GOAN GIRL ZINDAGI

A ORDINARY GIRL ON AN EXTRA ORDINARY JOURNEY

A Mini Guide to Sikkim

There is something dreamy about waking up in the shadow of the massive Kangchendzonga, something peaceful about the hymns in the monasteries, something exciting in walking over frozen lakes, something refreshing about walking beside the fringes of Rhododendron trees, something exquisite about breathing in the fragrance of over thousand different species of flowers and something very special about Sikkim.

The state has equal doses of adventure and serenity; pump up your adrenaline as you trek, paraglide, river raft and ride bicycles on these insane slopes or soothe your soul as you take a dip in the hot springs, enjoy the views of numerous lakes and admire at the burst of color. Camp outdoors with chilled Thumba ( local beer of Sikkim) as you try to spot constellations in the crystal night. Towards the end of the trip, you will find yourself sitting by the wishing lake as the sun will leave its last coat of orange on the waters, the silence will be overpowering and mesmerizing, you will wish that this peaceful moment lasts forever.

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Sandwiched between the kingdoms of Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the east, Sikkim is blessed with spectacular natural beauty and vibrant culture.
Glistening glacial lakes, endless pastures, waterfalls at every turn, quiet monastery towns and scenic drives made my trips to Sikkim an adventure I will never forget.
Here’s a list of places I visited that will help you discover its many magical wonders.

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1) Gangtok

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Gangtok, the exotic capital city of Sikkim, is a Buddhist haven. Situated in the eastern Himalayan range, this city combines a modern, resort town style with ancient spiritual beliefs and an impressive natural heritage. Mountain views act as the backdrop to holidays in Gangtok, where much of the focus also lies on the monasteries, shrines, and temples of this old center of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage. 

Gangtok is surrounded by dense forests which are full of poplar, oak and elm trees. From coniferous green trees of the wet alpine zone to rare orchids and bamboos, this region has it all. You will also see flowers such as sunflower, marigold, and poinsettia in full bloom between November and December.

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2) Gurudongmar Lake

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One of the most beautiful, pristine lakes in Sikkim, Gurudongmar lake sits in close proximity to the Tibetan and Chinese border in the north. Nested amidst the mountains at 17000 ft, the freezing alpine lake is amongst the major sources of the river Teesta. The lake takes its name after the eminent guru Padmasambhava, who is believed to have traversed this region during his visit to Tibet.

This Lake is one of the highest altitude natural lakes in the world. It is the pinnacle point of the North Sikkim tour and probably the most beautiful one too. The lake is placid and the surroundings are nothing less than overwhelming.

It would not be an exaggeration to call it a paradise in the midst of nowhere.

The Lake is spread out over 290 acres and is surrounded by snow-covered mountain ranges all around. You might even feel that the ranges are floating away on the lake itself. It is nothing short of ethereal.

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3) Yuksom

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Yuksom, which was once the first capital of Sikkim is a virgin and extremely charming historical town in West Sikkim. Blessed with jaw-dropping gorgeousness, this place is a must see.

A destination for laid back occasion, Yuksom is an unexplored beguiling town in West Sikkim. Favoured with stunning loveliness, this place is an absolute visit. Known as the Gateway to Mt. Kangchendzongha, Yuksom highlights spellbinding trails worth treading. Visit around its appealing districts and make a visit to its acclaimed tourism attractions and touring places. Its old cloisters, landmarks, quiet cascades and lakes will abandon you spell-bound. Sip some tea and find out about the religious and memorable fables joined to this place.

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4) Nathu La

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Nathu La, one of the highest motorable roads in the world, is a mountain pass in the Himalayan peaks that co-joins Sikkim and China. Situated on the Indo-Tibetan border 14140 ft. above sea level, Nathu La is one of the most important Himalayan passes in the country. Nathu means ‘listening ears’, and La means ‘pass’. Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between India and China and is famous for its picturesque beauty and beautiful environment. The temperature here remains low for most parts.

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5) Khecheopalri Lake

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In a small shallow valley, surrounded by dense green forests lies Khecheopalri lake. As the prayer flags flutter in the wind and the calming sounds of bells ring one after the other, you know you have your bliss here.
This religious place is believed to fulfill one’s wishes. The legend has it, that no leaves can be seen afloat the lake despite being located amidst dense forest as the birds remove the fallen leaves from the water.

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6) Yumthang Valley

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The Yumthang Valley or Sikkim Valley of Flowers, is a nature sanctuary with river, hot springs, yaks and grazing pasture on rolling meadows surrounded by the Himalayan mountains in the North Sikkim district.

True to its assigned nickname, Yumthang valley fosters countless floral species which criss-cross all across its lush green carpet. The valley also houses the beautiful Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, hosting over 24 different species of rhododendrons! The verdant pasture that is Yumthang valley is lapped by mighty mountains on either side, and the freezing river Teesta forms a crystal ribbon through the forested beauty of the valley.

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7) Pelling

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Pelling is famous for magnificent views of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga range, the third highest peak in the world. The Placid town pulls most of the visitors for its representative status in history, nature, and culture of the state of Sikkim.

Pelling, a beautiful petite town sited at a height of 6800ft was initially covered with wild thick forest which served as home to many indigenous wild animals. This ridge being situated in between two old Buddhist monasteries (Pemayangtse and Sangacholing) developed into a full-fledged village named Pelling. Today, Pelling is one of the best-chosen tourist hotspots in Sikkim. More than that, Pelling is the heart where all the breathtaking tourist spots of West Sikkim can be visited.

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8) Tsomgo Lake

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The most visited lake in Sikkim is the Tsomgo Lake in East Sikkim. Located 35 km from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,000 ft, the ethereally beautiful Tsomgo Lake is a must on every visitor’s itinerary. Embedded in steep and rugged mountain terrain, the lake is covered with snow cover from early winter to late spring. Associated with many legends and myths, Tsomgo is revered as a holy lake by the people of Sikkim.

Majestic silver firs and pine trees skirt the gorgeous glacial lake that is almost a kilometer long. Changing seasons bring new colours to the lake waters, from sapphire blue in spring time to a dark inky green as winter approaches.

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9) Rumtek Monastery

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Rumtek, apart from being the largest monastery in the Himalayan state of Sikkim is also one of the most venerated. The monastery, perched on a hill facing Gangtok offers a brilliant view of the city and the surrounding mountains. Built in the 1960s, the monastery is the main seat of the Black Hat or the Karma Kagyu, a sect within the Nyingma school of Buddhism that originated around the 12th century in Tibet.

The façade of the main building—elaborately covered with ornate latticework in wood and painted in vibrant colours that are characteristic of sacred Tibetan art— overlooks a sprawling courtyard. The prayer hall is adorned with intricate murals depicting Buddhist masters, demons and dakinis while brilliantly-painted thangkas festoon its walls. Behind the main temple is The Karma Shri Nalanda Institute of Buddhist Studies, one of the grandest and busiest structures in the monastery complex.

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10) Rabdantse

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On the lower hillock, south east of Pemayangtse monastery, lies the ruin of the old Rabdentse palace. The scenic view from the top of the ruins scanning across deep valley to the mystic heights of Kanchendzonga ranges is something to be cherished and etched in memory.

Exploring the ruins of Rabdentse, the medieval capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim, is like peeping through a looking glass into the intriguing past of this Himalayan kingdom. Endless skirmishes for power, conniving members of the royal family, treacherous neighbours, exiled kings—all make up for quite a vibrant history.

The history of Rabdentse goes back to the 17th century when the second Chogyal (king), Tenstuk Namgyal, decided to move his capital from Yuksom in West Sikkim. By the late 18th century, however, Rabdantse was brought to a brutal end at the hands of the invading Gurkha army who left it in utter ruins.

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11) Kanchenjunga Falls

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Kanchenjunga Falls is a perennial waterfall situated in the beautiful hill town of Pelling. Surrounded by the thick forest cover this site is Untouched from the urbanization and blessed with a serene ambiance that never fails to draw visitors. It derives its name from the pure waters that descend from the mighty Kanchenjunga. the 3rd highest peak in the world. It gushes down from a height of 100 feet into a pool. Kanchenjunga falls was not known to people and remained untouched till the 90s.

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12) Nathang Valley

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Zuluk

Located at an altitude of 13,500 feet, this lush valley was the home to traditional yak herders who came from Tibet. Few streams crisscross the valley, and prayer flags flutter on the mountain edges on this vast plain of nothingness. Nathang Valley appears in different colours in different times of the year. In autumn it looks golden when the grass dries up, in rainy season it’s covered in flowers and in winter it is buried in 5 feet of snow. 

It was once a transit point to the historic Silk Route from Tibet to India. It is relatively an emerging and offbeat destination in East Sikkim. Zuluk is the very first village within this whole Silk Route circuit to offer home-stay facilities for tourists. Zuluk itself does not offer views of the snow peaks but only 14 kms away the Thambi View Point offers a panoramic view of the entire Mt. Kanchenjungha range.

Rhododendron and primula bloom covering the whole area in a surreal shade. It also offers the view of a stunning array of peaks. The serene and tranquil air of the Valley cannot be described in words. A single visit here can leave the visitor in an enchanted state for weeks.

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