was signed.

Kangchendzonga National Park
Crossing a check gate where visitors entry permits was checked, one enters the Kangchendzonga National Park. The climb is gradual but very interesting as soon one is greeted by snow, lying white and pristine over the green forest floor and covering a few treetops. The jagged, rocky slopes to our left glistened in the sunlight at places forming glaciers where the gradient was right. The mountains to our right were covered with dark green pines; the snow line being much higher.

Kechopari Lake
On bifurcation road between Gyalsing and Yoksum, is clear water Kechopari Lake (means – wishing lake). All around are mountains with dense forests and wild life. It is so placid, crystal clear that not a leaf can be seen floating over it, because it is immediately lifted by birds.

Labrang Monastery
A kilometre further from Phodong, the Labrang monastery was built about 100 years later. This monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the same as that of Pemayangtse monastery in West Sikkim. Its name translates simply as the dwelling place of the Lamas (monks).

Lachung
The road from Chungthang toward Lachung takes one into another world. This is the area inhabited by the Lachungpas, a hardy mountain people who consider themselves quite different from the Bhutias and the Tibetans. The lush green, terraced hillsides, even in winter, were a testimony to the grit and determination of these people. Lachung is the last habitation on the road to Yumthang a monastery; hidden high on the hillside overlooked a settlement of Lachungpas and barracks of the Indian army. The mountains on the other side of the valley rose up to snowy heights. In the distance, one could see the impressions of a track that was once used by traders to cross over from Tibet with their mules laden with Chinese silk.

Pemayangtse Monastery
Around 6-km from Gyalsing town, this monastery originally built as a small temple in the last of 17th century by Latsun Chempo, later rebuilt the temple structure into a monastery.

Phurchachu Reshi Hot Springs
Around 25-km from Gyalsing, near Reshi, after crossing Rangeet River (also spelt as Ranjit) by a pedestrian bridge, hardly ten minutes from the highway is Phurchachu springs with medicinal properties, ideal for skim diseases. These springs are considered holy as one of the four holy caves is located here. This holy cave is called the “Kadosangphu” or ‘Cave of the occult fairies’ and lies on the south of the four cardinal points.

Research Institute of Tibetology
In the serene surrounding amidst forest of oak, ash and birch is an organisation to advance the Tibetan language and its literature on the “Enlightened one”, the only one of its kind in the world of Mahayana Buddhism. Ornate woodcarvings and murals decorate the lavishly decorated interior.

Rumtek Monastery
A 24-km drive from Gangtok, through the beautiful, bewitching countryside leads one to Rumtek. Rumtek, is the seat of the Karmapa Lama who heads the Kagyupa Sect of Buddhism.

Tasuklakhang – The Royal Chapel
The Royal Chapel, Tsuklakhang, is within the palace grounds. Popularly called Tsulakhang Royal. It is the principal place of worship and assembly and the repository of a vast collection of Buddhist scriptures.

The Ridge
The ridge is a small stretch of plain and flat road above the town of Gangtok. It is just about five minutes walk from the main market. The ridge has the white hall and the chief minister’s official residence on one end and the beautifully designed palace gate on the other. The ridge is lined with plants and trees when in bloom are a riot of colours. Flower shows, which attract tourists from all over the world are held just below the ridge.

Tsomgo Lake
Tsomgo literally means “Source of the Lake ” in Bhutia language. ‘ TSO’ means lake and ‘ MGO’ means head. At about 40-km away from Gangtok, this serene and holy lake is situated at an altitude of 12,400 ft on the Gangtok – Nathu La highway.

White Hall
It was built in 1932 in memory of the first political officer of Sikkim, Claude White. There is an Officers Club and a Badminton Court in the white hall.

Yaksey
Yaksey, a tourist lodge, 6-km from Lachung towards Yumthang is an ideal place for tourists to this area. Another 23-km leads to Yumey-Samdong hot springs near river Sebu-Chu at the foot of Donkia-La pass, which connects Lachung valley to Lachen valley.

Excursions from Gangtok

Changu Lake(35Km.)

With an average depth of 50 ft, this lake is situated 35 km from Gangtok at an altitude of 12,000 ft on the Gangtok – Nathu-la highway. Recently this lake has been opened for tourists. Its cool, placid water is in the perfect harmony with the scenic beauty around. A small temple of Lord Shiva is constructed on the lakeside. Primulae flowers and other alpine vegetation grow wild around the lake. The department of Tourism conducts package tours to this lake. Cameras are not allowed to carry on this route. A little distance from the lake is a beautiful natural three storeyed cave, the Tseten Tashi cave is a worth to visit.

Chungthang(95Km.)
Another typical called “Tung” and then one will reach Chungthang. Chungthang is a small habitation in a cup like valley, surrounded on all sides by towering hills. Though its altitude is only 500 ft, it is much colder than Mangam. The heavy, cold air remains slumbering in he valley till late morning. It is only when the sun is high up in the horizon and its warm rays pierce deep into the valley that the lazy, cold wind and mist slowly depart. The main importance of this place is that it is at the confluence of two valleys and two main rivers of north Sikkim: the Lachung Cho and the Lachen Cho, the latter commonly known as the Teesta. We would be following the Lachung Cho for the next part of the journey. To the Sikkimese and the members of the Indian Army, Chungthang is a place of major religious significance. The Sikkimese believe that guru Padmasabhava had rested in this place and left three footprints for his devotees on a solid piece of rock. The guru also scattered some rice on an adjacent land, where till today, notwithstanding the height and the cold, paddy is grown efforts to replicate this phenomenon in adjacent fields have reportedly failed The Sikh members of the Indian army believe that the footprints are those of Guru Nanak and so also are the main figures in the wall paintings inside the nearby monastery.

Ganesh Tok(7Km.)
It is situated on a ridge and is only 7-km from Gangtok. From this spot one gets birds view of sprawling Gangtok town down below while across the hills Mt. Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu loom over the horizon. A cafeteria serves hot tea/coffee and snacks.

Hanuman Tok(11Km.)
It is 11-km from Gangtok town, above Ganesh Tok with a Hindu temple where the devotees come and offer prayers.

Kabi Longstok(25Km.)
25-km from Gangtok, just before Phodong is Kabi Longstok. There is a spot amidst tall trees, where the treaty of brotherhood between, the Lepcha Chieftan – Tetong Tek and the Tibetan chief Khye Bhumsa was signed.

Menmecho Lake (20Km.)
Menmecho Lake lies 20-km ahead of Changu Lake, cradled between the mountains below Jelapla Pass, is the source of River Ranpochu, which meets Teesta at Rangpo. It is rich in trout. A Dak Bungalow and a tourist lodge are available for overnight stay.

Phoodong Monastery (40Km.)
This monastery is located about a kilometre above the North Sikkim Highway about 40-km away from Gangtok. Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal built the monastery sometime in the first quarter of the 18th century.

Tashi View Point (8Km.)
Situated along the North Sikkim highway it is only 8-km from Gangtok. From this point one can get a breathtaking view of Mount Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu, one of the most graceful peaks in the world.

The Ipecac Garden (14Km.)
This 6 acres garden is about 14-km downhill from Gangtok and 2-km from Ranipul. It is named after the plant Ipecac that is grown here. Besides this plant, it also contains a wide variety of other flora including numerous types of orchids and medicinal plants. It is a very good picnic spot with a swimming pool nearby.

Yumthang (149Km.)
Yumthang is a valley at 12,000 ft. Its location is awesome. Nature is at her expressive best. Snow clad mountains all around looking down on this high valley full of colour. The valley floor is covered with wild, yellow flowers and violet Primulas, while the hill sides are vivid and glowing with multicoloured Rhododendrons. The best part about travelling in Sikkim is that even while one is travelling one is actually passing through beautiful places. Each place could be the destination for a lovely ethereal holiday.

Yumthang Hot Springs (135Km.)
At an altitude of 12,000 ft, 135-km from Gangtok in north Sikkim, a few hundred metres off the road, after crossing river Lachung over a pedestrian bridge lies these Sulphur springs. There is a hut with two pools for bathing.

Significance – Gangtok

Capital Of Sikkim.

Leisure – Gangtok

Shopping
The main markets for shopping are Old market, New Market and Lal market. Here one finds shops of all kind, which offer good range of items to be purchased. For tourists there are many attractive items to be bought as carved furniture, the dresses, Lepcha weave bags, Carpets & Durries with intricate designs and colourful decorations. One can also buy wooden and bamboo artifacts. For a collector of handmade decorative pieces Gangtok is a paradise. The items from Gangtok leave a long lasting impression on the mind of the visitor. The Hindi speaking Marwaris dominates many of the shops in the Gangtok market.
The handicraft and handloom directorate office and the showroom are on crossing of MG Marg and New market. The Gramin Vikas Agency showroom is also located here. In these showrooms one can buy carpets, masks, bright Choktse tables, Thanka hangings.

By Air
The closest airport is at Bagdogra, which is 124-km from Gangtok (about 4 hours drive) and connected by air with all-important Indian Metros. For all further details please contact any one of the Sikkim tourism offices.

By Rail
The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri, which is 125-km (about 4 hours drive) from Gangtok. NJP is well connected with all major cities of India. Gangtok, railway bookings can be made at the booking counter of the Sikkim nationalised transport terminus.

By Road
Gangtok is connected with Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri by the national highway 31 A. the Sikkim nationalised transport plies regular bus services between Gangtok and Siliguri and within Sikkim. Private buses, jeeps and taxis are also available from Siliguri and Bagdogra. Bookings can be made at the SNT terminus, Siliguri.

Places To Stay – Gangtok

Gangtok has quite good hotels for a comfortable stay. There are youth hostels and various lodges, which give tourists a comfortable stay in Gangtok.

General Information – Gangtok

Indian tourists require no entry permits into Sikkim, except for the restricted areas. Foreign tourists require a special permit, which is easily available at all Indian missions abroad who are authorised to issue a 15-day permit. The same can also be obtained from any of the Sikkim Tourism offices. The tourism officer at the border town of Rangpo is also authorised to issue a 2-day permit to foreign tourists to enable them to enter the state and acquire the full 15-day permit.

By Air
The closest airport is at Bagdogra, which is 124-km from Gangtok (about 4 hours drive) and connected by air with all-important Indian Metros. For all further details please contact any one of the Sikkim tourism offices.

By Rail
The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri, which is 125-km (about 4 hours drive) from Gangtok. NJP is well connected with all major cities of India. Gangtok, railway bookings can be made at the booking counter of the Sikkim nationalised transport terminus.

By Road
Gangtok is connected with Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri by the national highway 31 A. the Sikkim nationalised transport plies regular bus services between Gangtok and Siliguri and within Sikkim. Private buses, jeeps and taxis are also available from Siliguri and Bagdogra. Bookings can be made at the SNT terminus, Siliguri.

Places To Stay – Gangtok

Gangtok has quite good hotels for a comfortable stay. There are youth hostels and various lodges, which give tourists a comfortable stay in Gangtok.

General Information – Gangtok

Indian tourists require no entry permits into Sikkim, except for the restricted areas. Foreign tourists require a special permit, which is easily available at all Indian missions abroad who are authorised to issue a 15-day permit. The same can also be obtained from any of the Sikkim Tourism offices. The tourism officer at the border town of Rangpo is also authorised to issue a 2-day permit to foreign tourists to enable them to enter the state and acquire the full 15-day permit.

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