A must read if you’re wondering what else is there in the things to do in Gangtok apart from taking strolls around the surprisingly clean MG Road.
Flowers outside almost every house, guitar chords for the first sound you hear every morning, forever smiling people and the Himalayan air that makes you feel good for no particular reason, all this and more makes Gangtok a must visit. Other than these little delights, here’s my take on the best things to do in Gangtok.
1. Visit the Roll House at MG Road – It’s winter time, always, at Gangtok. But, if you’re wandering around the forever festive MG Road, there’s a way to beat the winters. Take care of all the chills by sipping on the 10 masala tea and an amazingly delicious cheese roll from the tiny Roll House at MG Road.
Tucked away in the not so glitzy side lane, right near the camera outlet, this takeaway eatery rolls out a very interesting variety of rolls, sandwiches, cutlets and more – all sizzling hot and only vegetarian. Don’t miss it for the more expensive, glam eateries and cafes that are in abundance on MG Road.
2. Talk to the monks at the Rumtek Monastery – Originally built in mid-1700s, Rumtek Monastery is another interesting addition to my monastery trail. Owing to a controversial history, armed forces patrol the monastery grounds.
While it may not match the grand views of Dhankar Gompa of Spiti or Thiksey Monastery of Leh, Rumtek is a differential experience owing to its well-maintained interiors and chatty Sikkimese monks.
3. Brave the bitter cold at Tsongmo Lake – Also known as Changu Lake, Tsongmo, at 12,400 ft is one of the high-altitude lakes of Sikkim. At around 40 km from Gangtok, it’s best visited on clear, sunny (hopefully) days. Expect a sudden drop in temperature and a surprising change in terrain if you leave from Gangtok to visit Tsongmo.
From Tsongmo, you can also advance to the Nathu La Border and Baba Mandir, which I didn’t visit because of the sudden snowfall and cold.
4. Say hello to pandas at the Himalayan Zoological Park – Way better than any other zoological park I’ve yet visited, the Himalayan Zoological Park at Gangtok is another good experience. With its trail-like pathways, this zoological park is an interesting detour from the more crowded places to visit in Gangtok.
Say hello to red pandas, snow leopards, hyenas, Asiatic black bears, Western Tragopan, blue sheep, Asian leopard and more. Photographers’ alert.
5. Go “people watching” at MG Road – Okay, yes, this sounds very popular. But then, rightly so. One of the cleanest Indian roads (yes, spitting is prohibited) I’ve yet seen, MG Road has some really plush cafes and interesting shops on its sides. More than the shopping part, it’s the buzz that surrounds this place that makes it a must visit. Come evening and a colourful, fashionable crowd of locals, all with a dog at their heels, guitarists, DSLR clutching tourists, peppy children (some in their school uniforms), Buddhist monks descend on MG Road.
Take a stroll, order a coffee, devour a roll or two and spend some “I’m watching people” time on one of the benches here and you’ll love the energy that’s a charm of this place. One of the best things to do in Gangtok.
6. Devour a Blueberry Cheesecake at Cafe Fiction – An interesting collection of books, mostly on the Himalayas and Sikkim, good food, great coffee and awesome cakes; if any of these sound interesting enough to you, make Cafe Fiction an essential stop in your Gangtok tour. With some luck, you might also be able to attend one of the many exhibitions and artsy meets that are a regular routine at Cafe Fiction.
PS – Their Blueberry Cheesecake is a must. Mast.
7. Fall in love with the apple pies at Baker’s Cafe – Notice the sign for smokers that says “Quit the habit here” and you’ll have one more reason to fall in love with the Baker’s Cafe.
A tiny, neat cafe, Baker’s Cafe serves some great pizzas, awesome apple pies, good coffee, mousses that are worth falling in love with, a good variety of delicious puffs and rolls, great crepes and sturdy butter parathas if you’re looking for something essentially north Indian.
8. Make a culture dive at the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology – A very interesting museum cum institute, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a must visit at Gangtok. Interesting photos, Tibetan instruments of music, bowls made of human skulls, rare documents, records of Tibetan history, culture and customs and more can be found here.
A souvenir shop in the outer complex of the institute has postcards, curios, paintings, jewelry pieces, printed tees and more for grabs.
9. Stay in a home, stay at the Sikkim Himalayan Homestay – A warm, clean homestay run by amazing people, Sikkim Himalayan Homestay is a great choice over any of the usual hotels if you’re wondering where to stay at Gangtok. At around 20 minutes away from MG Road, this homestay is a great bet if you’re in love with the concept of staying with a local family, gorging over home-made food and playing with a naughty dog, lovingly named Singi. Clean rooms with all the basic amenities at budget rates make it another experience to look forward to at Gangtok. And yes, there is a tiny library and a meditation hall too. Great view from the terrace!
Write to me if you think I’ve missed another awesome thing to do in Gangtok; share picture if you have one and I would be glad to add it to this list.
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Till then, happy travelling.