Sikkim is an Indian state in the North East of the country. The Himalayan state boarders Chinese Tibet in the North, Nepal in the West, Indian state of West Bengal in the south and Bhutan in the East. It is one of the smallest states of India and has a population just over 6,00,000. Tourism is the main industry in the state. In fact, the annual tourist inflow in the state has surpassed the population of the state.
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 offers a tremendous variety of plant and wildlife besides a diverse ethnic mix of people with rich cultural tradition.
Tourism in the state
Tourism in Sikkim gained popularity during the last decade with an increasing number of tourists visiting this hilly region for its natural beauty. Till the early ’90s, few tourists would visit this landlocked state. Even those who visited hardly went beyond Gangtok, the state capital. During the last two decades, tourism has seen a major boost in the state with close to a million tourists visiting Sikkim every year.
Bagdogra (120 km from Gangtok) is the major airport of the region. Regular flights connect Bagdogra to major airports in the country. New Jalpaiguri Rail Station (115 km from Gangtok) also known as NJP is the major railhead. All trains traveling to the North East passes through NJP. Siliguri (110 km from Gangtok) is the main junction where Road, Air, and Rail traveler gets down before traveling to Sikkim.
There are two main entry points. Tourists visiting East and North districts including capital Gangtok, enter into Sikkim through Rangpo. The other major entry point is through Malli which is the entry point for West and South districts.
Permits and entry rules
Indian tourists do not require any permit to enter the state. However, some of the tourist destinations are known as ‘Restricted Area’ and Indian tourists also require a permit to visit these 'restricted' places. These places include Nathula - Tsongo Lake – Zuluk – Memenchu area in East, entire North district, Dzongri – Goechala area in West district etc.
The State of Sikkim is divided into 3 areas based on travel restrictions. Some part of the state requires Inner Line Permit, some parts require a Protected Area Permit and some other part require Restricted Area Permit. The entire state of Sikkim falls under one of the three categories.
If you are an international traveler and have already come to the region without obtaining proper permit, naturebeyond will assist you in arranging the same. Foreign visitors must first get tourist permit before entering into Sikkim. This Inner Line Permit (ILP) is issued at a number of places but most tourists collect it on arrival at Siliguri or at the entry check post. Double check your ILP details with our executive if you are traveling during a holiday or arriving late in the evening as the issuing offices do not remain open 24 hours.
Foreigners can avail only 15 days permit to visit Sikkim which can be extended for a further period of 30 days in two spells of 15 days each. This extension is given from Sikkim government home department in Gangtok. The permit can be arranged very easily at several places including at Siliguri, Darjeeling or at Rongpo and Malli on the Bengal - Sikkim border. The permits can also be obtained from the Indian Embassy in different places. International travelers need to carry two copies of photograph and passport. The process barely takes 15 minutes for an individual, if you are traveling in a group, the time required for the formality would proportionately increase.
The restriction for visiting Dzongri - Yuksom is slightly more strict. You should be part of a group of minimum 4 persons in order to visit Dzongri (in West Sikkim) for the purpose of trekking, you should also be traveling with a recognized Indian travel agent.
There are further restrictions on visiting several places deeper inside Sikkim. Both domestic and foreign visitors require special permits to visit Tsomgo, Nathula area which is a day tour from Gangtok. Foreigners can only visit Tsongo but not Nathula. Similarly, special permits are required visiting North Sikkim where foreigners are not allowed to visit the Gurudongmar lake area, although permits for the trek to Green Lake in the same area can be arranged.
All the permits can be collected from the Indian Missions in different countries. It can also be collected from Foreigners' Regional Registration Offices in Calcutta, Delhi, Madras & Bombay or the Office of the Assistant Resident Commissioner, Govt. of Sikkim, Calcutta or the office of the Deputy Director (Tourism), Govt. of Sikkim, New Delhi.
Exception: visitors from Pakistan, China, and Myanmar can be given inner line permits only after approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India at New Delhi. For Bhutan, and Nepal nationals there is no restriction on entering Sikkim. Foreign diplomats, United Nations officials and members of International organizations need to obtain their permit from the Ministry of External Affairs at New Delhi.
Gangtok is the most important town and the capital of the state. It lies on a ridge with fine views of the Kanchenjunga. This is the most common tourist destination in the state. You can easily spend 2 to 3 days sightseeing around Gangtok. If you intend to travel to North Sikkim, you must spend two nights in Gangtok on your way and back.
Pelling is the second most popular tourist destination. It is the original capital of Sikkim and ruins of the erstwhile capital is still well preserved. Pelling also offers excellent views of the Kanchenjunga range of mountain.
North Sikkim offers natural beauty at its best. Lachen and Lachung are the two main tourist towns; Lachen acting as a base for a trip to Gurudongmar and Lachung as the base for visiting the Yumthang valley area.
To really see this Himalayan state, it is necessary to leave the hamlets and travel to the remote areas. It is impossible not to be awed by Sikkim's sharp, lush hills, leaping waterfalls, thundering rivers, and placid lakes.
The people, sculpted by lives of low-tech farming and mountainous travel, have behind them generations of communal intermixing.
Sikkim is divided into 4 districts, South, North, East and West. The South District has lower altitude and Namchi is the district capital. The Samdruptse monastery and Char Dham have brought Namchi into the tourism landscape. The other important tourist destination here is Ravangla. Gangtok is located in the East District. West District offers destinations such as Pelling and Yuksom as well as beautiful treks such as the one to Dzongri. The North district bordering China offers excellent high altitude destinations such as Yumthang Valley and Gurudongmar.
Most tourists visit the common tourist destinations on a leisure tour. These packages are often combined with Darjeeling. If you are interested in Leisure tours, please check our Holiday tour ideas for Darjeeling and Sikkim.
Forests and nature-based tourism
The mountain state is rich with a 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 in prominence in Sikkim.
The National Parks in Sikkim include Kyongnosia Alpine Sanctuary in East district. You will pass through these forests on your visit to Tsongo lake or Nathula from Gangtok. Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary in South Sikkim can be visited based in Ravangla. Short treks in the area are also organized. Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary in North Sikkim is located near Yumthang valley and can be visited during the North Sikkim tour. Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in West can be accessed either from Rinchenpong Kaluk area or from Hilley area. There are nice treks inside the Sanctuary where trekkers huts are also available.
Sikkim was an independent state till very recently. It was annexed into India only in 1975. Till now people from the state enjoy a host of special privileges due to this reason. The original capital of the state was at Rabdantse near Pelling. The ruins of the erstwhile capital are well preserved and can be visited by tourists during their tour to Pelling.
People and Culture
Lepcha are the original inhabitants of the land. Over time, the Lepcha people lost much of their cultural identity. However, in recent times there has been an attempt to revive the culture and tradition of the Lepcha people. The Dzongu area of Sikkim has been declared as a Lepcha reserve.
The cultural of Sikkim is also heavily influenced by Tibetan traditions. The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology in Gangtok has one of the largest collections of Tibetan books in the world. Many Buddhist monasteries are repositories of artistic treasures, including wall paintings, Thankas, and bronze images.
Travel and Tourism and agriculture is the basis of the local economy. Sikkim is India's major producers of cardamom. The local forests have great economic value in timber and wood pulp. The states cotton and wool weaving, carpets, rugs, blankets, and bamboo work are also well known.
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.
Buddhism is an integral part of the people and their culture, and many of the recommended trips around Gangtok have a monastery as their ultimate destination. The monasteries that are closest to Gangtok are Enchey, Rumtek, and Phodong. Click here to see a list of monasteries of Sikkim.
Nepali is spoken by the vast majority of the population, Tibetan and Lepcha languages are spoken by specific communities. Hindi is understood and spoken throughout Sikkim, English, and Bengali is spoken in tourist centers.
The annual rainfall varies from 50-200 inches (mostly during June - September), and perennial snow in the upper levels often accumulates to a thickness of a few meters. The best times to see orchids in bloom are April - May, July - August, and November.
Temperature varies with altitude. The lower altitude South Sikkim is relatively hotter. In the North district, the temperature is much lower and may remain below freezing point for most of the year.
Map of Sikkim
Services that we offer
Package Tour - naturebeyond organizes regular package tours to Sikkim. All our tours are customized according to guest preferences. You can check our Holiday Ideas section for ideas about package tour options.
Hotels in Sikkim - The best hotel options are available at Gangtok. But other major destinations also have good accommodations. Check our list of hotels in Gangtok and other destinations of Sikkim.
Adventure Tours - Whether you want to go for a trek to Dzongri - Goechala or a biking tour through east and west, we have unmatched expertise in this region.
Car Rental - naturebeyond owns its own transport car and lends them on hire.
Gangtok Gangtok the capital of Sikkim, is a unique hill resort of northeast India and undoubtedly one of the oft-visited ones. Perched on the ridge of a hill at an altitude of 1700 mt, the town is famous for its scenic beauty and spectacular ... [+]
Pelling The pleasant little town of Pelling is famous for magnificent views of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga range, the third highest peak in the world. Pelling is about 130 km away from Siliguri and 115km from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, ... [+]
North Sikkim A land - where heaven touches the earth, the ambiance creates mystery, a landscape dominated by elements, silence can be heard, vision tends to travel beyond the horizon, soul starts meditating- unknowingly, the mind gets rejuvenated; ... [+]
Chopta Valley - Sikkim Basic Information Altitude - 14,000 ft Latitude - 27.9 North Longitude - 88.52 East Weather - Below 10° C throughout the year. Below freezing point in Winter and in the night. Wonders never cease in North Sikkim. ... [+]
Chungthang Chungthang is a small town at the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers. Here the river Teesta, the lifeline of Sikkim is formed. The two most picturesque and common tourist destinations of North Sikkim, Lachen, and Lachung, can ... [+]
Dzongri At an altitude of 4,200 m, Dzongri is among the best trekking destinations not only in Sikkim but also in India. The sights of the milky white peaks all around Dzongri are bound to keep you gazing with awe. The view from this place ... [+]
Gurudongmar Lake Gurudongmar is a high altitude lake close to Tibet border in North Sikkim. It is the land of Yaks, blue ships and other high altitude animals of Sikkim and Tibet. The snow-fed milky water of the lake is one of the major sources ... [+]
Kabi Lungchok Kabi Lungchok is a place of religious and historical significance in Sikkim. The place is located about 18 km away from Gangtok close to Phodong town. The place that saw the historic swearing of blood brotherhood between the ... [+]
Khecheopalri Lake Khecheoplari Tsho is a large lake located 27 km from Pelling and is a common tourist sightseeing point. The lake is considered to be one of the sacred lakes of Sikkim. The lake remains hidden in the rich forest cover. It is ... [+]
Lachen Lachen is the sister village of Lachung in North Sikkim and is the base for tours to Gurudongmar lake and Chopta valley. Situated at an altitude of 8838 ft, the small town is a good 6 to 8 hours drive from Gangtok (depending on road ... [+]
Lachung Basic Information Altitude - 8610 ft Latitude - 27.54° Longitude - 88.64° Weather - Most cold varying between 12-20° C in Summer and Below freezing point in Winter. Lachung is one of the most exquisite villages in the ... [+]
Monasteries in Sikkim With a total of about 250 monasteries, the culture of Sikkim is closely linked to Tibetan Buddhism. Monasteries form an integral part of Sikkim. Most monasteries belong to the Nyingmapa Sect or the Kargyupa Sect. Rumtek ... [+]
Namchi The district headquarters of South Sikkim has come into tourist prominence only during the last few years. Previously Namchi used to be considered just a large town with little or no attraction for the tourists. However, under the aegis ... [+]
Nathula Pass Nathula is a pass on the Indo Chinese border (La meaning Pass in Tibetan). The place is 56 kilometers from Gangtok and passes through Tsongmo Lake. The place is covered with snow for the most part of the year. The pass was traditionally ... [+]
Phodong From Gangtok, as you drive further North towards Mangan, The district capital of North Sikkim, you will soon come across Kabi Langchuk, a place of significant historical value. After you have crossed Kabi, Before you have even caught ... [+]
Ravangla This is a relatively new tourist spot in South Sikkim. Situated at an elevation of 8000 ft the small picturesque semi town on the Gangtok-Gaysiling highway, Ravangla is becoming a hot destination for its breathtaking landscape and ... [+]
Rinchenpong and Kaluk At an altitude of about 5576ft, Rinchenpong and Kaluk are a recent addition to the tourist map of West Sikkim. The place is famous for the beautiful view of the Kanchenjunga range of mountains. The Kaluk - Rinchenpong ... [+]
Singhik Singhik is a small village close to Mangan town. You can get the most glorious views of Kanchenjunga from here. Situated at an altitude of over 5000ft, Singhik offers the desired break to the travelers on the way to Lachen or Lachung. ... [+]
South Sikkim South Sikkim is a district in the North Eastern state of Sikkim. The state is divided into four districts based on the four geographical directions of North, East, West, and South. The North district comprises of high altitude ... [+]
Thangu 30kms beyond Lachen lies Thangu at an altitude of 13000ft. Months of May and June see this valley carpeted of alpine flowers which are replaced by snow from October up to March. The small picturesque hamlet with scanty population Thangu ... [+]
Tsomgo Lake Basic Information Elevation - 3780 meter Latitude - N 27° 22' Longitude - E 88° 45' Getting There 38 km from Gangtok, Tsomgo lake can be visited as part of a half day sightseeing tour from Gangtok. No overnight ... [+]
Uttarey Uttarey is a small village close to Nepal border in West Sikkim. The place is about 30 km from the popular tourist destination of Pelling. Uttarey is popular among tourists for the serene environment of the place and many tourist attractions ... [+]
Hilley and Varsey The Hilley - Varsey hike is a no sweat trek which can be completed within a day or two. Varsey is called the valley of rhododendrons – they are available in all shades and shapes here. The Hilley - Varsey trail is ablaze ... [+]
West Sikkim West Sikkim is a district and is famous for Pelling and Kanchenjunga. There are a number of smaller offbeat destinations in the area. Pelling Pelling in West Sikkim is about 133km away from Siliguri and 125 km from Gangtok and ... [+]
Yuksom (West Sikkim) Basic Information Elevation - 1700 meter Latitude - N 27° 22' Longitude - E 88° 13' Places Around Pelling - 36 km Gangtok - 140 km Ravangla - 75 km Bagdogra / NJP - 165 km About 35 km from Pemayangtse ... [+]
Yumesamdong Yumesamdong is a valley on the Lachung river about 15Kms ahead of Yumthang. The place is close to the Chinese border. Yumesamdong is an hour drive beyond Yumthang through the rugged mountain road (15300ft), an area where the sweet ... [+]
Yumthang Valley This famous valley in North Sikkim lies 140km north of Gangtok. Lachung provides the base for exploration of Yumthang, the valley of flowers. Situated at an altitude of 11800 ft ( 3564m) with a close proximity of Tibet, Yumthang ... [+]