A paradise of natural beauty, Sikkim lies nestled and almost hidden between Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Darjeeling in the Eastern Himalayas. This small but beautiful land is dominated by Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Religion forms an integral part of the daily lives of the Sikkimese, and Kanchenjunga is revered as their protective deity. With 200 Buddhist monasteries dotted across the tiny land, the influence of Buddhism iseverywhere. Even in the remotest hamlet, the fluttering of prayer flags are a constant reminder of the teachings of Lord Buddha. Until 1975, Sikkim was an independent kingdom ruled by Chogyals (kings). The history of Sikkim's Chogyals dates back to the sixteenth century, when the first Chogyal was consecrated by three holy men at Yoksom, in West Sikkim. In 1975, following a popular movement to abolish the monarchy, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union.

Sikkim's botanical and geological affluence is truly impressive. The varieties of birds and butterflies in Sikkim is matched only by incredible diversity in the animal and botanical world, nourished by unique dramatic geographical features. The lower altitudes are sub-tropical and abound in some of Sikkim's more than 600 hundred Orchid varieties, sprays of Cardamom, fruits orchards and terraced rice paddies. To the Lepchas - this was "Nye Mae-El" (Paradise), and to the Bhutias it is , "Beymul Denzong" (The Hidden Valley of Rice). Sikkim is commonly attributed to the Tsong word "Sukhim" meaning (New or Happy Home).

Various explorers and mountaineers have claimed to have seen YETI or its foot prints in the vicinity of the mountain and its glacier, - "The Abominable Snowman" has its place in folklore. The best known peaks are Pauhnuri (7125m) , Pandim (6691 m), Talung (7349m), Tent Peak (7365 m), Jongsang (7459 m), Rathong (6679 m), Koktang (6147m) and Sinioulchu (6887m) regarded by the mountaineers as the most beautiful peak in the World.

In such a small area, nowhere in the world one can find flora and fauna of all varieties - tropical to the alpines. Sikkim's botanical and zoological richness is awe-inspiring, boasting of more than 4,000 species of plants and 30% of all the birds found in the Indian sub-continent. Which could be truly a naturalist's delight. The hillsides and mountain slopes of Sikkim are strewn with bright patches of myriad colours. The lower mountain slopes are abundant with many species of lush green bamboos and ferns. And the northern valleys are draped with wild cherry, oaks, chestnuts, pines and white magnolia. Higher altitudes are abloom with a carpet of many species (varieties) of rhododendrons with a splendour of their own. Sikkim's 600 varieties of orchids are a feast for the eye.

Sikkim offers her visitors a rare and singular experience. Within a matter of hour one can move from its sub-tropical heat of the lower valleys to the cold of the rigged mountains slopes that reach up to the areas of perpetual snow.

Long a restricted area, Sikkim now welcomes a few visitors from around the world to share its rich heritage and natural bounty.


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