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Sikkim Fact File

Location Sikkim shares borders with Tibet in the North, Bhutan in the East, Nepal in the West and the Indian State of West Bengal in the South.
Area 7096 sq. km
Population approx. 613’000
Capital Gangtok (population: approx. 100‘000 – 150‘000)
Districts 4: East, South, West, North
Altitudes & Topography Himalayan mountain ranges with tremendous differences in altitude, many high peaks, 21 glaciers and 227 mountain lakes. From the Teesta-valley in the south to the peak of the third highest mountain, Mt Khangchendzonga, Sikkim has elevations ranging from 280 m (930 ft) to 8’586 m (28‘169 ft). There are 28 mountain-peaks, more than 80 glaciers and 227 high altitude lakes/wetlands as well. The state is drained by 104 rivers and streams out of which Tista and Rangit are the main ones: Tista has its source at Gurudongma Lake in the Lachen-valley while Rangit’s source is found in West-Sikkim. The land’s lush valleys are covered by forests or terraced fields.
Climate Zones & Vegetation 280 – 800 m: Tropical zone with tall evergreen and semi-deciduous trees are found especially in the south (Rhapidophora, wild banana, Pandanus, giant bamboo, sal, variety of orchids) 800 – 1800 m: Subtropical zone with lush forests (oak, chestnut, rhododendron, variety of orchids, etc) 1800 – 3500 m: Sub-temperate & temperate zone (magnolia, rhododendron, maple, birch, alder, pine, coniferous forests of hemlock, spruce, pine fir, juniper, cypress, dwarf bamboo) 3500 m +: Alpine zone (dwarf rhododendron, alpine flora) Forests cover 36% of the land
Flora The eastern Himalayas are one of the world’s 18 biodiversity-hot-spots - and for good reason: In Sikkim alone, there are approx. 4500 flowering plants, 550 Orchids, 36 Rhododendrons, 16 Conifers, 28 Bamboos, 362 Ferns and its allies, 9 Tree Ferns, 30 Primulas, 11 Oaks, over 424 Medicinal plants. Amongst Sikkim’s more than 4000 plant-species there are 362 varieties of fern, 424 of medicinal plants, 448 of orchids, 37 of rhododendron, 21 of bamboo, 30 of primulas, etc. Even though tiny Sikkim has only 0.5% of the land area of India she has over 26% of her biodiversity. The slopes of the high altitudes are covered by a a variety of alpine flowers such as primula, meconopsis (blue poppy), potentilla, rhubarbs and gentians.
Fauna Amongst the 144 + mammals of Sikkim are the rare snow leopard, himalayan black bear, red panda, marbled cat, musk deer and blue sheep. Birdlife is abundant with giant lammergeier, vultures, eagles, whistling thursh, minivets, bulbuls and pheasants among the 550 species to be seen in Sikkim. There are more than approx. 600 species of butteflies and moths, some of them endemic and about 48 species of fish.
Perpetual snow line approx. 16‘100 (south) – 20‘000 ft (north)
Treeline approx. 12‘500 ft
Temperatures at approx. 5900 ft April - September: 52 °F - 72°F. October - March: 39 °F - 70 °F. temperatures are coldest in December and January for more details check ‘Sikkim - best time to visit’ 
Rainfall in Gangtok 143 inches per year with highest humidity during monsoon in July For more details check ‘Sikkim – best time to visit
Rainfall in North Sikkim 24 inches per year
Snowfall Sikkim is one of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall in winter at altitudes above 11’500 ft. At Gangtok, 5900 ft there has not been any snowfalls in many years.
Languages Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Limbu, Tibetan, English, Hindi, Bengali, etc. The lingua franca today in Sikkim is Nepali. Sikkim’s native languages Lepcha, Bhutia and Limboo are also still spoken, especially in rural areas or amongst traditional families. Tibetan, Hindi, Bengali and English is also widely spoken.
Ethnic Groups Nepali (approx. 75 %), Lepchas & Bhotias (approx. 15 %) There is also a sizable number of tradesmen originally from other parts of India as well as Tibetans who came to Sikkim in the 70ies as refugees.
Indigenous People Lepchas, Bhotias and Limbus
Literacy approx. 80 %
Religions Buddhism (approx. 30 %), Hinduism (approx. 65 %), Schamanism/Mun, Christianity (approx. 3 %); furthermore Muslims, Sikhs and Jains.
Food Rice is staple food. A typical meal consists of rice, lentils and vegetables. In addition, Tibetan noodle dishes, dumplings (momos) as well as Indian and Chinese cuisine are popular. A special feature of Sikkim cuisine are dishes made with nettles, lilies or fermented mustard-leaves. Other important ingredient in Sikkim cuisine are fresh cottage cheese, pork, beef, chicken, fremented soya (miso), all kinds of chutneys, etc.
Economy Sikkim traditionally is an agrarian society with livestock and crops grown such as corn, rice, buckwheat, millet and barley for local consumption. Black cardamom, tea, ginger and mandarins are exported to other states of India. There are some horticulture-enterprises. Besides breweries, a noodle-factory and a watch-factory, etc. there is hardly any industry. Tourism is a major source of income. The Teesta hydroelectric power project which is currently under construction in various parts of Sikkim generates revenue for the state. The military and the government itself are very important factors in Sikkim’s economy.
How to reach Sikkim Fly to Kolkota or Delhi in India From Delhi or Kokota fly by domestic airline to Bagdogra Airport in the state of West Bengal – or travel by train from Delhi (21 hrs) or Kolkota to NJP train-station. From Domestic Airport Bagdogra or Train Station NJP (New Jalpaiguri) it is a 4.5-hrs journey by car to Sikkim.
Visa / Entry Permit To visit India a tourist-visa is required and in addition, an entry permit for Sikkim. This entry permit for Sikkim is stamped onto your India-Visa if you request the Indian Embassy for a ‘15 days permit for Sikkim’. We can extend your Sikkim-permission up to 60 days. We can also obtain the Sikkim-permit at the border-check-point of Rangpo. We take care of special permits that are required for trekking and visiting areas close to international borders such as Tsomgo Lake and North Sikkim. To climb a mountain peak in Sikkim insurance and special permission is mandatory and in order to obtain the same in time we require your registration documents at least 6 months prior to the planned expedition.
Vaccinations Hepatitis A, polio (poliomyelitis), tetanus (tetanus) combined with diphtheria are strongly recommended if the last vaccination was done more than 10 years ago. You receive detailed vaccination- and health recommendations from us with your trip-registration.
Souvenirs Tibetan-style wood-carvings, carpets, masks and thangkas (Buddhist holy pictures). Silver- and gold-jewellery. Black tea and black cardamom. Passion-fruit squash and pickles.
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