Sikkim is extra-special! For it is here the air breathes peace and folks live in harmony. Mountains sing lores of legend. And, amidst them lie the ancient monasteries, echoing with holy chants. These Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim are special not just because they are scenic and immersed in the soft aroma of alpine but also because of the great legacy they carry. Behold them for the fine architecture, ancient existence, and incredible surroundings, as these monasteries would leave you awed.
Perched atop the mountains most of these Buddhist monasteries in Sikkim are scattered across the length and width of the state. A majority of these monasteries belonging to the 17th and 18th century stand wearily today, tested by time and toughened by the weather conditions in the mountains. Here are the 10 best monasteries of Sikkim that you can consider visiting when you travel to the Northeast the next time.
1. Dubdi Monastery – Behold the oldest in Sikkim
Established way back in 1701, Dubdi is one of the popular monasteries in Sikkim. Belonging to the Nyingma sect from Tibetan Buddhism, this monastery enjoys an amazing hilltop location. Treacherous path and dense alpine guard the pretty monastery that must be visited by every traveler looking for popular attractions in Sikkim.
Perched atop 6,900 meters, this beautiful creation bears the statues of three lamas. The 2-storied stone architecture of the monastery is rather fine and there is a bell-shaped structure atop the roof is remarkable for its positioning known as Gyaltshen.
Special attractions: Kartok Monastery and Tashiding Monastery, Norbugang Chorten, Tashi Tenka, and Khangchendzonga National Park are some of the must-visit places nearby
How to reach Dubdi Monastery: Dubdi Monastery is a 3 km walk from Yuksom. Yuksom can be reached by a shared Jeep or government buses that run from Geyzing or Pelling. These places are located almost 2 hours away from Yuksom. One can also take a private cab to reach the monastery. Pelling and Geyzing are accessible from Bagdogra and Siliguri. Both these cities are well connected with major Indian cities.
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2. Enchey Monastery – At a walking distance from Gangtok
Dating back to 200 years, the Enchey Monastery is located 3 km to the northeast of Gangtok. ‘Enchey’ translates to solitary which is aptly justified by its location. The monastery belongs to Nyingma of Vajrayana Buddhism. The location is truly embellished by nature’s grandeur. Special prayers are held at the monastery during the lunar month every year, which according to Tibetan calendar takes place in January and February.
Visiting hours: 6 am – 4 pm
Special attractions: Chaam – a religious dance performed by masked dancers during the celebrations in the lunar month
How to reach Enchey Monastery: It takes a 10-minute taxi ride from Gangtok city to reach the monastery
3. Kartok Monastery – The most picturesque of ‘em all
Located opposite of Kartok Lake, the Kartok Monastery is the pride of Yuksom village. Hundreds of travelers flock to marvel this beauty in the northeast which bears red color. Yellow and golden motifs depicting Tibetan design can be found all over the monastery exteriors. One of the popular sites to visit in Yuksom the Kartok forms a great combo with Dubdi and Ngadak Monastery. Slow chants and fluttering prayer flags, and the beautiful Lake Kartok nearby makes it an awesome spectacle for the nature lovers.
Special attractions: Kartok Lake, the stunning landscape around the monastery, and fossils near the lake
How to reach Kartok Monastery: Yuksom can be easily reached from places like Pelling and Geyzing
4. Lingdum Monastery – Easy to get to from Gangtok
Lingdum Monastery lies in the East Sikkim some 20 km from Gangtok. The monastery has been a preferred location for the Bollywood filmmakers, thus making it one of the popular monasteries in Sikkim. Lingdum, also known as Ranka Monastery, is the most recent monasteries of them all, completed in 1998. The monastery makes for the perfect place to spend some moments of solace in the company of divine intervention. Surrounded by forested mountains the monastery is truly a photographers delight.
Special attractions: Prayer wheels by the parking, masked dance during Losar – Tibetan new year, Banjhakri Waterfall, and Rumtek Monastery
How to reach Lingdum Monastery: The monastery can be easily reached by a private vehicle from the capital city.
5. Pemayangtse Monastery – Tested by time
Plan a trip to Pemayangtse Monastery between March to June to experience the place in full glory. This is one of the oldest standing monasteries in Sikkim thronged by travelers year-round. Pemayangtse translates to Perfect Sublime Lotus and the place flourishes under the clear blue sky. The interiors of the monastery are noticeable with all the Tibetan motifs and design on the walls and pillars.
The 300-year old monastery makes the perfect place to do some soul searching and indulge in prayers and meditation. Rich architecture, stunning mountains in the backdrop, and friendly Buddhist followers inside the temple would certainly make your trip to this monastery worthwhile.
Special attractions: Ancient manuscript on pillars and interior woodwork
How to reach Pemayangtse Monastery: A direct taxi from Pelling and Gangtok (110 km) can easily get you to Pemayangtse Monastery in a taxi. You can also walk the 2-km distance from Pelling to the monastery.
6. Phodong Monastery – Significant remains of Kagyupa Sect
Among many other monasteries that dot the pious land of Sikkim, Phodong Monastery, belonging to the Kagyupa Sect in Buddhism, is a popular attraction and a major monastery in Sikkim. Founded by Gyurmed Namgyal of Kagyupa Sect, the monastery stands at 4,500 feet above sea level. The monastery is well adorned with the paintings, murals, and holy scriptures from the ancient time.
Special attractions: Noble lineage of 260 monks, Labrang Monastery, and Tumlong
How to reach Phodong Monastery: Bagdogra Airport is the nearest airstrip to the monastery located 124 km far. It is well connected with major cities across India. Siliguri (114 km) and New Jalpaiguri (125 km) are the nearest railway stations well connected with major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, and Guwahati. Gangtok is well connected by major road links. Shared as well as private jeeps operate from Gangtok to the monastery.
7. Ralang Monastery – Sikkim’s biggest monastery
It is here at the Ralang Monastery that you get to savor the best of Tibetan architecture. The biggest monastery in Sikkim is the wonderful assimilation of colors, traditions, and incredible Tibetan architecture. Located in the wonderful surrounding of Ravangla, the monastery is a popular site for Buddhists from all over the world. A new monastery was built in 1995 at a distance of 6 km from Ravangle.
The intention was to make this one more accessible than the previous one located 13 km from Ravangla. The monastery is also popular because of the fact that it hosts Pang Lhabsol – a popular festival in the region, every year. Kagyed Dance performed by the monks during the festival makes for the highlight.
Special attractions: Collection of paintings inside the temple, Kewzing Monastery, Tumlong, and Mangbrue Gompa & Viewpoint
How to reach Ralong Monastery: Bagdogra (112 km) is the nearest airport while New Jalpaiguri(107 km) is the nearest railhead to Ravangla. From Bagdogra and Siliguri taxi are available for Namchi. Namchi to Ravangla is 22 km which can be covered in a private or shared vehicle. The last leg of 6 km from Ravangla to the monastery has to be trekked.
8. Rumtek Monastery – Known for its vantage points
Fed by the thrills of the mountainous terrain, Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim that makes for an ideal site for nature. Located 23 km from Gangtok, the 3-storied monastery lies to the opposite of formidable mountains. To reach the main gompa from the main gate one has to walk a distance of half a kilometer. Vantage points from the monastery would charm you and the fine architecture would leave you fascinated.
This monastery is located in Ruaficionadosmtek, a place which is 23 km from Gangtok town and in the opposite mountain. So if you visit Rumtek, there are vantage points from where you get amazing sights of the whole Gangtok town on the opposite hill. However from the gate at the base, it requires an uphill walk (about half a kilometer) to reach up to the main monastery. One of the largest monasteries in Sikkim, Rumtek belongs to the Kargyu sect and was built by Gyalwa Karmapa in the 1960s.
Visiting hours: 6 am – 6 pm
Special attractions: Botanical Garden
How to reach Rumtek Monastery: From Gangtok, private taxis are available to Rumtek Monastery. Go for a shared vehicle that is available in a large number. Bus service is also available from the city to the monastery.
9. Tashiding Monastery – Adorned by nature from all sides
Snow-capped peaks and rustic charm prettify Tashiding Monastery. Popular among the travelers from all over the world this Sikkim Buddhist monastery truly reflects the old world charm. There is a pot of holy water kept inside the temple which considered auspicious and is used only during the festivities.
With plenty of fluttering prayer flags and holy chants, the temple complex is a perfect place to spend some great moments in the lap of nature. A day at this one of the oldest and holiest monasteries in Sikkim will be perfect. The monastery houses close to 60-70 monks.
Special attractions: Inscription slab outside the monastery, Ravangla, and Yuksom
How to reach Tashiding Monastery: Located near Pelling, the monastery is around 40 km from Gyalshing and 30 km from Ravangla. Private taxis are available from all these major cities to reach the monastery.
10. Tsuklakhang Palace – Portrayal of ancient artwork
The monastery came up towards the end of 19th century and is one of the eminent structures in Sikkim. Popularly known as Tsuklakhang Royal chapel and Monastery is a popular religious spot for Buddhists from all around the world. The monastery is also important from the cultural point of view as it promotes and preserves the cultural heritage of the northeastern state. A trip to Tsuklakhang Monastery would also take you closer to the great glorious tradition of our nation.
Special attractions: Fine Tibetan architecture, the celebration of Losar, Pang Lhabsol festival held in honor of Mount Khangchendzonga
How to reach Tsuklakhang Monastery: The monastery can be easily reached by a private vehicle from Gangtok (124 km). NJP is the closest railhead from Gangtok located 148 km far.
Pay a visit to these monasteries in Sikkim, coz not only you are just going to adore the views but the journey leading to some of these monasteries is rather more fascinating. Sikkim beckons!
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