Encompassing deep rhododendron-filled valleys to sky-scraping peaks, the state of Sikkim sits amongst the colossal Himalayas. Formerly an independent Buddhist kingdom, the religion’s presence is still prominent in everyday life. There are over 200 monasteries dotted amongst the unspoiled landscapes of this tiny state; the very best way to discover both is hiking. Sikkim as a whole is watched over by the world’s third highest peak Kangchenjunga.
Sikkim’s capital is no ordinary city. Perched on a mountain ridge Gangtok tumbles down a hillside of steep tiers and on a clear day has fantastic mountain views, including of mighty Khangchendzonga. Once on a busy trade route into Tibet, Gangtok’s Buddhist roots are deep, lending it a laidback and colourful atmosphere – it is the perfect place to relax after the heat and bustle of India’s lowland cities. Visit the excellent collection of Tibetan and Buddhist artefacts at the Institute of Tibetology and head 24 kilometres out to Rumtek, Sikkim’s largest and most important ‘gompas’ or Tibet monastery.
Sitting at an altitude of 2,150 metres, travellers are just starting to catch on to Pelling’s tour de force – its Himalayan views. Head to the lookout point at dawn or dusk for the very best views. Nestled on a high ridge above forested hills, and often clouds, this hill station is charmingly quiet, perhaps due to the fact that the views gobsmack visitors into silence, and gives easy access to walks and treks in the surrounding virgin landscapes. Just 2 kilometres away is Pemayangtse another of Sikkim’s most important monasteries. Meaning ‘Perfect Sublime Lotus’, the views and its position amongst tracts of woodland add to the monastery’s tranquillity.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.