I Visited Sikkim During The Pandemic & Here’s Everything That Is Open For Tourism

by Nancy Johri
by Nancy Johri 1372

Sikkim is LOVE! I fell in love with this tiny piece of heaven and left a piece of my heart there. Since I decided to travel there in the monsoon season, I faced a bit of inconvenience (my flights got cancelled due to bad weather, both ways!). But ultimately, I got to experience more than I could ever ask for. It felt that nature has woken up from its deep slumber and there are colourful flowers and fresh greenery everywhere. This Northeastern state has strengthened my belief in serendipity. Such is the magic of Sikkim!

I spent a few days there and visited various places, ranging from its holy monastery to one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world. And, the food there is yummy too! Let me take you on my journey across this dreamland where I would love to go again and again.   

1. Do-Drul Chorten 

Luck favours me a lot when I am travelling. All the monasteries were closed owing to the ongoing pandemic, except Do-Drul Chorten. And it was near my hotel (The Golden Crest Hotel). Located on a hillock in Gangtok, it is regarded as one of the most important Buddhist stupas of Sikkim. Around the Chorten, there are as many as 108 Mani Lhakor (prayer wheels). Like devout Buddhists, you can also turn them in the clockwise direction while chanting ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ (O Jewel in the Lotus) to invoke your Bodhisattva!

 

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Also read: Sikkim Throws Open Stunning Yumthang Valley In Lachung For Tourism

2. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

An important reference centre in the world of Buddhist scholarship, The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (NIT) houses a museum, a Tibetan library, and a general reference centre on Tibet and the Himalayas. It is located in gorgeous sylvan surroundings. The institute is built in a typical Tibetan Buddhist style. There is a memorial park close by the main premises of the NIT that is in honour of the last king of Sikkim.  

Don’t forget to visit this nice gift and souvenir shop known as Asta Mangala Arts, which is just opposite the institute premises. It’s a cute shop selling reasonably priced beautiful items.

3. Gangtok Ropeway

Ticket price: ₹117 per person fo two-way journey (₹77 for children)

Timings: 9 AM to 5 PM

The starting point of this amazing cable car ride is Deorali Bazar that is situated in the heart of Gangtok. The ropeway connects it to the Tashiling Secretariat via Sikkim Legislative Assembly. One can have a panoramic view of the full capital city and the lush green valley while enjoying this exciting ride. When I went there, it was a little foggy at the top but still, I got some incredible captures in my camera. 

Also read: 6 Delicacies You Should Not Miss Eating On Your Next Trip To Sikkim

4. MG Market

A must-visit in Sikkim for all shopaholics and foodies, MG Market is a one-kilometer-long boulevard square that is dotted with numerous glittering shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars on both sides. One can take a leisurely walk or just sit and relax. Enjoy great food at a roadside restaurant or take a seat at one of the benches laid alongside the road. It is the best spot in Gangtok for buying souvenirs and handicraft items. The whole area is smoke-free, litter-free, and devoid of vehicles. When lit up after dark, the entire place looks magical.

My tip: Have vegetarian momos, veg manchow soup, and honey lemon tea at Gangtok Junction here.

5. Nathula

One of the highest motorable roads in the world, this mountain pass in the Himalayan peaks co-joins Sikkim and China. It is located on the Old Silk Route and is famous for its picturesque beauty. You need to climb stairs to reach the top from where you can see the China side, restrained by a huge gate and barbed wires. Because of the high altitude at Nathula, the oxygen level in the air is quite low. It becomes a bit difficult to breathe, especially when you are climbing stairs.

P.S. You need to get the permit to visit Nathu La.

6. Tsomgo Lake

Some places feel like love to me, and this glacial lake in East Sikkim is one of them! Also known as Tsongmo Lake or Changu Lake, its surface reflects different colours with the change of seasons. In the monsoon season, the reflection of the surrounding dense green hills on its water made it look gorgeous. The beauty of the entire place gets further enhanced by the colorful Tibetan prayer flags all around. You need to obtain a permit to visit this high-altitude lake as it is located in a restricted area.

P.S. Yak rides are quite popular here, and you will see everyone riding them and getting clicked. However, I will not suggest going for it as this is against the poor animal’s will. You can enjoy so much without troubling an innocent soul.

7. Ganesh Tok

It is a small Ganesh temple that also offers a panoramic view of the entire Gangtok, the Raj Bhavan complex, and mount Kanchenjunga. The balcony in front of the temple is the place where I spent most of my time filling my eyes with the beauty of the stunning landscape. Embellished with colorful prayer flags, the road to the temple looks lovely and makes the journey quite pleasant.

8. Tashi Viewpoint 

Spend some time at this spot if you want to cherish the breathtaking vistas of Khangchendzonga and Siniolchu, along with the colorful villages of North Sikkim. There is a resting shed, park, and a small cafeteria also. The most favorable times to visit this attraction are of course sunrise and sunset, but I would say that this viewpoint is worth a visit at any time of the day. Even the view amidst fluffy clouds and fog will have a calming effect on your soul.   

Also read: Permit Guide To Sikkim: Passes You’ll Require To Explore The Land of Kanchenjunga

9. Wahkhamcha Restaurant (Karaoke Bar)

A total random plan, this is my favorite memory from Sikkim. After nearly 5 years, I finally went again to a karaoke bar (the first time was in Bhutan and from then only, I wanted to have this experience again). I don’t know anything about the right notes and melodies, but that didn’t stop me from singing (rather screaming!) my heart out. I sang a few Bollywood songs. The place has a local vibe and aura, and I simply loved it. I believe except me, everyone was somehow still in tune, but I loved how they were hyping me up to just chill and sing openly. After a very long time, I felt pure joy and lived completely in the present moment.

When I decided to leave from there and came out, it was drizzling and the wind felt crisp. I will never forget those magical moments. It was a perfect ending to my Sikkim trip. I got more than I could expect.

10. Triveni

This is a brownie point, actually. My cab driver was kind enough to tell me about this place when we were crossing it on my way back. He specifically told me that it’s a serene spot and I should take photographs. Triveni is where the River Rangeet (deep green and crystal clear) and River Teesta (forceful mountain stream) meet. This confluence of rivers is surrounded by verdant mountains on all sides and the breeze engulfing the entire place is tranquil.

I am still in the hangover of this incredible northeastern state and will probably visit there again when it is fully covered in snow and will feel all these feelings one more time.

 

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