Sikkim is one of the smallest and youngest state of India and it’s capital is known as Gangtok. I have never known and never heard of this place prior to my trip to India and I’m just glad that I’ve decided to visit this place.
Luckily, Sikkim was celebrating their Spring Festival in Gangtok when we were there (May 11-15) and we had a chance to see and observe the ethnic diversity in this awesome place. I had an awesome time just chilling out and walking around this small city. I find most people very friendly and welcoming.
Spring Festival Celebration in Gangtok
Gangtok is also a popular destination among local Indians who are trying to escape the Indian heat during summer. So, if you decide to visit during the peak season, you’ll find this small city packed with so many people.
M.G. Marg, Gangtok
Government Permit Required
If you’re interested to visit Sikkim, the first thing that you need to get is a permit. It’s free and you can get it from any Sikkim Toursim Office in India.
Be aware that this permit is only applicable to limited places in Sikkim. If you want to venture beyond this “allowed places to visit”, you have to secure additional permits. Luckily, travel agencies take care of this concern when booking a tour through them.
Where to Stay
You’ll find most of the budget accommodation along Tibet Road. One of the most popular among foreign backpackers is New Modern Lodge where you can get a basic double room for as low as 300 Rupees. This hostel is also popular as they arrange tours to various places in Sikkim. This is also a great place to find travellers that you can share tours with to save some money on tour packages.
Where to Eat
There are so many restaurants in and around M.G. Marg (the main public square in Gangtok). One of the must try food is the vegetable Momo (dumplings). It’s being sold everywhere in Gangtok and other places in Sikkim. You can have it fried or steamed.
There are numerous ATMs around Gangtok that foreign travellers can use. There are also a handful of money exchange shops.
A Few Tips
1. Gangtok provides a nice view of the Khangchendongza mountain especially on a clear day. There are various viewing points such as Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok. You can book a tour or you can just hire a taxi yourself to bring you to these places.
2. Gangtok has a small zoological park where they try to provide the animals with what they call “semi-natural habitat”. Check it out to see Sikkim’s State animal, the Red Panda and one of the most elusive and rarest animal, the Snow Leopard.
3. Make sure to bring warm clothes (jackets and sweaters) as it could get very cold.
4. If you want to go on a tour to Tsongmo Lake or North Sikkim on a budget, look for travellers to share the cost with. Don’t hesitate to approach and ask your fellow travellers.
5. I find Gangtok a very safe place to walk around at but exercise necessary caution when walking in dark alleys.
PS: Smoking is not allowed in Sikkim.