Gurudongmar Lake at Sikkim
Every year many Indian and foreign tourists visit Sikkim to experience the magnificent beauty of the tiny hilly state in northeast India, but Gurudongmar Lake at Sikkim remains unexplored to most of them. Many of them even do not know about Gurudongmar, and thus all of them miss a heavenly beauty.
You reach here on this page, probably because you need some details about the place, Gurudongmar. We are glad to introduce Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim along with all the details.
If you are a nature and adventure lover and reach this article unconsciously, still you can stay on and read the following. You are just going to explore an amazing place, and getting one of the best travel ideas in the upcoming summer in India.
Geography of Gurudongmar lake
Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest altitude lake (17800 ft) in India and situated in Sikkim, a small hilly state at the eastern Himalayan range. To be very specific the Lake is situated at Kangchengyao range at the extreme north of Sikkim and very close to Tibetan Chinese border (approx. 5 km).
The lake is fed by the glacier which you can see at the backdrop of the Gurudongmar Lake. Though the area and the length (> 5 km) of the lake are pretty large, from the viewpoint you can see a certain part due to obstruction by the hilly landscapes.
Due to such high altitude, the landscape around the lake is almost treeless, rocky and dusty. You can compare the plateau with a cold desert. You’ll find some tiny plants, rare algae, and fungus around the lake. Breathing problem in a common incident there for few people. So, it is suggested to take caution and follow some tricks to avoid any illness.
Local stories about Gurudonmar Lake
For local Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu communities Gurudongmar lake is a spiritual place and they believe the lake water is blessed by magical power to cure any illness and fulfill any wish. As per local Folklore, a part of the lake never gets frozen throughout the year, even in chilled winter, which is believed due to the blessings of Guru Padmasambhava. Local devotees carry the sacred water in the container since then.
A similar story about Sikh Guru Nanak Dev is common there. It is believed that he did a similar thing and converted the lake water as a source of virility and strength.
The Best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake
Summer is the best time to visit Gurudongmar when you can experience a splendid view of blue lake water with snow-covered mountain and glacier backdrop. The road remains open in the months of March to September. In winter the road gets closed due to heavy snowfall and land sliding. Only the Indian military use the road throughout the year.
In the early March, the lake remains partially covered by snow, and you may not experience the clear blue water. Mid-April to mid-May offers the best view at Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim. It is better to avoid visiting Gurudongmar in the season of monsoon (June to September) because the road to Gurudongmar becomes risky by a frequent landslide and slippery track.
Indian tourists are allowed there with permission from the local military office. If you are an Indian you need to keep Identity card and passport size photo with you. The tour operator will arrange a permit for you.
For foreign travelers, special permission is required from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, India. So, if you are not a citizen of India, and wish to visit this amazing place, you must arrange your permit prior to your trip.
There are a single route and several starting points to reach Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim. During your trip, you’ll be experiencing some wonderful view on the way and the magnificent Gurudongmar Lake at the final point. The road is long and not very comfortable. So hold your seat tight to explore the amazing world.
Starting Point for Gurudongmar Trip
You have to cover a very long distance to reach Gurudongmar from Gangtok (the capital of Sikkim). The total distance is almost 180 km, and it takes almost 10 hours in the hilly road if you drive continuously. This is one of the reasons for which many people avoid Gurudongmar trip. But in the true sense, you just need to work hard to experience something great.
If you start from Gangtok to reach Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim, you’ll run over some small hilly towns and villages, such as Mangan, Singhik, Chungthang, Lachen, and Thangu. Tour operator from Gangtok arranges your stay in Lachen in the first night, which is 110 km away from Gangtok and takes 6-7 hours. Very early morning in the next day you’ll start your journey from Lachen towards Gurudongmar, which is 68 km away and takes almost 4-5 hours in the heavy turning hilly road.
Instead of Gangtok, you can start your journey from Mangan or Singhik. There are some nice guest house and homestay options for you.
However, these are some offbeat spots in north Sikkim, where you can enjoy the lush green hilly landscape, waterfalls, and excellent view of Kanchanjungha peak in a clear day. Additionally, you need much less time to reach Gurudongmar from these places.
During our trip to Gurudongmar, we halted in Singhik Guesthouse, which is a very peaceful place to stay with some awesome people, and amazing view all around. The Kanchanjungha peak is visible right from the rooms of the guesthouse on a clear day. There are lush green mountain, waterfalls and floating clouds all around, which offer the ultimate charm of the trip.
On the way to Lachen
After Singhik, Chungthung is the biggest town on the way, which may be said a junction in north Sikkim. Two routes divide from this point, one towards Lachen and another towards Lachung. The road towards Lachen continues up to Gurudongmar, while you can reach to Yumthang if you follow the road toward Lachung.
If you start your journey from Gangtok in the morning around 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM, you’ll reach to Lachen before evening. From Singhik you can start a bit later due to a relatively shorter distance.
On the way, you’ll experience beautiful lush green hilly landscapes, monasteries and a number of bridges constructed over the rivers. As you reach closer to Lachen you may see little monks are standing beside the road and observing your car. Pretty funny to see!
Your stay in Lachen
In Lachen, there are several homestays and one of those will be pre-booked for your night stay. In this high altitude tiny town, most of the homestays are operated by the women, while men in that region are busy in driving, cultivation and other businesses.
You must not expect a star hotel-type very friendly and comfortable atmosphere in the homestay of Lachen, they are just professional and strict about their rules. This is probably due to their difficult lifestyle in high altitude cold region. They’ll provide you hot tea, hot water, the meal at night, but everything in a timely manner and they like to speak less.
The night in Lachen is cold enough especially for the people from a hot climate. However, this is a matter of just a single night on your adventure trip. So, enjoy everything.
Lachen to Gurudongmar
You have to get ready in very early in the next morning. The road towards Gurudongmar is not very smooth and comfortable. because of the frequent landslide in that region road becomes bumpy. You need to hold your seat tight for 4-5 hours to cover 68 km road from Lachen to Gurudongmar.
After your car will start from Lachen, you’ll start to explore more beautiful landscapes all around. You’ll experience beautiful sunrise from the back of lush green mountains (if sky remains clear), deep forest of tall trees, the valley of green carpet, high steam river, magnificent waterfalls and the splendid view of bloomed Rhododendron throughout the valley (if you visit during the month of April-May).
In the beautiful morning, everything looks like a dream, and you will be wishing to stop your car in every turn, to enjoy the beauty better way. But you’ll have to drive a long distance and then return, and thus, there will be no time to stop.
The first break point is Thangu, which is situated at approximately 13000 ft altitude. The magnificent view in Thangu is very different from the earlier landscapes. You can see widespread farmland far below, surrounded by green, rocky and snow-capped mountains. Yaks and horses are moving here and there. Most interestingly, the tall trees are very rare in Thangu. With the increase of the height, tree size starts to get decreased.
You can take your breakfast in the local shop and take some photos from this amazing viewpoint for your future memory. Then start your journey again towards Gurudongmar.
Rapid Change of the Landscape!
As you move upward, the gardens of rhododendron start to decrease, and smaller plants start appearing. After a certain altitude, you’ll see only rocks and dust all around. You will be really amazed by such a rapid change in the landscapes. This a lifetime live experience to visualize the change of plant family with the increasing height.
The origin of the Tista river is the melted glacier near Gurudongmar. You can see the narrow stream of the river at the roadside for a long time.
After driving a bit more, you’ll see the rocky mountains start to spread away and you’ll reach a high altitude plateau. In this part, the black road passes through the plain surface where the sign of green is almost absent. Black, gray and red hills are visible far away. You can see several camps of the Indian army on the roadside.
You have to show the permit and your Identity card at the last check post of Indian Army before Gurudongmar. Mobile signals are not available in Gurudongmar. For any unfortunate situation in Gurudongmar, Indian army is the only option to save you. If you don’t return after a certain time they’ll visit there to inquire.
Magnificent view of Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim
You’ll continue to drive through the plateau leaving the check post behind. You can see the mysterious black and green mountain during your journey. After 45 minutes more drive from the check post you’ll reach Gurudongmar. And the place will surely stun you for a while at first sight. If you visit there in the month of April-May, you’ll experience clear blue sky, crystal clear blue water with the snow-covered mountain and white glacier in the backdrop. Overall, you’ll be exploring a very rare and splendid view at an altitude of 17600 ft, which can not be explained in a written form.
There is a temple beside the lake. You’ll rarely find any other people in that area unless another group of tourists visits there before or after you. On the rocky land around the lake, you’ll find some tiny grasses, algae, and fungus. You can collect water from the lake. The lake water is crystal clear, rich in minerals and pollution free. Moreover, as per local folklore, the water of Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim is blessed by the god. You can walk around the lake, but walk slowly, don’t run.
Gurudongmar is situated in very high altitude, and the concentration of oxygen is low there. To avoid any unfortunate illness or breathing problem you have to maintain a few things:
- Walk slowly, don’t run, don’t be hurry in excitement.
- Don’t sit anywhere for a longer time, rather keep walking slowly.
- If you feel tired or dizzy, slowly go back to your car and take a nap. You’ll be fit once the car leaves the place and moves a little low altitude. If possible, tell a group member to start the car and leave the place quick.
- If you have ever felt a breathing problem in the past, then keep medicine with you.
- If you are patient of heavy breathing problem, avoid visiting Gurudonmar.
After enjoying the 40-45 minutes, you need to get ready for return. You’ll have to run a long way back. To be frank, the return journey is very sad and a bit boring, and that is not exciting at all as the visiting journey.
Tour operators often provide the trip to Gurudongmar followed by Yumthang. In that case, you’ll be returned to Lachen, and after lunch, you’ll be moved towards Lachung.
In our case, we already visited Yumthang earlier, so after our lunch at Lachen, we went back to Singhik.
For more summer holidays options you can see: Best Places to Visit in the Summer in India
How to reach Gurudongmar?
Initially, you have to reach New Jalpaiguri railway station, or Bagdogra Airport or Sikkim Airport. Then by road, you have to reach Gangtok or any other destination at Sikkim as per your plan. After a night-stay in your first destination, you can head for Gurudongmar via Lachen.
- By Air directly in Sikkim: Pakyong Airport is the nearest airport to Gangtok (35 km), but this is a new airport and flights often get canceled due to bad weather.
- By Air via Bagdogra: Bagdogra airport is the next nearest airport to Gangtok. This is almost 123 km away from Gangtok.
- By train: You can reach New Jalpaiguri Railway Station, which is the nearest rail station to Sikkim (Gangtok – 119 km).
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Earlier it is already described that there are several starting point options to reach Gurudongmar. You can start from Gangtok, which is the most common. There are a great number of hotels in Gangtok for your stay. Alternatively, you can choose your stay in Singhik or Mangan.
Gangtok to Gurudongmar via Lachen: Approximate distance is 180 km up to Gurudongmar. Distance up to Lachen is approximately 110 km from Gangtok. There are many hotels and lodges in Gangtok. You can choose anyone among those for your stay. You need to contact a tour operator in Gangtok to book your trip to Gurudongmar. Sometimes the hotel authorities also arrange the trip for you if you request them.
Mangan to Gurudongmar via Lachen: Approximate distance is around 125 km up to Gurudongmar. There are a few resorts and homestays at the small town, Mangan. Mangan kothi Homestay is also a nice one to stay at Mangan. The hotel or homestay owner will arrange your trip to Gurudongmar.
Singhik to Gurudongmar via Lachen:
Approximate distance is around 118 km up to Gurudongmar. There are a few homestays and one guesthouse in Singhik. You can book Singhik guest house which is in the middle of the hill and offers you an excellent view of the lush green hilly landscape and floating clouds all around. In a clear day, you can see Kanchangangha mountain range right from your room window. The owner of the guest house and all the workers are very nice behaving. They will arrange everything for your Gurudongmar trip; just inform them prior to your visit.
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The Final Phrase
Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim is one of the most beautiful places in the eastern Himalayan range. This is also one of the best places to visit in the summer in India. Among cold desert or high altitude plateau in India, Ladakh or Lahaul-Spiti are the best choices. However, you’ll get a taste of Ladakh in your visit to Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim, though you can not stay there as you can do in Ladakh.
So, how do you think about Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim now?
You have an overall idea including the routes and some staying options. If you still need to know anything else about Gurudongmar, then please let us know. We shall provide you the best possible reply at earliest.
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For more summer holiday options you can see: Best Places to Visit in the Summer in India
Related article you may like: Best Suitcases for Travel – Voice 2019
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