Gangtok means "hill top" and the little capital of Sikkim is perched at 5,500 feet, high on the ridge of a valley. It is snuggled between the borders of Nepal and Bhutan at an altitude of 1547 m above sea level, and is famous for its numerous important monasteries and picturesque Himalayan views.
Gangtok Tourism takes one to a beautiful hilly town, that spreads the western side of a long ridge flanking the Ranipul River, and houses some of the most important Buddhist religious sites in India. The entire Kanchenjunga range is visible from the town and locals worship the range as a deity. It is a quaint mix of the old and the new, of modern structures and ancient Buddhist monuments, of bustling commercial centers and quiet monasteries emanating an aura of spirituality. Travel to Gangtok, which is also famous for its wonderful orchids and every spring, an orchid festival and flower show, is held to celebrate this exotic bloom. The Kanchendzonga is visible from many parts of the town. Book from a range of Gangtok Tour Packages, for an ultimate and unique travel experience.
Tourist Attractions in Gangtok
The Namgyal Institute has world's largest collections of books and rare manuscripts on Mahayana Buddhism, in addition to the works of art and silk embroidered Thangkas. It was built in a traditional style in 1958 to promote research in Mahayana Buddhism and Tibetan language and traditions. It also houses relics of monks, samples of Lepcha scripts, masks and sacred objects like Kapali, a bowl made from a human skull, and carku, a flute made from a thigh bone.
Do Drul Chorten
The Do Drul Chorten is regarded as the most important 'stupa' of Sikkim. This highly revered Chorten has a sacred gold-topped shikhara with 108 prayer wheels, and is characterised by complete sets of Holy Books, mantrasand other religious objects. The Chorten also has two huge statues of Guru Rimpoche around it.
Just outside the Institute of Tibetology, this Orchid Sanctuary is famous for its rare and extensive collection of orchids. Out of 454 species of orchids, about 200 species are found in Sikkim. Apart from orchids, 40 species of rhododendron also are found in the sanctuary. During the blooming season, this place is a major haunt for nature lovers.
The Tashi Ling monastery is known for its 'Bumchu' or Sacred Pot that contains holy water and has never run dry in the last 300 years. It offers beautiful views of the Himalayas, as well as the Phodong and the Labrang monasteries located on the opposite hill. It has a scenery makes it a wonderful picnic spot.
Tsuk la Khang
Tsuk la Khang is the main worshiping place for the local Buddhists. It also has a large collection of scriptures, and is characterized by beautiful mural covered interiors, lavishly decorated altars or images of Buddha, bodhisattvas and Tantric deities. It remains open for the general public and tourists during Losar, the famous dance festival.
Literally meaning the Solitary Temple, Enchey monastery belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. Blessed by Lama Drupthob Karpo, it is worth visiting during the religious dances or 'Chaam' performed in January.
Excursions in Gangtok
You could visit some of the interesting places such as the Rumtek Monastery or Phodong Monastery that lie close by.
The Rumtek monastery is Located at a distance of about 24 kilometres from Gangtok. It is an ancient structure that was built in 1717, and resurrected later in 1960. Inside, one will find murals, Tibetan paintings, Thangkas and frescoes. It is also the largest monastery in Sikkim.
The Phodong Monastery is located at a distance of 28 kilometres North of Sikkim. It is regarded as the most beautiful monastery of Sikkim, and is home to around 260 monks and some old mural paintings.
Tsongo or Changu Lake
The Tsongo or Changu Lake is located about 35 km towards the northeast of Gangtok, and for a visit to it, tourists need to take special permits. It makes for a good picnic spot.
Festivals in Gangtok
Gangtok being the capital city of Sikkim showers the vibrancy of the festivals in a way that leaves a lifetime impression on mind. The following festivals are the best in the city:
Flower Festival (March): An Orchid Display calls for competitions in various sections inside a big glass house in the White Hall Complex. The festival is visited by foreigners as well as locals alike.
Saga Dawa (May-June): The Buddhist pageant is celebrated in the monasteries as people light butter lamps and make offering to the Buddha. Monks take out a huge procession while carrying Holy Scriptures.
Phang Lhabsol (August): The festival is an honour to the great Mount Khangchendzonga, the guardian deity and supreme commander of Sikkim.
Dasain (September-October): Significant for both Hindus and Nepalis, this is the puja of Goddess Durga from the first day till the ninth day. It celebrates Her triumph over evil. On the tenth day, elders apply 'tika' to the young ones and also bless them. Next day Goddess Durga is taken for immersion with a huge procession.
Gangtok Festival (December): Organised by the tourism department, it is a food and cultural festival that include traditional performances, music and food stalls.
Best Time to Visit
Peak season for tourism in Gangtok is between September to June, when it draws many tourists. September and October is autumn March to June from Spring to summers is just the ideal time. Monsoon (mid June to mid September) should be avoided because of landslides, which can be devastating.
How to Reach Gangtok
By Air: Bagdogra airport in Darjeeling district is 124 kms away from Gangtok. From the airport, shared taxi or can be hired. TSA helicopter is also available, which takes 20 mins to reach Gangtok.
By Rail: New Jalpaiguri Station in Siliguri is nearest to Gangtok at 148 kms. From here taxi/cab/state run buses are available.
By Road: Taxi and cab facilities are available from Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kolkata. Buses are also easily available for Gangtok to go to Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
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