Located on a ridge at a height of 5500 metres, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is the perfect entry point for travel around the state. Said to be a popular transit point for tradersGangtok City travelling between Tibet and India in ancient times, the capital city is a burgeoning melting pot of cultures today. With hotels located at a stone's throw away from each other and small and big eateries offering local fare as well as cuisines from all over the world, Gangtok has something to offer for everyone. And if that's not all, the nightclubs and pool parlours here also have something to offer for the night birds.
With no vehicles allowed to enter, MG Marg is a perfect place to chill out and shop as the place is lined with shops on either sides. One can always take some time off from shopping and stop at the Titanic Park to take some rest. The place gives a carnival like atmosphere, especially during the tourist season. And if you manage to battle the cold in December you can get to be a part of the annual Gangtok Food and Culture Festival at MG Marg. And if you reach here on a shoestring budget with little time to spare then Gangtok in itself has a lot to offer. For a bird's eye view of the capital take a ride on the bi-cable zig-back ropeway. For a view of Gangtok and all it's surrounding, one can go to Ganesh Tok situated on a ridge at a distance of 7km from Gangtok. From this spot one can get a view of sprawling Gangtok town, while across the hills Mt Khang-chen-Dzonga and Mt Siniolchu loom over the horizon. A cafeteria serves hot tea, coffee and snacks.
The view from here is truly breathtaking with snow peaks providing the perfect backdrop for a panoramic view of Gangtok town. Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology is the most prestigious research institute of its kind in the world , NIT is a treasure of vast collection of rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, statues and rare Thanks (colourful tapestries used in Buddhist liturgy). Apart from an attractive museum, it has over 200 Buddhist icons and other prized objects of art. As far as its collections are concerned, it is only next to an institute in Tibet. Today it is renowned worldwide centre for study of Buddhist philosophy and religion. The institute was established in 1958 to promote serious study and research on Buddhism.
From the hotel bellboy to the touts pitching the best deal to you, everybody promises That sightseeing options are aplenty here.
Chorten Gumba And Institute of Tibetology
If religion interests you then a visit to the Institute of Tibetology located within the Chorten Monastery is a must-visit. The place houses some antiques, rare scriptures and some of the most exquisite thangkas (paintings of Tibetan gods and goddesses). The institute also imparts education on Tibetan language, culture and spiritual literature.
Tsangu lake and Wnathula
No visit to Gangtok is complete without a glimpse of the Tsangu Lake. A two hour drive from Gangtok leads you to one of the most picture perfect lakes in town. The Tsangu really lives up to its hype. Throughout the year the area surrounding the lake remains covered with ice. In winter the lake is also frozen to ice. If you fancy a yak ride you can also enjoy one and if hunger strikes there are plenty of restaurants that rustle up decent food. You'll also ﬁnd shops selling local hand made souvenirs.
A little away from Tsangu Lake is the Baba temple made famous in Gangtok. It was built in the name of Baba Harbhajan Singh, a soldier who was killed in the war with China. It is heard that his spirit is still present and it helps the soldiers working there! From Tsangu you can also visit Nathula at the Indo-China border, located at an altitude of 14,450 ft.
The largest monastery of Sikkim, Rumtek is considered the most important seat for the Kagyupa sect of Buddhism. Rumtek, which is located 24km away from Gangtok, is the international seat of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. Many sacred objects are housed within the complex, and one of the most magniﬁcent is the Golden Stupa, which contains the precious relics of His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa. Renovation work in the monastery started in 1961 and was completed in 1966. Here you can catch monks in clusters going around the stupa with prayer bead in hand performing what they call 'kora'.
Ganesh Tok is a small temple located on the Gangtok–Nathula road, 7 km from Gangtok. The temple is so small that it can accommodate only one person at a time. One has to crawl to get into the temple. The temple offers a bird's-eye view of the Gangtok town, the Raj Bhawan Complex, and mount Kanchenjunga.
Besides Ganesh Tok there are places like Hanuman Tok and Tashi View Point that offer amazing view of the town. Also, there are plenty of monasteries and waterfalls which are within walking distance from the city. In the evening go for a stroll at the MG Road, which is a no-vehicle area? The place is a motley collection of humanity as locals and tourists alike come here to take some time off.
The Reebok, Adidas, Benetton showrooms are a late addition to Gangtok's shopping list. But what really interests the tourists are the small stalls selling indigenous products, be it the Tibetan incense sticks, the curio or local handmade wallets and bags.
The shops are located in congested lanes, but if you manage to negotiate the roads and strike a bargain you can get some great stuff at throwaway prices.
This is the ideal place to pick those Tibetan woolen carpets, exquisite woodwork items, wall hangings, traditional items such as thangkas or religious scrolls, prayer wheels and accessories such as earrings, pendants and ﬁnger rings.
This is also the ideal place to pick Made In China items that make for great gifts. Also, woollens can be availed at unbelievable prices, but then be sure to haggle well. Also, don't forget to shop for Cherry brandy from here.
• Directorate of Handicrafts & Handloom Showroom;
• Sikkim Rural Development Agency Showroom at the junction of MG Marg and New Market;
• Punney Raj Shakya, New Market;
• Babu Kazi Shakya & Son; 5 Asha Kazi Shakya, New Market;
•Budha Ratna Shakya, New Market;
• Silver Queen, New Market;
• Shakya Jewellers, New Market;
• Tirwa Jewellers, New Market; Shambhu Jewellery, Tibet Road