Sikkim Travel Guide by Baichung Bhutia

Sikkim might be one of the smallest states in India, but offers a wide enough range of destinations and activities to launch a thousand trips. While views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, continue to dominate the list of reasons to visit.

The untouched forests, local monasteries and offbeat treks provide plenty of reasons to stay on.

Sikkim might be one of the smallest states in India, but offers a wide enough range of destinations and activities to launch a thousand trips.

South Sikkim holds a special place in my heart. The population is largely Nepali, and thanks to it being scarcely populated, it makes for an excellent offbeat destination.

Ravangla

Having been born here, South Sikkim holds a special place in my heart. The population is largely Nepali, and thanks to it being scarcely populated, it makes for an excellent offbeat destination. My perfect trip would start with Ravangla — an idyllic town that makes for a lovely base for the other destinations and has a personality of its own. Located on the ridge between the Maenam and Tendong hills, it has magnificent views and — at 7000ft — is a perfect place to catch your breath before moving on to higher altitudes.

Namchi

After a couple of days getting acclimatized to the cold in Ravangla, you can head to Namchi — literally meaning ‘sky high’ and commanding magestic views of the Kanchendzonga range and the Ringit valley — a destination that is fast catching on with travellers. Just a 45 minute drive from there lies my hometown — Tinkitan — a cozy village tucked away in the hills that I strongly recommend if you want a quiet few days to yourself in the lap of breathtaking beauty.

If you are one for adventure and have a couple of more days to spare, you can head back to Ravangla and take a day-long trek up to Maenam Hill — which, on a sunny day, will offer a view that you are likely to never forget.

Sikkim is a delightful place to call home. And though this is only a small glimpse, I hope it will leave you wanting more.

Ralang Monastery

This is one of the most magnificent monasteries in Sikkim, and I am particularly awed by the amazing collection of paintings displayed here. Though the original Ralang monastery is located farther away and is slightly less accessible, the new one — established in 1995 — is well connected by road and lies only 6 kms from Ravangla. Though it is new, the monastery is constructed in the traditional Tibetan style of architecture and has a great sense of serenity about it. If you have some time to spare, I suggest you take a walk up to the old monastery too — which, though smaller, is nestled between lush green trees and is worth every bit of the effort.

Buddha Park

This brand new park — housing a 130-foot statue of Lord Buddha — can be clubbed with the Ralang monastery on a day trip. It makes for a pleasant evening walk with plenty of murals of different Buddhas behind the statue. Though I have never seen the statue lit up, I hear it looks spectacular by night.

Temi Tea Garden

Temi Tea Garden is one of the most lovely day-trips I have taken. It is beautiful in nearly all seasons — if the skies are clear, the Kanchenjunga forms the perfect backdrop to swathes of endless greenery; if not, the cloud cover and fog only add drama to the landscape, making the green greener and the views more breathtaking. Tall trees line the tea estate, adding a spot of colour to the surroundings. It is a photographer’s delight in the true sense — every glance is a picture. However, if you want some of the actual tea, you will have to head to Gangtok!

Char Dham

This is one of the most popular destinations in Namchi. An imitation of the main Hindu pilgrimage spots — the four dhams and the 12 jyotirlingas — all within one compound. Situated at one of the highest points in the town, I enjoy the views and the serenity that pervades this place.

Maenam Hill

If you are feeling particularly outdoorsy after your stint in Tinkitam and find yourself in the midst of favourable weather, I recommend that you take the trek up to Maenam hill from Ravangla on your way back. It takes about three hours one way and you will be walking through dense forest and an amazing diversity of flora all along. The views from the top, if the skies are clear, are ethereal. It is not a particularly steep trek, so it allows plenty of opportunity to look around and admire the spectacular surroundings.