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Helicopter Service for Gangtok, Sikkim
Do you know that you can actually avoid the tiring four & half hour road journey along the winding uphill road from Bagdogra to Gangtok or the other way? You can instead take a helicopter ride from the Bagdogra Airport to reach Gangtok easily and comfortably, or the other way round. Not only that, once you reach Gangtok, you can continue to take the Helicopter service for sightseeing tours and see the mind blowing Himalayan terrain and the majestic snow capped mountains from the sky at a close distance. And all that for a reasonable price.
The helicopter service is provided by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) which is a division of Sikkim state government. A helicopter can take a maximum of five persons. A child who occupies a seat counts as a person. The service is reliable but takes place subject to prevailing weather conditions.
Gangtok - Bagdogra - Gangtok Helcopter Service
From Bagdogra, the helicopter flight takes about 35 minutes to reach Gangtok and vice versa. There are two flights daily each way. Actually the flight comes from Gangtok and returns twice daily.
Bagdogra to Gangtok: 11am and 2:30pm
Gangtok to Bagdogra: 10am and 11:45am
Per person rate (updated September 2013) is 2,700/-. A child under 2 years is considered infant and charged Rs. 550/-. In a flight, there is only one infant allowed.
Note that only 10kg of luggage is allowed per person. Additional luggage will not be allowed even at extra charge. So you must travel light in order to take the helicopter service.
How to Book the Helicopter ride?
You should ideally book the Sikkim helicopter service in advance. Call up the STDC landline number in Gangtok (Phone: 03592- 203960) and check the availability. Once they let you know that seats are available, you will be required to deposit the money through bank transfers (manually or electronically), then scan the deposit slip and email it to them to get final confirmation of the seats.
You can however book the seats once you land up at Bagdogra airport as well. However that will be subject to availability. There is a counter outside and next to the Departure entry. During high season, it may be difficult to get seats from the airport. Otherwise I have seen that seats (for at least a couple) are available in one of the two flights. Note that you can book the entire flight if you so want. For that you must pay up cost for all the five seats.
In case the flight gets cancelled, you will get full refund. You can either get it in Gangtok itself or from their head office who would bank transfer the amount.
Helicopter Sightseeing Tour of Sikkim
Well, once you reach Gangtok, you can take some amazing tours on the helicopter. These are called special mountain flights. They are not set tours and therefore have no set costs. All these tours are conducted on request. If there are other passengers on the same flight, then the package cost gets shared. If you are the only one (or only couple) in the flight, you will need to pay for the entire flight. But usually you will find enough company during high tourist seasons, and the package cost works out quite reasonable.
The most popular is the 15 minutes tour to fly over Gangtok and see its wonderful landscapes from the sky, the winding roads, the alleyways, the houses and more. You will see the Rumtek Monastery, Gangtok Ridge etc. If there are four persons in the flight, then an average package cost per person comes to about Rs. 2500/- (updated September 2013).
Another excellent helicopter sightseeing tour is of Kanchenjungha, the third highest peak in the world. The flight route is from Gangtok and going over Mangan, Chungthang, Lachen, Zemu Glacier, Green Lake and back to Gangtok via Lachen. As you fly, you will be awestruck with the size of Kanchenjungha and its beauty. Some of the other key attractions on this route includes the view of Teesta Valley between Mangan & Lachen, the Lachen Monastery, the amazing sights of the Zemu glacier and so on. This flight takes about 1 hour and conducted on request.
Alternatively you can choose to fly over the Mount Siniolchu, arguably one of the most beautiful peaks of the Himalayas. You will be amazed by the symmetry of the peak.
Once you have taken one of the mountain flights (sightseeing tours), you will be given a certificate of participation by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation.
By Raj Bhattacharya
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