Sikkim

Sikkim

Sikkim is situated to the north of Darjeeling surrounded by Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the East and Nepal in the west. Although only 100 km (63 miles) from north to south and 60 km (38 miles) from east to west, the elevation ranges from 244 m to over 8500 m above sea-level, giving Sikkim an extraordinary range of flora and fauna within her borders.The most dominant feature of Sikkim is Mount Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain in the world, soaring to a height of 8603 m. The Sikkimese consider the mountain to be their protective deity, the mother goddess.People from the ethnic tribe of Lepchas and other small farmers were among the first to settle in Sikkim. Then came the Bhutias from Tibet to be followed by more immigrants during the 15th-century religious strife between various Buddhist sects in Tibet. The Nyingmapa sect of Buddhists thus became the dominant group in 1 Sikkim; Buddhism was the state religion and the Chogyal (king) a devout Buddhist. In the early 19th century, Gorkhas from Nepal occupied a large part of Sikkim; they were eventually defeated by the British and signed the Treaty of Titaliya in 1827, by which they ceded all Sikkimese territories to the British. The British in turn handed back these territories to the erstwhile king but retained Darjeeling hill in return for an annual payment.Unlike other parts of India, Sikkim displays very little evidence of the Raj. It was on Darjeeling that the British concentrated their attention. Sikkim became an independent kingdom in 1947 although, by agreement, India became responsible for its defence. However, by 1970, ethnic conflict between the minority Lepcha and Bhutia communities on the one side and the Nepalis on the other forced the king to rethink matters and in 1975, Sikkim merged with India to become its 22nd state.

WHEN TO GO
Best season: March to late May and October to end-December
Climate: 14° to 22°C (summer); 4° to 15°C (winter)

ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE
Because of the terrain, Sikkim is not accessible by train. However, its proximity to Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri railway stations as well as Bagdogra airport, ensures there are no major access difficulties.

Air
Bagdogra airport is 125 km (78 miles) from Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok. There are several flights by Indian Airlines to Bagdogra from Delhi (Rs2406), Calcutta (Rs939) and Guwahati (Rs629). In 1990 the Sikkim Helicopter Service was introduced and operated daily flights which took only 25 minutes, but they were withdrawn after one season and, at the time of writing, have yet to be reintroduced.

Rail
Siliguri (114 km; 71 miles) and New Jalpaiguri (125 km; 77 miles) are the railheads nearest to Gangtok. These stations are well-connected with Calcutta, Delhi, Guwahati and other major cites of India.

Road
Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) runs a Special Snow-Lion bus service from Bagdogra to Gangtok (124 km). Private taxis and buses also operate from Bagdogra, Darjeeling and Kalingpong to Gangtok. The Transport wing of Sikkim’s Department of Tourism has a number of cars, luxury coaches and jeeps for hire.

ENTRY FORMALITIES
All foreigners intending to visit Sikkim must apply for an Inner Line Permit. This permit is issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi and applications are to be routed through The Indian Diplomatic missions in the respective countries at least 6 weeks in advance of the visit. A copy of the application, endorsed to Sikkim Tourism, New Sikkim House, 14 Panchsheel Marg. Chanakyapuri, New Delhi-110021 will ensure speedy sanction of the permit. This permit allows visitors access to Gangtok, Phodang, Rumtek, Pemayangtse, Dzongri. Namchi and Naya Bazaar, and is valid for 15 days.

Restricted Areas
All of east Sikkim beyond Rongali and North Sikkim beyond Phodang are restricted areas for foreigners.

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