Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim

The ever-enchanting Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim

Author: Tanuja Rai
Date: 2020-03-13

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Sikkim is a wonderland, small but really beautiful. There are so many places in Sikkim where you can feast your eyes and your soul. The state has many beautiful lakes dotting its landscape. Most of the lakes in Sikkim are considered sacred and are adulated by the people. The North Sikkim plateau interconnecting Tibet has a number of mountain lakes of which Gurudongmar and Chho Lamo are the most famous.

Topics covered in the article:
Religious Significance
Getting There – Inner Line Permit
Best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake
Things to do in Gurudongmar Lake
Note to visitors
Special Tips

The gorgeous Gurudongmar Lake during summer

The gorgeous Gurudongmar Lake during summer

Gurudongmar Lake and Chho Lamo are a few of the sources of the Teesta River; a very important river in Sikkim, North Bengal, and Bangladesh, which finally merges in the Bay of Bengal. Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world and in India, located at an altitude of 17,800 feet (5,425 m) in the Indian state of Sikkim. It is the second-highest lake in Sikkim after Chho Lamo Lake, which is located at a height of 18,000 feet and is also one of the 15 highest lakes in the world.

Gurudongmar Lake is considered to be a very holy lake encircled by snow-capped mountains and crystal clear icy water. The splendid and scenic beauty of the place is breathtaking and attracts tourists from all across the world. Gurudongmar Lake lies in the north side of the Khangchendzonga Range, and you can see the beautiful view of Mount Siniolchu and Khangchendzonga from the lake; it is a sight to behold and cherish. 

Gurudongmar Lake is located in Lachen, a small and beautiful village in North Sikkim. A night stay at this village is highly recommended before visiting the stunning lake. The strategic location of the mesmerizing Gurudongmar Lake and its proximity to other popular attractions further appeals to the tourists and make it one of the most popular attractions in Sikkim.

                     

Bike journey to Gurudongmar Lake

Religious Significance

Gurudongmar Lake also has a great religious significance attached to it. The lake is considered a sacred lake and is revered by Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs alike. Gurudongmar Lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, who is thought to have visited the lake in the 8th century. The sacred Gurudongmar Lake freezes during the winters except at one spot, which devotees believe has been especially blessed by the Rinpoche. 

It is believed that in the 8th century Guru Padmasambhava, on his way back from Tibet, realized that Gurudongmar Lake was worthy of reverence as it represented the holy location of Chorten Nyima (a monastery in central Bhutan). However, the lake remained frozen throughout the year, and therefore, there was no way that it could meet the drinking water needs of the people. The locals then appealed to the guru. He decided to help them, and he placed his hand on the part of the lake, and the ice in that particular spot began to melt. Since then, the mesmerizing Gurudongmar Lake is considered to be holy.

The water of Gurudongmar Lake is believed to have healing powers, and many tourists carry the water with them on their way back home. The blessed water of the lake is believed to possess the miraculous power of granting children to childless couples.  There is a 'Sarva Dharma Sthal' nearby, which is also a very popular place of worship for all religions. There is a temple of the Guru beside Gurudongmar Lake. The tourists as well as the army personnel offer prayers at the temple.

Way to Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim

Way to Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim

Getting There – Inner Line Permit

A visit to Gurudongmar Lake or any North Sikkim destination requires a special permit known as the Inner Line Permit because of the region's proximity to the China and Tibet Border. While the international tourists are allowed only up to Yumthang Valley and Chopta Valley, a few kilometers before the lake, the Indian tourists are given the permit through an authorized tour operator a day before starting the trip. Only Indian tourists are allowed to visit the gorgeous Gurudongmar Lake. If international tourists want to visit the lake, they need to get a special permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi.

Gurudongmar Lake is located at an extreme corner of the region. The nearest tourist accommodation is at Lachen, which is 68 km/3 hours away from the lake. A typical tour starts at Gangtok from where Lachen is about 120 km, ie, 6 hours away. After an overnight stay at Lachen, you can visit Gurudongmar Lake in the morning. It is mandatory to start early in the morning and be back to Lachen latest by lunchtime as the weather at such a high altitude begins to worsen as the day progresses. 

By air: Bagdogra Airport or Pakyong Airport
By rail: New Jalpaiguri Station

Best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake

The best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake is between November and June when the weather is quite pleasant as compared to other months. Summers are moderate and quite pleasant in Lachen Valley. An annual yak race called Thangu takes place in Lachen every summer. During winter, Lachen can get quite cold. Gurudongmar Lake freezes completely during the winter months, and the sight of the lake is a visual treat for the eyes and manages to please everyone who visits it. A lot of visitors also love to go trekking from Gurudongmar Lake as it is the base station for several treks. 

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Things to do in Gurudongmar Lake

There are so many things you can do in Gurudongmar Lake. The first thing that anyone does out there is feast their eyes and their soul with the spectacular and enchanting scenes of the lake and the mountains encircling it. Also, you can go trekking and offer prayers at the Sarva Dharma Sthala, which is a famous spiritual attraction for peace seekers. You can also visit Tso Lhamu Lake, which is located about 9 kilometers away. There are many other places that can be visited while you are at Gurudongmar Lake such as Lachen and Thangu village, which are just 3-4 hours away from Gurudongmar Lake. 


Note to visitors

Tourists visiting Gurudongmar Lake should be well-prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically as the terrain leading to Gurudongmar Lake is very hostile and yet very beautiful; the land resembles the Tibetan plateau. The vegetation is very limited and very less populated. The road is through a stony moraine and an unpaved path. Due to the proximity to the Tibetan and Chinese border, landmines are not uncommon, and the Indian Army is ever-present. Due to the high altitude, breathing problems may also arise. Tourists are suggested to spend less time at the high altitude and come down to Lachen Valley.

Despite the long journey and difficulty, a visit to this lake will turn into an experience of a lifetime. Do not be misled by the term difficulty. Taking precautions and following the routines will make your visit as smooth as possible.


Special Tips:

  • Visitors are advised to carry warm clothes as the weather is very cold.
  • You are advised to carry camphor “kapur” to smell quite frequently to help cope up with the low presence of oxygen and also carry ginger and corn to snack on to avoid dizziness.
  • Carrying medicines is a must at high altitude. For some people spending even a little time at Gurudongmar Lake may make them lightheaded because of low oxygen.
  • If you need to grab some snacks you can visit the tiny shanty near the lake that sells tea and snacks. You can also visit the army canteen there.
  • It is advised to stay at Lachen when you come from Gangtok and start early the next morning because it is going to be very tiring and the weather may worsen as the day progresses.
  • If you wish, you may carry sunglasses with Polaroid film coating and UV lenses to protect you from heavy sun rays and white blindness in Gurudongmar Lake.
An enchanting view of the mountains surrounding Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim

An enchanting view of the mountains surrounding Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim

Think of the snowy mountains, curvy roads, valley of flowers, countless waterfalls, pristine white water gushing in rivers, and people always willing to serve and help you with a smile; that is exactly what a visit to Gurudongmar Lake offers. What more can you ask for your dream destination.

A trip to Gurudongmar Lake will disconnect you from the world and connect you with nature. The lake is auspicious and you will feel at peace. It is a lifetime experience, and you will be glad that you took the opportunity to visit this holy lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. If you wish to feel the blessings of nature and put your mind at peace then you must visit Gurudongmar Lake at least once in your lifetime. 

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