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Why Does Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim Deserve to Be in a Traveler's Bucket List?

Updated on November 18, 2019
Prantika Samanta profile image

Educated as a microbiologist, trained as an editor, a quintessential nomad soul grounded to the earth. Loves anything that touches her soul

Flat land on both sides of the road and hills, brown- or black-colored coat yaks grazing in low oxygen and in extremely cold weather. The high capacity of their lungs and insulation of their coat help them survive there.
Flat land on both sides of the road and hills, brown- or black-colored coat yaks grazing in low oxygen and in extremely cold weather. The high capacity of their lungs and insulation of their coat help them survive there. | Source

A Video of Gurudongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley, and Other Places in Sikkim

Our 2018 Vacation Destination

In November 2018, we visited North Sikkim and Gangtok to witness the beauty of the lakes, Gurudongmar and Tsomgo Lake and the calmness they offer.

Earlier, we had vacationed for 8 days in 8 different places in Sikkim, such as Namchi, Ravangla, Pelling, Yuksom, Rinchenpong, Aritar, and Zuluk. Each of these places offers unique enchanting views and has its own charm.

Sikkim is a beautiful northeastern state of India that offers picturesque hamlets, gushing waterfalls, lofty mountains, lush green scenery, various orchids, colorful flowers, magnificent monasteries, amazing rivers, scenic valleys, snow-clad mountains, spectacular lakes, wonderful hot springs, beautiful tea gardens, and many more delightful views.

Enchanting Beauty of North Sikkim

North Sikkim is well known for its serenity, the snow-capped mountains, and the beautiful high altitude lake, Gurudongmar.

With November being the preferred season to visit the lake, we booked our air tickets and hotel rooms in advance to get the best deals.

We booked our cab through a registered travel operator.

Blue sky, snow-capped mountains, lonely road, and us
Blue sky, snow-capped mountains, lonely road, and us
The sun kissing the snowy peaks
The sun kissing the snowy peaks | Source

Itinerary for North Sikkim and Gangtok—5 Nights and 6 Days

Day
Plan
Stay
1
Drive to Gangtok from Bagdogra
Overnight stay at Gangtok
2
After breakfast drive to North Sikkim via sightseeing and Tung
Overnight stay at Lachung
3
Yumthang Valley, Katao, and Zero Point visit; then drive to Lachen
Overnight stay at Lachen
4
Gurudongmar Lake, Chopta Valley, and Kala Pathar and then drive to Gangtok
Overnight stay at Gangtok
5
Gangtok full day excursion—Changu Lake and New Baba Mandir visit
Overnight stay at Gangtok
6
Drive to Bagdogra Airport from Gangtok
 

Day 1: Kolkata to Gangtok—The Vacation Begins

When we started from Kolkata, the winter was setting in and the weather was pleasant. The flight journey from Kolkata to Bagdogra was for around 1.5 hours. At the Bagdogra airport, our friendly guide, who also drove us to all the beautiful places in North Sikkim, greeted us with a broad smile.

It took us around 4.5-hour (with a couple of short breaks) to reach Gangtok. We were amazed by the scenic beauty of the surrounding, the beautiful Teesta River, and winding hills.

By afternoon, we reached Gangtok, and while we were taking a stroll in the MG Marg (one of the busiest places in Gangtok) in the evening, it started raining.


Sikkim—world's first organic state

Sikkim was awarded UN Future Policy Gold Award 2018 (or Oscar for best policies) and declared the world's first organic state.

On the way to Gangtok from Bagdogra Airport by road
On the way to Gangtok from Bagdogra Airport by road

Day 2: Lachung via Tung

The sky was partly cloudy, and we set off for Lachung, a beautiful hamlet in North Sikkim.

We stopped for lunch at Tung, a place in North Sikkim and dumped our packaged disposable mineral water bottles (in plastic) in the allocated bin. Disposable plastic water bottles are not allowed beyond Tung. We purchased reusable water bottles from a nearby shop.

We reached Lachung in the afternoon. It was quite cold and the temperature dropped further in the night.

A Big No to Disposable Plastic Water Bottles

Packaged mineral water in disposable plastic water bottles are strictly prohibited beyond Tung to prevent pollution.

Zero Tolerance

A wonderful initiative is adopted by the state to prevent pollution.

Tourists must abide by the rule, otherwise they will be penalized for violating the rule.

RAP and PAP—a Must-Know Information for Domestic Tourists and Foreign Nationals Before Visiting

Registered Area Permit (RAP)
Protected Area Permit (PAP)
Foreign nationals must obtain Registered Area Permit (RAP) and a valid Indian Visa to visit Sikkim.
Both domestic tourists and foreign nationals require PAP to visit any place beyond Shinghik.
PAP is required to visit certain protected areas of Sikkim for security reasons as it shares the border with three countries: China, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Day 3: Lachen, A Step Close to Gurudongmar Lake

The next day dawned with not much improvement in the weather condition. The day remained foggy and cloudy. We visited Yumthang Valley and Katao before heading to Lachen.

We reached Lachen, another quiet village in North Sikkim, in the afternoon. It snowed in the night.

Owing to security reasons, foreign nationals are not permitted to visit Gurudongmar Lake They can visit only the selective places in North Sikkim with the required permits and documents.

Day 4: Finally the Day Arrived, Off to Gurudongmar Lake

It was the much-awaited day, the memories of the day would remain etched forever. Around 6 am, we headed to Gurudongmar Lake and reached there through Thangu and Chopta Valleys after 3.5 hours (approximately) of drive.

It was a sunny morning – an ideal day to visit the lake. The road is steep and needs cautious driving to avoid any mishap. No small cars are allowed to visit the lake.

En Route—What a Sight to Behold

We managed to get the glimpse of snow-covered mountains en roue to Thangu Valley, which was our next stop to have breakfast and get the required permission to visit the lake.

The temperature was much below the freezing point and we were completed covered with woolen sweaters, jackets, gloves, woolen caps, and thermal sets to beat the cold. Even then, we were struggling to withstand the cold, however, hot noodles, coffee and the fire place in the inn kept us warm.

Our journey started again and we saw several bikers flocking to the lake. There was no sign of inhabitation, the lonely road, the arid terrain (very less vegetation), yaks, and snow-clad mountains—all in one frame. I am fortunate enough to behold such a beautiful sight.

Desert-like region at a high altitude
Desert-like region at a high altitude

Acclimatization and Preventive Measures Against Altitude Sickness

Acclimatization is essential to visit North Sikkim. An individual needs to adapt himself or herself to a change in the environment, for example, a change in altitude or temperature and reduction in the oxygen level. So, we spend one day each in Lachung and Lachen before heading toward the lake. This helped our body in adjusting the change in the environment.

With the increase in altitude, the oxygen level was depleting. We were rolling down the window pane slightly at regular intervals to inhale oxygen. However, the windows could not be kept opened for a long time because of the freezing cold weather.

Each one of us had small tablets of camphor wrapped in a clean, soft cloth. We were inhaling the smell of the tablets to keep the altitude sickness at bay, such as dizziness, nausea, headache, and breathing problem.

Recommendation

  1. Consult the doctor before planning the North Sikkim vacation. Portable oxygen cylinders are available in medical shops in Gangtok. Keep a list of these shops ready beforehand.
  2. Read the instructions minutely, primarily regarding the age limit of children and elderly people for visiting the lake before planning.
  3. Altitude sickness is not related to age or fitness and therefore, anyone can be a victim of this sickness.

Almost There

Incredible Beauty of Gurudongmar Lake Revealed

Finally, the drive was over and we reached the destination.

We got down of the car and I stood there perplexed. “Is it paradise?” I murmured to myself.

The sight of the breathtaking beauty of the picturesque pristine blue lake wiped off the tiredness of our journey. The magnificent lake is nestled in the lofty mountains and its water is believed to have healing properties.

A sunny day - Gurudongmar Lake and snowy mountains
A sunny day - Gurudongmar Lake and snowy mountains

Owing to the low oxygen level and as our elderly parents were accompanying us, we had already decided to stay only for 5-8 minutes as a safety measure, walk around at a snail pace, and talk less to avoid any discomfort.

A Sunny Day, a Perfect Setting to Visit the Lake

The sun was shining brightly and we could see the reflection of the mountains in the water of the lake. There was a thin layer of ice in some parts of the lake water.

We clicked a few photos and bid it adieu. It was a heart-wrenching moment. We probably stayed there a little more than 5 minutes, as everyone forgot to note down the time and none of us felt any discomfort.

The lake encircled by mountains
The lake encircled by mountains

Things to Know Beforehand

Transportation
Accommodation
Best TIme to Visit Gurudongmar Lake
Documents (Both Original and Photocopies) Needed for Domestic Tourists
Train: Major Station-New Jalpaiguri Station Refer to irctc for Details
Gangtok-Hotels, Resorts, Homestays
Provided the roads are not blocked due to poor weather condition or landslides
For Adults (Any One of These Documents: Passport, Driving License, Voter Card)
Air: Bagdogra Airport
Lachung-Homestays/Hotels
April and May
For Children (Any One of These Documents): Passport, Birth Certificate (for Children Not Yet Amitted to School), School Certificate (for School Going Children)
Road: From New Jalpaiguri Station/Bagdogra Airport-Private/Shared/Pre-paid Taxis, Cabs Hired from Travel Operators
Lachen: Homestays/Hotels
October and November
Passport Size Photographs
Road from Gangtok to North Sikkim-Xylo, Tata Sumo, Toyota Innova, Mahindra Bolero
Gangtok Sightseeing-Four Seaters, Xylo, Tata Sumo, Toyota Innova, Mahindra Bolero
 
 
A
Gangtok, Sikkim:
Gangtok, North Sikkim Taxi Stand

get directions

You can hire share cabs from North Sikkim Taxi Stand.

B
Lachung, North Sikkim:
Lachung, Sikkim 737120, India

get directions

Lachung is more than 100 km from Gangtok. You can visit Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, and Katao.

C
Lachen, North Sikkim:
Lachen, Sikkim 737120, India

get directions

You can stay here overnight to go to Gurudongmar Lake. You can also visit Kalapathar and Chopta Valley.

D
Gurudongmar Lake:
Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim 737120

get directions

The beautiful high altitude lake where oxygen level is very low.

Further Information

  • To know more about permits and other information, visit http://sikkimtourism.gov.in/
  • Always travel with registered tour operators listed in http://www.mca.gov.in

A yak with a black and white coat from a closer view, rocky land
A yak with a black and white coat from a closer view, rocky land

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Prantika Samanta

Comments

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    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      6 weeks ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, Bhushan, for liking the article and finding it useful.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      6 weeks ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, Rinita. I am glad that you have liked the article and find it useful. Indeed North Sikkim is beautiful.

    • Rinita Sen profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      6 weeks ago

      You are a terrific travel writer. The serenity of the lake and the surroundings was evident from your descriptions. The pictures were mesmerizing, too. I like how you provided handy travel tips along the way. North Sikkim is truly a wonder.

    • Bhushankummar profile image

      Bhushan Kummar 

      6 weeks ago from Mumbai

      Very comprehensive article. It not explains the everything about the place but how to reach there, what are the vehicles one should use and many other aspects which is very useful for a traveller.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      6 weeks ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you. If possible, pay a visit to the lake. But take appropriate measures before visiting the lake.

    • Surya Sashank Rasinkar profile image

      Surya Sashank Rasinkar 

      6 weeks ago

      Very good

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      6 weeks ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so much. Glad to know that you have liked it.

    • Dshibu profile image

      Dshibu 

      6 weeks ago from Nairobi

      wow the way you narrated, this is like taking a virtual tour to the place.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      6 weeks ago from Kolkata, India

      Yes, it is. If you don't have a breathing problem, you can visit the place. But acclimatization is important.

    • Suchismita pradhan profile image

      Suchismita pradhan 

      6 weeks ago from Odisha

      Wow the place is a piece from heaven

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      8 weeks ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so very much. I am delighted that you have liked the article.

    • aurobindhan profile image

      Aurobindhan S 

      8 weeks ago from Chennai

      Travelling to Sikkim through your article. You have detailed with attractive words to make us feel like live experience.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      2 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Hello Paul,

      I am delighted that you have liked the article and find it informative. Please do visit India.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      2 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Hello Paul,

      I am delighted that you have liked the article and find it informative. Please do visit India.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      2 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for sharing a very informative article. I have never visited India but certainly would like to go to the northeastern part.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      2 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so much. Delighted to know that you have liked my article. Please do visit the place but read the Dos and Don'ts before you visit it.

    • profile image

      digitalkp 

      2 months ago

      Your article is very nice and well narrated. Photographs are excellent. Thank you for sharring such a nice information.

      I too have interest in visiting thist spot.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      2 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, Shaloo. Yes, I second you, more and more place should take such steps.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 months ago from India

      Beautiful pics. Isn't it so great that disposable water bottles are not allowed there? I wish more and more places adopt such strict measures!

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      2 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, John, for reading the article. Hopefully, some day, the lay will be opened for all.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      2 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you, Peggy, for reading my article.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This sounds like quite an amazing place and the lake beautiful. It is interesting that it is “the world’s first organic state” but as foreign nationals are forbidden to visit I would be unable to ever visit. Thank you for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a place that I will probably never get to see in person so thanks for writing about it and sharing your photos with us. Welcome to HubPages! I look forward to reading more of your articles.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 months ago from Dubai

      The lake is so beautiful, I hope I get to visit it someday. The photos are lovely and you have given detailed information about traveling. Enjoyed reading about your travel experience, thank you for sharing.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      2 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so much. If possible, please do visit.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      2 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for such an informative article. It's like a good traveling guide with all the required information about Sikkim. Sikkim has always fascinated me.

      My son and his family have visited Gangtok. They are all praises for it. Your hub has motivated me to visit the place.

      The high altitude won't pose any problem for me but my wife will definitely have problem as she isn't so fit.

    • hmkrishna profile image

      Halemane Muralikrishna 

      2 months ago from South India

      When I took my age-old mother to Gangtok in 2010, she took bits of dried ginger. In high altitude, if you feel getting breathless, chewing a small piece of dry ginger, will warm-up your body and increase blood circulation, so that you will overcome breathlessness.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 months ago from New Delhi, India

      A very well written and presented travel article, with excellent pictures and related information. I am sure, anyone traveling to this wonderful place would get all the useful suggestions and information, needed to plan this trip.

      Getting medical advice, before settling off to a high altitude location is important and thanks for mentioning that.

      Glad to meet you at HubPages, thanks for the follow and thanks for for sharing this wonderful article.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so much.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 

      3 months ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks for sharing your trip experience. The photographs are beautiful.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you. You will definitely go soon with your husband and daughter to various parts of Sikkim. To visit North Sikkim, I would suggest you to wait until your daughter turns 10.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      You are welcome. I think this will help people get the feel a little more than the still photographs.

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 

      3 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks for adding that awesome slideshow video and map. This is a complete package now.

    • profile image

      Tathapi chaudhuri 

      3 months ago

      The answers are very to the point and helpful. It is great to get such an idea on a trip to Sikkim.i shall be planning a sikkim trip shortly with you if God wills

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you. Even though we were initially a little nervous, we managed to complete the trip successfully. Indeed it was an incredible trip.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      This is a fascinating account of your trip. It looks like it was well worth the effort.

    • profile image

      array_74 

      3 months ago

      Nice and informative. Like the way you have described ur experience and blended it.

      Will it be possible to add a tour plan for beginners? Maybe names of trains that go or the flights, and a few good places to stay can help us.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so much for your motivation. Glad to know that it is now in your wishlist. Please do visit the place and remember to take all the preventive measures that I have shared in my article. If you are going with a travel agent, please check whether the agent is a registered agent, the list you can find in www.mca.gov.in

      Good luck and keep traveling.

    • profile image

      Arpita Dasgupta 

      3 months ago

      Prantika Very well and beautifully described. Am sure your writing will inspire many people including me to go and visit the places you mentioned. Now this part of India is in my bucket list. Looking forward for many more articles from you. Best wishes! ☺

    • soni2006 profile image

      Rajinder Soni 

      3 months ago from New Delhi, India

      I have included Gurudongmar Lake in my itinerary after going through this excellent vivid description of this unique travel destination. Prantika, please tell whether there are trekking destinations around. And please add a map for us to reach this beautiful place.

      This hubs needs to be read by adventure lovers and I will share this with my trek & travel group in Facebook.

      Thank you so much for including your personal experience and lively photographs. Could you please add a video or two as those will help me and my friends get the real feel of the place.

      All the information regarding government permits and the local rules have been explained in great detail.

    • profile image

      Sreya 

      3 months ago

      I have never got chance to explore this place.. but you know what... Your vivid description has took all my heart away and literally, I wanna explore this place!

    • profile image

      Sontosh Roy 

      3 months ago

      Useful content with places...

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you.

    • profile image

      Arpita 

      3 months ago

      Well written, informative article.

    • profile image

      Aman Saha 

      3 months ago

      This is great. Awesome. Keep it up.

    • profile image

      Ayan Pan 

      3 months ago

      Very nice and informative article.

    • profile image

      Shovan 

      3 months ago

      Useful article

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      The live version was amazing. If possible, please do visit. You will enjoy.

    • profile image

      Saurav 

      3 months ago

      Excellent Article. Helpful information.

    • Prantika Samanta profile imageAUTHOR

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you so much.

    • hmkrishna profile image

      Halemane Muralikrishna 

      3 months ago from South India

      Wav, Prantika, I felt as if I travelled myself all the way by the Teesta River, viewed Kanchangnga, very nice vivid article. Keep writing like this.

    • Abitha Deepak profile image

      Abitha 

      3 months ago from Chennai, Tamilnadu

      That seems like a very adventurous trip! Loved the pictures, am sure the live version would have been spell binding, good travel info

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