Gurudongmar Lake - When Barren is Beautiful

10th Mar 2014

Planning a visit to the treachorous and beautiful Gurudongmar Lake? Here is everything you need to know!

Situated at an altitude of 17,800 ft, Gurudongmar Lake is officially the highest lake in India. Legends claim that the Indian Buddhist guru, Guru Padmasambava, came to a nearby village during peak winters and saw its people troubled because of the lack of fresh drinking water. He went to the lake, which was completely frozen and struck the ground with his stick; this thawed a large area of the lake and helped the village survive. Gurudongmar is revered as one of the 108 "Tso-Chen" of Sikkim where holy deities reside.

More than your eyes can take, that is the kind of beauty Gurudongmar Lake has to offer and no wonder it is one of the most popular destinations in India. The water at Gurudongmar is like a mirror and the wind encapsulated my soul was calm. It's a land of beauty and serenity situated at 17,800 ft above the sea level. With its emerald blue waters and snow-capped mountains all around, the lake is miraculous. The mighty Kanchenjunga, also considered a benevolent protector, dominates the entire view of the region and subtly further escalates your sense of beauty. I was under a spell as I started walking on the ground. Green and blue snow-capped mountains, crystal clear water, it transports you to a place you, would never want to leave.

Every place has its own charm; either you'll love it or completely detest it. But with Sikkim's surreal landscape and nature's bounty, it's hard for anyone to hold an aversion towards this state. I loved the pace of its towns; the tea vendors on the streets and a crisp cup of tea, watching the beautiful sunrise, the typical northeastern cuisine, wooden houses; the afternoon siestas and lots of happy faces. It transports you in a different time and space that’s unusual from most other cities. This holds completely true for North Sikkim.

Religiously, the water of the lake is believed to possess miraculous power. Interestingly, the myth surrounding Gurudongmar lake is believed as reverentially by the Hindus as by the local Buddhists. Since the location of the lake is controversial with China's border some 5km away, it is important to remember that vagabonding through the region requires a special permit. The permit is given to tourists through an authorized tour operator. Only Indian tourists are allowed to visit Gurudongmar Lake. For international tourists, the tour is limited to Chopta Valley a few kilometers before the lake. Other places around the lake which could be possibly explored are Lachen, Lachung River

The best time to visit the Gurudongmar lake is from November to June. A visit to Gurudongmar Lake requires a permit as it is located close to the Indo-Tibet border. There is paucity of oxygen at such a height, and thus, staying there for more than an hour is not recommended for most tourists.

Here is all that you need to know about how to reach Gurudongmar lake:

By Road:

The excursion to Gurudongmar begins with a 4-5 hour drive through snow clad peaks and mountains from Gangtok till one reaches Lachen, a small town in North Sikkim located at a height of 10000 ft. Usually a night halt at Lachen is recommended as it takes around 3-4 hours from Lachen to reach Gurudongmar Lake. So, it is a 7-8 hour journey from Gangtok through lush greenery and waterfalls as one reaches the Lachen village, which is the base for the trip to Gurudongmar. The closest village from Gurdongmar Lake is Thangu, at about 14000 ft. Roads are motorable and the drive through the mountain ranges is mesmerising. Buses here are available frequently and one can even opt for a taxi or jeep from morning to evening.

By Train:

The nearest railhead is New Jalpaiguri which is well connected to most of the major cities in India.

By Air:

The nearest airport is Bagdogra near Siliguri, which is at a distance of 124 km from Gangtok. This airport is connected to Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati. International travelers can get connecting flights from Kolkata or Delhi. Both are well connected with many cities in India and abroad. Helicopter services are available from Bagdogra to Gangtok, only once during the day

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” - Benjamin Disraeli

One of the most sacred and pristine places in the state of Sikkim, Gurudongmar Lake is actually an abyss full of water that perfectly projects the blue sky above. From Gangtok the lake is about 170km away. A perfect place where you can stroll while admiring the snow-capped mountains, the horizon view and the resonance of wind. Also, if you're planning a trip to Gurudongmar Lake it's extremely important to remember that there are no places to stay around the lake. You would have to plan out your trip in such a way that you witness the magic of the lake after a night halt at Lachen or any closer spot of your choice. The closest village from Gurudongmar Lake is Thangu.

Majestic jagged mountains in the background are the highlight of this picturesque village. The beauty here is just not the spellbound visual delight but also the lifestyle of the locals, who completely shower you with love in abundance. This serene village in North Sikkim is home to a unique Sikkimese Bhutia community. Further, you visit the Lachen monastery and the women’s handicraft center to view weaving of traditional blankets and carpets.

An enormously beautiful body of water, Lachung River is a tributary of the River Teesta. It's a bumpy transfer at an elevation of about 9,600 ft but the magnificence that awaits you is worth it. Experience this wonder with a Walk Along the overhead view of the mountains and the gushing sound of the water.