On a clear day, root for snow-white Kangchenjunga indulging in a peek-a-boo rendezvous with the lacklustre sunrays. Enjoy the fleeting warmth while it lasts. Sikkim gets colder with each passing hour, but nothing a hot plate of Tofu momos or bell pepper noodle soup cannot defeat! A strikingly serene Sikkim could convince you to practice solitude but don’t shy away from the chattery Ciyā pasalas (tea shops) or an evening passeggiata. At night, watch the lower Himalayas’ tryst with the glossy moonlight and you’ll realize Sikkim could easily pass for the most magical place in Asia.
From mind-bending treks to alluring monastery trips, we pick the incredible things to do in Sikkim.
Things to do in Sikkim
1. Drive down to Gurudongmar Lake
Who doesn’t like a nice, warm drive shortly after a nail-biting cold night? As you drive to Gurudongmar Lake, the surreal green lake embedded amidst flower-filled meadows, soak up the incredible views of Teesta river coalescing with the Zemu, Kangtse and Pauhunri glaciers. After a joyous 3-4 hours ride (or drive if you can handle the challenging route without being drawn away) from Lachen, you reach Gurudongmar Lake heightened in length and beauty — hands down one of the best places to visit in Sikkim.
2. Find serenity in Rumtek Monastery
There is not a dull day in the precious monasteries of Sikkim. Consecrated by the Kargyu sect of Buddhists, the Rumtek monastery is beautiful inside out. We are not sure if it is the mythical vibes of the age-old monastery or the indecipherable yet soothing chants of the Buddhist monks that pleasantly appeals to us. Take a look at the faded murals in the interior walls that serve as the backdrop for the golden-coloured miniature Buddha statues. The monastery in itself is a breathtaking viewpoint that casts a widened scope across rolling meadows, steep valleys and the very city of Gangtok.
3. Taste Temi tea
Nestled in South Sikkim, Temi has one of the richest tea gardens in India if not Asia. Temi has gone fully organic long back and that has influenced how the Sikkimese take their tea. Black, sugarless, fragrant and intensely flavourful — and the icing on the top? You can taste the tasty tea right where it’s grown, with views to rolling tea gardens. The hot cup of tea pressed into your hands could make you forget what you came for and become one with nature. After this, visit Ravangla Buddha Park with a towering 130 ft Buddha statue as the centrepiece.
4. Eat local food, including momos and noodles
Gundruk (mashed green leaves) or kinema curry (fermented soybean) sided with rice and sinki (radish pickle) could keep you hooked whilst your stay in Sikkim. If you want to go lighter and leave some room for the classic cheese-filled momos in the evening, go for thukpa (noodle soup with cauliflower, freshly ground pepper and spinach). Your meal is not complete without Sikkim’s traditional desserts of Sel Roti (a doughnut-shaped Nepali sweet prepared on the occasions of Dashain and Tihar) and Sha Phaley (cheese-coated bread with a stuffing of your choice). I could go on, for the list is endless.
5. Photograph rhododendrons in Yumthang Valley
In other words, photograph the “valley of flowers” — not any flowers but the vivid wildflowers indigenous to Sikkim. Especially during the spring, the valley and the path en route bathes in eye-popping rhododendrons that come in a multitude of shades such as crimson, mauve, pink, and red. The forests of Singba and Varsey are the other primary places to spot rhododendrons, however, Yumthang Valley with its fir tree-backdrop is a level above.
6. Experience nightlife in MG Marg
After a good number of days in North Sikkim homestays of Goecha La base camps, a night in MG Marg will be a contrasting alternative. You can meet the locals here, taste momos paired with cheese fountain, buy handcrafted clothes or walk around leisurely breathing fresh air infused with a compelling aroma from the sidewalk stalls. There are pubs, lounges and dining areas too, so take things into your own hands and look beyond the guidebook.
7. Sign up for an adventure sport
Call it cheap thrill or humdrum, but no adventure is mainstream if tried in Sikkim. You may have paraglided before but with a view like in Gangtok? The capital city has brilliant launching ridges and you can paraglide with a certified expert. And don’t mistake the calm snow-covered Sikkim to go easy on your adventures! River rafting on the high-current Teesta was once named 4th in world’s top-10 rafting regions. River rafting across quaint towns, mountaineering through Mt. Thingchinkhang or Mt. Pandim, mountain biking in Namchi – Jorethang loop are some of the thrilling adventures to try in Sikkim.
8. Explore North Sikkim towns
North Sikkim is where some top Sikkim attractions are at, including Lachen and Gurudongmar Lake. The quaint and dashing town of Lachen invites you at the base with Chopta Valley and Gurudongmar Lake, and they are but a modest prequel to what’s nested 2,750 metres above. Check the route conditions before you hop on this probably life-transforming adventure of yours, as it’s prone to landslides in certain seasons. Spend a rewarding night in Lachen. Also, visit Lachung town which is well-known for its hot springs, bright-coloured matchbox houses and pine forests. You can visit Yumthang Valley from here.
Also read: Offbeat things to do in Sikkim
9. Trek to Goecha La Pass
Seasoned hikers consider this an ultimate challenge, albeit there are many more trekking trails scattered across Sikkim. Immerse yourself in the intriguing corners of Goecha La and you will receive far more than you seek. A typical trek to some peaks en route world’s third highest peak of Kanchenjunga takes a minimum of 10 days, start at Yuksom and trails along Prek Chu River, Tshoko, Rathong River, Paha Khola Bridge, and many many scenics and hidden gems before arriving at the destination. There are plenty of camping sites too, don’t forget to pack your camping tents and gears!
10. Take a road trip to Nathula Pass and Zero Point
The famous Nathula Pass connects Sikkim to Tibet autonomous region and needs a special pass to enter due to its political influence. Take a road trip through the winding routes with awe-inspiring vistas revealed at every bend and turn. There are several viewpoints that on a clear day let you gawk at the far-off Himalayas. Zero point, on the other hand, is a pool of mind-bending attractions including Seven Sisters waterfall, Gurudongmar lake, Katao mountain peak and several hot springs. In a nutshell, a must-visit.
11. Attend a famous festival in Sikkim
What better way to get up close with a place’s culture other than by taking part in one of its local festivals? You are in for a treat if you happen to visit Sikkim during festivals, for they are in a league of their own. There is Drupka Teshi Buddhist festival, Losoong harvesting festival, Losar that resembles Chinese New Year festival, Sonam Lhochhar folk dance festival, and the list goes on. The culture game is top during these festivals and will be a visual treat to whoever is present.
Sikkim could alter one’s preconceived notions about holidays in India, and offers a truly magical experience for the travellers.