Blanketed with clouds at 5500 feet, sits Gangtok, meaning “Top of the Hill”, the capital of Sikkim. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business center and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities. Can be said to be the most urban and developed town of Sikkim, Gangtok serves as the base reaching destinations to many tourists who thereafter start their further journey into the state.
Hotels and lodges are available at a range of prices along with a variety of eateries serving the cuisine of local as well as international tastes. Shopping complexes, malls, cyber cafes, nightclubs, and pool parlors abound for those so inclined to enjoy the urban hill city life.
The most attractive point of Gangtok town is its MG Marg, the main street of the town filled with shopping centers displaying a variety of products to buy and bring home and a great place to chill. The street boasts to be the country’s first litter and spit free zone, no vehicular traffic is allowed into the marg. You can leisurely sit at the Titanic Park or at the various benches stretched across the mall and take in the carnival-like atmosphere, especially during the tourist season.
MG Marg street also hosts the annual Gangtok Food and Culture festival held in December each year when Sikkim’s multi-cultural cuisine, along with music and dance performances are showcased. This event attracts a large number of locals and tourists each year.
Today Gangtok serves as a market center for corn, rice, pulses, and oranges. It was an important point on the India-Tibet trade route via Nathu Pass (Nathu-la), 13 miles (21 km) northeast until the border with Tibet (China) was closed in 1962. The pass was reopened for trade, however, in 2006. From Gangtok, the North Sikkim Highway (1962) reaches the Tibetan border areas via Lachung and Lachen, and the National Highway runs southwest to India.
The city’s landscape is marked by the former royal palace and chapel, two monasteries, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, the Lal Market, and the Cottage Industries Institute.