Gurudongmar Lake -The Tale of Sacred Lake & Hidden Land
Outstanding! Amazing! We were practically out of words as we stood in front of the Gurudongmar Lake. With the cold breeze biting right into us and our teeth chattering, we looked at the lake with our eyes wide open. We obviously had to cover rest of our face because of the strong chilly wind.
Where is Gurudongmar Lake?
Gurudongmar Lake, one of the highest lakes in India at an altitude of 17800 ft (5340 m) is one of the holiest places in Sikkim. Situated in North Sikkim, the lake is only 5 km south of the China border. One can reach the Lake through Lachen and Thangu.
The lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava on his visit to this lake on his way from Tibet felt a divine reverence towards the place. The lake usually remained frozen for most of the year with no probability of providing drinking water to the local people, they prayed to the Guru to help them. The revered Guru then put his hand on a part of the lake which has since then refrained from freezing. The Gurudongmar Lake has been revered and respected since then.
Our visit to the Gurudongmar Lake:
We had started quite early as suggested by our friendly driver (He is the same driver who had suggested us to visit the beautiful Dzongu). You have to start as early as possible because you get to visit the only in the morning within a short span of time. Also, it takes around 3 and a half to four hours to reach the Gurudongmar Lake from Lachen. Also at the High altitudes, you cannot predict the weather.
The road from Lachen to Thangu, our first stop of the day was quite a bumpy one. We stopped at Thangu at 13000 ft, the last point of habitation in this area. We could hardly see any people there barring the few in the tea stalls. The sun was sharp, but the cold was sharper! Without any further ado, we started towards our final destination. We soon reached the final army check post at 15000 ft and soon we were on the final stretch of the journey. We realized that it was final because the dusty bumpy road gave way to sleek, black pitch road. It was a welcome change. The landscape has already changed giving way to a barren and arid hue. The black roads running through these barren landscapes with the blue sky above and soft cotton-like clouds in them provided for a breathtaking scene. The car then took a turn and screeched through these arid lands towards our coveted destination.
Gurudongmar Lake was long since on our bucket list, and we were quite excited as we approached the lake in our car. But while standing in front of the late, we felt such a peace within us that cannot be explained in simple words. In front of us was the frozen lake. Numerous colourful prayer flags were flowing in the air as if sending the message of peace and calm to all the visitors.
It was biting cold there as I mentioned before. We could hardly keep my hands out of my jacket pockets, it took a lot of willpower to bring our hands out to even take photographs! We spent a few memorable moments here and then we were back to our car starting towards Lachen.
While returning, we stopped at Chopta Valley. It is not really a valley, but a viewpoint of the valley below where you can see the crisscrossing rivulets and the numerous trees. Come April and May, the valley blazes with colourful rhododendrons. We reached Lachen at around 12 noon. After rest and a heavy lunch, we were ready for our next trip towards Lachung.
Why should you visit the Gurudongmar Lake?
- Because it is one of the highest lakes in the India situated at an altitude of 17800 ft.
- The landscape is simply breathtaking. The vast blue lake I amidst the barren hilly terrain is sure to mesmerise the travellers.
- The place is venerated among all the religions. There is a Sarv Dharma Sthal near the lake.
- The journey itself is exciting. With the varied landscape of Lachen, then Thangu and finally the Lake itself, it is a roller coaster of a ride. But a word of caution; this trip is not for those looking for luxury travel. The road conditions are quite bad and the 4 hours of car journey is going to take a toll. If you really love the Himalayas to endure these hours of pain, then this trip is definitely for you!
- The view of the Chopta Valley is an added attraction.
How to reach Gurudongmar Lake?
Gurudongmar Lake is about 68 km from Lachen, the last properly inhabited place. Lachen, on the other hand, is 120 km from Gangtok. To visit Gurudongmar and Yumthang valley, you need to get a permit from Gangtok.
It is recommended to start your journey from Gangtok and reach Lachen. After the night stay at Lachen, visit the lake the next morning. As stated earlier, you have to start quite early.
How to Reach Gangtok:
The nearest airport to Gangtok is Bagdogra and the Railway station is New Jalpaiguri. You will get both private and shared vehicle from NJP or Siliguri to Gangtok.
Best Time to Visit Gurudongmar Lake:
If you want to see the blue waters of the lake, then visit during the months of May, June, September & October. July and August are not recommended because of the rainy season and poor road conditions of Sikkim. November to April is also a very good time to visit. The lake usually remains frozen during this time.
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