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An introduction to Sikkim

Sikkim, one of the best-kept travel secrets of the Himalayas, is a welcome diversion from all conventional notions of an Indian holiday. This tiny lonely planet on the earth is a serene and scenic destination, and one of India’s best hill stations, far from the city crowds and pollution. Sikkim is the least populated and second smallest among the Indian states. A part of the Eastern Himalaya, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kanchenjunga, the highest peak in  India and the third-highest on Earth.  Sikkim'scapital and largest city is Gangtok. Almost 35% of the state is covered by the Khangchendzonga National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sikkim itself is a pride of hilly Indian states. Sikkim, with its vibrant Tibetan Buddhist enunciations in a frame of quaint villages and rich tribal culture, is brocaded with rocky landscapes, lofty snow-capped mountains, and virgin alpine forests.

Brief geographical facts about Sikkim

Sikkim is a tiny mountain state with an area of 7,096 sq. Km. And a population of 6,10,577 based on 2011 census data. It shares its border with a single state West Bengal in the south of India. The international boundary of Sikkim is also shared with China in the north, Bhutan in the east, and Nepal in the West.  The density of population in this state is 86 per square kilometer, and the sex ratio stands at 889 females per thousand males. The literacy rate of this state is 81.42% (82.2% as per the 2011 census).  Politically, Sikkim has a small constitution of 32 legislative assemblies distributed in four districts. The State is represented by the symbols Rhododendron, Noble Dendrobium, Red Panda, and Blood Pheasant as State Tree, State Flower, State Animal, and State Bird.

Brief economic facts about Sikkim

Sikkim’s economy chiefly depends on agriculture and tourism. Though the rationale of both factors is good, yet the GDP of the State is very poor and is ranked in second last position among all Indian states. The agriculture production is done mainly of maize, millet, barley, wheat, and paddy. Besides, apples, orange, potatoes, and cardamom are also produced. Sikkim is the largest producer of black cardamom in India. Food processing, distillery, breweries, flour mills, tanning, watch assembly, etc. contribute to the state’s economy to a certain extent. Besides, gold, silver, copper, and zinc are the natural resources of this state.

Brief cultural and social facts about Sikkim

Sikkim is the only Indian state and after the Ladakh region of J&K where the glimpses of Buddhist culture are reflected, though 61% of Sikkim’s population consists of Hindus against 28% that follow Buddhism. The Buddhist culture is highly echoed in the presence of Buddhist monasteries, the Presence of all four schools of Buddhism, and the Gumpa dance performed by Buddhists during the New Year festival (called Losar). The Tibetan culture is also reflected in Sikkim as Drenjong, the language of Bhutan, is also spoken in this state. The most popular cuisines of the State are Momos, wonton, and Thukpa. Sikkim has the third-highest per capita liquor consumption rate among all Indian states, which is just behind Punjab and Haryana. People are mostly religious and visit monasteries and temples. They practice dances, especially such as mask dances of Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis are quite popular in this state.

Brief historical facts about Sikkim

Sikkim held monarchy status for a long period as Phuntsog Namgyal (called Chogyal, means priest-king) founded the Namgyal dynasty and established himself as the Sikkim’s monarch ruler in 1642. The throne was ascended by his son Tensung Namgyal in 1670. The Bhutanese invaded and defeated Sikkim in 1700 but were later successful in restoring the crown to Chogyals. The raids from Bhutanese and Nepalese in Sikkim for quite a long period and further repercussions of the assignation of Nepalese was seen in the Gurkha war of 1814.  This could be the reason that most of the population in Sikkim is still Nepalese. However, peace treaties were signed between Sikkim and Nepal. Sikkim was later annexed by the British, but the bursting of huge riots in 1973 resulted in a mass consensus to get protection from India. The objective was to abolish the monarchy, and a referendum was sought that allowed the Indian Army to take over control in Gangtok. This was the step forward towards the independence of Sikkim from the rule of priest-king.

Interesting journey of Sikkim from monarchy to statehood

Sikkim has held a very important place in the map of India since 1947, though Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India was not in favor of Sikkim being assimilated in India. He claimed Bhutan and Sikkim as Himalayan states and not Indian states. Thus, Sikkim maintained its monarchy with Thondup Namgyal as the monarch. It is the least populous state of India which was not considered a part of India until it officially got the status of an Indian state on May 16, 1975. This is the main reason that this day is celebrated as Sikkim Day. The existence of Sikkim, which has a mainly Buddhist population, is centuries old. The fact is known by the existence of the Pemayangtse Buddhist monastery, which dates to the early 1700s. The presence of other Buddhist monasteries can also be traced in Sikkim.

The journey of Sikkim’s status from an independent land to become the state of India is very interesting. In 1642, Sikkim came under the rule of the Chogyal Dynasty. This Dynasty ruled Sikkim for about two and a half-century before British rule was enforced that made it a protectorate or territory state. Nepal and Bhutan were also a part of a buffer state between China and British India which was known as Sikkim. In 1947, Sikkim became a part of India, as a result of which Sikkim’s foreign policy, security, and communication came under India’s realm, but Sikkim retained its independence. The governance of Sikkim was taken over by Hope Cook, an American woman whom Palden Thondup Namgyal, the last monarch of Sikkim, was married. This was a misfortune for Sikkim because this woman was also accused of being a CIA agent. The Sikkim people rebelled against the monarch in 1975 that led to the change of status of Sikkim from a ruled land to an independent official state of India. Though many believe the involvement of Indian agencies in inciting violence in the state, yet it’s not certain what exactly caused this transformation.

Anyways, Sikkim was made a part of India after the 35th Constitutional Amendment and was made a co-state. China, the neighboring rival of India, was displeased with this transformation until 2003 when China acknowledged Sikkim as part of India during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister of India. Now, Sikkim is a full-fledged flourishing state of India and saw the leap into India’s democracy.

About Sikkim’s uniqueness

There is too much to describe this splendid state and its breathtaking beauty. Sikkim, a northeastern Indian state having Gangtok as its official capital, is bordered by Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet. Being a part of the Himalayas, Sikkim is awesome and is known for its serene beauty and theatrical landscape. Sikkim holds the pride of the presence of India’s highest mountain Kangchenjunga, which is 8,586m high. Sikkim is also home to alpine meadows, glaciers, and thousands of varieties of wildflowers. Its steep paths leading to monasteries are special attractions of this state.

Stunning trip to Sikkim

Being a Himalayan state, its splendid beauty has ever been maintained. The climate, culture, and everything in this state is marvelous. The passengers, especially those from international locations, enjoy an experience of breathtaking landing at the new Sikkim airport in the Himalayan region that became functional on October 04, 2018. The airport, at roughly 4,500 feet above sea level, is leveled off by a giant 230-feet-tall retaining wall to ensure landing and take-off safety. The airport has some unique features that offer a stunning treat to everyone who visits here. Everyone wishes to catch a glimpse of an outside stunning view of the Himalayan mountains while taking an airplane trip to and from this new Sikkim airport. Skeptically, the travelers want to return again and again to visit this awesome land. The beauty of Sikkim is mind-blowing, no matter whether someone arrives here by air or using the land route.

Truth about Sikkim

According to Helen Keller, a renowned deaf-blind American author, political activist, and lecturer, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.” This statement is a truth about Sikkim because the stunning beauty of this land cannot be described by any means. The unique essence of Sikkim can be sensed in the roars of the Teesta river, the chants from the monasteries, and the magnetic attractions of the Himalaya that absorbs every visitor in the pristine and mystic beauty of Sikkim that is the window to the Himalaya.

Flora & Fauna of Sikkim

Sikkim’s Flora & Fauna are another exclusive attraction that includes a diversity of plant species and animals. Yumthang Valley of Flowers in North Sikkim is a perfect place for tourists to experience the full bloom of Sikkim’s fauna. Tourists can enjoy the full bloom of a vast variety of flowers by making a trip here between March and May. 

Flora of Sikkim

The major attractions of its flora are Rhododendrons that exist in 35 species of mesmerizing pied beauty. The flora also houses as many as 240 species of ferns and trees, 600 types of orchids, and 150 varieties of gladioli. About 1/3rd of the total angiosperm of India grows on the land of this state.

Fauna of Sikkim

The presence of rich flora also creates the richness of its fauna and habitats about 690 species of vivid colored butterflies that are attracted due to a great variety of flowers. Sikkim is also a paradise to bird lovers, comprising over 552 different species of birds, including few rare species. You can spot the cute Red Panda in Sikkim, which is found in China.


Some interesting facts about Sikkim

Much has been explored about this state, and there is more to explore as yet. Let’s have a look at a few interesting facts that might be familiar to many people but unfamiliar to a few others. Here are a few interesting facts about Sikkim for those who want to know more about this state.

  • Sikkim is the 22nd official state of India that previously had a status of monarchy. Thus, it’s not an Indian state by birth.
  • Sikkim is the only state in India where most people have their origin from a different country, i.e., Nepal. The other major ethnic groups in Sikkim are Lepcha and Bhutia.
  • People in this tiny mountain state speak as many as eleven languages as English being the official language and nine other languages recognized as State’s languages and mostly taught in schools and colleges also. Nepalese is the lingua franca of the State.
  • Sikkim was named the first Organic State of India that implemented organic farming.
  • Nathu La Pass at an altitude of around 4,310 m in Sikkim was once part of the famous Silk Route until 1962. The pass is also an optional route from India to the Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet and connects India with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) was inscribed as India’s first “Mixed World Heritage Site” on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016. It is considered one of the widest altitudinal ranges of any protected area worldwide.
  • Sikkim is the only Indian state with monasteries of all four schools of Buddhism- Nyingma, Gelug, Sakya, and Kagyu.
  • Buddhist houses and monasteries of Sikkim have unique architecture and arts in the interior. Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim is a renowned place of Tibetan architecture. The exquisite Vajra Mukut (crown) here is set with precious stones, including rubies, diamonds, gold, and whatnot!
  • The Thangka paintings, Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala, found here are an eclectic amalgam of beautiful colors, tantric meditative practices, and exquisite Tibetan art!
  • 108-foot-tall statue of Lord Shiva with 12 jyotirlingas girdled across in Siddheshwar Dham in Sikkim is a unique architecture on this location.
  • Baba Harbhajan Singh temple in Sikkim is the unique temple that has been erected in honor of a human being, a soldier, instead of Gods and Goddesses.
  • Mt. Kanchenjunga in Sikkim is the third highest mountain in the world with an elevation of 8,586m (28,169 feet). Three of the five peaks – main, ceṣntral, & south of Kangchenjunga, are on the northern border of this state.
  • The Singshore Bridge in Pelling Sikkim is the 2nd highest suspension bridge in Asia with a length of 198 m and a depth of 220 m.
  • More than 81% area in Sikkim is a forest that has many different types of trees, such as figs, sal, and bananas. Sikkim has unique biodiversity due to the existence of huge varieties of plants such as 500 species of Orchids, 23 varieties of Bamboo, 11 species of Oak, and more than 400 medicinal plants.
  • Amazingly, Sikkim boasts of over 552 different species of birds, including few rare species, and about 690 species of vivid colored butterflies, and thus, called a paradise to bird lovers. It’s a good place for birdwatchers.
  • You don’t need to travel to China to spot a cute red panda. You can spot it in Sikkim as it’s the State Animal of Sikkim.
  • Sikkim hosts the annual International Flower Festival! Sikkim boasts about 1/3rd of the total angiosperm of India! Sikkim has nearly 35 species of mesmerizing pied beauty of Rhododendrons to offer, usually found between March and May. Besides, it also houses as many as 240 species of ferns and trees, 600 types of orchids, and 150 varieties of gladioli!
  • Sikkim is a land of natural spas that exists in the form of numerous natural hot springs. Sikkim has five highly popular hot water springs, most of them located in amazingly serene hinterlands. A Sulphur bath in the natural hot water springs of Sikkim is truly amazing and also has a therapeutic effect.
  • Chiang, a fermented cereal-based mild alcoholic beverage, is the most famous drink of Sikkim that is also consumed during social activities.
  • Sikkim, despite being a tiny mountain state, is quite forward in sports. The instance that Baichung Bhutia from football-crazy Sikkim has scored the highest number (43) of goals in international appearances (109) till now is worth mentioning.

Some general facts about Sikkim

This tiny mountain state has got name and fame because of its stunning aesthetic, culture and heritage, and people. Some of the prominent personalities that polished the image of this state are Danny Denzongpa (famous Bollywood actor), Omi Gurung (famous fashion designer), Bhaichung Bhutia (famous football player), and Pawan Kumar Chamling (former Chief Minister who was a charismatic leader and served as CM for five successive tenures).

Languages spoken in sikkim

The official languages of this state are English, Nepali, Sikkimese, and Lepcha. Additional official languages spoken by locals are Gurung, Limbu, Magar, Mukhia, Newari, Rai, Sherpa, Tamang, and Gurung.

Sikkim’s hidden destinations

Sikkim is the most pretty of the Indian states for its grandeur, and abundance of natural beauty and resources. Sikkim offers options of tranquility, scenic beauty, wonderful travel destination to spend holidays in a paradise destination on the earth. Sikkim is truly an ultimate destination for those who have wanderlust cravings to explore the beauty of nature. zulux, Kaluk, Gyalshing, and Sumbuk are the places in Sikkim that might not have been visited and explored by many people, but these places can satiate every traveler’s craving to explore

How to reach Sikkim?

Sikkim Helicopter Service: Bagdogra is also connected with Gangtok by daily helicopter service operated by Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation, and it takes only 20 minutes to reach Gangtok from Bagdogra. The 5-seater helicopter makes traveling to Sikkim easier, along with being an incredible way of witnessing the majestic state, like never before. The passengers on this helicopter are awarded a Certificate of Participation by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation.

Road: Siliguri is more or less the main gateway to Sikkim. National Highway 31A connects Gangtok to Siliguri. The scenic lush green forests on the banks of river Teesta on one side and the Eastern Himalayan range on the other side make the drive worthwhile. As stated earlier, public vehicles including buses, shared jeeps and auto-rickshaws are available from Siliguri to Gangtok, Kalimpong, Kurseong, etc. at frequent intervals. You can also opt for a private cab from Siliguri to travel further.


Railway: Sikkim does not have a proper train network. The nearest major railway station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) which is about 6-7kms from Siliguri and 130 km from Gangtok. Very few selective trains pass through Siliguri, which is approximately 114 km from Gangtok. Onward journey from Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri railway station is possible by road.


Air: The nearest accessible airport to Sikkim is in pakyong which is approximately 24 km from Gangtok and another popular airport is Bagdogra which is approximately 124 km from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. Bagdogra airport has both public and private transport options for the onward journey. 50 meters away from the terminal building, the local taxi stand has both shared and private jeeps for Darjeeling, Siliguri, Gangtok, etc. Further down, around 700-800 m from the taxi stand there is good availability of public buses and shared autos for the same.

When to visit Sikkim

Sikkim’s name tops in the wish list of many travelers across the globe, but it would just be impervious to suggest the best time to make a trip here. Temperature ranges between 24°C to 45°C in summer (April-June), 21°C to 35°C in monsoon (July-September), and 10°C to 27°C in winter (October-March). An itinerary can, therefore, be scheduled based on summer or winter trips for recreation and adventure. Sikkim Tourism, however, suggests the best times either between March-May or October-mid of December.


Popular Sikkim tourist Destinations

  1. Gangtok
  2. Lachen 
  3. Lachung
  4. Zuluk
  5. Namchi
  6. Ravangla
  7. Pelling
  8. Kaluk
  9. Rinchengpong


Food of Sikkim

  1. Momo (Dumplings)
  2. Thukpa
  3. Phagshapa
  4. Sha Phaley
  5. Gundruk
  6. Sinki
  7. Seal Roti
  8. Paneer Cheese
  9. Tibetian Bread
  10. Yak Cheese
  11. Lassi
  12. Chaang
  13. Churpi-Ningro Curry

Festivals of Sikkim

  1. Tendong Tendong Lho Rumfaat
  2. Loosong
  3. Saga Dawa
  4. Makar sankranti
  5. Deepawali
  6. Dashain
  7. Sakewa
  8. Tamu Lhosar



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