Sikkim is a land of dramatic contours. Rugged mountains, deep valleys and dense forests consort with raging rivers, lakes and waterfalls to create a visual feast. The state has the steepest rise in altitude over the shortest distance and has within its 7,096 sq. kms the entire climatic range, from tropical to temperate to alpine.
The mountain chains which run southwards from the main Himalayan range form the natural boundaries of Sikkim. The Chola range dividing it from Tibet in the Northeast and Bhutan in the Southeast. The Singalila range separating it from Nepal in the West with the Greater Himalayan range forming the barrier between Sikkim and Tibet in the North.
Located between these towering mountain ranges are passes like Nathu-la, Jelep-la, Cho-la and many others which were at one time important corridors of passage between Sikkim and Tibet.
Floating high over the cloud-covered lower Himalaya, Mt. Khangchendzonga dominates the landscape of Sikkim. At 28, 208 ft is the third highest mountain in the world and the highest in India.
Sikkim has two main rivers, the Teesta and the Rangeet, both of which are formed at high altitudes and flow in a generally southern direction till they converge at the confluence near Melli.
Suggested Itinerary Sikkim
Important Places Sikkim
Located in east Sikkim, Aritar is steeped in history and natural beauty. A breathtaking view of Khangchendzonga only adds to the many natural riches that Aritar is blessed with. Lush green forests, sweeping hills of paddy fields and placid lakes hidden inside deep forests makes it a perfect destination for those in search of nature trails and a serene holiday.
he Lampokari Lake surrounded by lush greenery is considered one of the oldest in Sikkim. This lake has been recently provided with artificial embankment to facilitate boating, a first for Sikkim. A short trek leads you to Mankhim Dara, where a temple dedicated to the ethnic Rai community is located. Mankhim offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding areas. The Aritar Gumpa is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim belonging to the Karma Kagyu lineage order of Tibetan Buddhism.
Aritar hosts the Lampokhari Tourism Festival is during end of March and early April. There is leisurely boating in the Lampokhari Lake, horse riding around the Lake, traditional archery competition and short treks to nearby hilltops and viewpoints. For the more adventurous, there is rock climbing and paragliding, which is guaranteed to keep your adrenaline rushing. The festival offers visitors traditional cultural shows, flower exhibition and local ethnic cuisine to tickle your taste buds.
38 km from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,400 ft, the ethereally beautiful Tsomgo lake is a must on every visitors itinerary. A winding road through rugged mountain terrain and sharp cliffs takes you to Tsomgo, which means source of the water in Bhutia language. The lake derives its water from the melting snows of the mountains surrounding the lake. Of legendary beauty, the lake looks different at different seasons. In winter the placid lake remains frozen with the area around it covered in snow while in late spring the profusion of flowers in bloom adds a riot of colours around the lake. The lake is associated with many myths and legends and is revered by the Sikkimese as sacred. It is believed that in olden times, Buddhist monks would study the colour of the water of the lake to forecast the future.
The lake is also of special significance for the Jhakris [faith healers] of Sikkim who congregate here annually on Guru Purnima, which coincides with the festival of Raksha Bandhan, from all over the state to offer prayers.
For the tourist a visit to the lake offers a wonderful outing. Rides on colourfully decorated yaks and mules are offered at the lake site, which also has a variety of eating stalls serving snacks and beverages. Snowboots and gumboots can be hired here.
Tsomgo lake is open for both Indian and foreign nationals, however foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitors permit through a registered travel agency.
Wreathed in clouds, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5500 metres. With a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business centre and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities.
Gangtok is a cosmopolitan town which offers the tourist all possible amenities. Hotels are available in a range of prices along with a variety of eateries serving cuisine for all tastes. Shopping complexes, cyber cafes, night clubs and pool parlours abound for those so inclined.
MG Marg, the main street of Gangtok town is a great place to chill out. The countrys first litter and spit free zone, no vehicular traffic is allowed into the marg. You can sit at the Titanic Park or at the various benches stretched across the mall and take in the carnival like atmosphere, especially during the tourist season. The Mall is lined with shops on both sides of the road so shopping becomes an added pleasure.
MG Marg is also the venue for the annual Gangtok Food and Culture festival held in December each year when Sikkims multi-cultural cuisine, along with music and dance performances are showcased. This event attracts a large number of locals and tourists each year.
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