Snow, mountains and breathtaking landscapes: if these things interest you, Sikkim can be an ideal getaway for you. But, it is the people there who make the state even more attractive. The hospitality that we received during our week’s trip to India’s mountain state will always be the standout memory for us. Sikkim is one of the best places we have visited in our short travel experience and it is a place we definitely want to return to and explore more.
There were a lot of misconceptions about the state that we came across while planning for the trip. To name a few: it is difficult to get there, the stay and transportation in the state are expensive and there is no nightlife on offer. However, that is not true at all, especially in the capital city of Gangtok, which is like any other city in the country.
We would say, Gangtok is so much better in several ways. Except, there is no public transport in terms of buses or rickshaws and hence, you need to depend on the share taxis there that are not very expensive. The drivers will not try to cheat you and will not quote exorbitant prices.
As far as safety is concerned, not just Gangtok but Sikkim, overall, is a very safe place. Not once did we feel uncomfortable even in the remotest parts of the state. You can trust us on this because our first hotel was in a pretty isolated area, away from the city centre. Taking a hotel away was worth it because it was far away from the hustle-bustle and the view that we got was amazing.
While Sikkim remains an untouched destination, it has everything designed for the comfort of the tourists. Gangtok may be difficult to navigate with a lot of hairpin curves but it is also one of the cleanest cities with all sort of shops, ATMs, restaurants, taxis, etc at your disposal.
We all are so used to heavy traffic jams and people randomly trying to overtake each other or break traffic rules. Which is why, when we saw the people in Sikkim strictly follow the traffic rules, it just made us happier. Just small joys, I suppose. And guess what? Gangtok does not have traffic signals. Now imagine how oragnised the city and its people are!
Make Gangtok your base if you want to take a day trip to Nathula Pass that will also include Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir and Tsomgo Lake, which in peak winters will be frozen. However, you can take a boat ride in the summer. Tourists mostly visit Gangtok because of the Nathula Pass trip. But, we highly recommend you to explore the city and soak in everything it has to offer. It won’t disappoint you for sure.
Other than Gangtok, we visited Lachung, a small town in northern part of Sikkim that was around 130-odd kilometres from the capital city. While there is nothing to boast about the town, it was the best place to stay in order to go to Yumthang Valley and Mt. Katao – both shut due to snow but we could go up to a certain point. The views and the experience were like nothing we had seen in the past.
We often wondered why Indians would want to go all the way to places like Switzerland when they can soak in all the experience in their own country. Nevertheless, we’re not judging!
Tourism is something Sikkim thrives on and it shows. The drivers are well-behaved and more importantly, it is evident that they truly love their jobs. We learned that in Lachung and the reminiscing the conversation makes us smile even today. When our driver wanted us to take a photo of him, he was keener on getting his car in the frame rather than having the focus on himself. While clicking our group picture, he made us stand, two on either side of the car, so that the number plate would be seen clearly!
The people there are friendly, honest and extremely helpful – be it a local resident, taxi drivers or even shopkeepers. Their welcoming nature automatically wants you to interact with them more, which makes you feel extremely comfortable. It is always important to feel comfortable in a new place or else your experience might not be great.
We would like to make a special mention about the empowering women we met in Sikkim. All the tourist spots are reached only after a long car’s drive. Along the way, you’ll find quite a few stalls for snacks and tea and most of them were run by women. Their persona gave away their nature of independence and strong character.
Other parts of the country can learn from one of their smallest states and make visitors’ stay a contented one. Most of the times at many touristy places in the country, we see many auto or taxi guys hassle you to take their ride or some people are so persistent to make certain sales that they do not think for a second that the customer might not be interested.
In Sikkim, you will not find such things. On top of that, the eateries, the restaurant or other roadside stalls do not cheat you in paying more money than required for their services, unlike most of the other touristy places of the country.
While accessibility to Sikkim is still a concern as the state does not have a functioning airport yet, it is not too inconvenient either. A flight to Bagdogra and a five to six-hour cab drive will get you to Gangtok. It is always better to make an itinerary before and book the cabs for each day accordingly as we did. As a result, there was no hiccup during our stay.
Rest assured, you will have the trip of your life in Sikkim and that is a guarantee!