Why Does Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim Deserve to Be in a Traveler's Bucket List?
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.
Itinerary for North Sikkim and Gangtok—5 Nights and 6 Days
Drive to Gangtok from Bagdogra
Overnight stay at Gangtok
After breakfast drive to North Sikkim via sightseeing and Tung
Overnight stay at Lachung
Yumthang Valley, Katao, and Zero Point visit; then drive to Lachen
Overnight stay at Lachen
Gurudongmar Lake, Chopta Valley, and Kala Pathar and then drive to Gangtok
Overnight stay at Gangtok
Gangtok full day excursion—Changu Lake and New Baba Mandir visit
Overnight stay at Gangtok
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Read the instructions minutely, primarily regarding the age limit of children and elderly people for visiting the lake before planning.
- Altitude sickness is not related to age or fitness and therefore, anyone can be a victim of this sickness.
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.
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.
Things to Know Beforehand
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
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
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
You can hire share cabs from North Sikkim Taxi Stand.
Lachung is more than 100 km from Gangtok. You can visit Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, and Katao.
You can stay here overnight to go to Gurudongmar Lake. You can also visit Kalapathar and Chopta Valley.
The beautiful high altitude lake where oxygen level is very low.
- 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
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