Gangtok greets the sun’s first rays of the day and prepares for another lovely day. This is a laid-back town with all the trappings of a modern city set against the breath-taking splendor of the mighty Kanchenjunga. It is one of India’s most renowned tourist sites, with monasteries, meandering pathways, gushing waterfalls, tranquil lakes, and jaw-dropping panoramas. Gangtok tourism draws visitors from all over the world.
After the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840, Gangtok became a prominent Buddhist pilgrimage center. Thutob Namgyal, the governing Sikkimese Chogyal, moved the capital to Gangtok in 1894. Gangtok became a key stopover on the trade route between Tibet’s Lhasa and British India’s Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in the early twentieth century. Sikkim elected to remain an independent monarchy when India gained independence from the British Empire in 1947, with Gangtok as its capital. Gangtok remained the state capital when Sikkim was merged with India in 1975.
The early history of Gangtok, like that of the rest of Sikkim, is mostly unknown. The first records come from 1716, when the hermitic Gangtok monastery was built. Gangtok remained a little village until the Enchey Monastery was built in 1840, turning it into a pilgrimage center.
After an English takeover in the mid-nineteenth century in response to a hostage crisis, it became the capital of what was left of Sikkim. At the end of the 19th century, after the British defeated the Tibetans, Gangtok became a significant stopover in trade between Tibet and British India. During this time, the majority of the roads and telegraph lines in the area were built.
Thutob Namgyal, the Sikkimese ruler under British administration, moved the capital from Tumlong to Gangtok in 1894, boosting the status of the city. In the new capital, a magnificent grand palace and other state buildings were built. Sikkim became a nation-state after India’s independence in 1947, with Gangtok as its capital.
The Chogyal and the then-Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru signed a treaty that placed Sikkim under Indian suzerainty with the stipulation that it maintain its independence. The Indians were given authority of Sikkimese external affairs as a result of this accord. Through the Nathula and Jelepla passes, trade between India and Tibet prospered, helping Gangtok.
The Chinese crackdown on Tibet in 1959 slowed trade, and the passes were closed following the Sino-Indian War in 1962. In 2006, the Nathula pass was finally opened for limited trade, stoking economic optimism.
The monarchy was abolished in 1975, after years of political uncertainty and conflict, including rioting, and Sikkim became India’s twenty-second state, with Gangtok as its capital, following a referendum. Annual landslides have occurred in Gangtok, causing life and property destruction.
In June 1997, the worst disaster happened, with 38 people dead and hundreds of buildings destroyed. At 27.3325°N 88.6140°E, Gangtok is located (coordinates of Gangtok head post office).
It is situated at an elevation of 1,650 meters in the lower Himalayas (5,410 ft). The town is situated on one side of a hill, with “The Ridge,” a promenade with the governor’s mansion, the Raj Bhawan, on one end and the palace, at an altitude of roughly 1,800 meters (5,900 feet), on the other.
Two streams, Roro Chu and Ranikhola, flank the city on the east and west, respectively. The natural drainage is divided into two portions, the eastern and western parts, by these two rivers. Both streams join the Ranipul and form the major Ranikhola, which flows south until joining the Teesta at Singtam. The majority of the roads are steep, with buildings built alongside them on compacted dirt.
The majority of Sikkim, including Gangtok, is covered by Precambrian rocks with foliated phyllites and schists, making slopes prone to landslides. Landslides have been exacerbated by surface runoff from natural streams (jhora) and man-made drains. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the town is located at the convergent boundary of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates and is subject to regular earthquakes in seismic zone IV (on a scale of I to V, in order of increasing seismic activity).
The snow-capped Himalayan ranges tower above the town from afar, while the hills are snuggled amid higher peaks. To the west of the city, Mount Kanchenjunga (8,598 m or 28,208 ft), the world’s third-highest peak, can be seen. Steep slopes, landslide vulnerability, dense forest cover, and limited access to most areas have all been key impediments to the city’s natural and balanced growth.
Around Gangtok, moderate deciduous forests of poplar, birch, oak, and elm, as well as evergreen, coniferous trees of the moist alpine zone, are extensively forested. Orchids are plentiful throughout the city, and rare orchid kinds are highlighted in flower displays. Bamboos can also be found in abundance.
The vegetation progressively shifts from alpine to temperate deciduous and subtropical in the town’s lower reaches. Sunflowers, marigolds, poinsettias, and other flowers blossom throughout November and December, especially.
Gangtok has a subtropical highland climate influenced by monsoons. Gangtok has a pleasant, temperate climate throughout year due to its elevation and sheltered location. Gangtok has five seasons, like most Himalayan towns: summer, monsoons, autumn, winter, and spring. Summer temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit), whereas winter temperatures average 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).
Summers are pleasant, with maximum temperatures rarely exceeding 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). The monsoon season, which lasts from June to September, is marked by severe rains that frequently result in landslides, which cut off Gangtok’s land access to the rest of the country. Rainfall rises during the pre-monsoon in May and peaks during the monsoon in July, with the highest monthly average of 649.6 mm recorded in July (25.6 in).
In the winter, temperatures range from 4 °C (39 °F) to 7 °C (45 °F). Snowfall is rare, with Gangtok only receiving snow in 1990, 2004, 2005, and 2020. Temperatures below zero are also rare. During this time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, going from bright sunshine and clear skies to heavy rain in a matter of hours. The weather is often sunny and warm throughout the spring and autumn. Gangtok is frequently engulfed in fog throughout the monsoon and winter months due to its elevation.
Gangtok is the primary tourism hub in Sikkim. The most popular tourist seasons are summer and spring. Many citizens of Gangtok are employed in the tourism business, both directly and indirectly, with many owning and working in hotels and restaurants. In Gangtok, the Mahatma Gandhi Marg and Lal Market are popular business and tourism areas.
Trekking, mountaineering, river rafting, and other nature-based activities have all evolved as key economic activities in the region. In 2007, over 351,000 tourists visited Sikkim, bringing in about Rs 50 crore in revenue (Rs 500 millions).
The Nathula Pass, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Gangtok, was once the principal route for the wool, fur, and spice trade with Tibet, and it fueled Gangtok’s economic boom until the mid-twentieth century. Gangtok plunged into recession in 1962 as the Sino-Indian War closed the border.
The pass was reopened in 2006, and trade across it is intended to help Gangtok’s economy. The Sikkim government wants to start a bus service between Lhasa and Gangtok across the Nathula pass. Because of Sikkim’s rugged topography, there are no train or plane connections, which limits the region’s lack to develop rapidly. The city’s major employer, both directly and through contractors, is the government.
The economy of Gangtok is not based on manufacturing, but it does have a booming cottage industry in watchmaking, country-made alcohol, and handicrafts. Handmade paper created from various vegetable fibers or cotton rags is one of the handicrafts. During the harvest seasons, the main market in Gangtok provides a place for many of the state’s rural population to sell their produce. Marwaris and Biharis make up the majority of the private business community.
According to the state’s 1948 income tax statute, Gangtok is an income-tax-free region. Because Sikkim is a border state, the Indian army keeps a major presence in the Gangtok area. As a result, the area attracts a population of semi-permanent inhabitants who contribute to the local economy. The Sikkim government launched India’s first online lottery, Playwin, to enhance government revenue, but the lottery was eventually closed down by a Sikkim High Court order.
Agriculture employs a considerable number of people in Sikkim, and the state government set a goal in 2003 to convert the whole sector to organic farming. In 2016, the goal of being 100 percent organic was met. This success opens up new export prospects for the agriculture industry, as well as premium price opportunities and new agritourism potential.
The population of Gangtok Municipal Corporation was predicted to be 98,658 people in the Provisional Population Totals 2011 census of India. Males made up 53% of the population, while females made up 47%. With a population of 281,293, the Gangtok subdivision of the East Sikkim district has a literacy rate of 82.17 percent, higher than the national average of 74 percent: male literacy is 85.33 percent, while female literacy is 78.68 percent.
The nine registered slums and squatter colonies, all on Government land, house about 8% of Gangtok’s population. More people reside in areas that resemble slums but have not yet been designated as slums because they have grown on private land. Gangtok Municipal Corporation accounts for 55.5 percent of Sikkim’s entire urban population.
East District, which includes Gangtok, accounts for 88 percent of the total urban population. The quality of life, the rate of development, and the availability of basic infrastructure and employment opportunities have all contributed to the city’s rapid growth. Urban services are under strain as a result of this migration, which is exacerbated by the scarcity of adequate land for infrastructural development.
The majority of Gangtok’s people are ethnic Nepalis who settled in the region during British administration. Lepchas and Bhutias, who are native to the area, make up a sizable section of the population. In addition, the town has attracted a big number of Tibetans. The Marwaris, Biharis, and Bengalis are among the region’s non-native immigrant communities.
The most important religions in Gangtok are Hinduism and Buddhism. There is a sizable Christian population in Gangtok, as well as a small Muslim minority. Religious minorities can worship at the North East Presbyterian Church, Roman Catholic Church, and Anjuman Mosque in Gangtok. The town has never been communalized, and there has never been any inter-religious conflict in its history.
In both Sikkim and Gangtok, Nepali is the most widely spoken language. The official languages of Sikkim and India, respectively, English and Hindi, are extensively spoken and understood across Sikkim, notably in Gangtok. Bhutia (Sikkimese), Tibetan, and Lepcha are some of the other languages spoken in Gangtok.
Aside from the major religious festivals of Dashain, Tihar, Christmas, Holi, and others, the town’s diverse ethnic population celebrates a variety of local festivals. The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate the new year in January, but Tibetans celebrate the new year (Losar) in January–February with the “Devil Dance.”
Some of the most important Nepalese festivals include Maghe sankranti and Ram Navami. Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, the Dalai Lama’s birthday, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen, and Drupka Teshi are some of the other festivals, some of which are unique to the region and others of which are celebrated throughout India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.
The momo, a steamed dumpling with pork, beef, and vegetables baked in a doughy covering and served with watery broth, is a favorite delicacy in Gangtok. Wai-Wai is a packaged snack made comprised of noodles that can be consumed dry or in soup. In Gangtok, thukpa, a type of noodle served in a soup, is also popular.
Chowmein, thenthuk, fakthu, gyathuk, and wonton are among the noodle-based dishes available. Shah-phaley (Sikkimese patties with spiced minced meat in a crisp samosa-like casing) and Gack-ko soup are two other typical Sikkimese dishes. To cater to tourists, restaurants offer a wide selection of traditional Indian, continental, and Chinese cuisines.
Churpee, a hard cheese prepared from cow or yak milk, is consumed on occasion. Chhang is a frothy millet beer that is traditionally served in bamboo tankards with bamboo or cane straws.
The most popular sports in Gangtok are football (soccer), cricket, and archery. Paljor Stadium, which hosts football events, is the city’s only sporting venue. Thangka is a well-known handicraft that consists of an elaborately hand-painted religious scroll on cloth that is hung in a monastery or on a household altar and carried by monks in ceremonial processions. Chhaams are colorfully dressed monastery dances that are performed on ceremonial and festive occasions, particularly in monasteries around the Tibetan New Year.
The Enchey monastery, the Do-drul Chorten stupa complex, and the Rumtek Monastery are among Gangtok’s most renowned Buddhist institutions. The Nyingma order’s seat is the Enchey monastery, which is the city’s oldest monastery. The two-hundred-year-old baroque monastery houses religious items and images of gods and goddesses.
The Chaam, or masked dance, is performed with great pomp throughout the month of January. The Do-drul Chorten is a stupa constructed by Trulshik Rimpoché, the leader of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism, in 1945. This stupa contains a full collection of relics, sacred scriptures, and mantras. 108 Mani Lhakor, or prayer wheels, surround the structure. A religious school is also located within the property.
On the outskirts of town, the Rumtek Monastery is one of Buddhism’s most revered monasteries. In its reliquary, the monastery houses some of the world’s most sacred and rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures and religious objects, and it is the seat of the Kagyu order, one of the major Tibetan sects.
The edifice, which was constructed in the 1960s, is based on a monastery in Lhasa, Tibet. After the seventeenth Karmapa, one of the four holiest lamas, escaped Lhasa and found sanctuary in Rumtek, the monastery became the focus of international media attention in 2000.
The Tibetology Museum, also known as the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, houses a large collection of masks, Buddhist scriptures, statues, and tapestries. It houses about 200 Buddhist images and serves as a Buddhist philosophy research centre. The Thakurbari Temple, in the city’s core, was located in 1935 on a prime piece of land provided by the then Maharaja of Sikkim.
It is one of the city’s oldest and most well-known Hindu temples. In the city’s upper reaches, the Ganesh Tok and the Hanuman Tok, dedicated to the Hindu gods Ganpati and Hanuman and containing major Hindu deities, are located. The Himalayan Zoological Park showcases Himalayan wildlife in their natural environments.
Among the animals of the zoo are the Himalayan black bear, red pandas, barking deer, snow leopard, leopard cat, Tibetan wolf, masked palm civet, and spotted deer. The Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Gardens, located near Rumtek, are home to a variety of orchid species as well as up to fifty different tree species, including several oaks.
How To Reach Gangtok
Gangtok is a city nestled between lush green hills at the end of magnificent meandering roads. As you travel higher in elevation, you’ll notice that the temperature and plants shift to a chilly coniferous zone. The winding roads are the only route available to reach the city of Gangtok, but you can travel by air or rail to a respectable distance before you embark on the road adventure.
It may be of interest to you to know that helicopter services are available between Bagdogra and Gangtok! The ride takes roughly 20 minutes and provides a breathtaking view, however the schedule is subject to change depending on the weather and the number of people.
1. By Air
The airport at Bagdogra, West Bengal, is the closest to Gangtok. It is around 124 kilometers from the city. All of India’s major cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, and Bangalore, have regular flights. You can use prepaid taxis or take the bus from here. If you are lucky you can also use the helicopter service of the Sikkim Government.
2. By Rail
The New Jalpaiguri Railway Station is 117 kilometers away. Because this station serves as a vital link between the rest of India and the North Eastern States, it is served by frequent trains. To travel to Gangtok, you can take cabs or buses from here.
3. By Road
There are roads to Gangtok from Bagdogra, New Jalpaiguri, and Siliguri, all of which intersect with the NH31A at some point. The Teesta River runs beside the road for the majority of the route, providing a spectacular perspective. Tourists who are visiting Darjeeling frequently plan a journey to Gangtok. The highways that connect the two cities are only four hours apart and can be a pleasant ride.
4. Getting Around in Gangtok
To go to Gangtok, you can take prepaid cabs from the airport or the railway station. Keep in mind that the majority of the NH31A runs through West Bengal, therefore the cabs you take may be registered there. These cabs must halt at Deorali, 2 kilometers outside of Gangtok, because they are not permitted to enter the city.
If you’re traveling alone, you can find a number of shared jeeps for 150 to 200 rupees. There are also a number of buses that travel between Siliguri and Deorali, ranging from high-end Deluxe AC buses to regular buses. Local taxis can be hired from Deorali. The majority of people in Gangtok, like most Himalayan cities, travel on foot. Some people drive their own cars or hire cabs.
Weather And Best Time To Visit Gangtok
Gangtok is a lovely Himalayan town located near the magnificent Kanchenjunga. Throughout the year, the weather in Gangtok is pleasant. If you’re planning a trip to the city, check out the weather forecast below to help you plan the perfect vacation. Summer and autumn are the best times to visit Gangtok.
1. The season of summer (May to June)
Warm, breezy days and refreshingly chilly nights characterize the summer months. The temperature may rise from time to time, but this will not prevent you from viewing all of the sites you have planned.
With temperatures ranging from 16 to 25 degrees Celsius, Gangtok attracts a large temperature of tourists seeking relief from the Gangetic plains’ heat. This might make the city find busy, and the streets will be bustling with activities. It is best to reserve hotels and transportation in advance if you plan to visit Gangtok during the summer.
2. Monsoon season (June to September)
Tourists normally avoid the romantic and foggy monsoon months. So, if you’re wanting to take a break from the rush and bustle of everyday life, this is the season for you.
The weather is beautiful, and the young foliage shimmers in the rain, giving the hills a vibrant appearance. You won’t be able to see much, but once the rain stops, you’ll be able to see the city and other sites. Although, due to the irregular nature of transportation, landslides may occasionally affect your schedule.
3. Autumn (October to November)
The best time to visit Gangtok is probably in the autumn. The clouds part, revealing the distant Kanchenjunga, which glitters in the bright sunlight. During these months, the skies are blue and a variety of orchids and wildflowers blanket the Gangtok landscape. By November, the temperature has dropped to a minimum of 8 degrees Celsius, so bring thick clothing for the evenings and early mornings.
4. The season of winter (December to February)
The winter months can be bitterly cold, with temperatures as low as 4 degrees. During the day, the temperature frequently reaches 22 degrees Celsius. Gangtok is frequently blanketed in thick layers of fog, and the atmosphere is fairly tranquil with most of the tourists gone. Although snowfall is uncommon in Gangtok, the city can be used as a base to visit adjacent mountain passes and other high-altitude places that receive lots of snowfall.
5. The season of spring (March to April)
Spring is a wonderful time to visit Gangtok, with temperatures varying from 11 degrees at night to 24 degrees during the day. As the fog lifts, the ice-capped mountains become apparent once again. The city comes to life, and the tourists return in droves. This is the best time to go trekking because the air is still pleasant. During this time, you can find in a number of adventurous sports.
Best Places To Visit In Gangtok
Gangtok, located in India’s beautiful eastern sanctuary, fascinates visitors with its vibrant and dazzling emerald hues. It is the capital of Sikkim and offers a magnificent view like no other. Check out the most popular tourist attractions in Gangtok, including Rumtek Monastery, Phodong Monastery, Kanchenjunga Mountain, and more.
1. Rumtek Monastery is a spiritual haven.
Rumtek Monastery, 24 kilometers from Gangtok, will bring you closer to your spiritual side. Rural Sikkim’s lengthy meandering roads and lovely picturesque locales will steal your breath away. Rumtek Monastery’s beautiful structure, combined with the exquisite artwork, will enchant you. Maintain silence and decorum while respecting the tranquility of the place.
2. Visit Lal Bazaar and shop until you drop.
The vibrant colors of Lal Bazaar are well-known. You may anticipate the best of the local cultural items in this shopper’s paradise. The soothing colors will fascinate you and make your wallet lighter. Prepare to haggle and bargain to get the best deals.
3. Ganesh Tok is a great place to find inner peace.
Ganesh Tok is about a 5-kilometer drive from the city center. It is stated that a visit to this serene sanctuary would help you relax and find inner peace. From here, one may get a stunning panoramic view of the entire Gangtok town. Visit the temple first thing in the morning for the best photo opportunity. The majority of the photographs of Gangtok that you see on the internet were taken from this place.
4. Be captivated by Ban Jhakri Falls
Exploring this natural nature during your visit to Gangtok is a must. It is a relatively recent popular tourist spot, located around 10-12 kilometers from the main city. If you’re on your honeymoon, the Ban Jhakri waterfalls should be at the top of your list. The Ban Jhakri tribals are represented by the interesting statues at the waterfall. A short bite at the nearby modest restaurant is a must.
5. Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple (Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple)
The Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple is a temple dedicated to a soldier killed in the India-China war. Harbhajan Singh died defending his troops on the Nathula Pass, and his ghost is claimed to still protect the men who guard the border. As a result, the army believes he is the soldier who never died. And it is to this temple that all of the soldiers stationed here pay their devotion. The people see this place as sacred as well.
6. Phodong Monastery
Phodong Monastery, an 18th century Buddhist temple in Gangtok, is a place of isolation and mystical emotions. The people of Sikkim hold it in great regard as an important part of the city’s cultural fabric. The artwork on the walls, the peaceful meditative rooms, the natural beauty surrounding it… it’s a great experience. A excellent time to visit Phodong is during the Cham dance festival, which takes place in February.
7. Kanchenjunga Mountain
Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, is breathtaking. If you didn’t view Kanchenjunga, why did you come to Gangtok in the first place? It simply towers over the city, providing glimpses from various locations, such as the end of a lengthy street, behind trees, and over the horizon. Visit Kanchenjunga National Park or Mt. Kanchenjunga’s base camp for the best views. You can go on a hike or simply sit and gaze at the massive mountain.
8. Tashi Viewpoint
Tashi Viewpoint is for you if you like to keep track of your sunsets and sunrises in new places. As the sun sets behind the Himalayas, this is the place that offers breathtaking vistas. The rising light between the mountains is also ideal for your shots. It’s best to go on a clear day, but even if there are clouds in the sky, nature will still visit her magic and show you a magnificent scene.