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‘Scotland of the northeast’

‘Scotland of the northeast’
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Are you completely worn out by your mundane, humdrum existence in the city? Do you  seek a respite from such troubles? Sikkim will provide you with the perfect antidote, with its pristine and untouched environment.  Clean air emanating from the green mountains, allied with breathtaking scenic beauty provides the traveler with not only relief and good health, but also the sense of rejuvenation. Besides showcasing breathtaking natural beauty,  the people from the hill state are considered to be one of the warmest and most hospitable in the country. Dignity and modesty are qualities that you would associate the people of Sikkim with.

During my stay in Sikkim, I must confess that I was totally lost in the plunging mountain valleys, lush forested areas interspersed occasionally with bamboo terraces and coppice of flowering rhododendrons. In addition, numerous Buddhist monasteries  add splashes of vermilion to the green ridge tops and are visited through atmospheric avenues of melodious and colourful prayer flags, which are hung on bamboo trees in and around the monasteries. To really imbibe Sikkim’s atmosphere, you must definitely visit a village called Tongba-Bar. I was completely amazed to witness very narrow contours that make  road construction supremely difficult. Therefore, to discover Sikkim in its entirety, hiking and trekking becomes a necessity. Therefore, do not follow metalled roads. While hiking and trekking in groups, you just need to be careful about insects and some leeches that you may come across. Wearing the right kinds of  shoes/boots becomes imperative.

Straddling the Sikkim–Nepal border is Khangchendzonga National Park that enhances the beauty of Sikkim and is also the USP of the state. People come here to capture the sunrise and sunsets behind the magnificent Kanchenjunga peak on their cameras.

I decided to roam around MG road, the most famous market area of Sikkim, every evening. Walking around these parts gave me a feeling of Scotland because of its cleanliness and sophistication. Interestingly, you get fined, if you through garbage on the street.

In the last few years there has been a greater influx of tourists, with increasing numbers of foreigners and Indians from different states making their way. Every year more concrete hotels emerge from the once-idyllic village-scapes.

Indeed, Sikkim is one of the Himalaya’s best-kept travel secrets for the simple reason that it offers much needed diversion from all other stereotyped and commonly visited holiday destinations like Simla, Mussoorie and Dalhousie.

This tiny hill state prides itself on pristine alpine forests, intimidating mountains with crowns of snow, rugged landscapes freckled with picturesque villages and not to forget the rich tribal culture decorated with vivacious Tibetan Buddhist customs. Providing an adventure off the beaten track, Sikkim is indeed a place that deserves public attention that is long overdue.

Some of the defining tourist spots, which highlights the cultural  and natural treasures of this tranquil state, will be articulated below. Let’s take a look now!

Rumtek Monastery

This monastery is actually a crucial centre for Tibetan Buddhism. A key site of learning, the spectacular Rumtek Monastery is nothing but a repository of innumerable priceless artefacts. For example, it has invaluable and giant metal statues, gem-studded cenotaphs, and exotic ritualistic paraphernalia stacked within its voluminous gateways. Besides, the monastery is especially attractive during the Mahakala Dance in February, when giant figurines of protector deities raise hell in the courtyard to ward off evil spirits.

Explore North Sikkim!

Sprawled across a remote northern region of the state, the sublimely beautiful valleys of Yumthang and Tsopta are scantly visited. Regularly ravaged by landslides and earthquakes, these mountains are dicey territories to travel in. But then, isn’t that what intrepid travel is all about? So jump into a sturdy four-wheel-drive and hit the bumpy roads of the heaven called Sikkim. To adjust to the altitude along the way, spend a night in the quaint and scenic hamlet of Lachen.

Sip Sikkim’s Temi’s tea

The small village of Temi in South Sikkim stands its ground as the only tea-growing region in the state. Producing a mellow and delightfully aromatic brew, ‘Temi tea’ has a loyal following around the world, and interestingly you can now relish the nectar right from the source of its harvest. Simply schedule an excursion through Temi’s picturesque gardens, and savour the grand 360-degree mountain view along with refreshing sips of the amber beverage minus milk and sugar.

Drive down to Tsomgo Lake

The spot, which is easily a four-hour return journey from the Gangtok, is particularly enjoyable from November to April, when parts of the lake are frozen. Spanning a valley at a height of 3780m, Tsomgo Lake cuts a pretty photograph against a backdrop of rugged mountains rising towards the Tibetan Plateau. And yes a joyride on a friendly yak that’s available along the lake side is also available for adventurous tourists. Also, you would find numerous stalls lined up by the lake providing piping hot tea and momos to help one remain warm against the bone-chilling cold.

Following the length of Sikkim from icy glacial heights to tropical alluvial plains is the majestic Teesta River.  Visiting these parts offers you some fantastic rafting opportunities on its foamy waters. From calm stretches for novices to curling rapids for experienced rafters, oar-wielders, the river packs a variety of challenges throughout the area that the Teesta covers Sikkim.
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