Aug 8th, 2023
I’ve just spent a wonderful week traveling around Western and Southern Sikkim exploring lesser known destinations. I’ve been traveling around India solo for a while, so it was an incredible experience teaming up with OurGuest and using their awesome services to travel around this magical state. Here is my amazing experience traveling in Sikkim with OurGuest.
Who is OurGuest?
OurGuest is a friendly, professional, and fun travel company based in Sikkim that conducts unique tours around Sikkim and parts of Northeast India. One of their main goals is to immerse you into a new culture by staying in homestays, farmstays, and retreats. They create an eclectic itinerary based on the traveler and based on where they want to go in Northeast India, so not only do you see some amazing sites, but also have a fun and comfortable time doing so.
We love to travel. We love to eat. We love comfort, good vibes and good company (Well who doesn’t?) OurGuest is our dream where we want to provide the best travel experiences, local delight & memories you’d want to recount for years to come! – OurGuest
OurGuest quickly created an incredible itinerary for me around Southern and Western Sikkim. As a solo foreign traveler, I cannot visit Northern Sikkim, so sticking to Southern and Western Sikkim was the best choice. I had some of the most memorable days of my travels thus far. OurGuest connected me with local families, where I experienced a cultural side of Sikkim that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I traveled in sumos (jeeps), sampled new foods, tried the local alcohol, and visited beautiful natural sights as well as cultural ones such as Monasteries and statues of Buddha.
They were incredibly efficient in their communication and planning. This trip was very last minute, and they were able to quickly create a wonderful and exciting itinerary for me. They were reachable at any given time throughout the entire week, and I was able to travel around with one of their employees for a few days. All of their employees are so friendly, happy, and welcoming, and always have a smile on their face!
Travelling in Sikkim
The closest airport to the capital Gangtok is Bagdogra Airport. From here, you can travel via sumo to either Darjeeling (West Bengal) and then Gangtok, or straight to Gangtok.
The sumos to either Darjeeling or Gangtok leave from Siliguri which costs 350 rupees in an auto-rickshaw from Bagdogra. The sumo ride from Siliguri is 5-6 hours, depending on traffic and weather. You’ll need a permit before entering Sikkim (more on that below).
Sikkim has a fascinating history, and they only recently became a part of India in 1975. Their two main languages today are English and Nepali, and there is a cultural mix of Tibetan, Indian, and Nepalese influence throughout the state. It’s easy to travel via sumo from city to city, but since it’s in the mountains, it can take twice or even three times as long.
Travelers need an Inner Line/Restricted Area Permit for Sikkim. This can be obtained either in Darjeeling (a two step-process: first you have to visit the Foreigner’s Registration Office next to the ICICI Bank, then the District Magistrate & Collector’s Office where they will stamp your passport) or at the border at Rangpo (make sure you have photo copies of your passport and passport photos).
Read More: 10 of the Biggest Reasons Why I Love India So Much
Gangtok (2-3 days)
I started my trip with OurGuest in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Gangtok is a colorful, bustling city nestled in the mountains with tons of cafes, bars, and restaurants that serve up local and international food (Check out some best places to eat in Gangtok ). On a clear day, you have a beautiful view of the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga.
OurGuest took me on a morning walking tour of the city. We started at the Directorate of Handcrafts and Heirlooms, which is where students from lower income families come to learn the art of traditional craftsmanship. They’ll learn how to make carpets, carvings, kitchenware, clothing, and more, so that eventually, they can sell their work as an artist.
We then visited the Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel and Monastery on the Palace Compound. This is where over 70 young monks come for their education of their Nyingma Buddhist studies. Then, we indulged in an incredible veg Sikkimese Thali at Nimtho Sikkim on one of the most bustling and vibrant parts of Gangtok, MG Marg Street.
Other exciting things to do in Gangtok are the Gangtok Cable Car, go paragliding if you’re feeling adventurous, and Tashi View Point.
The owner and his family are the sweetest, most welcoming people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and go above and beyond to make sure you’re feeling at home. I ate delicious home cooked food with the family over great chats, and drank warm and milky tea on a daily basis in their home. It’s in a perfect location just outside of the city center, away from all of the traffic and noise. It’s fun getting into the city; just flag down a shared taxi and hop in! They also have a rooftop terrace with an incredible view of Gangtok and the surrounding mountains.
Shared sumo to Ravangla ~3 hours
Ravangla (Rabong, 1-2 days)
Ravangla is a small town a few hours away from Gangtok in Southern Sikkim. This is where I was able to visit the ‘Tathagatha Tsal’ or the Buddha Park, with OurGuest. I was in awe with the size of the Buddha statue, it’s 40 meters/130 feet tall and located amongst a tranquil setting with landscaped gardens and fountains, with a view of the snow-capped mountains on a clear day. Inside, you can see the Tibetan Buddhism artwork and depictions.
You can also visit a new monastery, the Rabong Monastery, as well as the largest monastery in Sikkim, the Ralang Monastery.They have the largest number of training monks belonging to the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Nearby is the Pemayangtse Monastery, one of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Sikkim. This monastery is in the mountains, with a museum in the monastery depicting 17th and 18th century artifacts.
Then we took a short drive to the Chenrezig Skywalk. This is where you can take a walk on the glass skywalk with a view of the misty mountains from below your feet!
The Barfung Retreat
This incredible retreat is located just outside of the city and surrounded by colorful flowers, gardens, and stones. It’s hard not to feel relaxed the second you step on the grounds. The beds are extremely comfortable, and the food is fresh and delicious. You can enjoy your meal with a view of the mountains and the sounds of birds chirping in the distance. The rooms are spacious, clean, and let in a lot of natural lighting.
Jeep to Oakhrey ~3-4 hours
Oakhrey (1-2 days)
This gorgeous tiny village in Western Sikkim is located near the Oakhrey Rhododendron Sanctuary. This is where you disconnect from the technological world, and where you can see the Himalayas on a clear day. It’s one of the best places to get a feel for the rural village life in Sikkim, since the village is mainly visited by sherpas only.
In Oakhrey, you can visit the gorgeous Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. In March and April, when the rhododendrons are in full bloom, you’ll have breathtaking views of vibrant red flowers amongst the green hills. (Okhrey Rhododendron Tour )
Lali Gurash Homestay
The family at this beautiful homestay is welcoming and cooks up some delicious food, you’ll eat more than you ever have before! Their rooms are cozy and the blankets are thick and warm, perfect if you visit on a chilly night.
Jeep to Pelling ~5-6 hours
Pelling & Khechoperi Lake (2-3 days)
Nearby to Pelling is Khechoperi Lake. This lake is considered to be a holy lake that is shaped like a footprint when viewed from above. It’s surrounded by forests, and is said to have curative properties. There’s a monastery nearby which you can also visit. When you visit the lake, you can feed the fish and take in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. You can also take a 4 hour roundtrip hike to a cave, offering spectacular views of the lake from above.
After a 20 minute trek up through the forest, you’re treated with astonishing views of the lake and surrounding mountains. It’s such a peaceful place, and the rooms are comfortable and cozy. The family is so sweet and cook up some mouthwatering food like broccoli, daal, and homemade bread. Their mint tea is so refreshing!
I had such an incredible experience traveling around Sikkim with OurGuest. I can’t recommend their services enough! Thank you OurGuest for an amazing week!