Gangtok is a popular place with tourists heading on treks, though the facilities do not reflect the number of international visitors. However, efforts are being made by the government to improve the conditions. Gangtok would be easily one of the most cleanest cities you would ever come across, highly organized and beautifully maintained it the Switzerland of the east. Tourists are of paramount of importance, hence rules have been laid in order to prevent tourists from being cheated. Fares of Cabs are mostly fixed for such reason. A really nice place to unwind. Quite a few places for vegetarians to eat since it is mostly dominated by Buddhist culture. The city resembles the Bhutanese capital. Devoid of large stores, book shops this place is an nice break away from typical city lives. Still, the city is a fascinating place to spend a few nights, the winding side alleys hide some unexpected gems, and the main street (MG Marg) is pedestrianized and a pleasant place to take a stroll.
The city sleeps by 9pm mostly, except for a few pubs which are open till 11pm.
Gangtok, the land of monasteries, is also the largest town of Sikkim. Situated in the Shivalik Hills and lying at an altitude of 1437 metres, it’s an important Buddhist Pilgrimage Centre. Gangtok gained religious significance among the Buddhists after the construction of the Enchey Monastery in the latter part of the 19th century.
It was an important trade centre between the British and Tibet during the 19th century. Gangtok was made the capital of Sikkim in 1894 by Thutob Namgyal, who was a monarch under the British Rule. When India gained independence in 1947, Sikkim chose to be an independent monarchy and Gangtok continued to be its capital.
However, in 1975, after a period of strife and struggle, Sikkim was finally made an Indian state and Gangtok was made its official capital. The city suffered a major setback in its trade relations with Tibet after the Nathu La Pass was closed following the Sino-Indian war of 1962. However, the Pass has been opened in 2006, and Gangtok has again started functioning as a major trade point between India and Tibet.
The region enjoys mild temperature conditions with the maximum temperature not going beyond 22-25° Celsius throughout the year. This is characterized by the presence of temperate as well as deciduous forests of birch and oak in the region.
Most of the economy of Gangtok depends on tourism. A large part of the population of the town is employed in the tourism sector. Of late, eco-tourism has picked up in the region with tourists being offered the opportunity of trekking, rafting as well as mountaineering.
Best Time to Visit:
The best time to visit Gangtok is between October and mid-December when clear views of the Himalayan peaks are guaranteed or again between March and May when the flowers are in bloom. January and February means snow in the higher altitudes and visits to many of the tourist spots are not possible, as roads remain closed. June to September brings heavy rains causing landslides that often disrupt communication.
How to Get There:
By Air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra near Siliguri, which is at a distance of 124 km from Gangtok. The taxi fare from the airport to Gangtok is about Rs 2000. This airport is connected to Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati. International travelers can get connecting flights from Kolkata or Delhi. Both are well connected with many cities in India and abroad.
Helicopter services are available from Bagdogra to Gangtok, only once during a day. It takes about 20 minutes one way flight.
On Tracks: The nearest rail is New Jalpaiguri, which is nearly 148 km away from Gangtok. Taxi cab will charge about Rs 2000. This is well connected to most of the major cities in India.
By Bus: Gangtok city is well connected to other cities in Sikkim and the neighboring states by bus services. Private tourist buses are available from Gangtok to Bagdogra (124 km) and to Siliguri (114 km).