“My imagination is a monastery, and I am its monk.”
― John Keats
John Keats said it metaphorically, of course! But imagine a place where there is an enchanting monastery at every point all around the city. Welcome to the Land of Monasteries: Gangtok, Sikkim! Gangtok has been a pilgrimage for the Buddhists and Monks for decades and continues to do so. This mesmerizing hill station has also attracted many tourists and is one of the key destinations in India for a summer vacation!
So, how can you reach this precious hill station? Well, you can catch a train from your city to New Jalpaiguri railway station. From there you can book a shared cab and reach Gangtok in almost 5 hours (117 km). Since it is a mountain road, it takes more time than a usual highway would. Once you reach your destination, Gangtok, it is easy to navigate and find hotels and restaurants. Tourists who prefer to travel by flight can reach the nearest airport, Bagdogra airport, from their respective cities. Upon reaching, you can start your journey with the site seeing straightaway.
1. Tsomgo Changu Lake
One of the most scenic sites near Gangtok, Tsomgo Changu lake is a glacial lake that is spread in an area of 24.47 hectares. The name originated from the Bhutia language and means “source of water”. Before the lake was formed, it was a shed for yaks to stay and it was surrounded by a village where early tribal people lived. But as the lake formed, it is believed that it submerged the entire village and there were no traces of life left.
The source of the water in the lake is still unknown and it is predicted that the water comes from glaciers. The water surface is very clear with the surrounding mountains perfectly reflecting on it. This gives the lake a mirror-like appearance.
How to reach: It is 44 km away from Gangtok and takes almost 1 hour 30 mins to reach via taxi.
Best time to visit: between April to September.
Highlights: The reflection of the surrounding mountains on the glass-like water surface is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. You can also spot a yak or two.
2. Nathu La Pass
The word “Nathu” in Tibetan means listening ears and La means pass. The Nathu la pass is situated high up in the Himalayas and it connects Sikkim to Tibet. The Nathula pass has huge contributions to Indian trade and economy. It has also helped in improving international relations with China. It is one of the best places to visit on your Gangtok trip.
How to reach: It is 66 km away from Gangtok and it takes almost 2 hours via cab.
Best time to visit: from May to October
Highlights: If you are a snow lover, you might as well be lucky to find snow-covered areas here. It is a humble abode for trekkers and hikers.
3. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
Tibetology means the study of Tibetan history, traditions, culture, art, and language. Named after the 11th Chogyal of Sikkim, Sir Tashi Namgyal, this institution and museum have attracted various visitors and tourists from all over the world. The museum celebrates the rich Tibetan culture which has influenced the state of Sikkim for generations.
It was inaugurated on 1st October 1958 by former Prime minister Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. The ambiance inside is the most peaceful, and the museum hosts information about the history of Tibetan monasteries and so on. It is one of the most historical places to visit in Gangtok.
How to reach: it is located in the main city of Gangtok and can be reached via local taxi.
Visiting hours: From 10 am to 4 pm (Monday to Saturday, Sunday closed). There is an entry fee of Rs. 10 per person.
Highlights: It has a rich collection of art, culture, history, language, and religion of Tibetan people,
4. Tashi View Point
A vantage point situated at a high altitude, the Tashi View Point provides a spectacular view of Himalayan mountain peaks like the Kanchenjunga, Simbu, and Sinochalu peaks. It was built around 1914 by the Sikkim king, Tashi Namgyal and it is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok.
The altitude at which Tashi View Point is located is 6000 ft. There are many handicrafts stalls here where you can buy traditional Sikkimese bone China and other showpieces.
How to reach: it is about 7 km away from the city center.
Best time to visit: from March to June.
Highlights: A spectacular view of the Kanchenjunga Mountain.
5. Seven Sisters Waterfall
What are hill stations without waterfalls? Nothing, right? The Seven Sisters Waterfall is one such pristine location and one of the best places to visit in Gangtok. Spectators can click photos or enjoy a picnic with their families, lovers can sit and talk about their romantic endeavors and children can play in the water. The gurgling sounds of the falls will mesmerize you the most.
As the name suggests, the seven Sisters Waterfall is a group of seven small falls and together they make this brilliant display. During the monsoons, these falls are full of water and allure the visitors. The photographic shed near it is meant for clicking pictures with a beautiful backdrop of these falls.
How to reach: it is 31 km away from Gangtok and a taxi should solve the purpose.
Best time to visit: from May to June.
Highlights: Explore the waterfalls and the trekking trails that surround the area.
6. Kanchenjunga Mountain
The third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga is one of the mountains in the Himalayan range. The word Kanchenjunga is of Tibetan origin which means “The five treasures of the high snow”. The height of this mountain is 8,586 m. The area is also converted into a National park of the same name as there are many exotic species found.
When the sun rays fall on the snow-capped peaks of this mountain, it acquires a rich golden color which appears as if the peak is embedded with gold. This distinct phenomenon can be seen from any of the Kanchenjunga viewpoints in Gangtok.
How to reach: Pelling is the nearest town from where Kanchenjunga can be viewed very clearly.
Best time to visit: from April to June and from September to October.
Highlights: During sunset and sunrise, the mountain peak glows with a distinct golden color.
7. Ganesh Tok
For all the Hindu pilgrims that come here, Ganesh Tok is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok. The temple is quite small and as the name suggests, the idol that is worshipped here is Lord Ganesha. The whole temple is decorated with colorful flags and that gives an aesthetic look to the shrine. People come here to worship and enjoy the view of the mountains visible from here.
How to reach: it is situated at an altitude of 6500 m and is 7 km from Gangtok.
Visiting hours: the gates open at 6 am.
Highlights: Panoramic view of the entire city of Gangtok.
8. Hanuman Tok
Another hotspot for the Hindu pilgrims, Hanuman Tok has been the “talk” of Gangtok trip for ages and is one of the best places to visit on your Gangtok trip. There is a gigantic red Hanuman idol that marks the area from far away. So it’s like, you are on the mountain road and you can spot the yay-big statue before you even reach there. You can also spectate the amazing view of the city below.
How to reach: It is about 11 km far from Gangtok.
Visiting hours: The gates open at 6 am.
Highlights: The large orange statue of hanuman.
9. Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary
Here’s to the Safari lovers! The Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary has a vast variety of flora and fauna, with a dense habitation of evergreen and semi-evergreen trees. Travelers usually come here to explore the biodiversity of flora and fauna.
It houses some exotic mountain varieties of wildlife and plantations. The government organizes Jeep Safaris. So, if you are a Safari lover, then this site is a must-visit for you. And who knows, you might have some sightings too if you are lucky enough!
How to reach: it takes about 43 min (19.5 km) via Gangtok-Chungthang Road.
Best time to visit: March to late May and September to mid-December.
Highlights: Safaris and wildlife photography spots.
10. Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
This Zoological Park is the largest high-altitude zoo in India. It is situated at a height of 7000 feet above sea level and was open for spectators in 1958. It houses some of the endangered alpine species like snow leopard, red pandas, and Himalayan wolf. It is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok.
The park is named in the honor of Padmaja Naidu, daughter of Sarojini Naidu. The zoo is also a center for captive breeding of red pandas under the program name Central Zoo Authority of India’s red panda program.
How to reach: 97 km away from Gangtok and it takes almost 3.5 hours to reach.
Visiting hours: 08:30 am – 04:30 pm. The entry fee is 20 Rs. per person.
Highlights: Red Pandas, Himalayan wolves, and snow leopards.
11. Do-Drul Chorten Stupa
Here’s an interesting story about this tourist site! Legends have it that this site was a haunted place many years ago. And the spirits here were very violent and evil. So anyone who went near this place never returned! When in 1946, a Tibetan lama named Trulshik Rinpoche came here for hermitage, he built the Do Drul Chorten Stupa to drive away all the evil spirits.
The Stupa is built on a hilltop and falls within walking distance from the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. The top of the building has a golden deity that is visible from afar. The inside, like any other monastery, has a peaceful environment that puts you at ease within moments. It is one of the best places to visit while you are on your way to Gangtok local sightseeing.
How to reach: It is within the reach of the city of Gangtok and can be reached via local cabs.
Visiting Hours: Open all days from 6 am to 8 pm.
Highlights: The Tibetan architecture and relics inside the building.
12. Phodong Monastery
Gangtok is the land of monasteries and Tibetan culture. Built in the 18th century by Chogyal Gyurmed Namgyal, Phodong Monastery is one of the most popular monasteries of the Gangtok trip. Here you can explore the rich traditions and worshipping methods of the Buddhists and Tibetans and even try some of their meditation techniques. The whole area is surrounded by surreal mountains and green valleys which give you a picture-perfect backdrop for your photos. It is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok.
How to reach: It takes one-and-a-half hours to reach via road.
Visiting Hours: from 9 am to 5 pm.
Highlights: The Tibetan architecture and relics inside the building
13. Rumtek Monastery
Also known as the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, this monastery was inaugurated in the year 1966 and belongs to the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In the local language, it is called a gompa, which means a Buddhist building of learning, lineage, and worship and is built in a remote place.
Surrounded by a rich history and a pinch of controversy, this monastery has served as a pilgrimage attraction for many tourists. The inside of the monastery is as peaceful as any other Buddhist monastery and meditation here can be a blissful experience. The controversy that haunts this place is the talk of the town and it is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok.
How to reach: It takes 44 mins (21.8 km) via Ranipool-Rumtek-Sang Rd
Visiting hours: It is open 24 hours
Highlights: The story of the controversy behind the ownership of this Monastery.
14. Temi Tea Garden
One of the best in the world, the Temi Tea Garden grows exotic organic tea plantations and the processed products are exported to various countries. Established in 1969 by the government of Sikkim, it is one of the largest producers of tea in the country. The tea quality is considered the best in the world. Not to mention, the beauty of these gardens surrounded by mountains that are enveloped in clouds. Visiting the tea gardens in monsoons is a blissful experience. And who knows, you might as well spot a rainbow there.
How to reach: It is almost 46 km away from Gangtok.
Best time to visit: From March to May
Highlights: you can experience the aroma of exotic tea species and buy your favorite flavors too.
15. Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple
Mountains are rich in folklore and stories. One of these stories is the one of Baba Harbhajan Singh. He was an ex-military who died after a drowning accident. A search party was launched to find his body but it wasn’t successful. Soon after, somebody dreamt of him telling where his body lies and surely enough, they found it right there! Legends say that during an Indo-Chinese war, the spirit of baba used to warn the soldiers of any attacks three days prior.
All these stories surround this Memorial Temple in the name of Baba Harbhajan Singh. Thousands of pilgrims visit here to worship and know about the legends of Saint Baba. The aura here is magical indeed and the history is definitely something that interests the tourists.
How to reach: While you are at the Nathu la Pass, this destination is about 19 mins away.
Best time to visit: From April to November.
Highlights: the holy shrine of Baba Harbhajan Singh
16. Mahatma Gandhi Marg
What is a hill station without a Mall road? That’s right! Mahatma Gandhi Marg, commonly known as the MG Road, is in the heart of the town of Gangtok. From food outlets to traditional Tibetan attire, you will find everything here. It is one of the places in Gangtok for Gangtok local sightseeing.
There are hundreds of shops aligned on both sides and the walking area has benches where you can sit and enjoy your vacation time. The real essence of the Gangtok trip is here where you can buy handicrafts and eat dumplings! The evening lights make the mall road look as ravishing as ever!
How to reach: It is in the very heart of the city.
Best time to visit: Throughout the year, especially in the early monsoon season.
Highlights: Enjoy the food street of Gangtok along with shopping.
17. Goecha La Pass
Another high pass situated in the Himalayan range, the Goecha La Pass is one of the best places to visit Gangtok and especially for trek lovers. The hike is moderate and the slopes are only slightly steep. The terrain only becomes difficult as one reaches the heights. If you are a beginner, you can easily enjoy the trek up to the Goecha La Pass and enjoy the snow-capped mountains around you meanwhile.
How to reach: It is 52 km away from Gangtok, Sikkim.
Best time to visit: from September to November.
Highlights: A popular trekking destination.
18. Palzor Football stadium
Here’s an attraction for all sports lovers, especially if you are a football enthusiast! It is not exactly known when the Palzor Football stadium was constructed but it was roughly around 1943. Currently, it can hold around thirty thousand spectators at once. The stadium has been upgraded over the course of years and it now holds all the state premier league matches.
Address: Palzor Stadium Rd, Upper Sichey, Arithang, Gangtok, Sikkim 737101
Best time to visit: Open 24 hours
Highlights: Football league matches
19. Ban Jhakri Falls and Park
A recreational area in Gangtok, the Ban Jhakri Falls is another place to visit here. The words ‘Ban’ means ‘forest’ and ‘Jhakri’ means ‘healer’. The park is dedicated to the religious sect of shamanic healers and you will find statues of the same all around the park. The area is covered with dense flora and during monsoons, the falls gushing down are the most mesmerizing thing you’ll ever see and it is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok.
How to reach: The falls is about 7 km away from Gangtok.
Best time to visit: Monsoons
Highlights: The recreational park is an attraction for children.
20. Ridge Park
Ridge Park is one of the best places to visit in Gangtok. Heaven for botanists and botany enthusiasts, this park houses numerous varieties of flowers and plant species which are a gem to the eye. It is one of the places in Gangtok for Gangtok local sightseeing.
An annual exhibit is hosted each year at the flower exhibition center located just below the park. The park also has gazebos for the visitors who want to rest for a little while after walking around the park.
How to reach: A local destination of the city of Gangtok. A local taxi should solve the purpose.
Visiting hours: 9:30 am to 4 pm. The flower exhibition center is open 24 hours.
Highlights: The Flower Exhibition Center
21. Tashiding Monastery
This monastery is considered to be the holiest monastery in Sikkim. The shrine belongs to the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is situated on another hilltop. The entire monastery is decorated with Tibetan flags and the inside of the monastery is the most peaceful.
The annual festival of the Buddhists, that is Bumchu, occurs here on the 14-15th of the first month of their lunar calendar. The word Bumchu means “holy water” and it is celebrated to predict all the upcoming events of Sikkim in the coming year. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important festivals of this religion.
How to reach: it is 98 km away from Gangtok, Sikkim.
Visiting hours: 07:00 am – 07:00 pm
Highlights: The Tibetan architecture and relics inside the building.
22. Gonjang Monastery
It is one of the distinctive monasteries of Gangtok and situated at a height of 6,066 feet above sea level. Named after H.E. Tingkye Gonjang Rimpoche, it was established in 1981. You can spot a hundred monks here as they live in this monastery. It is also a hub for students who are pursuing Monastic schooling and education along with the Tibetan language. A Health Care Centre has also been set up here for delivering medical facilities to monks and the local people.
The monastery looks magnificent if you take a glance from the outside of the building. In the interior of this monastery, you will witness one of the Idols of Khen-lop Cho-Sum and 3 saint personalities, also known as the founding Fathers of Tibetan Buddhism from the 8th century.
How to reach: Gonjang Monastery is situated at Fatak Bojhogari near Tashi Viewpoint in Gangtok, Sikkim, which is precisely at a distance of 8 km from Gangtok Bus Station.
Best time to visit: Throughout the year.
Highlights: The inscribed statues of the 25 disciples of Guru Padmasambhava called Je-bang Nyer-Nga.
23. Pemayangtse Monastery
The second oldest monastery of Sikkim, the Pemayangtse Monastery was founded in the year 1705. The word Pemayangtse means “perfect sublime lotus”. During the summers, the beauty of this monastery is especially highlighted as the clear skies complement the natural background of the architecture. Being 3000 years old, it is a great site for meditation and discovering the religious traditions of Buddhism.
How to reach: It is 110 kilometers from the capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok.
Best Time to Visit: from March to June.
Highlights: ruins of Rabdentse can be witnessed from Pemayangtse Monastery.
24. Enchey Monastery
The exact meaning of Enchey Monastery is ‘Solitary Temple’. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Gangtok and is located 3 km northeast of Gangtok. It belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. The location was co-founded by Lama Drupthob Karpo, an eminent spokesperson of meditational art adapted by Buddhism.
It has been heard and known that initially a small Gompa was established by him after which he flew from Maenam Hill in South Sikkim to this site. And after coming back from the south of Sikkim he built a small refuge hermitage at the site of the monastery.
How to reach: While you are going to Do-Drul Chorten Stupa, you can visit this monastery on your way.
Visiting Hours: from 9 am to 6 pm.
Highlights: Festivals during the months of January and February. You can also witness Chaam dance, a religious masked folk dance.
25. Sa-Ngor-Chotshog Centre
An institution and monastery for Tibetan refugees, the Sa-Ngor-Chotshog Centre has a collection of Buddhist murals and thangkas. There is also a huge statue of Buddha in a Shakyamuni form and the outer area of the building is decorated with colorful prayer flags.
How to reach: It takes about 42 mins to reach via cab.
Visiting hours: 8 am to 6 pm.
Highlights: The Tibetan architecture and relics inside the building.
26. Tathagata Tsal
The Tathagata Tsal or the Buddha Park of Ravangla was built between 2006 to 2013. The main attraction of this park is a 130 feet high Buddha statue. The park was inaugurated to celebrate the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha. The whole area is gigantic with mountains surrounding the whole park.
There is a lake surrounded by forests and trekkers can walk up to the lake to explore the plantations. There is also a meditation center, a Buddhist conclave, and a museum with a spiral gallery. There is also a viewpoint at the far end of the park, opposite the Buddha statue where spectators can have a panoramic view of the entire park.
How to reach: It takes about 2.5 hours to reach via cab.
Visiting hours: It is open from 9 am to 6 pm. The entry fee is 50 Rs. per head.
Highlights: 130 feet high Buddha statue, Rabong monastery.
27. Khecheopalri Lake
The Khecheopalri Lake is located in the Khecheopalri Village, a tribal village near Gangtok. The locals named the lake “Sho Dzo Sho” which means “Oh lady, sit here.” This lake is considered to be a sacred one for the villagers and pilgrims alike. It is said that if you wish for something here, it comes true. The nearby hill, called the Khecheopalri hill is also one of the sacred hills of Tibetan culture and is known for its landscape. The lake is located in the valley of rice or Demazong.
How to reach: It is 152 km away from Gangtok.
Best time to visit: In the winter from October to February.
Highlights: This landscape is also known as a land of hidden treasures blessed by Guru Padmasambhava.
28. Reshi Hot Spring
Sikkim is best known for its hot springs. Among all the others, Reshi Hot Spring is the most famous hot spring in the area. It holds a special stature due to its location and religious significance and also because of its medicinal value. It is believed to cure skin diseases and hence people come here to take a dip in the therapeutic waters.
The spring is situated on the banks of the Rangit River and adjacent to it is a small monastery and a holy cave called the “Lho Khandro Sang Phug”.
How to reach: around 20-25 km from Gangtok.
Best time to visit: between December to February
Highlights: The water has medicinal values and is known to cure skin diseases.
29. Kabi Longstok
A small town in Sikkim, Kabi Longstok is one of the most visited places. The town has a historical significance; a friendship treaty was signed between the Bhutia chief Khey Bum Sar and the Lepcha chief Tekung Tek. A stone pillar marks the location where this treaty was signed and this is one of the major attractions among tourists.
How to reach: It is about 17 km far from Gangtok.
Best time to visit: during the months of October and June
Highlights: A stone pillar marking the location of the signing event.
30. Saramsa Garden
The Saramsa Garden was constructed in 1922 and it served as a cultivation ground for the local colonial officers. This site is also known as Ipecac Garden because of the cultivation of the medicinal plant ipecacuanha.
But after a few years, the cultivation of Ipecac was banned and since then it has become a recreational site for spectators and a picnic spot for locals and tourists alike. Currently, there are a number of plant species growing in the gardens. It is one of the most popular places to visit on the Gangtok trip.
How to reach: It is about 13 km away from Gangtok, Sikkim.
Visiting hours: 8 am to 6 pm
Highlights: A popular recreational site for children and picnic-goers.
31. Gangtok Ropeway
The real beauty of the Gangtok trip can be experienced only when you are flying in the sky. But of course, humans can’t and that is where the ropeway kicks in. These cable cars link Deorali Bazaar with Tashiling Secretariat and offer a panoramic view of mountains & the city. It is one of the places in Gangtok for Gangtok local sightseeing.
Address: 8JC6+WV7, Vishal Gaon, Gangtok, Sikkim 737102
Timings: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm
Highlights: Enjoy the aerial view of the city.
32. Tinkitam Village
Another nearby town of Gangtok and Namchi, the Tinkitam Village has been a budding tourist destination in the past decade. Mount Kanchenjunga is located near this town and can be viewed very clearly from here. The atmosphere here is as fresh as ever and one can truly enjoy the perks of hill stations!
How to reach: it takes 2.5 hours to reach the village from Gangtok, Sikkim.
Best time to visit: from October to November.
Highlights: a dormant volcano that one can come across during the trek from Dentham to Tendong National Park.
33. Siddheshwar Dham (Char Dham)
For any Hindu pilgrim, the original “char dham yatra” is considered to be the holiest of all. But it may not be possible for each one of us. Situated in a small town called Namchi, the Siddheshwar Dham offers an experience just like the Dham Yatra.
Built in a vast area at the top of the Solophok hill, this tourist venture houses a gigantic statue of Lord Shiva, replicas of the four dhams, and jyotirlingas of Somnath, Mallikarjuna, Mahakaleshwar, Omkareshwar, Kedarnath, Bhimashankar, Viswanath, Trimbakeshwar, Vaidyanath, Nageswar, Rameshwar and Grishneshwar.
How to reach: It takes around 2 hours and 20 mins from Gangtok to reach by road.
Visiting hours: 06:00 AM to 09:00 PM. The entry fee is 50 Rs. per person.
Highlights: 108 feet statue of Lord Shiva.
34. Teesta River
While you are on your way to your Gangtok trip from Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, you will come across this magnificent water body which stretches up to 414 km. There are many bridges on the road to your Gangtok trip where you can hover over the river. The Teesta River is a tributary of the Brahmaputra river and flows through many districts of Sikkim and West Bengal.
How to reach: It falls on the road while going to Gangtok from Jalpaiguri.
Best time to visit: from December to June.
Highlights: The landscape is apt for your camera.
A less crowded town near Gangtok, Magnan is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Gangtok. The town is free from the daily hustle and bustle of tourists. This town is not only known for its enormous and beautiful landscape but also is a hub for various tourist activities like trekking, camping, rafting, and many others. You can check in here with your family or friends for a quiet vacation and enjoy nature at its best!
How to reach: This town is located 59 km away from Gangtok.
Best time to visit: from April to July.
Highlights: Nature and tourists activities like trekking, camping, rafting, and many others.