When you think of Northeast India, your mind is instantly filled with images of snow-capped mountains and tea gardens as far as the eye can see. People going about with their daily lives – nothing fancy but humble and satisfied lifestyles. Men and women busy picking tea leaves and adding them in baskets secured on their backs, tiny streets crammed up with vendors screaming out prices for the different items on display while tourists pass by and a mix of off-road trails and perfectly carved highways that makes the idea of a road trip sound really exciting.
This is what you will get to experience in Sikkim, one of the ‘seven sisters’ lying in Northeast India. Today, Sikkim is home to different communities including the Bhutanese, Tibetans, Nepalese and the age-old tribes of Lepchas, Limbus and Magars. Nepali and English are largely spoken throughout the state so communication is no hassle for a traveller. In Sikkim, tourism is a large source of revenue and rightfully so since the dreamy land is the perfect escape into nature and away from the chaos of a metropolitan city.
There are many theories surrounding the origin of the name ‘Sikkim’. One such theory is that the word is a combination of two Limbu words – ‘su’ meaning ‘new’ and ‘khyim’ meaning ‘palace’ or ‘house’. The Bhutias call it Beyul Demazong (hidden valley of the rice). Lepchas, who are believed to be the original inhabitants of the region, call it Nye-mae-el which translates into English to mean ‘paradise’. Also, according to Indian historical literature, Sikkim was initially called Indrakil, the garden of the war-god Indra.
Sikkim tourism includes things to do that makes the experience so thrilling, restaurants in Sikkim that provide a taste of authentic flavours, Sikkim resorts that make your stay so comfortable and every bit of nature’s beauty you will be playing witness to during the trip. Since it is multilingual and with diverse communities are residing within close quarters, there is much the state has to offer and for you to experience.
One of the best ways to explore Sikkim is through its food. There are many local flavours and external influences that collectively build up what is a delicious gastronomical journey through Sikkim. Locals are the best guides and can help you discover gems that internet searches may miss. While you are at it, make sure to look up some resorts in different parts of Sikkim where you can have a comfortable stay as well as experience a different side of Sikkim.
Best Time to Visit Sikkim
The people are humble and helpful – they will welcome you with open arms, trays laden with delicious food and with culture so fascinating that it will leave you in awe. The best time to visit Sikkim is between March-May and October-December. The former period has the entire state blooming with vibrantly-coloured flowers, masking landscapes with its myriad fragrances. One of the things to do in Sikkim is go trekking up the lush terrains and the March-May window is the perfect time for that. On the other hand, the latter seasons of Autumn and Winter offer chilly winds that will make you cosy up in front of a fire and views of snow-capped mountains and hills like the Kanchenjunga and Himalayas.
Since the state is home to many local tribes, you will get to be a part of different festivals throughout the year. During the spring/summer weeks, make sure to include the International Flower Festival in your Sikkim tourism experience. In winter, there are the Red Panda Winter Festival and Cherry Tea Festival, each of them providing an insight into the wonderful culture of Sikkim.
How to Reach Sikkim
You have three options – air, road and rail. By air, you can arrive at Pakyong Airport (30 kms from Gangtok, capital of Sikkim) and opt for bus travel till your destination or arrive at Siliguri in West Bengal and take a helicopter to Gangtok. Most people prefer traversing the Northeast by road since it gives a better picture of what the region has to offer. You can travel in from Kalimpong or Darjeeling in West Bengal, the NH10 that connects Siliguri to Gangtok and other states in Northeast. Lastly, by rail, there are more options available as compared to air and different cities nearby connecting to Gangtok.
#1 Munlom Nature Resort
A blend of rustic with modern, the Munlom Nature resort is set up in a forest and only a few kilometers away from Gangtok. Wake up every morning to towering trees shining bright under a glowing sun. Enjoy a buffet-style breakfast and take your pick from local and continental dishes.
P.S. – Have you ever wanted to try your luck at fishing? Well, one of the things to do in Sikkim is go fishing and that is an activity you must indulge in while staying at this resort!
#2 Cherry Resort
Enveloped by lush green tea gardens in all directions, Cherry Resort in Namchi, Sikkim is a dreamy space indeed. Resort services include pick-up and drop-off transportation options, day and night room service, offering numerous cuisines and spacious rooms overlooking greenery and hilly terrains. In terms of recreational activities, there is a large badminton court, carrom board, cycling tracks and a play station in case you prefer staying indoors. Make sure to take advantage of all the natural beauty that surrounds you. Take a walk along the slopes of the ‘Temi’ tea garden enjoy the countryside views.
#3 Martam Resort
Nestled in a quaint space of Sikkim and away from the hustle-bustle of Gangtok city, lies the Martam Village Resort. The restaurant at the resort offers a vast Asian platter but for a complete experience, its best to stick to the local flavours the region. The resort is a dream-come-true for any nature-lover for the space is surrounded by beautiful, fragrant and colourful flowers. Even the view all-around is unreal and perhaps one of the best sunsets and sunrises you will ever get to witness.
#4 Elgin Nor-khill Resort & Spa
Sikkim tourism is incomplete without a stay at Elgin Nor-khill, Resort & Spa! Imagine sipping on a cup of freshly-brewed tea using leaves from the nearby hills that serve as your backdrop. That sounds amazing, right? This and much more is what lies in store for you at Elgin Nor-khill Resort & Spa, Gangtok. In English, Nor-khill translates to ‘House of Jewels’ and that is what you will get to experience at this luxurious and exquisite resort. There is a spacious dining room with multi-cuisine menus to offer. Every room has been designed to be spacious and cozy with added benefits such as wireless internet and a mini bar.
#5 Baiguney Resort, Club Mahindra
Resting on the banks of river Rangeet and spread across 6.5 acres of land, Baiguney Resort is a stunning space to make your family holiday a truly memorable one. There is something for everyone – a spa and swimming pool for guests to unwind and relax; small library to keep the book-lovers entertained; a #HappyHub with board games for all ages to enjoy; a lush landscape for nature-lovers to find joy in by sitting by the riverside or go bird-watching. You can also trek all the way up to Chakung which is the highest viewpoints near the resort. From here, you will get a stunning view of the Rangeet valley and a gorgeous sunrise that lights up Mount Kanchenjunga in its wake.
Restaurants in Sikkim
It is a simple-looking place run by monks from the nearby Enchey monastery but delivers in flavoursome food. A peaceful ambience coupled with delicious local food of Sikkim and ever-smiling, chatty locals to keep you entertained with stories – quite a memorable addition to your Sikkim tourism journey. Relish bold and subtle, sweet and spicy, all flavours that Sikkim has to offer. While exploring Gangtok, include Enchey as of the restaurants in Sikkim to visit.
#2 Tatopani Bar & Restaurant
For a more refined and an ‘adults-only’ evening while in Pelling, Sikkim, Tatopani Bar & Restaurant should top the list of must-visits. There is a live band to keep the crowd entertained and at the same time, introduce people to the rock music of Sikkim. Tatopani has a modern and contemporary setting and offers a variety of cocktails and mocktails to complement its menu of mainly continental dishes.
#3 Mu Kimchi
Straying away from your authentic Sikkim food and discovering another delicious Asian cuisine – Korean. Add Mu Kimchi in your list of must-visit restaurants in Sikkim because the combination of food, service and ambience out here is amazing. The dishes have been flavoured with a special cinnamon spice which really elevates the flavours of the dishes. Make sure to try out the Korean Platter which includes various Korean delicacies.
Have you ever wanted to taste Bhutanese food? Curious how different is it from the local flavours of Sikkim? Then make sure to visit Dekid! This is a non-vegetarian’s haven and a skip for a vegetarian or vegan. Shakam Curry is a favourite among visitors so do order it. Apart from the typical Bhutanese spread, make sure to give the local Sikkim wine ‘Saino’ a try while dining at Dekid.
#5 Taste of Tibet
Your Sikkim tourism guide is incomplete without a visit to Taste of Tibet in Gangtok. It’s another culinary gem of Sikkim that offers authentic Tibetan food as its speciality. Even most locals will suggest tourists and travellers to pay a visit to this restaurant. The eclectic choice of crockery will leave you surprised with choices ranging from a recycled designer tray to a light bulb!
About Mahindra Holidays
Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Limited (MHRIL), India’s leading player in the leisure hospitality industry, offers quality family holidays as also stated by Club Mahindra Resort Reviews, primarily through vacation ownership memberships. While Club Mahindra Membership Fees gives you opportunity to explore your holidays across world, the other brands offered by the company are – Club Mahindra Resorts Fundays and Svaastha Spa. As on Mar 31, 2019, MHRIL has 61+ resorts across India and abroad and its subsidiary, Holiday Club Resorts Oy, Finland, a leading vacation ownership company in Europe has 33 resorts across Finland, Sweden and Spain.
Image Credits: Amit Singh