Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. It is the least populous state in India and the second-smallest in area after Goa. The thumb-shaped state borders Nepal in the west, the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and the east and Bhutan in the southeast. The Indian state of West Bengal borders Sikkim to its south. Despite its small area of 7,096 square kilometers (2,740 sq mi), Sikkim is geographically diverse due to its location in the Himalayas. The climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine. Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, is located on the border of Sikkim with Nepal. Sikkim is a popular tourist destination owing to its culture, scenic beauty and biodiversity. The official language of the state is English, but there is a sizable population that converses in Nepali (the lingua franca of the state). It is the only state in India with an ethnic Nepalese majority. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Gangtok is the capital and the largest town. Sikkim has a booming economy dependent on agriculture and tourism.
The peaks of north-western Sikkim are perpetually frozen. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim, however, witness a temperate climate, with the temperatures seldom exceeding 28 °C in summer or dropping below 0°C in winter. The mean monthly temperature in summer is 15 Â°C. Sikkim is one of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall. In the northern region, because of high altitude, temperatures drop below -40 Â°C in winter.
Tourist Attractions :
Due to its geographic diversity,Sikkim is a favourite hotspot for the tourists. This scenic region has many delights to offer to the avid traveller-from the snow capped mountains and pristine lakes to exquisite monasteries and glitzy shopping malls. Rock climbing, river rafting, ropeways and other exciting sports make the tourists keep coming back for more.
Some of the hot spot for travelers are Do-Drul Chorten(Stupa), Enchey Monastery, Ridge Park,Deep Park,Hanuman Tok,Ganesh Tok,Himalayan Zoological Park,Sa-Ngor-Chotshog Centre,Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center,Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies , Jamyang Khang Primary School. Rumtek monastery, Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden, Saramsa Garden/ Ipecac Garden, Water Garden ,Tsomgo/ Changu Lake, Nathula Pass, Menmecho Lake, Gyalshing, Pelling, Pemayangtse,Khecheopalri Lake,Yuksam/ Yuksom, Tashiding, Uttaray,Barshay/ Versay, Biksthang, Legship, Sanga Choeling Monastery, Rinchenpong, Reshi Hot Springs, Rabdentse, Phodong Monastery, Tendong Hill, Phur-cha-chu (Hot Springs), Kechopari Lake, Yumthang Hot Springs, Phodong Monastery, Labrang Monastery and Tumlong Palace ruins, Gurudongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley etc.
The Rhododendron is the state tree. Sikkim is situated in an ecological hotspot of the lower Himalayas, one of only three among the Ecoregions of India. Nearly 81% of the area of Sikkim comes under the administration of its forest department. The flora of Sikkim include the rhododendron,with a wide range of species occurring from subtropical to alpine regions. Orchids, figs, laurel, bananas, sal trees and bamboo grow in the lower altitudes of Sikkim, which enjoy a subtropical-type climate. In the temperate elevations above 1,500 metres, oaks, chestnuts, maples, birches, alders, and magnolias grow in large numbers. The alpine-type vegetation includesjuniper, pine, firs, cypresses and rhododendrons, and is typically found between an altitude of 3,500 to 5 000 m.Sikkim has around 5,000 flowering plants, 515 rare orchids, 60 primula species, 36 rhododendron species, 11 oak varieties, 23 bamboo varieties, 16 conifer species, 362 types of ferns and ferns allies, 8 tree ferns, and over 424 medicinal plants.A variant of the Poinsettia, locally known as “Christmas Flower“, can be found in abundance in the mountainous state. The orchid Dendrobium nobile is the official flower of Sikkim.
The Red Panda is the state animal of Sikkim.The fauna include the snow leopard, the musk deer, the Himalayan Tahr, the red panda, the Himalayan marmot, the serow, the goral, the barking deer, the common langur, the Himalayan Black Bear, the clouded leopard,the Marbled Cat, the leopard cat, the wild dog, the Tibetan wolf, the hog badger, the binturong, the jungle cat and the civet cat.Among the animals more commonly found in the alpine zone are yaks, mainly reared for their milk, meat, and as a beast of burden. The avifauna of Sikkim consist of the Impeyan pheasant, the crimson horned pheasant, the snow partridge, the snow cock, the lammergeyer and griffon vultures, as well as golden eagles, quail, plovers, woodcock, sandpipers, pigeons, Old World flycatchers, babblers and robins. Sikkim has more than 550 species of birds, some of which have been declared endangered. Sikkim also has a rich diversity of arthropods, many of which remain unstudied even today. As with the rest of India, the most studied group is that of the butterflies. Of approximately 1438 butterfly species found in the Indian subcontinent, 695 have been recorded from Sikkim. These include the endangered Kaiser-i-hind, Yellow Gorgon and the Bhutan Glory.
There is one national park and six wildlife sanctuaries, which together constitute over 30% of the total geographical area of the state.
1. Khangchendzonga National Park: North, South, West 1784 sq. km.
1. Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, North Sikkim, 43 sq. km.
2. Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary West Sikkim, 104 sq. km.
3. Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary East Sikkim, 31 sq. km.
4. Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim, 51.76 sq. km.
5. Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, South Sikkim, 35.34 sq. km.
6. Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, East Sikkim, 124 sq. km.
Best time for travel to the region : March – late May October – December
Informal, except for special occassions. Around towns and monasteries, women are advised against wearing shorts and skimpy tops. Similarly, men are advised to be attired in full pants and shirts with sleeves. Warm sweaters or jackets are essential for mornings and evenings throughout winter and early spring.
How to Reach:
Nearest Airport: Bagdogra
Bagdogra Flight from Calcutta – 45 minute Flight from New Delhi – 2 hours
Bagdogra-Gangtok via air : 30 minutes Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation operates a helicopter service using 5 seater Bell 206 Long Ranger aircrafts.
By Road :
Bagdogra-Gangtok via road : 4.5 hours
Bagdogra-Darjeeling via road : 3.5 hours
Nearest Airport of Nepal:
Bhadrapur Flight from Kathmandu – 45 minutes
Bhadrapur-Gangtok via road : 6 hours
Bhadrapur-Darjeeling via road : 5 hours
In Sikkim, foreigners must trek in a group of at least two. Trekking permit is granted only to groups registered through a bonafide agency. Also note that permit issuing authorities as well as several essential services remain closed on official holidays, Sundays, and second Saturdays of the month.