States > Sikkim

Sikkim: Simplicity and Peaceful

Kunchenjunga, Sikkim
Bordered by China, Nepal and Bhutan, Sikkim has long been regarded as one of the last Himalayan Shangri-las. Because of its remoteness and the fact that permits are required, Sikkim isn't the most accessible area to visit in India. However, it certainly is one of the most energetic and refreshing. There's something very soothing to the soul about the mountainous beauty and ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture in Sikkim.

The state is legendary for its peaceful nature and simplicity. Famous for Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world at 8586m, the mountain state of Sikkim offers tremendous variety of plant and wildlife besides a diverse ethnic mix of people with rich cultural tradition. Travel and Tourism in Sikkim gained popularity during the last decade with increasing number of tourists visiting this hilly region for its natural beauty.

One of the smallest states in India, Sikkim's life is centered on Gangtok, the capital. Rising 300m above the Indian plains, Sikkim borders the edge of the Tibetan Plateau on its north and Nepal on its east. Although it was historically a Buddhist kingdom, the Hindus currently represent the majority. Sikkim has close links with Tibet and it's the home of over 250 monasteries of mostly the Nyingma-pa sect.

Sikkim is rich with wide variety of flora and fauna. About 450 varieties of orchids, over 600 species of butterflies, 500 species of birds along with red pandas, snow leopards and other animals can be seen in Sikkim. The largest collection can be seen at the Kanchenjunga National Park which covers an area of 850 square kilometers. As a result ornithology tourism is also gaining prominence in Sikkim.

No holiday is complete without taking back souvenirs and there is plenty you can take back from Sikkim apart from memories of a great holiday! The many shopping stores offer you all kinds of goods. But if you want something unique to take from Sikkim, visit the Government Institute of Cottage Industry and the many curio shops around town and you'll be spoilt for choice.

You can buy canvas paintings and scrolls with local motifs, the 'Tashi Tagey' or the eight lucky signs, wooden dragon wall hangings, cloth bags, handmade paper products, Buddhist religious items and a host of other things.

Carpets: Tibetan woolen carpets made of pure sheep wool woven with intricate designs and patterns maybe a little expensive but definitely worth the price.

Thankas: These are scrolls usually with religious depictions, represented by deities surrounded by followers and often contained within a mandala or magic circle. The ones by master artists are very expensive but you can also get cheaper versions in the many handicraft shops in town.

Choktses: These are small wooden ornate tables carved in traditional style. These can be conveniently folded and carried away.

Jewellery:The Dragon set is unique to Sikkim. Intricately carved in silver and gold and inlaid with precious stones these consist of finely designed dragons on earrings, pendants, bracelets and finger-rings. You can also buy other silver jewelry as well as precious stones from some shops in Gangtok.

Tea: The Temi Tea Estate in Sikkim grows excellent tea which is highly prized in the world market. Carry a few packets of Temi which is irresistibly flavored by the mists and mountains of South Sikkim. Sikkim Liquor &

Liqueurs: Sikkim Fireball Special Brandy, a fruit based alcohol that has been matured for a long time and is uniquely packaged is a popular item sought by tourists. You can also buy the Sikkim Ginger Liqueur and the Sikkim Cardamom Liquor, both with a decidedly eastern taste. There are many other varieties of liquor available too.

Here is a profile of Sikkim for you to keep in mind.

Capital: Gangtok

Closest airport: Sikkim currently does not have any airports or railheads because of its rough terrain. However, the state's first airport is expected to be ready by 2011 in Pakyong, 30 km (19 mi) away from Gangtok. The airport will be capable of operating ATR aircraft. Currently, the closest operational airport to Sikkim is Bagdogra Airport, near the town of Siliguri in West Bengal. The airport is about 124 km away from Gangtok. A regular helicopter service run by the Sikkim Helicopter Service connects Gangtok to Bagdogra; the flight is thirty minutes long, operates only once a day, and can carry 4 people. The Gangtok helipad is the only civilian helipad in the state.

Top attractions:
1. Monasteries
2. Yuksom and the Dzongri trail
3. Teesta river rafting
4. Flora and Fauna Sanctuaries
5. Nathu la Pass and the Old Silk Route

Official language: Bhutia, Hindi, Nepali, Lepcha, Limbu
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