Travelstick Sikkim India

Sikkim Where Mountains Touch The Sky

Foreigners need a permit to visit Sikkim see box Useful Information Sikkim


Gangtok is the main city and the capital of Sikkim. It is a cosmopolitan place with views of snow-covered mountains, botanical gardens and monasteries. Gangtok is also an ideal base for visiting the southern parts of the state where most of the tourist sites are located.

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Usually only those on a mountaineering expedition or trek organized by an authorized travel agency are permitted to enter the park. Treks can be arranged in Gangtok. Those wishing to climb a peak over 6000 m must obtain permission at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF).

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Namchi is the capital of South Sikkim. Located at an altitude of 1,675 m Namchi offers beautiful views of the snow-clad mountains. The name Namchi means 'Sky High' in Sikkimese. The area is dotted with impressive attractions such as the Namchi Monastery, Ralong Monestry and Tedong Hill, all famous Buddhist pilgrimage centres. 8 km from Namchi is Samdrupste Hill where you can find the world's largest statue of the Buddhist Padmasambhava, a great saint of Sikkim, standing 35 m high. A few km from the town lies the Temi Tea Garden, the only tea estate in Sikkim. The tea leaves of Sikkim are renowned the world over for their aroma, taste and good quality.

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Located in West Sikkim Pelling offers good views of Kanchenjunga on a clear day. There are good budget places to stay and places to leave luggage while trekking. A 2 km walk from Pelling is the Pemayangtse Gompa, founded in 1705. It is one of the oldest and most important gompas in Sikkim and is the main gompa of the Nyingma-pa (“Red Hat”) order. The monastery has paintings and sculptures on the interior walls and a good collection of thangkas. Pemayangtse means “Perfect Sublime Lotus.” In February during the Tibetan New Year there are chaam dances performed by the monks on the 28th and 29th days of the twelfth lunar month.

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The Phodong Gompa, 37km north of Gangtok, belongs to the Kagyu-pa order, the same order as the monastery in Rumtek. It is located high above the main road offering good views of the area. The monastery was founded in 1740 but the building that stands there at present is fairly recent. About fifty monks live here and across from the gompa is a community of nuns who also belong to the Kagyu-pa order.

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Rumtek, 24km from Gangtok at an altitude of 1500m, is the headquarters for the Kargyu-pa (“Black Hat”) order of Tibetan Buddhism. The Rumtek Monastery was founded in 1740 and was rebuilt after an earthquake destroyed it in the 1960s. It is designed in the traditional style after the principal Kargyu-pa monastery in Chhofuk, Tibet, with detailed woodwork and paintings. In a back room are impressive golden statues of the 16th Gwalpa, who left Tibet after the Chinese invasion.

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This town, 40km west of Gezing, may be visited while trekking. You should have your permits endorsed in Gangtok before you visit here. From Tashiding it is possible to trek to Pemayangtse or Legship. The Tashiding Gompa, established in 1716, is considered the second most important gompa in Sikkim, after the Pemayangtse Gompa. It is a 45-minute walk from the village of Tashiding. There are chortens and mani walls surrounding the temple. The Bhumchu Festival is celebrated here on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar (March).

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To visit the Tsongo Lake, 35km northeast of Gangtok, you will need a permit and must go on a tour arranged by an authorized travel agency. The travel agency can arrange the permit which is valid for only one day.

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38km north of Pemayangtse, Yuksom is the furthest north you are permitted to go by road and is the trailhead for the trek to Dzongri. This is where the three Buddhist lamas arrived from Tibet to establish the Buddhist Nyingma-pa (“Red Hat”) order. It was the first capital of Sikkim and the first chogyal, Phutsog Namgyal, was crowned here. Now it is a small village.

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This valley, 140km north of Gangtok, is at an elevation of 3600m. The valley can be visited but trekking is not allowed. There are hot springs here located a few minutes walk from the road. The best time to visit the valley is in April and May when the rhododendrons are in bloom. You will need a permit and must arrange your trip through an authorized travel agency with at least four people.

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Permits for Sikkim

Sikkim Standard Permits

In addition to an Indian visa, foreigners must obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim. The permits can be obtained from the Sikkim Tourism Offices in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Darjeeling and Siliguri. Permits are issued on the spot for an initial period of 15 days. You will need to provide photocopies of your passport information page and visa page, along with two passport photos. The date of entry must be stated on the permit application. There is no charge. The permit can be extended for a further 30 days (15 days at a time). The extension of permits can be obtained from the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) in Gangtok, located on Kazi Road, Tel: 223041. After leaving Sikkim foreigners are not permitted to enter again for three months.

Special Permits

The standard permit allows trips to Gangtok, Rumtek, Pemayangtse, and Phodang but requires foreigners to stay on the National Highway. For those interested in going for treks in the interior regions of the state you will also require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) or a Protected Area Permit (PAP) which are obtainable in Gangtok from the Police Check Post and Department of Tourism. To visit Tsongo Lake requires a one-day permit and Yumthang in North Sikkim requires a five day permit. These places must be visited through an authorized travel agency (with a minimum of four people), so it is best to have the travel agency arrange the permit. A special permit is also required to trek in the Dzongri area of West Sikkim. Two mountains in the Dzongri area, Jopunob and Thingchen Khang (both around 6000m), can be climbed without having to pay the usual fee required for a mountaineering peak, as long as the climbs are combined with a trek.