Gangtok is the capital of the Indian state of Sikkim and is also its largest town. It is a charming and picturesque place nestled within the Himalayan range. The town rose to prominence in the 1840s after it was declared a Buddhist pilgrimage site following the construction of the Enchey Monastery. In 1894, the Chogyal or ruler of Sikkim transferred the capital to Gangtok.
Attractions in Gangtok
Gangtok and its surrounding areas offer excellent views of the mountains and valleys and hence, touring around Gangtok is quite popular amongst tourists. The area is blessed with a variety of flora and fauna making it an ideal retreat for nature lovers. Flowers such as rhododendrons and orchids are very common in the region along with animals like the blood pheasant and the red panda. There are also a couple of wildlife sanctuaries nearby such as the Khangchendzonga National Park and the Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary.
Visitors who come to witness the natural beauty of Gangtok will not be disappointed. Tsomgo Lake and Menmecho Lake are two of the most popular lakes in the area although there are many others. Gangtok offers spectacular views of mountains, most famous being the Mt. Khangchendzonga or Kanchenjunga. In case you don’t know, it is the third highest mountain in the world. Tsomgo Lake and Menmecho Lake are two of the most popular lakes in the area, although there are many others. Some of the hot springs that are popular among tourists are the Yume Samdong Hot Spring and the Reshi Hot Spring. They are known for their therapeutic value due to high concentration of sulphur.
Gangtok is the gateway to Yumthang Valley, which is located at a distance of 150 km. Perched at a height of 3,564 m (11,800 ft) above sea level, the valley is home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary that has over 24 species of rhododendron – the state flower.
One of the best things about Gangtok is that, unlike most other towns in the region, it is quite cosmopolitan. MG Marg, the main street in Gangtok, is always bustling with shoppers, diners, and tourists. Gangtok has a decent nightlife as places like the Downtown Resto Bar invite you to gulp a drink or two and enjoy country music. There are also casinos like Casino Sikkim at The Royal Plaza Hotel.
Sightseeing tours in Gangtok, which usually last around half a day, are quite popular.
Accommodation in Gangtok
Gangtok is an important town in the region and there are a number of options available for tourists when it comes to finding accommodation. Budget travelers can find decent accommodations for as low as Rs.1800. Hotel Sagorika and Hotel Saikripa are some of the most sought after options. Those who are willing to spend a little more can choose to stay at the Mayfair Spa Resort & Casino while those looking for a mid-range accommodation should opt for the Netuk House and Hotel Sonam Delek.
Gangtok Location Map
Facts about Gangtok
- Many believe that Gangtok means ‘hilltop’. However, the exact meaning behind the name is not clear.
- After Sikkim was integrated into the Indian Union, Gangtok became India’s 22nd state capital.
- Gangtok is the capital of India’s cleanest state that encourages community-based tourism.
- Its Himalayan wilderness and eco-friendly policies have led to make several accolades.
- Gangtok has a population of over 100,000 people who generally belong to one of the three different ethnicities: Nepali, Bhutia, or Lepchas.
The Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri is the closest airport to Gangtok. It is 126 km away from Gangtok and a little over two hours of drive. There is also a helicopter service from the airport to Gangtok that operates only once a day and carries only four passengers. The Pakyong Airport is the new airport being constructed 13 km (8.1 mi) south of Gangtok.
The nearest railway station to Gangtok is the New Jalpaiguri Station in Siliguri. The station is about 120 km away from the town that calls for a two-hour drive.
The National Highway 31A is the main access point to Gangtok as it connects the city with Siliguri. Cabs are the most common mode of transportation within the city as well as to Siliguri and other neighboring towns.
Best time to visit Gangtok
Gangtok gets really cold in winter and monsoon. Autumn and spring are the best times to visit Gangtok. Spring lasts from March to April while autumn lasts from October to November. Summer (May to June) is also a pretty good time to visit Gangtok.
More about Gangtok
- Smoking in all public areas is not allowed and anti-littering and anti-spitting laws are rigorously enforced.
- Unlike travelers to the neighboring town of Darjeeling, there are certain entry restrictions for foreigners in Sikkim. They will have to carry a Restricted Area Permit or RAP. It is free and can be obtained by furnishing a valid passport and an Indian Visa.
- Certain areas in Sikkim fall under the category of protected areas and foreigners as well as Indians will have to carry a Protected Area Permit or PAP. In certain areas, especially near the border, foreigners are not allowed to enter.
Image credit :Published On: Thursday, April 16th, 2015