Sikkim

A map showing where Sikkim is.

Sikkim, Nepali: सिक्किम Sikkimese: སུ་ཁྱིམ་, is a state in East India in the Himalayan foot hills also bordering China (Tibet), Nepal and Bhutan. The name has been coined from the words su him, which mean "beautiful home", reflecting the beauty of its snow-covered mountains and lush green valleys.

Regions

Towns

Other destinations

Understand

Crows Lake in North Sikkim

The official language and lingua franca of Sikkim is Nepali, though Sikkimese is the most common native language of locals. Many other languages such as Dzongkha and Tibetan are also spoken by smaller numbers. However, Hindi is also widely spoken as a second language, and all educated people are able to speak English.

Sikkim covers an area of about 7,300 square kilometres, nearly 40% of which is forested. Kanchenjunga (8,586 m) is the third-highest mountain on earth. The mountain is venerated as seat of the Gods. Sikkim is renowned for wide rhododendron woods with 450 different kinds of orchids. The orchids blossom from March to May.

For a long time, Sikkim was a Buddhist kingdom, isolated in the Himalayas, populated by Lepchas and Bhotia, two tribes of Tibetan origin, and governed by the Namgyal Dynasty from Tibet. Sikkim was declared a British protectorate in 1861. The British government encouraged the immigration of Nepalese workers, and today about 75% of the population is Nepalese. Sikkim was an Indian protectorate from 1947 until 1975, when after a couple of years of unrest, a referendum criticized by some resulted in overwhelming approval of a proposal to abolish the monarchy (which had continued to rule during Sikkim's years as a protectorate), and Sikkim later that year became the 22nd federal state of India.

Get in

Sikkim Assembly, Gangtok

There are no airports or railway stations in Sikkim. The only way to enter Sikkim from rest of India is by road using a bus or jeep, or by helicopter from West Bengal.

Entry permits

As of May 2015, it is still necessary to obtain a Restricted Area Permit (also known as Inner Line Permit - ILP) for foreigners to travel in Sikkim. The permit is a piece of paper containing your passport data and dates you are permitted to travel (typically, 15 days). When entering and exiting Sikkim, your passport will be stamped much in the same manner as when crossing national borders. Obtaining a permit is a pure bureaucratic formality and usually takes a few minutes. You will need to fill in an application form and possibly provide a few passport photos (1 and 2 have been reported).

The permit can be obtained when crossing the Sikkim state border by road in Rangpo or Meili. It is also available from Sikkim travel desk in Darjeeling located inside the Old Bellevue Hotel (opposite to Glenary's restaurant in Chowrasta district), and from Sikkim Tourism Center in Siliguri located at the S.N.T. bus stand (the place from which government buses depart for Sikkim: S.N.T. means "Sikkim Nationalized Transport") in the vicinity of Siliguri Junction railway station (different from New Jalpaiguri station, and reachable from there by taxi/public shared taxi). The website of Ministry of Home Affairs states that permits can also be obtained at large international airports (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata), but locating the relevant facilities has proven difficult for some travellers, due to incompetence of personnel. Permits can also be applied for at the time of Indian visa application, or at 14 Panchsheel Marg, New Delhi 110021 (011 26115346) and 4/1 Middleton Street, Kolkata 700071 (033 22817905). Within India Inner Line Permits may be issued by:

The permit is valid for 2 weeks from the border entry to Sikkim. It can by extended for 2 additional weeks at the Foreigners' Registration Office, Kazi Road, Ganngtok (Tel. 03592-223041) or from the police station at Mangan, Gyalshing or Namchi The Inner Line Permit allows travels in Southern Sikkim and great parts of Eastern and Western Sikkim with the exception of treks in high mountain areas.

For the border regions, e.g. Tsomogo Lake in East Sikkim, most parts of North Sikkim and treks into high mountain regions, including Dzongri and Singalila Ridge a Protected Area Permit (PAP) is required. Foreigners must visit these regions in groups of at least 2 persons accompanied by a representative of an officially acknowledged tour operator. The agency will also apply for the Protected Area Permits.

Certain regions, e.g. Nathu La in East Sikkim or Gurudongman Lake in North Sikkim, cannot be visited by foreigners.

By plane

Nearest airport for Sikkim is Bagdogra (TXB), near Siliguri in North Bengal, which is 124 km and approximately four hours drive from Gangtok. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, SpiceJet & Go Air service Bagdogra linking it with other major airport in India (including Guwahati). Druk Air flys twice weekly from Bangkok, stopping in Bagdogra before continuing to Paro in Bhutan. Sikkim is linked to Bagdogra airport by a daily helicopter service to Gangtok that operates only once a day and carries four passengers

By train

Construction of a 50-km rail link from Sevoke, West Bengal to Rangpo, Sikkim started in 2009, but is not expected to be ready until 2015, and it'll take another few years until it reaches another 40 km to Gangtok.

Meanwhile, the nearest railway stations are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri. Both of these have a number of trains connecting them to Kolkata. The distance from Delhi to New Jalpaiguri by train is 1.970 km, and 580 km from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri.

For details see train schedule information of Indian Railways

You should be able to get pre-paid taxis to Gangtok outside the railway stations easily.

By bus

The Sikkim government has fixed rate (and fixed schedule) buses plying between Siliguri and Gangtok.

The SNT bus stand at Gangtok is in Pajor Stadium Road. In many cases it is, however, more convenient to get off at MG Marg. The Private bus stand is on National Highway NH-31A, about 2 km South of the city centre.

After 44 years of closure, the Nathu La pass to Tibet, China – a part of the historic Silk Road – opened again in July 2006. There are plans for a Gangtok-Lhasa bus service.

Get around

Most travel in Sikkim is done by bus or jeep on road. Trekking is also a popular option.

See

Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology, also a museum, in Gangtok

Monasteries

Scenery

Tea garden at Temi

Do

Samiti Lake, near Kanchenjunga

There are many adventure activities possible to do in Sikkim. Tourists can go for trekking, rafting and kayaking, mountain biking, mountaineering and yak safaris.

Trekking

Trekking in the high mountains areas is permitted in groups only. The following agencies organise treks:

The agencies also apply for the necessary permits. The prices for treks in the high mountains areas range from US$40 to US$150 per person per day.

Some of the most interesting treks are:

Eat

You must eat delicious momos stuffed with meat (also known as 'Dumpling'). For vegetarians, veg momos are also available along with Thukpas (noodle soup). Phagshapa is a strip of pork fat stewed with radishes and dried chillies.

Drink

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.