Though in ruins, Rabdentse was the erstwhile royal capital of Sikkim. About 107 km west of Gangtok, the town was first established in 1670 by Chadok Namgyal after shifting the primary capital from Yuksom after it was declared sacred in 1642.
The ruins have been declared a monument of national importance by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Located in the district of West Sikkim, the ruins lie on a ridge which offers a panoramic view of the dense forest and snow-capped mountains. The ruins can be accessed by a two km trek from Pelling. The bird park and the ruins are attractions that pull tourists to the town.
The city was almost completely destroyed by the Nepalese Army leaving only the chortens and ruins of the palace. Recent excavations and restorations by ASI have been successful in recreating the king’s bedroom, hall, kitchen, assembly hall, public courtyard and guard’s rooms.
The ruins in the town are a part of Buddhist pilgrimage that starts from Yuksom at Dubdi Monastery, goes on to Norbugang Chorten, Tashiding Monastery, Pemayangtse Monastery, Sangachoeling Monastery and ends at the Khecheopalri Lake.
A feud between the third Chogyal (monarch), Chador Namgyal and his half-sister, Paden Wangmoo for accession to the throne led to the attack on the city by Bhutanese forces. Chador Namgyal fled the city and sought shelter in Lhasa. The attack led to the annexation of the territory which is now the hill station of Kalimpong. He remained in exile for ten years as he was a minor. He returned to the kingdom after his exile and with the help of Tibetans, took control of the kingdom.
The region was totally lost but was merged with Sikkim. The capital was shifted from Rabdentse to Tumlong as it was located close to the border with Tibet and vulnerable to attacks. Over the years, several attacks on Rabdentse reduced it to the ruins that remain today.
Where to stay
There are limited options for budget and mid-range accommodation but no luxury hotels in Rabdentse. Accommodation options are more in Pelling.