Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. It is the least populous state in India, and the second-smallest in area after Goa. It borders Nepal in the west, Tibet to the north, and Bhutan to the east. The Indian state of West Bengal borders Sikkim to its south. The official languages are English, Bhutia, Nepali, Lepcha, Limbu, and Hindi. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Despite its tiny size, Sikkim is geographically diverse, owing to its location on the Himalaya. The climate ranges from subtropical to high alpine. Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, is located in the northwestern part of the state on the boundary with Nepal, and can be seen from most parts of the state. It was an independent Buddhist Kingdom, ruled by Chogyal Kings and when the British left India, Sikkim rejected offer to join the union of India. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim was to be a suzerainty of India, in which India controlled its external affairs, defense, diplomacy and communication. However Chogyal King was slowly proving to be extremely unpopular, especially with increased Nepali population. In 1975, the Kazi (Prime Minister) of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament for representation and change of Sikkim’s status to a state of India. Indian Army moved into Sikkim, seizing the city of Gangtok, disarming the Palace Guards. A referendum was held in which majority of the people voted to join the Indian Union. A few weeks later on May 16, 1975, Sikkim officially became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, and the monarchy was abolished.
Visitors whose Indian Visa is not endorsed with Sikkim permit are required to complete a form and provide a passport size picture at the border of the Indian state. Sikkim state being a part of inner mountain ranges of Himalayas is hilly having varied elevation ranging from 300 to 8540 meters. But the habitable areas are only up to the altitude of 2100 mtrs. Constituting only 20% of the total area of the state. The highest portion of sikkim lies in its north west direction. A large number of mountains having altitudes of about seven thousand meters stands here with – Kanchenjunga (8598 m.), The third highest peak in the world. The high serrated, snow capped spurs and peaks of Kanchenjunga look attractive consisting of Kumbha Karna (7711 m.), Pendem (6706 m.), Narsingh (5825 m.), Kabru Dome (6545 m.), etc. A number of glaciers descends from eastern slopes of Kanchenjunga into Sikkim where snow clad line is found above 5300 mtrs. The biggest of them is Zemu, from whose snout above Lachen monastery rises the river Teesta. Teesta is the main river and its main tributaries are Zemu, Lachung, Rangyong, Dikchu, Rongli, Rangpo and Rangit which form the main channel of drainage from the north to the south. It boasts of the great mount Kanchendzonga as its crown. Ethically Sikkim has mainly three groups of people viz. Nepalis, Bhutias, Lepchas. The local language is Nepali. English is the official language. This jewel- like mountain state of ethereal beauty with an area of 7299 sq. kms , nestles in the heart of Himalayas. Cradled in the manifold splendors of nature deep within the snow clad Himalayas is Sikkim’s capital Gangtok. Wrapped in mists and clouds, a garden state with an incredible variety of rhododendrons & a host of other flowers.
East Sikkim: East Sikkim is one of the four administrative districts of Sikkim. Geographically, East Sikkim occupies the south-east corner of the state and its capital is Gangtok, which is also the state capital. It is the hub of all administrative activity in the state. The district occupies an area of 964 Sq km with a population of 244,790 (2001) individuals. Popular tourist places in East Sikkim are Gangtok and its attractions, Rumtek Monastery on the opposite hill across Gangtok, Phodong Monastery which lies to the north of Gangtok and the Tsongmo Lake, Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass. The Nathula Pass formed the offshoot of the ancient Silk Road which connected Lhasa to India. The pass and the Baba Mandir are open to Indian nationals only.
People in East Sikkim are mostly of Nepali ethnicity. Other ethnic groups include Bhutias, the Tibetans and the Lepchas. Nepali is the predominant language in the region. East Sikkim was part of the kingdom of Sikkim for most of its history. For a short while in 19th century, parts of Sikkim including East SikkmIn parts of east Sikkim district was under the rule of the Bhutanese. After the Anglo Bhutan war, the territory was virtually under the command of the British forces.
North Sikkim:North Sikkim is the most rugged and spectacular district of Sikkim. It has its headquarters or disctrict capital in Mangan. It is 76KM from capital Gangtok. It comprises of Lachen, Lachung (the valley of flowers), Dzongu and Tholung valleys. Each of these is formed glacier fed rivers originating from the Great Himalayan Range and its offshoots, The Singelila Range and The Chola Range. Mighty peaks ranging between 6000 to 8500 meters enclose it on three sides. A part of North Sikkim, even lies across the Himalayas, on the Tibet Plateau. The visitor can visit the high altitude, Yumthang Valley of Rhododendrons, the tribal villages of Lachung and Lachen, and with special permits you can even trek through the remote Tolung Valley to the Kishong-la or the Khangchendzonga climbers base camp at Green Lake.
Nothern Sikkim is a tranquil region but the areas are still restricted and require permits, often in the organized groups of 4 people. Most of North Sikkim is restricted to travelers and permits are needed to visit these areas.
South Sikkim:The district headquarter of south Sikkim is at Namchi. There are no additional permits required for visiting here and other places in south sikkim. Ravangla, Ralang monasteries, Tibetan settlement, Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, Jorethang falls within south Sikkim. Most people just pass through on the way to Pelling and Gangtok.
West Sikkim: West Sikkim is a peaceful district, characterized by great tracts of virgin forest and deep river valley. It is home to Sikkim’s ancient monasteries such as Pemayangtse, Tashiding, Sanga Choeling Monastery and attractive hamlet of Pelling. West Sikkim is of course famous with trekkers for trek to Dzongri and Gochela pass, in the far west along the border with Nepal. Here the watershed of the Singalila Range rises along a single ridge, with giants such as Rathong and Kabru culminating in Kanchenjunga itself. In addition to this trek, there are several low-altitude trekking options that provide ample opportunities to enjoy the wonderful profusion of orchids, rhododendron forests, waterfalls and terraced hillsides with a backdrop of majestic vistas. The old capital, Yoksum, lies at the start of the trail towards Dzongri and Kanchenjunga. The district capital or center is Geyzing, also known as Gyalshing. Other main tourist attractions in west Sikkim include Varsey or Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary with tranquil Rinchenpong village, Kechopari lake near Pelling and Dubdi, the first monastery of Sikkim.