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I was planning on visiting Gangtok just for the helicopter ride as part of my North East India trip, and alas I was in for a disappointment. When I reached the office right at the start of MG Marg to inquire about it, I was about it find out that they are fully booked for the whole week! Sigh! Consequences of not doing my share of research! It can be disappointing at times when you have pinned so many hopes for something, and it doesn’t work out. Like all else in life, it is important to let things go.
To overcome the bitter disappointment of not having a bird’s eye view of Gangtok, I decided to explore what Gangtok has to offer. After all, I wanted to make up for the long train ride, and half a day bus journey from NJP to Gangtok. Having done little to no research before reaching Gangtok, I had no clue where to start!
Soon after I realized that Gangtok is also a vibrant and liberal town and the Eastern Himalayas are just a few hours away from Gangtok.
Things to do in Gangtok
Flower show – Things to do in Gangtok
I was looking forward to seeing some rare orchids and rhododendrons in Gangtok. In fact, the International Flower Festival is a month-long festival conducted annually in Gangtok in May. Apparently, there are many flower shows happening around in Gangtok from time to time. I happened to stumble upon one of them. Find flower exhibitions around Gangtok town or at the end of Ridge Park.
Helicopter ride from Gangtok to Bagdogra – Things to do in Gangtok
In my opinion, this is one of the cool things to do in Gangtok. Make sure you book the helicopter ride a month before when the slots open. It only has a few spots each day and it gets filled soon. You don’t want to miss out on this as I did! Suppose you are planning to take a flight from Bagdogra airport, then you can replace the taxi by the helicopter ride from Gangtok to Bagdogra. It costs about Rs. 3500 one way, and lasts for about 30-35 minutes. Also, there are other aerial flights available as well. You can find more information and reserve your seat here.
Rumtek Monastery – Things to do in Gangtok
The Rumtek monastery is the closest monastery to Gangtok which is an hour away. It’s a vibrant and secluded monastery in the laps of the mountains. I spent hours sitting in the monastery, watching monks go about their daily lives all encompassed in the peaceful serenity of this location.
Casino – Things to do in Gangtok
This came as something of a shock to me. While the casino is banned in most parts of India, Sikkim Government has legalized sports betting and casino Gambling. In addition, Goa has legal casinos as well.
So, don’t be surprised if you see casinos in Gangtok. Casino Mahjong at the swanky Mayfair hotel is quite popular. Or head on to the Golden Gaming center at MG Marg or Zero Point, the first company to start legal online sports betting in Sikkim. It’s betting palette includes cricket, football, and horse racing wagers, roulette, and virtual sports.
Kanchenjunga – Things to do in Gangtok
It’s hard not to slip into a conversation about Kanchenjunga while talking about Gangtok. For those of you who are not aware, Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world, partly in Nepal and partly in Sikkim. Locally known in the Tibetan language as the five treasuries of great snow, Kanchenjunga has many stories etched to its name, a story for another time, maybe. The easiest viewpoint from Gangtok is the Tashi viewpoint, known for its sunrise view.
Throughout Sikkim, there are many places where you can view the Kanchenjunga, it stands tall and serves as a beacon attracting and enthralling travelers throughout the year.
Additionally, you can go to Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok View Point, Ranka Monastery, Banjhakri Water Falls, Himalayan Zoological Park, Seven Sisters Waterfalls, Gonjang monastery, Gangtok Ropeway, Kanchendzonga National Park, Cholamu Lake, Menmecho Lake, to name a few!
Tsomgo lake – Things to do in Gangtok
Eastern Himalayan ranges are a day trip away from Gangtok, and you can find daily excursions to Tsomgo lake, Baba Mandir, and Nathula Pass.
A half a day trip away from Gangtok, this gorgeous high altitude lake is a sight to remember! Stop by Tsomgo (pronounced as Changu) lake to take in the serenity of the surroundings and watch the colorful yaks strutting around!
Further ahead from Tsomgo lake, there is a Baba Mandir which is dedicated to an Indian Army soldier – Baba Harbhajan Singh. He is revered as the Hero of Nathula and Indian Army has built a shrine in honor.
Nathula pass – Things to do in Gangtok
Another day trip from Gangtok, Nathula pass is where you can witness the Indo-China border (closed during Mondays and Tuesdays). Further ahead from Tsomgo lake — Nathula pass, a mountain pass in the Himalayas was a major corridor of passage between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962.
It’s mindblowing to see the soldiers along the way braving the harsh high altitude climate of the Eastern Himalaya and securing our borders. It’s not allowed to take photographs while on the way here.
Transport to Tsomgo Lake and Nathula Pass
Shared taxis to Tsomgo Lake and Nathula Pass costs about Rs 400 – 500 from the taxi stand. It works out cheaper for solo travelers or even 2 people traveling. And Sumo/Max costs about Rs 4000/- while Scorpio can cost about Rs.7000/- Inclusive of all permit fees. These prices are during season time (April to June, October to November). You are likely to find only shared taxis during offseason and maybe on cheaper fares.
Zuluk – Things to do in Gangtok
Located at a height of around 10,100 feet on the rugged terrain of the lower Himalayas in East Sikkim, Zuluk (or Dzuluk), was once a transit point to the historic Silk Route from Tibet to India. This small village accommodates a population of around 700 people.
Zuluk itself does not offer views of the snow peaks but only 14 km away the Thambi View Point offers a panoramic view of the entire Mt. Kanchenjungha range. Best viewed during sunrise. This road with a couple of dozens of winding turns and twists to reach the viewpoint makes a lasting memory on the senses. Plan to spend at least a few days in Zuluk – this is not for a day trip.
Getting around Gangtok
Hire a full taxi or shared taxi to get around in Gangtok.
Shared taxis are widely run in Gangtok for getting around town and for day tours. This makes the tours pocket-friendly for budget and solo travelers.
Travel Tip – Book taxis directly from the taxi stand a day prior (for permits) rather than the hotels to save money.
Accommodations in Gangtok
There are many accommodations for different budget ranges in Gangtok.
The Roving Heart recommends the following accommodations in Gangtok:
Hotel Tamarind Residency – Located right near the city center, make yourself at home at the Tamarind Residency for a comfortable, convenient stay and value for money stay. I stayed here for a day and it was quite convenient for me as a solo female traveler. Check the latest prices of Hotel Tamarind Residency now!
Mayfair Gangtok – For a more indulgent and luxurious stay amidst the scenic mountain landscapes, head over to Mayfair Gangtok. Apart from a casino at the hotel, it also has an award-winning spa at your disposal. Check the latest prices of Mayfair Gangtok now!
Bamboo Retreat – On the other hand, if you feel like staying in the lap of nature, surrounded by forests, you can alternatively travel to Rumtek – an hour away from Gangtok for a rejuvenating stay at Bamboo Retreat. Walk through the stop stones surrounded by terraced organic fields, in order to reach a bamboo-themed retreat with color-coded rooms. Drinking fresh herbal tea, eating delicious from right from the farm close by, meditating in their meditation room, and getting regular massages already made me feel more healthy and centered just after two days! Check the latest prices of Bamboo Retreat now.
Go ahead and book your accommodation in Gangtok now.
So, have you been to this monastery town and what are your favorite things to do in Gangtok? Let me know in the comments below.