A clear-glass view into the Himalayas, Sikkim is truly a mystical destination to explore. Its deep valleys thick with rhododendron groves, aesthetic coniferous trees swaying to the sound of waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and the sight of rare red pandas, make Sikkim the perfect place for an adrenaline junkie!
Sikkim offers its visitors the extraordinary opportunity to witness the endangered red panda exist in its natural habitat before its probable extinction in the future. This remarkable highlight is dear to many enthusiasts who travel to the state from near and far just to get a glimpse of the red, furry animal.
Here, the spring flowers are almost always in bloom and the locals are warm and inviting. Even though Sikkim is quite an adventure driven, the state has a meditative quality that tends to instil a sense of tranquillity in its travellers.
An itinerary in Sikkim is filled with endless possibilities – There is no such thing as boredom. The Khangchendzonga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the perfect spot to begin your journey. It is absolutely unbelievable how beautiful nature looks from here.
The park boasts a big variety of flora forests and more than 500 types of birds including the forest eagle owl, Asian emerald cuckoo and blood pheasant, the state bird. The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve is home to many endangered species like the barking deer, blue sheep, snow leopard and musk deer to name a few.
What makes this even more spectacular is that the park also has many a red panda, which is the last remaining representative of the Ailuridae family in the Carnivora species of animals. It is also the state animal of Sikkim.
The red panda, also known as the Firefox is found in the dense deciduous and coniferous forests of India, Nepal, Bhutan and northern Myanmar and southern China. The healthiest at an altitude of 2,200 to 4,800m, these animals have reddish-brown fur, pointed ears, a bushy tail and short front legs. Red pandas are the sweetest little creatures.
They are quiet animals except for the occasional tweeting and whistling sounds to communicate, and often like to take naps up on tree branches during the day. There are only about 10,000 of this bamboo-eating, gentle red pandas left in the world.
One of the biggest highlights of visiting the serene state of Sikkim is to witness these endangered animals before they are possibly extinct. It’s quite an enchanting experience to meet the red panda and watch it swiftly exist in its natural habitat.
For an avid wanderer and animal lover, this trip is quite the dream-come-true. Just a few-hour drive away from Sikkim is the Singalila National Park. On a clear day the third highest peak in the world, the Kanchenjunga, is a breathtaking view in your background in Singalila.
A scenic trek through the park to Phalut and Sandakphu, the highest peak of West Bengal, is a refreshing start to a long travelling journey. You can either make the trip in a jeep or if you are feeling brave, you can opt for a 3-day trek from Manebhanjan all the way to the top and back.
The park offers lodging facilities and park tours to spot the Himalayan black bear or one of the rare 32 red pandas in the area. These red pandas are under high security and as you dive deeper into the biodiversity in the area, you will start to learn more about the conservation efforts that go into taking care of these beautiful animals.
If you are here in December/January don’t miss the Red Panda Winter Festival in Gangtok, which a cultural celebration with a parade led by the festival mascot – Red Panda, and has many contests, exhibitions and performances.
The sight of joyful red pandas and snow-covered memories in Sikkim will leave you with a newfound appreciation for Mother Nature.