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Gangtok – The Town Of Buddhist Monasteries and Tibetan Philosophy

A Peek into the History

Besides being the largest town of Sikkim, Gangtok is also the capital of this north eastern hill state. Located within the upper reaches of the eastern Himalayan range, at a height of 5,800 feet, the town is famous not only for its beautiful surroundings but also for its round the year temperate climate. The importance of Gangtok as a major Buddhist pilgrimage centre was established only after the Enchey Monastery was built here in 1840. Later, in 1894, the city was made the capital of the Kingdom of Sikkim by King Thutob Namgyal. Since then the city has remained the capital of Sikkim. The city also became a prominent resting place for people making business trips between the various cities in India and Tibet.   

Places of Tourist Interest in Gangtok

Gangtok is a major tourist hub in the region and is renowned for its various monasteries and religious and educational institutions. The city is also a primary destination for people interested in the culture and learning of the Tibetan Buddhist community and hence houses several Tibetology institutes. Some tourist hot spots in the region are listed below.

Nathula Pass: Located at a height of 14450 feet, this pass is renowned for being the highest motor able road across the globe. Though the pass was closed down in 1962, it served as major travel route between India and Tibet before that. The road is surrounded by beautiful alpine trees and is located nearly 56 kms away from Gangtok. In clear weather, travelers can see the path winding down beautifully into the Chumbi valley. The pass is open for visitors only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturday and Sundays. No foreigners are allowed in this restricted area and even Indian citizens need to acquire proper permission for visiting the area.

Tsogmo Lake: Located at a distance of 38 kms from Gangtok is the extremely beautiful Tsogmo Lake, which takes on a different look in different seasons. Situated at a height of 12,400 feet, the lake gets its water from the snow melting on the mountains that surround this magnificent water body. The lake becomes frozen during the winter season and in the spring season it reflects the vibrant colors of the different variety of flowers growing on its shores. Several myths and legends are associated with this lake, which is considered to be sacred by the people of Sikkim. According to the local legend, the Buddhist monks studied the color of its water and projected the future, in the ancient times. Although the lake is open for foreign nationals, they need to go there in groups of two or more after obtaining proper permit.  

The Ridge: This small section of flat land located on top of the city of Gangtok is a favorite tourist destination.  The ridge covers the area between the Palace gates of the great Nambyal Kings and the White Hall Memorial. It also features a Hawa Ghar, for tourists to take rest, which is located inside the park. In addition, a special glass house constructed opposite the White Hall, exhibits the various varieties of flowers found across Sikkim. The house displays various flower shows throughout the year and the foremost of these is the Orchid show organized in March.

Saramsa Garden: The Saramasa garden is loacted at a distance of nearly 14 kms from Gangtok and is a well- known place for picnics, leisure and recreation. The garden was set up by the Department of forests, which continues to look after its maintenance and upkeep. Recently a musical fountain and swimming pool have been added to the garden, which also hosted the International Flower Show in 2008.

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