Sikkim has the unique distinction of being bounded by three sovereign nations, Nepal in the west, Bhutan in the east and China"s Tibet in the north. It also shares its southern border with the state of West Bengal. It has an area of around 7096 sq km and it is about 64 km from east to west and 110 km from north to south. Mt. Kanchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world dominates the landscape of the State and is revered as Sikkim"s guardian deity. The state has a good number of glaciers and some of the very important ones are Zemu, Rathong, Lona in North Sikkim. The river Tista is the lifeline of Sikkim and it originates from Lake Cholamu. Its tributaries are Rangeet, Ramam and Rangpo. Sikkim offers best buys for hand woven carpets, thankas and other paintings. Other items typical of the state and are large cardamoms, Lepcha weave bags, purses, jewellery and liquors etc. The main inhabitants of the state are the Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis.
Sikkim lies between 27.5 and 28.1 degrees North latitude and 88.4 and 88.58 degrees East longitude.
GENERAL INFORMATION :
Area :7096 sq.kms
Population :540493 (Provisional Census 2001)
Altitude : 224 mts to 8590 mts
Temperature :Summer Max 28 degrees C Min 13 degrees C
Winter : Max 18 degrees C Min 7 degrees C
Clothing :Summer : Light woollens
Winter : Heavy woollen
Languages:Lepcha, Bhutia, Nepali, English, Hindi, etc.
ENTRY FORMALITIES :
Domestic Tourists : Except for a few restricted areas, Indian tourists need no entry permits to visit Sikkim.
Foreign Tourists : Foreign tourists require a special permit that can be obtained from all Indian Missions abroad who are authorized to issue a 15- day permit. The Tourism Officer at the border town of Rangpo is also authorized to issue a 2-day permit to foreign tourists to enable them to enter the state and acquire the full 15-day permit. Permits can also be obtained from the following offices:
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS :
Maghe Sangkranti Mela : A three-day holy festival of the Hindus, this mela is held in the month of January. Huge fairs are regularly organised in and around the riverbanks and the confluence of Jorethang, Saramsa, Rorathang and Triveni rivers.
Bumchu : It is held during January/February at the monastery of Tashiding. The abbot of the monastery unveils a pot of holy water and foretells the future of the state.
Losar : This festival held around the first week of February is celebrated to welcome the Tibetan New Year with feasting and merrymaking.
Saga Dawa : It is an important festival of the Mahayana Buddhists. Saga Dawa is celebrated in the month of May in all-important monasteries of Sikkim. Lamas with painted masks, ceremonial swords leap and swing to the tune of the drums, the trumpets and the chanting of the monks.
Pang Lhabsol : Unique to Sikkim, this festival held during the month of August to worship the snow peaks of Mount Kanchendzonga. An important feature of the celebration is the warrior dance with its intricate steps and leaps accompanied by martial war cries.
Tendong Lho Rum Faat : An important festival of the Lepchas community of Sikkim. This festival marks the celebration of the Tendong Hills where it is believed that the hill rises like a horn to save the Lepchas from a great flood. The festival is celebrated during the month of August.
Dasain : It is the main festival of the Hindu Nepalese in Sikkim where elders of the family apply "tika" on the young and bless them. This festival signifies the victory of good over evil and it is held during the month of October.
Tihaar : This festival is celebrated as the festival of lights with the lighting of lamps accompanied with traditional carols called Deusi and Bhakti. The festival is held during the month of November.
Losoong Festival : Losoong is an important festival of the Bhutia community of the State. The festival marks the end of the harvest season and also the end of the Tibetan Year. It is celebrated in the Monasteries of Tsug Lakhang, Phodong and Rumtek with religious dances (Chaams) feasting and archery contests. It is held during the month of December.
FLORA AND FAUNA :
Sikkim is endowed with a rich species of flowering plant, including 600 species of orchids. There are magnificent magnolias in the temperate regions and over 40 varieties of rhododendrons in the higher regions. The red panda, the Himalayan black bear, several species of deer, leopard cat, flying squirrels, the blue sheep, the Tibetan wild ass, the bearded vulture and around 600 species of butterflies are found in the State. There are six wildlife sanctuaries and one National Park in the State.
The five sanctuaries are the Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary, Shingbha Rhododendron Sanctuary, Meanam Wildlife Sanctuary, Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary and Fambong La Wildlife sanctuary.
The only National Park in the state is the Khangchendzonga National Park known as the highest National Park in India
NATIONAL PARK / WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES :
Kanchendzonga National Park : The Park covers an area of around 1400 sq.km. It is bound on the north by the Tent Peak and the ridge of Zemu glaciers, on the east by the ridge of Mt. Lamaongden, on the west by Mt. Kanchendzonga and in the south by Mt. Narsing and Mt. Pandim. Wildlife found in this Park are the snow leopard, Himalayan black bear, red panda, barking deer, blood pheasant, civet cats, black eagle etc.
Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary : Adjoining the Tsomgo Lake and covering an area of 4 sq km, wildlife found in this sanctuary are the red panda, blood pheasant etc.
Shingbha Rhododendron Sanctuary : Famous for its variety of rhododendrons.
Meanam Wildlife Sanctuary : Located above Ravangla town and covering an area of 35 sq km, this sanctuary has its highest point in Meanam at 10,600 ft. Animals and birds found in this sanctuary are the red panda, leopard cat, civet this 33 hectares wildlife sanctuary is located near Yumthang. Wildlife found in this sanctuary - the blood pheasant, partridge, tiger, civet cats etc.
Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary : This rhododendron sanctuary has been recently established and lies in the west corner of Sikkim.
Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary : With an area of 51.76 sq. km and lying above the road between Singtam and Dikhu, this sanctuary is 25 km from Gangtok. The sanctuary is rich in wild orchids, rhododendrons etc. and is home to the Himalayan black bear, red panda, civet cat and many varieties of birds and butterflies.