Photo by Patrick Horton

Tiny Sikkim with jaw-dropping mountain scenery, fresh mountain air and a Buddhist culture

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The mountainous former kingdom of Sikkim edges right up to the range of mountains that separate India from Tibet. The precipitous valleys are lushly forested with rice terraces wherever there is flattish land. The air is clean, the crowds absent and the pace of life is slower. The culture is similar to that of nearby Tibet. Buddhist monasteries add patches of white, brown and yellow to the valley tops.

A visit to Sikkim needs a permit that can be easily obtained at the state border. A trekking permit is needed for some treks but any travel agent can organize this. Sikkim revels in festivals, many featuring colourful masked dances telling stories from Buddhist mythology. The mighty Mt Kanchenjunga, looms over the landscape. At 8,598m (28,209 ft) this the world’s third-highest mountain and straddles the border between Sikkim and Nepal.

A night’s stop in the windy town of Pelling gives an opportunity to visi Pemayangtse, one of Sikkim’s oldest gompas (monasteries). Nearby are the ruins of Rabdentse the former royal capital of Sikkim from 1670 to 1814. From its embankment you can peer down hundreds of metres into the chasm of deep gorge

Gangtok and the Rumtek Monastery

Trekkers can take a side trip to the small boutique town of Yuksom for trekking in the Kanchenjunga National Park. A number of small towns with their own interests lead to Gangtok, the capital. Gangtok has to be one of the cleanest cities in India and the main street has been pedestrianised. Most sights in and around in Gangtok can be done in a day using a taxi – there are set tours.

Facing Gangtok across a vast valley is Rumtek monastery seat of the Black Hat Buddhist sect. This and other monasteries are worth a visit in the early morning or late afternoon. Be awed by the monks at puja (worship) with sonorous chanting plus occasional horn blowing, drum beating and cymbal crashing. For some explanation of this visit the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology containing paintings, artefacts and statuettes. Shock yourself with the sight of human thighbone trumpets.

Enchey Gompa is worth a visit for its murals and statues. Nearby through the pines and a forest of prayer flags is Ganesh Tok viewpoint with mountain and city views and its small café.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in local currencies.

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