Gurudongmar Lake & Lachen in North Sikkim

Explore the pristine beauty of Gurudongmar Lake and the charming town of Lachen. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes of North Sikkim, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and serene waters. Discover the religious significance of Gurudongmar Lake and witness the unique blend of nature and spirituality. Plan your journey to Lachen, a gateway to high-altitude wonders, and experience the tranquility of this Himalayan haven. Uncover the hidden gems of these destinations and create unforgettable memories amidst the majestic beauty of Gurudongmar Lake and the enchanting town of Lachen.

Gurudongmar Lake located in North Sikkim is one of the top lakes in India. This blog is about our experience at Gurudongmar Lake and Lachen all along with Thangu and Chopta Valley. We have one more blog written for Yumthang Valley and Lachung.

Wonderful! Incredible! We were basically out of words as we stood in front of the Gurudongmar Lake. With the cool breeze bitter right into us and our teeth chatter, we look at the lake with our eyes wide open. The rest of our face was covered because of the well-built cold wind that was blowing around the lake. Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim is one of the most stunning destinations of Sikkim. Normally, a tour to the Gurudongmar Lake is combined with Lachen, Lachung and Yumthang Valley and we have done the same thing.

It was the month of April when the climate was supposed to continue. But our entrance at Lachen was meeting with rather a serious monsoon. For a second it seems that we would not be capable of visiting the lake as it rains so much. But the night’s rain proves to be a lucky thing to cover up.

The climate was apparent after that sunrise. The chilling cold seems to be the only problem but that was tackled with a jacket and scarf! And the good part was that the spot did not have so many travelers that day. Not that Gurudongmar Lake gets as many travelers as in Pangong Tso, but at sunrise there were only 4 cars close to the lake. This is rather a unique occurrence for this time.

Where Is Gurudongmar Lake?

Gurudongmar Lake, one of the topest lakes in India at an height of 17800 ft (5340 m) is one of the holiest places in Sikkim. Placed in North Sikkim, the lake is just only 5 km away south of the China border. One can arrive at the Lake throughout Lachen and Thangu.

Legend of Gurudongmar Lake

In Buddhist circles, Sikkim has been popular as Beyul Demajong or Guru Rinpoche Hidden Land. Gurudongmar Lake is considered to be one of the 108 “Tso-Chen” or main blessed lakes of the Demajong and is believed to be the abode of the local guardian deities.  The lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, the creator of Tibetan Buddhism.

In the eighth century AD, Guru Rinpoche (also known as Guru Padmasambhava) had visited the Tibetan Chogyal (King) Trisong Detsan. He taught the king that in future Tibet’s sovereignty may be subject and there may be a refusal in Buddhism. The Chogyal requested Guru Rinpoche to investigate for spots where the Dharma might be kept back alive. The Guru after finishing his religious quest chose four diverse lands around Tibet.

He first arrived at Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim and later went on towards Tashiding in West Sikkim. Here he found his Beyul Demajong or unseen land where he hid his wealth teachings in caves and holy places to be later exposed when Dharma was in danger.

The lake normally remains freezing for most of the year with no chance of providing drinking water to the local area people. Legend has it that the locals prayed to the Guru to help them. The valued Guru then put his hand on a division of the lake which has while then refrain from chilly. Gurudongmar Lake has been revered and appreciated since then. Guru Rinpoche also sees this as a favorable symbol that welcomes him to this ground.

Devotees also consider that by offering prayer at the lake and doing a parikrama (going around the lake), one can be blessed with a child.

 

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North Sikkim Itinerary – Gurudongmar Lake & Yumthang Valley

·         Day 1: Gangtok – Mangan – Lachen

·         Day 2: Lachen – Thangu – Gurudongmar Lake – Chopta Valley – Lachung

·         Day 3: Lachung – Yumthang valley – Zero Point – Lachung – Gangtok

Sikkim happens to be one of our lovable places. Being nearer to Kolkata, the country getaway in Sikkim is one of our desirable weekend getaways. This moment we were sure to get a longer break and discover the gorgeous North Sikkim.

Day 1: Gangtok – Mangan – Lachen

We started our trip towards Lachen from Gangtok and you will most likely do the same thing. Visiting North Sikkim requires authorisation. The allow can be obtained only during register journey agent in Sikkim. We reserved a whole car for our North Sikkim journey that built-in Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley for 3 days. If you are a single tourist, you can ask the travel manager to organize you with other travelers. It will save you some bucks.

We arrived from Gangtok later than breakfast and our trip towards Lachen. While Google maps show that space to be only 100 km and time mandatory as 4.5 hours, the road conditions are not that huge and it takes a minimum of 6 hours to arrive at Lachen. Take in the stops among, and add one more hour to the trip. But these places are good. Our car takes the road during Phamtam and we stopped briefly at the Seven Sisters Falls. Well, do not confuse this with the Seven Sisters Falls at Cherrapunji. They are dissimilar.

After that stop was at Mangan and then at Singhik point of view. The climate was unclear and so we cannot get an apparent vision of the mountain. We constant our trip towards Chungthang, the spot from where the road bifurcates towards Lachen and Lachung.

We were sure to go to Lachen first and so took the highway towards the absent. Lachen is located about 26 km away from Chungthang and takes about an hour to arrive at. From Mangan, you can truly see the River Teesta flow side by side all the way up to Chungthang. The supply of Teesta is the chilly lakes like Tso Lhamo at an elevation of 5330m.

We reach Lachen by afternoon. We walked just about a bit, but it started raining soon and we had to go back to our hotel room.

Lachen

Lachen literally means “big pass” as opposed to Lachung which means the “small pass”. The village is placed at a height of 9000 ft away over the sea stage and the Lachen Chu flows during the deep gorge amidst the pine and conifer forest.

At Lachen, you can visit the Lachen Monastery and the Handicraft Centre in the marketplace. There you will get a blanket, carpet, bags made of yak or sheep wool woven by the Lachenpas or the population of Lachen. As I said before, rain played a spoilsport that day and we were small to our hotel for the best of the time.

Lachen also has some small shop stalls. Where you can take a few snacks and a few drinks too. At sunset, we entered one such shop to have some Maggi or snacks. We ended up staying here and had a bamboo glass full of neighboring alcohol or “Chee”.

Nothing beats the enjoyment of having a glass full of Chee sit in front of the flames in a cold climate and sharing stories with the locals. The shop was full of locals and generally the drivers of the tourist vehicle. We two were the only odd ones there. But we did not at all feel that we were out of sorts. They accepted us as their personal and we were more than joyful to be a division of their family. Isn’t this we all want and enjoy when we travel?

Day 2: Lachen – Thangu – Gurudongmar Lake – Chopta Valley – Lachung

We had been in progress fairly early on as recommended by our pleasant driver (He is the same driver who had suggested we visit the beautiful Dzongu). You have to begin as early as possible because you get to visit only at sunrise within a little distance of time. Also, it takes almost 3 and a half to four hours to arrive at Gurudongmar Lake from Lachen. Also at the High altitude, you cannot forecast the climate.

The street from Lachen to Thangu was rather bumpy. We stopped up at Thangu placed at a height of 13000 ft, the final point of habitat in this local area. We could barely see a few people there accepting the few in the tea stalls. The sun was prickly, but the cold was sharper! We had some tea in one of the shops and without any more ado, started towards our last spot. Apart from a couple of other traveler vehicles and military vehicles, there was no personal life to be seen around.

We soon reach the last army check post, Jiaogong Army check post at 15000 ft  away where the permits are checked. You need to cross this check post between 7.30 AM to 10.30 AM in the morning.

Also, you need to leave the spot within 12.30 PM as the climate turns random here. Gurudongmar Lake, strong wind starts blowing after 10 AM and the wind gets stronger until you will no longer be able to stand there. The army shelter supplies free tea and coffee. There is also a reminder shop run by the army advertising coffee mugs and holy water from the lake. 

Soon we were on the final stretch of the journey. We realize that it was last because the dirty bumpy road gave way to a glossy, black playing field road. It was a welcome change.

The landscape has already changed to give way to an infertile and dry hue. The black roads running during these infertile landscapes with the blue clear sky above and soft cotton-like clouds in them provided for an awesome picture. The car then took a turn and screeched during this dry land towards our popular spots.

Gurudongmar Lake was lengthy while on our bucket list, and we were rather eager as we approached the lake in our car. As we stood in front of the late, we felt such peace within us. The feeling could not be spoken in mere words. The normally frozen lake was in front of us. Many colorful prayer flags were flowing in the air as if sending the message of peace and calm to all the visitors.

It was very cold there as I mentioned. We can only just keep my hand out of my coat pockets; it took lots of willpower to bring our hands out to even take photographs! The surroundings of the lake were rather spotless and well maintained. There is a stairs most important towards the side of the lake. You can go just about the limits of the lake, but keep in mind not to apply yourself. There is a little holy place where an assistant stays.

We spent some unforgettable moments here and then we went back to our car.

It is suggested not to waste extra than 30 minutes at the lake. Please understand that Gurudongmar Lake is at a high elevation. You should get necessary precautions. You can be likely punched by AMS if you exceed physically. So arrive early on and do not stay there for long. 

On our comeback journey, we stopped at Chopta Valley. It is not actually a valley, but a viewpoint of the valley below where you can see the crisscrossing rivulet and the several trees. Come April and May, the valley blaze with the most colorful rhododendrons. Once again, do not confuse this one with the Chopta Valley on the way to Tungnath Trek!

We reached Lachen at around 12 noon. After restand a heavy lunch, we were ready for our after that trip towards Lachung. We arrived at Lachung towards afternoon that day. 

Day 3: Lachung – Yumthang valley – Zero Point – Lachung – Gangtok

Next day we continued from Lachung towards Yumthang Valley. I have covered this in a partition post. After visiting Yumthang Valley, you can take past Zero Point or Yumesamdong too. Visiting the Zero Point will charge you one more Rs2500 per motor vehicle. Later than your visit to Yumthang valley, you can either go back and stay back at Lachung or travel back to Gangtok.

We went to Dzongu, the Lepcha Reserve Area after our visit to the Yumthang Valley.

 

 

 

Why should you visit Gurudongmar Lake? 

·         Because it is one of the main lakes in India located at a height of 17800 ft.

·         The landscape is simply breathtaking. The huge blue lake I amidst the barren hilly terrain is sure to mesmerize the tourisers.

·         The spot is admired among all the religions. There is a Sarv Dharma Sthal close to the lake.

·         The trip itself is exciting. With the different land of Lachen, then Thangu and lastly the Lake itself, it is a roller coaster of a ride. But a word of care; this tour is not for those looking for a luxury journey. The road condition is slightly bad and the 4 hours of car journey is going to take a toll. If you actually love the Himalayas to ensure these hours of pain, then this trip is definitely for you!

·         The vision of the Chopta Valley is an added attraction.

How to reach Gurudongmar Lake?

Gurudongmar Lake is about 68 km away from Lachen, the last correctly inhabited place. Lachen, on the other hand, is 120 km away from Gangtok. To visit Gurudongmar and Yumthang valley, you want to get permission from Gangtok. You can get permission only from a registered travel agent.

It is recommended to get your tour to North Sikkim arranged by a travel agent. Public transport to Lachen is absent. You will get shared sumos to Mangan, but later than that, it is rather hesitant. Even if you control to arrive at Lachen, you will not get any public vehicle to Gurudongmar Lake. If you are traveling solo, talk to the travel agent to tag you with travelers looking for travel partners. You will save a lot of money in this method.

It is recommended to begin your trip from Gangtok and arrive at Lachen. After the night stay at Lachen, visit the pond the next morning. As stated previously, you have to begin rather before time.

 

 

Best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake

If you want to see the blue waters of the lake, then visit in the months of May, June, September & October. The climate remains cool and the lakes are not icy in this season.

July and August are not suggested because of the rainy season and broken road situation in Sikkim.

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