Sikkim remains till date one of the most unique places that I have travelled to. The state, situated in the northeast of India, has a distinct characteristic appeal to it that makes it one of the most underrated tourist locations in the country. Travelling within Sikkim can be divided based on the four directions – North, South, East and West – and typically visitors choose one corner of the state to explore in entirety.
Even though Sikkim is the smallest state of India, the diversity here, with regards to the mountains, vast panoramic landscapes and meadows, is astounding. A visit to Sikkim does require special planning, in terms of permits, the weather, and transportation. It’s not entirely similar to the other states of the country and a little knowledge about its background, and present status can help you plan your trip better.
6 Facts About Sikkim
- Sikkim is the ideal place to view the third highest mountain peak – Mount Kanchenjunga
- Sikkim is divided into three communities – Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese
- Sikkim is home to the legendary Silk Route
- The state of Sikkim is also home to the red pandas
- Sikkim is India’s first organic state
- India got independence in 1947. However, Sikkim was officially annexed to India as its 22nd state in 1975
How to Reach Sikkim
Sikkim’s Pakyong Airport is relatively new. It was inaugurated in November 2018 and has the honour of being India’s 100th operational airport. Although commercial flights have started to land at Pakyong, direct connectivity to the state is still limited.
So, to reach Sikkim, travellers must first get down at Bagdogra airport of West Bengal. From Bagdogra, you can take a taxi or a bus to Gangtok. Please ensure the timings of the coaches or shared taxis beforehand as only a limited number of vehicles depart from Bagdogra airport to Sikkim.
If travelling via train, NJP is the nearest train station to Sikkim in Siliguri.
Travelling Around Sikkim
Sikkim is a tiny state with very less population – less than 6 lakhs. Thus, using public transport such as busses is not an option. The best way to go about the state is to take shared taxis or private cabs from one tourist spot to another. Most of these shared cabs can be arranged from Gangtok itself for the length of your entire trip.
If you plan to visit the North of Sikkim – Lachung and Lachen – shared taxis are your best and most economical option. Most hotels in Gangtok have linkups with taxi operators and can arrange for one at a nominal price.
Most places in Sikkim require a permit. Obtaining permission is not difficult. Once you reach Sikkim, your primary location is bound to be Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Over here, all the arrangements regarding travel and permit can be made quickly. Gangtok also has a tourism information centre from where you can sort out all the formalities.
However, make sure that you have 10 photos of yourself and a valid ID proof for the permit. Hand over the documents to the authorities at least a day before you plan to travel, to avoid delays and wastage of time.
Some of the prominent places such as Nathula Pass and Zuluk require you to have two permits. Getting the extra permits might seem tiresome, but when in Sikkim, these two places are not to be missed.
Rain Proof Luggage
Sikkim is mostly wet, either because of rainfall or snowfall. If you plan to travel during the winter months, which is between November to March, expect quite a bit of snow. Thus, it is essential to carry luggage covers and jackets that are rainproof.
If you plan to travel in shared taxis, remember that your luggage will be kept on the carrier at the top of the car. In such a case, it becomes essential that your bag is secured with the help of a rain cover.
It is also advisable to carry extra bags to keep your wet clothes, in case you do end up getting wet.
In case you do not have proper clothes for snow and the biting cold weather, do not worry. In Sikkim, you can easily rent dresses from as low a price as INR 50/-
Very much like its people and location, Sikkim has a fantastic culinary tradition, but one cannot miss the local comfort food, Wai Wai noodles, when here. Moreover, if you are backpacking through the region, noodles are easy to carry along and make in case you are unable to find a proper eating place.
Sikkim is now an organic state, so the food here tastes a bit different from the other places. The local cuisine consists of classics such as momos, thukpa, and phagshapa – a strip of pork fat stewed with radishes and dried chillies.
Sikkim is not the place to be if you are a night bird. Everything here shuts down at 8 PM. Despite being the capital of Sikkim, it is difficult to find any activity in Gangtok past 8’o clock in the night. You may come across a few restaurants or cafes open past this time, but do check in advance to be sure.
Sikkim is untamed beauty personified. The more I went around the region, discovering its people and landscapes, the more I realised that one requires an entire lifetime to cover what seems like a tiny state. No matter the direction I explored, I came back with an abundance of memories that I will cherish for years to come.
About the Author: Radhika Sharma is a travel blogger and an avid YouTube an IG influencer for the past 2 years. She is based in New Delhi. Radhika is also the co-founder of the blog Nomllers. You can find her work on YouTube and Instagram.