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Sikkim & Darjeeling


ABOUT SIKKIM
The beautiful hill state of Sikkim lies on the eastern tip of the Himalayas bordered by Bhutan, Nepal an Tibet. Sikkim is famous for kanchendzonga, at 598 mtrs, which is third highest mountain in the world. Being second smallest state in India Sikkim is broadly divided into four districts. The east district with capital city of Gangtok is the hub of all administrative activity. The famous Rumtek Monastery, the Dharma Chakra Centre and the seat of his Holliness Gyalwa Karmapa, all are located here. Other places of interest include the Tsomgo Lake and the Nathula Pass.

CLIMATE
The climate of Sikkim can be termed as temperate in broad terms. Sikkim enjoys the five seasons of summer, winter, monsoon, autumn and spring.
ACCESSBILITY
BY AIR: The nearest airport is Bagdogra in North Bengal, 124 km from Gangtok, Sikkim's capital. Indian Airlines operates flights from Calcutta, Delhi, Patna, Imphal and Guwahati.

BY RAIL: The nearest railheads are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri, 114 km and 126 km respectively, from Gangtok.

BY ROAD: Gangtok is well connected by road with Calcutta (721 km), Darjeeling (139 km), Guwahati (589 km) and Patna (584 km).
The saying 'Small is beautiful', is amply demonstrated by the tiny mountain state of Sikkim. With the grandeur of her mountain peaks, verdant valleys, fast flowing rivers, terraced hills and floral wealth, a visit to Sikkim is a rare and unique experience. Situated on the eastern Himalayas, in the shadow of the towering Mount Kanchenjunga, which is worshipped as the principal deity, Sikkim measures approximately 100 kms from north to south, and 60 kms from east to west

TOURIST PLACES IN SIKKIM
Tsomgo lake: The Tsomgo lake in Sikkim is a holy lake worshipped by the sikkimese. Tsomgo (Changu) lake, which is hardly 20 km away from the famous Nathula Pass.A small temple of Lord Shiva is built on the lakeside. Primula flowers and other alpine plantation grow around the Tsomgo lake Sikkim, which has an average depth of 50 ft, provides a pristine beauty to this place. A footpath along the Tsomgo lake takes one to a resting shed - a walk of about half a kilometre. During the winter months the Tsomo Lake becomes frozen.

Nathu La Pass: Nathu La is a pass on the Indo-Chinese border that serves as a trade link between the two countries. Sited at a distance of 56 kms from Gangtok. The Pass used to be a main gateway for Sikkim - Tibet Trade (also known as SILK ROUTE) until it was called off in 1961. Shortly later China and India fought a bitter war and trade never resumed. Till then, China had a trade office in Kalimpong, a People's Bank of China in Kolkata and also a consulate there. It is one of the highest motorable roads and richly covered by various species of Alpine Flora and Fauna.

Phodong Monastery: One of the six major monasteries in Sikkim, Phodong monastery is located in the North approximately 38 kms from Gangtok, 4 kms beyond Phodong is the recently renovated Labrang Monastery unique in it architectural design.

Phensang Monastery: This monastery is situated on the gentle slope stretching from Kabi to Phodong with perhaps one of the best landscapes in the region. The Phensang Monastery, under the Nyingmapa Buddhist Order, was built in 1721 during the time of Jigme Pawo. It was gutted by fire in 1947 and rebuilt in 1948 hrough the efforts of the lamas. The annual festival of Chaam is performed on the 29th and 29th days of the tenth month of the Lunar calendar (Tibetan Calendar).

Singhik: The place offers one of the most spectacular and closest views of Mt. Kanchenjunga and its ranges. A well located Tourist Lodge provides accommodation for visitors. The area also has a number of interesting short nature trails for 1 to 3 days along the higher ridges of the higher ridges of the surrounding hills. One can also savour the most graceful peak in the world, Mt. Siniolchu.

Lachung: A Bhutia village with a unique loacl self-governing body called the Zumsa which substitutes the Panchayat. Lachung has emerged as a tourist destination with the soaring popularity of Yumthang Valley which is just 25 kms from Lachung. The village, spreads out on either side of Lachung Chu, has managed to retain its unique culture and tradition. The Lachung Monsatery on the slope opposite to the highway is a focal point of all religious function of the local inhabitants. To get a glimpse of the religious functions performed on auspicious occasion a visit to the Monastery should form part of the tour itinerary.

Yumthang: Yumthang, at an elevation of 11,800 ft and 140 kms from gangtok is a paradise for nature lovers with a fascinating blend of flora and fauna and breathtaking scenic granddeur. The valley is also the home of Singbha Rhododendron Sanctary with 24 species of Rhododendrons. Yumthang 'Tsa-Chu' or the hot spring of the left bank of Lachung Chu is immensely popular for its curative properties and healing power.

Lachen: Lachen is situated at an altitude of 2750 mtrs. and about 6 hrs. drive from Gangtok. The Lachen Monastery Located on top of the village commands a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and country side. Resorts, hotels and lodges are available for accommodation.
Namchi : Namchi, meaning 'Sky High', nestled among the hills at an elevation of 5,500 ft commands panoramic view of the snow-capped mountains and vast stretches of valley. Atop Samdruptse hilltop near Namchi, recently erected is the worlds tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava, the patron saint of both Hindus and the Buddhist.

Temi Tea Garden: The one and only tea garden existing in the State produces one of the top quality teas in the international market. The tea garden is spread out on a gently hill slope originating from the Tendong Hill and provides a magnificent view for the surrounding villages. The visit to the factory could be an eye opener for those wanting to know more about tea processing methods.

Menam Hill: Menam Hill towers above Tendong Hill on the other side over looking the ravangla Bazar settlement. Situated at an altitude of 10,300 ft the scenic view from this height is, perhaps, unmatched in this part of the world. Mt. Khangchendzonga and its surrounding ranges looms above the dwarf the richly forested and rugged hill. On a clear sunny day, it is possible to see the plains of Bengal spanning across Kalimpong and Darjeeling Hills in the South, right across the Indo-China border towards the North. A short distance away is the legendary Bhaley Bhunga, a kind of rocky spur which juts out from the ridge top and remains suspended in the air above Yangang village.
SHOPPING IN SIKKIM
Shopping can be a real wholesome experience to the tourists visiting Sikkim. The local handicrafts are a must buy here which can be picked up from the Government Institute of Cottage Industry in Gangtok or the Dalai Lama Trust Fund shop in the basement of Hotel Tibet. Though some other shops in the region also sell these but the prices and quality differ.
The Old Market, Lall Market and New Market on Mahatma Gandhi Marg are some of the major shopping areas in Gangtok. Lined with make shift shops, these markets sell 'Choktse' furniture, Lepcha weave bags, masks, Tibetan Thangka paintings, carpets, wooden and bamboo artifacts, woven materials like dresses, shawls, beautiful blankets and knitted garments.


ABOUT DARJEELING
Darjeeling the dream land of the East, it is popularly known as the "Queen of the Hills" and produces the famous Darjeeling Tea, one of the world's finest teas. It is also home to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a World Heritage Site.The tourist flow to this place has been increasing day by day. Due to the proximity with three international borders, this place is strategically very important. Darjeeling is surrounded by lofty mountains. Except for the monsoon months and if weather is clear then the Kanchenjunga peak can be seen. Down below in the valley flow the rivers swollen by rain water or melting snow. Darjeeling is a fascinating place rich in natural beauty and surrounded by the Buddhist monasteries. Its beauty surpasses any other hill station.
The toy train coming from Siliguri is some thing which is liked by the elders and the children equally. The real fun in coming to Darjeeling is on the toy train. It takes six to seven hours to cover a distance of 82 kms and the slow speed gives you enough time to watch and appreciate the beauty which nature has provided it. This train passes through the Forests, waterfalls, over deep valleys and through the mountains and tunnels.

CLIMATE
The best season to visit Darjeeling is between April and June. The weather during this period is generally clear and the chilling biting cold gets subsided. But one can also go to Darjeeling between September and November. During these months the mountains are clearly visible and one can enjoy the golden sunrise over the Himalayan peaks. Being a mountain city Darjeeling experiences rains throughout the year. Often heavy down pours wash away the roads and the place is totally cut off from rest of the country. The temperature range is not very large here with the maximum in summers being 15 degrees and 1.5 degrees in winters. This place requires warm cloths any time of the year and do not forget to carry a umbrella to this place.
ACCESSIBILITY
BY AIR: The nearest airport is in the city of Bagdogra, which is an important military installation. It is located at a distance of 90 km from Darjeeling. Various domestic flights shuttle between Bagdogra and some of the major cities in India. People who are willing to travel by air can disembark at the Bagdogra airport and take buses, taxis and private cars from the airport for reaching Darjeeling.

BY RAIL: The most convenient railhead is New Jalpaiguri / Siliguri. Various cities of India are connected to the New Jalpaiguri / Siliguri station by major trains. But only the toy-train plies between the local Darjeeling and the New Jalpaiguri / Siliguri station. So if you plan your journey by train, you have to board the toy-train (mini-train) from the New Jalpaiguri/ Siliguri station for getting to the place. The journey takes about 10 hrs and gives you a breathtaking view of the entire landscape.

BY ROAD: Well maintained and motorable roads connect Darjeeling to the other places in and around West Bengal. The state transports have buses that regularly shuttle between Darjeeling and these places. Siliguri, Bagdogra, Gangtok, Kurseong and Kathmandu are easily connected to Darjeeling by roads. Moreover, various deluxe/ semi-deluxe buses that are run by private operators make Darjeeling easily accessible from these places.

TOURIST PLACES IN DARJEELING
Tiger Hill: Tiger hills is the highest point in the area which provides the most exotic view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. From this place the other peaks of the Eastern Himalayas can be seen. On a clear day the sight of Mt.Everest is just enthralling. Dhoom Gompa : - About 8 kms from Darjeeling is the Dhoom Gompa. Here a very beautiful statue of the Maitrayie Buddha ( prospective Buddha) is established. The Monastery has also preserved some of the rare handwritten Buddhist manuscripts.

Batasia Loop: This railway loop is an interesting example of engineering. At this loop the toy train takes a very unique turn. This loop is just five kilometer from the main town of Darjeeling. This place also has a very good market where you can buy the purses, bags and other decorative items made by the local women at very reasonable price.

Happy Valley Estate: Here the tea from the gardens is processed. One can spent a few hours here. Entry is only allowed to persons who have permission from any officer of the estate.

Senchal Lake: A scenic place near the tiger hills. This place has popularly come up as a picnic spot among the tourists. The lake supplies drinking water to the town of Darjeeling.

Kanchenjunga View: From Darjeeling one can have the best, uninterrupted view of the worlds third highest peak. Bhan Bhakta Sarani provides one of the enthralling views of these snow capped peaks. The Chowrasta also gives you a good sight to the Kanchenjunga peak.

Zoological Gardens: The zoo is situated two kms form the main town. This zoological garden houses some of the rare species of animals and birds. This is only zoo in India having the Siberian Tigers. Apart from these the rare Red Panda is also there. The Snow Leopards, Great Grey Birds, Snow Yaks are some the animals which are attracting tourist in great numbers. The entry in the zoo is by tickets which are also valid for the natural history museum and the mountaineering institute & museum.

Observatory Hills: This point provides one of the breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga peaks. This place is also very sacred for the Hindus and the Buddhists as there are temples and the monasteries at this place. The Kali temple is decorated with the colorful flags. Be aware of the monkey groups as some these are very aggressive.

Bhutia Busty Gompa: With the back drop of the Kanchenjunga range stands a monastery called the Bhutia Busty Gompa. This monastery was shifted from the observatory hills to the present place. The Gompa is a branch of the Nyingmapa sect's Phodang Monastery in Sikkim. The monastery is not far from the chowrasta and is very tastefully decorated. It also has a library which has a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Snow Leopard Breeding Programme: Nowadays the zoologists and the environmental scientists are trying to protect the endangered species by breeding them in captivity. Following this trend is Kiran Moktan who has devoted his life in breeding program of snow leopards. The snow leopards are not known to have bred in captivity but in this center thanks to the efforts of Kiran Maktan these animals have given birth in captivity. Snow leopards are animals who have to be kept in large enclosures. Visitors are allowed in the center but they have to watch the animals in utter silence.

Botanical Gardens: This place is worth a visit for its exotic and exclusive collection of a variety of Himalayan plants, flowers and orchids. This place is near the taxi stand. The gardens also has a green house.

Passenger Ropeway: Another tourist attraction in Darjeeling has been the ropeway. This was the first ropeway in India. It connects the North point (7000 ft) to the Singla Bazaar (800 ft). The rope covers a distance of 8 kms in 45 minutes. The seats in the rope way is limited and it is better to get the tickets in advance. The ropeway is exciting and unique for any one visiting Darjeeling.

Chowrasta: This one of the important shopping places in Darjeeling . Here the Nehru Road and the Mall Road Intersect each other. The snow capped peaks of Kanchenjunga are visible from this place. Near Chowrata are several Hindu and Buddhists temples. This place is over flowing with foreign tourists. You can also enjoy a pony ride form this place.
EXCURSIONS FROM DARJEELING
Kurseong : Kurseong is mid way between Siliguri and Darjeeling. The way from Darjeeling to Kurseong is generally open through out the year. So, the toy train is not coming to Siliguri then you can come up to Kurseong. This place is equally beautiful and is full of natural splendor.

Mirik : Mirik is 52 kms from Siliguri and 55 kms from the nearest Airfield of Bagdogra. Mirik is being developed as a new hill station in the mountains. Mirik is surrounded by tea estates, orange orchards and cardamom plantations. It has all the facilities to fulfill the needs of a tourist. Siliguri / New Jalpaiguri :The twin Cities of Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri are the departure point to Darjeeling, Sikkim and the North Eastern States. Being the nodal point this place has become very busy and crowded. This area has got population over 2.5 lakh people. Siliguri also acts as a transit point for Nepal. This place is not very pleasant to stay as there are always long lines of buses and trucks. These trucks and vehicles might be good for business but they provide very ugly sight. Tourists come to Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri mainly to change bus or catch trains. If you have time then visit the almost forgotten wild life sanctuary of Jaldhapara. The best season to visit this park is between October and May. This the time when the new grass has come up and animals are out there. The sanctuary has elephants, dears, tigers and other animals but the main attraction is the Rhinos which are threatened by the poachers. Elephant Safari can be taken from Hollong.

Kalimpong : Kalimpong is within Darjeeling province and is a sub-division of Darjeeling. It is a small but bustling town in the Himalaya foothills of West Bengal- Kalimpong is at an altitude of 1250 meters. This bazaar town was originally a part of Bhutan but later it was taken over by the British and finally it settled down with West Bengal.
SHOPPING IN DARJEELING
Darjeeling has been famous for its Tea with a particular aroma. Throughout the world tea drinkers love having the special Darjeeling tea. So, how can some one miss getting some Darjeeling tea if he comes to this place. Packed small bags tea from this place make good souvenirs. But avoid tea in tastefully decorated boxes as these are mostly blended tea from Calcutta.
Apart from tea there are many items which Darjeeling offers in its shopping malls. Tourists love taking home the curios and carpets from here. The shops for curios and carpets are on Chowrasta and Nehru road. These shops also sell thangkas, brass statues, religious objects, jewellery, wood carvings, woven fabrics and many other items from the Himalayan region. The Bronze items and wooden carvings give you good value for your money. Thangkas are impressive at the first sight but the require a closer look if you want to buy them. The West Bengal's Manjusha Emporium has a good collection Himalayan handicraft, silk and handloom products. The woollen garments can be bought from the markets on Hill Cart road. The bamboo items are collectors delight from the region. Hayden Hall is a place to look for the exclusive Tibetan Carpets. The women's cooperative is also a place worth checking out.



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