GANGTOK: Guide to planning your travel

India is a country of innumerable beautiful places and Sikkim is one of those places. The state has both natural and man-made places that will take your breath away. However, this post will not describe the obvious beauty of those places, rather it is focused more on how to plan your journey and what to expect from Sikkim.

There are many popular tourist places in Sikkim, like Gangtok and nearby spots, Lachen, Lachung, Namchi, etc along with few less explored ones.

My wife and I planned our first vacation post marriage to Gangtok and Darjeeling. Initially, we tried to book a package through popular sites but later we realized that everything can be done on our own and there will be no need to give extra charges to these sites or to any travel agent.

The first step was to book hotels and flight. While exploring hotels we came across the concept of “Home Stay” (Many would be aware of it but for us, it was a new thing). We checked a few of them on Airbnb and the facilities provided by them along with the reviews of other guests looked promising. So instead of hotels, we booked Home Stays in Gangtok and Darjeeling and booked our flights accordingly. 

I wanted to book one cab for my whole journey in advance but even after trying for many days I couldn’t find any, which proved to be a good thing in the long run.


Delhi to Bagdogra: Both direct and connected flights are available and can be booked in quite reasonable rates if booked well in advance
Beautiful View

Bagdogra to Gangtok: 

 Distance: 125km

Travel time: 4hrs 30min to 5 hrs

Since it is a hilly area so the time taken for this journey would be more than you would expect. Both SUVs and hatchbacks are available at the airport.

SUV will charge you around ₹3500.

Hatchback will charge you in between ₹2500-₹3000.

Arrival in Gangtok and visit to local Market:

No matter how early flight you book, you will not be able to visit local tourist spots in Gangtok on your arrival day, as everything closes around 5pm except the main market. We reached our homestay around 5:30pm, after taking some rest we went to the MG Market, the main market of Gangtok. You can try local food (especially Thukpa), buy local products, drink or simply roam around the place and spend some quality time. 

The best way of commute there is a cab. Both shared and reserved ones are available.

The minimum fare for a shared cab is ₹20/person.

Reserved cabs will charge based on the distance, but the minimum is ₹80.

MG Market Gangtok

Day 2- Local sightseeing: 

 There are 10-15 places that you can visit in a day in Gangtok, most famous being Ban Jhakri Falls, Tashi Viewpoint and ropeway.

Package charge is in between ₹1500-₹1800 for hatchback and you can ask any cab driver for the same. No need to go to any travel agent. 

Our driver’s name was Mangal Dhoj, contact no: 8436403736. He is a genuine person and gave us correct information regarding everything, that is why I am mentioning his name and contact number.

 Below is the list of places we visited and what you can expect there:

1) Banjhakri falls: 

    Entry fee: ₹50/person

    Parking: ₹20 

    One of the main tourist attractions in Gangtok and a must visit place. You can enjoy few adventure sports as well. Better to go early in the morning, as it will get crowded during the day time.

Banjakhri Fall Gangtok

2)  Handicraft market: 

     The place offers you a wide variety of hand made products, like floor mats, purses, bamboo cups, wall hangings, hand made papers, organic pickle etc. Quality of the products is very good. You will definitely step out of the shop with one or two products.

Entry fee: 0

Parking fee: 0

Handicraft Market Gangtok

There is one craft museum right in front of the handicraft building. You can see traditional old utensils, Buddhist ritual instruments, old beehive, stone aata chakki etc. In nearby rooms, you can see people preparing different products to be sold in the handicraft market.

Entry fee: ₹15/person.

3) Bakthang falls: 

     Although cab drivers will add it in the list of “to watch” places, it is just a roadside fall, you can easily skip it. 

No entry and no parking fee as it is on the road.

Bakhthang Falls Gangtok

4) Gonjang monastery: 

     Just like any other monastery, the place is calm with beautiful idols and paintings on the walls. One added advantage is, it has a beautiful view and you can have a few good clicks here.

Entry fee: 0

Parking fee: ₹20

Gonjang Monastry View Gangtok
Gonjang Monastry Gangtok
Gonjang Monastry View Gangtok

5) Tashi Viewpoint: 

     The place is famous because you can see the mighty Kanchenjunga mountain from here. Unfortunately, when we visited this place(April end), it was cloudy and all we could see here were the nearby shops.

Entry fee: 0

Parking fee: ₹20

 6) Ganesh Tok:

     Ganesh Tok or Ganesh Temple offers you beautiful views along with the blessings of Lord Ganesh.

Entry fee: 0

Parking fee: ₹20

Ganesh Tok Gangtpok
Ganesh Tok View Gangtok

7) Flower Exhibition Centre:

     A small closed exhibition of different kinds of flowers. Even if you are not very fond of flowers you can visit this place and see some rare species of flowers. I expected a much bigger place though. 

Entry fee: ₹20

Parking fee: ₹20

Flower Exhibition Gangtok

8) Namgyal Institute of Technology: 

    It is a Tibet museum. We could visit only one part of it as few places were already closed.

The Ropeway was closed for maintenance during that time.

Namgyal Institute Gangtok
Namgyal Institute Gangtok

Day 3: Nathu La Pass, Baba Mandir, and Tsongmo Lake

 Our plan for the next day was to visit the famous Nathula Pass, Tsongmo lake and Baba Mandir. To visit these places you need to get a permit.

If you are planning to go there with your own vehicle then you’ll need to apply for the permit, which can be done online. If you are booking a cab then the travel agency will take care of that. You will need to give two passport size photographs and one ID proof.

Although there are many travel agencies, the best one is Sikkim Tourism, reason being, it is the government agency and will cost you lesser with better and more secure service than the others.

Reserved hatchback will cost you ₹2800 and SUV will cost you ₹3500.

Shared cabs are also available, where you’ll share the car with 9 other people. Charges will be ₹400/person.(Other agencies will cost you ₹500/600).

Baba Mandir Route Gangtok
Entoure Baba Mandir
Baba Mandir Route Gangtok

Baba Mandir: 

The temple is built in the memory of a brave Indian Soldier, Harbhajan Singh after his tragic demise. There is a huge Shiva Idol near to this place and a small waterfall makes the place even more beautiful, Don’t forget to buy a souvenir from here.

Baba Mandir Gangtok
Baba Mandir

Nathu La: It is the border area between India and China. During our visit, it was closed. 

In between Baba Mandir and Tsongmo Lake, there are two popular places. One is the Tibetan Market, where you can buy all kinds of Chinese Products at a very cheap price. The other is the mountain covered with snow, where you can stop and bring your child out and enjoy the snow. But be very careful, as the oxygen is not in abundance there and you might feel dizziness. As a precaution, you must keep a piece of “Kapur” with you.

Snow Gall View Gangtok

Tsongmo Lake: 

Tsongmo Lake or Jhangu lake is yet another beautiful place where you can spend a lot of time and without getting bored. The mountains which surround it from one side, add on to its beauty.

Tsongmo Lake Gangtok
Tsongmo Lake
Tsongmo Lake Gangtok
Tsongmo Lake Gangtok

Day 4: Gangtok to Darjeeling via Namchi:

Namchi is a beautiful small place, 80km from Gangtok, famous for the Char Dham Temple. Although there are other small places as well that are worth visiting namely Sai Mandir, Samdruptse Hill and ropeway, Ngadak Monastery, etc. We planned to visit three places only.

Samdruptse Hill.:

The place has a giant statue of Lord Budha, sitting in Dhyan mudra, which looks very beautiful. The statue sits on the top of the temple, you can see monks doing regular pooja inside of it The whole ambiance looks very calm and peaceful.

Samdrupts Hill

Char Dham: 

This place is famous for its architecture. Once you enter the compound, the gigantic Shiva statue located at the very end will grabs your attention. As you’ll explore the place, you’ll see 12 Jyotirlingas surrounding the Shiva Statue, long with temples of Char Dhams namely Badrinath Dham, Dwaraka Dham, Rameshwar Dham, and Jagannath Dham. The Shiva statue sits on a huge Shiva temple. Inside this temple, you can see the beautiful wall murals depicting Shiva’s marriage to Parvati Ji and many other historic events like Shiva drinking venom. The detailing in these murals is amazing. The place is so beautiful that we decided to skip the next place and spend some extra time there.

Char Dham Namchi
Char Dham Namchi
Char Dham Namchi

Cab rates:

Hatchback: ₹5k. Gangtok to Darjeeling via Namchi (From Sikkim tourism, others were charging above ₹6k).

Direct cab from Gangtok to Darjeeling will cost you ₹2800 (other agencies were charging ₹3500)

Journey from Namchi to Darjeeling:

From Gangtok to Namchi is mostly downhill. You’ll see the river Teesta flowing on one side and mighty mountains on the other side. You’ll cross this river several times throughout your journey because of the criss-cross path. 

To enter West Bengal you will again need a permit, which you’ll get in Melli, the last town before you enter WB. Make sure you reach here before 4pm, else it would be little difficult to get the permit. From here the path of steep climbs will start, the journey will become little more dangerous.

Along the way you will have a view point called the “Lovers meet point”: From this point you can see river Teesta coming from East(Baba Mandir and jhangu lake side) and river Rangeet, coming from north(Gurudunga, lachen and lachung side), meet each other and flow with the name Teesta. You can stop here for a few minutes, have some snacks and continue your journey.
Lover's Meet Point

This climbing part is time-consuming as you can’t go fast and roads will be covered with fog. So it’s better to start early, to reach early and safe.

Day 5: One day in Darjeeling

Darjeeling is home to many small and beautiful tourist places, like Rock Garden, Happy valley tea estate, ropeway, peace Pagoda, war memorial, Mountaineering institute, mall road, monasteries, and last but not the least, the Toy Train which is also a part of the world heritage site.

Since we had only one day to visit Darjeeling, so we chose few places including a ride on the toy train. 

Toy train offers many rides with varying distances and places, we opted for a round trip from Darjeeling railway station to Batasia loop and back, which is a 2-hour journey covering a total distance of 14km. This train stops at the Batasia eco Garden for half an hour, takes a U turn and go back to Darjeeling station. During its half an hour stop, you can visit the park and the War Memorial, build in the honor of great Gurkha Soldiers. From this place you can see the Mt Kanchenjunga mountain as well.

Entry fee for this eco-park is included in the train fare. Which is ₹20/person.

Toy train fare:

Steam engine: ₹1405

Diesel engine: ₹805

Our train got cancelled one day before the journey, we wanted to book ticket from the station window but our host advised us to book a cab instead and visit all places.

Places in Darjeeling are near by, we visited two places, Dali Monastery and Batasia Eco Park by walking and booked a cab for Rock Garden, Happy valley tea estate and mall road. The driver charged us ₹1600 for this.

Below are the details of these places:

Dali Monastery:

Entry fee: 0

Dali Monastery Darjeeling

Batasia Eco Park:

It is the place where the toy train takes a U-turn. A war memorial is also built here in the honour of Gurkha Soldiers, you can enjoy the beautiful view from here.

Entry fee: ₹20/person

Batasia eco garden

Rock Garden:

It is basically a waterfall and the garden is built through it. It is a nice amalgamation of nature and man-made beauty. The pathway will lead you to the top with beautiful flowers throughout the route. There is a small hut at the top, you can sit there for some time and enjoy the view and the cold breeze. It is a must visit place in Darjeeling.

Entry fee: 0

Rock Garden Darjeeling
Rock Garden Darjeeling

Happy Valley Tea Estate:

You will get to see the whole end to end processing of the tea. You can visit the beautiful farms of tea which look very beautiful and offer you a beautiful background for your pics.

Entry fee: ₹100/person, if you want to see the processing.

0 if you only want to visit the estate.

Happy Valley Tea Estate Darjeeling

Mall road:

The biggest market area of Darjeeling where you can find anything you want. From branded items of clothing to local hand made stuff. Local food, hot tea, and mouthwatering momos. A very lively place to spend the evening.

Mall Road Square Darjeeling

After this we returned to our homestay and meanwhile our host helped us book cab for next day, from Darjeeling to Bagdogra airport. It charged us ₹2200 + ₹60 for parking at airport.

Throughout our visit, we booked all our cabs just one day before, there was no need to have a travel agent for this trip. People there including the cab drivers gave us the right suggestion and didn’t charge anything extra.

In hilly areas, you will spend more time in travelling than visiting places, but the good thing is, you will get to see beautiful sceneries during your travel. While we were going to Baba Mandir, the Army camps along with valleys and mountains were treat for the eyes.

I hope this blog will help you plan your trip to Gangtok in future.

Thanks for reading.

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