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Ultimate Sikkim Trip Planning Guide | Sikkim Travel Tips, Itinerary & Budget


 

Discover how to plan your perfect trip to Sikkim with our comprehensive guide. From the best places to visit and travel tips to budget and accommodation options, explore all you need to know for an unforgettable Sikkim adventure. Welcome to Sikkim Travel Planning!!

Sikkim in Summers


A regular view when travelling to North Sikkim
The perfect combination: Cloudy with chance of Green!!

 


Getting married in May comes with its challenges. First, you have to beat the extreme heat, and then every year, if you want to celebrate your anniversary with a new travel experience, you have to find a place that allows you to enjoy the day outside rather than staying inside a resort. For us, it’s a challenge every year to find a place worth exploring. The first thought that comes to mind is to beat the heat and go to the mountains. Let's be frank; mountains are typically any North Indian’s first thought when they want to escape the blistering summers.


We went with the most common choice but with a twist. We decided to visit the mountains, but not in the North. We chose to move to the East. Sikkim had been on our minds for quite a while. A few years ago, we visited Gangtok (the capital city) and Kalimpong on a road trip. However, at that time, we knew very little about the majestic Sikkim that lies beyond Gangtok. So this time, we planned to explore all four directions, using Gangtok as our base.


If you have only been to Gangtok in Sikkim and nowhere else, then I’m sorry to say you’ve missed one of the best landscapes that lie beyond the capital city. You may think that Gangtok, being in the mountains, has shown you everything Sikkim has to offer. But the world beyond the green hills of Gangtok is an entirely different realm. You will not only see a change in the colors around you, but you will also feel as if you have hit barren land with distant white mountains reflecting sunlight in your direction.

 

Starting your Journey


When planning a trip to Sikkim, the first and foremost task is to figure out how to reach Sikkim and how to get around the state. If you plan to cover specific regions in Sikkim, you can divide it into three main regions:

1.         Gangtok and Nathu La (Central and Eastern Region)

2.         Lachung and Lachen (Northern Region)

3.         Pelling, Ravangla, and Namchi (Western Region)

We'll cover each of these regions separately, but here's a brief overview:


Gangtok and Nathu La

Gangtok, the capital, is an excellent starting point for your tour. It's easy to acclimatize here, especially on MG Road, where the modern vibe blends seamlessly with the mountain atmosphere. You might compare it to Shimla or Manali, but Gangtok's MG Road is distinct, closely resembling the newly developed commercial road in Leh. Gangtok’s MG Road is well-maintained with some great cafes worth trying. As with any hill station, you'll find famous monasteries and waterfalls nearby to explore. Another key attraction in this region is the trip to the restricted area of Nathu La Pass, with Changgu Lake en route and a surprising detour.


Lachung and Lachen

The northern region consists of two main areas: Lachung and Lachen. These towns form a V-shaped route with Chungthang at the intersection. Lachung and Lachen are more like stopovers as you will venture further from these towns. They offer somewhat comfortable resting points. Notable locations in the north include Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley. It's worth noting that traveling to the northern region can be mentally and physically challenging. For more details, stay tuned for a separate blog on this topic.


Sikkim's beauty never cease to amaze
NH 310A: Criss Cross beauty on way to Zero Point


Pelling, Ravangla, and Namchi

The western region is less explored compared to the central and eastern parts but is equally beautiful. It boasts numerous lesser-known destinations that you will love exploring. Ravangla and Pelling offer stunning views of Mt. Kanchenjunga. One must-visit location is the Rabdentse ruins, often referred to as the "Machu Picchu of India." This historic site is one of the most peaceful places, and if you are lucky, you might find yourself walking among the clouds.

 

How to Reach Sikkim

 

Flying In

If you are flying in, there are two options: landing directly in Sikkim at Pakyong Airport or flying to Bagdogra (Siliguri) and then taking a cab to Gangtok. The choice between the two primarily depends on cost. At the time of our travel, flights to Pakyong were 2-3 times more expensive than flights to Bagdogra. From Bagdogra, the cab travel time to Gangtok is around 4-5 hours. You will find various public, private, and pool cabs at Bagdogra. It's better to plan your travel with a local state agent rather than booking through your city agent (trust us, we had our share of fare experiences). If you get a decent flight cost for Pakyong or want to avoid road travel, it’s your choice, but you will save time for sure.

 

Rail

Unfortunately, there is no train station in Gangtok. The nearest ones are New Jalpaiguri and Bagdogra. From there, you will need to take a cab.

 

Driving

Our personal favorite and preferred choice is driving. We had the opportunity to drive to Gangtok, and it was one of the most adventurous and best drives ever. It was adventurous not because of poor infrastructure or off-roading conditions, but because the road infrastructure is 70-80% very good (with 20% under continuous improvement projects). We found the driving skills of the people in Sikkim to be among the best. Driving in Gangtok is a delight, especially when you come from one of the metro cities in India. One of the most enjoyable aspects was the road inclination, which can be as steep as 60-70 degrees in places. It felt like driving on a roller coaster.

 

Take note

Throughout your road journey in Sikkim, you will encounter many roadside waterfalls. Take a break and enjoy whenever you feel like it. If you opt for a taxi, our experience with taxi drivers was very positive. They were decent, and polite, and agreed to make as many stops as we wanted. Our longest-distance driver was particularly fun—he not only drove us but also danced, sang, and took care of us when it came to food and weather. Apart from him, we had two more taxi drivers, all of whom were accommodating and did not trouble us over small detours or requests. If you have trouble breaking the ice, start with football or the Premier League, and you'll find your breakthrough.

 

 

Stays and what to expect


When it comes to accommodations in Sikkim, you will find a variety of options ranging from 2-star to 4-star stays, with the availability and quality largely depending on the region you are visiting.


Gangtok

In Gangtok, it’s best to stay near MG Road, which is the city center. This area offers easy access to everything. There are good hotels throughout Gangtok, and you should also explore Airbnb options. We had a very positive experience with Airbnb as compared to hotels, as we prefer a quiet environment. Choose your stay based on your preferences and past experiences.


North Sikkim

In North Sikkim, you will mostly find basic accommodations. Even if you find stays rated above 4 stars on travel portals, expect only basic amenities. (The situation may have improved over time.) It’s essential to research thoroughly and choose accommodations after reading numerous reviews. If you’re booking your trip through an agent, be sure to check their reviews on various portals as well.


West Sikkim

In the western part of Sikkim, most stays are 3-star properties, with some 4-star options available as well. Your choice will depend on your budget. We stayed in Pelling at a 3-star hotel with a basic meal plan.

In both North and West Sikkim, accommodation options are typically located around one main road, and the towns have very small city centers. Be prepared for simpler, more rustic stays in these regions.


Food

Gangtok

Gangtok offers a wide variety of food options. There are numerous excellent food stalls and restaurants on MG Road and its vicinity. Simply search for restaurants on Google Maps and select according to your palate.


North Sikkim

Food options in North Sikkim are quite limited. Hotels generally serve basic meals, and there aren't many standalone restaurants in the region. The menu options are also limited. A must-visit is the World’s Highest Dosa café before Kala Pathar, run by the Indian Defence. It’s usually busy, as there are fewer restaurants as you travel further.


West Sikkim

In West Sikkim, food options are better than in the North but not as abundant as in Gangtok. There are some good restaurants, like the one near the Revang La statue, where we enjoyed some of the best tea and bakery items. Of course, Maggi is a staple food in hill stations, so you’ll find it at most places.


Public Amenities


As you move away from major cities, finding a decent restroom can be a challenge. It’s advisable to use the facilities whenever you get the chance, as tourist spots away from cities often lack proper amenities. Sometimes, you can find restrooms in defence-run restaurants. Therefore, it’s better to use them when you find one, rather than waiting for the next stop.


Budget

Covering the entirety of Sikkim doesn't have to put a dent in your budget. Our 8-day trip cost us approximately INR 46,000 ($551 approx), which included flights, accommodations, taxis, permits, shopping, food, and entry tickets. We believe we paid a premium for taxis and could have saved some money, but overall, we had a comfortable trip without significant compromises.

 

Alright!! This wraps up our guide on planning a trip to Sikkim. In the next part, we’ll delve into a detailed day-by-day itinerary and region-wise breakdown of our trip. Stay tuned!

 

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