Land of Magnificent Statues.
South Sikkim's prime attractions are an unforgettable trio of larger-than-life religious statues, along with the state's most significant tea plantation, which covers a steep hillside above Temi. Ravangla and Namchi are minor resorts; few visitors stay more than a day or two, giving the area a surprisingly nontouristy feel ripe for random exploration. While set back a little further from the white-tops than better-known Pelling, the mountain views are nonetheless spectacular – especially from the Ravangla-Damthang ridge road.
Top Sights in South Sikkim.
With a breathtaking backdrop of Himalayan peaks, this gigantic, 41m-tall Buddha statue contains holy relics from 11 countries. A spiral interior gallery showcases scenes from Buddha's life in two very different but colourfully intricate styles. Blessed by the Dalai Lama in 2013, the statue is set in manicured lawns behind a central fountain; piped-in mantras add a meditative atmosphere.
Visible for miles, this 45m-high statue of Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) is painted in shimmering copper and gilt and sits on a lotus plinth high above Namchi on the forested Samdruptse ridge. Completed in 2004 on a foundation stone laid in 1997 by the Dalai Lama, the statue turns his back on a superlative view of the Khangchendzonga Massif, which is best seen from beside his right haunch.
This unmissable feast of colour is a remarkable Hindu religious theme park crowning Solophuk hilltop, 5km southwest of Namchi. It brings together replicas of great Indian pilgrimage sites, including Rameshwarm, Dwarka and Jagarnath, beneath a towering 33m Shiva statue. Whether you find it moving or kitschy, the views and photo opportunities are spectacular.
The Ngadak gompa complex is dominated by a gigantic 2014 prayer hall containing some of the richest new paintings in Sikkim; beside it is the ruinous, unpainted shell of a far older monastery building. Exuding a sense of antique Sikkim and reputedly haunted, it was previously the palace of Pedi Wangmu, the Sikkimese queen who temporarily overthrew her half-brother in 1700 and finally had him killed years later The palace site became a monastery after her death in 1717.
PALCHEN CHOELING MONASTERY
Near Ralang, 10.5km northwest of Ravangla, this monastery complex built in 1995 is home to more than 300 monks. It's highly significant in Kagyu Buddhism as residence of Gyaltsap Rinpoche, one of the order's five top figures. The main prayer hall is a spectacular feast of coloured walls and gilded roofs set around a wide courtyard with swastika-patterned tiling. The superb, two-storey-high golden Buddha inside sports an iridescent-blue haircut.
Around 500m before the Samdruptse turn as you're heading away from Namchi, some stairs lead steeply down through this attractive garden on a slightly confusing series of stairway-paths that takes around 20 minutes each way. While there's plenty of pretty foliage and a few curious natural formations, the main reason to come here seems to be an extra justification for riding the Samdruptse cable car.
TEMI TEA ORGANIC FACTORY
Set at 1720m with the groomed green maze of terraces rising above, this 1969 factory complex processes Sikkim's most famous teas, which are (very proudly) produced without pesticides or industrial fertilisers. Depending how busy they are, it's generally possible to take a factory tour, but not between June and August nor during processing rushes.
OLD RALANG GOMPA
About 1.5km downhill from Palchen Choeling, Old Ralang monastery was established in 1768. The main temple has been totally rebuilt since 2012 but the complex does retain a handful of old stone-and-timber monks' dwellings preserved as examples of historic Bhutia architecture – and there are unforgettable mountain panoramas to your right as you pass through the outer gate. The Mahakala Puja festival is held here.
One of only two Bon monasteries in India, this small, double-prayer-hall complex enjoys superb mountain views but has only around 25 monks and three teachers, plus a school full of (mostly orphaned) youngsters. It's beside the main Legship road, 5.5km from central Ravangla, just beyond an area of beautiful deep forest
Explore the fertile heartland, showcasing lush forests, rugged mountains, and steep gorges. Get off the beaten track and you'll be richly rewarded.