April 09, 2020
If you haven’t yet visited Gangtok, then this year could be the year that you finally do.The capital of North Eastern State of Sikkim, Gangtok has the distinction of housing one of the largest Buddhist populations in India. However, there are many different ethnicities within this population, such as the Bhutias, Indian Gorkhas, and Lepchas. A class of ruling Tibetans held control of Gangtok till the 18th century. Gangtok is one of the prime tourist hangouts in the region, and much of the State’s revenue depends on tourist footfalls.
Gangtok has many distinctions and firsts to its name. For example, the Enchey Monastery, the area’s first Buddhist place of worship, was established in Gangtok in 1840. But far from being just a spiritual touchpoint, this spot is known for being an important point of commerce and trade, especially in the early 20th century, since it fell on the trade line connecting Tibet and Kolkata when the British Empire was still in India.
Sikkim was integrated into the Indian Union in the year 1975 – it had chosen to remain independent after India became free in 1947. However, it had declared Gangtok as its capital. After amalgamation, the Indian Union recognised Gangtok as an official State capital. Apart from its stunning beauty, Gangtok is an important stopping point for many mountain climbers and trekkers who love like to visit it for its high location in the Himalayan range. Its geographical location gives it a strategic advantage, in terms of cool climate, fresh air and gorgeous scenery all around.
It’s all very well to plan a holiday to any place, but getting the timing right vis-à-vis your leave from work, children’s holidays, the number of days at your disposal and most importantly, the weather conditions, are important to make the most of your trip. The same applies to your planning for this trip – the things to do in Gangtok and the places to visit Gangtok will all come to nought if the weather does not permit sightseeing.
* Summer: The summer season starts in April and lasts till end of June in these parts. This is ideally the best time to visit Gangtok – all the tourists say so! – because the day time temperatures are quite pleasant without getting too cold or too warm. You can expect temperatures between 18⁰C and 25⁰C during the day, though evening and night time temperatures can dip sharply. However, this is the best time to visit Gangtok if you wish to escape the oppressive Indian summer that you are bound to experience elsewhere in the country. Besides, you can indulge in many adventure activities, shopping and cultural events during this season. Being the tourist season, every sort of adventure and entertainment avenue is up for grabs, so make the most of it!
* Monsoon: The monsoon season starts in earnest in the month of July, and often lasts till the end of September. The rainfall is quite intense and chilly in these parts, so this might not be the best time to visit Gangtok if you were considering the idea. The downside is that there might be road blockages due to landslides and torrential rainfall. But on the upside, the valleys and dales become fresh and green, so Gangtok becomes doubly beautiful during this time. If you must visit during this time, then be sure to stay away from listed risky areas (consult Gangtok tourism guidebooks to know more) and wear rubber soled boots when walking outdoors. Also, do not stay out after dark if you don’t have transport to take you back to your Gangtok resort.
* Winter: The winter season lasts from the month of October to March here. It is one of chilly winds and frost in Gangtok – for our money, not the best time to visit Gangtok if there are young children or senior citizens in the group. The cold weather is quite unfriendly, and the frost might make you ill. However, there is another school of thought that believes that winter is the best time to visit Gangtok if you enjoy looking at snowcapped mountains and playing in the snow. Also, the monasteries here celebrate some festivals which the public can go watch. If you must visit during this season, make sure to carry a lot of warm under- and over-clothing, apart from rubber soled boots and a stout walking stick. Also have a lot of hot toddy or ginger tea to keep yourself hydrated and protected from the effects of the cold weather.
Now that you have an idea about the best time to visit Gangtok and some general information about the area, it is time to start making your itinerary for the trip. We get you started with a few suggestions of the good spots to visit. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive, but just a starting guide for you:
* Kanchenjunga: The highest peak in India and the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga is easily accessible from Gangtok. You can trek to the base camp and also explore the famous Kanchenjunga National Park. But an overnight stay and going further than the base camp is recommended only for experienced mountaineers.
* Ganesh Tok: This is a popular thing to do in Gangtok – visit Ganesh Tok to spend an entire day there, simply drinking in the sights of the enchanting place. Located near the Bakthang Falls and Tashi Viewing Point, the spot is famous for the ancient Ganesh Temple located close by. You can walk up the slopes towards the temple and get breathtaking photographs of the views.
* Magnan: You cannot visit Gangtok and not take a tour to Mangan, the small village outside the city limits that also offers many adventure activities for adults. You will have a thrilling time enjoying mountain biking or paragliding. But adventure sports are not for everyone. If you want to just enjoy the peace and quiet, you can walk up and down the narrow alleys, admiring the views and stopping for coffee at a little café or restaurant in Gangtok. There are several small monasteries you can visit in this village as well.
* Tsomgo Lake: This pretty lake creates a heavenly backdrop for a daylong picnic with your family. It is a cold lake at an altitude of 12,310 feet above sea level, and its surface is normally icy. The deep blue waters add to the area’s allure, and with the Himalayas in the backdrop, the panorama will surely take your breath away. Leave early in the morning to visit this lake, because it is almost 40 km away from Gangtok. Carry photo ID proofs and a copy of your residential proof because this is a restricted area that allows civilians with documentation. Ask your Gangtok resort.
* Phodong Monastery: Phodong Monastery is the cultural and spiritual epicentre of Gangtok, and it dates back to the 18th century. Inside, you will find a lot of important sculptures, wall paintings and furnished in typical Tibetan style. You can find monks here going about their daily duties, or taking instruction in the classroom, or even humming in prayer. Take in the majestic mountain side views from the monastery.
* Nathula Pass: This pass is geographically and strategically important, because it connected Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, a disputed area between India and China. The Nathula Pass formed part of the famous yesteryear Silk Route between the two countries. All of this politicking aside, the area is gorgeous and a must-visit place in Gangtok. Again, keep your original photo ID proof with you to show if asked. However, the area is opken only to Indian nationals on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Some Sundays might be open, but this is often a last-minute scheduling change.
* Ban Jakhri Falls: If you still want to drink in more of Gangtok’s natural beauty, you should head to Ban Jakhri Falls. This stunning waterfall is located inside the Energy Park, and the water crashes to the ground from a staggering 100 feet above! The water from these falls is said to have both spiritually healing and medicinal properties, if the local residents are to be believed. The legend goes that the spirits that guard this place must never be disturbed, or they will unleash the water on all of the land and wreak havoc instead of healing! There is an entry fee of Rs 20 to go inside the park and see the waterfall, but winter might not be the best time to visit this Gangtok attraction because it is closed on some days.
Staying at the right accommodation is key to enjoying your vacation in Gangtok. We recommend the Club Mahindra Gangtok Resort. The property overlooks the Chola Mountain range, and offers luxurious rooms in an idyllic setting. You will love the food served at the resort’s restaurant, as well as the spa and every modern comfort that you desire. When you wish to explore the property, do so at will and also step out to take a walk around, or enjoy a trek close by. If you just want to relax at the resort, stay put at the library or go for a swim.
Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. (MHRIL), a part of Leisure and Hospitality sector of the Mahindra Group, offers quality family holidays primarily through vacation ownership memberships and brings to the industry values such as reliability, trust and customer satisfaction. Started in 1996, the company's flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’, today has over 250,000 members , who can holiday at 100+ resorts in India and abroad.