The Most Underrated Travel Destination in India: Sikkim
When it comes to travelling in India, there are a lot of popular tourist destinations. If you are a foreigner travelling in India for the first time, make sure to cover the best places. Often travel agencies don't give you the best itinerary. I want to shed some light on travel in Sikkim which is one of the most underrated tourist destination in India. It is one of those places which is still away from the mainstream travel destinations. The nature beauty of Sikkim is still unaltered thus making it an ideal spot for nature enthusiasts.
....by the beginning of 1970 there were rumbling in the political ranks and file of the State, which demanded the removal of Monarchy and the establishment of a democratic setup. Events leading to the confrontation between the Chogyal and the popular Government caused Sikkim to become a full-fledged 22nd state of the Indian Union on 16th may 1975.
- National Informatics Centre, Sikkim
The map of Sikkim
How to reach Sikkim
The best way to reach Sikkim is by taking a flight to 'Bagdogra' airport. There are flights nearly everyday from the main cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore. The cheapest flight can be booked at around 7k INR. The airport is around 125Km from Gangtok
From Bagdogra airport, you can directly head to the counter of Sikkim travel and book a cab for Gangtok which is the capital of Sikkim. Its worthwhile to note that Bagdogra is in West Bengal and not in Sikkim.
In case you want to travel cheap, you can travel from airport to Siliguri in a shared taxi and then take a bus or shared taxi to Gangtok. Please do bear in mind that you will find it hard to find shared taxi, cabs or Buses from Siliguri to Gangtok during evenings/nights or during peak season.
Another mode of travelling to Sikkim is through Indian Railways. 'New Jalpaiguri(NJP)' is the railway station closest to Sikkim which is 148Km from Gangtok. There are a number of trains running from Delhi to NJP. NJP is in West Bengal and you would have to book a taxi from the railway station to Gangtok.
One can also take a flight from Delhi to Kolkata and book an overnight AC bus from Kolkata to Siliguri which take 13 Hours. From Siliguri, you can book a cab or take a Bus to Gangtok.
Once you are in Gangtok
Once you reach Gangtok, you should look for hotels if you haven't already booked one. I would personally suggest you to take a Hotel near 'MG Marg' which is the busiest and most happening place in Gangtok. You can also look for Homestays on Airbnb. All the travel agencies, famous restaurants Pubs etc are located primarily near MG Marg. Keep in mind that there is a lot of rush during the peak season which is from April to June. The best time to visit would be after the rainy season which is from mid August to till November.
After you check in to your hotel, you can take a walk on MG Marg, try out the endemic Sikkim cuisine and grab a glass of beer with your friends. Next day, head to the Sikkim tourism office which located just at the beginning of MG Marg. There you can find Sikkim tourism employees more than eager to help you out to plan your itinerary.
Some pictures that I clicked during my visit
Places to visit
If you want to explore the whole of Sikkim, it would easily take at least 25-30 days or even more. Thus, you would have to plan which part of Sikkim you want to explore during your stay. There are certain thumb rules that you can follow:
- If you are looking for exploring the heritage sites and visiting monasteries, you can opt for west Sikkim. There are places such Pelling and yuksam which are rich in heritage sites.The east Sikkim also offers similar experiences. Places such as Gangtok and Zuluk come under east Sikkim and there are a lot of tourist attractions such as Rumtek Monastery.
- If you are looking for trekking, camping and appreciating the raw beauty of nature, you should cover North Sikkim along with Tsomgo lake and Nathula pass.
Some more information about North Sikkim
There are certain documents that are required before you are allowed to enter North Sikkim, Tsomgo lake and Nathula pass since these areas are close to the disputed zone between India and China. The information regarding the documents can be found in Sikkim tourism office and any travel agencies. It is also available on the official website of Sikkim tourism. If you are not planning to take help of any travel agency for getting the documents made, you should keep in mind that doing all that by yourself can take upto 2 3 days. So it is advised to plan accordingly.
North Sikkim can be broadly divided on the basis of two places: Lachen and Lachung. You would have to put your base in these villages to travel further since there are no hotels further these points. There are a lot of sites to visit near these villages and locals said that it would take at least a week from each place to cover all of those. There are famous places such as Gurudongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley, Zero point which offer spectacular views.
The downside while travelling through a travel agency is that you would have to take up a package of 3 Days/2 nights or 2 Days/ 1 Night. Covering all of the places in such a short duration is quite tedious. It also ruins the pleasure of being close to nature as you always have your driver nagging about the shortage of time.
The best way to travel North Sikkim is to get your documents made all by yourself and travelling by private bike or car.
Famous treks in Sikkim
No. of Days
Green Lake Trek
A word of caution
There are some things you should take care of during your travel to Sikkim.
- If you are not in a good physical condition, you might find it really hard to travel the areas in North Sikkim. The oxygen levels in these areas are generally low and those who have little experience of trekking might find it a bit hard accommodating to the environment.
- If you are sick during your travel, it might pose a big problem. Hospitals in these areas are really hard to find so it would be best to carry your First aid kit and pack some medicines. Individuals with respiratory or heart problems should take extra care.
- The temperature here can go easily go below freezing point even during the day. You should not take the weather of Sikkim lightly. It can change from bright sunny day to overcast with below freezing temperature within a matter of minutes. So choose your clothes properly.
- Finally, do not litter the place and respect the culture and sentiments of the locals.
You can also stay in a monastery. More information about it can be found by asking from the local people. Also, you can start your search for cheap homestays by asking from the driver that dropped you to Gangtok from the airport/railway station. Often these guys are interested in renting out a room for as cheap as 600 INR.
© 2017 Divya Shyam Singh