Gangtok Travel Guide
Situated in the Eastern Himalayas, Gangtok is a destination that mountain lovers won’t want to miss. While the tourist trade is bustling these days, things weren’t always so peaceful. A generation or two ago, India clashed with its neighbour China, creating security issues.
These days, however, relations are slowly thawing, making Gangtok no different than any other destination in its border regions.
Come check out our Gangtok travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Gangtok, India.
On your first day exploring in Gangtok region, stop by Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple first. Built to honour the memory of a soldier that drowned tragically in the 1960s, it is a serene place. Its existence is a touching tale of how much his fellow privates loved him.
A few days after his passing, he appeared in the dreams of his friends. He urged them to build a shrine to honour his memory. To this day, evidence of his existence in the paranormal realm persists. Chinese soldiers are rumoured to have seen him out on patrol, while his former bunk occasionally has wrinkled sheets.
Many believe Baba Harbhajan Singh provides blessings from beyond the grave. Pilgrims regularly leave bottles of water here for several days. On their return, they believe the water will impart good fortune on those who drink it.
Note that there are two temples with the same name in the area. Baba’s old charges built the original temple up on the Old Silk Road. However, the terrain up there is rough, leading authorities to build one at a lower altitude in 1982. If you are out of shape, stick to the lower temple. The elevation in the Gangtok area is already high; if you push yourself too hard, medical problems can result.
Hanuman Tok is another noteworthy temple in Gangtok region. As the name suggests, this hall of worship was built to honour Lord Hanuman, the Hindu god of strength. According to local legend, Hanuman rested here on his journey to deliver medicinal herbs to Lakshman. Inside, you’ll find an idol of Lord Hanuman, which replaced a sacred stone that had been there for centuries.
An easy-to-climb staircase grants access to the temple. This institution is situated at 7,200 feet, meaning most should be able to handle the climb without difficulty.
If you want to take in some Buddhist sights in Gangtok, make certain Ranka Monastery is on your list. Built in the Zurmang Kagyud tradition of Buddhism, its appearance differs from Buddhist temples elsewhere in the world.
However, its stunning exterior has made it a sought-after filming site for many Bollywood films. Once you see its prayer wheels, young monks, and sweeping mountain views, you’ll understand why. Finally, have lunch in the onsite restaurant – locals say that Bollywood star Amir Khan ate here during a shoot.
Learn more about the Tibetan heritage of the Gangtok area by paying a visit to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. Here, you’ll find a library, a museum, and a reference centre. They aim to engender an understanding of the Tibetan people who now call India home.
The museum contains many artifacts Tibetans brought with them from their former homeland. These include statues, artwork, manuscripts, and coins. Its library’s shelves contain 60,000 volumes of Tibetan origin – one of the largest collections in the world.
If you plan on visiting, do note its unique schedule. It is open 10 am-4 pm Monday to Saturday. However, it closes on the second Saturday of each month, and Sundays.
The Gangtok region is one of great natural beauty. If you love mountainous landscapes, make the journey out to Tsomgo Lake. While you can find many lakes throughout India, this is one of the few that are glacial in origin.
In summer, alpine flowers line the shores of this small but serene lake. Keep your eyes open for Brahmini ducks trolling on its surface. On the way there and back, you may also see wildlife that includes Himalayan black bears and red pandas.
Geography nerds won’t want to miss out on a trip to Nathula Pass. Until 1962, the Silk Road ran over this 14,000-foot high mountain pass. Geopolitical tensions put a stop to that, as a war between India and China sealed the border.
It took until 2006 for the post to reopen. Even now, restrictions on the passage of goods and people exist. From June to September, merchants from both sides host a market trading in Chinese and Indian products. Among the stalls, you’ll find a generator-powered ATM, which is said to be the highest in the world.
Photographers looking to capture the best views in Gangtok Region will want to check out the Tashi View Point. On a clear day, the views of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga range will take your breath away. Photographers are advised to arrive before 5 am, as conditions get crowded as the morning progresses.