How to Reach Gangtok, What to See and Do There:Our Easy Guide
One of the most beautiful places to visit in India, Gangtok is also one of the stunners of the North East region. The capital of Sikkim, Gangtok is known to house one of the largest Buddhist populations in India. But populations belonging to other ethnicities are also present here, such as the Indian Gorkhas, Lepchas and Bhutias. A class of ruling Tibetans held control of Gangtok till the 18th century. However, Gangtok and Sikkim are largely harmonious and completely safe to visit for all tourists.
Gangtok has many firsts to its name. For example, the Enchey Monastery, the area’s first Buddhist place of worship, was established in Gangtok in the year 1840. But far from being just a spiritual point, Gangtok became known as an important centre of commerce and trade, especially in the early 20th century. This was because it was located right on the trade line connecting Tibet and Kolkata when the British Empire was still in India.
Interestingly, Sikkim was integrated into the Indian Union as late as the year 1975. The State had hitherto chosen to remain independent after India attained freedom in the year 1947. However, it had declared Gangtok as its capital even before being integrated. After amalgamation, the Indian Union recognised Gangtok as the official State capital.
Apart from its stunning beauty, Gangtok is an important stopping point for many mountain climbers and trekkers who stop here 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. There is lots to see and do in Gangtok, and also eat and shop! Gangtok’s primary source of revenue is tourism. The people here are warm and welcoming of tourists, and you and your loved ones will have a lovely time here.
* By Air: Gangtok does not have its own airport. If you want to know how to reach Gangtok by flight, then you will have to alight at Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal. There are many options in taxis and private cars from Bagdogra to Gangtok, so that part of the journey is figured out. You can make the drive in a couple of hours, twisting around mountains with the River Teesta by your side. Or you can even hire a TSA helicopter from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok and reach in 20 minutes. Look online or at Gangtok tourism guides for information on booking your seat on the helicopter. Please note that chopper services are shut during thunderstorms and monsoon season.
* By Road: Many tourists want to know how to reach Gangtok by road. The drive is a beautiful one and the road is small but pretty. Consult a tourism guide or local guide to know how to reach Gangtok via road in your own car or bus from cities like Kolkata, Kalimpong, Darjeeling or Siliguri. Be careful about driving in the monsoon season. The roads are not in bad condition, but they are not in an excellent state either. There are many disruptions on the road due to cave-ins and landslides.
* By Railway: Gangtok does not have its own railway station. Your resort can tell you how to reach Gangtok by railway, viz. via the nearest railway head located at Siliguri’s New Jalpaiguri. It is located about 148 km away from Gangtok, which means that once you alight at the station, you will have a long drive ahead of you to reach your destination. You can take a taxi or a State Transport bus from New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri Bus Station. The advantage of this station is that it is well connected to a number of ordinary and Express trains, most of them coming from Delhi and Kolkata. Consult a local guide or your resort about how to reach Gangtok from your hometown.
It’s all very well to plan a holiday to any place, but getting the timing right is key to enjoy the holiday a lot more. We give you a season-wise breakdown, for the best time to make your Gangtok holiday:
* Visiting Gangtok in the summer: The summer season starts in April and lasts till end of June. It is the tourist season for Gangtok. The day time temperatures can range from 18⁰C to 25⁰C, with slightly warmer days seen during the month of May. The night time temperatures can dip sharply, so bundle up and light up a campfire! Despite this being the summer season in these parts, it is a welcome respite from the blazing hot summer elsewhere in the country.
Since most tourists visit during this time, you can enjoy shopping, eating out at some of the best restaurants in Gangtok, and also indulge in many adventure activities. There are also some cultural events taking place during this time, which a Gangtok tourism guide can tell you about.
* Visiting Gangtok in the 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 if you don’t like walking about in the heavy rain, or if you and/or a family member suffer from rheumatism or Athlete’s Foot, for example. With the monsoon season, road blocks, landslides and foggy rainfall are all expected in Gangtok. But the city becomes lush and green during this time, and the valleys and hills are freshly bathed and pleasing to the eye.
If you must visit during this time, then be sure to stay away from risky areas listed (ask your resort for more information on these) 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.
* Visiting Gangtok in the 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, this is not the right time to visit this city if you have young or old people in the group. The cold weather is quite unfriendly, and the frost might make you ill. But the upside is that the peaks and mountains become snowy and beautiful during this time. You can also play in the snow with your family! There are a few cultural events celebrated in the monasteries here during this time, and the general public is allowed to visit these and celebrate as well. 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 when to visit Gangtok and a bit of the local history, you must start looking up the best tourist spots here. We list a few places to get you started:
* Kanchenjunga: It is the highest mountain in India and the third highest mountain in the world, and the good news is that you can visit this majestic peak right here in Gangtok. But do note that it is a bit of a trek till you reach the base camp. The starting point is at Gangtok, but do go with a reliable guide from a reputed tour operator (your resort can help you with this). Go up to the base camp and stop to explore the famous Kanchenjunga National Park. If you want to stay longer, book an overnight camping slot for yourself and your family. Also, going further than the base camp is a job left only for experienced mountaineers.
* Phodong Monastery: Phodong Monastery is the cultural and spiritual epicentre of Gangtok, and it dates back to the 18th century. You can see a lot of ancient and historically important sculptures, wall paintings and frescoes furnished in the typical Tibetan style. The exact date of these art works is not yet known. Apart from these, you will like to see the serene 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, but be sure to maintain peace and decorum when inside the premises.
* 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. It is an important heritage spot for the area. You will also enjoy thrilling mountain biking or paragliding. But the adventure sports are not for everyone, so find one that suits your temperament and skills. 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.
* 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, in the last century. The Nathula Pass formed part of the famous yesteryear Silk Route between the two countries. Today, people visit it for the stunning views. But do keep your original photo ID proof with you to show if asked. Foreign nationals are not allowed to enter this site. The area is open only to Indian nationals on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and a few Sundays.
* 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 famous Energy Park. The foamy white-water crashes to the ground from a staggering 100 feet above, and is said to have healing powers. There is also a curious superstition or legend associated with the waterfalls: the local residents believe 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! Do note that the fall area is closed during most days of winter, but it is open during the summer season.
* 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 resort for directions and what to do there once you reach.
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 Limited (MHRIL), India’s leading player in the leisure hospitality industry, offers quality family holidays as also stated by Club Mahindra Resort Reviews, primarily through vacation ownership memberships. While Club Mahindra is the flagship brand offering Club Mahindra Membership the other brands offered by the company are – Club Mahindra Resorts Fundays and Svaastha Spa. As on Mar 31, 2019, MHRIL has 61+ resorts across India and abroad and its subsidiary, Holiday Club Resorts Oy, Finland, a leading vacation ownership company in Europe has 33 resorts across Finland, Sweden and Spain. Visit us at www.clubmahindra.com