- Places to Visit
Sikkim-Sikkim was its own mountain kingdom till 1975 and still retains a very distinctive personality. The meditative, mural-filled traditional monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism coexist with Hindu shrines of the ever-growing Nepali community, both religions creating some astonishing latter-day mega-sculptures to adorn the skyline. Hassle-free and warm-hearted, it's a state that's all too easy to fall in love with, explaining perhaps why permit regulations prevent foreigners staying too long or going too far. Clean, green and 'all organic' since 2016, Sikkim is mostly a maze of plunging, super-steep valleys thick with lush subtropical woodlands and rhododendron groves, rising in the north to the spectacular white-top peaks of the eastern Himalaya. When clouds clear, an ever-thrilling experience from many a ridgetop perch is spotting the world's third-highest mountain, Khangchendzonga (8598m), on the northwestern dawn horizon.
Darjeeling-Spread in ribbons over a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by emerald-green tea plantations and towered over by majestic Khangchendzonga (8598m), Darjeeling is the definitive Indian hill station and is arguably West Bengal’s premier attraction. When you aren’t gazing open-mouthed at Khangchendzonga, you can explore colonial-era architecture, visit Buddhist monasteries, and spot snow leopards and red pandas at the nearby zoo. The adventurous can arrange a trek to Singalila Ridge or hire a mountain bike for a guided ride around the hilltops. Meanwhile the steep and winding bazaars below the town bustle with an array of Himalayan products and faces from across Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. And finally, when energies start to flag, a good, steaming Darjeeling brew is never far away.
Pelling- Pelling's raison d’être is to provide hordes of visitors with stride-stopping dawn views of white-robed Khangchendzonga. At first glance the small town is an architecturally uninteresting cascade of concrete hotels tumbling down an otherwise gorgeous woodland ridge – but walk a little and you'll quickly find yourself wandering through beautiful natural forest. Within 3km of Pelling along the same ridge-top are two historic monasteries: busy Pemayangtse Gompa and peaceful Sanghak Choeling, plus the ruins of the 18th-century royal palace of Rabdentse. Directly below the latter is Tikjuk, West Sikkim's administrative complex (for permit extensions), from where it's another 3km to the commercial and transport centre at Geyzing (Gyalshing).
Gangtok- Irreverent, cheerful and pleasantly boisterous, Sikkim’s modern capital is layered along a precipitous mountain ridge, descending the hillside in steep tiers. It's a confusing spaghetti of winding lanes flanked by tall, mostly concrete-block buildings that might appear to be two storeys high from one side but often have several more floors descending behind. As well as a handful of minor sights, there are countless viewpoints with panoramas that encompass plunging green valleys and, if you're lucky weather-wise, glimpses of Khangchendzonga on the distant skyline.
Lachung- Soaring, rock-pinnacled valley walls embroidered with long ribbons of waterfalls surround the scattered village of Lachung. To appreciate the full drama of its setting, take the metal cantilever bridge across the wild Yumthang River and wander up through the older part of town to the colourful Lachung Gompa, established 1880, or along to a viewpoint field in which stands the distinctive Shakathang Stupa.Much more of this wonderful scenery is to be found along the majestic Yumthang Valley – excursions here are the main reason visitors stay in Lachung in the first place.