Darjeeling AND Gangtok -- GANGTOK

Gangtokis the capital and largest town of the Indian state of Sikkim. Gangtok is located in the Shivalik Hills of the eastern Himalayan range, at an altitude of 1,437 metres (4,715 ft). The town, with a population of thirty thousand belonging to different ethnicities such as Nepalis, Lepchas and Bhutia, is administered by various departments of the Government of Sikkim. Nestled within higher peaks of the Himalaya and enjoying a year-round mild temperate climate, Gangtok is at the centre of Sikkim’s tourism industry.

Gangtok rose to prominence as a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site after the construction of the Enchey Monastery in 1840. In 1894, the ruling Sikkimese Chogyal, Thutob Namgyal, transferred the capital to Gangtok. In the early 20th century, Gangtok became a major stopover on the trade route between Lhasa in Tibet and cities such as Kolkata (then Calcutta) in British India. After India won its independence from Britain in 1947, Sikkim chose to remain an independent monarchy, with Gangtok as its capital. In 1975, after the integration with the union of India, Gangtok was made India's twenty-second state capital.

The precise meaning of the name Gangtok is unclear, though the most popular meaning is "hill top". Today, Gangtok is a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, with the presence of several monasteries, religious educational institutions, and centres for Tibetology.

Gangtok is located at 27°20′N88°37′E / 27.33°N 88.62°E / 27.33; 88.62. It is situated in the lower Himalayas at an altitude of 5,500 ft (1,676 m). In addition to being the state capital, it is the headquarters of the East Sikkim district. The town lies on one side of a hill, with "The Ridge", a promenade housing the governor's residence, at one end and the palace, situated at an altitude of about 6,000 ft (1,829 m), at the other. The city is flanked on east and west by two streams, namely Roro Chu and Ranikhola, respectively. These two rivers divide the natural drainage into two parts, the eastern and western parts. Both the streams meet the Ranipul and flow south as the main Ranikhola before it joins the Teesta at Singtam. Most of the roads are steep, with the buildings built on compacted ground alongside them.

Most of Sikkim, including Gangtok, is underlain by Precambrian rock which contains foliated phyllites and schists; slopes are therefore prone to frequent landslides. Surface runoff of water by natural streams (jhora) and man-made drains has contributed to the risk of landslides. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the town falls under seismic zone-IV (on a scale of I to V, in order of increasing seismic activity), near the convergent boundary of the Indian and the Eurasian tectonic plates and is subject to frequent earthquakes. The hills are nestled within higher peaks and the snow-clad Himalayan ranges tower over the town from the distance. Mount Kanchenjunga (8,598 m or 28,208 ft)—the world's third-highest peak—is visible to the west of the city. The existence of steep slopes, vulnerability to landslides, large forest cover and inadequate access to most areas has been a major impediment to the natural and balanced growth of the city.

There are densely forested regions around Gangtok, consisting of temperate, deciduous forests of poplar, birch, oak, and elm, as well as evergreen, coniferous trees of the wet alpine zone. Orchids are common, and rare varieties of orchids are featured in flower shows in the city. Bamboos are also abundant. In the lower reaches of the town, the vegetation gradually changes from alpine to temperate deciduous and subtropical. Flowers such as sunflower, marigold, poinsettia, and others bloom, especially in November and December.

Gangtok is connected to the rest of India by an all-weather metallic highway, National Highway 31A, which links Gangtok to Siliguri, located 114 km (71 mi) away in the neighbouring state of West Bengal. The highway also provides a link to the neighbouring hill station towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which are the nearest urban areas. Regular jeep, van, and bus services link these towns to Gangtok. Gangtok is a linear city that has developed along the arterial roads, especially National Highway 31A. Most of the road length in Gangtok, is of two lane undivided carriageway with footpath on one side of the road and drain on the other. The steep gradient of the different road stretches coupled with a spiral road configuration constrain the smooth flow of vehicular as well as pedestrian traffic. The nearest railhead connected to the rest of India is the station of New Jalpaiguri, a suburb of Siliguri, situated 124 km (77 mi) away from Gangtok. The closest airport is Bagdogra Airport, 16 km (10 mi) from Siliguri. Gangtok is linked to nearest Bagdogra airport via a daily helicopter service. A Greenfield airport in nearby Pakyong is under construction and expected to be operational by 2013. Work has also commenced for a broad gauge railway link from Sevoke in West Bengal to Rangpo in Sikkim.

Apart from the major religious festivals of Diwali, Christmas, Dussera, Holi etc., the diverse ethnic populace of the town celebrates several local festivals. The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate new year in January, while Tibetans celebrate the new year (Losar) with "Devil Dance" in January–February. The Maghe sankranti, Ram Navami, Chotrul Duchen, Buddha Jayanti, the birthday of the Dalai Lama, Loosong, Bhumchu, Saga Dawa, Lhabab Duechen and Drupka Teshi are some other festivals, some distinct to local culture and others shared with the rest of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

A popular food in Gangtok is the momo, a steamed dumpling containing pork, beef and vegetables cooked in a doughy wrapping and served with watery soup. Wai-Wai is a packaged snack consisting of noodles which are eaten either dry or in soup form. A form of noodle called thukpa, served in soup form is also popular in Gangtok. Other noodle-based foods such as the chowmein, thanthuk, fakthu, gyathuk and wonton are available. Other traditional Sikkimese cuisine include shah-phaley (Sikkimese patties with spiced minced meat in a crisp samosa-like case) and Gack-ko soup. Restaurants offer a wide variety of traditional Indian, continental and Chinese cuisines to cater to the tourists. Churpee, a kind of hard cheese made from cow's or yak's milk is sometimes chewed.