Sikkim is a small beautiful landlocked hilly state in Eastern Himalayas. With size of only ~7,300km2 (114km x 64km) it offers natural beauty and trekking options in abundance. It is fast coming up on tourist map which is evident from the hotels under construction at various places. Sikkim borders Nepal in West, and Bhutan and China in North and East. Sikkim has population of less than 7,00,000 while the tourist inflow is more than 7,00,000 and growing fast i.e. 1:1 ratio of residents to tourist. Being a hilly state, it is best visited in summers before rains or after rains before winters set in as probability of road closure due to bad weather is low and views are clear.
North East India comprising of Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura is what I like to call a different India, good India. The conduct, and culture of this region is very different from rest of India and one does not feels that she is still in India due to cleanliness, hygiene, and general openness and friendly nature of this region. There is a strong sense of environment conservation and importance of keeping ones surrounding clean.
Please note, entry of foreigners is restricted. Protected Area permit is required before entering the state. It can be easily taken at the entry point.
Almost half of the state is covered under natural reserve forests, ensuring that nature is preserved and tourists can enjoy the unadulterated version of it.
There are plenty of hotels in big cities while smaller cities and villages have option of budget hotels and home stay through KCCC, a government organization for environment conservation.
Why Go – Natural Beauty, Mountains, Trekking, Casino J
How Go – Airplane, Train, Personal Conveyance
Where Go – Gangtok (Capital), Pelling (West), Yuksom (West), Lachung (North), Yumthang (North), Namchi (South), Ravangla (South)
Reaching Sikkim / Gangtok – Gangtok is the first town which is visited. From here, you can go to any other part of Sikkim. If coming by train, nearest train station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP). New Jalpaiguri is about 10km from Siliguri the last major city in plains. From the train station, shared taxis and private taxis both are available to go to the hill cities of Darjeeling and Gangtok. Gangtok is about 120km or ~4hr journey from NJP. If flying in, then the nearest airport is Bagdogra, which is again about 125km from Gangtok.
Taxi System of Sikkim: Being located in hills, it is important to ensure that traffic on roads is limited and manageable. Hence movement of shared taxis is allocated and controlled. Sikkim has been divided into four regions with taxis limiting their movement in these regions. To move from one region to another, you will have to change at the hubs of Gangtok or Geyzing. Also, because of hills, no night driving of taxis happen. Last taxi reaches its final destination latest by 4PM. So plan your travel and change accordingly.
Festivals – Saga Daga (End May / Beginning of June), Losoong (End of December), Losar (New Year in February), Gutor Cham (2days before Losar), Dasain (October), Tihar (End of October / Beginning of November), Magh Sakranti (January), Bhumchu at Tashiding (February / March), Tendong Lho Rum Faat (August 8th)
Connectivity – Only road connectivity exists within the state of Sikkim. You will need to use your own personal / taxi vehicle or the shared 10 seater MUVs / SUVs
Weather – Sikkim starts from relatively low altitude (920ft) and reaches very high altitudes (28,169ft) very quickly. Hence weather also changes pretty quickly. You can move from a hot sweaty place in morning to a cool place requiring light warm clothes by evening in summers.
March – May: Clear weather and warmer temperatures. South Sikkim can be hot with temperatures of 30 degree Celsius or more. As you move north, temperature reduces, making it more pleasant and cool
June – September: Monsoon season. Rains can fall non-stop for several days. Travelling will be slow and treacherous due to landslides in high altitudes esp in north Sikkim.
October – Mid November: Autumn, clear and dry weather. Good time to visit with cool temperatures all around and clear weather.
Mid November – February: Winters, cold temperatures with snowfall in higher altitudes. North Sikkim is cut off with rest of Sikkim most of the times due to fog and road blocks.
Places I visited:
Sikkim Tourism Website: www.sikkimtourism.gov.in/
Tourist Office Location: MG Road, Gangtok (Closer to overhead bridge)