Sikkim is the smallest and the least populous state of India and lies in the Eastern Himalayas.
It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful state in the country. I was fortunate to visit this state on number of occasions. The natural beauty of the place and the simplicity of the populace keeps pulling me back again and again.
I will cover Sikkim in two parts. In part I will dwell on the South, West and the Eastern districts and the part II will be dedicated to the beautiful North and the North East part. Each district of Sikkim is different from the other but as beautiful.
The kingdom of Sikkim was founded by the Namgyal dynasty in the 17th century. It became a princely state of British India in 1890. It continued its protectorate status after India achieved independence in 1947. Sikkim joined India as the 22nd state in 1975. It is a multi-ethnic and multilingual state with Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. It is the first state to converts its agriculture to fully organic.
The state of Sikkim is characterised mountainous terrain with an elevation ranging 280 metres in the south to 8586 metres near Nepal. It has many beautiful lakes like Gurudongmar, in the North and Tsomgo and Menmoicho is the East.
Flaura and Fauna….
Sikkim has a diverse range of flora and fauna. Nearly 80 percent of the land is forested. The state has around 5000 species of flowering plants. 500 plus rare orchids and nearly 36 rhododendron species amongst variety of other plants. The ‘Noble Dendrobium’ is the state flower.
The fauna includes snow leopard, musk deer, Himalayan goral and many other animals and more than 500 species of birds. Nearly 700 species of butterflies are found in the state.
South, West and the East Sikkim…..
The average altitude of south Sikkim ranges between 400 to 2000m. It is lavishly green with large agricultural fields. Namchi, the Headquarter of the district is located at an elevation of 5500 ft and provides a visitor a commanding view of the awesome snow-capped mountains and green valleys. The important places are Samdrupte hill having a giant statue of Guru Padnasambhava and also offers a beautiful view of Kanchendzonga. The Chardham at Namchi boasts of 26 ft high statue of Lord Shiva and one is privileged to get the darshan (view) of 12 Jyotirlingas and the Chardhams (four holy places) which have been reproduced here.
One the best views of the mighty Kanchendzonga I got was from Rawangla located at an altitude of 8000 ft about 65 kms from Gangtok. The place has stretch of lovely tea gardens. The important places to visit include the Buddha Park, Ralang monastery and the Temi tea gardens.
The natural beauty of Pelling, Yuksom, Yangtse pulls the tourists to these places. There are some beautiful monasteries and Rhododendron sanctuaries adding to the beauty.
East Sikkim is characterised by high lofty snow-capped mountains of the Eastern Himalayas. Important places from tourist point of view are the Tsomgo lake, the Nathula pass and the Harbhajan baba Mandir. The old silk route passes through Nathula and now the route to Mansarovar has been opened through this pass. The tourists have to be careful in this area as the altitude suddenly rises from 5400 ft in Gangtok to nearly 14000 ft at Nathula just in a matter of 2 hours drive. Nathula is the nearest the tourists are permitted to come anywhere on the Indo-china border.
Among other places of tourist interests are Rumtek monastery and orchid park at Gangtok which the tourists should not miss.
The nearest airport is located 120 kms away Bagdogra and the railway station is nearly 140 kms at New Jalpaiguri. One can travel by taxi from airport / taxi to Gangtok. The road is good and the drive should not last more than three hours.
Helicopter services are available from Bagdogra airport to gangtok. However, these are often disturbed due to bad weather. An airport has come up at Gangtok but at present it is not functional due to technical reasons.
The hill stations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong lie on the way to Gangtok. A trip to these twin hill stations can be clubbed with a tour of Sikkim.
Please enjoy this small video of pictures taken by me through my mobile during my last couple of visits.