India // Sikkim //

Around Gangtok

The most obvious destinations for day-trips from Gangtok are the great Buddhist monasteries of Rumtek to the southwest, and Phodong to the north. Closer to Gangtok, there are three popular viewing-points offering panoramas of the Kanchenjunga Range. The most accessible is Ganesh Tok, a short drive or a steep 1 hour 30 minute walk from the TV tower and Enchey Monastery. A small Ganesh shrine and views of Gangtok and the mountains reward those that make the climb. Opposite the shrine lies the Himalayan Zoological Park  with large open enclosures for the conservation of red pandas, snow leopards and other endangered species. Hanuman Tok (2300m), 7km out of town on the road to Tsomgo Lake, is the site of a Hanuman temple, and the cremation ground of the Royal Family, with chortens containing relics of the deceased. On the road to Phodong 6km out of Gangtok, Tashi View Point provides views of the eastern aspects of Kanchenjunga (whose tent-like appearance here is radically different from the way it looks from Darjeeling) and the snowy pyramid of Siniolchu (6887m), which the pioneering mountaineer Eric Shipton climbed and ranked among the most beautiful in the world.

Tsomgo Lake (pronounced “Changu”), 35km northeast of Gangtok and just 20km from the Tibetan border at Nathu La, is a scenic spot at an altitude of 3750m, popular with Indian visitors (foreigners and Indians need permits arranged through travel agents) who flock here to sample the high-mountain environment and, hopefully, experience their first thrill of snow in the colder months. It’s possible to visit the Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary (3350m) en route, where a profusion of wild flowers bloom between May and August and migratory birds stop over in winter on their annual journey from Siberia to India. Only Indians are allowed up to the trade post at Serathang and Nathu La (4130m), where they can gawk at bemused Chinese soldiers across the rope border marker.

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  • Rumtek