Introduction: The precise meaning of the name Gangtok is unclear, though it is generally held to mean "lofty hill". Gangtok is also a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning with numerous monasteries and religious educational institutions. Gangtok is the capital and largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. It is situated in the lower Himalayas. Known for its clean surroundings and temperate climate, this hill station of about thirty thousand people is the centre of Sikkim's tourist industry. History: he earliest records date from the construction of the hermitic Gangtok monastery in 1716. Gangtok remained a small hamlet until the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840 made it a pilgrimage center. After the defeat of the Tibetans by the British, Gangtok became a major stopover in the trade between Tibet and British India at the end of the 19th century. Most of the roads and the telegraph in the area were built during this time.
Gangtok Quick facts
Gangtok Geography and Climate
Gangtok is located at 27.33� N 88.62� E. It has an average elevation of 1437 metres (4714 feet). It is situated in the lower Himalayas at an altitude of 1,780 metres (5,480 feet), in southeast Sikkim. In addition to being the state capital, it is also the headquarters of the East Sikkim district. The town lies on one side of a hill, with "The Ridge", a promenade housing the governor's residence at one end and the palace, situated at an altitude of about 6,000 feet (1,828 m), at the other. Climate: Gangtok enjoys a mild, temperate climate all year round. Like most Himalayan towns, Gangtok has five seasons: summer, monsoons, autumn, winter and spring. Temperatures range from a high of 25 �C (77 �F) in summer to a low of about 3 �C (37 �F) in winter.
Best time to visit Gangtok
Gangtok experiences a lot of rainfall throughout the year and temperatures are mild. The best time to visit Gangtok is between the months of October and March.
To the north is Raj Bhavan, the former British and later Indian Residency, and above it the Tourist Lodge and Enchen Monastery. Lower down along the ridge is the palace of the former Raja (known as the Chogyal) and the large and impressive Royal Chapel (the Tsuk-La-Khang). On a continuation of this ridge but much lower is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology established in 1958, built in the traditional style. The library here can be visited and a collection of objects relating to Tibetan Buddhism, including some unique and very beautiful silk embroidered thankas, is on permanent display.An orchid sanctuary surrounds the Institute which itself is enclosed in a peaceful forest.
Gangtok Near Getaways
Kanchenjunga National Park - Access to the heart of Kanchenjunga National Park, including the vast Zemu Glacier, is generally only permitted to mountaineering expeditions or experienced trekking parties using the services of a recognised travel agency. Gezing - The road from Legship leaves the river and ascends high up above the village for 15 km to Gezing. Jorethang - Set in the forested Rangeet Valley, the pleasant market town of Jorethang lies 30 km north of Darjeeling. Pelling - Pelling is perched high on a ridge, 2.5 km from Pemayangtse Gompa, and is rapidly developing into a Bengali hill resort. Phodong - Phodong Gompa, north of Gangtok along a winding but largely tarmac road, belongs to the same order (Kagyupa) as Rumtek, but is much smaller and less ornate than that gompa. After the 16th Karmapa fled from Tibet and before he established himself in Rumtek in 1959, Phodong was the most important of Sikkim`s three Kagyupa gompas (the third is Ralang Gompa). Yuksom - Yuksom (also spelt Yoksum and Yuksam), 35 km by road from Pemayangtse, is the farthest north you can get by road in West Sikkim and is the trailhead for those intending to trek to Dzongri.
Kalimpong (80 km) Darjeeling (94 km) Siliguri (110 km) Pelling (125 km) Nathula (56 km)
How to reach Gangtok by Road
Gangtok is connected with Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri by the national highway 31 A. the Sikkim nationalised transport plies regular bus services between Gangtok and Siliguri and within Sikkim. Private buses, jeeps and taxis are also available from Siliguri and Bagdogra. Bookings can be made at the SNT terminus, Siliguri.
How to reach Gangtok by Rail
The nearest railhead is at New Jalpaiguri, which is 125-km (about 4 hours drive) from Gangtok. NJP is well connected with all major cities of India. Gangtok, railway bookings can be made at the booking counter of the Sikkim nationalised transport terminus.
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How to reach Gangtok by Air
The closest airport is at Bagdogra, which is 124-km from Gangtok (about 4 hours drive) and connected by air with all-important Indian Metros. For all further details please contact any one of the Sikkim tourism offices.
Gangtok Festivals and culture
Major Indian festivals, such as Diwali and Makar Sankranti (the popular Hindu festivals) along with the Buddhist festivals like Losar, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are celebrated in Gangtok. During the Losar, the Tibetan New Year in mid-December, most government offices and tourist centres are closed for a week. In recent times, Christmas has also been celebrated in Gangtok.
Gangtok is filled with different cultures, religions and people existing in perfect harmony. Gangtok has shown that "Unity in Diversity" exists in Sikkim. Gangtok presents a perfect example for India and even other countries on how can people from diffrent backgrounds and with different casts and creeds can live together in perfect harmony. Sikkimese always has shown a strong bonding with their age-old traditions and customs, however as soon as a person looks around in Gangtok how is sure that modernity and worlds culture is coming into town.
Gangtok Religious Places
The people of Gangtok are lovers of God. They believe in God very much. There are many places of worship in the town. Buddhism is greatly practiced in the city. There are many Buddhist monarchies and Stupas in the city. Dro-dul Chorten Stupa is a stupa in Gangtok in the Indian state of Sikkim. The stupa was built by Trullshi Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa, a complete set of Dorjee Phurba, Kangyur relics (Holy Books) and other religious objects. Around the stupa are 108 Mani Lhakor or prayer wheels. The stupa is surrounded by Chorten Lakahang and Guru Lakhang, where two statues of Guru Rinpoche are present.
Ganesh Tok(7Km.)It is situated on a ridge and is only 7-km from Gangtok. From this spot one gets birds view of sprawling Gangtok town down below while across the hills Mt. Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu loom over the horizon. A cafeteria serves hot tea/coffee and snacks. Hanuman Tok(11Km.)It is 11-km from Gangtok town, above Ganesh Tok with a Hindu temple where the devotees come and offer prayers. Kabi Longstok(25Km.)25-km from Gangtok, just before Phodong is Kabi Longstok. There is a spot amidst tall trees, where the treaty of brotherhood between, the Lepcha Chieftan - Tetong Tek and the Tibetan chief Khye Bhumsa was signed. Kabi Longtsok(17Km.)About 17-km away from Gangtok is Kabi Longtsok where the Tibetan chieftain, Khey-Bumsar signed a blood brotherhood with the Lepcha shaman Te-Kung-Tek, the spot is marked by a stone amidst the shadows of a dense wooded area. The statue of unity erected near the Thakurbari temple in Gangtok is in memory of this event. White Hall: It was built in 1932 in memory of the first political officer of Sikkim, Claude White. There is an Officers Club and a Badminton Court in the white hall. Tasuklakhang - The Royal Chapel, Tsuklakhang, is within the palace grounds. Popularly called Tsulakhang Royal. It is the principal place of worship and assembly and the repository of a vast collection of Buddhist scriptures.
Gangtok Entertainment and Night Life
Gangtok has an energetic, active and great nightlife. There was a time when there were only cheap liquor bars in Gangtok but over the years many hotels, bars, pubs have come into existence making the nightlife happening in the city. Now Gangtok boasts a number of restaurants and bars. There are many lounge bars as well in the town.
Kidding around Gangtok
Chungthang(95Km)Another typical called "Tung" and then one will reach Chungthang. Chungthang is a small habitation in a cup like valley, surrounded on all sides by towering hills. Though its altitude is only 500 ft, it is much colder than Mangam. The heavy, cold air remains slumbering in he valley till late morning. It is only when the sun is high up in the horizon and its warm rays pierce deep into the valley that the lazy, cold wind and mist slowly depart.
The main markets for shopping are Old market, New Market and Lal market. Here one finds shops of all kind, which offer good range of items to be purchased. For tourists there are many attractive items to be bought as carved furniture, the dresses, Lepcha weave bags, Carpets & Durries with intricate designs and colourful decorations. One can also buy wooden and bamboo artifacts. For a collector of handmade decorative pieces Gangtok is a paradise. The items from Gangtok leave a long lasting impression on the mind of the visitor. The Hindi speaking Marwaris dominates many of the shops in the Gangtok market. The handicraft and handloom directorate office and the showroom are on crossing of MG Marg and New market. The Gramin Vikas Agency showroom is also located here. In these showrooms one can buy carpets, masks, bright Choktse tables, Thanka hangings.
Famous To Eat at Gangtok
Noodle -based foods such as the thukpa, chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton, are relished in Gangtok. The momo is a popular snack made from vegetable, beef, or pork filling, which is steamed and served with a soup.
Gangtok Museum and Hill Stations
Phoodong Monastery(40Km.)This monastery is located about a kilometre above the North Sikkim Highway about40-km away from Gangtok. Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyalbuilt the monastery sometime in the first quarter of the 18th century. Yumthang(149Km.)Yumthang is a valley at 12,000 ft. Its location is awesome. Nature is at her expressive best. Snow clad mountains all around looking down on this high valley full of colour. The valley floor is covered with wild, yellow flowers and violet Primulas, while the hill sides are vivid and glowing with multicoloured Rhododendrons. The Ridge: The ridge is a small stretch of plain and flat road above the town of Gangtok. It is just about five minutes walk from the main market. The ridge has the white hall and the chief minister's official residence on one end and the beautifully designed palace gate on the other. The ridge is lined with plants and trees when in bloom are a riot of colours. Flower shows, which attract tourists from all over the world are held just below the ridge. Pemayangtse Monastery: Around 6-km from Gyalsing town, this monastery originally built as a small temple in the last of 17th century by Latsun Chempo, later rebuilt the temple structure into a monastery. Labrang Monastery: A kilometre further from Phodong, the Labrang monastery was built about 100 years later. This monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the same as that of Pemayangtse monastery in West Sikkim. Its name translates simply as the dwelling place of the Lamas (monks)
Gardens and Parks at Gangtok
The Ipecac Garden(14Km.)This 6 acres garden is about 14-km downhill from Gangtok and 2-km from Ranipul. It is named after the plant Ipecac that is grown here. Besides this plant, it also contains a wide variety of other flora including numerous types of orchids and medicinal plants. It is a very good picnic spot with a swimming pool nearby. Deer Park: Adjacent to the new secretariat and also called the Rustomji Park named after one of the Dewans of the Chogyal of Sikkim, the park has a big open enclosure in which animals native to Sikkim like the red panda and the Himalayan Bear are kept. A big statue of Lord Buddha commemorating his preachings of the noble truths in the Deer Park at Sarnath adorns the park premises. A butter lamp perpetually burns in front of the statue, which is surrounded with flowers of exotic variety. The park commands a fantastic view of the hills, surrounding Gangtok.
Lake at Gangtok
Changu Lake(35Km.)With an average depth of 50 ft, this lake is situated 35 km from Gangtok at an altitude of 12,000 ft on the Gangtok - Nathu-la highway. Recently this lake has been opened for tourists. Its cool, placid water is in the perfect harmony with the scenic beauty around. A small temple of Lord Shiva is constructed on the lakeside. Primulae flowers and other alpine vegetation grow wild around the lake. The department of Tourism conducts package tours to this lake. Cameras are not allowed to carry on this route. A little distance from the lake is a beautiful natural three storeyed cave, the Tseten Tashi cave is a worth to visit. Kechopari Lake: On bifurcation road between Gyalsing and Yoksum, is clear water Kechopari Lake (means - wishing lake). All around are mountains with dense forests and wild life. It is so placid, crystal clear that not a leaf can be seen floating over it, because it is immediately lifted by birds. Tsomgo Lake: Tsomgo literally means "Source of the Lake " in Bhutia language. ' TSO' means lake and ' MGO' means head. At about 40-km away from Gangtok, this serene and holy lake is situated at an altitude of 12,400 ft on the Gangtok - Nathu La highway. Menmecho Lake(20Km.)Menmecho Lake lies 20-km ahead of Changu Lake, cradled between the mountains below Jelapla Pass, is the source of River Ranpochu, which meets Teesta at Rangpo. It is rich in trout. A Dak Bungalow and a tourist lodge are available for overnight stay.
Weather is here sutiable for the crops grown locally are ginger and cardamom.
Gangtok Travel Tips
Foreign tourists require a special permit, which is easily available at all Indian missions abroad who are authorised to issue a 15-day permit. N.B. Light woolen clothes in summer & warm clothes in winter a foldable handy umbrella may be useful. While embarking on an India tour, obtain a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Also consult your doctor before visiting this country. Carry attested copies of your visa, passport, and other important travel documents. Avoid purchasing any travel ticket from strangers. Go for travel agents for arrangement for transport tickets. Credit cards, foreign currency or traveler?s checques are accepted from foreign nationals although Indian currency is needed to give proof of having legal foreign exchange. Accommodate at any of the several top hotel groups operated chain hotels in various cities of the country. You can also go for budget hotels or guesthouses.
Gangtok Tourist Offices
Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Gangtok. Phone: 22064, 23425, 25277 Fax: 25647. Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, SNT Colony, Hill Cart Road. Siliguri. Phone: 43646. Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, Bagdogra airport, Bagdogra.
The UTI Bank, SBI,PNB,have their Teller Machines(ATMs) at Gangtok. The UTI ATM accept VISA Electron Debit Cards. The State Bank of India(202224), UTI Bank,UCO Bank (203164), Central Bank of India (222235), Canara Bank(203589), Vijaya Bank (222131) etc.
Must do at Gangtok
The Enchey Monastery is a very famous faith magnet in the city. This two-hundred year old monastery is a must see for all tourists. About twenty-five kilometers away from the city is a beautiful monastery known as the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre. Architecturally splendid, this edifice stands out of the surrounding landscape. Mountaineers and trekkers can head for Changu Lake, about forty kilometers from Gangtok, at a height of more than 3,700 meters. Shoppers in Gangtok should visit places like the Old Market, where high quality Tibetan rugs and Buddhist prayer wheels are abundant. Make sure you check out the Tankha paintings.