Ubiquitous Buddhist culture meets magnificent views and an abundance of natural beauty in Gangtok.
The best place to start a tour of Gangtok is 1 Tsuklakhang, which is considered to be the ‘royal monastery’. Dragon carvings on the columns in the main hall are the striking feature of this complex situated in the premises of the Chogyal Palace. The 2 Enchey Gompa follows the Nyingma-Buddhist school of thought, and its sanctity is said to be the reason why people started to settle in this region. Located on the northern side of Gangtok, it is known for its glorious three-dimensional murals of stacked creatures depicting the evolution of life. Said to have been built by Trulshik Rinpoche in 1945, the Do-Drul Chorten Stupa’s golden dome can be seen from various points in Gangtok. Its 108 prayer wheels have Tibetan mantras inscribed on them. To learn about Tibetan and Buddhist history, visit the 3 Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (tibetology.net). It houses Buddhist artefacts, iconography, Tantric objects, and a prized 135-volume Encyclopedia Tibetica.
Given its blessed location in the lap of nature, it is natural for Gangtok to be home to several vantage points. Head to Ganesh Tok to see the cityscape along with views of the Chogyal Palace and Enchey Gompa. 4 Tashi View Point boasts mesmerising panoramic vistas of the snowcovered Mount Kanchenjunga. The Hanuman Tok offers gorgeous views of verdant mountains and Gangtok city.
Leisure Hours Reserve at least three hours for the 5 Himalayan Zoological Park (sikkimstdc. com), which is set on a forested hillside. Look out for Sikkim’s famed red pandas, Himalayan bears, and snow leopards during the tour. The Flower Exhibition Centre, is a large glasshouse with chrysanthemums, orchids, and an artificial pool that is perfect for touristy photo-ops. The orchids here are worth the visit, as are the diverse potted plants. For a fun picnic amid lush foliage, make your way to the 6 Ban Jhakri Falls and Energy Park, a complex of open green spaces punctuated by cascades of water. Ride the Gangtok Ropeway to enjoy a mesmerising view of the capital city.
A trip to Gangtok is incomplete without a trekking expedition to the nearby mountains.
A big part of Gangtok’s tourist allure is that the city doubles as a base for several exciting treks. Yuksom, a sleepy little town about 125 kilometres away from Gangtok, is where most trekkers stay overnight. The 7 Goecha La trek takes about 11 days to complete and takes you through surreal Himalayan landscapes that showcase not just Mount Kanchenjunga but 14 other summits as well. If you love flora, the Barsey Rhododendron trek is a low-altitude trek in Sikkim that can be taken up between April and mid-May, to acquaint yourself with the rare species of rhododendrons found in the region. The Kanchenjunga Base Camp trek is best done from March to May, or between September and November for snowfilled views. It covers the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve and takes around 12 days to complete.
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