JAN Treks & Travels

Journeys to remember

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Sikkim

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Sikkim and neighboring Darjeeling have a lot to offer to mountain lovers, aficionados of Buddhist culture and trekkers. Darjeeling, the former summer capital of British India has a unique old-world charm and boasts great views from many hotel windows. It’s next-door neighbor Sikkim - of which it used to be part - is a gem of cultural and natural diversity. Until 1974 an independent kingdom, it is part of India now. It is home to people of very different cultures, most from Nepali descent or originating from Tibetan and Bhutan, such as the Bhutias who brought Buddhism to the area four centuries ago. Thanks to them Sikkim boasts of colorful gompas, Buddhist monasteries and Buddhist festivals (tsechus) where monks dressed up as ‘gods’, demons and celestial beings enact the   success story of Buddhism’s spread over the Himalayas in the early Middle Ages. The Lepcha’s, until recent forest-dwelling animists, hold a unique culture that the Sikkimese government is trying to preserve.

Sikkim’s mountains range from 200 m to 8586 m and walkers and trekkers can choose from jungle treks, low altitude village treks, staying at home-stays, and high altitude treks that bring one up-close with some of the Himalayas’ highest peaks. Trekking, and other forms of eco-friendly tourism are strongly supported by the Sikkimese government, which has a track-record of measures and policies aimed at sustainable development.