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From snow-capped mountains, meandering rivers, waterfalls and eye soothing greenery to a variety in the wildlife and intriguing culture, Gangtok- the capital and the largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim has it all. More than eight lakh tourists visit this beautiful place every year and if you want to be one of them, if you want to escape to a paradise with the one you just started your life journey with, then what are you waiting for? Book your flight tickets to Bagdogra or a train ticket to New Jalpaiguri right away.
Gangtok is the perfect blend of culture and modernization, nature and urbanization. It is breathtaking and surely the paradise of the northeast. It has an amazing view of mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain peak in the world and undoubtedly the capital of Sikkim is one of the cleanest places you will find in this country.
Places to visit in Gangtok
Lake Tsomgo (Pronounced as Chhangu Lake)
Situated some 40km away from the capital of Gangtok, it is definitely one of the greatest highlights of the Gangtok trip. If you visit during winter, you will find this lake frozen and let me tell you, that is a wonderful site. You can ride the beautifully decorated yaks and mules available in front of the lake.
How can you go to Gangtok and not buy beautiful things for back home? Plus your friends and family members, they will be waiting for you to get those souvenirs too, right? This approximately 1 km stretch of road with shops on both sides is the perfect place to shop till you drop in Gangtok.
The Rumtek monastery or the Dharma Chakra Centre is sited on top of a hill which faces the beautiful city of Gangtok (Don’t forget to take pictures with the beautiful background). Situated some 24km away from Gangtok, it is an all-inclusive institution, where Relics Retreat Centre, 'Shedra' (monastic college), Nunnery, Stupas (protector's shrine), Institutions for the amateur community and other establishments exist under the same roof.
Close to Tashi View point, around 7km from Gangtok is Ganesh Tok, a temple of Lord Ganesha. Tourists come here not only to offer prayers but also to soak in the views from the viewing lounge and the circular balcony around it. You can see the Gangtok town, surrounding hills and the snow capped Kanchenjunga.
Lachung, Yumthang Valley and Zero Point
For visiting Lachung and onward to Yumthang valley and Zero Point from Gangtok, planning needs to be done from beforehand as it requires an overnight stay at Lachung before you can return to Gangtok the next day. Along the way to Lachung the river Teesta will be by your side and you can see a number of breathtaking waterfalls- the main one being the Seven Sisters Waterfall. Lachung is a small mountain village located about 118kms from Gangtok, it takes about 6 hours by car to reach Lachung from Gangtok, and the road although very scenic, is often not in good condition and the journey will be a little hectic.
Yumthang valley, known as the “Valley of Flowers” is located about 25kms from Lachung and you will find the little shops here which will serve you hot maggi and tea while you sit there to wear the rented plastic boots and coats. Further up and about 23km from Yumthang at an altitude of over 15,000 ft is the place Zero Point and it takes another 1.5 hours from Yumthang by vehicle to reach there. The road is not so good but the view is amazing, it’s worth the hectic and not-feeling-so-good journey. Zero Point is the place where three rivers meet with surrounding snow-clad mountains and after which there are no civilian roads. (Warning: You might have breathing problems because of the high altitude and therefore the low oxygen level)
Located at an altitude of 14,140 feet and 52kms from Gangtok, Nathula Pass used to be the silk trade route between India and Tibet. Now this Indo-Chinese trade market operates only from 1st June to 30th September every year and from Monday to Thursday every week during that period. You as a tourist can visit the border trade market at Sherathang which is 3km below Nathula. The fenced Indo-China border is also few meters away and you can see both Indian and Chinese soldiers guarding the border. There is an engraved stone here called Nehru Stone which marks the visit of former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru. You will also find a memorial here constructed in honor of the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the 1967 conflict. The second highest golf course in the world and the highest altitude ATM in the world is also found near Nathula (So hey just go in and take cash or just check your balance and take the slip as souvenir).
Warning: You might have breathing problem because of the high altitude.
Located about 52 kms from Gangtok, Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple is popularly known as Baba Mandir. Every local out there will tell you the famous story of the brave soldier Harbhajan Singh who disappeared in 1968. They believe His spirit is still alive and he is therefore treated as a living being. Many sentries here believe that he comes here every night as his camp bed sheet gets crumpled every morning and his polished shoes turn muddy by the evening and some of them even say that they have seen his still doing his duty at night. All the army trucks passing by stop here and soldiers come and offer quick prayers before proceeding. They all believe that he will guard and protect them in this very difficult terrain from every enemy.
Every year during his annual leave, Harbhajan Singh is known to visit his hometown in Punjab even today although he is well past his retirement age. Two soldiers actually accompany his uniform in a jeep up to Siliguri then in a train to his hometown. In fact his salary is still sent to his home.
If you are lucky enough, you will even experience snowfall here during the summer months. But as usual because of the high altitude, you might have breathing problems so make sure you take precaution.
So book the tickets, pack your bags and leave for this paradise already holding the hand of the one you love. Make this trip the first one amongst the innumerable trips you will be going on with your partner.
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