North-East India is one of the less explored parts of the country. My camaraderie with north-east began with a 1500 km train journey to Gangtok. This was the beginning of my love affair with travel.
In my 10 days trip, I covered Gangtok, Pelling, Darjeeling, and Kalimpong. Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim. In this blog post, I am covering the frequently asked questions regarding travel from Gangtok to Darjeeling.
How to reach Gangtok?
The nearest railway station to Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri which is 148 km away and is well connected with other major train stations in India. Plenty of private and shared taxis are available at New Jalpaiguri for Gangtok that takes around 4-5 hours to reach Gangtok. The nearest airport is Bagdogra which is located at a distance of 124 km.
There are flights from Delhi, Guwahati, and Kolkata from Gangtok. From Bagdogra, shared or private taxi can be hired that takes around 2 hours to reach Gangtok.
How to reach Darjeeling?
Darjeeling is a hill town located in the northern part in the state of West Bengal. Siliguri is the nearest main town with regular transport services to Darjeeling and other cities around. Bagdogra is the nearest Airport at a distance of approximately 95 km. There are flights from Kolkata, Delhi, and Guwahati to Darjeeling.
New Jalpaiguri is the nearest Railway Station connecting with all the major parts of the country. A number of trains run from Delhi, Mumbai, Guwahati, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi for New Jalpaiguri.
How to reach Gangtok from Darjeeling?
The best way to travel between Darjeeling and Gangtok is by private taxi which takes 1.5 to 2 hours. The journey is full of beautiful landscapes. Most of the roads are in good condition and one can stop midway to enjoy the scenic beauty.
The famous toy train can be taken from New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri to Darjeeling but it takes around 7 hours to reach Darjeeling. This train has been given UNESCO World Heritage status and has been running on narrow gauge tracks since the 1880s.
How can I go from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok?
From Bagdogra Airport, shared and private taxi can be hired that takes around 4 hours to reach Gangtok. The distance between Bagdogra and Gangtok is 120 km. A private taxi would cost around INR 3000 and above. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or auto to Siliguri Bus station and then board a bus for Gangtok from there for a cheaper option.
Traveling India by train?
Train travel in India can be confusing and intimidating. In this detailed 3401 words guide, you will find the answer to frequently asked questions about booking train tickets and the class of compartments. Click here to read “Everything You Need to Know about Traveling India By Train”.
If you are wondering if it is safe to travel by train in India? My answer is, Yes, traveling by train in India even though risky at some levels, is safer if you travel in a reserved compartment. Staying cautious is the key. If you are a female traveling solo or with a child then try to get an upper berth where you are at a safe distance from the (unwanted) touch of passers-by.
Of course, there is much more to train travel in India than what I have just mentioned. Click here to read “How To travel safely in Indian trains: 13 Awesome tips”.
How many days are enough for Gangtok?
2-3 days are enough to cover Gangtok and nearby famous places.
What is the best time to visit Gangtok?
Gangtok experiences pleasant weather during summers from April to June when temperature ranges from 18-degree Celsius to 25-degree Celsius. Monsoon arrives in July and stays till September. With rainfall, the temperature starts declining. Winter arrives with the month of October and ends in March. It can get quite cold in winters and temperature may fall down to 2-degree Celsius. Rhododendrons bloom from April to July. This is peak tourist season when Rhododendrons can be seen in their full glory, weather is pleasant and also because this is the time of summer vacations in schools. We chose to visit Gangtok in November when days were pleasant with sufficient sunshine and nights were cold.
Protected areas in Sikkim require Inner Line Permit for visiting. Foreigners must obtain Restricted Area Permit (formerly known as Inner Line Permit) to visit Sikkim.
Places to visit in Gangtok
Situated at a distance of 40 km from Gangtok, it is one of the top places to visit in this area. Transport is easily available from Gangtok and the lake is open 24 hours. The place has spectacular views and serenity. One can enjoy Yak ride here.
Nathu La Pass
Nathu La Pass was once a part of the Silk route which was one of the most important trade routes in the world. This lies at the Indo-China border. It is located at a distance of 54 km from Gangtok at an altitude of 4310 meters above sea level. To reach here, cabs and jeeps can be hired from Gangtok.
MG Marg in Gangtok is very popular among locals and tourists. It is a completely litter free zone and no vehicles are allowed in this area. It is a great place to shop, eat and chill out. Approximately one km of a stretch of this road is a line up with shops and restaurants. Annual Gangtok Food and Culture Festival is held here every year in December. Spending time at this place felt like being in a foreign country because of the paved pathways, symmetrically lined shop and clean surroundings.
Being the capital city, Gangtok has a lot to offer to its visitors. The best way to have a bird’s eye view of the city and surrounding areas is to get into a cable car ride. The duration of the ride is 30 minutes and it is 1 km long. The cable car can be taken from Deorali market in Gangtok.
- Timings- 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM
- Fee- INR 110 for adults and INR 70 for children below 6 years
It is located at a distance of around 22 km from Gangtok. It is one of the largest monasteries in Sikkim and one of the must-visit places in Gangtok. The monastery lies on a hill and was built in the mid 17th century.
It is also known as Dharma Chakra Centre. This monastery is very beautiful with lots of wall murals and paintings. We got a chance to talk to a few teenager monks who looked happy to interact with the visitors.
- Timings- 9 AM to 6 PM
- Entry fee- INR 10
This lake is situated near Pelling town around 147 km from Gangtok. The best way to reach here would be to hire a taxi. It is also known as Wishing Lake. It is a sacred place for Buddhists and Hindus. One has to walk for some distance to reach the lake. I experienced instant calmness when we arrived at this lake.
Standing near the lake, I said my prayers.
There was mist surrounding the lake which lent a surreal feel to the whole experience. An interesting fact about the lake is that it stays clean, without any leaves floating on it, despite being surrounded by so much of plants and foliage. It is believed that birds staying here keep the surface of this lake clean.
- Timings- 6 AM to 6 PM
- Entry fee- INR 10
It is an archeological site situated in Pelling. Rabdentse was the second capital of Sikkim, the first one being Yuksom. It was founded by 2nd Chogyal of Sikkim Temsung Namgyal in 1670 AD. The city was destroyed by the Nepalese Army in the 18th century and only ruins can be seen now. People interested in history and archeology would like a visit to this place.
- Timings- 8 AM to 5 PM
Also known as Pelling Monastery, it is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim. It was founded by Lama Lhatsun Chempo in 1705 CE. The monastery is built in Tibetan architectural style and has a three-storied structure. There is a good collection of Buddhist idols, sculptures, and scriptures in this monastery.
- Timings- 9 AM to 5 PM
- Entry fee- INR 20
When can one find snow in Gangtok?
Snowfall in Gangtok is not common but some high altitude areas may get snow during winters like Nathula Pass and Tsomgo. These areas are more likely to receive snowfall from late December to early March.
These posts will help you plan your trips so that you stay safe and healthy.
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Stay options- Gangtok
Mayfair Gangtok- Mayfair Gangtok offers luxurious accommodation with many additional amenities like an award-winning spa, swimming pool, International cuisine restaurant. It is located at a distance of 4.5 km from the city amidst a lot of greenery. Check out the reviews and rates of Mayfair Gangtok by clicking here.
Martam Village Resort- Though this resort is 9 km away from Gangtok city center, it is great for people who like offbeat and tranquil places. Located near Rumtek Monastery, this place boasts of amazingly beautiful views all around the resort. Children can have fun in the playground, one can go for hikes and cycling. Friendly staff and great food. Check out the reviews and rates of Martam Village Resort by clicking here.
Tagalong Backpackers- The hostel is very popular among solo travelers and backpackers for its favorable location, good vibes, great staff, clean rooms, and tasty food. It houses an artistically decorated cafe. Staying options include Mixed Dorm, Male Dorm, and Female dorm. Check out the reviews and rates of Tagalong Backpackers by clicking here.
If this is your first trip to India you will find these posts helpful:-
- When is the best time to Visit India?
- 30 Breathtakingly Beautiful Destinations in India that you should not miss visiting!
- 15 Most Popular Festivals in India (with 2019 dates).
- Visiting India? Here’s What should tourists wear in India?
- Should you tip in India? Read when, whom & how much to tip.
- 13 tried and tested Safety Tips for Train Travel in India
- Curious about Indian Culture? Learn how to drape a perfect Saree – Step By Step Tutorial.
Places to visit in Darjeeling
Most of the travelers coming to Darjeeling make it a point to experience sunrise at the Tiger Hill. It is located at a distance of 11 km from Darjeeling having an altitude of 2590 meter.
Travelers start arriving as early as 4 AM to witness the sunrise from this spot. When the snow-capped peaks of the Kanchenjunga are touched by the light of the dawn, they shine in beautiful colors.
There is an Observatory Tower at the top of the Tiger Hill. One can get better views of the mountains and peaks from here.
There is a ticket for different levels in the Observatory- INR 20 for ground level, INR 30 for 1st floor and INR 40 for the top floor.
The place seemed very crowded with so many people arriving in a number of vehicles. Sunrise was definitely mesmerizing but the overall experience was not.
It takes around half an hour to reach here from Darjeeling by taxi. One can enjoy the complete view of Darjeeling town and surrounding mountains. Toy train passes through this loop on its journey.
A War Memorial is located at the center, surrounded by a garden full of seasonal flowers. We didn’t get a chance to enjoy the train ride as it required advance booking but we did watch is passing by slowly.
I chose to dress in the local traditional outfit and got some pictures clicked.
It is an open area located in the market. There are many shops and restaurants around it. It is a conjunction of roads and a popular place for events. You can find many people strolling around or just relaxing on the benches there. There are so many types of teas that I was not aware of.
I tasted a few different varieties of tea in a restaurant nearby.
Darjeeling city may look like an overcrowded place to some people as almost all the time it is bustling with tourists. Located at a distance of 50 km from Darjeeling and 80 km from Gangtok, Kalimpong is a quaint town that has managed to retain its ‘small hill-town’ charm.
After spending a week in these cities, I wanted to stay at a place where I could just relax doing nothing. Hence, Kalimpong was chosen and it seemed the right choice. I could just go for a stroll early in the morning or at sunset. I could take my cup of tea to the fields nearby, sit leisurely and look around at the mountains, fields and the sky above.
Stay options -Darjeeling
Windamere Hotel- This is a Heritage property which is tastefully decorated and maintained. It has that rustic old world charm. The property is rated 9.3 at Booking.com for staff and location. It is located on the Observatory Hill which is a very famous landmark in the area. Check out the reviews and rates of Windamere Hotel by clicking here.
Tieedi Herb Garden Dwelling -This is a place for people who like to spend their vacation in peace and close to nature. One can enjoy hiking, cycling and beautiful garden views. This stay is simple and basic but very budget-friendly. You get to spend time close to nature and mother earth. Check out the reviews and rates of Tieedi Herb Garden Dwelling by clicking here.
Hideout Backpackers Hostel- This hostel is very popular among backpackers for the value it provides. Location is good, the staff is very friendly and helpful, the rooms are clean. You can choose a dormitory or private room as per your preference. They also arrange bike tours, walking tours and hiking for guests. Check out the reviews and rates of Hideout Backpackers Hostel by clicking here.
Is Gangtok safe?
Out of many places that I have been to in India, Gangtok seemed the safest one to me. People here seemed more open-minded and accepting to me. You can see youngsters, middle-aged people, older people, children, women all out in public places and enjoying themselves.
At many places in other cities, I have seen most of the public places being majorly occupied by men only. It was here I experienced this liberating and carefree feeling of wearing what I wanted and still not being stared at. Gangtok is very safe for travelers including solo women travelers but I would always advise practicing usual caution while traveling alone.