Sikkim is a land which will make you feel like you’ve walked into a different world. A small state lying cosily in the Himalayas, it is called a ‘paradise’ or ‘the hidden valley of rice’.There are flights to Siliguri, a town near Sikkim, from all major cities of India. From Kolkata, a train can be taken to reach to Siliguri, after which an up climb road trip leads to the hills of Sikkim. The best months to travel to Sikkim are the summer months of May-June.. Even then, light woolen clothes are required, as the weather is pretty cold even during the summer seasons.
Sikkim is certainly a treat to the senses. The mighty Himalayan range lies in the eastern, western and northern parts of the State. The entire area is a hilly terrain, filled with lush green forest cover, sparkling rivers, and gushing waterfalls. Many slopes in South Sikkim have been cultivated by terrace farming. Mt Kangchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world can be seen throughout most of the State. There are numerous hot springs at Sikkim which is popular for their medicinal value. Most of the population live in the southern areas, where agriculture is easier and the weather is milder.
The mountain peaks surrounding Sikkim are always frozen, and it is a breathtaking experience to look at, but if you go to North Sikkim, you will probably find yourself longing for the warmer climate of the South. The best way to travel within the state is by a jeep, because the roads pass through the mountains, and many of them have twisting, treacherous turns.
It is a trekkers’ haven, for the mountains provide challenging routes as well as scenic beauty. Mountain biking is also gaining popularity for those who like a little bit of risk taking adventure. White water rafting on the Teesta River is another activity for the adventurous. Rich in bio-diversity, Sikkim is home to many animals including the snow leopard. It has a wide range of flora as well, with the rhododendron as the state’s official flower.
Sikkim is also home to many Buddhist monasteries. Grandeur, beauty and colour are what mark these places of worship. Photographs are not allowed to be taken inside, and the pictures, paintings and sculptures take the visitors in awe and wonder. Monks robed in red sit quietly inside the monasteries, studying the spiritual aspects of life, or chanting. There are many beautiful temples in Sikkim too; the entire place seems to be guided by spiritual energy. Prayer flags dot many of the areas, fluttering in the wind. Prayer wheels are always around the monasteries, they are cylindrical ‘wheels’ which can be spun, with auspicious symbols on them. It is believed that if you pray for something good, and spin the wheel, the wish comes true. (Incidentally, my wish did come true!)
Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim, is full of bustling markets which attracts the tourists. The villages are picturesque, and I couldn’t resist requesting some villagers to pose in front of their houses for my camera! From the mountain peak of Nathu La, you can see the Indo-China border. The peak of this mountain is filled with glaciers and snow even during the summer days. The uphill climb can be cumbersome as the slopes are quite slippery, however reaching the top is worth it, when you see the Indo-China border where the Indian and the Chinese soldiers standing there guarding their own nation.
There are plenty of hotels that can be availed at various prices, and the place is surrounded by amiable hill folks. Sikkim is a perfect holiday destination for adventure enthusiasts, trekkers, naturalists and spiritualists. The culture, bio-diversity, and scenic beauty make this small state seem like a tiny slice of heaven on earth.