Tiny Sikkim, in the lower Himalayas, is entirely mountainous.�It is interesting because of its partly Vajrayana Buddhist culture.
Buddhism was introduced by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century, and the monarchy was created in the 15th century. The Kingdom of Sikkim fought off the Nepalese and the Tibetans, but was then annexed, first by the Chinese and then by the British. In 1947 Sikkim rejected absorption into India, but misrule by the Chogyal (King), and ethnic clashes, led to a referendum and Sikkim's becoming an Indian state in 1975.
Most Sikkhimese are ethnically Nepali, but the native population consists of Bhutias and Lepchas. There are also Tibetans. By religion, 61% of the population is Hindu, 28% Buddhist, and 7% Christian (the Lepchas).
Farming is difficult on the mountain slopes, but terracing has made agriculture feasible in parts. Most rural homes are made of bamboo though higher up they are mostly wood. Sikkim's roads are affected by landslides and flooding at times, but are still better than most roads in India.
Tourists come to enjoy outdoor sports or to soak in Sikkim's natural hot springs. Sikkim�boasts a great variety of flora and fauna in its forests.
Probably partly due to the cold weather, alcohol is drunk in large amounts. Alcohol is cheap, and alcoholism is common. Noodles, dumplings, and soup are favourite foods, as are all types of meat.
Sikkim's capital Gangtok, high in the peaks of the Himalayas. But it enjoys mild weather throughout the year. It is the centre of Sikkim tourism, and of Buddhist education and culture, with a number of renowned monasteries. Especially fascinating is the 200-year-old Enchey Monastery, the oldest in Gangtok. The Rumtek monastery houses rare Buddhist scriptures and artifacts.
The city is quite busy, especially during the tourist season. But its few craft shops sell poor-quality kitsch, and there are hardly any noteworthy restaurants. Yet it is an interesting place to explore on foot, and the scenery is glorious. The best places to catch breathtaking views of the mountains are up at the Enchey Monastery and Ganesh Tok.