Tsomgo or Changu Lake in East Sikkim—Attracting Travelers for Ages
Some places of Sikkim and Changu Lake
Tsomgo or Changu Lake—a Glacial Lake
Nestled in the lofty mountains and nearly 40 kilometers away from Gangtok, Tsomgo or Changu Lake is a high altitude, glacial lake of East Sikkim.
The lake is situated at an elevation of around 12,000 ft above the sea level.
One of legends associated with the lake is that the Buddhist monks in the early days used to study the lake water color to predict the future.
Tsomgo means “source of water” in Bhutia language with “Tso” meaning “lake” and “mgo” meaning “head.”
Sikkim—a Treasure Trove of Scenic Beauty
Dotted with grand statues, fluttering colored flags, and beautiful monasteries, the land allures travelers throughout the year. Though monsoon may not be considered, the season has a different charm of its own in the misty mountains.
The lakes of Sikkim, be it Gurudongmar Lake or any other, fascinate us with their uniqueness and splendor.
Located in the ancient Gangtok‒Lhasa trade route between Sikkim and Tibet and currently on the way to New Baba Mandir and Nathu La, the lake has always been the center of attraction and has remained popular until today.
The drive to the lake from Gangtok is through the mountain terrain and takes almost 2 hours to reach the lake and offers picturesque views.
The Snow-Fed Lake
The spectacular lake is oval in shape shaped and surrounded by mountains and has a length of around 2,743 ft, width of 1,401 ft, and maximum depth of around 15 ft.
New Look in Different Seasons
The beauty of the lake varies from one season to another.
While summer and autumn blossoms add to the beauty of the lake, it remains frozen during the winter. During October and November, the water is clear and the reflections of the surrounding mountains can be clearly visible on a sunny day.
Tsomgo Lake is revered by the Sikkimese as a sacred lake. There are prayer wheels adjacent to the lake. Every year, Jhakris—the faith healers of Sikkim—across the state gather here on Guru Purnima to offer prayers.
The lake region is rich in Alpine vegetation and a stopover for migratory birds.
Ambience Ideal for All Ages
We reached Tsomgo Lake around 11.30 am and the view of the lake with little snow on the adjacent mountains on a sunny day is a sheer bliss.
We were amazed by the spectacular scenic view of the place.
Attractions Around the Lake
1. Yak Safari
It was quite cold and a windy day, however many tourists went for yak rides adjacent to the lake. The rate of the yak safari depends on the season and the distance you want to cover during the safari. It is better to hone your bargaining skill before you choose to go for a yak safari.
Yak Safari and Ropeway
2. Tsomgo Passenger Ropeway
The cable car ropeway ride that offers the panoramic view of the lake and mountains has gained popularity among the tourists. Its operation began from July 2017 and it is Asia's top highest ropeway. The cable car ride begins from the lower station (at an altitude of around 12,900 ft) located a little above and on the side of Tsomgo Lake to reach the upper station at a height of around 14,500 ft.
Each cabin can accommodate 6 passengers. The ticket counter is next to the lake and one has to climb a flight of stairs to reach the ticket counter. The price of each ticket is INR 325 (for both sides), however, the price may change, so it is better to check the prices.
There are stalls nearby selling tea, coffee, and snacks. Also, some of them rent out snow boots, jackets, and other woolens.
Do you enjoy cable car ride?
Protected Area Permit
Both Tsomgo Lake and New Baba Mandir are protected areas, so domestic tourists as well as foreign nationals require Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit the lake and the shrine. Documentation for domestic tourists include Photo ID proof (Voters Card, Passport, and Driving License) and photographs. The permit can be made through a registered tour operator but the tour operator needs to be informed well in advance.
Full Day Excursion
A day-long excursion is generally planned clubbing the visit of two popular spots, Tsongmo Lake New Baba Mandir, which are only a few kilometer apart. The ropeway ride may take time if the queue is long. Therefore, it is better to start the day early in order to cover both the destinations appropriately.
Winter Vacation—Heavy Woolens and Other Measures
If you are planning to visit the lake during the winter when the temperature is very low, you must carry heavy woolens to combat the cold. The route may remain closed due to heavy snowfall during the winter. When we visited in early November last year, it was quite cold, and the weather changed drastically within a span of few hours. It was a sunny day, but within some time, the sky was covered with clouds.
The winter scenic view, especially from the cable car (during the ropeway ride) after snowfall is a visual delight—snow all around, the frozen lake, and meandering road. Playing on the ice is also a major attraction, but play only in the designated areas. However, the temperature is quite low and some may find difficult to breath. Proper measures should be taken to make the holiday a memorable one.
Vehicles for New Baba Mandir and Tsomgo Lake
Shared or reserved vehicles can be selected for the tour. Four-seater vehicles are allowed for the New Baba Mandir and Tsomgo Lake visit.
If your trip is organized by a registered tour operator, the desired car will be provided by the operator.
Best Time to Visit the Lake
October to early to mid December and from March to May, but monsoon to be avoided.
Nearest Railway Station and Airport (West Bengal)
New Jalpaiguri (NJP) Station/Bagdogra Airport: Several options can be availed to reach Gangtok. You can hire a shared taxi or reserve a cab. If your tour is organized by a registered tour operator, a car will be organized from the operator's end. The drive will take around 4.5 hours but the scenic view is breathtaking—rolling hills, meandering roads, gushing Teesta river, and lush greenery.
Helicopter Service Between Bagdogra Airport and Gangtok
You can opt the helicopter service to fly from Bagdogra Airport to Gangtok, which takes around 35 minutes. As the seats are limited and there are rules pertaining to weight, it is better to reserve the seats in advance. Bookings and related information can be available in the STDC website.
Nearest Airport (Sikkim)
Pakyong Airport is around 31 km away from Gangtok. It is one of India's highest airports and commercial flight operations started in October 4, 2018.
Points to Remember While Booking the Flight to the Pakyong Airport
Our flight was scheduled from Kolkata Airport to Pakyong Airport in early November 2018. The flight timing got delayed and the flight was eventually cancelled due to poor weather condition and low visibility. The airlines company could not manage to organize a flight for all the passengers on the same day.
We got reservations for the next day flight to Bagdogra Airport but that too in two batches. We were five members, of which two of us got the reservation for the early morning flight and the remaining three of us got reservation for next day early afternoon flight. However, the airlines managed to arrange all the seats in the next day early morning flight. No additional cost was charged for rescheduling the flight by the airlines.
Our schedule went for a toss and we suffered financial losses (hotel and cab charges for the day), as we lost a day. So, if you are booking tickets until Pakyong Airport, plan your schedule accordingly, it's better to keep an alternate arrangement or keep a day buffer.
For Navigation Purpose
One of the major stations of northern West Bengal. It is connected with various stations In India.
It is the capital of Sikkim and is well connected to the other parts of the state.
The only airport of northern West Bengal.
It is a glacial lake situated in East Sikkim. Four seater and large vehicles are allowed to visit the lake. PAP is required for all tourists.
It is the only airport of Sikkim.
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