Location: Sikkim is a landlocked state of India, bordered by Nepal to the west, by Tibet to north and east, and by Bhutan to the east. To the south is Darjeeling, the hilly district of West Bengal.
Darjeeling, on the other hand, is a municipality located in the Lesser Himalaya at an elevation of 6,700 ft in northern part of West Bengal. Darjeeling is bounded on its north by the state of Sikkim, on its east by Bhutan and on its west by Nepal.
Climate: Sikkim’s climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the north. Five distinct seasons – winter, summer, spring, autumn, and a monsoon season – can be observed in Sikkim. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim have a temperate climate, with temperatures hardly ever rising more than 28 °C in summer.
Monsoon, which goes on from late June to early September, is when the state receives maximum rainfall. Landslides become quite a regular feature during this time. Most parts of September and October, autumn season in Sikkim, is the most pleasant time for tourists in the state. Summer is March end to middle of June and sun shines maximum during these months. During cold season temperatures can fall quite low. Snowfall in higher reaches of Sikkim is quite heavy during winters.
Darjeeling is located in the Himalayas at a high altitude and it has a bearing on its climate. It is never too hot. Summer season is from middle of April to middle of July, but temperature hardly ever rises more than 25 degrees Celsius. This is followed by monsoons, and this continues till September end. It rains quite heavily in Darjeeling. Landslides are always possible during these months. After monsoon comes autumn and the month of October to early November are quite pleasant. From the end of November winter starts setting in and it gets on getting chillier throughout December and hit its peak in January and February. Temperature is generally lower than 10 degrees throughout the day. At times lowest temperatures can hit as low as -5 to -6 degrees. March and most parts of April are spring seasons when Darjeeling is at its pleasant best.
Cuisine: Sikkim has an ethnic Nepali majority and this reflects in cuisines too. Nepalese cuisines are quite popular in Sikkim. They are generally rice eaters. Most popular dishes are – Dal Bhat (boiled roice with lentils and some vegetables), Thupka (this is noodle based soup with vegetables or meat. It has a Tibetan origin), momo (hot steamed flour dumplings stuffed with vegetables or minced meat) and phagshapa (strip of pork fat stewed with radishes and dried chilies).
Fermented food items are also quite an essential part of Sikkim’s cuisines. Chhurpi is a popular fermented dairy product prepared from cow milk. It has a mild sour taste and is used for making soups and pickles. Kinema is a fermented soybean food eaten with rice. Gundruk and Sinki are yet another traditional fermented food items. They are made from vegetable. The vegetables are sun dried after fermentation and stored for consumption later with soups, curries and pickles. Fermented bamboo shoot is also a part of traditional food items. Consuming traditional liquor Chaang, a fermented cereal-based alcoholic beverage, is quite common among both men and women.
Cuisine of Darjeeling is more or less similar to that of Sikkim. But Darjeeling has greater diversity in population. Despite a majority of ethnic Gorkhas, there are Sherpas, Lepchas, Bhutia, Bengalis, Tibetans and even some westerners living here. This diversity is reflected not just in present day restaurants, but also even in traditional cuisines and food items.
Rice, noodles and potatoes are quite common in most of the cuisines. Momos and Thupkas are available and so is chhurpi. Dal Bhat is quite popular here too. Most of the restaurants serve all kind of continental food to serve the large number of tourists visiting Darjeeling.
Things to do: Both Sikkim and Darjeeling are quite popular among tourists. Both have views of Kanchenjunga mountain range.
Darjeeling has a colonial past, with British playing the pivotal role in the development of this hill station. Apart from the wonderful sunrise views from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling has a number of other attractions. These include Ghoom Monastery and the UNESCO Heritage listed Toy Train and Batasia Loop. Darjeeling produces one of the finest qualities of tea in the whole world. A trip to Darjeeling is futile without paying a visit to tea garden and buying some packs of tea. A look at the high altitude animals at the Himalayan Zoo and the adjoining Mountaineering Institute is something one must never miss. A walk on the Mall and spending time on Chowrasta is ever so romantic. One can do some souvenir shopping in Darjeeling.
In Sikkim go on to visit Tsomgo Lake and Nathula and enjoy walks on the Mall Road. Have a look at the different varieties of orchids Sikkim has. There are several waterfalls in Sikkim one must visit. There are several monasteries, some being very old. Rumtek is one of the largest monasteries. There are some serene rural areas. One must these and look at the rural life at close quarters.