Nestled between Bhutan and Nepal, Sikkim, once an independent Buddhist Kingdom , became a state of India in 1974. Measuring just 40 by 70 miles (2800 square kilometers), its terrain rises from just above sea level.
Often referred to as the 'Garden Kingdom of the Himalayas', Sikkim's flora and fauna naturally cover a wide spectrum, from tropical to alpine. With over 600 varieties of Orchids, 30 species of Rhododendrons and Primulas, forests are magically primeval and refreshingly intact, spared the chopper's axe due to the eco-consciousness of the people advocated widely.
The people of Sikkim are of three distinct heritages: Lepcha, believed to have originated from the border area of Assam and Burma; the Bhutia, of Tibetan origin, settled in Sikkim after the 15th century; and the Nepalese, who migrated from Nepal in the middle of the 19th century and now constitute more than 80% of the total population of Sikkim. Communities, cultures, religions and customs of different hue intermingle freely and the Sikkimese's natural friendliness adds immeasurably to the visitor's enjoyment.
Highlighting a visit to Sikkim are the stunning monasteries which form an integral part of Sikkim: it is here that Gods mix with the mortals. Built in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (Nyingma and Kargyu sects), set amidst thick forests and on isolated hilltops, these monasteries are host to a number of festivals, which are singular experience in pomp and pageantry.
GANGTOK, the hillside capital of Sikkim (5,800ft) retains a small-town feeling, neat and clean, but undergoing rapid modernization. An open air vegetable bazaar and bustling handicraft center selling hand-woven carpets, intricately carved chokste(tables), and exquisitely carved silver and gold jewelry attract visitors. Attractive hotels and restaurants feature Sikkimese, Tibetan and Chinese dishes.