Sikkim- An Enchanting Enigma of the Himalayas
If you think of the northeast, pictorial views of the towering Himalayas, native women plucking tea leaves, striking landscapes, and humble villages, the angelic state of Sikkim spontaneously pops up in our minds- the state is a delicate masterpiece of a painter’s imagination. The mesmerism of Sikkim not only confides in its assortment of monasteries or mountains or valleys but also in lakes that are exquisite and considered sacrosanct. The lakes are as calm as the minds of the monks meditating in the vastness of the hills. So you can bask amidst the tranquil environ surrounding the lakes or pitshop at the peripheries to mollify your soul after the day’s sightseeing to the tourist places in Sikkim.
Gurudongmar Lake- A Mélange of Divinity & Exoticism
Sikkim nestles shimmering glacial and natural lakes in the midst of nowhere with mountain ranges encircling on all sides- offering a prizing panorama for the travelers. The lakes in Sikkim are known far and wide for their religious significance and curative properties that are revered by the religious buffs. Gurudongmar is one such lake that is located in Lachen, North Sikkim, on the foothills of the Himalayas, spread out over a whopping area of 290 acres. It is sprawling in the Northern side of the Kanchenjunga range and is known for its miraculous power of resolving fertility issues of women. The colorful Tibetan flags tell mystic stories about the lake making it a “Wish Lake” for the soulful travelers.
The name “Gurudongmar” is derived from the name of Guru Padmasambhava who is revered by the local Buddhists. It is well acknowledged that while Guru Padmasambhava was on his way back from Tibet, the locals bowed down to him with the appeal for an aid to their perennial problem of water. Guru Padmasambhava, pleaded by his devotees, then touched the lake and consecrated a part that never freezes even when the temperature falls down to as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius so that the locals can have an unrestricted source of water throughout the year.
The lake is believed to be blessed by not one but two mythological legends, Guru Padmasambhava and Guru Nanak. The lake also is believed to carry curative properties. By virtue of its sanctity for both the Buddhists and Sikhs, the lake is one of the major crowd pullers drawing travelers and pilgrims from around the world.
The lake offers a perfect setting- blue lake, varied birds, spring blooms, mighty Himalayas reflecting on the glistening waters, and skittish clouds rolling by. Gurudongmar is one of the highest lakes in the world perched at a height of 17,000 ft, offering a spectacular sight to behold. The roadway to the placid lake is amid nature’s abundant splendor. The winding roads rendezvousing with the mountains, heals your soul from within. As the road progresses towards the lake, the lower altitude region is carpeted with proliferated greenery and small bushes. Beyond Thangu is a rich pasture carpeted with high alpine firs and rhododendrons. Throngs of visitors pour in to witness the magnificence of the lake, embark on admirable treks and bask in its divinity- indeed a destination with a host of calming features to make your tour a surreal one.
Best Time to Visit Gurudongmar
The lake is dipped in the fresh colors of spring during the months of April and May as this is the flowering season and the periphery of the lake is embedded with wildflowers and rhododendrons in full blossom. For those who are keen photographers, during this period, you will be pleased to capture the surreal views. Temperature around these months range between minus 2 degrees Celsius to 0 degree Celsius. Snowstorms at any time are likely to take you by surprise.
Due to extreme chilly conditions, Gurudongmar remains unreachable almost throughout the winter. The early weeks of December are favorable if you wish to witness the partially cobalt-blue lake along with the scintillating Himalayas painted against the sky. The temperature goes down to minus 10 degrees Celsius during the day while the minimum goes up to minus 8 degrees Celsius. It is advisable to evade the tour during the end half of December and January and February as road blockages from snowfall are highly inevitable at this time and the temperature goes down till minus 20 degrees Celsius.
But do you know what the most fascinating feature of Gurudongmar Lake is? The lake never freezes completely even at the lowest temperature. The religious beliefs underlying the presence of the lake explain this mysterious phenomenon.
For typical tourists who wish to witness the best of Gurudongmar in winters, October and November are the ideal months to visit the lake. The lake is partially frozen during this time, snowstorms and blizzards are awaited in December, the skies are clear and the temperature hovers around minus 2 degrees during the day and is bearably low.
Key Attractions near & around Gurudongmar
Gurudongmar Lake is the most significant highlight amongst all the famous places of Sikkim. This is the highest natural lake with an overwhelming surrounding embedded with ethereal mountains and places you cannot afford to miss in Sikkim.
While you take the downhill from the lake, Chopta Valley is a pristine location just ahead of Gurudongmar Lake and is included as a combined tour with Lachen- a village nothing short of a paradise on earth. A pitshop at this destination will replenish your cells after the additional work that you’ve been doing to survive the decreasing levels of oxygen. The valley is considered as the ‘Mini Switzerland of India’ owing to its frozen spread and abundance of nature’s wonders brimming with rhododendrons and other blooms. Adventurous sports like rock climbing, snow skiing, snow trekking and so on are enjoyed by the adrenaline junkies in Chopta Valley.
A few miles from Thangu, on the way to the lake is a desert valley of sorts known as the Gurudongmar Valley- an impeccable sight leading up to the great emerald blue lake! The valley is a long stretch of gravel and black sand in the form of patches. The valley is tricky yet frivolous.
Sarva Dharma Sthala or the Temple for All Religions is yet another tourist attraction filmed in layers of divinity- a perfect solitude for the peace seekers. You cannot afford to miss a visit to the Tso Lhamu Lake which is the mighty source for Teesta River.
Road Guide to Gurudongmar
A trip to North Sikkim is possible only through an organized tour package for visitors cannot go on a tour directly. Your trip will begin according to the itinerary included in the Gurudongmar Lake tour package. Gurudongmar Lake is on the brink of India at an avid distance of 174 km from Gangtok. The lake is located in the alluring vista of North Sikkim and a tour to this region requires special permit (Inner Line Permit) because of its close vicinity to the under-military-surveillance region of Indo-Tibetan border.
Don’t forget to obtain the inner line permit from an authorized tour agent registered under the government of Sikkim. Note that only national tourists are allowed to visit the lake, while the international tourists can visit up to Chopta Valley, a few kilometers ahead of Gurudongmar.
Lachen is the nearest tourist accommodation and is 68 km away from the lake and takes about 3 hours and you can spend the night in the homestays available as there is no accommodation facility beyond Lachen. Most of the hotels near Gurudongmar Lake are in Lachen and includes both budget and luxury stays.
Lachen is a small village with idyllic beauty and some of the most humble natives you will come across. You can as well choose your stay between Lachung and Yumthang. They are breathtakingly beautiful hamlets away from the hustle-bustle of the plains. Lachen and Lachung are 2 hours apart from each other and Lachung to Gurudongmar Lake taxi fare varies between INR 2500-4000 considering the vehicles type. While Yumthang to Gurudongmar Lake distance is 138 km and takes about 5 hours. You can put up at these places on your back to Gangtok.
Your tour begins at Gangtok and takes about 6 hours approximately to reach Gurudongmar. Visitors are advised to start very early in the morning around 4 a.m. for Gurudongmar after an overnight stay at Lachen. Make sure you return back to Lachen by the noon. The weather at the lake remains favorable only during the first half of the day. As the day progresses towards twilight, the weather begins to worsen at high altitude.
A Note for the Travelers
As the lake is tugged at a towering height, it is important to be associated with the info nuggets about the lake before your venture into a trip to Gurudongmar.
The terrain leading to Gurudongmar is beautiful yet hostile and tricky. The barren land resembles the Tibetan plateau and gives way for very limited vegetation and the road is unpaved, winding and stony moraine-like. The place is under the rigid security of the Indian Army due to its immediacy to the Chinese border. It is important to obtain the Inner Line Permit from an authorized travel agent to visiting this lake. Travelers who are not acclimatized to high altitudes and are prone to heart diseases or breathing issues are suggested to spend less at the lake as it may deter their health conditions.
1. Is Gurudongmar Lake open now?
The accessibility of Gurudongmar Lake solely depends on the weather conditions. It is advisable to get in touch with authorized travel agents to fetch information regarding the accessibility of the road under unforeseen natural calamities like snowstorm or landslides.
2. Where is Gurudongmar Lake?
Gurudongmar is located at an altitude of 17,800 feet on the foothills of the Himalayas in the Indian state of Sikkim. The lake is spread over an area of 290 acres in Lachen, North Sikkim.
3. How to reach Gurudongmar Lake from Gangtok?
Journey to Gurudongmar Lake begins with a 4-5 hour road journey from Gangtok till the first halt at Lachen, small hamlet in North Sikkim and the base for the lake trip. After a night halt at Lachen, journey to the lake will take another 3-4 hours. So it is an approximate 7-8 hour road journey from Gangtok through a spellbinding assortment of lush greenery and waterfalls.
Buses, jeep and taxis are available from Gangtok.
4. Gurudongmar Lake opening time
It takes 3-3.30 hours to reach Gurudongmar from Thangu village. By 9.30-10 a.m. you can reach the lake and take the journey back to Lachen by 3.30 p.m.
5. How to go Gurudongmar Lake from Gangtok?
Jeep and taxis are available on hire from Gangtok.
6. How far is Gurudongmar Lake from Gangtok?
Gurudongmar Lake is at an avid distance of 174 km from Gangtok and 5 km from the China border. It takes 6 hours approximately to reach Gurudongmar Lake by the national Highway.
7. How to visit Gurudongmar Lake?
Travelers can reach Gangtok from Siliguri via car or bus as included in the tour package and hire a taxi or a jeep early morning to reach Gurudongmar from Gangtok. It takes 6-7 hours of split road journey to reach the lake from Gangtok.
8. Is Gurudongmar Lake open in April?
Yes, Gurudongmar Lake is open in April. Months between October and June are considered as the best time to visit the lake.
9. What are the precautions for Gurudongmar Lake?
The place is in close proximity to the Chinese border, thus it is important to obtain the Inner Line Permit from an authorized travel agent to visit this lake. Travelers who are not acclimatized to high altitudes and are prone to heart diseases or breathing issues are suggested to spend less at the lake as it may deter their health conditions. Make sure you return back to Lachen by 3.30 p.m. The weather at the lake remains favorable only during the first half of the day. As the day progresses towards twilight, the weather begins to worsen at high altitude.
10. What is the best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake?
September to June is the best time to visit the ethereal Gurudongmar Lake. Thousands of visitors pour in to witness the crystal clear hues of the lake against the magnificent snow-capped Himalayas. Temperature during these months ranges between 5 degree Celsius and minus 5 degree Celsius.