If you’re suffering from too much heat, city dust and dirt, or just crowd overload in India, then a spell in the former kingdom of Sikkim is the perfect antidote. The clean, fresh mountain air of the Himalayas sweeps this state, the second smallest after Goa as well as the least populous. There’s room to move and even feel alone, but the people are among India’s most friendly, with a charming manner that’s unobtrusive and slightly shy.
Plunging mountain valleys are lushly forested, interspersed with rice terraces and flowering rhododendrons. Tibetan-style Buddhist monasteries (gompas) add splashes of white, gold and vermilion to the green ridges and are approached through avenues of colourful prayer flags.
Sikkim’s big-ticket item is the majesty of Khangchendzonga (Kanchenjunga, 8598m), the world’s third-highest mountain straddling the border between Sikkim and Nepal. Khangchendzonga’s guardian spirit is worshipped in a series of spectacular autumn festivals and its magnificent white peaks and ridges can be spied from many points around the state. Dawn is its best show, when the sun lights up the eastern face.