Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim, which is enclosed with scenic environs and breath-taking knolls. Since 19th century, the city has started witnessing a large number of Buddhist followers. The reason being, this was the time when the Enchey Monastery was constructed here. Being a popular Buddhist Pilgrimage Centre, the tempting city of Gangtok boasts a diverse range of monasteries. Perhaps this is why today Gangtok is also known as the ‘land of monasteries’.
The natural splendour of Gangtok is indisputably the key attraction here for visitors. Besides, the cultural diversity and religious practices of Gangtok also distinguishes the city from other popular hill stations in India. In Gangtok, you will come to see people of different ethnicity like Lepchas, Tibetan, Bhutia and Nepalese. This results into a blend of people here with different languages, religions and food styles. A greater percentage of inhabitants in Gangtok speak Nepali. In addition, Hindi, English and several other languages are also spoken here. Regarding religion, Gangtok shows a great reverence towards Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. Some of the popular festivals that are celebrated in Gangtok with great enthusiasm include Drupka, Maghe Sankranti and Pong Labsal.
The natural grandeur of Gangtok allures weekenders, honeymooners and history buffs from all round the sphere. If you are planning for an invigorating summer escape in the north-eastern part of the country, Gangtok may be the place you are long for. The beautiful hill station has no dearth of attractions for tourists. Hence, when in Gangtok you can’t afford to skip the following destinations:
Your voyage to the land of monasteries remains incomplete without exploring the Rumtek Monastery. Nestled along the green hills and about 24Kms from the capital city, Rumtek Monastery was set up way back in 16th century by the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk. Moving ahead, this sacred Tibetan Buddhist monastery was later refurbished by the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. The prime purpose behind the construction of this monastery was to spread the teachings of Buddha to all his followers across the globe. It is said that the Rumtek Monastery is reckoned amongst the most sacred hubs in India after those religious monasteries in Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) and Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh).
Apart from its architectural brilliance, the overall ambience inside the monastery complex takes you to a different level of serenity. Some of the key attractions at this monastery include Sanctum Sanctorum, pictures of Lord Ganesha and Dalai Lama and Nunnery. In addition, there is also a Buddhist school along the monastery where various cultural and spiritual lesions are taught to spread the words of Lord Buddha. Rumtek Monastery is also popular as the Dharma Chakra Centre, which is visited by plenty of tourists from different parts of the sphere. The monastery is open every day from 9AM-6PM.
Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary:
Exploring the wildlife amidst knolls is always a rousing experience for enthusiast travellers. Spread with more than 50 sq km areas, Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the popular tourist pullers in Gangtok. This site is an absolute delight for photographers and kids. Hence, visiting this location with your family members is never a bad idea. Located nearly 20Kms outside the main city, the dense bush of Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary is an abode to various species of flora and fauna. Some of the key wild attractions in this region include Civet Cat Binturong, Himalayan Beer and Red Panda. Besides, various wild orchids and species of birds and butterflies can also be spotted amidst the forest area. Few more addition to the list of vibrant flora at this sanctuary includes oaks, ferns and bamboos. Reaching at Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary thus adds more thrill to your wildlife expedition. The best time to reveal the best wildlife here is from March to May and from September to December. However, entry to this exciting Wildlife Sanctuary incurs certain fees for visitors. One more addition to this amazing tourist spot is the wooden observation tower, which is positioned at an elevation of nearly 7000 feet. Adventure freaks scale this height here to catch a picturesque vista of its surround areas. Near the observation tower, there is a provision for basic accommodation as well where visitors can spend their leisure time.
Situated nearly 35Kms from the main city, Tsomgo Lake is a glacial lake, which is one of the major tourist pullers in Gangtok. The name of the lake is derived from Bhutia language wherein, the word ‘Tso’ means lake and the word ‘Mgo’ means source. Thus, the actual meaning of these two words stands ‘source of the lake’. In Gangtok, Tsomgo Lake is also popular as Changu Lake and Tsongmo Lake. Along the lake, you can also see some holy shrines that are devoted to Lord Shiva. Visitors need to get prior permission while entering the lake area.
Located near the Tsomgo Lake and around 55 kms from the capital city, Nathula Pass serves as a corridor of passage between Tibet and India. This pass is positioned at an elevation of more than 4,000 metres from sea level. It is said that the road that takes you through the pass is the world’s highest motorable road. If you are here with your biddies and looking for a rousing bike ride, Nathula Pass could be an amazing site to fulfil your daring desire. Nathula Pass is delimited by rich variety of alpine flora. Peeping over the barbed wire from the international border will glimpse you a troop of the Chinese soldiers. Before accessing the Nathula Pass make sure to avail the permission from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department.
Do-Drul Chorten or Stupa:
Having said the diverse range of monasteries here, Do-Drul Chorten or Stupa is another addition to that list. Constructed decades back in 1945 by Trullshi Rimpoche, this religious site is visited mostly by the Buddhists and the history buffs. The captivating decor and soothing environs along the monastery also grabs the attention of photographers. Some of the major attractions that one must explore here include an array of religious books, Dorjee phurba, prayer wheels and Zung. Besides, several other spiritual objects can also be spotted here. Do-Drul Chorten is open throughout the week from 8AM-6PM. In Do-Drul Chorten, don’t miss the mesmerising religious chants that leads to a divinely environment here for visitors.
How to go:
Being an eminent hub for tourists and Buddhist pilgrimage, the popular hill station Gangtok is easily accessible from different parts of the country. If you plan to get there by air, the nearest airport is in Bagdogra, which is around 125Kms from Gangtok. There are several regular carries to Bagdogra that fly from Kolkata, Guwahati, Delhi and other locations. Once you reach Bagdogra airport, hire a prepaid taxi or any private vehicle that will take you to your destination in approximately 2 hours.
Gangtok can also be reached conveniently by train. The nearest railhead from Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station, which is located nearly 120 Kms. NJP is further well-connected to its nearby cities like Siliguri, Guwahati and Kolkata. From NJP, you can take a taxi for Gangtok or you can travel till Siliguri by bus and from Siliguri change the bus for Gangtok. Siliguri to Gangtok may consume maximum 4 hours time by road.
If you are residing in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kolkata or any other adjoining cities, nothing could be as convenient as reaching Gangtok by road. There are several buses, Jeeps and taxis that you can take from its nearby locations to reach Gangtok. By car the distance between Siliguri and Gangtok can be covered in 3.30 hours. From Kalimpong, it will take 2 hours 30 minutes time to reach Gangtok. On the other hand, from Darjeeling the distance to reach Gangtok is less than 100 Kms that can be travelled approximately in 3 hours 15 minutes time by car.
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