Discover Sikkim and include its top 10 must see landmarks in your forthcoming South Asia dream tour. Enchanting Sikkim has been named as the “best region to visit in 2014” by Lonely Planet, a leading global travel guide. Sikkim is situated at the foot of Mount Kanchendzonga and boasts of an unexplored beauty of the region. The View of Mt. Kanchendzonga dominates the skyline of Sikkim and invites tourists in its snow clad peaks, green emerald slopes, rushing streams, tall Rhododendrons, sparkling orchids and hilltop monasteries. Sikkim’s top 10 must see landmarks are listed here.
One of the top scenic spots in the Himalayas, is the capital of Sikkim. Gangtok, also known as the land of monasteries, is an important Buddhist pilgrimage centre and contains the popular Enchey Monastery. This monastery has religious significance and has gained prominence among the Buddhists. Furthermore, various attractions in Gangtok including Khangchendzonga, which is the 3rd highest peak in the world, can be explored. Other popular tourist attractions like Labrang Monastery and Rumtek Monastery are also well-liked spots in Gangtok. Apart from these, Gangtok also has a variety of flora and fauna in its Himalayan Zoological Park, and Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden.
The first capital of Sikkim, is considered sacred since the history of Sikkim began from here. Yuksom means “meeting place of the three learned monks”. According to the legend three monks from Tibet selected Phuntsog Namgyal as the first King of Sikkim and gave him the title Chogyal, meaning “religious King”. Historical records present that the first divine ruler of Sikkim was sanctified in 1641 by the three learned lamas. The evidence of the ceremony is still present in Norbugang Chorten. Yuksom is also the base camp for the trek to the famous Mt. Khangchendzonga. Besides, Dzongri Trek in Sikkim, the most popular trek in Sikkim, offers a fascinating view of Kanchenjunga, Mt. Pandim and the Kyangla ridge.
3. Rumtek Monastery
Built in 1717 and known for Dharma Chakra Centre, is a seat of the Kagyu lineage-one of the four major Tibetan Buddhist sects. Tourists can find Buddhist relics and religious scriptures in the monastery. The monastery displays the traditional design and is a replica of the Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet. The walls of the monastery are decorated with Thangka and frescoes. Losar, the New Year of the Tibetans, is also celebrated at this monastery. In addition, the monastery is decorated during the fourth lunar month when Dungdrub Puja is organized. Several monks recite millions of mantras in this monastery. It is believed that this ceremony is conducted to bring peace to the world and spread the teachings of Buddha.
4. Namgyal Institute
Known for the promoter of Tibetan culture, history, religion and art, houses the largest collection of Tibetan works outside Tibet. In addition, this institute also has a museum that houses a wide collection of Thangkas and statues. Ancient manuscripts in different languages such as Sanskrit, Lepcha, Chinese and Tibetan are also included in the collection displayed in the museum. One of the most important items that is showcased in the museum includes the huge silver idol of Manjushri, who is the Bodhisattva of Knowledge. The treasures of this museum also include the sandalwood idols of Padmasambhava and the relics of two Ashokan missionaries, Madhyama and Kasyapagotra. Besides, it also houses the Tibetan Library. The library is home to one of the largest collections of Tibetan works.
5. Do-Drul Chorten
The biggest stupa in Sikkim located on the hill hock, was built in 1945. Also popularly known as Phurba, this holy stupa was under the auspices of head of Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Trulshik Rinpoche. Built as desired by Dud-Zom Rinpoche in 1944, the stupa is girdled with 108 prayer wheels. These prayer wheels have a holy inscription engraved on it, Om Mani Padma Hum. The holy stupa embraces ‘Mandala’ sects of ‘Dorjee Phurba’ and one set of ‘Ka-gyur’ principles along with relics and mantras. Themed out in white, the stupa is also the emblematic symbol of peace, which has a pointed golden spire erected on the top. Inside the stupa, visitors can see large groups of eager and young learner monks along with old lamas studying and working.
6. Tsomgo Lake
Also recognized as “source of the lake” in Bhutia language is considered sacred by the local people. Just about 40 km away from Gangtok this serene lake is situated at an altitude of 12,000 ft on the Gangtok Nathu La highway-the old trade route from India to China. The average depth of the Lake is about 15 m and there is a Shiva temple located on the lakeside. The water in this lake has been collected from the snow that melts from the mountains located nearby. It’s cool, placid water harmonizes with the scenic beauty around. Between May and August it is possible to see wide variety of flowers in blooms, including the rhododendrons, blue and yellow poppies, irises etc. It is also an ultimate habitat for the red panda and various species of birds.
7. Tashi Viewpoint
A must visit site in Sikkim, is the best location for perfect view of Mount Kanchenjunga. The viewpoint, at a distance of 4 km from Gangtok, was constructed by the King of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal. In addition, the Phodong Monastery and the Labrang Monastery located on the opposite hills can also be seen from this viewpoint.
The beauty of South Sikkim at 5800 ft. above sea level, compels huge number of tourists. The place is surrounded by snow covered mountains and has a picturesque landscape. In addition to pleasing beauty there are number of tourist sites. Some others attractions of Borong that tempt visitors are: Ralong Monastery-built in 1995 for Sikkimese religious purpose, Borong Tsa-Chu-a popular hot spring, and Tinkitam-popular for offering a spectacular view of Mount Kanchenjunga. Visitors also have an option enjoying the scenic beauty of hill ranges from Borong. Mountains like Kanchenjunga, Pandim, Sinolchu and Narsing can be easily seen from Borong. Early morning view of this scenery is breathtaking.
9. Enchey Monastery
The 200 year old monastery, is one of the must see landmarks of Sikkim. Located at a distance of 3 km from the city, the solitary monastery is built on the spot, which is believed to be blessed by Lama Druptab Karpo. He was a Tantrik master who was known for his flying powers. The monastery is also an important seat of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery is considered sacred as it is believed that the protecting deities, Khangchendzonga and Yabdean reside in this monastery. Due to this belief, the monastery gained religious significance, and devotees visiting the place believe that all their wishes will be fulfilled by powerful deities. The monastery houses paintings, murals, and a large collection of masks as well.
10. Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden and Himalayan Zoological Park,
The top must see landmarks of Sikkim, are popular for showcasing Sikkim’s tremendous flora and fauna. Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden is home to different varieties of botanical species. This garden houses rare flowers, plants and trees including Orchids of Himalayan region. The garden also includes dense temperate forests of Oak. There are more than 50 different varieties of tree species located inside this garden. Owing to the variance in altitude ranging between 1,800 meter and 2,200 meter, a wide assortment of plants and animals is found here. Likewise, Himalayan Zoological Park is one of the best places for wildlife lovers. The park has been established with the aim to preserve wildlife in natural habitat. Sprawling over an area of 205 hectares, the Zoological Park is at an altitude of 1,780 meter from where beautiful view of Mount Kanchenjunga can also be viewed. The animals residing in this park are kept in replicated natural conditions. Most part of this park is covered with forests of Red Panda, Blue Sheep, Musk Deer, Barking Deer and Himalayan Black Bear. On passing through this park, one will come across hedged open-air enclosures. These enclosures are the habitats for Barking Deer, Panther, Red Pandas, Leopard Cat, Barking Beer, Himalayan Palm Civet and Tibetan Wolf.