Gangtok is the capital and the only big city in Sikkim. However, it is not just any other big city in India. For starters, it is a much cleaner and more organized place than you can usually expect in Indian cities. But more importantly, there are ancient monasteries, high-altitude lakes, and mountain passes within touching distance. The most popular attractions here are the Buddhist Monasteries like Rumtek Monastery, Lingdum Monastery and the Enchey Monastery. Each of them has their own rich history and rich collection of historical artifacts, which is made better by the epic landscapes in the horizon.
Gangtok is nowadays a big city and it works as a gateway to more exotic areas of the Himalayan state of Sikkim. However, you can also enjoy Gangtok itself before going further. That is why I am trying to discuss what can be done in Gangtok within a day or two.
Sightseeing Around Gangtok
You can drive to Gangtok (100 KMs/ 3.5 Hrs) from Darjeeling. However, now Pakyong airport has come up near Gangtok. Check into a hotel or homestay out there. Use the second half of the day for local sightseeing. You will find scores of monasteries, chortens, and other Buddhist attractions in the city. You can also drive a bit out of the town to visit nearby monasteries such as Rumtek, Enchey, and Lingdum. In the evening, walk around the glitzy marketplace at MG Road, and enjoy a good Thakali Thali. In the meanwhile, don’t forget to collect your permits for Nathu La and Yumthang (Any tour operator can arrange it once you provide your ID and photographs).
Nightlife in Gangtok
Make no mistake, Gangtok is not a sleepy hill town where the fund ends after sunset. There is vibrant nightlife in Gangtok that you can enjoy. There are many nightclubs, cafes, and restaurants with live music. More interestingly, Sikkim is one of the two states in India where gambling is legal! So, Gangtok is one place where you can try your luck at a casino. The most famous casinos here are Casino Mahjong and Casino Deltin Denzong.
Nathu La Detour
You can go for a day trip to Changu Lake (Also spelt Tsomgo Lake) at 3700 meters and Nathu La at 4300 meters. These are located barely at a distance of 55 KMs but do note that it is difficult high altitude road and also it tends to get jammed due to excessive tourist flow. So, start early in the morning. The views depend on the season. In the winter, the lake gets completely frozen and people can even walk above it. Otherwise, you will get delirious bluish-green water. Nathu La, as you might know, is an ancient trading route connecting to Tibet. It was the part of a branch of the Old Silk Route that eventually connected China to the ports of Bengal. There are restrictions here due to security reasons. Return to Gangtok in the evening and relax.
Stay in Gangtok
Gangtok has a huge number of hotels and resorts where you can stay. If you are a budget traveller, there are hostels too. I also stayed at Tagalong Backpacker Hostel while I was there. However, public transport is a bit problematic in Sikkim as many remote places do not have bus connectivity. That is why it is better to go in a group and hire a cab. I used the service of Sikkim Cab Rental Co. during my trip.