Put Gangtok Sightseeing On Your List
Gangtok sightseeing would be a worthwhile entry on anyone's list of 1,000 things to see or do during a lifetime, or on the "bucket list" of someone who has traveled the globe, but is still seeking out exotic and out of the way places.
Gangtok is the capital of the small Himalayan nation of Sikkim. You can't just purchase an airline ticket and jet there from any major airport. In fact, you can't jet there from any airport, as Sikkim, and by definition Gangtok, has no airport. There are no trains in Sikkim either, which leaves buses and jeeps as the primary means of transportation. The nearest airport is Bagdogra, in the Indian state of West Bengal, which can be reached on a daily basis from Calcutta or Delhi. From Bagdogra, it's approximately a 70 mile jeep ride to Gangtok.
The Country And The People - Once in Sikkim, and while you are preparing for a bit of Gangtok sightseeing, you'll note that most of the inhabitants are of Nepalese origin, and speak Nepali. Most of the population is Hindu, though there are Buddhist, Christian and Muslim minorities present. Gangtok, which means "on top of the hill", is the capital of Sikkim, a small country of just over 7,000 square miles, or roughly 70 miles long and 40 miles wide. There are about 30,000 inhabitants in Gangtok, but this relatively small number does not reflect the many Gangtok sightseeing adventures awaiting the tourist.
Palaces And Monasteries - One of the outstanding Gangtok sightseeing attractions is the Royal Palace of the Chogal. You'll have to spend your Christmas vacation in Sikkim to visit it however, as it's only open to the public the last week in December each year. If you miss out on the royal palace there are a number of fascinating monasteries to visit, including the large Rumteck Monastery, a must see, as well as the nearly as famous Phodong Monastery. Enchey Gompa (Monastery) is another interesting sightseeing spot, where a number of festivals take place during the latter part of each year.
A Little Light Reading - Students of Buddhism, and anyone having an interest in Tibetan culture, will want to visit the Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology, with its 30,000 book library focusing on the teachings of Buddha. The Institute also features many arts and crafts and antiques of the local culture, including embroidered scrolls and prayer wheels.
The Gangtok visitor can also go on trekking expeditions in the nearby hills and mountains, or simply go on long walks by jeep, in the vicinity of the capital, visiting the Deer Park, orchid gardens, and a number of beautiful lakes, some of which are supposedly good for trout fishing, and one particularly beautiful lake, Khecheopalri Lake, which is considered by the native population to be sacred.
Relax And Enjoy - Life goes on at a relatively slow pace in Gangtok, and you won't feel rushed to take it all in. Admittedly, there are not as many tourist attractions or places of interest as one will find in London or Paris, but if you like people watching, want to observe a very different culture from our Western cultures, and especially if you're interested in architecture having a definite Tibetan influence, Gangtok should be on your list of places to go.
Be Sure To Bring Something Back - If you wish to bring back some interesting souvenirs, besides the photos you take, a visit to the Government Institute of Cottage Industries is highly recommended, where you’ll find a wide variety of local handicrafts such as masks, dolls, woolen items, and the like, and learn the history and uses of many of your purchases in the process.