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East Sikkim is the gateway to other parts of Sikkim and has its headquarters at Gangtok. All important administrative, social, financial and political machinery of the state is located in Gangtok.
Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim and lies in the eastern part of the state with a population of around 50,000. It is an important tourist centre and gateway to other tourist destinations in the state. It is one of the cleanest cities in the Eastern Himalayan Region with its well kept streets and hygienic environment.
Although, Gangtok have now donned a modern look with its discotheque, bars and plush markets, it still retains its old world charm with its monasteries, culture and diverse traditions. Gangtok also enjoys a temperate and alpine climate that is prevalent throughout the state. The town is situated on a hill at an altitude of 1780 m – 1830 m, overlooking the Ranikhola River; on the eastern side of the town the magnificent peaks of the Kanchenjunga are visible.
It has a mild temperate climate and the temperature ranges from 25 Deg Celsius in the summer to 3 Deg Celsius in the winter.
Gangtok is located 110 km from Siliguri and can be reached by taxi or bus.
Interesting places in and around Gangtok:
Gangtok Ropeway: The ropeway provides a mesmerizing bird’s eye view of Gangtok and its surrounding areas. It covers a distance of 1 km and takes the passengers to the highest point in Gangtok in just seven minutes. Each vehicle can accommodate 24 passengers; it can be boarded from Deorali in Gangtok.
Burtuk Waterfalls: The beautiful waterfall is a 20 min drive from Gangtok and located along the National Highway 31 towards North Sikkim. The Ratey Chu, the water reservoir for Gangtok is also the source of this waterfall. A great place to relax and click photographs.
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology: A world renowned centre for study of Buddhist philosophy and religion; it contains rare manuscripts in the Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit language. Apart from the scriptures, religious objects and 200 icons of Buddhist religion, it is famous for its ‘Thankas’- tapestries in Tibetan language.
Saramsa Garden: The Saramsa Garden houses rare plants like the orchids and other tropical and temperate plants found in the state. It is 14 km from Gangtok and an ideal place for recreation and picnic.
Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden: Covering a topography that ranges from an altitude of 1800 m to 2200 m, the garden consists of virgin temperate forest of oak and 50 other different species of trees. The garden adjoins the Rumtek Monastery and Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary and was established in the year 1987.
Water Garden: The beautiful picnic spot with a small swimming pool is in Martam Khola, 16 km south of Gangtok.
Tashi View Point: The view point is located 8 km from Gangtok towards the Highway that leads to North Sikkim. It provides a breathtaking view of Mt. Kanchenjunga; visit early in the morning for a clear view.
Himalayan Zoological Part (Bulbulay) : The Himalayan Zoological Park, also known as ‘Bulbulay’ is spread over an area of around 200 hectares; it shelters animals like the Red Panda, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer and the Himalayan Bear.
Ganesh Tok: The view point, which is placed on a ridge, provides a panoramic view of Gangtok with the backdrop of Mt Kanchenjunga and Mt. Siniolochu. It also has a cafeteria which serves snacks and beverages. There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Ganesh Tok is located at a distance of 7 km from Gangtok.
Hanuman Tok: This is again another view point located 11 km from Gangtok. It consists of a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman where devotees come in large numbers.
Buddhist monasteries in East Sikkim
Rumtek Monastery: The monastery is the seat of the Kagyupa Order headed by His Holiness, the Gyalwa Karmapa. The monastery preserves some of the rarest religious scriptures and objects. Other interesting site is the Karma Nalanda Institute of Buddhism, situated behind the Rumtek Monastery; it is the centre of Buddhist learning and attracts large number of students from different parts of the world. The Rumtek Monastery also called the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre is 24 km from Gangtok, a 45 min journey from the capital.
Enchey Monastery: It is a 200-year-old monastery belonging to the Nyingma-pa order of Buddhism. The site where the Enchey Monastery stands was sanctified by Lama Druptok Karop, a revered tantric master known for his great powers. The complex houses the images of gods, goddesses, religious scriptures and objects. The ‘Chaam’ festival – masked dance – is held annually at the monastery in the month of January. The Enchey Monastery is 3 km from Gangtok.
Pal Zurmang Kagyud Monastery: The monastery is located at Lingdum, 20 km from Gangtok. It is presided by the 12th reincarnation of Zurmang Gharwang known as Gharwang Rimpoche. The beautiful architecture and serenity of the location is worth a visit.