Enchey Gompa in Gangtok                                                     by ks_bluechip

Named from a Tibetan word for 'Hillside,' Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim , a north-eastern state of India, snuggled in the serene beauty of Himalayas. With a picturesque mountainous view like the ones in story books, Gangtok is a city where exotic orchids and chirruping birds run riot in a colourful clash. Excellently maintained, it would be one of the cleanest cities you could have ever come across. In fact, it's often called the Switzerland of the east! The eco-system is fragile in Gangtok, so follow designated trails while you go trekking.

Gangtok is a blend of the traditional and modern, where modern concrete multi-storeyed structures clinging to the hillside stand alongside monasteries. You'll get to see young college girls in trendy dresses rub shoulders in the market place with elderly matrons clad in traditional ''bakus'' and lamas in colourful maroon.

Gangtok is one of the very few hill stations in India that is not crowded to the hilt, which is one reason why its serenity is maintained. Make a trip to the famous Pemayangtse Monastery to see its priceless antiques and idols, and to the nearby ruins of Rabdantse, the 17th century capital of Sikkim. Also visit the 200-year-old Enchey Monastery. If you want to see the Chogyal's Palace, visit Gangtok in the last week of December when it is thrown open to the public for the Pong Labsal festival and see the masked dancers perform to the mighty Kanchenjunga. Don't forget to visit the Research Institute of Tibetology; it houses some rare manuscripts, books as well as priceless artefacts.

Shop for masks, footwear, carpets, handicrafts and other trinkets in the souvenir shops scattered along Mahatma Gandhi Marg. The main shopping areas in Gangtok are the Old market, New market and Lal market.

One can find a variety of accommodation ranging from premium to budget categories. Most hotels in Gangtok have their own in-house restaurant serving delicious local cuisine. You will even find South Indian restaurants!

Getting there

Gangtok is not directly served by air. The closest airport is at Bagdogra, West Bengal, which is served by regular flights from Kolkata, Guwahati, and Delhi operated by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways. New Jalpaiguri is the nearest mainline railhead, which is about 125 km from Gangtok (about 4 hours). One can also take a train to Siliguri, located at a distance of 114 km from Gangtok. Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri are well connected with all the cities in India. Once here, from the station itself, tourists can get on to the tourists buses, coaches, taxis and jeeps to reach their final destination. The drive to Gangtok from Siliguri (West Bengal), 114 km away, is the shortest. Darjeeling, the beautiful and oft-visited hill station in West Bengal is also connected by road to Gangtok. Hire a private jeep or taxi for getting around locally. The best time to visit Gangtok is between October and mid-December when clear views of the Himalayan peaks are guaranteed!