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- 31 May 2020, 3 nights
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Perched on a mountainous ridge surrounded by wispy clouds sits Gangtok, the capital of the state of Sikkim. On clear days the city's staggering height of almost 1,700m offers views of the ancient forests, glaciers, lakes and snowy peaks within Khangchendzonga National Park. It's an old city, dotted with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and serene forest trails, but there's a modern vivacity in its busy commercial centre.
Hostels in Gangtok are dotted around the mountainside city and nestled in the scenic valley below. Connect with nature at a hostel where you can look across the mountains from the rooftop coffee bar. Take the hassle out of cooking at a backpackers hostel in Gangtok with its own restaurant or get creative at another that encourages artists to decorate its walls. You can expect freebies like Wi-Fi, and sometimes free breakfast too in Gangtok hostels.
The city is built on tiered layers cascading down the mountainside to the valley below. The town centre, based around Mahatma Gandhi Road, is the social heart of Gangtok. This very clean pedestrianised area is laden with restaurants and shops and has an excited buzz about it when evening falls. Higher up, the atmosphere is more calm, with peaceful gardens, monasteries and temples, and a patch of tropical jungle next to a palace that once belonged to Sikkim royalty.
The top thing to do in Gangtok is explore the vast surrounding mountains and forests by foot or bicycle. There are stunning vistas at Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok and Tashi Viewpoint, where you can see the majestic peaks of Kangchenjunga on a fine day. If you'd prefer to relax rather than hike, take a shortcut to the picturesque panoramas by jumping aboard the Gangtok Ropeway – a cable car that makes a round trip between Deorali and Tashling. Gain an insight into the city's history and culture by visiting the Nyingma-Buddhist Enchey Monastery, which is filled with colourful murals. There's also the Lingdum Monastery where you can be mesmerised by the sound of monks chanting in unison twice each day.
The closest airport to Gangtok is Pakyong Airport (around a 1-hour drive), and buses to Gangtok are scheduled close to flight arrivals. Bagdogra Airport is about 4.5 hours from the city by car but offers more frequent flights. For transfers to Gangtok you can catch a taxi or book a spot on the daily helicopter shuttle. To move around in the city, taxis and shared taxis are popular.