Best Of Gangtok City Beyond The Tourist Spots

Buddha Mural at M G Marg, Gangtok city
Buddha Mural at M G Marg

Gangtok city is a typical hill town in the Kanchenjunga range of Himalayas. It is a fairly popular tourist destination. A gateway for Nathula Pass in the east and Yumthang valley in the North. Today it is the capital of the state of Sikkim. But it first became a capital city when Chogyals shifted their capital here way back in the 1890s. Since then it has been on a trade route connecting Nepal, Bhutan and Indian cities like Kolkata. When you visit Rumtek Monastery on the other hill, especially in the evenings, you can see the whole of the city on a hill slope and its twinkling lights.

Gangtok was originally called Gang-to.

If you walk up and down a few times, you know the whole of the city. Though you would need a lot of power in your feet to go up and down its hilly terrain. Whenever we took a taxi, which was invariably a small car and more often not a Maruti, we were pushed to take a tour of the 10 tourists points of Gangtok. We did a few things off that list. But what we enjoyed most was walking around this hill town.

Gangtok City Visit

Gangtok has many aspects that make it a perfect city to live in. Or even visit once in a while. Sharing some of my observations.

Flowers everywhere in Gangtok city

Flower pots surrounding our hotel
Flower pots surrounding our hotel

Wherever we were in the city, we were never away from flowers. I do not mean the wildflowers that occur in the hills. I mean the flowers that people have put everywhere. Each house had a neat lines pots of colorful flowers. The roadsides had hangers to hold flower pots and the colorful flowers smile at you.

Pink Orchids
Pink Orchids
Green Orchid
Green Orchid

The flower show is a place in the heart of the city where flowers are showcased around the year.

Flower Show at Gangtok city
Flower Show Event

It is a small glass house kind of place filled with flowers – mostly orchids. We really enjoyed clicking the orchids. I was pleasantly surprised to see a green orchid.

Flower pots on roads of Gangtok city
Flower pots on roads

However, the cherry on the cake is the fragile bags hanging on the walls of the city – holding the soil so that flowers can bloom. They could be found in bunches of 3-8 all over the city. Such a simple, economic, easy to do way to make the city beautiful in most natural of ways. Why has no other city thought of it so far?

Roadside Hanging Flowers at Gangtok city
Roadside Hanging Flowers

Little colorful flowers sprouted from wherever they, showing off their survival skills – just give them a bit of soil.

Gangtok city walkways

Walkways Gangtok city, Sikkim
Lovely walkways all over the city

Each road in the city has well-defined walkways where pedestrians can freely walk without worrying about the traffic on the road. I first saw them on the valley side – sometimes on a platform jutting out in a cliff like a manner. However, I also discovered the walkways on the other sides. Sometimes going up and down, but providing a dedicated space to those who wanted to walk.

Sky Walk at Gangtok city
Sky Walk for pedestrians to cross the busy road

As we walked into the city after visiting Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology, we saw an efficient sky-walk where the sidewalks were not possible.

Sidewalks on Gangtok city roads
Sidewalks on the city roads

I love walking. And strongly believe that our cities should be walking friendly before being anything else. I was so happy to see that they have developed the infrastructure in such a way that you can easily walk across the city. What makes it even more special is the Himalayan views that you get when you are walking across. Punctuated by some colorful buildings here and there.

Traffic free MG Marg

Top View of M G Marg, Gangtok
Top View of M G Marg

Every city in India has its most premium road named after Mahatma Gandhi, so has Gangtok. The downtown street in the city is called M G Marg. You see a smiling statue of Gandhi welcoming you on the street in his trademark pose. Now, what makes this street in the capital city special is the way this street is kept traffic free.

mahatma gandhi statue at MG Marg Gangtok, Sikkim
Mahatma Gandhi on the road named after him

Lined with shops, including local eateries and cafes on either side, you can see the locals as well as tourists enjoying the carefree walk. Families with young ones were the happiest as they could let children be children. In the middle of the road were benches to sit. When you are tired a bit or want to have a small conversation or want to be alone in the middle of a crowd.

Souvenir shop at M G Marg
Souvenir shop at M G Marg

Wait, these benches were not alone, they had the lamps and the lamp posts had the flower pots hanging on there. Look out for tea shops cum cafes, old style chaat shops like Narayan Das Sweet Bhandar and of course colorful Souvenir shops. This was the place that inspired me to write the post on Sikkim Souvenirs.

Street Art

Street art on Gangtok city walls
Street art on the capital city walls

Quite a few walls in the city were full of street art. I think it is a trend across India to paint the city walls. I just hope that the cities capture their own essence on the walls and not just one another. Or let a few artists dominate across India. Thankfully here these were primarily around Buddha and Buddhist iconography like lotus flowers.

Celebrating People of Sikkim on Gangtok Walls
Celebrating People of Sikkim

Look at this giant wall mural depicting Buddha at the end of MG Marg.

Murals from Winter Carnival, Gangtok, Sikkim
Murals from Winter Carnival

I learned that the city hosts an annual winter carnival in December when various artists come together to paint the wall murals.

Rachna Book Cafe

Rachna Books, Gangtok
Rachna Books

This was a discovery and a pleasant surprise. A friend had mentioned looking for a Book cafe in Gangtok city, but she did not remember the name or the location. As luck would have it, I met another friend in the city and he walked us to Rachna Book Cafe. It is a small cafe that houses a lovely bookstore on the first floor with elegant furniture where you can sit with a coffee in one hand and book in another.

Rachna Book Cafe, Gangtok
Rachna Book Cafe

We had a long chat with the owner Raman. He told us that the bookshop is almost ancestral. And he is trying to morph it into a cultural space and invites all kinds of creative people to the Rachna Book cafe. He is becoming a medium where Sikkimese writers and artists are getting to interact with creative people from around the world. They are also giving space to performing artists.

A small homestay attached to the book cafe means you can stay and have a reading holiday in this hill town. If you love books, as I do, you must check out the Rachna Book cafe whenever you are in the capital city next.

View of Kanchenjunga

Kanchenjunga Peaks of Himalayas
Kanchenjunga Peaks of Himalayas

To get a good view of Kanchenjunga you must go to Sikkim when the weather is clear, otherwise be prepared to completely miss the views.

However, when you miss a big peak, you end up looking at the lesser known peaks and valleys. And notice things that you would not if the Kanchenjunga was towering and had the monopoly on your eyes.

It is such a pleasure to discover the cities by walking around.

Do you want me to write about Gangtok’s 10 tourist points?

Recommend you to read the following Places to visit in Sikkim.

Chardham on Solophok Hill, Namchi

Sikkim – Small but Beautiful

Pelling – Places to see

Top 12 Sikkim souvenirs to pick


  1. Ah such a lovely post! I just cancelled my Sikkim Trip 🙁 Your post only kindles that urge within me. The view of Kanchenjunga is to die for! I will look for the book store for sure when I am there some day. Thanks for sharing a beautiful post! Loved it.

  2. Dear Anuradha, I’m planning to visit Sikkim in december… is it a good time? How’s the weather in mid-december and the beginning of january?
    Thank you for all your information!!!


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