travel & outdoors: Sikkim and Bhutan fact file
Saturday 19 April 1997
British visitors need visas for India: these cost pounds 13 (for three months) from the Visa Section, Indian High Commission, India House, Aldwych, London WC2B 4NA (0891 880880 for recorded information). Permits for Sikkim (15 days) are reasonably easy to obtain, at no extra charge, from the Indian High Commission in London or, in India, from the permit office in Siliguri.
Flights: Harriet O'Brien paid pounds 408 (including tax) for a flight from Heathrow to Delhi with Lufthansa, booked through Trailfinders (0171-938 3366). Internal flights to Bagdogra on Indian Airlines or Jet Airways cost around pounds 70 extra each way. There's also a train to Siliguri but you need plenty of time for this.
Travel within Sikkim is fairly restricted. Visitors are permitted to travel west as far as Pelling (visiting the monasteries of Tashiding and Pemayangtse en route). For journeys further west and to the north you may only travel in groups of four foreigners and you need a special permit. Travel agents in Gangtok are helpful and numerous - and will look after the paperwork as well as teaming tourists and arranging transport and accommodation.
Guest houses, offering "fooding and lodging", are generally clean and comfortable. Harriet O'Brien paid 500 rupees (pounds 8.70) a night at the Anola Hotel on MG Marg in Gangtok (03592 23238), and at the Norbu Gang in Pelling, west Sikkim (03593 50566, similar prices). Bring a hot-water bottle; most places are unheated and get very cold.
When to go
April and May are prime months to see the Himalayan flowers in their full glory - entire hillsides covered with wild rhododendron blooms. The tourist season ends at the start of June (when the monsoon begins) and resumes in October. December to February it gets jolly chilly at night.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
Inside Travel: Greece 2015 Q&A - should we cancel our Greek holiday? Are our flights safe? And what will we be spending there?
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
The 10 Best hiking boots
Australia Day 2015: Best alternative places to visit
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'
£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...
£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...
Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...