Sikkim Tourism


About Sikkim

Sikkim is an Indian state and located in the north-eastern part of the country. The hill town Gangtok is its capital. Sikkim has international borders on three sides... its north border is with Tibet (which is now part of China), western border with Nepal and the eastern border is with Bhutan. Only the southern border is with India and that is with Darjeeling district of the state of West Bengal. 
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). Altitude of the capital Gangtok is 5,410ft. 
Zig Zag Route in East Sikkim near Zuluk 
Sikkim was an independent dynasty of Namgyal kingdom from the 1642 until 1975 when it eventually joined India and became its 22nd state. During the Namgyal monarchy it has been invaded by the bordering countries Nepal and Bhutan several times when it succumbed to these external forces, but regained its control through strange turn of events. Know about History of Sikkim
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 &áhot springs, and even high altitude passes that connect the state with Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. 
There are around 5,000 varieties of flowers including orchids (over 400 types) 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 loads for locals and trekkers. 
You can visit quaint &áscenic mountain hamlets nestled in nature, many offbeat places, trek along nature &áforest trails, and of course visit many other tourist attractions such as monasteries, museums, sanctuaries, handicraft centers, parks &ágardens, zoo etc. And in places like Gangtok you can even enjoy activities such as rides on cable car (ropeway), paragliding etc and indulge in great shopping and nightlife including bars, pubs and casinos. 
There are numerous small mountain villages and well developed townships in Sikkim that are geared up with wide range of tourism offerings starting from very basic home stays at the remote villages to modern luxury resorts in developed towns. 
Extensive road network connects almost all parts of Sikkim although the road conditions in the higher reaches (mostly in north Sikkim) are often not good due to heavy snowing. Transportation system in Sikkim is excellent and comprises mainly of taxis (reserved and shared) and the vehicles are of various makes and sizes. There are also public bus services that operate between various points such as between Gangtok and Siliguri. 
The residents of Sikkim are mainly Nepalese, Lepchas and Bhutias. The Lepchas are actually the original residents of Sikkim, the rest are mostly immigrants. There is a mountain village known as Dzongu Valley which is preserved exclusively for Lepchas where you can experience the original Lepcha lifestyle &áculture apart from wonderful vistas of mountains, valley and plantations. 
Due to a mix of various ethnic communities in Sikkim, the food and cuisine of several origins have also seen fusion over the years and you can today commonly see food &ábeverages of one ethnic community is happily consumed by the others. Sikkim is a haven to savor many different kinds of authentic Nepali, Tibetan and Lepcha cuisine that can be rarely experienced elsewhere. While some of the tribal and specialty food can only be experienced in village homes and home stays, several restaurants in Gangtok and other parts of Sikkim also specialize in authentic Sikkimese food. 
While Momos &áThukpas are well known all across the north-eastern India, Sikkim goes a step beyond to have delicately preserved many of its ethnic cuisine including its specialty breads, cookies, snacks, meat based and vegetarian main courses that are both healthy &átasty, many different kinds of exotic pickles &ácondiments, and even uniquely homemade alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic beverages. 
Most Sikkimese can speak in Hindi and many in English, however there are 9 local languages belonging to Nepali, Lepcha and Bhutia community that are officially recognized by the state. Sikkim has a unique Ecclesiastical Department that coordinates the functioning of various monasteries, temples, churches, mosques, Gurudwaras and other shrines in the state. Sikkim does not have great fertile lands. But it has the largest production of large cardamoms in the whole of India. Some of the valuable crops produced here (that are also exported) includes tea, mandarin, cherry pepper, orange etc. A recent study shows that Sikkim's literacy rate is above 82%. 
Gangtok is one place which many tourists like to combine along with a visit to Darjeeling. In fact the combined trip of Darjeeling &áGangtok is a common recipe when people think about visiting this part of the country. This is mainly due to the proximity of the two places as well as easy transport access. And while in Gangtok, tourists visit several other places in Sikkim. 
P.S. The eBook on Darjeeling &áSikkim is a great resource to know both about Darjeeling and various destinations in Sikkim including the best places to visit, great sightseeing tours, day trips &ásafaris, top eateries of various categories &ácuisine, shopping, nightlife and more.  
Sikkim Permits 
Since Sikkim shares its borders with China, Bhutan and Nepal, it is a restricted place for foreign nationals. So all foreigners (except Bhutanese) require a permit known as Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter any part of Sikkim including Gangtok. Additionally the nationals of China, Pakistan 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 Lake, Nathula Pass, Lachung/ Yumthang Valley, Lachen/ Gurudongmar lake etc that are protected areas where everybody including Indians require a special permit known as Protected Area Permit to visit such places. And there are several other restrictions &áexceptions, for example foreigners are not permitted to visit few places at all like Nathula and Gurudongmar Lake. 
Visit Sikkim Permits to know bout all the permits, who requires what kind of permit to visit a place in Sikkim, how to get such permits, validity period of permits etc. 

Districts in Sikkim

The whole of Sikkim is divided into 4 districts or zones - East, West, North and South. East Sikkim is head quartered at Gangtok (also the capital of the state), West Sikkim at Geyzing (also known as Gyalsing) with Pelling and Pemayangtse being the two places of central attractions, North Sikkim is head quartered at Mangan (Lachung with Yumthang Valley and Lachen with Gurudongmar Lake being the two main attractions of the zone) and South Sikkim at the religious &ácultural hub Namchi. 
There are numerous magnificent places to visit in each of these zones. If you are the type who would like to go deeper and explore one part of Sikkim at a time and soak in the unique natural beauty, landscapes and lifestyle of each place separately, then you should dig deeper into each zone of Sikkim and know about the various destinations and attractions in each. 
Below are the four districts... go through the links to explore each zone of Sikkim. 
It 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. 
It 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 (one of the highest altitude lakes in the world) etc 
It 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 &áRinchenpong (known for their natural beauty and views), Yuksom (the base for famous Dzongri and Goechala trek) and several other picturesque hamlets. 
It 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 Garden (Sikkim's only tea estate but producing one of the finest tea leaves in the world) and several other quaint places. 

Popular Destinations in Sikkim

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... you can either choose to visit some of the most popular tourist destinations mentioned below, or go through my list of 10 best places in Sikkim, or alternative if you are a keen traveler seeking for deeper insights, then go through the Zones of Sikkim I have described above. 
Gangtok: A Lovely Hill Town 
If you are visiting Sikkim for the first time, Gangtok - the capital of Sikkim should be first in your travel agenda. Gangtok not only offers lovely views of Kanchenjunga and scenic views, it offers great attractions &áactivities such as parks &ágardens, Buddhist monasteries &áHindu Temples, zoo with exotic Himalayan animals, art &ácraft centers, cable car rides etc as well as great opportunities for shopping, top class accommodations of all range, dining and nightlife. 
Gangtok is not only the most happening place in Sikkim, it also serves as the base to visit several other places in East as well as North Sikkim. Read Gangtok Tourism to unfold the secrets. 
Tsomgo lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass 
The scenic glacial lake Tsomgo or Changu Lake is located at an altitude of 12,310ft. The lake surrounded by mountains freezes during the winter. You take a half-day tour to the lake from Gangtok. There are many tour operators in Gangtok who offer tour packages. 
Tsomgo Lake 
You can continue along the route and visit Baba Mandir (a temple built &árevered on an Indian soldier who died here long back but his soul is believed to be still guarding the Indo-China border). 
Along with Tsomgo lake and Baba Mandir you can also combine Nathula Pass located at 14,140ft once forming the trade route with Tibet. It now serves as a border pass with China. Combining Nathula will require a full day trip from Gangtok. 
Lachung, Yumthang &áZero Point 
From Gangtok, you can make an excellent trip to north Sikkim with an overnight stay (1 night 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. 
Yumthang Valley 
Read Tour of Lachung &áYumthang to know what to expect and how to visit. 
Lachen &áGurudongmar 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. 
Frozen Gurudongmar Lake 
Read Lachen &áGurudongmar tour for complete details. 
Pelling - A small hill town in west Sikkim 
Pelling is 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 &álandscapes, 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. 
Namchi - a great place for cultural &áreligious 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. 
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. 
Kupup lake on Silk Route 
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 for details. 
Dzongu Valley - Land of the Lepchas 
Nature can not blend with mankind any further than what you experience in Dzongu... and why not? This is one place in north Sikkim which has been exclusively reserved for Lepchas who are the original inhabitants of Sikkim and who traditionally depend solely on the nature for living. 
Stunning views of Himalayan range including Kanchenjunga snow peaks, lovely landscapes with lush vegetation on the slopes of the hills, beautiful flowers, birds &ábutterflies, numerous waterfalls gushing down, mountain streams, scenic nature walks, fishing are all in the offer here along with village homestays where you can experience the local ethnic culture and savor the homemade Lepcha food and brews. If you are a nature lover, Read Dzongu Tourism to know all about it. 

How to reach Sikkim

Sikkim has opened it's own small airport in October 2018 known as Pakyong Airport. Domestic flights have started operating to this airport since then. Pakyong airport is located around 29kms from Gangtok and it takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to travel between the two places by taxi. 
However the main airport closest to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport (IXB) which is located in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. There are numerous domestic flights (from almost all major cities of India) as well as limited International flights (mainly from Bhutan) that operate to this airport. So Bagdogra still remains as the main flight hub for tourists to visit Sikkim. 
From Bagdogra there are several ways to reach various parts of Sikkim. The most popular mode is by taxi - there is a pre-paid taxi counter at the Bagdogra arrival hall. Gangtok is 125kms from Bagdogra and it takes nearly 4 and half hours to reach. You can also book a shared taxi online to get to Gangtok from Bagdogra. 
There is also a daily Helicopter Service between Bagdogra airport and Gangtok. It takes only 35 minutes to reach the Burtuk Helipad at Gangtok. 
Having arrived at Bagdogra airport, if you want to avail bus service, you need to first take a taxi to the Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) Bus Terminal in Siliguri (30 minutes) where you can get buses to Gangtok and several other places in Sikkim (described below). 
The major railway station nearest to Sikkim is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) in West Bengal (located only 18kms east of Bagdogra). NJP is connected to numerous destinations in India by long distance trains. From NJP too you can get pre-paid taxis as well as shared taxis to get to Sikkim. 
For bus, you can take an rickshaw or an auto-rickshaw to get to SNT Bus Terminal (takes 10 minutes by auto). From Siliguri SNT bus station, there are daily bus services to Gangtok. 
Read: How to reach Gangtok for details on routes, transports and fares to reach Gangtok. 
Siliguri to Pelling SNT bus leaves at 10:30am, Siliguri to Namchi bus (via Jorethang) leaves at 8am and 2:30pm, Siliguri to Ravangla (via Namchi) leaves at 1pm, and Siliguri to Mangan at 11am. Privateky operated Siliguri to Pakyong bus leaves at 2:30pm and Siliguri to Jorethang at 2pm. 
Go through the Sikkim Nationalised Transport's Siliguri Bus Schedule Page to know the SNT bus timings from Siliguri to various destinations in Sikkim, bus fares and duration of the journey. Note that the timings are subject to change. For any other information related to SNT bus service, you can find contact numbers in this SNT Contact Page
The road routes from both Bagdogra airport and NJP station pass through Siliguri of West Bengal and then lead to the highway NH10. Before leaving the busy traffic of lower plains, the road crosses over Teesta river at Teesta Bazaar area and then starts its uphill course through lovely vistas of river Teesta and lush mountains. 
It soon reaches a settlement known as Melli where a westward bifurcation of the road leads to South Sikkim (to places like Jorthang, Namchi, Ravangla etc and then to West Sikkim (to places like Pelling, Yuksom etc). Melli has a police check post that issues Inner Line Permits to foreigners to visit Sikkim. Pelling is about 5 hours 20 minutes from both Bagdogra and NJP by taxi. 
The main road NH10 continues through settlements like Rangpo (where there is a police check post issuing Inner Line Permits to foreigners), Singtam, Ranipool and all the way to Gangtok which is located in East Sikkim. From Gangtok you can visit various places in North Sikkim. 
Note that you can easily reach Gangtok from Darjeeling in about 4 hours by taxi. The best route is to take Peshoke road from Ghum/Jore Bungalow area down to Teesta Bazaar and get into NH10. There is another route from Darjeeling (can only be availed by Indians) that goes via Jamuni and leads to Jorthang in a short time (1 hour 40 minutes). From there you can easily approach Namchi, Ravangla etc in south Sikkim or Pelling, Yuksom etc in west Sikkim. 
The route map below shows the road routes to reach various parts of Sikkim. 
Road Routes to Sikkim 
Routes to Gangtok   Sikkim 
Click the picture to view in full size 

New Travel Requirements

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Sikkim has introduced a series of travel requirements for tourists and visitors, some of which are mandatory and others advisable. 
You must apply for and obtain a Sikkim Travel Card online. This card helps Sikkim authorities to keep a record of your personal details along with the details of your accompanying family/group, your tour plan including your hotels and tour operators, and also the health conditions of your entire group. Your tour status will need to be kept updated daily during your stay in Sikkim so that the authorities can keep a track of the progress of your tour as per your planned tour itinerary. This travel card is checked at the Sikkim entry points such as Rangpo or Melli. 
You are also required to wear mask, maintain a social distancing of minimum 2 meters, stay in accommodations and use a tour operator who are state certified and Health &áSafety Compliant. You are also advised to download the Arogya Setu App. You need to be fully vaccinated in order to visit Sikkim (carry vaccine certificate) otherwise, you are required to carry a RTPCR negative test certificate which is not older than 72 hours prior to entry into Sikkim. 
The whole idea is to ensure that you visit Sikkim responsibly and safely while ensuring health and safety of the residents of the state. And Sikkim is extremely sensitive about this issue. If you are found to violate any of the guidelines, the enforcement officers may fine you. 

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Visitors' Reviews/Comments

Bikram Baruah (December 2022) 
Dear Raj, First of all thank you for this detailed website you have built. The website had helped me a lot during my last visit to Darjeeling. Now this time I want to go to Sikkim during last week of December. We are two people going there for 6 days. We will reach Gangtok by 25th Dec and will leave Sikkim by 31st Dec. Kindly suggest some places that can be visited since we are planning to go on our own. We want to visit Lachung, Lachen or Pelling. Since some people are saying that it is difficult to visit Lachung or Lachen during that time. And some are saying that many places will be closed at that time. So I am a bit confused. Kindly suggest me some places that we can visit during that time (Dec 25th to Dec 30th) and how to get there and where to stay. 
Raj ( December 2022 
The end of December is not a good time to visit Lachung/Lachen... there can be heavy snowfalls and routes to Yumthang/Gurudongmar can get blocked. You can visit Ravangla, Temi Tea Garden, Pelling etc. All these places are described in detail on my website including stay options... simply use the search bar on my website with appropriate keywords and you will get the right pages. 
Bikram Baruah (December 2022) 
Thank you for all the information. One more thing I forgot to ask you. Since all the places where one can usually see snowfall will be closed, can you suggest some places where we can see snow during the last week of December. 
Raj ( December 2022 
If the route is open, you can visit Tsomgo (Changu) Lake from Gangtok. Unless it snows heavily, the route usually remains open. The lake usually freezes in December and there are lots of snow all around. If you are lucky, you can also see snowfall. 
Amol Mujumdar (July 2022) 
Hi Raj, Thank you for the information. We are a group of 4 planning an 8-10 day trip to Darjeeling and Sikkim in the last week of Nov (25th Nov to 3rd Dec). We are flying directly from Mumbai to Bagdogra . Here are a few questions: 
  • How long is the drive from Bagdogra to Gangtok?  
  • Can we stay in Gangtok and do a 1 day trip to Tsomgo lake and Nathula pass and be back in Gangtok by evening? Will we need to carry oxygen cylinders with us? 
  • If we want to go to Lachung &áYumthang, do we need to stay in Lachung and how will the weather be in Lachung in the last week of Nov? 
  • If we want to go to Lachen and Gurudongmar lake, then can we do that from Lachung, and do we need to take special care of some things like altitude sickness?  
  • We are confused about how should we go about planning our trips to Lachung, Yumthang, Lachen &áGurudongmar. Can I get your phone number and clear all doubts? Thanks &áRegards, 
    Raj ( July 2022 
    Hi, Bagdogra to Gangtok will take about 4 and a half hours in normal traffic conditions. Gangtok to Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula pass is a standard day trip and your hotel can organize that. No need to carry oxygen cylinders unless any of you have asthmatic or other breathing/altitude-related problems, in which case you should avoid going to high-altitude places. You will need to get permits which the hotel can arrange once you hand over the necessary documentation on the previous day. You can learn all about this day trip from this article Visiting Nathula Pass and other nearby attractions
    You need to stay in Lachung overnight and visit Yumthang valley the next morning. It can be extremely cold out there in end-November. For Gurudongmar, you can go down to Lachen from Lachung (1 hour 45 minutes), stay there overnight, and visit Gurudongmar lake early in the morning. All these are protected areas and you need separate permits. You should book these tours through an authorized operator in Gangtok. Suggest you go through my article on Visiting Lachung and Yumthang to know about how to go about the Lachung/Yumthang tour... you will also find links there for suggested tour plans, combined Lachen/Gurudongmar trip, tour operators, etc. 
    Regret, for privacy reasons, I do not share my phone number with my readers. However, if you go through the above articles and the associated links thoroughly, you should get full clarity on the matter. Good luck! 
    Indrajit Dey (April 2022) 
    Dear Raj, I will be in DZULUK and other areas on and from 23 APR.'22. Apart from the permit to be taken from RONGLI PS, Do I require the SIKKIM TAVEL CARD or the requirement is waived now. We are 2 travellers and both double vaccinated with certificate. Best regards 
    Raj ( April 2022 
    Hello, the Sikkim authorities have not yet stated that the requirement for the Sikkim Travel Card has been discontinued. In fact, they say that it may be checked at the check posts. However, given the current situation, the strictness of implementation seems to have come down. However, it would be wise to carry the Sikkim Travel Card, which can be easily filled up online and downloaded on your mobile and can be shown at the check posts. Carry your vaccine certificates as well. 
    Dharmendra Kumar Pradhan (April 2022) 
    Dear Raj Ji, Sir, can you please suggest how many days required only for west &ásouth part of Sikkim. We want to explore the west &ásouth part, so what will be the route, we have to follow. we have never been there, so we are blank about Sikkim. Raj Ji, this is our humble request to you to guide us about the route to explore west sikkim. After reaching NJP, what we should do?? Should we go for a Tour &áTravel or should we do our own ??(it is only possible if you will guide us). Awaiting for your reply. 
    Raj ( April 2022 
    Hello, Please note that I do not make tour itineraries or plans... for that you need to contact a tour operator. However, I can give you some ideas and pointers to start with and you need to do some reading and research. 
    There are many places in West and South Sikkim and it is not practical to cover them all in one visit. The main tourist destination in West Sikkim is áPelling which is about a 5 &áhalf hour drive from NJP station (20 minutes more from Bagdogra airport). From Pelling, you can take sightseeing tours and visit several attractions of West Sikkim. Suggest, you go through Pelling Tourism to understand more about Pelling, the attractions and places around it, how to reach there and get other information related to tourism. 
    Having stayed in Pelling for 3 nights, you can visit Ravangla which is only about 2 hours away. Although Ravangla is nearby, it is in South Sikkim. You can go through Ravangla Tourism to know about Ravangla tourism and the tourist attractions there. You can stay in Ravangla for 2 nights. 
    If you like tea gardens, you can then spend two nights at Temi Tea Garden. Go through Temi Tea Garden Tour áfor information about Temi. 
    From there you can move to Namchi which is the cultural and religious hub of Sikkim. The main attraction here is the Char Dham. You can spend one night here. Go through Namchi Tourism for details. 
    You will get taxis for transfers as well as local sightseeing at all these places, or you can ask your hotels to arrange for it. If you want to arrange the entire tour through a tour operator, you can go through the last section of the article Gangtok Sightseeing Tours where I have listed some of the well-known tour operators of Sikkim. 
    Priti Shah (March 2022) 
    My husband and myself are doing the Annapurna trek .After the trek we want to visit Sikkim and Daarjeeling. We are 64 years old. Will we be able to travel to Lachen, Lachung and Tsomgo lake. We are ok with altitude. We are OCI citizens and do realise we will need permits to visit these places. Please let us know how we can get it and whether we will be allowed to visit the permitted areas. Thanks. 
    Raj ( March 2022 
    While you can go up to Lachen, you won't be permitted to visit Gurudongmar lake because OCI citizens have the same status as foreigners in Sikkim and permits are not issued to them for some protected areas like Gurudongmar, Zuluk and Nathula pass. You can visit other places such as Tsomgo Lake, Lachung/Yumthang etc. You need to get the permits and visit the places through authorized Tour Operators of Sikkim. Suggest you go through Sikkim Permits where all details are given including how to visit such places. 
    Venkat Vujji (February 2022) 
    Hi Raj, First I have to congratulate for your effort to put all important information together in one place to plan visit. It is very helpful for first visitor like me. We á8 people group are planning to visit Sikkim and darjeeling in early July 2022 including my daughter, citizen of USA aged 13 years and rest of all are Indians. I would like to know if she can get ILP to visit Nauthla pass and Harbajan Baba place and other sensitive places along with us? also my father is 76 years and my mother is 68 years old so is it advisable to take them to above placesses. Please advise so that I can plan our trip accordingly and thanks in advance. 
    Raj ( February 2022 
    Hello, as a foreign national, your daughter can not visit Nathula Pass, Baba Mandir, and other protected areas where foreigners are not allowed such as Gurudomgmar, Zuluk, etc. It is not advisable to take elderly persons to such high-altitude places as Nathula. 
    Andy Weston (January 2022) 
    Many thanks for your informative website Raj. I hope to be able to visit Sikkim in November 2022 as an independent traveller, travelling by bicycle with some taxis. Ideally in very rural roads around old hill stations. I am prepared to book all hotels in advance. But can you please tell me if this sort of travel is allowed under the new Travel Card system? Many thanks. 
    Raj ( January 2022 
    Hi Andy, the new Sikkim Travel Card system does not have any clause preventing cycling across Sikkim, at least as of now. So you should be able to do that unless the guidelines change. As per the travel card requirement, one only needs to enter the Sikkim tour details online into the system (in addition to one's health and personal information) and keep that updated so that one's status can be tracked while in Sikkim. It also recommends that tourists should book rooms in health &ásafety compliant hotels in advance, but advance booking is not mandatory. It is also not mandatory to use any tour operators. 
    For official confirmation, I suggest that you contact Sikkim Tourism and Civil Aviation Department. You can find their contact numbers and office timings on this link
    Maharshi (December 2021) 
    Hello Raj, You are really an amazing person. Your help to travellers like us is much appreciated. We are a group of 10 person and finalized our tour date after 15th February 2022. Now we are concerned about Omicron... means corona related situation in Sikkim. Can you please suggest if the tour during February 2022 would be a safe or good decision or not? Your help would be much appreciated. 
    Raj ( December 2021 
    Hello, it will depend on how the situation pans out in February. Presently, both Sikkim and Darjeeling are packed with tourists and the travel guidelines mandate that tourists should be fully vaccinated, otherwise they must carry RTPCR negative certificate. There is no indication of introducing any further travel restrictions as of now. February anyway is a lean period and you can plan 15 days before you travel... by then you will know the prevailing situation and take a decision accordingly. 
    Sourav Bansal (December 2021) 
    Hi Raj, you did an amazing work. Your website is like a one stop solution to all questions relating to a trip to Sikkim. However, I have one question, and I would be so grateful if you help me. My friends and I are planning to visit Sikkim during the new year (28th Dec to 2nd Jan). This will be our first visit to Sikkim, so naturally all our knowledge is based on research we did on the internet. Some websites say that the main attraction of North Sikkim will not be available to visit during that time due to the heavy snowfall expected during that time of the year. Places like Nathula Pass, Zero Point, Gurudongmar lake etc would be closed for visitors.  
    As a result, we are planning to visit West and East Sikkim, including Pelling and other tourist attractions. However, we would really love to be able to visit the Northern areas like Lachung and Lachen. Can you please tell me if those areas will be completely out of our reach or we can still visit those beautiful towns? We will make an itinerary based on that information. Thank you so much. 
    Raj ( December 2021 
    Hi, if the routes to Nathula and North Sikkim are open then you can go... you will need to plan according to the prevailing situation. If there is little snowing that doesn't block the routes or there are no special military activities at the border, you can get permits and visit the places. But the main problem is, sometimes tourists get stuck after reaching Nathula or North Sikkim because snowing can be quite unpredictable around that time... it happened last year when the military had to carry out the rescue operation to bring tourists down. Well, you need to take your chances but do follow the advice of the tour operators. 
    Abhijit S (November 2021) 
    Hi Raj, Your posts on Sikkim tourism are really insightful. My wife and I are planning to travel to Sikkim in early December and I had 3 questions: 
    1) Do I need to contact a tour operator before I reach Sikkim. I plan to book my own stay and book taxis and permits once I reach there. Is this advisable? 
    2) Is early December a good time to visit : Nathu La, Lachen, Tsomgo and Gurudongmar? 
    3) Is Lachen or Lachung worth spending 2 nights to see around? 
    Raj ( November 2021 
    Hi, it is not mandatory to book the tour beforehand through an approved operator... you can book your hotel (should be Sikkim government approved) and visit. However, you should fill up and carry the Sikkim Travel Card which needs to be shown at the entry check-post (at Rangpo/Melli etc). Early December is not an ideal time to visit high altitude places, but you can go if the routes are open. There is no need to stay extra nights at Lachung and Lachen. You will need to spend 1 night at each of these two places anyway to visit Yumthang and Gurudongmar lake respectively. 
    Nuren Asef (August 2021) 
    Dear Mr. Raj, I'm writing from Bangladesh. I wish to visit Dzongu Valley, Pelling &áTemi Tea Garden (possibly in June 2022) subject to improvement of Covid situation. I have some questions regarding the trip. 
    1. Are foreigners allowed in SNT buses which depart from Siliguri to Mangan/Pelling? 
    2. As much as I know SNT bus tickets are not available online. Is it easy to buy tickets from bus Stand or there is a long queue or other problems? Can I buy tickets earlier than date of travel? 
    3. Would it be wise to travel to Dzongu, Pelling and Temi Tea Garden in Mid June (June 10 to 20)? Should I expect heavy showers? 
    4. Are Cabs/ Local Taxis available to travel to different places of Dzongu Valley? 
    Raj ( August 2021 
    Hello, foreigners can avail SNT (Sikkim Nationalised Transport) buses plying between Siliguri and various parts of Sikkim. You need to purchase the tickets at the bus stands. Unless there is an abnormal situation, buying tickets at the stands is usually not a problem. The monsoon usually starts by mid-June, so yes, you should expect showers. In order to visit Dzongu Valley, one needs a special protected area permit. You should first contact and book a homestay at Dzongu... the homestay owner will arrange for the permit and local tours in Dzongu valley. 
    Nuren Asef (August 2021) 
    Dear Mr. Raj, I have 2 more questions. 1. As much as I know, for visiting Temi tea garden and Pelling only Inner Line Permit(ILP) is enough and for Dzongu valley, special permit for Dzongu valley along with ILP are needed. Correct me if I am wrong. 2. Will I be able to see Kanchanjunga in Mid June with showers? Are the showers heavy or mild in Mid June? Do landslides happen during that period? I am asking so many questions because I plan to travel with my wife and 2 years old baby daughter. Regards,  
    Raj ( August 2021 
    Hello, You are correct on your point-1. The monsoon season actually begins in mid-June.... so there can be intermittent to slightly heavy showers around that time. There are some chances of getting a glimpse of Kanchenjunga in mid-June... the sky usually remains cloudy, some times it clears (particularly in early mornings) when you can see the snow peaks. Landslides mostly take place in July and August when there are continuous heavy rains. 
    Shivam (December 2020) 
    I have made a booking at Royal Barsey Homestay at Okhrey for January 1-3. Is this a good option? Should I not try for North Sikkim or the old silk route? 
    Raj ( December 2020 
    For Okhrey vs. the other places... it really depends on your preferences... they are all good in their own ways. Okhrey is great if you want to deeply understand the Sherpa culture and life, and also visit the famous Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary (however you won't see any flowers in January, the rhododendrons bloom between March to April). 
    For North Sikkim, you need a bit of luck this time because sometimes heavy snowing block the routes, particularly the route from Lachen to Gurudongmar. You can, however, visit Lachung and Lachen, and try your luck for Yumthang and Gurudongmar. It will be extremely cold out there in January. Zuluk/Silk Route should likely be more accessible than North Sikkim around this time. 
    Whichever destination you choose, know that unlike Darjeeling, Sikkim still has some travel restrictions... go through The New Travel Norms in Sikkim to understand those implications. 
    Kaushik Banerjee (May 2019) 
    Hello Sir, Kindly advise if visit to Sikkim in mid-August would be ok, in view of the monsoons. I plan to be in Siliguri during that time and am preparing for a short trip (3-4 days) with my family to Gangtok, Peling and other such places of interest. Thanks and regards, 
    Raj ( May 2019 
    August is in high monsoon season, so expect showers and cloudy days. 
    Milind Ranka (May 2019) 
    Thank you Raj ji. This is all important information that a person needs to make Sikkim/ Darjeeling visit successful. Once you have gone all around different sites, you could be rest assured that here you get detailed information with no ambiguity, whatsoever to clarify all your queries and doubts. Appreciate it very much. Take care and happy selfless social service. :-) 
    Megha (March 2019) 
    Thank u so much for your prompt replies... So do u suggest we should be visiting Sikkim ... Even though we will miss out on Nathula pass, Tsomgo Lake, Lachung, Lachen....? Kids are 7 and 4 years old... any other place you would suggest in June after 20th ...  
    Raj ( March 2019 
    You might be aware that the time you are choosing for your visit is the monsoon time in Sikkim (June 15 to September 15), so I would advise you to consider Gangtok and nearby areas. Roads to several other places get affected due to rains and there are also chances of landslides. 
    Megha (March 2019) 
    We are planning to travel to Sikkim around 20th June.... we have two kids age 7 and 4 ... How difficult it is to travel with them considering the long routes and bad roads...? And also the low oxygen levels at few places .. ? How do we manage with kids.... ? It would be really helpful if you could guide us... Thanks in advance. 
    Raj ( March 2019 
    You can easily visit Gangtok and nearby places with your kids as well as south Sikkim (places like Namchi, Ravangla etc) and even west Sikkim (such as Pelling... road condition is bad though). All these places have adequate facilities and altitude won't be a concern. However you should avoid places like Tsomgo/Nathula and several places in north Sikkim such as Lachung/Yumthang, Lachen/ Gurudongmar lake etc because of high altitude where it is not recommended to take very young kids like yours. 
    Jay Joshi (August 2018) 
    Nice to read all info of Sikkim tourism. I am planning to have tour for 10 days with Gangtok, Lahchung, Lahchen, Pelling, Darjeeling. It is possible to cover all these? Also is it advisable to book taxi plus hotel both in advance or only hotel and book taxi point to point after reaching there as journey advances? We are 4 adults and 1 child 6 year old. Bagdogra airport to Bagdogra return in Nov 2nd week. Please áadvice. Thanks. 
    Raj ( August 2018 
    With 10 full days you can cover all the places you mentioned. You can take taxi transfers and tours when you reach Gangtok, Pelling and Darjeeling. You need not book in advance. However for Lachung &áLachen, contact one or two well-known Sikkim operators to plan out your trip (regular city taxis can not go there). 
    Vinod Kumar Yadav (April 2018) 
    I have toured almost all corners of India and hereafter I place Sikkim amongst the three best sites one should at least visit in their life. Sikkim is really a Jewell of the East/North East. The natural beauty in and around, cleanliness, honesty and simplicity of its people are highly remarkable. The unique thing which I noticed here is the vibrancy, hard work and omnipresence of its women power. The state with 100% organic food, plastic free and almost Zero % unemployment. Namchi, Ravangla are such a wonderful sights that spellbound you. 
    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 ( 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. 
    Ajay (August 2017) 
    Hi Raj, we will be traveling to Gangtok during October 3rd week and planning to visit Changu 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 ( 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. 
    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 ( 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 year 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 ( October 2016 
    February is one of the coldest months in Darjeeling &áSikkim 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 ( 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. 
    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 ( 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 ( 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.