Emily & Harry

Dos and Don’ts of Planning a Trip to Gurudongmar Lake (North Sikkim)

We believe that the rules are for bookshelves. Life is out there in the open. Since nature has bestowed us with innumerable natural miracles, it is logical to explore such wonders and marvel at their beauty. While young, the adrenaline rush is high and the desire to seek solace from the usual routine is immense. Thus, it becomes all the more necessary to trace the out-lying paths and spend some time in the lap of nature.

Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim (a little beyond Lachen) is one such miracle of the supreme power. Situated at a sky-high altitude of 18000 feet, this lake is sacred to the Buddhists, Hindus and the Sikhs. It is believed that Guru Nanak, the spiritual leader of Sikhism, blessed this lake upon his visit to North Sikkim in the 15th century.

Gurudongmar Lake is situated at a height of 18000 ft and is 67 km from Lachen and about 190 km from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. The road to this lake has a rough terrain. Surrounded by abundant rhododendron trees that bear purple and red flowers during the summer months of April and May, this road offers panoramic views and lush landscapes that are a relief for the sore eyes. There is little or no vegetation in this area. The lake is fed by glaciers. It is located on the northern side of the Kanchengyao range of mountains.

Best Time to visit:
During the winter months, the lake is completely frozen. The snow starts melting in mid-March and the lake becomes clearer by May. So, the best time to visit this lake is between March and May.

Dos and Don’ts before planning for this adventure

• Since Gurudongmar is situated at a significant height, breathing problems are normal. Refer to a doctor before planning this trip and keep the necessary medicines handy

• Owing to the terrible roads, motion sickness is also normal. Carry the medicine for that too

• Bring along enough woolens because it will be extremely cold. Ensure that your ears and mouth are covered

• On the way to Gurudongmar, you will come across Thangu Village and Chopta Valley. Though there is not much to explore, you get to see the scenic panoramas and lush landscapes

• Ask the driver to stop at Chopta Valley for breakfast. Chopta Valley is at 12000 ft and when you step out from your car, you will feel the difference. Here, you can see the ghost-like tall trees as the silent observer of the snow-covered peaks. You will not find layers of snow in April. Have breakfast here

• The next stop will be Thangu Village that offers breathtaking views of the alpine valley of frozen rivers. Thangu Village is a remote high altitude village of Tibetan Nomads. Since Gurudongmar Lake is closer to China Border, you will find army regiments at regular intervals. It feels safe in their presence. At Thangu Village, another permit is required which the driver will know. You can soak in the warm sun and try to acclimatize your body at 13000 ft

• The next stop is at 15000 ft (6 km before Gurudongmar Lake). Here, the army provides a medical aid room. For those who feel short of breath, they can get oxygen masks here. There are toilets and a small shack that provides water

• At 15000 ft you will know the difference in the oxygen level. Try not to jump around. Walk slowly and if there is even the slightest doubt, refer to a paramedic immediately

• The road after this point is magical. It is curvaceous but properly paved. You will enjoy every bit of this part. It takes around 15-20 minutes more to reach Gurudongmar Lake from here

• Clean as a whistle, the Lake looks like the one from the fairy tales. Spend no more than 35 minutes here because the air is very thin and oxygen is less. Carry an oxygen cylinder with a mask if in doubt.

After enjoying the blissful one hour at the lake, brace yourselves for a rough journey back to Lachung which is 113 km from Gurudongmar. On the way, you can stop at Naga Falls or Amitabh Bachchan Falls and enjoy the view.

Points to remember:

• Adventure to North Sikkim is available as a package for three days as follows:

• Travelling to North Sikkim requires the permit. If you are going via a transportation company, the driver will do the needful. If you are going on your own, you will need one additional day in Gangtok to get the permit from the office located in MG Marg.

• There is extremely low connectivity in North Sikkim, starting from Lachen itself. To add on to the trouble, the weather is extremely cold and temperature easily drops below the freezing point. (Carry BSNL sim, it works!)

North Sikkim is the land that makes you introspect. It is so bewitching that the soul seems to unwind and the mind becomes disciplined. It is the land where the heaven seems to meet the earth. Everything about it is exquisite. Though the journey is backbreaking, yet the destination is worth all the trouble. Immaculate and unsullied, North Sikkim doesn’t invite many tourists owing to the extreme weather conditions. But if you plan a trip there, please respect nature and come back leaving it unblemished.

Request: North Sikkim and East Sikkim are areas which are under the protection of the Army. It is our request to follow the sign/ instruction boards that forbid photography of the base camps. Not everything needs to be captured in the reel. After all, it is humans who make memories and not the places (quoted Ama Ata Aidoo).

To know the details of our entire trip, click Sikkim Itinerary.
For further information, click the links below:
Things to do in Pelling
Exploring Darjeeling in half a day
Enchanting East Sikkim
Gangtok at a glance

Till the next time, Happy Travelling!

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