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DESTINATIONS » NORTH EAST» SIKKIM
 
 
 
  Area   70,96 sq. km
  Population   406,457
  Capital   Gangtok
  Main Language   Nepali and Sikkimese
  Best time to visit   September to May
 
 
Mount Khanchenjunga (8534m), the third highest mountain in the world stands guard over this small and beautiful state nestled in the eastern Himalayas. The mighty mountain is revered by the Sikkimese as their protective deity. Once regarded as one of the last Himalayan 'Shangri-las' because of its remoteness, the state is now known for the spectacular mountain terrain, varied flora and fauna and ancient Buddhist monasteries. The Singalila range borders Nepal in the west, Chola range borders Tibet in the northeast and Bhutan in the southeast. Rangit and Rangpo rivers form the borders with the Indian State of West Bengal in the south. On its west is also the massive 31km long Zemu glacier. The change of altitude from a mere 300m above sea level to lofty snow peaks such as the Khanchenjunga at 8000m presents a kaleidoscope of flora and fauna and also diferrent climes and views. Various explorers and mountaineers have claimed to have seen Yeti or its foot prints in the vicinity of the mountain and its glacier- "The abominable snowman" has its place in folklore.

The varieties of birds and butterflies in Sikkim is matched only by incredible diversity in the animal and botanical world, nourished by unique and dramatic geographical features. The lower altitudes are sub-tropical and abound in some of Sikkim's more than six hundred orchid varieties, sprays of cardamom fruit orchards and terraced paddy fields. Amidst the grandeur of the mountain peaks, lush valleys, fast flowing rivers and green blue hills, Sikkim offers her visitors a rare and singular experience. Within a matter of hours one can move from the sub tropical heat of the lower valleys to the cold of the rugged mountain slopes that reach up to the area of perpetual snow. Wrapped in mists and clouds, a garden state with an incredible variety of rhododendrons and a host of other flowers.

Sikkim was inhabited in pre-historic times by three tribes namely Naong, Chang and the Mon. The Lepchas who entered Sikkim around the 13th century absorbed them completely. The Lepchas are a tribal people believed to have migrated from the hills of Assam or probably from South-East Asia. They were in fact the children of nature, and worshipped nature spirits. They still constitute about 18% of the population. Tibetans began immigrating into Sikkim during the 15th century to escape religious strife between various Buddhist orders. The Nyingmapa order was introduced in Sikkim by three Tibetan Lamas and it was these men who consecrated the first chogyal or king. In the face of the waves of Tibetan Immigrants, known as Bhutias, the Lepchas retreated to remote areas.

In 1835, the British, seeking a hill station as a rest and recreation centre for their troops and officials, persuaded the chogyal to cede the Darjeeling area in return for an annual stipend. Further British interference in the affairs of this area lead to the declaration of a protectorate over Sikkim in 1861 and delineation of its borders. Keen to develop Sikkim, the British encouraged emigration from Nepal. The British treaties with Sikkim passed to India in 1947 after Independence. But Sikkim remained an independent kingdom until 1975, albeit under a treaty which allowed the Indian government to control Sikkim's foreign affairs and defence. However, following a period of political crises and riots in the capital Gangtok, the last chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal was eventually forced to ask India to take over the country's administration and Sikkim became the 22nd Indian State.

Communities, cultures, religions and customs of different hues intermingle freely here to constitute a homogeneous blend. Ethnically Sikkim has three main communities: Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalese. In urban areas many plainsmen have also settled and they are mostly engaged in business and government service. Because of the development activities in the state, like the construction of roads, bridges and buildings a small part of the population consists of migrant labourers from the plains and Nepal.
 
     
  Permits and General Information  
 
FOREIGN NATIONALS require a Restricted Area Permit to visit even areas that are unrestricted for Indian Nationals. Indian Embassies abroad, Representatives of Government of Sikkim at Delhi, Calcutta and Siliguri and some other offices have been authorized to issue restricted area permits to foreigners. Foreign nationals are permitted to visit Gangtok, Rumtek, Phodong and Pemayangtse on the basis of their visas for a period of 15 days. Foreigners are also permitted to trek to Zongri provided they are in a group of four or more. They are also permitted to visit the Changu lake and the Yumthang valley provided they are in groups.
INDIAN NATIONALS do not require any permit to visit unrestricted areas in Sikkim, like Gangtok, Rumtek, Pemayangtse, Yoksom, Phodong etc. However to visit restricted areas under army control, like Changu and Yumthang, Indian Nationals are required to obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP) from Sikkim Police at Gangtok. Besides Changu and Yumthang, Indian Nationals are not permitted to visit other restricted places in Sikkim. Only under special circumstance visits to other restricted places in Sikkim is permitted but permission is required to be sought from the Home Department, Government of Sikkim. Although the Dzongu area of Sikkim does not fall in the restricted area, a permit from the north district Collectorate at Mangan is required to visit.
For Trekking too, permit is required in addition to the normal tourist permit and these are issued at the permit office in Gangtok or from the Government of Sikkim Resident Commissioner in Delhi.
The nearest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal, which is 124km and approx. 5hrs drive from Gangtok. There are regular flights that link Bagdogra with Calcutta, Guwahati and Delhi. The two closest railway stations are Siliguri (144km) and New Jalpaiguri (125kms) connecting Calcutta, Delhi, Guwahati, Lucknow and other important cities. Gangtok is connected by road to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Siliguri and also to all the district headquarters within Sikkim.
 
     
     
 
DESTINATIONS
 
     
 
  Gangtok   Pelling   Lachung