If you’re looking for new places to go to but haven't got a clue where you want to go, may I suggest Gangtok, capital of Sikkim?
Sikkim joined the Union on India in 1975. Prior to that it had a monarchy and was a separate country. Although the youngest member of the Union of India, Sikkim has achieved a lot in a relatively short time. For instance, in December 2015, Sikkim was the first state to be certified organic in India. In 2016, Sikkim was declared India’s cleanest state.
When to go there
Any time other than the rainy season/ monsoons. Reason being that landslides are a common occurrence on mountain roads during the rains, and can make the journey dangerous.
How to get there
From Delhi, you would have to take a flight to Bagdogra Airport. Most major airlines including Air India, Jet Airways, and IndiGo have flights to Bagdogra. It's a two-hour flight from Delhi to Bagdogra, followed by a 4-5-hour journey by road to Gangtok. Flight timings differ in the summer and winter. As it gets dark much sooner in Sikkim as compared to Delhi, it is best to plan your travel in such a manner that you don’t spend much time on mountain roads in the dark.
The closest train station to Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri (NJP), which is in the same city as Bagdogra Airport (Bagdogra airport and the train station are about 45 minutes apart by road). There is an excellent rail service (Rajdhani) from New Delhi Railway Station to NJP. There are many other trains connecting NJP to Delhi but they are not as good or reliable as the Rajdhani.
Again, you must travel the rest of the journey to Gangtok by road (4-5 hours). Gangtok is not very high in the mountains but it is very far inside. The journey is scenic with the Teesta river giving you company along the way.
The roads are well maintained, and are managed by the Border Roads Organisation (or BRO). Watch out for their signs advising caution to drivers driving through the mountains. BRO’s sense of humor while delivering an important message is priceless.
If you are in a hurry to get to Gangtok, there is a helicopter service from Bagdogra to Gangtok. It covers the 5-hour road journey in 30 minutes. However, the flight is heavily dependent on the weather. The helicopter flies twice a day only with limited seats and luggage allowance.
Where to Stay
There are many hotels as well as home stays to choose from in Gangtok. The hotels range from budget to luxury, and modern to heritage. A few hotel chains like the Summit Hotels, Elgin and Sarovar are also there. There are also home stays such as Rhennok House and Netuk House.
If you are members of Sterling Resorts, you have the option of staying at the “Delisso Abode” at a reasonable cost. There is also the Welcome Group’s Heritage hotel - “Denzong Regency”.
Where to eat
Among the places I can recommend are the “Coffee Shop”” on MG Road for western style food and drinks, and “Square restaurant” on MG Road for Chinese style food and drinks. For Sikkimese food, try “9’INE”, and for Tibetan food, try “Taste of Tibet”.
If you get a chance to try home style Sikkimese cuisine, try the ferns, bamboo shoots, churpi, and the momos. Pork is eaten often, and is cooked in local style.
Most restaurants close very early in Gangtok, some as early as 9pm, so plan your outing in such a manner that you eat dinner early, by say 7pm.
Places to see in Sikkim and within a comfortable drive from Gangtok
A large section of the population is Tibetan Buddhist, and as such there are two monasteries that you must see- Chorten Monastery and Rumtek.
As the name suggests, this is the smaller Buddhist Monastery in the area. But that is only by comparison.
The Chorten Monastery is an extremely holy place, with Bhutanese royalty making special pilgrimages to the place. This monastery is located within Gangtok, and is easily accessible.
Rumtek is actually 2 hours outside in the direction of Bagdogra. Although I couldn’t go there on my last visit, I am given to understand that it is much bigger than the Chorten Monastery and worth a visit.
M.G. Road, or Mahatma Gandhi Road is the place to go if you would like to shop for souvenirs, etc. in Gangtok. There is no parking or stopping on MG road, which means that the driver of your vehicle must quickly drop you and then continue his journey. Also, most of the road has been paved to make it pedestrian only so it's a great place to walk, take in the sights and feel the vibe of the place.
Flower Exhibition center
The best time to visit the flower exhibition center is between March and April. Here you will find Orchids, Anthurium, and Lilium which the state of Sikkim is known for.
How to get around
There is no Uber or Ola in Gangtok, so you will have to make your arrangement with your hotel taxi service or with a local taxi stand.
Return journey to Delhi
Most flights out of Bagdogra back to Delhi are in the afternoon. Even so, for a flight that departs at 2pm, you are generally advised to leave Gangtok by 8am. Why? Because if there is a landslide on the regular route to Bagdogra, you will have to turn around and take the alternate route via Darjeeling. It will mean a delay of 3 hours at the very least.
While you wait for your flight at the airport, you could go to the cafeteria which serves excellent food at extremely reasonable prices. Try the fish and chips or the chicken cutlet. They have Chinese food as well, so one could easily order different cuisines.
To conclude, Gangtok is a very beautiful city with much to offer. It is neat, clean and is one of those rare places that has found the balance between the traditional and the modern.