East Sikkim is one of the four districts of the state which is the south-east part of Sikkim. The capital city of Sikkim – Gangtok, is located in this part of the Sikkim and this part is also the hub of all the administrative activities on the state. East Sikkim was part of the kingdom of Sikkim for most of its history. In the 19th century, the district was under the rule of the Bhutanese. After the Anglo Bhutan War, the territory was virtually under the command of the British forces. After India's independence in 1947, the area was part of the kingdom of Sikkim under the protection of India. During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Nathula Pass witnessed a few skirmishes between India and China. In 1975, the Sikkim formally became part of the Indian Union as India's 22nd state.The district was under the occupation of the Nepalese for 30 years in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Military-wise, the district is a very sensitive area with the Indian army having control over most areas east of Gangtok and near its borders with People's Republic of China and Bhutan. Visitors to this region are restricted and just a few areas are open to tourists in the areas east of Gangtok. Popular tourist locales are the Tsongmo Lake, Baba Mandir and the Nathu La pass. The pass formed the offshoot of the ancient Silk Road which connected Lhasa to India. The pass and Baba Mandir are open to Indian nationals only. To enter this region a special permit is required; the Inner Line Permit has to be obtained one day prior to departure. This permit is made through local tourist offices. East Sikkim Tourism has a number of great tourist attractions where people visit and explore the culture, history and heritage.
Wreathed in clouds, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5500 feet. With a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business centre and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities. Gangtok is a cosmopolitan town which offers the tourist all possible amenities. The town's population of 100,000 belongs to different ethnicities such as Nepali, Lepchas and Bhutia. Nestled within higher peaks of the Himalaya and enjoying a year-round mild temperate climate, Gangtok is at the centre of Sikkim's tourism industry.The hospitality industry is the largest industry in Gangtok as the city is the main base for Sikkim tourism. Ecotourism has emerged as an important economic activity in the region which includes trekking, mountaineering, river rafting and other nature oriented activities.Ethnic Nepalis, who settled in the region during British rule, comprise the majority of Gangtok's residents. Lepchas, native to the land, and Bhutias also onstitute a sizeable portion of the populace.Hinduism and Buddhism are the most significant religions in Gangtok.It also has a sizeable Christian population and a small Muslim minority. Residents of Sikkim are music lovers and it is common to hear Western rock music being played in homes and restaurants. Hindi pop songs are also common. Indigenous Nepali rock, music suffused with a western rock beat and Nepali lyrics, is particularly popular.Football (soccer), cricket and archery are the most popular sports in Gangtok.Thangka—a notable handicraft—is an elaborately hand painted religious scroll in brilliant colours drawn on fabric hung in a monastery or a family altar and occasionally carried by monks in ceremonial processions. A popular food in Gangtok is the momo, a steamed dumpling containing pork, beef and vegetables cooked in a doughy wrapping and served with watery soup. Wai-Wai is a packaged snack consisting of noodles which are eaten either dry or in soup form. A form of noodle called thukpa, served in soup form is also popular in Gangtok. Other noodle-based foods such as the chowmein, thenthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are available.Restaurants offer a wide variety of traditional Indian, continental and Chinese cuisines to cater to the tourists. Churpee, a kind of hard cheese made from cow's or yak's milk is sometimes chewed.Alcohol is cheap due to low excise duty in Sikkim. Beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are frequently consumed by both locals
Hanuman Tok, known as a wish - fulfilling temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. According to the legends, when Hanuman was flying with "Sanjeevani" mountain to save Lord Rama's brother Lakshmana, he rested at the spot for some time. The location is completely free from the pollution of city life. There is also a small temple of Saibaba near the Hanuman Temple. Hanuman Tok is currently looked after by the Indian Army. The temple provides wonderful photographic view of the Mt.Khangchendzonga, third highest peak of the world. The snow-capped mountain peaks look heavenly from this temple.
Ganesh Tok, a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh, is situated on a ridge at a distance of about 7 kms from Gangtok. It stands at a height of 6500 ft. and is next to the TV Tower on Gangtok – Nathula road. Adorned with colourful prayer patakas (flags) hoisted and tied across the roads, the path to Ganesh Tok almost resembles a rainbow. The space within the temple is not even sufficient to house one person at a time. In fact, the devotees have to crawl into the temple to get a glimpse of Lord Ganesh. One may also get oneself photographed in Sikkimese attire at the entrance of the Temple.
Located on a hill facing Gangtok and 24 Kms from here, is the Rumtek Monastery, the world Dharma Chakra Centre and the seat of His Holiness, the Gyalwa Karmapa who is the head of Kagyupa sect of Buddhism. It reflects the best of Tibetan architecture and is almost a replica of Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet. The main building of the Rumtek monastery is three storeyed and houses some of the rarest Buddhist religious artwork in the world in form of wall murals & thankas, 1001 miniature golden models of Buddha etc. There is a small hall with a beautiful jewel studded Chorten the Golden Stupa, which contains the remains of His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa.
Khangchendzonga Tourist Villa cum Socio-Cultural Amusement Park is a pioneering standalone project of its kind, celebrating the many gifts, Sikkim is endowed with. This Tourist cum Socio-Cultural Amusement Park comprises of 24 tourist accommodations of traditional Sikkimese architecture, Villa Club with bars, restaurant, indoor swimming pool, multi-gym, open-air theatre, children's park, Food Court, Exhibition Halls showing arts, handicraft, ornament, musical instruments and an Amusement Park. The park spread over 16 acres of land has many cultural attractions like the dome shaped Sikkim Panorama, swimming pools, bowling alleys, colourful and musical fountains and laser shows. The Sikkim Panorama houses relief features of important places of Sikkim including the state's low lying areas and going higher up to Mt. Khangchendzonga. These relief features are made from fibre glass. There are also murals of the ethnic communities of Sikkim in the Sikkim Panorama along with traditional huts. It is the pride of Sikkim and brings joy to visitors to this enchanting land.
Offering great view of the imposing Himalayan Mountains and specifically Mt. Khangchendzonga and Mt. Siniolchu, Tashi View Point is a Nature - lover's delight. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Gangtok and is known for the mesmerizing views of the snow-capped mountains. Situated along the North Sikkim Highway; Tashi View Point is only 8 kms from Gangtok. The late king of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal, got it constructed. It is a circular place (at most four persons can stand in that) and gives a close picture of Mt. Khangchendzonga on a clear day. The best time to click the photographs of Mt. Khangchendzonga from here is morning between 5-7 am and evening between 6.30 to 7.30 pm. An Observatory Tower, Cafeteria and Public amenities have also been recently added. One can also catch a glimpse of the Phodang and Labrang monasteries on the opposite hill. There is a park just above the View Point where one can have a little picnic or visit the cafeteria for hot coffee, momos and other snacks.
The Banjhakri Falls Energy Park is an energy park as well as a shamanistic theme park which lies amidst lush green valley which is spread over two acres of land. The Park is located on the route to Ranka Monastery and is nearly 4 kms away from Gangtok. The word 'Banjhakri' means a forest shaman. If we break it down further 'Ban' means primitive and 'Jhakri' means shaman. Shaman is a priest among certain people of northern Asia, regarded as one with healing and magical powers who can influence the spirits and bring about good and evil. There are statues and figurines related to Shamanic culture in the Park along with a waterfall, beautiful landscapes, Gazebos in local design, sikkimese style footbridges and a variety of flowers. Children can have a great time at the pool adorned by a Dragon in the centre and elders can try their hand at fishing. Visitors can pose for the local photographers who provide traditional attire and take back snaps as a memento of their visit. The park sustains its energy needs through renewable energy sources like solar lamps and has a mini hydel station.
Situated in the magnificence of Gangtok's picturesque hill crest, Bulbulay, at altitudes ranging between 6,545-8,152 feet, the Himalayan Zoological Park sprawls over the expanse of a lush virgin forest reserve with an impressive total area of 230 hectares overlooking the majestic beauty of the Khangchendzonga range. Located just above Ganesh Tok and 6 km away from Gangtok, the park is home to a number of animals living in open enclosures in their natural habitat. It is an Ideal Getaway in Gangtok to be at 'One with Nature'. It houses many rare and vulnerable species of fauna of the Sikkim Himalayas. It basically follows a unique theme in its designs that is, semi natural enclosures, this allows more space and freedom to animals as compared to the city zoos. Here visitors might see the Red Panda, Sikkim's state animal, the barking Deer, Tibetan Wolves, Panthers, Civet, Leopard Cats, Pheasants, Peacocks and even the Himalayan Black Bear. The Park also has 'Kush' and 'Urbashi', a snow leopard pair living in. It's definitely a place worth visiting.
Gonjang Monastery is located about 6 km away from the heart of Gangtok town near Tashi View point. The monastery was established in the year 1981 and the founder is H.E. Tingkye Gonjang Rimpoche. He was conceded as an incarnation of Yelmo Terton Ngakchang Shakya Zangpo, a 15th century Nyingma Terton. The monastery follows Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, however, the Bodhisattvas deities enshrine are different from the other Nyingma pa monastery and that is what it makes the monastery unique. The monastery has Thadrol Dorjee Memorial Community Health Care Centre for providing medication to monks and the local people. Monastic education along with Tibetan language and English are taught to the monk students. The monastery imparts knowledge on close and comparative studies of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy based on moral values. Gonjang Institute is for complete nine years course similar to other Nyingma Institute.
The Bakthang waterfall is only 20 minutes’ drive from Gangtok town to a place called Swastik, adjacent to the army cantonment area. A serene waterfalls cascades down the rock forming a small pool down below. It is located along the 31A National Highway connecting to North Sikkim. In local language ‘Bak’ means a forest and ‘thang’ meaning meadow or place. The natural spring water source of this falls originates from the dense vegetation above this site which is preserved as a Smriti Ban by the Forest Department. This site is little away from the crowded market place and hidden from the urban sprawl. A offbeat place to relax and be completely free from pollution, noise and dust and much loved by many of the domestic visitors. The place also offers a cafeteria for tea and snacks and local photography services to take pictures with local costumes and dresses for visitors. Some of the adventure enthusiasts can also try rappelling down the cliff on a prefixed rope which is organized by the local tourism committee of the area.
M.G Marg, set in the heart of the city is the most happening place in Gangtok. It is a great place to chill out in the evenings. The country's first litter and spit free zone, no vehicular traffic is allowed into the Marg. The Mall is lined with shops on both sides of the road so shopping becomes an added pleasure. It is like a plaza with ethnic lamp-posts, beautiful flowers and seating arrangements, at the middle row for the people to sit and enjoy the place. M.G. Marg is also the venue for the annual Gangtok Food and Cultural festival held in December each year when Sikkim's multi-cultural cuisine, along with music and dance performances is showcased. This event attracts a large number of locals and tourists each year. The Marg really makes you feel as if you are in a foreign land.
The Rope way ride or Cable car is one of the major tourist attractions of Gangtok city. This is a must see at Gangtok as tourists can have a breathtaking view of Gangtok town during this ride. The ropeway ride has three terminal stations and you can choose to start your ride any of the convenient points in Tashiling, Namnang or Deorali. The ropeway ride is offered throughout the day between 8 AM to 4:30 PM. Each cable car can accommodate a maximum of upto 24 People at a time. There is no sitting arrangement inside the ropeway. The 15 to 20 Minutes ride provides spectacular bird view of Gangtok city and the surrounding valley.
Paragliding in Gangtok is becoming an increasingly popular adventure sports. And why not, Who would not love to see the magnificent Himalayan range and the snow peaks from the sky as you fly like a bird and the look below to see the stunning mountain landscape of Sikkim and Gangtok. Actually there is no experience or training required to enjoy paragliding in Gangtok. Because the operators here offer Tandem Flights which means that an experienced and certified pillot will accompany you. Both pilot and the passenger sit safely and comfortably in harness which is attached to the paraglider. The pilot takes care of the entire flight and its navigation. So after an easy take off, you will only enjoy the flight with breathtaking views.
Flower show in Gangtok is just mesmerizing which is organized round the year at the White Memorial Hall complex, also known as Flower exhibition centre. The centre is one of the major viewpoints in Gangtok and is located near M.G. road area approx.3 km. The exhibition centre charges a nominal entry fees. One may also purchase seeds and bulbs of various flowering plants. After entering the exhibition centre one is lost in world of fragrance and beauty. The place is an excellent spot for Nature lovers, botanists and tourists. The imaginative display of flowers in a large glass house is very popular with both tourists as well as locals and attracts a large number of visitors daily. The aroma of the place is so good that one would like to stay there for long hours. There is a beautiful and high shower in the garden outside the venue of the exhibition. Flower Festival is also organised here. This festival begins with the Orchid Show in March during which competitions are held in different sections.
The Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms has become one of the major attractions for people visiting Sikkim where traditional handcrafts, furniture, handlooms, carpets and other souvenir can be viewed and also purchased. The D.H.H began its journey in the year 1957 when it was established as a Technical Institute for Training and Production of traditional arts and crafts with 58 nos. of trainees. Over the years, this Institute has evolved into a major centre of learning and training in the Traditional Arts and Crafts of the State. Started with the aim of promoting and keeping alive the State's traditional art & craft, the D.H.H. is a store house of hand - woven woollen carpets, traditional motifs, blankets, shawls (in Lepcha weaves), 'Thangka' paintings, exquisitely carved 'Choktse' (hand carved foldable tables), hand-painted masks, dolls and many other gift items. The Centre remains closed on Sundays and on Government holidays.
Do Drul Chorten is one of the most important and the biggest Stupa in Sikkim. Popularly known as Phurba, the stupa is situated in East Sikkim near Gangtok on a hillock which is adjacent to Tibetology Institute. It was built in 1945 by the venerable Trullshi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism. Inside the stupa, there are complete mandala set of Dorjee phurba (Vajra Kilaya), a set of Kang Gyur relic (Holy Book), complete 'Zung' (mantras) and other religious objects. Around the Chorten there are 108 Mani Lhakor (prayer wheels). Each prayer wheel has a holy inscription engraved on it, Om Mani Padma Hum. It is said that while turning these prayer wheels, the person has to chant the mantras engraved on them. These are turned by devout Buddhists while chanting 'Om Mani Padme Hum' (O Jewel in the Lotus) to invoke the Bodhisattva. It is surrounded by Chorten Lakhang and Guru Lakhang, where there are two huge statues of Guru Padmasambhava.
A celestial, pristine, serene and ethereal gift of Nature, Tsomgo (Changu) Lake is a must in the itinerary of everyone visiting Sikkim. The lake is located about 38 km away from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,400 ft. on the Gangtok - Nathula Highway. A winding road through rugged mountain terrain and sharp cliffs takes one to Tsomgo, which means 'source of the water' in Bhutia language. The lake is associated with many myths and legends and is revered by the Sikkimese as sacred. It is believed that in olden times, Buddhist monks would study the colour of the water of the lake to forecast the future. The lake is about 1 km long and oval in shape. It derives its water from the melting snow of the mountains surrounding it and looks different during different seasons. In winter the placid lake remains frozen with the area around it covered with snow while in late spring the profusion of flowers in bloom adds a spectrum of colours around the lake. Tsomgo Lake is open for both Indian and foreign nationals; however, an Inner Line Permit is required to visit the Lake. This permit can be obtained from the police through a registered travel agent or Tourism Department. One can also enjoy rides on colourfully decorated yaks and mules and a variety of snacks and beverages at the Lake site. Snow boots and gumboots can be hired here.
Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple, popularly known as Baba Mandir is dedicated to 'Baba' Harbhajan Singh who was a soldier in the Indian Army. The legend of Baba goes back to the year 1967 when Sepoy Harbhajan Singh of the 23rd Punjab Regiment went missing while leading a pack of mules from his battalion stationed at Tukla to Deng Dhukla, both remote areas located in East Sikkim. A manhunt was launched and it took the army three days to find his body. It is believed that he himself helped the search party to find his body by informing his fellow Pritam Singh about his tragic death and the place where his body was lying under the snow. Soon after, soldiers in the regiment started reporting that Baba had been appearing in their dreams and directing that a shrine be built in his memory. A Samadhi was raised in his memory and believers say that even today Baba visits the place every night, puts on his uniform and does his rounds. He is worshipped as a saint who grants boons and guards the lives of soldiers posted along the border. Each year in September Baba takes his annual holiday and travels back to Kapurthala, his hometown. A berth in a train is reserved in his name and two orderlies accompany him on the journey. The legend of this Sepoy-Saint grows stronger with each passing day.
Nathula Pass was a major corridor of passage between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962. Located at a distance of 56 km from Gangtok, the Pass connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China's Tibet Autonomous Region. 'Nathu' means "listening ears" and 'La' means "pass" in Tibetan. Popularly known as the Silk Route, this pass is at an elevation of 14,450 feet and is rich in diverse alpine flora and fauna. It is one of the highest motorable roads in the world. Tourists are allowed to go close to the international border from where they can see Chinese soldiers on the other side of the barbed wire. Nathula is open for Indian nationals on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays. The visitors have to get the permit to visit the place by applying to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department through a registered and recognised Travel Agency. Foreign nationals are not allowed to visit Nathula and they can travel only up to the Tsomgo Lake. The drive from Gangtok can be an exhilarating experience as one can get a view of several snow- clad peaks and numerous waterfalls along the way. One has to climb up a set of steps to reach the pass itself. A Memorial paying homage to brave Indian soldiers has also been made at Nathula. It evokes a sense of pride in the heart of every Indian.