You see the farther skylines of Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet competing for attention but you are so spellbound by Sikkim and can look no further than its enchanting monasteries coexisting with the likes of meditative lakes and meadow-laden trails leading to the snow-capped Kanchenjunga. The third highest peak in the world, of course, speaks for itself which if you dare to set foot gives far more than you seek. The places to visit in Sikkim are many.
In Sikkim, mythical monasteries and shrines promote detachment and win while the sweeping Himalayas makes you fall in love with fleeting beauty again. It doesn’t take much to realize Sikkim is, after all, a beautiful irony. From fabled mountain towns to spectacular lakes that completely freeze during Winter, we pick the best places to visit in Sikkim.
Best places to visit in Sikkim
1. Gurudongmar Lake
Zemu, Kangtse or Pauhunri glaciers originate from the surreally green Teesta river, flow through West Bengal – Sikkim border at the culmination of which lies the spectacular Gurudongmar or Tso Lhamo Lake. The path leading to the Gurudongmar Lake is as beautiful as the destination; swaying rhododendron trees feed your soul with deep-pink aromatic flowers and if it’s the Winter, you are welcomed by a completely frozen lake. The freshwater lake is believed to have healing powers by Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. Gurudongmar is, by all means, a must-visit place in Sikkim.
2. Tsomgo Lake
Tsomgo or Changu lake is a glacial lake located just 40 km away from Gangtok that is believed to have colour-changing properties. Never mind, the lake is as beautiful as it is, but its mysterious characteristics make the place brewing in people’s minds even days after visiting. The longer you look the better it gets. Another reason why this place makes its way into every Sikkim itinerary is, Tsomgo lake envelops many surrounding attractions in its path — Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary, Kyongnosla Waterfalls, Shiv Mandir to name a few.
3. Nathula Pass
Probably the most scenic place in Sikkim, the high-altitude mountain pass connects Sikkim and Tibet autonomous region. The highly political area was closed was around 40 years before it was opened to tourists Wednesday – Sunday in 2006. It is also for this reason that visitors need a special pass from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department to visit Nathula Pass. This site can only be visited by Indians and December is the best time to visit this snow-clad region albeit being very cold.
4. Rumtek Monastery
Rumtek Monastery is easily accessible from Gangtok and hence the most-visited monastery in Sikkim. The popularity of Rumtek among other monasteries can also be attributed to how magically the backdrop complements the attraction; glistening meadows, stunning lakes, steep valleys, thick yet tranquil hills. You can also catch a glimpse of everything from atop the monastery and this makes Rumtek truly the most serene and satisfying place to be in Sikkim.
5. Zuluk Hamlet
Zuluk is one of those places you should visit before it comes under the tourism radar, while it’s unspoilt, unadulterated and relatively offbeat. If you are a mountain person, Zuluk will fix your cravings; with views of vast eastern Himalayan ranges including the Kanchenjunga. Trek all you want, soak up the incredible views without blinking, all by moving around with the locals. It can’t get any better than spending an evening here with a hot cup of Temi tea.
6. Silk Route
Silk Route served as a lifeline for trade, cultural and political interactions between Asia, Middle East and Europe. It is lined with several quaint mountain top hamlets and steep valleys with snow-clad mountains to either sides. This place will be closed to tourists during heavy rains and peak Winter during which the road gets blocked by snow. Visit from April to June during which the winding roads are accompanied by breathtaking views of mountains to either side.
7. Yumthang Valley
Yumthang Valley is the most colourful place to visit in Sikkim! Justly called the ‘Valley of Flowers’, Yumthang Valley is a feast for the sore eyes during Spring — with eye-popping wildflowers like rhododendron, primulas, and primrose imbuing the horizon in all imaginable colours. The bright meadows and silver fir trees all around make the place alluring to look at, and for some reasons resemble the quaint towns of Austria or the awe-inspiring valleys oh Waikato.
8. Zero Point
Postponing your Europe vacation? No worries, turn to the hot springs in Sikkkim’s Zero point. Sign up a road trip to the Zero point and you have officially covered every quintessential experience in Sikkim; the Seven Sisters waterfall, Katao mountain peak, Gurudongmar lake are a few of the attractions that invite you on your trip to the Zero point. The hot springs have healing properties, say the locals but nevertheless, they are a gratifying remedy to the nailbiting cold.
9. Goecha La Pass
Prepare yourself for soul-satisfying spiritual adventures as you set foot on the Goecha La Pass. Several routes are open for travellers to trek their way across lower Kanchenjunga, Rathong River, Paha Khola Bridge, Prek Chu River, Tshoko and many more scenic and lesser-known attractions which reveal themselves to the most adventurous and dauntless of travellers. It is typically a 10-day trek and clearly a challenging one. Albeit at the end of it, nothing could have been more worth it! That is why is one amongst the top places to visit in Sikkim.
10. Ravangla Buddha Park
Speaking of serenity, nothing could compare to a 130 ft Buddha Statue towering into the gorgeous skylines alongside the majestic Himalayas. Ravangla Buddha Park or Tathagata Tsal on a clear day reveals views of Mount Sinialchu, Mount Pandim and Kanchenjunga stretches and many freshwater lakes and dense forests in the lower horizon. The place that marks the 2550th birthyear of Saint Buddha was held sacrosanct by Dalai Lama in 2003.
Sikkim is one of the picture-perfect destinations in Asia if not the world. Visit Sikkim and you’ll start seeing India (as a tourist destination) differently.
Also read: 10 best places to visit in Northeast India