peaks, Western SikkimThe thumb-shaped state of Sikkim is characterised
by wholly mountainous terrain. Almost the entire state is hilly, with
the elevation ranging from 280 metres (920 feet) to 8,585 metres
(28,000 feet). The summit of the Kanchenjunga is the highest point.
For the most part, the land is unfit for agriculture because of the
precipitous and rocky slopes. However, certain hill slopes have been
converted into farm lands using terrace farming techniques. Numerous
snow-fed streams in Sikkim have carved out river valleys in the west
and south of the state. These streams combine into the Teesta and its
tributary, the Rangeet. The Teesta, described as the "lifeline of
Sikkim", flows through the state from north to south. About a third of
the land is heavily forested.
The Himalayan mountain range in North Sikkim.The lofty Himalayan
ranges surround the northern, eastern and western borders of Sikkim in
a crescent. The populated areas lie in the southern reaches of the
state, in the Lower Himalayas. The state has twenty-eight mountain
peaks, twenty-one glaciers, 227 high-altitude lakes, including the
Tsongmo Lake, Gurudongmar and Khecheopalri Lakes, five hot springs,
and over 100 rivers and streams. Eight mountain passes connect the
state to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal
Sikkim has many hot springs known for medicinal and therapeutic
values. The most important hot springs are at Phurchachu(Reshi),
Yumthang, Borang, Ralang, Taram-chu and Yumey Samdong. All these hot
springs have high sulphur content and are located near river banks.
The average temperature of the water in these hot springs is 50°C.
The climate ranges from sub-tropical in the south to tundra in the
northern parts. Most of the inhabited regions of Sikkim, however,
enjoy a temperate climate, with the temperatures seldom exceeding 28
°C (82 °F) in summer or dropping below 0 °C (32 °F) in winter. The
state enjoys five seasons: winter, summer, spring, and autumn, and a
monsoon season between June and September. The average annual
temperature for most of Sikkim is around 18 °C (64 °F). Sikkim is one
of the few states in India to receive regular snowfall. The snow line
is around 6 000 metres (19,600 feet).
During the monsoon months, the state is lashed by heavy rains that
increase the number of landslides. The state record for the longest
period of non-stop rain is eleven days. In the northern region,
because of high altitude, temperatures drop below −40 °C in winter.
Fog also affects many parts of the state during winter and the
monsoons, making transportation extremely perilous.