Gangtok is a city in India, beautifully situated in the Eastern part of the Himalayas. It is the biggest city in the Sikkim province. Gangtok has a population of 100 000 people. Cuddled within one of the biggest mounts of the Himalayas with altitude 1780 m, Gangtok enjoys moderate climate throughout the whole year and because of this it is in the center of the tourist industry of Sikkim. If you decide to visit Gangtok in the month of May, you will enjoy the wonderfully blossiming rhododendrons along the whole winding mountainside road. After 1894, when the British came to these lands, from a smalle village Gangtok has been transformed into a prospering city. That is when Gangtok became the capital of Sikkim. Gangtok is the center of the Tibetan Buddhist culture with its intersting houses, painted in different colors and with its roofs that look like pagodas.
The city gained popularity after 1840 when the Enchey Monastery was created. Accordng to the legend that is the place where the tantric master Lama Druptop Karpo landed after flying from the top of Menam Hill. Major Tibetan dieties in the temple are Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava. It is believed that they have died in this place. On the walls of the temple one can see marvellous frescoes, picturing Buddhist dieties. Believers say that these dieties always fulfill the pilgrims’ wishes.
One of the interesting places to visit in Gangtok is the building of the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. It is a great example of the traditional Tibetan style, the museum impresses with the colorful wood carvings and murals. The institute is a popular center of Buddhist knowledge and has one of the richest collections of rare Buddhist books, icons, manuscripts and tangki flags with religious images. Tangka is a remarkable craft, representing complex hand-painted religious scroll in sparkling colors on top of fabric, that is hanged in monasteries or family altars.
Gangtok is a city with amazing nature, however the best time for visits is between March and May. During the Monsoon months from June to September it is covered in fog and rains. In January though, it is home to the celebrations of the religious holiday Cham. Visiting the wonderful orchid park, that has around 450 types of these amazing flowers, is a great experience.
On the road covered with beautiful flowers, winding over the city, apart from the wonderful view over the Himalayas, one can also see the Governor’s residence on one of the road ends and the castle, placed on 1800m altitude on the other side of the road. The castle is open for visitors once in the year during the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, when thousands of people come to watch the famous dance of the Black crown, symbolizing the victory of good over evil.
Apart from the Enchey Monastery, which is the oldest in the city, other famous Buddhist temples are the Do-Drul Chorten stupa and the Rumtek Monastery. Do-Drul Chorten is a stupa, built in 1945 by Trulshik, head of the Nyingma Tibetan Buddhism. This is one of the biggest and most important temples of this type in Sikkim. Inside are kept valuable relics, sacred books and mantras. Around the building there are 108 mani or prayer wheels. There is also a religious school in the stupa.
The Rumtek Monastery is located in the outskirts of the city. It was built in the 60s of the last century based on the model of the Lhasa Monastery in Tibet. It is one of the most sacred monasteries of Buddhism and some of the rarest Tibetan Buddhist writings are kept in it. Aside from that there is an amazing view towards the third highest mount in the world – Kanchenjunga.
Close to Gangtok are located also the Tashi and Hanuman temples. They are visited by many pilgrims, believing in the abilities of these dieties to win over the dark forces.
The ecotourism is an important economic activity in the Gangtook region. It includes trekking, mountaineering, river rafting and others. The amazing nature, beautiful lakes close to the city, the botanical garden and the parks are a great place to relax for the local and foreign tourists. The closest railroad is 124km from Gangtok and the closest airport is the Bagdogra airport, located close to the nearby city Siliguri. Taxis are the most widely available public transport in Gangtok. Most of the citizens travel with their own transportation because the city buses represnet only 1% of the vehicles. There are many religious holidays in Gangtok. This is due to the diverse ethnic population – Nepalese, Tibetans, Christians and Muslims. Christmas, Holi, Dashain, Tihar and many other holidays are celebrated here.
The popular food in Gangtok is the momo – a dish made of steamed pork and beef with vegatables in thick sause. The local beer is called chang and is served in bamboo cups with cane or bamboo straws. The citizens of Gangtok are very musical. Apart from the local music, you can often hear Western rock music, so visiting this interesting Indian city can be a great experience.