w w w . m a r c o p o l o s i k k i m . c o m  

Overview of Sikkim


Sikkim, the tiny mountain state of India, insinuates itself into the Eastern Himalayas between Nepal in the West, Tibet (People’s Republic of China) in the North and East, Bhutan in the South-East and West Bengal in the South.

Although only 112 km length from north to south and 64 km width from east to west, the elevation ranges from 244 meters to over 8540 meters above sea level. Sikkim has an area of 70962km. On the world map it is just a speck with approximate latitude of 27 North and longitude of 88 East.

Sikkim encompasses the upper valley of the Teesta river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. The watershed forms the border with Tibet and Nepal. The Rangit and Rangpo rivers form the border with West Bengal. Teesta and Rangit forms the main channel of drainage and their chief tributaries are generally not less than 5000 ft in depth, which is the main reason for all the monasteries and principal villages to be situated at an elevation ranging from 4000 to 6000 fts. The Singalila Range separates Sikkim from Nepal to the West and the Dongkya Range forms the border in the North and Northeast. In the East the Chumbi valley lies between Sikkim and Bhutan. On its Western side is the massive 31 km long Zemu glacier.

The most dominant feature of Sikkim is Mount Khangchendzonga – the Guardian deity of Sikkim – being the third highest mountain in the world, soaring to the height of 28,168 feet. Khangchendzonga means the ‘Five Treasures of the Great Snows’. According to Sikkimese belief it is the repository of minerals, grain, salt, weapons and Holy Scriptures. Khangchendzonga is considered to be the protective deity- the Mother Goddess. It’s blasphemous for climbers even to set foot on the summit. Some of the other important and venerable peaks are Tendong (8675 ft) Siniolchu, Mainam (10637 ft), Simvo, Goechala (16500 ft), Narsing, Donkiari (20250 ft), Kabru, Pandim (22020 ft), Pyramid Peak and Nepal Peak. Most of the peaks of Sikkim have remained unexplored as the Sikkimese consider them sacred and feel that they will lose their sanctity if climbed. Besides these peaks, there are various passes namely, Bhutanla (13000 ft), Jelepla (14390 ft) and Nathula (14400 ft) in the east, Chiwabhangjyang (10300 ft) and Kangla in the West, Kongrala in the north and Donkiala (18100 ft)

Prayer flags fly at lakes, springs, glaciers and waterfalls. They are deemed to be sacred. Notable lakes are Tsomgo, Khechopalri, Menmecho, Samiti, Lampokhari and green lake. Sikkim has many hot springs known for their medicinal value – important ones are located at Reshi, Ralang and Yumthang. Some glaciers in Sikkim are Zemu, Rathong and Lonak.

The theocratic view of the Sikkimese universe revolves around the landscape.

Sikkimese terrain range from tropical rain forest to alpine tundra. Along the high altitude routes, temperatures can dip below freezing at night – even during summer – while daytime can bring prolonged showers. Sikkim is basically divided into three zones, namely-Tropical (5000 ft above sea level), temperate (5000 to 1300 ft) and alpine, the perpetual snowline at 16000 ft. Flat land is a rarity.

Sikkim is one of the wettest regions of the Himalayas. It has the same seasonal rainfall pattern, dominated by the monsoon, as the rest of the Eastern Himalayas. Total rainfall is more than 3000 mm. Avoid monsoon season, late June through early August. Travellers will enjoy better weather and more consistent views in the fall

Most of Sikkim does not experience high intensity winds. However, at many hilltops and passes, winds having high speeds blow and sometimes during winters, they blow up ice particles causing blizzards.

Altitudes have influenced vegetations; aspect and rainfall have influenced vegetation. In the lowest parts there is Wet sal (Shorea Robusta) forest with 660 species of orchids, and the well know ones are Cymbidium Vanda, Hookeriana, Cattaleya, Nobile, Farmeri and Dendrobium Amoenum. The Nobile is prized all over the world. Bamboos of 20 species are also found here. This gives way to tropical evergreen mountain and rain forests where 240 species of ferns . 35 species of Rhododendrons (the most popular ones are Rhododendron Grande, 40 feet tall, and Rhododendron Nivale, few inches above the ground), gladioli, epiphytes, bamboo, cherry, oak, alurel, birch, maple, beech, walnut, chestnut, giant magnolia, conifers and pines up to the tree line at 3600 – 4200 m are found. The alpine forests, 3900-5000 m are characterized by such beautiful flowering plants as primulas, gentians, blue poppies and wild strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb. Sikkim has a very dense forest with 4000 species of plants, being a botanist’s delight and a naturalist’s paradise.

The animal and bird life is correspondingly rich with 81 species of mammals, 6000 species of birds and 631 species of butterflies. Sikkim has a vast range of fauna, the important ones being Snow leopards, wild asses and Yaks in the North, Himalayan Black bears, Blue sheep, Red pandas, Silver foxes, Mongoose, Leopards, Musk, Barking deer, common langur, Flying squirrel, Civet and marbled cats in the tropical forests. A rare animal, the ‘Shapi’ inhabits the alpine region. The bird life is also rich with Pheasants, Teals, Partridges, Cuckoos, babblers, bearded vulture, Olive ground Wabler, emerald dove, fairly blue bird, Kingfisher, ashy wood pecker, Sultan tit, and thrushes among many others. The rivers have salmon, trout, carp and many others 45 varieties of fishes. There are 40 species of reptiles in Sikkim, which include various types of lizard and snakes like the grass snake, the krait and the cobra

Amidst the grandeur of the mountain peaks, lush valleys, fast – flowing rivers, terraced hills, Sikkim offers her visitors a rare and singular experience. Sikkimese are fond of their ‘Chhang’ – a preparation from fermented millet. The drink is served in bamboo container with a hollow bamboo pipe. It is the unofficial national drink

Sikkim – the last Shangri-La – and the land of endless passion are wrapped in mists and clouds. Within a matter of hours one can move from the sub-tropical heat of the lower valley to the cold of the rugged mountain slopes that reach up to the areas of perpetual snow.


Powered by : Jayanth

  (C) Marcopolo World Travels, Tibet Road, Gangtok, India. All rights reserved.
Phone : 91-3592-204116/ 229407/ 221723,  Fax : 91 - 3592 - 205078
Email :
info@worldmarcopolo.com, sikkiminfo@yahoo.com