Last Updated: Jan 30, 2018
Visit & Explore Gangtok & Sikkim
Sikkim is a north-eastern state of India and Gangtok is its capital. Almost the whole of Sikkim is in a hilly terrain surrounded by the Himalayan mountain range. The altitude across Sikkim varies widely and ranges from the lowest elevation of 280m (920ft) to the highest point of Kanchenjunga peak which lies at the border of Sikkim and Nepal and at an altitude of 8,586m (28,169ft).
So what can you expect in Sikkim?.... fascinating views of Himalayas including Mount Kanchenjunga snow peaks, numerous mountain streams many of which eventually merge with river Teesta and river Rangeet, lovely river valleys and meadows, several high altitude lakes & hot springs, and even high altitude passes that connect the state with Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan.
There are around 5,000 varieties of flowers including rare orchids and rhododendrons that can be seen across the state of Sikkim. In the forests of Sikkim you can spot wildlife such as snow leopards, clouded leopards, red panda, Tibetan wolf, Asian black bear and other wildlife. In the upper reaches of Sikkim, Yaks can be seen in plenty that are used mostly to carry luggage for trekkers and locals.
You can visit quaint & scenic mountain hamlets nestled in nature, many offbeat places, trek along nature & forest trails, and of course visit many other tourist attractions such as monasteries, museums, sanctuaries, handicraft centers, parks & gardens, zoo etc. And in places like Gangtok you can even enjoy activities such as rides on cable car (ropeway), paragliding and more.
The residents of Sikkim are mainly comprised of Nepalese, Lepchas and Bhutias, although the Lepchas are actually the original residents of the place, the rest are immigrants.
Most parts of Sikkim are well developed for tourism and offer a range of tourist accommodations along with food and transports. Gangtok is one place which many tourists like to combine along with a visit to Darjeeling. In fact the combined trip of Darjeeling & Gangtok is a common recipe when people think about visiting this part of the country. This is mainly because of the proximity of the two places as well as easy access. And while in Gangtok, tourists visit several other places in Sikkim.
Actually the whole of Sikkim is divided into 4 zones - East, West, North and South. There are magnificent places to visit in each of these zones. Other than Gangtok, East Sikkim has great attractions such as Tsomgo Lake, famed Baba Mandir, high altitude Nathula Pass that connects India with Tibet that is now part of China, etc. West Sikkim is home to wonderful tourist places like Pelling, Yuksum, Kaluk and more. The beautiful flower valley Yumthang, Zero Point and the largest high-altitude lake Gurudongmar are located in North Sikkim. And Namchi - the religious and cultural tourism center of Sikkim, as well as wonderful places like Ravangla and Borong are located in South Sikkim.
Sikkim being a border state is a restricted place for foreign nationals. So all foreigners (except Bhutanese) require a permit known as Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter Sikkim including Gangtok. Additionally the nationals of China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar need to get prior approval from Ministry of Home Affairs (Government of India, New Delhi) before they can apply for the Inner-Line Permit. Indians however do not need ILP.
But there are several areas in Sikkim such as Tsomgo, Nathula, Lachung/ Yumthang Valley, Lachen/ Gurudongmar lake etc that are known as protected areas where all including Indians require a special permit known as Protected Area Permit to visit such places.
And there are several other restrictions & exceptions. Visit Sikkim Permits
to know who requires what kind of permits to visit a place in Sikkim, how to get such permits, validity period of permits etc.
Gangtok is located at an altitude of 5,410 ft in East-Sikkim. Distance from NJP (the nearest major railway station) is 126kms, from Bagdogra airport
124kms (takes 4.5 hours from both), from Siliguri 114kms and from Darjeeling 98kms (4 hours). Private and shared taxi services are available in plenty between Gangtok and these places. There is also bus service from Siliguri SNT bus stand and helicopter service from Bagdogra airport to Gangtok. The name Gangtok means the 'Top of the Ridge'.
Between 1894 to 1975 it was part of the Namgyal kingdom and a center of Royal administration. After that Sikkim became a state of India and Gangtok became the Capital of Sikkim.
Over the years Gangtok has experienced booming economy and advancement of lifestyle. However it has remained as a peaceful place with a mix of different cultures & ethnicity. Gangtok spreads over a forested mountain that faces the Kanchenjunga snow peaks. There are many vantage points in and around Gangtok from where you get magnificent views of Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan snow peaks. In fact every spur extending from this hill town offers a setting of a great sight.
I took this picture from the cable car (Ropeway)
The heart or the main hub of Gangtok town is M.G. Marg
(i.e. Mahatma Gandhi Road), which has been converted into something like a long stretch of open promenade and a mall area. It's a pedestrian only zone and vehicles are not allowed here. This litter & smoke free zone has many glittering shops, restaurants & bars lined up on both sides.
There are benches laid out along the middle and both sides of the road (MG Marg) where you can relax and see the pedestrians passing by or tourists shopping around. When the natural light fades, the beautiful Victorian lamps on the street are lit up. It's a great place to hang around for a while and experience the bustling carnival like atmosphere.
Another view of Gangtok
Photo by: Devraj Bhattacharya
Over the years while mushrooming of concrete buildings in the main Gangtok town has taken toll on trees and greenery that it was once known for, still there are enough in the place to make a great vacation for all.
A big advantage of Gangtok today is that you get all modern amenities along with nice mountain charm. It perfectly suits those coming from cities and looking for great weather, sightseeing, good food, comfortable stays with modern facilities, and nice shopping opportunities. And all these are available here at various price categories which can suit both budget and luxury travelers.
Gangtok has several taxi and bus stands, and each earmarked for specific purpose. While coming from Siliguri/NJP or Bagdogra by bus or taxi, you will be dropped at the Deorali taxi stand located 2kms below the Gangtok town center. From here you will need to take a local Sikkim taxi to your hotel.
If you plan to visit South or West Sikkim from Gangtok, you can take a reserved or shared taxi from the stand near M G Marg. For North Sikkim, you can take a taxi from the stand near Vajra Cinema Hall. The Sikkim Government Bus Terminal is located about 5 minutes walk from M G Marg. There are large number of tour operators in Gangtok who offer packaged tours to various places in Sikkim.
View of Gangtok town from Rumtek
Gangtok is only 4 hours drive from Darjeeling, 4.5 hours from both NJP (the nearest major railway station) and Bagdogra (the nearest airport). You can get private taxis from all these places, shared Jeeps from NJP, Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong etc, and buses from Siliguri. There is also helicopter service between Bagdogra and Gangtok taking only 35-minute flight one way.
The search box below will list all the good hotels in and around Gangtok. You can also change the destination to any other place of your interest. You can then sort the list by price, property type, facility you need etc, go through the amenities, user reviews, scores and book a hotel online at an attractive low rate. This service is provided by World's no.1 online hotel booking site.
Gangtok offers a wide range of accommodations from modern luxury hotels to budget stays of all kind. You can stay at the town center (i.e. on or near MG Marg) or a bit away from the crowd in a location that commands spectacular views of the mountains. Visit Where to stay in Gangtok
for my reviews of some of the select and great hotels in Gangtok of different categories.
Attractions & Tours in Gangtok
You can easily be absorbed for days in Gangtok with its so many attractions & entertainment activities. There are great view points to watch Kanchenjunga snow peaks & sunset, monasteries & gompas with awesome architecture, museums, gardens, waterfalls, lakes, art & craft, rides, paragliding etc.
Sunset view from Gangtok
There are numerous tour operators in Gangtok (along M G Marg, Tibet Road and several other places) who offer local sightseeing tours of Gangtok and surrounding areas. However for local sightseeing, taxis are also available in plenty at the stands. While taxis are usually more economical, during high season they often try to cut short the tours and their vehicles may not be in good condition. Depending on what you like to see, there are 3, 7 and 10-point tours for half day and some for full day.
Read Gantok Tours & Operators
to know about the standard package tours that are offered by the tour agencies and cab drivers, indicative cost and get a list of well known tour operators in Gangtok.
Gangtok Weather & Best Time to Visit
Like all other places in north Bengal and north east India, Gangtok too faces the extremes of winter and monsoon. However, summer (April - May) and autumn (October - November) are quite pleasant and best for the views with clear sky. Complete info on weather and best time to to visit
More to explore in Gangtok
Sikkim has so many travelers destinations that it's impossible to cover them all in a single visit. And all have their unique charm and attractions. There are several ways you can plan to explore Sikkim.
If you are visiting Sikkim for the first time as a general tourist, a good place to start is Gangtok
that I have described above and then return to this section to know about rest of Sikkim.
If you like to know about some of the top places in the whole of Sikkim so that you can pick and choose some of the ones you want to visit, then go through Best 10 places in Sikkim
If you want to explore one part of Sikkim at a time, then knowing about the places in each zone (east, west, north and south of Sikkim) would be a good idea. This would be a great way of knowing about offbeat locations as well where you can be on the lap of nature away from touristy places. Go through the following links to know about the great attractions & places in each part of Sikkim:
East Sikkim - that includes Gangtok (the capital town of Sikkim), Tsomgo Lake (a high altitude scenic lake), Baba Mandir (a temple built as a tribute to an ex-soldier of Indian Army known as Baba Harbhajan Singh), Nathula Pass (the high altitude pass that connects Sikkim with China), Zuluk (which is part of the historic silk route), many mountain hamlets, and more.
North Sikkim - that includes Lachung (a scenic village by the side of Lachung river and a base for Yumthang Valley), Yumthang (known for the valley of rhododendron flowers and hot spring), Zero Point (further up from Yumthang), Lachen (another quaint village), Chopta Valley (a lovely valley on the way to Gurudongmar), Gurudongmar lake (largest high altitude lake) etc
West Sikkim - that includes Pelling (a popular tourist place known for its sweeping views of Kanchenjunga and nearby attractions such as holy lake, Asia's second highest suspension bridge, monastery etc), Kaluk & Rinchenpong (known for their natural beauty and views), Yuksom (the base for famous Dzongri and Goechala trek) and several other picturesque hamlets.
South Sikkim - that includes Namchi (known as the cultural and religious hub of Sikkim with star attractions as Char Dham, Samdruptse Monastery etc), Ravangla (a sleepy town known for the scenic Buddha Park with its huge Buddha statue at the center), Borong (a paradise for bird watchers), the sprawling Temi Tea Gardens and several other quaint places.
There are some places that have remained as my favorite destinations in Sikkim over the years and they require a special mention. Here are those fascinating places in Sikkim.
Tsomgo lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass
Visit the lovely glacial Tsomgo (Changu) Lake located at an altitude of 12,310ft. The lake surrounded by mountains freezes during the winter. You can continue along the route and visit Baba Mandir (a temple built & revered on an Indian soldier who died here long back but his soul is believed to be still guarding the Indo-China border), and then onwards to famous Nathula Pass located at 14,140ft (once forming the trade route with Tibet) and co-located with the Chinese border.
Lachung, Yumthang & Zero Point
From Gangtok, you can make an excellent trip to north Sikkim with an overnight stay (1night-2 days) which includes the mountain village Lachung offering lovely views of mountains, the spectacular valley of flowers featuring varieties of rhododendrons in different colors known as Yumthang, and the snow covered Zero Point where the civilian road ends. More info on Lachung & Yumthang...
Lachen & Gurudongmar Lake
Lachen is a small mountain village in north Sikkim and has developed into a base to visit Gurudongmar Lake which is one of the highest lakes in the world close to the Indo-China border. Another wonderful place here is Chopta Valley which lies between Lachen and Gurudongmar, and gets covered with flowers during spring and with snow during winter. More info on Lachen & Gurudongmar tour...
Pelling - A small hill town in west Sikkim
Know about Pelling, a small hill town in western Sikkim offering spectacular views of the snow peaks of Kanchenjunga apart from many other attractions including old monasteries, lovely lakes & landscapes, waterfalls etc. There are also several nearby places offering wonderful drive through scenic landscapes and taking you to great attractions such as the second highest suspension bridge in Asia, indo-Nepal border village, first capital of Sikkim and lot more. Know about Pelling tourism...
Namchi - a great place for cultural & religious tourism
Namchi is an excellent place for cultural and religious tourism located in South Sikkim. The place has been developed keeping in mind the devotees and those who are religious minded.
But other than unparalleled experience of temples, monasteries and places of worships, Namchi also offers wonderful views of snow peaks, landscapes, gardens and nurseries. Namchi is about 78kms from Gangtok and takes about 3.5 hours by road. More info on Namchi tours...
Zuluk and the historic Silk route
You can reach Zuluk, a small mountain hamlet in east Sikkim in about 4 hours from Gangtok. It falls on the historic Silk route that was once used for trading fur and wool with Tibet. You get breathtaking views of Kanchenjung, high altitude lakes, valleys and passes , and of course get to stay in comfortable homestays offered by villagers. More info on Zuluk...
Ravangla - a sleepy hill town in south Sikkim
Ravangla is for those who like to be away from the touristy crowd only to enjoy the nature, wonderful views of Kanchenjunga peaks and traditional hospitality of the locals. Ravangla is also a base for covering several other hill towns like Pelling, Namchi etc which are short distances away. Borong, another hamlet located close by and within 45 minutes of driving distance, is a jewel for birdwatching and soaking in the nature in a quiet environment. Visit Ravangla Tourism
Borong - Birdwatchers' Paradise
Borong is a quaint little hamlet in south Sikkim and at an easy driving distance from Ravangla (ideal for a day trip). Other than marvelous views of Kanchenjunga peaks, nature's beauty and wonderful eco loving people, Borong is known to attract many avid bird watchers. Know about Borong trip
Prerna (January 2018)
Hi, Me and my husband are planning tour to Sikkim in first week of Feb 2018. Kindly guide for below info: Access to Nathula pass, Gurudongmar Lake and Zero point, will the roads be blocked? Your reply will be very helpful in making our tour memorable. Thanks,
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) January 2018
Hi, usually heavy snowfall takes place around that time and roads get blocked. But one can be lucky too. Gurudongmar is likely to be inaccessible.
Amar (January 2018)
Hi, I have my flight from Bagdogra back to Delhi in evening around 4:30pm. I need to check if there is anything on the way to airport which can be visited if we leave early morning from Gangtok so that we can utilise that day as well. Thanks.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) January 2018
Nothing much in terms of tourist attractions between Gangtok and Bagdogra. You can however try white water rafting at Melli (depending on season and timing... check with your hotel), or if you take a detour, then you can visit a few attractions in Kalimpong, but start early. If you are interested in shopping, then you can visit the Hong Kong Market in Siliguri.
Ajay (August 2017)
Hi Raj, we will be traveling to Gangtok during october 3rd week and planning to visit shangu lake, baba mandir and nathula pass in a day. how long does it take to cover all three and can we travel all these places with 9 yr old? Thanks in advance.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) August 2017
9-year old usually should not be a problem. It's a full-day trip from Gangtok... you need to get your permits on the previous day.
Sujitha (June 2017)
Hello, I just dropped by to say that this is the best website for anyone who is planning to visit Sikkim. You have managed to put every information possible which is really amazing. Kudos!! Thanks.
Prasad (February 2017)
Mr Raj, can you suggest a good travel agent in Gangtok, as need a Scorpio for travel to Lachen and Lachung and also for Nathula pass. Thanks
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2017
Shravan Kumar (January 2017)
Dear Sir, I have a 7 seater Maruti Suzuki Ertiga car with Bihar Registration number. This is my private car than can I allowed to drive my car in Darjeeling and in Gangtok as well for sightseeing and tourism. Please suggest me as soon as possible. Thanks
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) January 2017
Yes, you can take your private car to Darjeeling and Sikkim. However note that to travel to protected areas in Sikkim such as Tsomgo lake, Nathula, Yumthang etc, you need to get special permit for your vehicle from Sikkim Govt and army. Normally only vehicles from registered tour operators are permitted in such areas.
Riyaz (October 2016)
Hello. I'm a 23 old student, and planning to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim in mid-February. Is it a good idea during that time of the year? I don't mind the cold. Also, will the north Sikkim be accessible? I'm very curious to check out Yumthang Valley and Lachung. Since I'm travelling alone, is it possible to travel across Sikkim without booking with any tour operators? If yes, please suggest how. I want to cover a lot on a limited budget. Your response will be much appreciated. Thanks :)
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2016
February is one of the coldest months in Darjeeling & Sikkim and roads in north Sikkim (Lachung, Yumthang etc) can be blocked with snow. If open on a day, you can visit. However most of these places are protected areas and you need to go through a registered operator. You can try to combine with other groups, but in winter it can be difficult finding tourists.
Ria Roy (September 2016)
Sir, I only want to know if it is mandatory to book any tour package from Sikkim Tour operators to see the tourist places of Namchi and Rabangla, and any other South Sikkim destinations. It is because I have found out that to visit North, West and East Sikkim there are mandatory tour packages, and tourists themselves cannot book hotels and cars/cabs there.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) September 2016
There is no such restriction. If you have a rental car with driver, you can move around and go anywhere (except to places that require Protected Area Permits). Only protected areas such as Nathula, Lachung/Yumthang etc require that you go through registered tour operators. Namchi, Rabangla do not fall in that category.
Vankani Haresh S. (December 2015)
I had been at NJP, Bagdogra, Gangtok, Lachung, Nathula Pass, Pelling and Darjeeling from 17th Nov to 27th Nov 2015. It is a fact that there is no state bus services between the places mentioned above, one has to travel by taxi. Though I traveled all my destination shown above by taxi, I am not able to get a certificate regarding the state bus services are not available in between the places shown above which is very required in claiming LTC to Govt. employees. If the same certificate is issued and published on website the tourists may increase and will encourage the tourism. So Sikkim Govt must think on this to encourage tourism.
Kamal Kohli (November 2015)
Hello Sir, At the outset I must pay my respect and thanks for the amount of hard work you have done in providing this useful information for many tourists. I am planning to visit Gangtok and Darjeeling from January 1-9. I would like to ask you what all places will be accessible in Gangtok in January with a 6-year-old child. As I am from New Delhi, I have no information regarding Gangtok apart from you site. Your input will be useful.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2015
It's peak winter time. Most attractions and sites within Gangtok town will be open, but roads to high altitude places like Tsomgo lake/Nathula etc and north Sikkim like Yumthang will likely be closed due to snow.
Jayati (November 2015)
I am planning to visit Yumthang valley/Lachung in 2 days 1 night trip from Gangtok and Tsomgo lake and Baba mandir on other day in 1st week of March. I have my husband 2 years old son and 9 years old daughter. Please let me know if the road for these places will be open that time. Also for the kid what kind of precaution can be taken. I have heard of some small oxygen cylinder which is refundable if not used (with some charge). Is it available in Gangtok?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2015
End march and beginning of April is usually the time when roads to these places get cleared. But if you are lucky, the routes may remain open in 1st week of March as well. Portable oxygen cylinders are available at Gangtok.
Vijaya (May 2015)
Please inform me whether we can travel to Sikkim by our own vehicle? Also please inform me the cost of permit if any for nathula pass and yumthang. Can u pl let me know whether yumthang is worth visiting in Oct. Awaiting your expert and experienced advice so that we can plan our visit soon. Thanks n regards
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2015
You can take your own private vehicle to Sikkim. However there are some restrictions for Nathula and North Sikkim. Usually vehicles from Sikkim government authorised operators are allowed in these areas. There are tour packages available from Gangtok. You can however take your own vehicle, but for that you need to obtain Sikkim police and army permits, vehicle fitness certificate from permit issuing authority, and also take a local guide along from Gangtok who will be your navigator. Your vehicle should be an SUV or 4WD vehicle to negotiate the bad roads. While Nathula road is not good, the road to Lachung and Yumthang is terrible. Permit cost is reasonable. For example permit to Nathula costs Rs. 200/- per person. October is a good time to visit Sikkim.