One of the most beautiful places in North Sikkim is Gurudongmar Lake. You’ll be out of words when you stand in front of Gurudongmar Lake. Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in India at an altitude of 17800 ft (5340 m) and is considered as one of the holiest places in Sikkim. Situated in North Sikkim you can reach the Lake through Lachen and Thangu and the lake is only 5 km south of the China border. The shimmering blue color of the lake under the Sun will leave you mesmerized with its ethereal beauty.
About Gurudongmar Lake
In Buddhist, Sikkim is known as Beyul Demajong or Guru Rinpoche’s Hidden Land and Gurudongmar Lake is considered as one of the 108 “Tso-Chen” or major holy lakes of the Demajong. The lake is named after the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche.
Due to its high altitude location, the lake used to remain frozen most of the year with no possibilities of drinking water for the locals. It is said that the locals requested the Guru to help and then the Guru put his hand o a part of the lake which since then refrained from freezing. Since then the lake has been considered sacred as a part of the lake does not even freeze even in extreme cold -20 degrees celsius.
The view of the vast blue lake amidst the barren hilly terrain is sure to mesmerize you and is simply breathtaking.
The journey to Gurudongmar Lake is a roller coaster of a ride with the landscapes of Lachen, then Thangu and finally the Lake.
Best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake
October to November and April to May is the best time to visit the lake.
November is the ideal time to visit as the lake is partially frozen and the temperature is bearable and the temperature is around -2 degrees during the day and snowfall begins at the end of November.
Roads towards Gurudongmar Lake are closed during December and January due to heavy snowfall and the temperature goes from 5°C to -27°C. The lake is completely frozen during this time. However, Chopta Valley looks absolutely beautiful during this time and If roads are opened, you can travel further to see the frozen Gurudongmar Lake surrounded by the snow-capped mountains.
The lake partially remains frozen during March and April and this is a good time if you want to enjoy the colorful wildflowers and see the blooming rhododendrons at the Chopta valley. You can expect temperatures range between -2 degrees to 0 degrees during this time.
Sikkim gets heavy rainfall from July to September and heavy rainfall increases the risk of landslide. So monsoons are not recommended because of the rainy season and poor road conditions.
The Lake is at a high altitude and you should take the necessary precautions before visiting the Lake. It is recommended not to spend more than 30 to 40 minutes at the lake. You can likely be hit by AMS (acute mountain sickness) if you overexert yourself.
Permit for visiting Gurudongmar Lake
Gurudongmar Lake comes under a protected area of Sikkim. To visit Gurudongmar Lake you need a Protected Area Permit (PAP). There is a list of permits that needs to be taken care of before planning to visit Gurudongmar Lake as most of the North Sikkim lies on Indo-China Border areas. The permits can be obtained through registered travel agents.
For Permit, you need a photocopy of your ID proof – Voter ID/License/Passport & Passport size photographs.
Permits will be checked twice by the Indian army before reaching Gurudongmar Lake.
Thangu is the last civilized area where your permits will be checked and you can also receive medical facilities if required. Once you cross this check post there is hardly any habitation ahead. The last post before the lake is Gaigaon at 15,000 feet and your here your permits will be checked for the final time at this check post.
Foreigners require a Protected Area Permit to visit North Sikkim. However, they are not allowed to visit Gurudongmar Lake. They can only go up to Chopta Valley. Foreigners should travel in groups because solo foreigners are not permitted in protected areas. Foreigners should apply for Permit through tour operators who are registered with the Sikkim Tourism Department.
Children below 5 years of age & person above 65 yrs cannot go to Gurudongmar Lake because of extreme weather conditions & lack of oxygen.
Carry at least 2-3 copies of a photo ID and photographs as they’ll have to be submitted in the tourism office
How to reach Gurudongmar Lake
Gurudongmar Lake is about 68 km from Lachen, probably the last inhabited place and Lachen is 120 km from Gangtok. To visit Gurudongmar Lake you need to get a permit from Gangtok and only through a registered travel agent. Get your trip to North Sikkim planned and arranged through a travel agent.
Do not plan a direct trip to the Lake from Gangtok instead start your journey from Gangtok and reach Lachen, night stay at Lachen will be convenient. Next morning leave as early as possible for Gurudongmar Lake.
Reaching Gangtok or Lachen
By Air: Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri is the nearest airport to Sikkim. Lachen is at a distance of 200 km from the airport, hire a taxi from the airport to Lachen.
By Rail: Darjeeling Railway Station is nearest to Lachen at a distance of 171 km.
By Road: Buses are easily available going to Lachen from various cities of Sikkim. One can take a bus run by Sikkim State Road Transport Corporation (SSRTC).
The ideal way to reach Sikkim is by air, Bagdogra (IXB) Airport is the nearest.
From Lachen hire a taxi or jeep. Public transport to Lachen and Gurudongmar Lake is not available.
It is recommended to reach early to the lake as the weather around the lake is favorable before the afternoon and leave before the temperature gets rough in the first half of the day.