Gangtok, the capital of the state of Sikkim,India is a picturesque travel destination perched on a mountain with monasteries, parks, and colorful bazaars. Situated at an altitude of 5,800 ft, this little Himalayan town is the head quarters of the East Sikkim district. Gangtok meaning a ‘lofty hill’ is a blend of the traditional and the modern ; dotted with monasteries and ‘chortens’ (stupas) and new concrete buildings which bespeak of its striding towards change and progress. Presiding, as it were, over all the activities of the state and its people is the mighty Khangchendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world.
An important landmark in Gangtok, the 200 year old Enchey Monastery, meaning the ‘solitary temple’ built in the middle of a forest, offers breath taking views of the Khangchendzonga range. People come here to witness the famous mask dance performances called ‘Cham’ in the months of August and January. The Do-Drul Chorten, a modern stupa with a golden spire, built in 1945, and surrounded by 108 prayer wheels houses rare religious texts.
The Research Institute of Tibetology is a world famous centre for the study of Buddhist philosophy and religion. The Government Institute of Cottage Industries (also called the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom) which promotes and keeps alive traditional arts and crafts is a veritable treasure house of exquisite carpets, blankets and shawls in ‘lepcha’ weaves. The Deorali Orchid Sanctuary has a very good collection of different species of birds and flowers, especially orchids.
The Rumtek Monastery, which is 24km away, is a prominent structure visible from Gangtok. It is the seat of the Kagyu Buddhist order and houses a remarkable collection of murals and religious art objects. There are several places around Gangtok, such as Ganesh Tok (7km), Hanuman Tok (11km), and Tashi View Point (8 km) from where the majestic Khangchendzonga, Mt.Siniolchu and other snow covered mountains can be seen.