Gangtok Travel Guide
places to see
places to see
* The scenery - there are beautiful views of the surrounding hills from the town itself, but the best views - dominated by Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain - are from Enchey Monastery and Ganesh Tok, both high above the town.
* Enchey Monastery - a two hundred year old monastery in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism - located above the town.
* Do-drul Chorten - a large and impressive stupa complex constructed in 1945.
* Dodrupchen Monastery. A large 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.
* Flower show. Near the whyte hall, flower show is at its best during the flowering season
Get There and Around
get there and around
Taxis are the most widely available public transport within Gangtok. Most of the residents stay within a few kilometres of the town centre and many have their own vehicles such as two-wheelers and cars. The share of personal vehicles and taxis combined is 98% of Gangtok's total vehicles, a high percentage when compared to other Indian cities. City buses comprise less than one percent of vehicles. Those travelling longer distances generally make use of share-jeeps, a kind of public taxis. Four wheel drives are used to easily navigate the steep slopes of the roads. The 1 km (0.6 mi) long cable car with three stops connects lower Gangtok suburbs with Sikkim Legislative assembly in central Gangtok and the upper suburbs.
Gangtok is connected to the rest of India by an all-weather metalled highway, National Highway 31A, which links Gangtok to Siliguri, located 114 km (71 mi) away in the neighbouring state of West Bengal. The highway also provides a link to the neighbouring hill station towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which are the nearest urban areas. Regular jeep, van, and bus services link these towns to Gangtok. Gangtok is a linear city that has developed along the arterial roads, especially National Highway 31A. Most of the road length in Gangtok, is of two lane undivided carriageway with footpath on one side of the road and drain on the other. The steep gradient of the different road stretches coupled with a spiral road configuration constrain the smooth flow of vehicular as well as pedestrian traffic. The nearest railhead connected to the rest of India is the station of New Jalpaiguri, a suburb of Siliguri, situated 124 km (77 mi) away from Gangtok. The closest airport is Bagdogra Airport, 16 km (10 mi) from Siliguri. Although Gangtok does not have an airport, it is linked to Bagdogra airport via a daily helicopter service.
Like the rest of Sikkim, not much is known about the early history of Gangtok.The earliest records date from the construction of the hermitic Gangtok monastery in 1716. Gangtok remained a small hamlet until the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840 made it a pilgrimage center. After the defeat of the Tibetans by the British, Gangtok became a major stopover in the trade between Tibet and British India at the end of the 19th century. Most of the roads and the telegraph in the area were built during this time.
In 1894, Thutob Namgyal, the Sikkimese monarch under British rule, shifted the capital from Tumlong to Gangtok, increasing the city's importance. A new grand palace along with other state buildings was built in the new capital. Following India's independence in 1947, Sikkim became a nation-state with Gangtok as its capital. Sikkim became a suzerain of India, with the condition that it would retain its independence, by the treaty signed between the Chogyal and the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Trade between India and Tibet continued to flourish through the Nathula and Jelepla passes, offshoots of the ancient Silk Road near Gangtok. These border passes were sealed after the Sino-Indian War in 1962, which deprived Gangtok of its trading business. The Nathula pass was finally opened for limited trade in 2006.
Apart from the major religious festivals of Diwali, Christmas, Dussera, Holi etc., the diverse ethnic populace of the town celebrates several local festivals. The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate new year in January, while Tibetans celebrate the new year (Losar) with "Devil Dance" in January–February. The Maghe sankranti, Ram Navami, Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, the birthday of the Dalai Lama, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are some other festivals, some distinct to local culture and others shared with the rest of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
A popular food in Gangtok is the momo, a steamed dumpling containing pork, beef and vegetables cooked in a doughy wrapping and served with watery soup. Wai-Wai is a packaged snack consisting of noodles which are eaten either dry or in soup form. A form of noodle called thukpa, served in soup form is also popular in Gangtok. Other noodle-based foods such as the chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are available. Other traditional Sikkimese cuisine include shah-phaley (Sikkimese patties with spiced minced meat in a crisp samosa-like case) and Gack-ko soup. Restaurants offer a wide variety of traditional Indian, continental and Chinese cuisines to cater to the tourists. Churpee, a kind of hard cheese made from cow's or yak's milk is sometimes chewed. Chhang is a local frothy millet beer traditionally served in bamboo tankards and drunk through bamboo or cane straws. Alcohol is cheap due to low excise duty in Sikkim. Beer, whiskey, rum and brandy are frequently consumed by both locals and non-locals.
Residents of Sikkim are music lovers and it is common to hear Western rock music being played in homes and restaurants. Hindi pop songs are also common. Indigenous Nepali rock, music suffused with a western rock beat and Nepali lyrics, is particularly popular. Football (soccer), cricket and archery are the most popular sports in Gangtok. The Paljor Stadium, which hosts football matches, is the sole sporting ground in the city. Thangka—a notable handicraft—is an elaborately hand painted religious scroll in brilliant colours drawn on fabric hung in a monastery or a family altar and occasionally carried by monks in ceremonial processions. Chhaams are vividly costumed monastic dances performed on ceremonial and festive occasions, especially in the monasteries during the Tibetan new year.
In 1975, the monarchy was abrogated and Sikkim became India's twenty-second state, with Gangtok as its capital. Gangtok has witnessed annual landslides, resulting in loss of life and damage to property. The largest disaster occurred in June 1997, when 38 were killed and hundreds of buildings were destroyed.