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Sikkim - Excursions from Gangtok

Top travel sites in Sikkim: Gangtok (East Sikkim), Tsomgo Lake (East Sikkim), Nathu La Pass (East Sikkim), Baba Mandir (East Sikkim), Khangchendzonga (West Sikkim)

Sikkim Govt Tourist Information Centres:- Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, Gangtok: MG Road, Gangtok Ph: 03592-221634/227720; Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, New Delhi: 14 Panchsheel Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi PIN 110021, Ph:011-26115346, 26115171; Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, Kolkata: 4/1, Middletown Street, Kolkata-16 Ph: 22817905; Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, Siliguri: SNT Colony, Pradhan Nagar, Siliguri, West Bengal Ph: 2512646; Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, Bagdogra: Bagdogra airport Ph: 2698030; 2698036

Tsomgo lake, which changes colours, and Nathu La Pass on China border need permission to visit

Tsomgo lake, 40 km from Gangtok, is snow-bound from December to April and remains frozen from January to April. Tourists who come to Capital Gangtok also visit the lake as well as Nathu La Pass on China border, which is also another major attraction. However, there are restrictions on tourist visits to these two destinations.

The most popular destinations accessed from capital Gangtok are Tsomgo lake and Nathu La Pass. The glacial Tsomgo lake, 40 km from Gangtok, is on way to Nathu La Pass. This serene lake is situated at an altitude of 12,000 ft. Being in a restricted area, an inner line permit is required for tourists to visit this place. Permission is also required to visit Nathu La Pass as it is on China border. One can also visit Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre from Gangtok. Menmecho lake (60 km from Gangtok) is yet another attraction.

Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre (24 km from Gangtok): A short drive from Gangtok will take one to Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre. Built in 1960 by His Holiness the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, it is a replica of the original Kagyurpa monastery in Tsurphu, Tibet, the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa Rinpoche, head of the Karmapa sub sect of Kargyudpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. It now functions as the headquarters of the Dharma Chakra Religious Centre. Located within the complex are the main monastery, the memorial stupa of the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa inlaid with gold plate and semi precious stones, Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies and the Jamyang Khang Primary School. The centre houses some of the world's most unique religious scriptures, manuscripts and religious art objects. A fifteen-minute walk downhill from Dharma Chakra Centre takes one to the Old Rumtek monastery which was originally built in 1730 by the ninth Karmapa but was destroyed by fire and had to be reconstructed to the present state. His Holiness late Gyalwa Karmapa lived in this monastery till the completion of the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre.

Tsomgo (Changgu) lake (40 km from Gangtok, Altitude - 12,210 ft): This is a must visit spot in East Sikkim. The drive from Gangtok takes about 2 hours by bus. The lake is about 1 km long and oval in shape, 50 ft deep. This is an alpine zone and snowbound from December to April and the lake is regarded extremely holy. It remains frozen from January to April, and attracts 99% of tourists visiting Gangtok. It is also a home of Brahmini ducks besides stopover for various migratory ducks. The glacial lake that gets the water when snow melts down from the mountains located around it. Tsomgo lake is known for its changing colour of water.

Nathula Pass (54 km from Gangtok, Altitude - 14790 ft): Only on a few days of the week visitors are allowed and they need to take permission 24 hrs in advance. Photography is strictly prohibited in and around Nathula. Twenty km away from from Nathula is the Pass. The Nathula pass means the whistling pass. Nathula is the Indo-China border at Jawaharlal Nehru Road where Indian troops and the Red Army stand face to face.

Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies: Initiated by the late 16th Karmapa, the institute in housed in the adjoining building of the Rumtek Monastery. The Jamyang Khang Primary School meant for 5 years of primary monastic studies is also located here.

Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden: Located very close to Rumtek Monastery just half a km before reaching Rumtek Monastery on the highway, it is maintained by the Parks and Gardens unit of the Forest Department of the Government of Sikkim. The Garden is an enchanting and soothing experience among the lush green vegetation, rare plants and trees and certain species of Himalayan flowers and orchids. This garden is a mixture of well-tended tropical and temperate plants and trees can be found here. A huge greenhouse containing many species of orchids has been constructed within the garden. For children there is even a small playground with a merry-go-round, swings and a see-saw. A cemented footpath winds its way through the garden and is good for taking a relaxed stroll. The sprawling town of Gangtok can be seen on the hill opposite. The garden is indeed an ideal picnic spot.

Saramsa Garden/ Ipecac Garden (14 km from Gangtok): Also known as lpecac Garden, the home of Sikkim's most exotic orchids and other rare tropical and temperate plants. The garden is known as Ipecac garden because of the plant Ipecac that is grown here. Established and maintained by the Department of Forest, it is an excellent recreation and picnic spot. Besides this plant, this garden also contains a wide variety of other flora including numerous types of orchids and medicinal plants. A large green house also accommodates many other species of plants. One has to take a taxi to reach this place.

Water Garden (16 km from Gangtok): Water Garden at Martam Khola is on the 31-A National Highway south of Gangtok. It is an ideal spot for picnic with a small swimming pool for children.

Menmecho lake (60 km from Gangtok): This is another beautiful lake located 20 km ahead of the Tsomgo (Changu) lake. Quite big in size, it lies cradled between the mountains below the Jelepla pass and is also the source of the river Rangpo-chu which meets the Teesta at Rangpo. Like the Changu lake, it also derives its water from the melting snow around, especially from the stream that originates just below the Jelepla pass. The lake is famous for its trout and a farm to cultivate these fish also exists nearby. Accommodation for the visitors coming here is available at the dak bungalow and tourist lodge near the lake. Tourists are not permitted to visit this area.

Fambong La Wildlife Sanctuary (25 km from Gangtok, Altitude - 1280 to 2652 m): A log house with two rooms is available at Golitar and Tumin. Charges are Rs 50 per person per night. Entry Fee Rs.5/- per head. Best Season - October and April. It has an area of 51.76 sq km. The main vegetation is Oak, Katus, Kimbu, Champ with thick bamboo forests and ferns. The sanctuary is also home to a large number of wild orchids, rhododendrons etc. The richly forested area is known to be home for various species of wild animals and birds. This area is being developed as a short duration trekking trail. Apart from this sanctuary there are others like Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary, Shingba Rhododendrons Sanctuary, Meanam Wildlife Sanctuary.

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