Mangan – the cardamom capital of Sikkim
Mangan is the administrative headquarters of North Sikkim and also the gateway to the more illustrious destinations Lachen and Lachung. Just as North Sikkim is enchanting in every way, Mangan too is an attractive place with lots of greenery, natural waterfalls, warbling streams and the beauty of the rolling mountains. Mangan also serves as a transit point to other destinations of North Sikkim.
Situated at an altitude of 3126 m, Mangan is located around 65 km from the capital city Gangtok. It takes about 3 hours to reach Mangan from Gangtok. The road conditions are poor, but the scenic beauty that you will get is unparalleled. As you move away from the main town, the scenery becomes greener and you will be amazed to see the natural waterfalls dotting the sides of the road.
The views of the Kanchenjunga ranges are amazing. There is a viewpoint just a little ahead of the main market area of Mangan. On a clear day, you will be able to see the mountain ranges clearly. The snowclad ranges of Kanchenjunga and her sister peaks will not disappoint you either. And as the prayer flags stutter with the winds, you will realize that you have come to a peaceful haven. Mangan is also a paradise for the photography enthusiasts. With so much stunning beauty around, they will be spoilt for choices.
A three-day musical extravaganza is held at Mangan every year. The Mangan Music festival is held on the month of December every year where musical talents from Sikkim as well as other northeastern states perform with great gusto. Folk art, handicraft exhibits and exotic cuisines are additional ingredients that make the festival all the more fun and exciting. There is a replica of Lepcha traditional house at Namprikdang, 8 km away from Mangan. Here you will be able to see traditional antique Lepcha artefacts on display.
Mangan has a wonderful climate. It is not too cold and enjoys a temperate weather. This makes Mangan the world’s largest producer of large cardamoms. Mangan is also the gateway to the Dzongu Lepcha Reserve area. Dzongu has been preserving the cultural identity and heritage of the Lepchas, the original inhabitants of Sikkim. Mountains, music, culture and the enchanting weather, all add on a rare charm to Mangan, making it an ideal place for spending unforgettable vacations.
Places to visit at Mangan
The Phodong Monastery is one of the most beautiful monasteries of Sikkim. Located around 28 km from Gangtok in the North Sikkim Highway, the monastery is perched on a hilltop at an altitude of 4500 ft overlooking the surrounding valleys and undulating hills. Phodong Monastery happens to be one amongst the six important monasteries of Sikkim. The monastery was built in the 18th century and belongs to the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The walls of the monastery are adorned with beautiful murals, paintings, and frescos which will amaze the visitors. The monastery is currently the house of 260 monks who practice and preach the teachings of Buddhism. An annual festival is hosted by the Phodong Monastery, which is observed on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar. During this festival, Chaam Dance is performed by the monks along with religious rituals. Chaam dance is an extremely interesting and colourful spectacle to observe. You can visit the Phodong Monastery on your way to your North Sikkim trip.
Labrang Monastery or the Labrang ‘Palden Phuntshog Phodrang’ monastery is located only 2 km away from the Phodong Monastery around 38 km away from Gangtok. Labrang Monastery was constructed after the capital of Sikkim was shifted from Rabdentse to Tumlong, North Sikkim in 1826 AD. Construction was completed in 1843 AD. The monastery is located on the flat ground on the hilltop at an altitude of 7000 ft in the middle of a jungle. The entire place is extremely beautiful and you will be rewarded with spectacular landscape all around the place. The place nearby is also a paradise for bird watchers.
The monastery has a unique structural appeal. The gompa still holds its original structure with its white walls and gilded roofs done in the mixed Tibet and India style of architecture. Inside the monastery, you will see wonderful murals and paintings and houses a huge Buddha Sakya Muni statue, Karma Guru statue and Mahakal Statue along with many others. The monastery also has a museum that has a collection of Buddha statues, sutras and murals, including Tibetan books, historical books, books on medicines, music, art, calendars etc. Labrang Monastery also holds annual Chaam dance.
Singhik is another beautiful hamlet in the lap of nature that is gaining popularity as an exotic getaway. Situated at an altitude of 1560 m, Singhik is considered to be the most popular viewpoint in North Sikkim as it offers an unobstructed view of Mt Kanchenjunga and Mt Siniolchu. The lush green hills and the ridges offer a panoramic view of the converging points of River Teesta and River Kanaka at the foothills. At Singhik, you can also indulge in bird watching, go for short and beautiful treks and explore the tribal villages and culture. There is also a heritage bungalow at Singhik where you can stay for the night experiencing the graceful hospitality of the Sikkimese people. Singhik is around 56 km from Gangtok and 4 km from Mangan.
Kabi Lungchok is a small village in North Sikkim, but the place is of immense historical significance. It is here where the “blood brotherhood treaty” was signed between the Lepcha Chief and Bhutia King in the 13th Century and the first steps towards forming the state of Sikkim was initiated. The place where the treaty was signed is now marked as a Sacred Grove and it stretches roughly over 3 km from the highway towards Mangan to the River Bakcha. There are stone pillars marking the place where the treaty was signed. The literal meaning of ‘Kabi Lungchok’, pronounced ‘Kayu sha bhi Lungchok’, is “stone erected by our blood. Life-size statues of the Lepcha and Bhutia ‘blood brothers’ are erected at the place as a mark of respect. Kabi Lungchok is situated 17 km from Gangtok on the North Sikkim Highway.
Tosar Lake Trek
Tosar Lake is a beautiful lake located at an altitude of 13120 ft in between the Mangan Ridge and the Chola range. There is a huge cliff towards the south-east side of the lake. The locals consider this cliff to be sacred. The Tosar Lake trek starts from Tom Naga or Naksuk near Mangan. It follows the old traditional yak and cow trails in the Reserve forest area passing through temperate forests of bamboo and other trees. This 8-day trek will take you from the temperate forests and bamboo groves to the alpine vegetation as you gain altitude. And all along the forest trail, you will see and definitely hear the chirping of many Himalayan birds. The trek route is also known for the rhododendrons and orchids that you will see on the trail. And finally, the stunning views of the surrounding valleys and mountains add to the beauty of the Tosar Lake Trek.
The large cardamoms are one of the main crops cultivated in Sikkim. Infact, Mangan is known as the Cardamom Capital of India. All along the villages around Mangan, you will see stretches of green fields of cardamom. Infact, it will be a great experience to hike along the cardamom fields. Cardamom fetches a significant amount in the market. Although the cardamom plantations are decreasing nowadays, the region still produces the largest amount of cardamom in India.