Gangtok and around

Gangtok ('High Hill'), the capital of Sikkim, sits on a ridge overlooking the Ranipul River. The setting is spectacular with fine views of the Khangchendzonga range, but the town has lost some of its quaint charm with the mushrooming of concrete buildings along the national highway and the main road. The crowded Mahatma Gandhi Marg and the colourful bazaars below it are where all the town's commercial activity is concentrated. Away from here, there are many serene areas and quiet alleys that remain virtually untouched.

At the north end of town the Government Institute of Cottage Industries produces a wide range of local handicrafts, including wool carpets, jackets, dolls, handmade paper, carved and painted wooden tables. Items are of high quality (and prices) but there's no parcel service for sending packages home.

Enchey Monastery
is 3 km northeast of the main bazaar. It's a pleasant walk that takes you past the small
flower garden
at Whitehall (orchids on show March-April). Originally built by the eighth Chogyal in the 1840s, the present building dates from 1909. Religious dances are held in August and December.

The
Palace of the Chogyal
is only open once a year in the last week of December for the
Pang Lhabsol Festival
. Below this is the
Tsuklakhang
or Royal Chapel, standing on a high ridge where royal marriages and coronations took place. This is the major place of worship and has a large and impressive collection of scriptures. The interior houses Buddha images and is lavishly decorated with woodcarving and murals. Visitors are welcome during Tibetan New Year but may not be permitted at other times; photography is prohibited.

Moving south along the road you pass the
Secretariat
complex on your left. Beyond this is the
Deer Park
, loosely modelled on the famous one at Sarnath. From here a
ropeway
 descends the hill to Deorali Bazar, near which is the unique
Research Institute of Tibetology
 established in 1958 to promote research into Tibet and Mahayana Buddhism. The library maintains a large and important Buddhist collection with many fine
thangkas
, icons and art treasures on display. To the south, surrounded by 108 prayer wheels, the gold-topped
Do-drul
Chorten
contains relics and a complete set of holy texts. Nearby is a monastery for young
lamas
with large statues of the Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava.

There are some lovely walks around the capital.
Tashi Viewpoint
via Enchey Monastery is 9 km away. Go early to watch the sun rise over the Khangchendzonga range.
Hanuman Tok
, a hill with a small temple, 8 km away, is another viewpoint.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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