Gangtok

Gangtok, view from Ganesh Tok

Gangtok is a bustling, friendly hill station, and the capital of the Himalayan state of Sikkim. The name Gangtok is derived from the Tibetan word for 'hillside,' and the city currently has a population of around 80,000 - a mixture of indigenous Sikkimese and people of Nepalese and Tibetan ancestry.

Understand

Gangtok is popular place with tourists heading on treks, though the facilities do not reflect the number of international visitors. However, efforts are being made by the government to improve the conditions. Gangtok would be easily one of the most cleanest cities you would ever come across, highly organized and beautifully maintained. It is the Switzerland of the east. Tourists are of paramount importance, hence rules have been laid in order to prevent tourists from being cheated. Fares of Cabs are mostly fixed for such reason. A really nice place to unwind. Quite a few places for vegetarians to eat since it is mostly dominated by Buddhist culture. The city resembles the Bhutanese capital. Devoid of large stores, book shops this place is an nice break away from typical city lives. Still, the city is a fascinating place to spend a few nights, the winding side alleys hide some unexpected gems, and the main street (MG Marg) is pedestrianized and a pleasant place to take a stroll.

The city sleeps by 9 pm mostly, except for a few pubs which are open till 11 pm.

The best season to Visit Gangtok is Jan-March.

Get in

By plane

The nearest airport is at Bagdogra (IXB) at a distance of roughly 120 kilometers. The Bagdogra airport (14 kms from Siliguri) is served by direct flights from Kolkata and New Delhi. From airport you can hire a taxi or cab to reach at Gangtok. Frequent direct flights are also available for Bagdogra and a lovely highway passing through beautiful scenery, waterfall and mountains will take you to the Gangtok. A helicopter flies between the Bagdogra and Gangtok once a day around 2.00PM and requires pre -booking, as it carries only 8 passengers.

By train

The nearest train station to Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri which has direct connections to New Delhi, Kolkata, and other major cities in India. It is a 10-12 hour journey from Kolkata.

Once you arrive in New Jalpaiguri, you can either hire a taxi from the station itself or take an auto-rickshaw to the Siliguri bus stand. From there, you have the option of travelling to Gangtok by state bus, roughly a 5-6 hour journey.

By road

The roads in the area are all winding mountain roads in poor condition. The average travel speed between Gangtok and other cities is around 30 km/h.

Shared jeeps connect Gangtok to Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and other mountain locales. Jeeps leave when full and are filled up by priority order so the price is generally fixed.

Jeeps to Namchi, a nearby tourist destination with many holy sites, costs around ₹110 and takes about 3 hours. Jeeps to Kalimpong cost ₹120 and are available from Deorali (or Mainline) Bus Stand, distance of around 80 km and time around 3.5 hours.

Fare of the shared cabs is generally fixed, around ₹155 to Gangtok from NJP station. Drivers might try to charge high so check for the fare with other cabs before taking one.

Get around

By taxi

Taxis are the dominant form of transportation due to Gangtok's hilly and steep roads. There are standard charges within the main areas: at least ₹100 for private service and ₹10-₹20 for shared. Taxis are available from designated taxi stands.

See

Kanchenjunga seen from Tashi View Point

Gangtok provides beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and hills. There are also several viewpoints near the city that provide views of Kanchenjunga.

One popular day trip is to visit Lake Tsomgo, a scenic lake around 40 km from Gangtok at an elevation of 3,780 m. Stops along this day trip include Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok, monasteries with views of Kanchenjunga. Enchey Monastery is a two hundred-year-old monastery in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, located above Gangtok, just off the road to Lake Tsomgo.

Another popular day trip winds around the valley which Gangtok overlooks, to Rumtek Monastery and Ranka Monastery. Rumtek Monastery, 15 km from Gangtok, is one of the most famous things to see near Gangtok. Ranka Monastery, 20 km from Gangtok, is newer and quieter but also very beautiful. Nearby Ranka Monastery is the Kanchenjunga Tourist Complex, a combination hotel and family amusement park.

These day trips can be booked from travel agencies and hotels. Without booking, Jeeps may be available from the private taxi stand a few minutes downhill from MG Marg. However, most of these will be shared Jeeps that are one-way so it would be prudent to inquire ahead of time.

Mahatma Gandhi Marg (MG Marg) is a pedestrian only avenue which forms the main shopping district. Near the main entrance of MG Marg is the tourist information office and a taxi stand, the final destination of many taxis from other parts of the city.

In the Deorali district at the bottom of Gangtok, there is Do-drul Chorten, a Buddhist stupa complex constructed in 1945.

Dodrupchen Monastery is another monastery in the Nyingma tradition. Famous for its large chorten. When in residence, Dodrupchen Rinpoche receives devotees to offer blessings from around 8AM to 9:30AM.

Do

A few minutes walk down the hill from Do-Drul Chorten is the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, a small but informative museum providing a general introduction of Tibetan Buddhism using authentic artifacts such as thankas and statues. Entrance fee is ₹10. About 5 minutes from the museum is the Gangtok Ropeway (or Damodar Ropeway), a cable car which connects Deorali to a hill above Gangtok. One way or round trip cost is ₹80, with a children's discount.

Buy

Sikkim is famous for its fruit processing and tea aside from the local handicraft.Passion fruit Squash, Alpine Cheese, Temi Tea & Maha Gurudev Tea are some of the local products.

Eat

There are many great and cheap places to eat in Gangtok.

Drink

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

It is not an exaggeration to say that Gangtok is really one of the safest places for women. However, the standard rules of safety like being alert with strangers and not hanging out in deserted places are applicable to everyone.

If you are traveling alone then it is advisable to take a hotel in Gangtok itself and not in a remote area.

The roads in Gangtok are not properly intact, and sometimes the main highway remains closed due to frequent landslides, so a word of caution is given for inexperienced drivers.

Respect

No plastic bags can be sold or used in Gangtok.

Spitting, littering or smoking in public areas of Sikkim is a punishable offence and can incur a large fine. Streets in Sikkim have bins for garbage and spitting.

Connect

There are no internet cafes along the main thoroughfares and the rate is compatible with other centers of commerce in India. However, the infrastructure is weak, and the mantra of most internet cafes is 'server down.' Travelers who need to work extensively on the internet are advised to do so in Siliguri, where the server connection is much more reliable.

Go next

By bus

Private and Sikkim Nationalized Transport (SNT) buses are available for intercity travelling. For places like Tashiding, Yuksom and Pelling, buses depart from 7 AM and 12:30 PM from SNT bus stop. Hourly services are also available for some places like Jorethang, Namchi, Ravangla and Geyzing.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.