Backpacking culture in Sikkim: Hostels welcomes backpackers and solo travelers to the state

Sikkim, is a dream destination for many travelers, especially the young generation. One of the most expensive and difficult things about travelling is locating ideal places to stay within a limited budget. Backpacker’s hostel has provided solace to many such travelers who travel solo and on a budget. To provide you with a roof and safety and also allows the space for meeting other fellow travelers and exchanging stories and experiences. The past few years have witnessed a growth of this backpacker’s hostel culture in Sikkim, attracting more young people to travel to the scenic and serene region in the Eastern Himalayas. 

Backpacking culture in Sikkim: Hostels welcomes backpackers and solo travelers to the state

Travelling is one of the most common hobbies for many people. And the Himalayas, including Sikkim, is a dream destination for many travelers, especially the young generation. One of the most expensive and difficult things about travelling is locating ideal places to stay within a limited budget. Backpacker’s hostel has provided solace to many such travelers who travel solo and on a budget. To provide you with a roof and safety and also allows the space for meeting other fellow travelers and exchanging stories and experiences. The past few years have witnessed a growth of this backpacker’s hostel culture in Sikkim, attracting more young people to travel to the scenic and serene region in the Eastern Himalayas. 

These hostels not only provide a comfortable bed and good food, but also organizes regular activities such as treks and trips to various parts of Sikkim. It also provides with an opportunity to meet people from different places and in that way, becomes an abode of cultural exchange and exposure. 

Backpacker’s hostels exist across the world and have proven to be the best option for travelers exploring places on a budget or traveling alone. With moderate rooms and massive common areas, it encourages interaction while allowing space. 

One such network of hostels across India and Nepal with over 50 properties is Zostel. The establishment that was set up in 2013 extended their network to Gangtok, Sikkim in January 2020. Karma Sonam, the owner of the property, said, “I used to travel a lot and stay in various hostels during my journeys. Through this, I made many friends in the backpacking community, who were not much aware about Sikkim. It was then that I realized that Sikkim was yet to become a backpacking destination beyond the destination for family vacations. This available potential appealed to me to accommodate solo travelers and backpackers. This idea was recognized and acknowledged by Zostel, whose franchise I now run.” Zostel, Gangtok also organizes various walks in and around Gangtok for travelers as well as cycling and hiking trips.

Another backpacker’s hostel that is also becoming a hub for local enthusiasts to hang out is TagAlong. TagAlong was founded by Manisha Sharma in 2017 in Gangtok, Sikkim. She currently runs the place along with her sister Bhavana Sharma. They also help travelers plan trips across Sikkim and offer regular cycling expeditions to riding enthusiasts. They also run the ‘The Travel Café’ which provides as a place where like-minded people can come together to share stories. The café hosts impromptu musical gigs and cook-offs now and then. Bhavna said, “The idea behind setting up the hostel goes back to 2016 when Manisha started conducting ‘Ride the Silk’, a high-altitude cycling event across the old Silk Route. The five-day cycling event saw cyclists come together to share experiences and have amazing conversations in common areas of cozy homestays that hosted them during the trip.”

“After reaching Gangtok, when they stayed at hotels, they missed a cozy and homely set-up to sit together and indulge in interesting conversations. That’s when Manisha felt the need for such a space in Gangtok that would cater backpackers and other travelers, thus establishing TagAlong.” She added. 

Backpacker’s hostel, in Sikkim, has travelled beyond Gangtok as Pelling, West Sikkim has also had a hostel for travelers since 2017. Mochilero Ostello was started by Nimesh Chettri, who happens to be a traveler and a rider himself, decided to open a hostel for travelers like himself who travel on a budget. They even offer to take their guests on adventures like paragliding. Nimesh said, “Our hostel offers low-cost accommodations to travelers who are traveling on a budget. We conduct regular events to engage the travelers in fun activities such as cooking, yoga, meditation, etc. We also have a community kitchen where travelers can experience and learn the local cuisine.”

Banhisha Kundu, a backpacker who visited Gangtok, Sikkim in 2020 said, “Being an explorer, I have always preferred staying in good hostels rather than any hotel. In a hostel, one can interact with other guests without the fear of being judged. Besides, in a hotel, one can rarely feel safe, more as a solo traveler. Affordability is a bonus when it comes to hostels. My visit to Sikkim went from a week’s trip to a month-long stay as I was bewitched by Sikkim’s sheer beauty and the humble and friendly nature of the staff at Zostel, Gangtok. Taking an early morning walk in the melancholic streets of Upper Sichey enchants you to prolong your stay in the humble and peaceful city of Gangtok.”

With the idea of more hostels coming into play, Sikkim welcomes many more backpackers to visit, live and experience the serenity and culture of this state nested in the eastern Himalayas. 

By Vaidyanath Nishant. The author is a freelance writer.  He can be contacted at vaidyanathnishant7@gmail.com