Sikkim is the 22nd state of India. It is the least populous state and second smallest state of country. It borders Nepal in the west, Tibet to the north and the east and Bhutan in the southeast while West Bengal borders it to the south. The thumb-shaped state is wholly mountainous terrain with an elevation ranging from 280 m to 8585 meters. Many river valleys in the west and south of the state have been carved out by innumerable snow fed streams. The Teesta and its tributary Rangeet are the biggest rivers of Sikkim. About a third of the state is heavily forested. The northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim are surrounded in a crescent by 28 Himalayan peaks.
The state has more than 80 glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes (of which the well known ones are Tsongmo, Gurudongmar, and Khecheopalri), five hot springs and more than 100 rivers and streams. The hot springs are claimed to have therapeutic properties due to their high sulfur content. Their average temperature is 50 °C and they are located at Phurchachu, Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu, and Yumey Samdong. The state has four districts: East Sikkim (capital, Gangtok), West Sikkim (capital, Geyzing), North Sikkim (capital, Mangan), and South Sikkim (capital, Namchi).
Siliguri, a town on the northern fringe of West Bengal, is the main gateway of Sikkim and its capital Gangtok is connected to it through National Highway 31A. Gangtok (which means ‘High Hill)’ lies on a ridge overlooking the Ranipool River. Peling is another lovely town of West Sikkim from where one can get a panoramic view of the majestic Kanchengjunga along with other famous Himalayan peaks like Simvo, Kabru, Kumbhakarna, Pandim, and Siniolch.
Monks Studying. Image flickr/Sauro Pucci
Area: 7096 sq km
Population (as per 2001 census): 540,493
Climate: Tropical, temperate, and alpine
Languages spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Limboo, Magar, Rai, Gurung, Sherpa, Tamang, Newari, Sunuwar (Mukhia).
Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity
The Indian rupee is the official currency. It is subdivided into 100 paise. The coins have nominal values of 5, 10, 20, 25 and 50 paise as well as 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupees. The bank notes are available in nominal values of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees.
Foreign passengers should ensure that they are in possession of valid Indian Visa before they start their journey to India except nationals of Nepal and Bhutan who do not require visa to enter India and nationals of Maldives who do not require visa for entry in India for a period up to 90 days (a separate Visa regime exists for diplomatic/official passport holders). The Consular Passport and Visa (CPV) Division of the Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for issuance of Indian visas to the foreign nationals for their visit for various purposes. This facility is granted through various Indian missions abroad.
Inner Line Permit: Sikkim is a sensitive border state. In addition to an Indian visa, foreigners must obtain Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim. The permits can be obtained from all Indian missions, Tourism Office, New Delhi, Sikkim Tourism Office, Calcutta and Sikkim Tourism Office, Siliguri on the strength of an Indian Visa. It can also be got at Rangpo, the entry point into Sikkim. The permit is issued for an initial period of 15 days duration on the spot without any delay provided photocopies of Passport and Visa details along with two passport photos of applicants are made available then and there. It can be extended for further 30 days of 15 days each. The extension of permits can be obtained from Foreigners Registration Office (FRO), Gangtok and Superintendent of Police of North, South and West Districts.
Restricted/Protected Area Permit: For those interested in going for trekking in the interior regions of the state, you also require a restricted area permit (RAP) which is obtainable in Gangtok from the police check post and Department of Tourism which is available for certain specified area for groups consisting of four or more foreigners subject to the condition that the trekking program is arranged through a registered travel agency.
Note: You are requested to contact the nearest Indian Mission (Embassy/High Commission/Consulate) or visit their websites for up-to-date information regarding visas, fees, procedures, etc
Getting to Gangtok
There are daily flights from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur (in Nepal – 1 hour). Once in Bhadrapur, one can get a taxi to Kakarvitta (India-Nepal border – 35 km). From Kakarvitta one can get direct taxis to Siliguri (37 km) and from Siliguri one can avail of direct vehicles (taxis or buses) to Gangtok (110 km, 4 hours).
Best time to visit: March to June and September to December
Trekking |May 17, 2023
Indeed, Sherpas are a breed apart. Originally from Tibet, they inhabit the Solu Khumbu region at the southern approaches to Everest, and before the advent of mountaineering, they were traders and porters who traded and carried goods from Tibet and beyond.
Others |Jul 7, 2023
In 2003, another Everest marathon was organized, the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, and it is held every year on May 29 as part of the celebrations to commemorate the first conquest of Everest on May 29, 1953, by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary.
Trekking |Jul 14, 2023
From the shore of Rupa Taal (Rupa Pond) there is a hiking route to Chisapani Hill, which is now introduced as the Royal Hike. Once the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles had hiked from the same section, which later attributed to name this route as the “Royal Hike”. However, this hike is already in business for a day excursion.
Tibet |Jun 28, 2023
Tibet tours are full of history and give you the chance to visit quite a few religious pilgrimage sites that continue to mystify with their myths and legends
Tours |Jun 16, 2023
On the way to Pokhara on the scenic Prithvi Highway, you will come across a small town called Bimal Bazaar in Tanahun District. A half hour from here will take you to the largest cave in the country, the Siddha Cave, which is also said to be the largest cave in all of South East Asia.
Wildlife |Jun 12, 2023
Nepal’s abundant diversity of flora and fauna is due to the fact that the country has an amazing topography within a relatively small distance—from the lowlands of the Terai (about 40 m above sea level) to Mount Everest
Spiritual |May 17, 2023
If you are in one of the Terai towns during this time, you’ll no doubt see a lot of saffron clad people readying to go on this unique pilgrimage. They usually form groups of family members, friends, or their particular localities. You’ll hear them shouting “Bol Bam” repeatedly.
Nepal |May 2, 2022
A Festival for Rice planting – is the day of a climax of rice planting. Ropain Festival, also known as Asar 15, is celebrated mostly by farmers from all regions of Nepal – to mark the day of planting new seedlings of rice crop of the year.
Nepal |Dec 18, 2021
One of the most popular trails in Nepal, the trek to Everest Base Camp, is rarely without visitors.
Tours |Jun 18, 2023
King Pratap Malla had a dream one night in which he witnessed the three goddesses Mahakali, Mahalaxmi, and Kumari, battle demons who were inflicting great despair among humans. He wished his dream to be recorded for posterity through a dance recital to be held every year.
Others |Jun 1, 2015
The news of the earthquake on April 25 shook me terribly, despite being thousands of kilometers away; dreadful photographs and fearful numbers of the consequences did tear down my soul apart.