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Sikkim, Darjeeling (India) :General Travel information

Sikkim, a tiny and once a remote independent Buddhist Kingdom ruled by the Chogyal Dynasty whose root goes back to the 13th century is nestled between Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. The Chogyal Dynasty started with Khye Bumsa, a Tibetan warlord who happened to come to this land of Demazong meaning “Valley of Rice”. During the British Raj in India, Sikkim was given the status of Protectorate State. In 1975, under the 16th Chogyal, Sikkim became the 22nd state of Indian Union.

The people of Sikkim are of three distinct heritages: Lepcha, believed to have originated from the border area of Assam and Burma; the Bhutia, of Tibetan origin, settled in Sikkim after the 15th century; and the Nepalese, who migrated from Nepal in the middle of the 17th century. The main religions are Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity whereby the Hindus constitute nearly 67%, Buddhists 30% and Christianity 2%.The official language of Sikkim is Nepali. English is widely spoken and even used as the medium of communication in official documentation.

Highlights of Sikkim are the stunning monasteries which form an integral part of Sikkim: it is here that Gods mix with the mortals. Built in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (Nyingma and Kargyu sects), set amidst thick forests and on isolated hilltops, these monasteries are host to a number of festivals, which are singular experience in pomp and pageantry. Gangtok, the hillside capital of Sikkim (5,800ft) retains a small-town feeling, neat and clean, but undergoing rapid modernization. An open air vegetable bazaar and bustling handicraft center selling hand-woven carpets, intricately carved chokste(tables), and exquisitely carved silver and gold jewelry attract visitors. Attractive hotels and restaurants feature Sikkimese, Tibetan and Chinese dishes. How to Get there:

Transportation: The primary means of transportation within Sikkim is by road. A daily helicopter service between Gangtok and Bagdogra is the only other alternate option. However Sikkim is well connected to rest of the country by rail and air through Siliguri in West Bengal which is about 115 kms from Gangtok and forms the railhead to Sikkim. Bagdogra, the airport of Siliguri has daily flights to Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati. Sikkim is also well-connected by road with Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Phuntsoling, the border town of Bhutan.

Sikkim has an unusual variety of climate influenced by varying altitudes so much so, it is possible to drop from arctic heights to the tropical lowlands within a matter of couple of hours. Places with moderate altitude (4,000 ft – 10,000 ft) like Gangtok have a more or less good climate. During the spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November), the weather is pleasant. June-August, the monsoons bring torrential rain for days together and winter (December-February), the days become cold and nights chilly but the snow line remains above 12,000 ft.

Sikkim became a constituent unit of India on 10 April, 1975 after abolishing the institution of the Chogyal (the king) who had ruled since the first king had been consecrated in the year 1642 in Yuksom. The people of Sikkim submitted a general referendum in favour of the resolution, after which the two houses of the Indian parliment passed the 38th Consitution Amendment Bill, which made Sikkim the 22nd state of the Indian Union. As a democratic state, election to the 32 seats in the state legislature is held after every 5 years .

Visa and Permits: In addition to an Indian visa, foreigners must obtain inner line permit (ILP) to visit Sikkim, the permits can be obtained from all Indian missions, Tourism Office, New Delhi, Sikkim Tourism office, Calcutta and Sikkim Tourism Office, Siliguri on the strength of an Indian Visa. Foreigners are issued a permit for initial period of 15 days duration on the spot without any delay provided photocopies of Passport and Visa details along with two passport photos of applicants are made available then and there. It can be extended for further 30 days of 15 days each. The extenstion of permits can be obtained from FRO at Gangtok, Superintendent of Police of North, South and West Districts. If you are visiting the interior regions, you also require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) OR Protected Area Permit(PAP) which is obtainable in Gangtok from the Police Check Post and Department of Tourism.

Access: By Flight : The closest Indian Airport is at Bagdogra,124 kms from Gangtok, where scheduled flights operates from Calcutta, Delhi, Guwahati. Travel time from the airport to Gangtok is 4 hours. Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation also operates a daily helicopter service flight from Bagdogra to Gangtok (20 minutes). From Kathmandu, fly to Bhadrapur in the east Nepal(1 hour), then drive to Kakarbhitta (Nepal-India border,35 kms), to Siliguri(37 kms) and to Gangtok (110 kms,4 hrs). Or fly to Biratnagar also in the east. By Rail : The closest Railhead is at New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri which are connected to Calcutta ,New Delhi Guwahati and other major Indian cities. By Road : Gangtok is at a distance of 110 kms from Siliguri and will take 4 hours from Siliguri to reach Gangtok. Gangtok is connected by road with Darjeeling,(4 Hrs) and with Bhutan, Phuntsholing (6 Hrs).

Best season:
March to June and September to December

Accommodation: There are modern hotels and restaurants in Gangtok. Comfortable resort lodges are available in the outlying areas.

Most transportation is by buses. Vehicles are also available on hire. Taxis are available for getting around Gangtok. Sikkim helicopter service operates sight-seeing flights to different points in Sikkim.


Darjeeling, the enchanting town, also known as the “Queen of Hills” lies nestled in the grandeur of the snow-capped mountains and lush green tea gardens. A holiday resort during the British rule, this town still exudes its past grandeur, charm and majesty, attracting a lot of visitors. Tucked away in the Himalayas, south of the state of Sikkim, Darjeeling at an altitude of almost 7000ft is situated in West Bengal, sharing its border with Sikkim in the north, Nepal in the west and Bhutan in the east. Darjeeling derives its name from the local Tibetan name ‘Dorjee-ling’, meaning ‘Place of the Thunderbolt’. Kalimpong is a small sleepy hill resort at an altitude of about 4000 ft and is cradled on a saddle between the Durpin Hill and Deolo Hill. Kalimpong meaning ‘Fort of the King’s Minister’ was once the hub of the trade of India with Tibet, but now attracts a lot of visitors looking for a quiet holiday. Darjeeling internationally acclaimed as one of the best hill resorts is also a paradise for trekkers and adventure seekers. Trekking in Darjeeling is an experience which no lover of nature should miss. It takes one to places where nature is yet in her premival majesty. It brings one face to face with sublime grandeur of the Himalayas.

Visa and Permits
Foreigners visiting Darjeeling must possess an Indian visa. No special permit is required for either traveling or trekking inside Darjeeling. However, necessary travel documents need to be shown as and when required.

From Kathmandu, take the one-hour flight to Bhadrapur (the nearest Nepalese airport to Darjeeling), drive to Kakarbhitta (Nepal-India border, 34 km), to Siliguri (36 km) and to Darjeeling (77 km, 2 hours 30 minutes). Darjeeling is also connected by road with Sikkim (120 km) and Bhutan (about 200 km). Darjeeling town is 90 km from Bagdogra, the nearest Indian airport, where scheduled flights operate from New Delhi, Kolkota and Guwahati. The nearest railheads are Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri (88 km), which is, connected Kolkata, New Delhi, Guwahati and other major Indian cities. From Siliguri, buses, taxis and the famous toy train (8 hours) leave for Darjeeling.

Best season:
March-May and September-November are the best times to visit Darjeeling and surroundings. Bring light woolen clothing during summer (maximum temperature 16 degrees Celsius) and heavy woolens in winter (minimum 1.6 degrees).

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