Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors

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Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

Oh, Sikkim, you beauty! What can I say about this state? Where should I begin? I have some of the fondest memories of my travels from this very Northeastern state, which isn’t generally on many tourists’ radar. But I’m here to convince you why it should be.

In Sikkim, time stands still in cozy hamlets, where smile is the universal language and kindness is the currency. Waterfalls play a game of hide and seek, appearing at every twist and turn, while prayer flags perform a colorful ballet in the breeze. The roads? They’re a wild ride—each bend, each pothole, keeps you alert at every turn. Our trip to Sikkim wasn’t just a journey; it was a patchwork of moments sewn into our souls, a tapestry we’ll treasure forever.

So, if you’re up for an escape that’s a bit off the beaten track, Sikkim is your hidden mixtape of landscapes. Read on!

Getting There

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

Road:

Shared jeeps and taxis from Siliguri provide a reliable mode of transport to Gangtok, although they may occasionally be impacted by local issues in Darjeeling. The journey offers scenic views of the Himalayas and is a popular choice for its affordability and convenience.

Bus:

The Sikkim Nationalized Transport (SNT) operates regular bus services from Paljor Stadium Road in Gangtok, which is conveniently located near hotels and the tourist office. These buses offer a cost-effective way to travel and are a good option for those looking to experience local life.

Plane:

For air travel, you have two options. Pakyong Airport, about 32 km from Gangtok, is the closest but has limited flights. Alternatively, Bagdogra Airport is 124 km away and offers more frequent services. From both airports, taxis are available for the onward journey to Gangtok. To snag low-cost return flights, it’s best to book tickets well in advance and keep an eye out for deals.

Train:

The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri, located 117 km from Gangtok. It is well-connected to major Indian cities, and reservations can be made through the IRCTC or other online booking platforms. The train journey is followed by a taxi ride to Gangtok, which takes around 4-5 hours.

How To Get Around Sikkim

Let me share a little secret about traveling in Sikkim. Renting a car isn’t really an option there, so if you’re thinking of driving in with your own car, remember you’ll need a bunch of permits for different spots. It’s a bit of a hassle, honestly.

Now, here’s what I'd suggest: Better get in touch with a local travel agency. They’re the experts who can handle all the cab and permit stuff for you. It’s like having a friend in Sikkim who knows all the ins and outs. Also, consider getting a written confirmation of all the arrangements to avoid any misunderstandings later on.

What To Do In Sikkim

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

1. Visit Enchey Monastery:

Perched on a hilltop and framed by the majestic Himalayas, Enchey Monastery is a significant Nyingmapa gompa that embodies the spiritual heart of Sikkim. Established in 1909 on a site blessed by Lama Druptob Karpo—a tantric master famed for his mystical ability to fly—the monastery is a beacon of peace and tradition. Constructed under royal patronage in the Tibetan architectural style, the entrance of the monastery greets visitors with vibrant murals depicting Buddhist iconography and the sacred Dharmachakra, symbolizing the wheel of law.

Despite the tremors of 2011, it’s a serene haven, home to monks and pine whispers—a true Sikkimese treasure.

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

2. Visit Pemayangtse Monastery:

Kick back and soak in the zen at Pemayangtse, or as the cool cats call it, the “Perfect Sublime Lotus.” This spiritual hotspot dates back to the 1600s, thanks to the chill guru Lhatsun Chempo. Fast forward to 1705, his doppelgänger gave it a facelift, making it the go-to gompa for the Nyingmapa crew. The place is a total mood, with killer views and woods that whisper “peace out.”

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

3. Venture Out On A High-Altitude Trail:

Embark on an exhilarating journey through Sikkim’s majestic landscapes with two treks that promise adventure and awe. Traverse the forest-clad Dzongri trail, which lies under the watchful gaze of the mighty Kanchenjunga, and tread along the Singalila Ridge, renowned for its panoramic views. To embark on these treks, you’ll need to secure permits, assemble a minimum group of two adventurers, and contact an authorized agency to handle the arrangements.

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

4. Dive Into Spirituality At The Tashiding Monastery

Journey to the spiritual core of Sikkim at the Tashiding Monastery, a sacred haven perched atop a conical hill, embraced by the confluence of the Rangit and Rathong rivers. Located a mere 19 km from Yuksom, this hallowed site stands as a beacon of devotion, drawing pilgrims from distant lands to partake in the vibrant Nyingmapa Bhumchu festival. This festival, celebrated with fervor, coincides with the fifteenth dawn of the Tibetan New Year.

Founded in 1641, the monastery, known as “The Devoted Central Glory,” stands as a testament to the divine connection. It is said to have been born from a celestial rainbow that once bridged the earth to the peaks of Kanchenjunga. Despite the paths modernity has paved, the ascent to the monastery’s steps remains a pilgrimage for the soul, offering a profound experience of spirituality and peace.

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

5. Explore The Timeless Tradition of Tea Cultivation at Sikkim's Only Tea Estate

Nestled amidst the lush splendour of Sikkim’s rolling hills lies the Temi Tea Garden, a testament to the timeless tradition of tea cultivation. This sole tea estate in Sikkim offers more than a sensory journey—it’s a passage through the history and culture of this enchanting region. As you wander through rows of meticulously maintained tea bushes, the air bursts into life with the subtle fragrance of tea leaves mingling with the fresh mountain breeze.

Established in 1969, the garden has flourished into a producer of organic tea celebrated across Asia and Europe. Its leaves have garnered international acclaim, fetching top honours for exceptional quality at global auctions. Watching the skilled pluckers at work is both humbling and mesmerizing. Their hands move with grace and precision, honed by generations, against a backdrop of verdant beauty that captivates the senses.

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

6. Soak In The Serenity at Buddha Park, Ravangla

Discover tranquility and spiritual bliss at Buddha Park in Ravangla, Sikkim. A towering 130-foot statue of Buddha rises against the backdrop of the Himalayas, offering a peaceful retreat with stunning views.

The park is not just a sight to behold; it provides a deep dive into the profound aspects of Buddha’s life and teachings, showcased through interactive exhibits in its museum and opportunities for reflection in its meditation center. This sanctuary is a haven for those seeking solace or inspiration, nestled in the embrace of nature.

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

7. Experience the Unheard Melody of Peace At This Hushed Himalayan Hamlet In Sikkim

Lapped by undulating landscape and lush vegetation, Kewzing is nestled in the South of Sikkim. It's a haven of calm, woven into the very fabric of nature. Time here flows softly, as clouds glide over the peaks of Mt. Narsing and Mt. Kabru, their shadows dancing in the light of dawn. To bask in Kewzing’s stillness is to listen to the breeze’s gentle song, be soothed by the chorus of birdsong, and be refreshed by the warm smiles of Lepcha hospitality.

A brief stay in this pastoral retreat offers more than a respite from the city’s clamour; so why take a second-guess when you can sync with nature’s rhythm, appreciate the simplicity of village life, and savour Kewzing’s distinct visual and sensory symphony?

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

8. Get One with the Untouched Natural Splendor at Yuksom Valley

Nestled in the heart of West Sikkim, Yuksom Valley is a serene haven that beckons travelers with its untouched natural splendor and profound historical significance. As the former capital of Sikkim, Yuksom is steeped in rich cultural heritage, offering a glimpse into the soul of this mystical land.

For the adventure seekers, Yuksom is the gateway to the Kanchenjunga National Park, a paradise for trekkers and mountaineers. The famous trek to Goechala begins here, promising an exhilarating journey through the heart of the Himalayas.

Where To Stay In Sikkim

Photo of Travel Guide To Sikkim For First-Time Visitors by Varsha Banerjee (Crazy Jetsetters)

1. Gangtok

Gangtok offers a diverse array of accommodations to fit any budget. For those in search of luxury, the Amritara Hidden Land is a 4-star hotel that provides more than just a stay; it offers an experience akin to a regal slice of Sikkim. Established in 2019, this boutique hotel is a blend of authentic Himalayan art, culture, and heartfelt hospitality.

During peak seasons, like April to June and September to November, prices in Gangtok can soar. However, visiting in the off-season can lead to some attractive discounts. The town is expanding, and with it, the selection of accommodations, especially along the Deorali area.

Check out more luxury stay options in and around Gangtok, here.

2. Rumtek

While Rumtek offers fewer budget-friendly options, it compensates with a selection of upscale resorts perfect for those seeking tranquility away from Gangtok’s hustle. Transitioning to Pelling, the accommodation scene shifts to a variety of hotels that become especially sought-after during the peak months of March to May and September to November.

These hotels are strategically positioned along a picturesque 2 km stretch from Upper to Lower Pelling, offering scenic vistas and convenient access to local attractions.

3. Yuksom Valley

Yuksom’s vibrant market area serves as the central hub for visitors. A pro tip: make your way to the Visitors Information Centre, where the Khangchendzonga Conservation Committee (KCC) can direct you to charming homestays peppered throughout the village. These homestays offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture and hospitality.

Sikkim is calling, and we’re all ears for your stories! Whether it’s a tale of your first awe-inspiring glimpse of the Himalayas or a recount of your cozy evenings sipping local tea, your experiences are a treasure trove we can’t wait to dive into. Spill the beans in the comments—your adventures might just inspire someone’s next journey!

You can also connect with me, here: Instagram & YouTube.

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