Small but beautiful, Sikkim is situated in the Eastern Himalayas. Spread below the Mount Khanchendzonga, (8598 mts.), the third highest Mountain in the world and revered by the Sikkimese as their protective Deity, this tiny state, bigger only than Goa and Delhi and India’s least populated, lies tucked in between Nepal and Bhutan in India’s eastern region.
Sikkim is picturesque and verdant with clean crisp air, deep blue mountain lakes, gorgeous Buddhist monasteries and hillsides ablaze with rhododendrons against a backdrop of snow-clad mountains. If you are looking for exciting trekking routes in unspoilt terrain, or a quiet communion with the mountains, there are few places in India that would match the Himalayan state of Sikkim.
Just 110 kms from north to south and 60 kms across, Sikkim is entirely mountainous with altitudes varying from 800 ft in the south to the 28,199 ft. Mt. Kanchenjunga, in the northwest (India’s highest peak, and the third highest in the world). The awesome mountain is revered by the Sikkimese as their protecting deity. The capital of the state, Gangtok is an attractive and interesting town in eastern Sikkim, well developed and with absolutely amazing views of the snow clad Himalayan peaks including the Kanchenjunga.
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The mean temperature in the lower altitudinal zones varies from 4.5º C to 18.5º C, whereas at higher altitudinal zones, it varies from 1.5º C to 9.5º C. Temperature varies with altitude and slope. The maximum temperature is recorded usually during July - August, and minimum during December - January. Fog is a common feature in the entire state from May to September. Biting cold is experienced at high altitude places in the winter months and snowfall is also not uncommon during this period.
People & Culture
Over 70% of the population consists of Nepalese. They are today the dominant ethnic group in the state. Sikkim is a multi-ethnic state. Broadly, the population can be divided into Tribal and Non-Tribal groups. Lepchas, Bhutias, Sherpas, Tamang and Subba are categorized as scheduled Tribes. The Lepchas are the original inhabitants of the state. East district is the most populated whereas North Sikkim with a density of only 7 per sq. km is least populated.
The colourful lifestyle of the hill people finds expression in the splendour of their festivals and dances. The Hindu Nepalese observe Dusshera to worship Goddess Durga. For the Buddhist there are two important festivals- one dedicated to the mountain deity Kangchendzonga and other in celebration of the New Year. The warrior dances are performed during the celebration of the Snowy Range and is a dance peculiar to Sikkim only.
The staple diet is rice. Momos & Thupkas are popular. Tchang a drink made of millet is served in bamboo mugs.
Look for hand woven carpets, thankas, lepcha weave bags, purses, woodwork, Sikkimese dresses, large cardamoms, caps, scarves, jewellery, Sikkimese spirits and liqueurs. Also look for the famous silver "dragon rings" or the popular "Choktse" which is the collapsible wooden tables with hand carvings.