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Gangtok being the capital of the Himalayan state of Sikkim is also a very attractive tourist destination, along with Darjeeling. Like Sikkim, not much is known about Gangtok’s history, and was a small town not known to many until the construction of the Enchey monastery. this proved to be a turning point as the monastery became a point of pilgrimage for the adjacent states.
It is said that the protecting deities of the adjacent areas- Kanchenjunga and Yabdean reside in the monastery. Gangtok is famous for Tibetian carpets and handicraft items. Sikkim is also famous for tea, hence trying out different types of teas at the local vendors could be a plan for a perfect relaxing evening here.
Gangtok is mostly travelled along with a visit to Darjeeling, which is nearly 4-5 hours drive from Gangtok. The best way to reach Gangtok is via train till Siliguri or Jalpaiguri station, or a flight to Bagdogra airport and further hiring a taxi which could cost somewhere between Rs2500-3500 approx
There is not much difference in the food, culture, language and weather between Darjeeling and Gangtok. To know more about it, read my blog: Travel Guide: Darjeeling
How we reached Gangtok
As we were travelling from Darjeeling, it took us almost 4-5 hours to reach Gangtok and it costed us around 2200 for a 7+1 seater taxi.
Stay options in Gangtok
We hadn’t pre booked the hotel as we did not honestly get time to. We were supposed to do it while in Darjeeling but we got so engrossed in the beauty of the city that we literally forgot to book the hotel. The Driver dropped us at the taxi stand, and not more than 15 mins further we found a hotel. Hotels are pretty much easily available in Gangtok.
Hostels are also easily available at cheaper prices. You could check any online website for few names. Resorts are also available but remember to stay close by MG road, so that you could spend your evenings strolling around, and the taxi stand is also at a walkable distance.
Top Attractions in Gangtok
We booked a taxi from the taxi stand to visit the shrine and the lake at Rs 4000, again a 7+1 seater jeep as we had combined plans with the same Travellers from Darjeeling. As we were here in December, it had snowed and the Nahula pass wasn’t accessible. The taxi cost for all three- the Shrine, Lake and Nathula pass is around Rs. 5500.
Nathula pass is also called as the silk route through which silk used to be traded between India and Tibet. Indo-China fenced border is also a few meters away. This place also has a stone engraved Nehru stone marking the former PM visit of Jawaharlal Nehru back in 1958. After 44 years of closure, the Silk Route reopened in 2006 allowing limited trade between India and Tibet.
Nathula pass may not be accessible in Winters due to heavy snowfall. There could be road blocks and traffics on most other days. You would need a government permit to visit here. Due to its location, being around the Indo Chinese border, this place is closed for visitors on Mondays and Tuesdays for security purpose.
You would need one ID proof (Aadhar card won’t work here) and 2 passport sized photographs for the permits. You could visit any tour agency to obtain this pass, or you could also ask your taxi driver who could help you obtain a permit. It may cost around 200/person. You can also pre-book it from the website below: http://www.sikkimstdc.com/ProtectedResources/Booking/Booking.aspx
Foreign nationals are not allowed to visit here due to border security reasons.
Baba Harbhajan Shrine and Shiva temple
This shrine is not architecturally appealing, it is only a simply built Shrine, but has great importance due to its history. Captain Harbhajan Singh was an Indian Army soldier who went missing during the Indo- China war. It is also believed that he is the one who lead other soldiers to his body. This shrine is dedicated to him after he appeared in few soldier’s dream asking them to build his shrine.
The local people here believe that Baba’s spirit protects every soldier in the Eastern Himalayan region. He is said to be protecting our country in mysterious ways even after his death, as it is said that if a dead soldier’s soul guards the country, all the attacks are foreseen. He is also believed to grant favors to those who worship him.
This place also has a semi frozen water fall which is very spectacular, and a Shiva temple located at a height. Due to the history of this place, one would always feel intrigued coming here.
Tsomgo lake/Changu Lake
This lake is also popularly known as the Changu lake. This is a glacial lake, meaning the melted ice from the adjacent mountains forms up this lake. Most of the time, you may even find the surface of the lake frozen and ice at the banks, so do wear proper shoes during your visit or else you might be frost bitten by the cold ice. The locals say that the lake water changes its color at the surface with the change in season. This lake also has a great importance during the Raksha Bandhan festival in India, when the Jhakri people assemble to benefit with from the healing waters of this lake.
You may also find wild asses, and yaks around the lake. You could ride on them if you want. You could click pictures with the animal, only avoid touching him on the face, as Yaks don’t much like their faces touched.
We were back by the evening. We freshened up going back to the hotel and headed out to MG road.
This is a walking plaza road, for shopping and hoteling. It is considered to be the city center and the best shopping destination for tourists. You will find restaurants and cafes lined up along with shops both sides of the road. We ate Chinese food at the Dragon Wok café, and also ate a Softy ice-cream, and headed back to our hotel.
The next day, some of us had gotten ready earlier as compared to others, so we headed to EPCS church early in the morning. We started around 10 by the time others were ready.
This was our first stop for the day. It is a natural waterfall draining down the rocks into a swimming pool. And also has a footbridge. There is also a small café here which serves food and beer. Also the warm panipuri is available here, which is really delicious.
This is a Buddhist monastery, well maintained and has a huge front yard facing the mountain ranges. The climate here is a bit foggy and windy during the morning time. The Monks here are friendlier, this place is also along the way to Tashi view point. The view point from this monastery is also beautiful, where you could see the valley. The Monks also reside here, hence you could spot them doing the daily chores and giggling their days off.
Tashi View point
There are over 50-60 steps to reach this point, old people could also easily climb here. The view on top is overwhelming. You see the whole Siliguri valley, and this place is mostly foggy. The snowcapped mountains are a spectacular background for photography. You can see the Kanchenjunga from here too. This also has a gift shop where you can get handicrafts, china bone toys, keychains etc. Another point for local traditional wear clicks. Tashi view point also has a structure in between which consists of 2 dragons as a backdrop for your photos.
It is a Ganesh temple, at the foot of the same hill where Hanuman temple is located, i.e. Hanuman Tok. The temple is beautiful, quiet and serene. There is a Shiva temple in the complex, where people can themselves pour water on the linga.
Ropeway of Gangtok
This is one of the biggest attractions in Gangtok. From the Deorali station, a stair leads you up to a ticket counter, await your turn and the take the elevator to the cable car station. There are no seats in the cable car so you need to stand. A two way ticket price could cost around Rs 200/person. Video camera is charged additionally Rs100. You may want to secure a great view from the window as soon as you enter the cable car.
We finished our days in Sikkim with these stops and it was the day we check out and head to Kalimpong for our onward journey to Bhutan.
For information on Bhutan, read: 7-Days-on-the-land-of-thunder-dragon-Bhutan
Travelling amongst the ghats of Sikkim, spending 5 days in Darjeeling and Gangtok, we made some new friends, and had some happy experiences. To read these experiences read : 5-days-around-sikkim-with-strangers-got-us-some-friends-for-life