If you are looking for a peaceful getaway blessed with sweeping views of the Himalayas, stunning landscapes wrapped in mists and clouds, beautiful winding hill roads, lush green mountain valleys and picture-perfect chalets and towns, then the northernmost state of Sikkim is where you want to be! Gangtok, its charming capital city, is the ideal go-to destination where you will find all these elements of nature suffused with a unique insight into the culture of the Sikkimese and a tranquil vibe that reverberates through every nook and corner of its streets.
The name ‘Gangtok’ literally means hilltop and this beautiful destination is one of the most popular hill stations of not just North India, but the entire country. Right from spectacular views of Mt. Kanchenjunga and rare wildlife sightings in the Himalayan Zoological Park to the serene tranquillity of the Buddhist monasteries and the cultural insight into Tibetan Buddhism, Gangtok is the place where you want to be and need to be!
When to Go?
Gangtok ideally is an all-year-round destination but winters can be extreme with heavy snowfall and chilly winds. Peak winter season occurs between Mid-December to February when Gangtok is covered in an ethereal blanket of snow but temperatures more often than not, drop below freezing point. Spring between April-May and summers between May-June are the best seasons to visit Gangtok. The weather is comparatively warmer and pleasantly cool with clear skies! Avoid monsoons (July to September) completely since there is a huge risk of landslides during this season. October & November bring about a welcome change and offer wonderful opportunities to explore this land in a cold yet pleasant weather!
To help you traverse this beautiful land, we have compiled a list of popular tourist attractions that you can visit when you explore this pristine Himalayan kingdom. These are some of the best places to visit in Gangtok, Sikkim and destinations which will definitely leave an imprint on your heart and mind!
1.) Rumtek Monastery
The architecturally beautiful and culturally significant, Rumtek Monastery, is one of the most popular places to visit in Gangtok! Also known as the ‘Dharmachakra Centre’, it is famous all over the world for its teachings of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is currently the largest monastery in Sikkim and is located at a distance of 23 km from Gangtok, at an altitude of about 4900 ft. above sea level. It reflects the best of Tibetan architecture, taking inspiration from the Tsurpu Gompa in Tibet. The monastery has a special prayer hall, intricate wall murals, remarkable thanka & silk paintings and 1001 miniature golden images of Lord Buddha. Apart from the peaceful interiors, the surroundings of the monastery are breathtakingly beautiful and the scenic drive through Sikkimese villages, lush green paddy fields and the picturesque hilly terrain makes this place, all the more inviting and worth visiting. So, make sure to include this must-visit monastery, a part of your Sikkim holiday packages!
Did You Know? – Just 15 mins downhill walk away from this location lies the old Rumtek Monastery, which is dedicated to the 9th Gyalwa Karmapa (supreme lama) of the Kargyu lineage. It is believed that, when the 9th Karmapa threw holy rice after performing a ritual, four rice grains scattered around Sikkim and one of the rice grains landed on the spot where the current Rumtek Monastery is situated.
2.) Nathula Pass
A mountainous pass located in the Himalayan ranges that connect the state of Sikkim to the Tibet autonomous region of China! Nathula Pass is a magnificent scenic route that is accessible from Gangtok at a distance of 56 km and is one of the most popular places to visit in Sikkim. It is surrounded by abundant alpine flora and fauna that translate into vivid spectacular landscapes and breathtaking scenery. It is one of the highest motorable roads in the world, given its altitude of almost 14,450 feet above sea level. Yet, the mountain pass remains one of the most visited Sikkim tourist places today! Indian nationals who wish to visit this place require a permit and that too when the pass is open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. Tourists are allowed to go near the international border from where they can see Chinese soldiers on the other side of the barbed wire. Foreign nationals are prohibited from visiting Nathula Pass, due to security concerns.
Did You Know? – You can even find an ATM facility at Nathula Pass! The mountain pass is home to the world’s highest automated teller machine (ATM).
3.) Tsomgo Lake
The Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake is a Himalayan glacial lake, formed because of the melting snow from the surrounding mountains. It is located on the way to Nathula Pass, at a distance of approx. 40 km from Gangtok and is well-known for its ethereal beauty and the ever-changing shades of its surface water during different seasons. In winters, the lake is covered by a blanket of snow and summers bring about an eruption of colours as different flowers bloom around the lake, making it even more scenic and breathtaking! Since the lake is located in a restricted area, tourists (both Indian nationals and foreigners) are required to obtain permits to visit this place. The lake presents picture-perfect photo opportunities and there are colourfully decorated yaks and mules at the lake site which add to the tourist attractions aspect of the lake! A definite must-visit and must-experience that deserves a place in your Sikkim honeymoon packages.
Did You Know? – The lake is considered to be extremely sacred by the local Sikkimese people. It is believed that, during olden times, Buddhist monks studied the changing colours of the lake surface to forecast the future.
4.) Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
One of the most prestigious places to visit in Gangtok and a true reflection of Tibet culture! The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a Tibetan museum established with the purpose of promoting research of the religion, history, language, art and culture of the people of the Tibetan cultural area which includes Sikkim. It is home to some of the most iconic treasures of Buddhism that include a vast collection of rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, valuable statues and rare Thankas (colourful tapestries used in Buddhist places of worship). Indeed, the library collection at this museum is one of the largest collections of Tibetan works; second only to the one found in Tibet. No wonder, the Namgyal Institute is one of the most world-renowned centres for the study of Buddhist philosophy and religion. If you haven’t still, make it a part of your Sikkim tour packages, right away!
Did You Know? – The museum is home to a grand image of Manjushri (Bodhisattva of knowledge and wisdom) that was obtained, all the way from Tibet. It also holds over 60,000 volumes that include translation of original teachings of Lord Buddha, thesis and articles from imminent Buddhist scholars from all over the world, and xylographs.
5.) Do Drul Chorten Stupa
A short walking distance away from the Namgyal Institute, lies one of the most important chortens (Buddhist shrine) of Sikkim, Do Drul Chorten Stupa! The iconic Buddhist monument is located on a hillock in the Deorali area of Gangtok town and requires a steep uphill walk to reach this place. Although the climb could be a little taxing, the experience one gets at this peaceful monument is equally rewarding accompanied by scenic views from the top. An important place of worship for the Buddhists and a foremost among all Gangtok tourist attractions, it is believed that this Chorten has the ability to drive away evil. Do Drul Chorten Stupa holds several ancient relics, holy books, religious objects and therefore remains one of the most prominent places to visit in Sikkim! So, visit this ‘Stupa’ for a fulfilling and enriching experience of your Sikkim travel packages.
Did You Know? – The stupa is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels (Mani Lhakor) with Buddhist mantras inscribed on them in Tibetan, which are believed to have wish-granting properties.
6.) Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve
The Khangchendzonga National Park or Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, located at the heart of the Himalayan ranges, stretches from the Lhonak Valley (towards the west) to the Yuksom town (towards the east), in the Northern and Western districts of Sikkim. The park has a unique diversity of snow-capped mountains, valleys, plains, glaciers, forests and is home to the third highest peak in the world, Mt. Khangchendzonga (locally known as Kanchenjunga). The park is also home to a wide variety of Alpine landscapes, floral elements and endemic wildlife such as musk deer, snow leopard, clouded leopard, Himalayan Tahr etc. which make this national park, one of the best Sikkim tourist places that can be added to your Sikkim holiday packages. Tourists frequent this national park, mainly for the purpose of sightseeing, photography, scientific research, studying wildlife and sometimes even for film-making! The national park is also famous for its trekking routes that offer magnificent views of the Himalayan mountain ranges and scenic Alpine landscapes. A must-visit to be included in your Sikkim tour packages, this national park is ideal for anyone who wishes to explore the mesmerizing natural beauty of Sikkim!
Did You Know? – The Khangchendzonga National Park has been declared as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2016, (the first ‘mixed heritage’ site of India) owing to its outstanding universal values for its cultural and natural significance.
7.) Ganesh Tok
This must-visit Sikkim tourist spot forms an integral part of several Sikkim travel packages! Located about 7 km from Gangtok and placed strategically on an elevated ridge, Ganesh Tok offers panoramic vistas of the sprawling Gangtok city and the breathtaking Himalayan landscape that includes mountain peaks such as Mt. Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu. The view is one that will take your breath away with incredible views of snow-capped mountains looming over the horizon of the quaint and picturesque Gangtok city. Something which you definitely do not want to miss! Ganesh Tok is named after a beautiful Ganesh temple, which people often visit to offer prayers and for experiencing a scenic and peaceful environment. Hanuman Tok is another Sikkim tourist spot, located on a quiet hilltop nearby and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes too (very much like Ganesh Tok). It is also home to a Hindu temple devoted to Lord Hanuman.
Did You Know? – The Hanuman Temple at Hanuman Tok is popularly known as a wish-fulfilling temple and is maintained by the resident units of the Indian Army. Lukshyama, a royal cremation ground having several stupas and chortens, is located adjacent to Hanuman Tok and the mortal remains of the former Sikkimese royal family are cremated here.
8.) Saramsa Garden
A beautiful public garden located at a distance of approximately 14 km from the city, between the slopes of Gangtok and Pakyong! Saramsa Garden is a favourite among Sikkim points of interest, for tourists and locals to hang out, enjoy picnics or simply have a fun, relaxed time! The garden has been built and maintained by the Department of Forests and Tourism of Sikkim to display wide varieties of orchids and medicinal plants that are found in Sikkim. It was originally built in 1922 with the main purpose of looking after the needs of British officers and the Namgyal royal family. The garden has a large nursery which holds a remarkable collection of orchids and the garden itself is home to a variety of fruit trees such as guava, banana, orange and pineapple. It is a popular recreation, entertainment and picnic spot which is frequented by people of all ages and serves as a prominent landmark of the city. No wonder, it is one of the top Sikkim points of interest for travellers who visit this state!
Did You Know? – The garden is also well-known by the name of ‘Ipecac Garden’ due to the cultivation of the medicinal plant ‘Cephaelis Ipecacuanha’, which was discontinued in the year 1970.
9.) Ranka Monastery
Located about 20 km from Gangtok, Ranka Monastery also known as Lingdum Monastery is a quaint and beautiful Buddhist monastery in East Sikkim that is a must-visit when you plan any of your Sikkim tour packages. This monastery is built in the traditional Tibetan architectural style and is well-known for its bright symbolic frescoes, intricate hand paintings, Thankas and the high-spirited exotic Lama Mask dance that is performed by the monks before the Losar festival. The monastery serves as a learning base for young lamas who undergo training to become full-fledged monks, learn about the ways of Buddhism and also participate in activities that help maintain the upkeep of the monastery. The monastery is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. The surroundings are adorned with breathtaking snow-capped mountains and stunning lush green landscapes that elevate the aesthetic appeal of this Sikkim tourist spot even more!
Did You Know? – The Ranka Monastery follows the Zurmang Kagyud lineage of Buddhism and was built in the year 1998, making it a fairly new establishment. Since the monastery is relatively new, it is run by young monks as compared to other monasteries which have been around for centuries.
10.) Banjhakri Falls and Energy Park
One of the most scenic places to visit in Gangtok, Banjhakri waterfalls is a must-visit tourist spot located about 12 km from the city, on the way to Ranka Monastery. The 100-foot waterfall is the main attraction of the Energy Park that also comprises of wonderfully landscaped gardens, several recreational activities, refreshment stalls and statues of prominent Sikkimese tribes. The energy park is spread over an area of 2 acres and presents an ideal opportunity for families, couples, solo travellers and even adventurers to relax and revel in its beautiful surroundings. The park features statues and sculptures of ethnic Sikkimese tribes that showcase the Jhakri culture and depict several rituals and healing processes followed by the community (according to ancient folktales). With such a deep insight into the culture of Sikkim and the stunning natural beauty of the cascading waterfalls, it is simply difficult to not include this interesting and scenic spot tourist spot in our Sikkim holiday packages.
Did You Know? – Banjhakri is composed of 2 words – ‘Ban’ which means forest or jungle and ‘Jhakri’ which means traditional healer. Banjhakris, according to Sikkimese ancient folktales were a community of spiritual healers (also called ‘Shamans’) who were believed to possess supernatural powers to drive away evil forces.
11.) Tashi View Point
Are you ready to witness majestic uninterrupted views of Mt. Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu? Then, look no further! Tashi View Point, located at a distance of about 8 km from Gangtok city, is the answer you have been looking for. Be mesmerized by awe-inspiring views of the Himalayan mountain ranges and admire the wondrous landscape that meets the eye at this brilliant tourist attraction. Sunrise is the best time to visit this place when you can catch a glorious and memorable view of the Kanchenjunga and the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Watch the peaks change colour as the sun rises and bathes the landscape in a heavenly glow. An experience which cannot be missed and one that stays with you forever! You can also witness the Phodong and Labrang monasteries on the opposite hill that simply add to the fantastic viewing experience! Tashi View Point is a definitely one of the most talked about Sikkim tourist places and one that deserves a special place in your Sikkim honeymoon packages.
Did You Know? – Tashi View Point was built by the King of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal (1914 – 1963), after whom this viewpoint was named. It was further developed by the Tourism Department of Sikkim in such a manner that it helps tourists understand the magnificence of the Himalayas.
12.) Himalayan Zoological Park
This zoological park located in Bulbuley, at a distance of 3 km from Gangtok, is a one of its kind natural habitat for Alpine wildlife and one of the most incredible tourist attractions of Sikkim! Spread across an area of 205 hectares, the park contains a variety of animals such as the Himalayan Monal Pheasant, Snow Leopard Cat, Clouded Leopard, Goral, Himalayan Palm Civet, Himalayan Black Bear, Crimson-Horned Pheasant and the star attraction of the park, Himalayan Red Panda. The park has been established in such a way that it allows animals to roam about freely in their natural habitat without disturbing them and attempting to enclose them in cages. Driving through this beautiful park is the best way to explore the zoo, witness the amazing wildlife and admire the pristine nature surrounding you. Being the first zoological park in Sikkim, it is definitely a treat for all animal lovers and a memorable tourist attraction that should be an essential part of your Sikkim honeymoon packages.
Did You Know? – The zoological park follows the concept of a ‘modern zoo’ where animals are kept in replicated natural surroundings that accomplish both, the growth and survival of the animal species and provide an insight into the Himalayan wildlife for tourists.
Besides these, Gangtok is also home to a lot of interesting attractions such as Flower Exhibition Centre, Kabi Town (where Sikkimese history is said to have originated in the early 13th century), Reshi Hot Springs, Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir, Enchey Monastery and Yumthang Flower Valley, which can be included in your Sikkim holiday packages.
You could be an adventure traveler wanting to hike through the hills, a leisure traveler with dreams of exploring pristine nature parks and witnessing the third highest peak in the world, Kanchenjunga or you could be on your honeymoon, looking forward to spending some quality time with your better half in the setting of a peaceful serene destination; your reasons for travel could be many but the answer to all those is just one – Gangtok!