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Gangtok

Orientation

Gangtok was a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the 1840s. It became the capital of Sikkim after British rule ended. It joined India after a gap of twenty-eight years of independence in 1975. Sikkim became a nation-state with Gangtok its capital. Sikkim is a north-eastern state of India and each year more tourist visit Sikkim than its population. The altitude across Sikkim varies widely and ranges from the lowest elevation of 280 meters / 920 feet to the highest point of Kanchenjunga peak which lies at the border of Sikkim and Nepal is at an altitude of 8586 meters / 28169 feet and Gangtok is situated at an altitude of 1780 meters.

Importance of Gangtok for Tour Operators

Various valleys, meadows, several high altitude lakes, hot water springs, and high altitude passes are the main attraction of Sikkim. Gangtok is the center of all tourist movement in the state. North Sikkim tour to Lachen and Lachung has to start from Gangtok, also the Inner Line Permit (ILP) is issued from here. Lachen is known for Yumthang, Katao & Zero Point and Lachung for Gurudongmar Lake & Chopta Valley. Visiting North-Sikkim means two Night stay at Gangtok i.e. the first and the last night of the tour. Tsomgo lake, Baba Mandir and Nathu La Pass visit also take place from Gangtok. Excursion to Namchi can be done from Gangtok.

Operating Tours through Gangtok

Gangtok is arguably the most important place in the region from a tour operators perspective. This is due to two facts, this is the place where your guests will most probably spend the most number of nights, and also this is where most of the transport hazards and problems occur.

A typical itinerary includes a minimum of two to four nights stays in Gangtok for a tourist. In the case of 2 nights stay, there will be a day visit to Tsongo lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula pass area. In case of 3 nights day, one day will be filled additionally with local sightseeing of the town. If your itinerary includes a visit to North Sikkim, the guest must spend one night while going and coming back from North Sikkim. Hence 4 nights stay here is quite common.
Gangtok has a plethora of hotels and at Tripsy we maintain relationships with a large number of them. The major problem area is the local transportation. Due to several government restrictions and practical problems, there is always a shortage of tourist vehicles during the peak season. No matter how well you plan in advance, there is always some shortage, some delays and occasional failure of vehicles. This problem is the most acute in Gangtok among all the destinations in North East. Your guests should be properly communicated about this issue especially if they are traveling on one of those peak season dates of May month.

The other possible problem area is permits. Every tourist wants to visit Nathula, however, the number of permit for Nathula is only limited. There is invariable black marketing of Nathula permits during peak season, which any reputed travel agent would not encourage. Hence there is always a likelihood that a Nathula visit cannot be undertaken on the planned day, especially during peak season. Since the final confirmation regarding the permit will be available only on the morning of the day of travel, unless your guests are well informed about ground realities, there might be major disappointments.

Another major problem, especially during peak season is the delay in starting of North Sikkim and Tsongo – Nathula tour. Since the permits are issued on the same day, there is always a huge cue at the permit office during the morning, the issuance of permit sometimes goes on well into the day, and by the time the vehicle arrives at the hotel with the permit, the tourists might often be agitated due to the delay.
Any tour operator/travel agent, operating in Gangtok, whether through Tripsy team or directly or through any other DMC, must be well aware of the above problems in order to avoid the disappointment of the guests.

The Town

Gangtok is a cosmopolitan town which offers tourist the best choices of hotels, Eateries, Ropeway, casinos, Nightclubs, shopping complexes, cyber cafes, Pubs, and pool parlors abound. A day trip from Gangtok to Tsomgo Lake, Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple, and Nathula Pass are hugely popular among tourists. The sightseeing in the city includes a visit to Saramsa Garden, Ganesh Tok & hanuman View Point, Tashi View Point, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Ranka & Rumtek Monastery, Flower Show, State Handicraft center, Banjhakri Falls, Himalayan Zoological park etc. Paragliding and Ropeway are two more attraction for tourists here. 

Places around Gangtok in East Sikkim include Aritar Lake, Zuluk, Memencho Lake, Gnathang Valley, Kupup Lake, and Younghusbands Golf Course and many such places which can be visited with two to three nights extra. Butterfly and Orchids are two main attractions of the area. A large variety of accommodation options including Homestays and hotels are available here.

The township is situated on one surface of the mountain, with ‘The Ridge’, a promenade housing the Raj Bhawan, the governor's residence, at one end and the palace, situated at an altitude of about 1800 meters is the other end. Gangtok is flanked on east and west by two streams, namely Roro Chu and Ranikhola, respectively. The streams meet at Ranipul before it joins Teesta at Singtam.

Local Flora and Fauna

Regarding flora & fauna is one of the main attractions of the state. Sikkim is an ecological hotspot in the lower Himalayas. In and around Gangtok juniper, pine, firs, cypresses and rhododendron and conifer forests are well visible. Himalayan Zoological Park is at a distance of 03 kilometers from Gangtok houses a variety of local flora and fauna.

Local Food

Gangtok is also home to a wide variety of Orchids and butterflies, and rare varieties of orchids are featured in flower show in the city. Sunflower, Marigold, poinsettia, and many others bloom all around the year but the most colorful time in November and December. Gangtok is a city of great food, atmospheric sceneries, monastery, Butterflies & Orchids. It is also famous for its distinct cuisine, of which Momos and Kinema, are excellent examples. Noodle based food is also quite popular here.

Major religious festivals are Dashain, Tihar, Christmas, Holi etc. It has a diverse ethnic populace of the town celebrates several local festivals. Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate New Year in January, while Tibetans celebrate the New Year (Losar) with "Devil Dance" in January - February. The Maghe Sankranti, Ram Navami are some of the important Nepalese festivals. Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, the birthday of the Dalai Lama, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are some other festivals, some distinct to local culture rest shared with the rest of India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. Chhang is a local frothy millet beer traditionally served in bamboo tankards and drunk through bamboo or cane straws. Archery & Football and off late cricket are their main sports. 

It experiences five seasons overlapping each other i.e. summer, monsoons, autumn, winter and spring. Temperatures range from an average maximum of 22°C in summer to an average minimum of 4°C in winter. Summers last from mid-April to mid-May and are mild. The monsoon season starts mid-April till September. Snowfall is rare, the monsoon is severe. During spring and autumn generally sunny with pleasant weather and is often enveloped in fog during the monsoon and winter months.

Regarding permit Sikkim as a state is a restricted for foreign nationals and Indian Nationals to some of the area like North Sikkim, Tsomgo / Nathu la etc. Foreigners (except Bhutanese) require a permit known as Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter Sikkim including Gangtok. Nationals of China, Pakistan, and Myanmar need to get prior approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Government of India, New Delhi) before they can apply for the Inner-Line Permit.

Communication

The nearest airport is Pakyong Airport (PYG) 30 kilometers from Town. Major Airport nearby is Bagdogra Airport (IXB) nearly 125 kilometers from Gangtok. The nearest major Railway Station is New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) and the nearest Bus Terminus is Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus (Junction) approximately 130 kilometers and is 04 hours drive by road along National Highway 10. Nearest Major City is Siliguri. It takes about 03 hours to reach Darjeeling & Kalimpong by car. Private taxis, shared taxis (available at NJP) and bus are the main public transports to reach Gangtok.

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About Tripsy

The journey started more than a decade ago when a financial consultant, a social activist and a biology researcher came together to start a business in tourism that none of them knew about. But travel is something they loved and enjoyed, and so they decided to change the paradigms in their own way. And they remarked “travel is more than a profession, it’s a passion”. Read More [+]

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