Backpacking in Sikkim | Detailed guide with Budget

Nestled in the foothills of mighty Himalayas, surrounded between Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan is the small state of India Sikkim. Secluded from hustle of the big cities in India is full of cultural, historical and natural wonders. Due to its uncommon location therefore finding information about backpacking is a bit difficult in Sikkim. But this guide is here to help you plan your trip and travel independently with proper tips and information about the best places to visit in Sikkim, where to eat, stay and how to get around on a budget.

Sikkim is basically divided into 4 districts, out of which North and East sikkim is most popular. Each district will cost you approx ₹4-8k. In this article you will know about my journey and how i managed to complete with such a shoestring budget.

When to go 

Sited below the Himalayas, this place experience cold all round the year. Peak time to travel is between Mar–May, temperature during the day are clear and pleasant whereas night are bit cold. If you love snow then Winter is the best season from October till March to visit. Temperature in this season falls between -5  to 7 degrees Celsius with snowfall at Gangtok, Pelling, yumthang valley and Lachung make it appear heavenly.

Expect prices to increase during peak times. Make sure to bring a waterproof cover and a warm layer, whenever you come.

How To Reach

By Road:

Gangtok is well-connected from major cities like Siliguri, Bagdogra, Jalpaiguri and Kolkata are available. Regular buses from these cities are readily available. The route to Sikkim is scenic with the Teesta river flows on one side while the other side is encompassed by lush green mountains.

By Air

Sikkim itself doesn’t have any airport. You’ll need to fly to the nearest Bagdogra airport in West Bengal. This airport is about 124 kilometers from Gangtok and it takes about 5 hours by bus or cab to get from Bagdogra. If you want to fly in comfort, you can take about 30 minutes to fly by helicopter service from Bagdogra to Gangtok. Sikkim tourism development corporation operates this helicopter operation. Book these services in advance as they can get pretty full fast and the rates may go up therefore follow the STDC.

By Train

New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri are the closest Railway Stations. Sikkim doesn’t has its own station and these are the two closest rail stations in West Bengal. Sikkim Nationalized Transport (SNT) operates state-run Sikkim bus services from its Siliguri bus terminal (near Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminal on Hill Cart Road).

There are regular bus services to Gangtok from the Siliguri SNT bus terminal at an interval of 1 hour from 8:30am to 1:30pm. The last bus departs at 3:30pm for Gangtok.

There are several Shared Jeeps usually take about 10 persons on a per person rate. The luggage is put on the roof usually wrapped with a plastic sheet during monsoon. They will cost you approx ₹200 per head to gangtok.

Where To Stay

There are abundant of staying option available in sikkim, weather you are Lone backpacker, Or came with friends and families sikkim offers with a tons of hostels, hotels  at reasonably price.

Gangtok : You can find Hostel dorms at ₹600 per night to luxury hotels with ₹5000 per night at peak Seasons.

Entry Permit In Sikkim

Foreigners (other than Bhutanese citizens) are required to obtain a valid Protected Area Permit (PAP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to enter Sikkim. Indians are required to obtain a visiting permit to North & East Sikkim. No authorisation is required to visit places such as Namchi, Pelling, Yuksom, Ravangala, etc. Full detail has been given on other post visit to know more.

Also Read : Detailed Guide For Entry Permit in Sikkim.

Places To Visit

Sikkim has been divided into 4 district, and each district has its own beauty therefore the places listed below are as per district. You can read my Itinenary, how i managed to travel while cutting the cost.

Also Read: My Surreal Experience To Sikkim on Budget.

East Sikkim

1. TSOGMO LAKE/CHANGU LAKE

Just 35 km from Gangtok situated at an elevation of 12,400 ft.  The lake frozes in winter with the area surrounding it covered in snow and the profusion of blooming flowers brings a riot of colors around the lake in late spring. Tsomgo Lake is open to both Indian and foreign nationals, but foreign tourists must a visitor’s permit. You can rides on colourfully decorated yaks and mules which are offered at the lake site, little shops selling tea, coffee and noodles. Or you can also look at the neighboring Kyongnosla Sanctuary which has Himalayan tigers, pandas and a spectacular orchid gathering.

There is also Cable Car at a height of 14,500 ft at Tsongo lake , on the way to Nathula and Baba Mandir. Runs by the state govt. The stunning beauty grasps the tourist’s minds by taking the ropeway cable car for a round.

Average Price: Yak Rides ₹350-600 with photos depends on season.                                                                                                              Cable car ride ₹60-120 with camera except sunday.
Best Season:    All Round the year except monsoon seasons.
Duration:          2 hrs approx

2. BABA HARBAJAN SINGH MANDIR

Situated 53km from gangtok bus stand,towards Nathula Border between China and India is a holy shrine of Baba Harbajan Singh Mandir. This Mandir is a tribute to an Indian Army soldier Harbajan Singh. This is a holy place which the spirit of Baba Harbhajan Singh believes to bless.

Average Price: Entry Free
Best Season:
All Round the year except monsoon & winter seasons
Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

3. NATHULA PASS

The bumpy 2/3 hrs ride from 6500 to 14500ft will take you through a scenic and jaw dropping landscape, mountains, and lakes. One can take shared rides to Nathula from gangtok at around ₹700(including permit) during peak season. a reserved vehicle will cost you approx ₹5000-7000(including permit).

This is a pass which was part of the ancient silk route which connects India with China is a fortified area of Indian military and is restricted to all foreign nationals excepts the indian.

Permit Cost: Only Indian Nationals are Allowed with valid PAP with ₹200 as permit cost per head.
Photography:
NO photography is allowed due to sensitive spot.
Duration:
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and takes approx 2 hrs

4. Hanuman Tok

Hanuman Tok is a very famous Gangtok temple, named after Lord Hanuman, which the Indian Army maintains. The temple also gives a breathtaking view of the Kanchenjunga peak which is the world’s third highest peak.

Average Price: Entry Free
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

5. Ganesh Tok

Ganesh Tok is a Ganesh Temple, at an altitude of 6500 m, 7 km from Gangtok. The temple is so low that it can hold only one person at a time and you have to crawl to reach it.

Average Price: Entry is Free but the rent of  traditional clothes is around ₹40.
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1-2 hrs

6. Rumtek Monastry

This monastery is located 24 km from Gangtok, and is considered one of Buddhism’s most sacred monasteries. In this very building, the most sacred traditional Buddhist rites are performed, and the religious significance of the Rumtek Monastery has drawn devotees and tourists from all over the world.

Average Price: Entry fee is ₹10
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1-2 hrs

7.  Namgyal Institute of Technology

Housed in a traditional Tibetan-style building, the museum boasts a jaw-dropping array of Vajrayana Buddhism and Tibetan culture-related artifacts. The museum ‘s main objective is to promote scholastic and cultural study. The museum shows Buddhist manuscripts, idols, thangkas, which are Tibetan cloth paintings and some Tantric ritual items, such as a thê pa, a bowl constructed from a human skull and the kangling, which is a trumpet of the human thighbone. In addition, the museum houses ritual artifacts, jewelry, souvenirs, books and documentaries on Sikkimese tradition and culture.

One can easily walk / trek to get to and explore just 3 km from the bus-stand.

Average Price: Entry fee is ₹10
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 30mins

8. Do Drul Chorten Monastry / Stupa Gangtok

Constructed by late Truslshi and Rimpoche in the year 1945. One of Gangtok’s finest monasteries is the Do-Drul Chorten, or Stupa. Within this stupa you will see a full collection of phurba Dorjee, ‘Zung’ (mantras), a collection of relics of Kang Gyur (Holy Book) and other religious objects. There are 108 Mani Lhakor (Prayer Wheels) around the Chorten, turned by devoted Buddhists as they chant ‘Om Mane Padme Hum’.

Average Price: Entry is Free
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

9. Tashi Viewpoint

Located 8 km from Gangtok’s main town, Tashi Viewpoint is a scenic beauty from which travelers can enjoy a view of the spectacular Sinilochu Mountain and Kanchenjunga Range. Due to the presence of a cafeteria and sheds surrounding the viewpoint site, this spot also serves as an excellent picnic place for local as well as international tourists.

Average Price: Entry is Free. ₹10 is charged for binoculars/telescope to get close view of surreal surrounding.
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

10. Ranka Monastry

Also known as the Lingdum Monastery, that follows the Buddhist Zurmang Kagyud culture located 20 km away from Gangtok.Spread over a wide area and provides the visitors with beautiful scenic views.

Average Price: Entry is Free. 
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

11. Banjhakri Falls

The Banjhakri Falls is situated at a distance of 10-12 kilometres from Gangtok is a new sightseeing destination for the tourists and spread over an area of two acres of land. Beautifully landscaped gardens are present around the waterfall along with beautiful statues of Lyam Lymay, Mangpas, and Lepcha.

Average Price: Entry Fee is ₹50. 
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

North Sikkim

1. Gurudongmar Lake

sited at 17,100 feet, Gurudongmar Lake, is one among the fifteen highest lakes within the world. it’s also the second highest lake in Sikkim, after the Cholamu Lake located at the peak of 18,000 feet.

Average Price: Entry is Free. Below 6 yrs & above 60yrs of age are not allowed.
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

2. Yumthang Valley 

Yumthang Valley, takes around 1.5 hours drive which is about 25 km from Lachung. you ought to start your journey early in the morning after the overnight lodge in Lachung. The Yumthang valley is located at an altitude of 11,800 ft and therefore the meaning of Yumthang Valley is that the ‘Valley of Flowers’. Once you reach at the Yumthang Valley, you’ll find miles of stretched Valley, with the beds of vibrant multi-colored flowers everywhere in various colors like red, blue, purple, pink, etc. offering a fascinating view which can desire you are in a dreamland. These flowers generally blooms between the months of March and may.

Average Price: Entry is Free. Below 6 yrs & above 60 yrs of age are not allowed.
Photography: Allowed

Duration:
Approx 1 hrs

3. Zero Point

The vehicles which are registered with the department of Sikkim Tourism are allowed to take tourist to those places. Furthermore, there’s an additional charge for visiting zero point. it’s better to rent the service of a licensed tour operator of Sikkim.

Also Read: Travel Sikkim Using Public Transport.

Note :  Don’t even try to book this through tourist agents as they charge hefty amount. Just pay the driver Rs. 1000/- – Rs. 2000/- or so (depending on your bargaining skill) and you’ll be fine.

If you like this content, do support my works by subscribing and sharing your thoughts through comments. If you any query do write me, till then keep sharing – keep travelling.

Post Author: subhadeep

4 thoughts on “Backpacking in Sikkim | Detailed guide with Budget

    Rishabh goswami

    (September 21, 2020 - 6:56 am)

    Great

    Doli

    (September 21, 2020 - 7:09 am)

    I will surely visit once when this pendemic will get over. Nice guidelines you provided

    Kim mi

    (September 22, 2020 - 3:09 pm)

    Cool read! Awesome place ‼️

    Kim mi

    (September 22, 2020 - 3:10 pm)

    Nice

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