According to handbagpicks, Sikkim is located at the latitude of North Africa, Florida and Mexico (27-28), however, due to the high-altitude, rugged landscape, all natural and climatic zones are represented in the state, with the exception of the tropical.
The river valleys (up to 2 thousand meters above sea level) are characterized by a humid monsoon climate. Most of the territory of Sikkim is located in the temperate zone (1800-4000 m above sea level).
In the valleys near rivers and streams, vegetation of the subtropical zone is found: palm trees, acacias, cypresses, laurel, balsams, bananas, bamboo, giant ferns and orchids. The slopes of the mountains here are covered with dense forests. The lower part is dominated by chestnut, Himalayan evergreen oak, maple, poplar, ash, birch, weeping willow. There are many subtropical plants on the southern slopes. In the upper part of this belt, there are silver spruce, pine, larch, yew, juniper, rose bushes, yellow jasmine and rhodendron – the most common plant in the Himalayas. (In neighboring Nepal, its flower is considered a national symbol, which is written in the constitution of the kingdom.) In Sikkimthere are more than 40 species of rhododendron, among which stands out the giant, reaching 12 m Rhododendron argenteum with half a meter leaves and large bright flowers and an unusual epiphyte rhododendron (R.dalhousia), located on the branches of trees, most often oaks and magnolias.
The Alpine belt covers the slopes of the mountains and plateaus at an altitude of 4-5 thousand meters. Due to the cold climate, trees and shrubs give way to meadows here. Primrose (more than 40 species), dwarf rhododendron, edelweiss, buttercups, gentians grow in this zone. Above begins a lifeless ice belt: rocks, snow and ice. Glaciers originate from here, snow avalanches descend from here.
The fauna of Sikkim is poor, only a great variety of insects – more than 2 thousand species, including 600 species of butterflies. Musk deer, monkeys, snakes come across in the jungle, in the temperate zone there are quite a lot of birds – pheasants, mountain pigeons, flycatchers, red-legged crows. High in the mountains you can meet marmots, mountain sheep, rarely – brown Himalayan bears, but there are more birds – crows, pigeons, partridges, eagles.
Best time to visit
Sikkim is subject to the influence of the monsoons from June to the end of September. Therefore, there are two favorable seasons for visiting Sikkim: from early April to mid-May and from early October to mid-November. The pre-monsoon season is better for rhododendrons, however, in the second case, clear views of the mountain ranges. However, you must be prepared for severe weather conditions, such as snowstorms at high altitudes, which come on suddenly and attack rapidly in both periods.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Delhi – the capital of India and Srinagar – the capital of the state of Jamnu and Kashmir, planes fly to Le. In the off-season, flights are often delayed and rescheduled due to weather conditions. From Srinagar and Manali (cities in the foothills of the Himalayas) can be reached by road in jeeps (2 days) through passes of 4.500 and 5.300 m, respectively. The passes are cleared of snow in June and closed in September.
Despite the small population, Sikkim is distinguished by a motley ethnic composition and cannot be considered as a “linguistic state” typical of India.
There are 4 main ethnic groups. Changpa – the original inhabitants of these places, nomadic cattle breeders, breed yaks, sheep and goats. Most of them still live in black yak-wool tents, rising to the edge of the glaciers in summer. The Mon are former nomads, mostly converted to agriculture. In the Indus Valley – the central and largest valley of Ladakh – representatives of the gorse people live – they cultivate irrigated fields and gardens. In the west of Ladakh, closer to Kashmir, the majority of the population are Baltis – immigrants from Central Asia, who in ancient times drove caravans along the Great Silk Road. In addition, in the valleys previously cut off from the world, many small nationalities live among them – European-looking people who consider themselves descendants of the soldiers of the army of Alexander the Great. After 1959, refugees from Chinese Tibet settled in Ladakh. Recently, many immigrants from southern India have appeared in Ladakh. Each of the nationalities speaks its own language, as well as Tibetan and Hindi. Many, and among people who deal with tourists, the vast majority, speak English.
TRADITIONS AND RELIGION
Ladakh is unique in its lively Buddhist culture, which has more than 1000 years of continuous development. At present, most of the monasteries belong to the Gelug school, there are monasteries of the Nyingma and Kagyu directions.
Indian rupees. There are no restrictions on the import of foreign currency, but when you import more than $2,500 (or its equivalent in another currency), you must declare them. It is better to change money in Delhi, in Le the rate is much lower. There are currency exchange offices right at the airport, with many foreign and commercial banks. In the summer of 2000, the exchange rate was about Rs 42.7 per $1. When exchanging money and for change, do not take torn and very dirty banknotes – they may not be accepted from you elsewhere. By the way, banknotes with a torn edge are considered torn in India, holes in the center are normal – they are obtained from paper clips that seal money in bundles.
In Le – the capital of Ladakh – you can stay in hotels of different levels, from the simplest ones – often it’s just a room in a private house – to quite European 3-star hotels. In other cities and stops along the route, there are only very simple guest-houses or tent camps.
As elsewhere in India, Ladakh has many restaurants with Indian, Chinese and European cuisine, but Tibetan cuisine can be considered a feature of Ladakh. Traditional dishes are momo and takpa. Momo is an analogue of dumplings with a variety of fillings, boiled and fried. Takpa – soup with vermicelli, meat and vegetables. Tibetan tea and bread.
The Royal Palace in Le is the forerunner of the famous Potala in Lhasa. Monasteries in the vicinity of Le – Tsemo, Sankar, Stakna, Tiksi, Taktok and Hemis. Summer Palace of the Kings of Ladakh in Shey. Monastery and museum with the jewels of the royal family in Stoke. Ancient monasteries in Lamayuri, Likira and Alchi. The monasteries belong to different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, they keep sculptural and pictorial images of the Buddha and bodhisattvas, and are decorated with magnificent frescoes. Unique alpine landscape.
Practically in all monasteries several times a year dances of monks in masks are arranged, symbolizing the victory of Buddhism over ignorance and dedicated to the guardian spirits of the monastery. Holiday dates vary due to tied to the Tibetan lunar calendar.
Many trekking routes of varying degrees of difficulty and duration – from walks in the vicinity of Le to expeditions to the Zanskar valleys lost between the ridges.