Gangtok, the gateway to the heavenly North East India and the capital of Sikkim, offers a plethora of wonders for tourist. From tranquil monasteries and exotic mountains to exciting adventure parks, Gangtok has it all. On an average, sightseeing in and around the city would take two days. Here is what to do if you have 24 hours in Gangtok.
1. Chorten Gumpa
Do-drul Chorten is a stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa lie a complete set of Dorjee Phurba (dagger spike), Kangyur relics (holy books) and other religious objects.
Around the stupa are 108 prayer wheels. These when rotated in the correct direction while reciting the prayer, bring good luck. We also met a cat peacefully snapping behind the prayer bell. The main prayer hall is also open for visitors with prior permission. The stupa site is next to the Tibetology Centre. You can spend 30 to 45 minutes here. After we left, we were stuck in traffic for one hour before reaching Banjhakri Waterfall)
Entry fee- None
Timing- 8am to 6pm
2. Banjhakhri Waterfall
This is a recreation centre and tourist attraction near Gangtok spread over 2 acres of land. The park is based on a theme of shamanic traditions of the people of Sikkim. (Traditional shamanic healer who worships spirits living in caves around the falls).
The park has a waterfall, an artificial lake with a dragon in the centre; gazebos; statues of jhākri and ancestors, sculptures of forest dwellers, Burma Bridge and adventure activities. The paved paths and footbridges wind through the beautiful garden decorated with ornamental trees and flowers.
Entry Fee: Rs. 50 per person, Rs 10 as camera fee. You will find lot of eating joints in and around the place. (We stayed here for about one and a half hours and reached Rumtek by 2pm)
Timing– 8am to 6pm
3. Rumtek Monastery
22 km from Gangtok at an altitude of 4900 feet, Rumtek is the largest and one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery has a controversial history dating back to 1994. The multi-layered buildings with tiers of white, yellow and oxblood has the throne of Karmapa in a grand assembly hall, where ornate wooden casements hold 1,000 Buddha statuettes and several ancient manuscripts. Home to several monks and the Nalanda University for Buddhism studies, Rumtek also houses the golden stupa with relics of 16th Karmapa. The place is tranquil and full of positive vibes, where you can spend some time meditating.
This place is huge and takes about 1.5- 2 hours to explore. The roads to reach Rumtek are in bad condition and takes lot of time to reach. Carry your ID proof with you which is checked at the monastery main gate by ITBP. Weapons, sharp/inflamable objects, pepper spray etc are not allowed beyond the second gate. Rather leave them in your taxi. Photography inside the monastery is prohibited. (We left at 5 pm as it had started turning dark)
Entry fee- Rs 10
Timing– Open 24 hours
4. Hanuman Tok
The Hanuman Temple (Tok) is known as the place where the monkey lord rested for a while during his search of Sanjeevani Booti. The roads pass through the curvy path of the forest area. Maintained by the Indian Army, the temple on the hill top treats you with a magnificent view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. A visit to this place is a spiritual sojourn.
As you ascend the stairs, a distant prayer or bell greets your ears, filling you with positive vibes.
Entry is free. The roads have no streetlight and are frequented by wild animals. Avoid visiting after dark. (We reached the temple around 6 pm and headed to Ganesh Tok)
5. Ganesh Tok
A small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh offers a bird’s eye view of the town below. Built in 1952-53 by Shri Appa B. Pant, the former Political Officer of Sikkim, the site has been beautified to provide superb view of the town and distant rolling hills and snowy peaks. This is a humble temple place with no extravagant carvings or designs yet feels beautiful, especially during evening. The temple is not wheelchair friendly and requires a flight of stairs to mount.
6. Tashi View Point
It was pitch dark by the time we reached Tashi View Point. It is an elevated place to view the city dotted by colourful greens and bright hues. Had we reached on time, we could have enjoyed sunset view. However, we made the best out of the opportunity and captured the twinkling city view at night. Personally, we think Tashi View Point isn’t that great. We’re sure there are several other elevated places to watch the city.
8. MG Road and Market
Unlike Mall roads of all hill stations, Gangtok has Mahatma Gandhi road. The happening market place is a great destination for shopping and eating to heart’s content. You can spend the entire day loitering in the market and get great bargains.
Apart from the above, Gangtok sight seeing also includes Lingdam Monastery, Himalayan Zoological Park, Saat Kanya Jharna and Saramsa Garden. We had little time in hand. Hence we had to skip these places. In case your itinerary also includes cable car ride, we’d advise you to do that on your own instead of buying it in a package. This is because you would spend two hours in the queue for tickets and half an hour less if lucky. Add one more hour for waiting for your turn followed by a to and fro journey in the cable car. Here your cab driver will get a break for a good three hours while you finish your trolley ride. The taxi union has fixed the rates of sightseeing, saving you the hassles of negotiation.
The cabbies swear by the rate list and do not deviate. However, what they don’t mention is the fact that all the places in the itinerary cannot be covered in one day. They might give you a list of 7-10 places but it is next to impossible to cover them all in a day because of following reasons:
1. Most of the time the narrow roads of Gangtok are packed with traffic. On unusual days, the waiting time is long as two hours.
2. Places like Rumtek or Hanuman Tok are quite far and the roads are extremely rough causing cars to slow down. Ask your driver to take you to Rumtek first which is 22 km from Gangtok. By the time you’d return, it would be dark and several sight points would shut by then.
3. If your itinerary includes the rope-way ride, you would lose three hours straight. Even if you get a place in the never-ending queue, make sure you make it to the ticket counter before 12:30 pm as they break for lunch. Since the cable car ferries only 20 people at once and returns from the ride in 15 minutes, the waiting time is painfully long. It’s wise to skip rope-way from the itinerary and do it separately.
4. Chorten Gumpa and Tibetology Center are next to each other. The Tibetology Center is recommended only if Tibetan Culture or the idea of a museum/school sounds interesting. If you should spend a considerable amount of time here, you might miss out other major sight-seeing points.
Husband and I had planned the day with 6 view points. Therefore, we skipped Tibetology Institute, Flower Show and Rope-way Ride (the latter we had done in advance).
Be a smart traveler and spend 24 hours in Gangtok wisely. If you are planning your Sikkim getaway, do let us know if we could be of help to you.
P.S: This trip of ours was in October 2018.