Located at the heart of the Himalayan range in northern India (State of Sikkim), the Khangchendzonga National Park includes a unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world's third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga.
The Khangchendzonga National Park, a lesser-known destination in Sikkim, has been added in a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2016. This is for the first time that any Indian destination has been under the Mixed criteria of UNESCO's heritage sites list, thus recognising the outstanding universal values for its both natural and cultural significance.
Located at the heart of the Himalayan range in Sikkim, the Park is home to dozens of lofty mountain peaks, 18 glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and some unique flora and fauna.
A favourite among trekkers, this place has a unique biodiversity that includes an interesting mix of wildlife species and the presence of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world's third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga.
Besides, the National Park is highly regarded by the state's local population because of several mythological stories that are associated with the caves, rivers, lakes, forests and other natural elements in this place. The UNESCO designation not only adds prestige to the park but also entitles it to finance from the World Heritage Fund.
"The UNESCO recognition will give a further push to eco-tourism in our state, while also helping us to regulate the high influx of visitors to more popular destinations with only a minimal negative impact of tourism," said Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling.
"This is important since tourist arrivals to our state more than doubled to 38,479 in 2015 and our target is around 12 lakh visitors by 2025," he said in a statement.
The park is home to the red panda, snow leopard, great Tibetan sheep and musk deer. The birds include black-necked crane, grey peacock pheasant, Himalayan monal pheasant, Sikkim's state bird blood pheasant, Tibetan snowcock and Himalayan snowcock.
What is also unique about its eco-system is that it has permanently snowcapped mountains, glaciers, high altitude lakes, grasslands, cold deserts and varied forest types. Consequently, the flora and fauna is also diverse and a delight for visitors.
It has 20 peaks above 6,000 metres--11 between 6,000 to 7,000 metres, eight between 7,000 to 8,000 metres and one above that. And that is Mount Khangchendzonga (also called Kanchenjunga), which towers at 8,586 metres and is the third highest in the world.
The park also has religious significance. Sikkim is presented in Buddhism as a "hidden land" and as per scriptures, what now constitutes the park is the sanctum sanctorum, where religious masters have hidden religious texts and treatises marked for discovery in later times.