Northeast India Travel Guide to Sikkim - The Dialogue Diaries

Northeast India Travel Guide to Sikkim – The Dialogues Diaries™

India’s North East is opening up to host an increasing number of travelers. The Dialogue Diaries™, an interview platform by Backpacking Series, is delighted to feature early explorers who have ventured inside the region. Jayashree Sengupta has lived the Sikkimese life. She shares a resident’s perspective in this Northeast India travel guide to Sikkim.

What stands out for you about Sikkim?

For 18 months, I worked as faculty at an engineering college (National Institute of Technology, Sikkim) in Ravangla. The stint allowed me the luxury to explore destinations at my own pace. I have lived in and visited various places in Sikkim and am totally in love with the state for its stunning natural beauty and friendly people.

I especially love the way Sikkim respects women. With almost zero gender bias, I rank it as one of the safest place to visit as a solo traveler. Indeed, a companion would be the cherry on the cake 🙂

How would you guide a fellow traveler to Sikkim, North East India?

Sikkim: A Quick Travel Guide

Sikkim is sparsely populated and is blessed with nature’s inexplicable touch. From lush green slopes to snow-capped mountains – you have it all here. Sikkim is popular for outdoor activities like paragliding, rafting and mountain biking. Then there are some lesser known but locally significant destinations like the Four Holy Caves and special places such as Hee-Bermiok and Rinchenpong for views of Mount Kanchendzonga.

The Himalayan state is divided into four administrative districts – North Sikkim, East Sikkim, West Sikkim, and South Sikkim. Needless to say each district offers numerous places of interest and things to do for a visitor. But North Sikkim remains my favorite and I recommend anyone traveling to Sikkim to keep it in their itinerary.

When to visit Sikkim?

If you are anything like me, visit Sikkim once in December and then in April. In December, you get to witness the traditional Chham dance, the clear skies, Temi Tea gardens, and experience the Himalayan winter.

Whereas in the flowering-season of April, you’d find it easier to get to the high altitude, clear-water lakes. Oh and few routes inside Sikkim cut across rhododendron sanctuaries and the flowered-streets just might keep you delighted!

How long to stay in Sikkim?

For visiting popular destinations of this relatively small state, I would say 10 days are sufficient. However, if you include an offbeat location, please add five more days. In other words, plan a vacation in Sikkim of about 1-2 weeks.

Would you like to offer a sample travel plan for Sikkim?

Sure! I have written few pieces about Sikkim on my blog. For instance, you might want to click here for a sample travel itinerary.

How to get to and move around in Sikkim?

Connecting bus services from the nearest railhead of Siliguri (West Bengal) operate once a day to known popular places in Sikkim like Gangtok, Namchi, Ravangla. Besides, you may now also fly into the recently-inaugurated high-altitude Pakyong airport – just off the state capital Gangtok.

Once in the Himalayan state, shared cabs are the most popular mode. Fares (ex-Gangtok) are displayed on large billboards across Gangtok and, especially for solo travelers I recommend using shared transport. If you choose to reserve a small car for a day of local sightseeing, it would cost a minimum of INR 2.5k to 3k.

What are some must-try culinary recommendations from Sikkim?

Sikkim is famous for momos (dumplings) and you must try it on your next visit. Generally, you’d come across many vegetarian and meat varieties of this delicacy anywhere you go in the state. For meat-lovers chicken and pork are popular options. However, in North Sikkim you are likely to find mostly vegetarian momos.

As a personal favorite, I am happy to recommend a delicacy called Phaley – a type of deep fried bread stuffed with meat of your choice or vegetables. Other than these, you are likely to come across a choice of soupy-noodles such as Thukpa. In the relatively cooler climate, all the food here is designed to keep you warm!

What’s the culture and lifestyle of Sikkim like?

Among others, Sikkim is home to three main communities namely Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepalese. You would notice a beautiful coexistence of Buddhism and Hinduism. As such, culture thrives in everyday life just as it does in the rest of India and it really powers up during the festivals.

For instance, during the Pang Lhabsol celebrations, people honor the guardian deity of Mount Kanchendzonga through well-choreographed masked Chham dance. Here’s an interesting bit – Sikkim is known for it’s colorful traditional attire which you can try for a small fee of INR 50 or so and pose for photo frames!

What are your recommended travel planning hacks for Sikkim, Northeast India?

Well, I always plan my own travels and you could do so too. The only thing I would recommend, as a rule, is for you to make Gangtok your base and then hire shared cabs to explore the places of your interest in any district.

When you ask around for cab rates, you are likely to get standard prices. People rarely quote a higher price or bargain. However, it always helps to research your options and I would recommend direct interaction with cab drivers. Chances are many Gangtok cabbies are active on social media!

What are your travel tips for visitors to Sikkim?

  • Permits: Foreigners need to secure the permits before entering Sikkim and anyone, including Indians, need special permits for excursions into specific protected areas of Sikkim. Note by Backpacking Series: For more on the topic, click to read Travel Permits to Northeast India.
  • Layered Clothing: Weather in the Sikkim hills can vary a lot, with temperatures ranging from 27C in South Sikkim to 2C in the North. Carry and wear layers of clothing.
  • Learn the Language: Pick up useful words and phrases in local language, it helps a lot.
  • Respect Local Culture: Avoid arguments with the locals, and importantly, never ever disrespect them or their culture. Note by Backpacking Series: For more on the topic, click to read Dos and Donts in North East India.

What’s your new bucket list for North East India?

At the moment, Meghalaya tops my bucket list. The name itself means an abode of clouds! Mix that with the legendary root bridges across a dense rain-forest, and some of the longest caves (such as Mawsmai). Caves are my new favorites – its just so fascinating to venture inside the earth’s surface!

I also want to visit Arunachal Pradesh and interact with the indigenous communities. Learning about people and their culture always remains high on my list.

Lastly, I would be keen to go back to Sikkim to do the Goechala Trek and experience Mount Kanchendzonga – up, close and personal.

What would you keep on your festival circuit of North East India and why?

My most imminent target is Meghalaya’s Wanagala and Nongkrem dance festival held in the first week of November. Other than that, I want to visit the Sangai Festival of Manipur end of November and then the Chham festival of Sikkim in the first week of December. Why? Simply because I never been and I’ve a high curiosity for these cultures 🙂

Blogger , DoiBedouin
I am a researcher at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur and I love to travel. I manage to steal time in between projects and, even if its a short day trip, getaways to an offbeat location mean a lot. I pen down my travel experiences in my blog, DoiBedouin.

Think North East India

For those who do not know, North East India comprises of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Himalayas and its waters define the region’s terrain, climate, rich biodiversity, and the peculiar indigenous lifestyles her people follow.

Share Your Story or Review Our Book!

That North East India is bound by Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet to the north, Bangladesh to the south and west, and Myanmar to the east hints at the eclectic mix of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. This is where elements of Asia come together to do what they do best – cast a spell.

The region’s innate charms have remained under-explored. Travelers, who figure out how to backpack in North East India, find gems such as Dzükou Valley all to themselves. Importantly, the hospitable people of the region make sure that visitors take back the choicest of memories.

Meanwhile, pick up a copy of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It covers over two dozen places and attempts to answer the question – what is it like to travel in the region? Give it a read and make your own choices.

 Pin this for later! 

Have you been to or live in India’s North East? Come, let’s talk about your experiences and help someone follow your footsteps! Click The Dialogue Diaries™ for details and to get started.

Get new stories in your inbox

Disclaimers: (1) Maps, wherever used on this site, serve a representational purpose only. Backpacking Series does not endorse or accept the boundaries shown, names, or designations used by map providers. (2) This story / article is based on personal opinions of the author. Backpacking Series is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity and it does not assume any responsibility or liability arising out of use of any information provided herein.

46 thoughts on “Northeast India Travel Guide to Sikkim – The Dialogues Diaries™

  1. This is a great post. Shows me so much of Sikkim in just one read. I would love to have some Thukpa when I get here. Besides, I have always heard that the safety of women is never a concern in the Northeast. I respect those states for that. Maybe matriarchy in societies leads to such gallant behavior. Kudos and cheers!

    1. I personally liked Thukpa but my friends were not very fond of it as it is a less spicy soup. You should definitely taste it and let us know about the liking or disliking of the same. <3

  2. Good to read about Jayashree’s travel guide on Sikkim. It is good to know that taxi charges standard rates and we don’t have to bargain. As North East is safe for women and people are honest then I would love to visit it near future. And I would surely plan my bisit during their local festivals.

  3. Cool piece from body who has lived the region. I love the root bridges and hope they hold up to the increased traffic they are subject too. What’s even more critical is the visitation to caves. Roots will grow back within a lifetime. Caves take centuries to form and only minutes to destroy. Beautiful piece.

    1. Yes Meghalaya is not only the place of Nature but also of adventures. Do visit it if possible <3 I am sure you would like it.

  4. Sikkim in North East India is a great destination for female (and male) travelers. The coexistence of Buddhism and Hinduism makes a peaceful environment. I’d love to visit those root bridges and caves too. And of course re-energize with some momos and phaley!

    1. Yes totally. And also visit the holy caves of Sikkim too. I am presently covering it… will definitely let you know about it.

  5. What a great guide of things to see and do in Sikkim. That’s good to know that we need to get a permit to city some of the places. I haven’t been to India as of yet, and I hope to make over someday soon.

    1. Yes. A permit is easily available. Backpacking Series has already covered on the permits. As for Sikkim you can get it here too

  6. Thanks for the detailed review! A visit to the North East is definitely on our bucket list and it looks like Sikkim would be a great place to start. The Goechala Trek sounds like a great way to experience the mighty peaks of the Himalayas. But we’ll definitely need to get in shape before attempting it!

    1. If you are not that sure you can opt for the Dzongri trek too, thats halfway of Goechala but with beautiful scenario. That would be an extra expenditure though however it would let you know your limits and also would attract you for the Goechala 🙂

  7. Sikkim is a jewel of the North East and such a pristine place. We enjoyed a week in Sikkim when we primarily explored East Sikkim. But there is so much to go back for. Yes, we found that the best way to explore the state is by making Gangtok the base from where it is so easy to get around. We explored Nathula Pass and Tsomgo Lake from here.

    1. Yes I was in Ravangla, so for my first tour (as I was new there) I started off from Ravangla and the cost was huge. So in the next journey I opted for a shared transport, went to Gangtok and therefrom visited Nathula and trust me, the expenditure was so minimal, I regretted not doing the research for the previous one. However it taught me the importance of doing research before visiting a place. 🙂 Everything has a positive impact indeed.

  8. I would have to say that India is one of the under explored destinations in Asia by foreign tourist. We got so used to Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Hongkong and had been missing out on these beautiful provinces.

    I loved your feature of Sikkim. You had definitely gotten our attention to visit this wonderful place.

    1. And most of the time I found people visiting North India namely Mumbai, Varanasi and going back, since Delhi airport is the main connection therein. If possible, if one could travel the whole of India in one go provided the time permits, one should cover the North East too, definitely in addition to the North and South.

  9. North East India is idyllic. Great interview and it brings out the essence of Sikkim. Meghalaya is on my list too 🙂

  10. Sikkim has been on my bucket list for a while. This guide is perfect for first-time travelers like me. Nice to know that Sikkim respects women and is ranked as one of the safest places to visit as a solo traveler. I would love to visit Rinchenpong for views of Mount Kanchendzonga as it looks stunning. Also, I’ve tried Thukpa in Mcleodganj and would love to try it here. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Momos are my absolute favourite food in the world, and I’m vegetarian so North Sikkim sounds like my dream place to visit! Sikkim has actually been on my list of places to visit in India for some time, though previously it was for the incredible scenery and untouched beauty and not the momos…now it’s both!

    1. If North Sikkim is on your mind, please visit in the end of April as the rhododendrons are a lovely sight to see. <3

  12. And a great thanks to Backpacking Series for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to connect to the world and speak about Sikkim <3

  13. Great to see a guide from a local who really knows the place. Sikkim sounds like a really interesting area but one I’m sorry to say I’ve never heard of. Thanks for such a detailed post.

  14. So much of this world to see and posts like yours just keep adding to what is becoming an impossibly long list. Not a bad problem to have of course. Sikkim sounds divine .. the views and scenery look stunning, both winter and spring. But I would have to opt for experiencing the rhododendron sanctuaries!

    1. I would also recommend to trek the Varsey rhododendron sanctuary if possible. That is in West Sikkim though. Here I have referred to the one from North Sikkim which is recommended to be traversed in the car only.

  15. That’s one major part of India that is completely unexplored by me and I want to get there ASAP. Just like mentioned by you, Meghalaya tops my list of places that I really want to visit and most because I’ve seen gorgeous pictures of a friend who used to live there (he was from there). Sikkim also has such gorgeous landscapes, I’d love to go for a road trip there!

  16. I am yet to visit the NE as I commented earlier on one of your posts. The more I read these interview series and a glimpse at those captivating photos, my interest to explore this beautiful region of India is piqued. Glad to know that the cab drivers tech-savvy and are quite reliable. This has to be the best piece of news for travellers 🙂

    1. Some are not though. However since you will be visiting Gangtok first, at the very entrance you will be notified the rates through a blue rate board at the stands. So no worries. 🙂

  17. Northeast India and specifically Sikkim sounds like a beautiful place to visit. I would love to try the Phaley…you cannot go wrong with fried bread!

    1. Yup. Try both veg and non-veg 🙂 Some places I tried is Taste of Tibet and Cafe Sass and Guff, the rooftop view from the later is awesome. For snacks you could try Baker’s cafe. 🙂

  18. I love the style of this post. The interview gives you a unique perspective and a deeper connection with an authentic experience. I just wish I could taste those momos!

    Thanks for sharing, Keep travelling and remember adventure is better shared with friends.

    1. Well I did start solo but I made friends on the way. I met three other solo and we became a group and we did enjoy a lot. However most of the times my partner accompanies me, and hence the name DoiBedouin (two bedouins). 🙂

  19. Sikkim looks like an interesting place to visit. I think I would prefer to visit in April, during the flowering season. Good tip about trying the momos. I had some in Delhi once, and would love to try them in the place where they’re actually known for.

  20. Great article and nice to get a local’s perspective from someone who has stayed there for long. Sikkim is like a hidden paradise and a place which almost all of my friends have been to but me. This is a perfect guide which will help me plan my travel

  21. I haven’t been to India but after reading this post, Sikkim would probably be the first place I would visit when I get the chance to travel to India. The landscape is amazing and it is perfect for adventure-seekers like me and my husband! 🙂 Oh, and the food looks so delicious! Great interview, lots of helpful tips. 🙂

  22. Sounds like life in Sikkim is far from pollution – of everything. The nature looks fresh and beautiful, and the people are just the happiest on earth. I would like to cross that root bridges, too and try some momos and Thukpa.

  23. Sikkim sounds and looks like an incredible place to visit. Given its close proximity to its bordering countries, it looks more like Tibet, especially with the monks! I’ve never tried these momos either, but they look delicious. It’s good to know that foreigners need a permit to visit. I’ll remember this if I ever get to visit India one day!

  24. Sikkim is an amazing place with interesting culture and beautiful nature. The food also caught my attention too. A bowl of Thukpa will warm me up. It’s good to know the information about bus and shared cab to get around the area.

  25. What a great guide of things to see and do in Sikkim. I absolutely enjoyed exploring this state but the permits were a real nuisance. There were several places where I had to be paired with another foreigner just to get a permit and this was very frustrating since I was traveling solo. Nevertheless, I had a great time.

  26. Wow! That’s just beautiful. Its indeed such an opportunity to work for a period of time in NE India that she got to explore the whole region one at a time! Its a luxury indeed.
    So glad to know that I’ll be able to find a lot of vegetarian momos as well! So my food won’t be a problem when I visit!

  27. What a lovely post on a very interesting region. I’ve never been. I’m intrigued by your observation of gender equality here – why do you think that is? What policies, people, or practices make this region different in that way? PS momos are awesome 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses spam protection software. Learn how your comment data is processed.