The first sight which greets you in Sikkim will be of the countless prayer flags fluttering in the wind and the blue skies serving as the perfect backdrop. Sikkim is poetry in motion and one can’t help but fall in love with the culture, beauty and warmth of the people. The slow-paced life, the many moods of nature and the soft murmurings of prayer melodies – there is little that Sikkim tourism doesn’t offer to nature lovers and peace seekers.
Like most hilly regions in India, the best time to visit Sikkim is during summer or winter. Summer is between the months of April and June in the region and everything is glowing in shades of green and blue. This is an especially good time to explore Sikkim tourism if you are travelling with family. The days are pleasant with temperatures of 18 to 20 degree Celsius and nights are manageable with minimum temperatures of 12 to 15 degree Celsius.
If you enjoy snow-covered peaks or want to try snow-based adventure sports, we recommend exploring Sikkim tourism between October and December. This is also the season of myriad festivals in Sikkim and a great time to learn more about the local culture. Some of the festivals which take place are Cherry Tea Festival, Red Panda Winter Festival and Maniram Bhanjyang Tourism Festival.
On the other hand, monsoon is considered to be off-season in Sikkim. However, for those who are willing to face unpredictable rains and landslides, Sikkim during monsoons is splendid. The rains add colour to the entire region and you’ll be taken aback at the various shades of nature you will witness. Monsoon is also a great time to travel for budget travellers. Owing to the rains, most hotels offer discounts and flights are cheap.
Exploring Sikkim tourism is expensive simply due to the distance between tourist attractions. If you are travelling with your family, hiring a private taxi is convenient but it is also one of the most expensive modes of transport.
Per day costs for luxury travellers in Sikkim can be anything between Rs.15,000 to Rs.25,000. This amount will vary depending on the kind of accommodation and itinerary.
For mid-budget travellers, exploring Sikkim tourism can cost anywhere between Rs.7,000 to Rs.10,000 per day. This amount also includes your transport and accommodation costs.
For budget travellers, the per-day cost in Sikkim will depend on the accommodation and itinerary. If you join forces with fellow travellers, your per-day cost in Sikkim will reduce considerably. Budget travellers can expect to spend anywhere between Rs.1000 to Rs.3000 while exploring Sikkim tourism.
Sikkim is divided into four regions and while one can explore all regions on one trip, we recommend planning your itinerary carefully. Exploring all four regions demands time and also physical stamina, owing to the long distances between tourist attractions. However, if you have seven to fifteen days with you, here are our top recommendations for places to see in Sikkim tourism.
Most places in Sikkim tourism have a religious or historical significance. Yuskom in West Sikkim is situated 33km from Pelling. Yuksom literally translates to ‘the meeting place of three llamas’, Yuksom is an important part of Sikkim tourism since it was the place where the first-ever Chogyal was crowned.
Most travellers head here for a day trip from Pelling, however, we certainly recommend staying a night in one of the picturesque village homestays. Reasonable and offering an experience you can’t forget, the homestays here offer an authentic Sikkimese experience.
Yuksom is home to one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim tourism, Dubdi Monastery. It is now protected as a national monument and is a huge attraction for history lovers. We recommend keeping aside at least a couple of hours to explore this beauty. For adventure lovers, the city serves as the gateway to Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. If you are planning to visit the biosphere, there isn’t a better place to spend the night.
For adventure enthusiasts, Yuksom offers access to the base camp of Mount Kanchenjunga which is a big part of Sikkim tourism. It also serves as the base camp for numerous treks which start in the region. If adventure and trekking are not on your mind, you can head to Sangachoeling monastery, Khecheopalri Lake which is considered sacred by the locals and Tashi Tenka.
Pelling is one of the best places to visit in Sikkim tourism. Slowly becoming the second most visited place after Gangtok, this small town is home to several boutique resorts which offer travellers a memorable experience. The biggest draw for tourists travelling to Pelling is the picture-perfect views of Khangchendzonga and a chance to visit the spellbinding monasteries here.
Pemayangtse Monastery is situated close to Pelling and is a must-visit for peace seekers. The highlight of the monastery is the seven-tiered 3D model which offers an insight into Buddhist culture. To explore the monastery, one needs close to two to three hours.
You must include a visit to Sangacholing Monastery as well. It is one of the best places in Sikkim tourism and was the oldest monastery built in 1697. Pelling also hosts the Khangchendzonga Festival every year. During the festival, one can try white water rafting, trekking, mountain biking and several traditional sports.
For those who enjoy cultural activities, there are numerous flower exhibitions, cultural dances and folk music performances. A huge part of Sikkim tourism, the Khangchendzonga Festival should find a place in your itinerary.
Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in Sikkim tourism, Nathula sees hundreds of visitors every year. One of the three open borders between Sikkim and China, Nathula directly translates to ‘listening ears’ and ‘pass’.
More than the pass itself, it’s the route to the pass which is an experience. There are several waterfalls, ponds and gorges on the way to Nathula and while the journey is long, it’s completely worth it. You can also take a short detour to catch a glimpse of Tibetan wolves and yaks on the way to the pass. We recommend trying this only if you are travelling with locals.
It’s important to note that travellers visiting Nathula need a permit. This permit can be obtained from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department. To make your tour easy, we recommend applying through a registered Sikkim tourism travel agency. One will need a valid ID proof and two passport-sized photographs.
The best time to visit Nathula is during the summer months when the minimum temperature is 10 degree celsius. Most travellers heading to Nathula head to the unusual samadhi of Baba Harbhajan Singh. It’s said that travellers must pay their respects on the way to Nathang Valley. The temple is small and flanked with bells on both sides and is a space which consists of two rooms. Locals believe a visit here is a must for travellers.
Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim and is extremely popular with tourists. In all likelihood, it is the first city you will visit while exploring Sikkim tourism. The bustling city offers mesmerising views of Mount Kanchenjunga and is the base for trekkers who are waiting to explore Sikkim tourism.
Gangtok is the perfect example of urbanisation and traditional charm and travellers will fall in love with the vibe of the city. If you have only a few days in Sikkim, we definitely recommend spending a couple of days in Gangtok. Not only are there tourist attractions within the city but it’s located close to most places to see in Sikkim.
For food lovers, Gangtok is a treat to explore. There are several restaurants here where you can try momos, thukpa and other local delights. There are also local cafes in Gangtok where you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee after long sightseeing trips. For shopping enthusiasts, there are numerous shopping streets where you can buy woollens, handicrafts and food items.
Gangtok is located close to 37km from Changu Lake. Also known as Tsomgo Lake, it is part of all Sikkim tourism itineraries. Promising you mesmerising views of snow-clad mountains and verdant, thick alpine forests – the beauty of the lake needs to be seen to be believed. The highlight of Tsomgo Lake is that the water changes colour every season. In winter, the lake looks translucent while in monsoon, the lake seems aquamarine. Summer is the best time to admire the beauty of the lake and it’s a must-visit for all travellers, especially nature lovers and photographers.
The best places to visit in Gangtok are Rumtek Monastery, Ganesh Tok, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Hanuman Tok.
Gurudongmar Lake is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Sikkim tourism. One of the 15 highest lakes in the world, a visit here will stay with you forever. The lake offers spellbinding views of the surrounding mountain ranges, and the long journey to the lake seems totally worth it. Locals consider Gurudongmar Lake to hold religious importance and also to have healing properties. Most travellers take back the water from the lake after their sightseeing tour.
While one can easily cover the spot in one day, we highly recommend spending the night here. The homestays around the lake are welcoming and also offer a glimpse into the local way of life. It is usually quite windy around the lake area, so we recommend carrying appropriate outerwear.
One of the lesser-known destinations of Sikkim tourism, Namchi in South District is gradually becoming a busy tourist spot. Despite its growing popularity, the town sees only nature lovers and peace seekers. Namchi which literally translates to ‘top of the sky’, is known for Samdruptse Hill or the ‘wish-fulfilling hill’. The hill is also home to one of the largest statues of Lord Padmasambhava in Sikkim.
According to local legends, the hill is on a volcano and monks religiously head up to the top to pray that it never erupts. Namchi is also one of the few places in Sikkim tourism that offers you views of Rangit Valley. For those who want to visit monasteries, you can include Sherdup Choeling Monastery and the Dichen Choeling Monastery. There are numerous homestays and small guesthouses in the village which offer travellers a memorable stay.
Among the best places to visit in Namchi, visitors must include a trip to Ngadak Monastery and the breathtaking rock garden.
Influenced by Nepali and Tibetan flavours, the local cuisine in Sikkim comprises of fresh vegetables, chicken, pork and mutton. The locals have a unique way of preparing food and this differs depending on where you are in the state. What remains common is the fermentation process. Most vegetables and dairy products are fermented for long periods of time.
Some of the best dishes are gya thuk which is a soup made of chicken, noodles and vegetables, momos which are said to be the best in the country, kinema which is made from soybeans and is rich in protein, churrpi soup which is a favourite among all local households and chang which is the local beer made from fermented millet.
While momos and gya thuk are available in all restaurants, for the other dishes, you will have to explore local food joints. Cafes are also a huge part of Sikkim tourism, especially in Gangtok. Serving fresh bakery items and strong coffee, these cafes are ideal after a fun day of sightseeing.
The best restaurants in Sikkim are Mu Kimchi, Mama’s Kitchen, Gangtalk, Little Italy, Rasoi and Tatopani Bar and Restaurant.
Sikkim tourism promises an action-packed trip for adventure buffs. With trekking, rafting, biking, nature walks and hiking to keep you busy, you’ll have to plan your itinerary before booking tours. We recommend choosing one tour operator to help you with your adventure tours to save time and effort.
River rafting in Teesta
Rafting offers adventure buffs the thrill of tackling wild rapids and gives water lovers the joy of spending time in the water. Situated close to Gangtok, it is one of the best water rafting spots in India.
Rafting is becoming a popular part of Sikkim tourism and is ideal for both amateurs and experts. While there are many tour operators in the area, we recommend booking from Sikkim tourism approved operators only.
There are two rafting tours offered and depending on your skills, you can choose either. While the shorter tour is for a couple of hours, the longer rafting trip can take up to 3 to 4 hours. The grade of rapids in both tours is drastically different and range between Grade 2 to Grade 4. For non-swimmers and first-time rafters, we suggest choosing the first one.
The best time to try rafting in Teesta River is in the summer months of April, May and June. During the monsoon, rafting is closed due to heavy rainfall. If you want to include rafting in your Sikkim visit, we recommend keeping aside one day for the activity.
Paragliding in Gangtok
Paragliding has recently become a popular activity in Sikkim tourism. Giving you a chance to enjoy mesmerising views of snow-clad peaks, lakes and small towns, paragliding is a thrilling sport for adventure buffs.
There are two sites for paragliding in Gangtok and you can choose one depending on your interests. The difference lies only in the height of the take-off site. Depending on the speed of the wind, the higher take off site will give you more flying time.
There are many operators who organise paragliding sessions but the ones working with Sikkim tourism are the most reasonable and reliable. For adventure enthusiasts who are planning a paragliding tour, the most important thing to keep in mind is the time you visit. If you book your session at the end of summer, chances are you'll have to reschedule due to monsoon showers. Also, for solo flyers, the preferred take-off sites are Pangthang, Bojoghari village and Tashi View Point. Paragliding in Gangtok will cost you anywhere between Rs.1200 to Rs.4500.
While mountain biking has always been a preferred sport for adventure enthusiasts, tourists are only discovering the magic of biking in Sikkim. The long winding roads, mesmerising scenery and fresh air only add to the experience. And while you need to have some cycling experience in the hills, it’s a skill you can pick up with some hard work.
In popular biking areas around Sikkim, you’ll see people of all ages swishing their way through the narrow roads. Owing to the increased popularity of mountain biking, Sikkim tourism operators are making efforts to make this easier for tourists.
Typically the costs of hiring a bicycle are anything from Rs.100 to Rs.200, the amount varies according to the season. Some of the popular routes for mountain biking in Sikkim are from Sirwani to Temi, Yuksom to Kheocheparimelli and Maenam to Borong. While most of these routes are dotted with small villages, it’s highly recommended to go out in a group or at least in pairs.
Explore the wildlife in Sikkim
Wildlife enthusiasts will be surprised at the diversity Sikkim tourism offers. A natural habitat for several species, the wildlife sanctuaries of Sikkim tourism are some of the best in India.
Among the most popular ones, we recommend including Kewzing and Khangchendzonga. There are numerous tours and safaris organised for both sanctuaries by Sikkim tourism operators which offer you an experience of a lifetime. Khangchendzonga National Park in Yuksom is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is known for its fascinating wildlife and gives visitors an opportunity to see species such as musk deer, snow leopards, great Tibetan sheep and the most popular red pandas. The park is also home to a varied bird population which offers birdwatchers an experience they won’t forget. Among the bird species that you can spot, look out for blood pheasant, tibetan snow cock, satyr tragopan, and himalayan snow cock.
The Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary in Sikkim tourism is another popular haven for bird watchers. It is said to be home to rare species of pheasants, which are only found in the Eastern Himalayas. Bird watchers can also spot Puff-throated Babbler, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Sultan Tit, and Streaked Spiderhunter. While you can explore these sanctuaries on your own, we do recommend a guided tour to make the best of your vacation.
Sikkim is gradually becoming a popular tourist destination especially with couples, adventure buffs and nature lovers. The constant flow of tourists has led to the rise of numerous different kinds of accommodation options in the state. This has drastically boosted Sikkim tourism and has also given travellers a variety of options to choose from.
Luxury hotels in Sikkim
There are several luxury hotels in Sikkim. While the majority of high-end properties are in Gangtok, there are boutique properties spread across the region. Offering impeccable service and an authentic experience, the locals in Sikkim go out of their way to ensure you have a great experience. Here are a few luxury hotels which are part of Sikkim tourism.
Mid-budget hotels in Sikkim
There are numerous mid-budget hotels in Sikkim offering you a comfortable stay. However, if you want to save yourself the hassle of choosing hotels, you can book Sikkim tour packages. The mid-budget properties offer comfortable rooms, warm hospitality and in-house restaurants with local food. Here are our favourite mid-budget hotels in Sikkim tourism.
Budget hotels in Sikkim
Thousand of budget travellers make their way to explore Sikkim tourism every year. Owing to this increase in tourist activity, many budget hotels and hostels have come up recently in the travel guides. Here are the best budget hotels and hostels in Sikkim tourism.
The best and most convenient way to explore Sikkim tourism is shared or private taxis. They are available across the region and make travelling from one place to another fast and easy. If you are travelling with family, hiring a private taxi might be expensive but it’s the most convenient.
There are numerous taxis stationed outside Bagdogra and whether you want to head to Darjeeling or make your way to Gangtok, this is the most convenient option. If you are travelling solo, you can walk to Bagdogra main market for cheaper options including buses. For those heading to Darjeeling, one can also hire an auto-rickshaw.
For interstate travel in Sikkim, taxis will be your saviour and we recommend hiring one for the entire duration of your trip. This will save money and time both.
With the opening of the airport in Gangtok, Pakyong Airport, travelling to Sikkim by air has become easier. However, owing to the long flight, usually with a stop in between, most travellers prefer flying to Bagdogra. Situated 130km away, it takes four to five hours to cover the distance between Bagdogra and Gangtok.
Local buses are an extremely reasonable option to travel in Sikkim, but it isn’t the most convenient. Bus connectivity is limited and if this is your first trip here, we recommend choosing another option. On the other hand, if you have visited Sikkim before and are familiar with the state, you can save money and also experience Sikkim tourism in a different way.