Sikkim travel guide

Stunning, remote and closer to Nepal than India in cultural terms, Sikkim is a patchwork of steep valleys, subtropical forest and soaring hills, backed by the white peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, including the country’s highest mountain, Khangchendzonga. Needless to say, hiking is a big hit here, and those who come to get their kicks in this incredible mountain air can do so in relative peace, as the state has restrictions on the number of tourists that can enter and how long they can stay.
A self governing mountain kingdom until it became part of India in 1975, Sikkim maintains an independent spirit that sets it apart from the rest of the country.
It’s not all about dramatic natural beauty, though. Sikkim is India’s most sparsely populated state is home to prehistoric ruins and medieval towns, as well as plenty of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and a growing number of Hindu shrines. All this is complimented by a rich, multilingual, multicultural society where Nepali Hindus, Buddhists and indigenous peoples, including the Lepcha and Bhutia, live side by side. And if you’ve time for a break between all these cultural and natural highs, make time for a cup of some of the world’s finest tea – courtesy of Temi Tea Garden, a sprawling, hillside plantation.

Sikkim is…

an environmental front runner, and the first Indian state to aim to be fully organic

Sikkim isn’t…

all about peaks and pushing yourself. Gentle strolls in the foothills and laid-back cultural encounters can be just as rewarding.

Sikkim map & highlights

One of India’s smallest states, Sikkim sits at the tip of northeast India and is bordered by Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and India’s West Bengal State. Part of the Himalayas, the region is known for its dramatic mountainous landscape, which includes the country’s highest mountain – the 8,586m Khangchendzonga. The edge of the Indian plains nudges the southern border, and much of the state is encased by walls of mountains: the Singalila Range separates Sikkim from Nepal, while the Dongkya Range forms the border with Tibet. In between all those lofty peaks are glaciers, thick subtropical woodland, deep, cool, valleys and alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. Most of Sikkim’s population is rural, living in scattered hamlets and villages across the state.

1. Gangtok

Set across a steep hillside, Gangtok, the state’s main metropolis, is an overgrown mish mash of winding lanes and concrete block buildings, with the dramatic mountain landscape visible from almost every corner. Its Buddhist past is all part of its appeal, and both the charming Enchey Monastery and the collection at the Institute of Tibetology are must sees.

2. Pelling

While the town itself might not be up to much, it’s popular with travellers due to its magnificent setting. There are jaw dropping views of Mount Khangchendzonga at every turn, and the town is surrounded by beautiful natural forest, not to mention being within striking distance of two historic monasteries (Pemayangtse Gompa and Sanghak Choeling) as well as the ruined 18th-century royal palace of Rabdentse.
Pemayangtse Monastery

3. Pemayangtse Monastery

This revered monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa sect and is one of the most famous gompas in Sikkim. Founded in the 17th century, it sits at the edge of a ridge above the Rangit River, is backed by traditional wood-and-stone monastic cottages, and has the requisite mind blowing views across the surrounding landscape.
Rumtek Monastery

4. Rumtek Monastery

Set 23km southwest of Gangtok, and visible from the capital, Tibetan-style Rumtek Monastery is Sikkim’s biggest and most dramatic gompa and belongs to the Kargyu sect of Buddhists. The main temple is ornate, brightly painted and looks over an expansive courtyard. Visitors are welcome to watch the monks chanting during the temple’s daily rituals.
Temi Tea Garden

5. Temi Tea Garden

Sikkim’s only tea estate, the sprawling, jade green Temi Tea Garden is spread across a slope along the highway from Gangtok to west Sikkim. As well as producing delicate brews, the estate is also known for its magnificent views. The terraces overlook a vast green valley, with snow covered Mount Khangchendzonga looming above it.

6. Yuksom

This peaceful and beautiful village was once the capital of Sikkim and the coronation place of its first chogyal (king). Today, Yuksom is both a pilgrimage spot for Buddhists and a meeting place for travellers, who use this friendly, laid back place as a jumping off point for treks into the nearby mountains.

Our top trip

Sikkim & Kolkata cultural tour in India

Sikkim & Kolkata cultural tour in India

Cultural Immersion with Tribal Communities in Sikkim.

From £999 to £1199 11 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Sikkim or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ko Backpacko] [Rumtek monastery: Carol Mitchell] [Flags - Himalayas: carol mitchell] [Gangtok: Ankur P] [Pelling: Maximus Audacious] [Pemayangtse monastery: shankar s.] [Rumtek Monastery: Rajib Ghosh] [Temi Tea Garden: Ankur P] [Yuksom: Mopop]