Gurudongmar Lake is probably the highlight among all the wonderful places in Sikkim. This Lake is one of the highest altitude natural lakes in the world. It is the pinnacle point of the North Sikkim tour and probably the most beautiful one too. The lake is placid and the surroundings are nothing less than overwhelming.
It would not be an exaggeration to call it a paradise in the midst of nowhere.
The Lake is spread out over 290 acres and is surrounded by snow-covered mountain ranges all around. You might even feel that the ranges are floating away on the lake itself. It is nothing short of ethereal.
Gurudongmar Lake; ‘Must-Know Before You Go’ Facts
Given the height of the lake and weather conditions, it is easy for everyone to understand that there will be many facts that one needs to know before venturing into a tip to Gurudongmar. We will bring them out one by one here along with all the associated stories and info nuggets that will help you to plan your trip better.
The facts can be broadly distributed in 2 areas. We believe it important to know both the sides for someone who is planning to travel to Gurudongmar valley.
- Facts on Weather, Temperature, and legends of the place
- Facts on How to reach and places of Interest around the Lake
Gurudongmar Lake: Facts on Weather, Temperature, and legend
Fact 1: The water never freezes; even when the temperature goes down to -20-degree celsius
The most interesting thing about this lake is the fact that it never freezes completely. The lake is the primary source of water for the locals. There is a religious belief around this lake that explains this phenomenon. Hindu’s and Buddhists and Sikhs come together to consider this lake to be a sacred place.
It is believed that while Guru Padmasambhava was on his way back from Tibet, the locals had pleaded for a solution to their perennial problem of water. He was moved by their pleadings and had touched a part of the lake that never freezes and is also considered sacred.
Fact 2: Locals belief about the magical power of lakes water
Several locals believe in the fact that drinking this water could resolve fertility issues of women. This is not a scientifically proven fact and hence it makes sense not to drink the water without knowing much. There is also a temple next to the lake where tourists can offer prayers. You will notice brightly coloured flags all around that are individual prayers of people who visit.
The colourful flags add up to the mystic stories about the lake and making it a “Wish Lake” for thousands of visitors.
Fact 3: Actual originator of Teesta River
The lake is primarily fed by glaciers and is a source stream for the Tso Lahmu Lake that later forms the source of the Teesta River. The lake appears smaller when you visit it because the majority of the lake is obscured by the hilly topography and glaciers. You might come across blue sheep, yaks and other wildlife common to higher altitudes if you wish to go around the lake.
Fact 4: Extreme height of the Lake causes breathing and other problems
The Lake is situated at a height of 17,800 feet. from sea levels and is one of the highest altitude lakes in the world.
However, due to the altitude, it is also a very difficult journey and a majority of tourists never make it to the point. They are either halted by landslides or the lower levels of oxygen make them sick from breathing issues, way before they can reach.
When you reach the spot, you will be required to take slow and deep breaths to acclimatize.
Do not smoke or drink the day before you go there and obviously while going. You will fall sick.
Fact 5: Wind can lift stones!
Imagine a negative temperature along with a wind speed of 15kms per hour. It is extremely windy and that makes the place feel a lot more freezing than the temperature itself. Wind speed keeps going up as the day passes by. It is believed that afternoon wind in near the Lake can even lift stones.
The place remains windy for the whole year and wind speed tends to go up more during the winters.
So, be ready with your best of winter clothes that not only save you from extreme cold, but also from heavy chilling winds.
Gurudongmar Facts: Weather and Temperature across months
Fact 6: Apr-May is the flowering season and the places get a surreal view at this time
If you are fond of colourful flowers and have been longing to see wildflowers in bloom, then the best time to visit the Lake and the surrounding areas is from April – May.
This is springtime in the area and is a feast for your eyes. Rhododendrons are in full bloom during this period and your camera will be mighty pleased to capture the colours of spring.
You can expect sub-zero temperatures that range anywhere between -2 degrees to 0 degrees during this season.
However, you could face snowstorms that tend to happen in the month of April. So, go prepared for that.
Click On The Link to Know Everything About Yumthang Valley in 8 mins
Fact 7: The Lake stays unreachable through most of the time in winters
If you are more adventurous and long to see the lake along with the surroundings beautifully frozen, then the early weeks of December are ideal for you to visit.
The temperature can go down to -8 degrees to -10 degrees in the day. If you are lucky then you will not face road blockages on your way.
Later on, the road towards Gurudongmar remains mostly closed due to heavy snowfall.
So the lake remains un-accessible during this time. It is strictly advisable to avoid end half of December and Jan Feb if you are planning a trip. The temperature during winters goes down till -20 degree Celsius.
Fact 8: Oct, Nov, and end April and early May is the best time to visit Gurudongmar Lake
For an average tourist who plans to see the Lake in all its splendour, November is the ideal time to visit.
Snowfall begins in the month of November and blizzards and snowstorms are still a month away. The lake is partially frozen, the skies are clear and the temperature is bearable. The temperature in this month hovers around -2 degrees in the day.
Facts on How to go to Gurudongmar Lake?
Fact 9: Reaching theLake, at once, is not possible or permissible
This is because a majority of North Sikkim lies on sensitive Indo-Chinese border areas. There is a list of permits that need to be taken before and during the journey, at significant spots.
There is also a scientific reason to take halts and make the trip a two or three-day long process.
The lake is situated at a very high altitude and people travelling from plains will naturally find it difficult to adjust to the varying levels of oxygen as they go higher up.
Hence, almost all trips to North Sikkim have halts so that the body is acclimatized to the changes as gradually as possible.
Fact 10: You got to identify places you want to stay to access the Lake
This is where places like Lachen, Lachung and Yumthang Valley of North Sikkim come into play. They serve as a means to an end.
Lachen and Lachung are small towns where tourists are generally put up on their way up to the Lake or on their way down to Gangtok, Sikkim. However, it will be a sin to not mention how these means spell divinity by themselves. Lachen and Lachung are breathtakingly beautiful villages.
They are idyllic and dream-like and the people that live there are some of the most industrious human beings you will come across.
You will be required to reach the taxi stand of Gangtok by 9 A.M. and you will be accommodated in the car as per your package.
Main meals are generally included in the package but if you buy anything from the shops on your way that is your own expense. There will be several halts on the way, for toilet breaks and meals.
The distance from Gangtok and Lachen is around 121 Km and the cars take the North Sikkim Highway to reach there. Lachen and Lachung are situated at a distance of 2 hours from each other and since there is no proper accommodation facility beyond Lachen, on the way to Gurudongmar Lake.
You need to spend the night in the hotels or homestays of Lachen.
Travellers generally choose Lachen as a base stay to access Gurudongmar valley.
Click On The Link to Know Everything About Lachen in 8 mins
Click On The Link to Know Everything About Lachung in 9 mins
Fact 11: Very limited choice available for transport
Assuming that you will begin your journey from Gangtok, the only way for tourists to reach theLake and the places on the way is via car. If you book a package, you will be given an option of hiring the car exclusively for yourself or travel along with a couple of other groups.
The maximum allowed number of people travelling in 1 car is 8 people. You may or may not get the option of choosing your seats or car types, depending upon the seasonal rush.
Bolero cars rule the roost over this terrain. Other cars are barely visible. Though recently few Innova cars are taking travellers too.
Fact 12: You got to leave as early as possible for Gurudongmar from Lachen
You will be asked to wake up by 2-3 AM the next morning so that your car can depart at 4 AM to take you to the Lake
The journey to Gurudongmar begins next morning and could be as early as 4 A.M. The weather conditions of and around the lake are most favourable in the first half of the day and worsens as the day passes.
This is why it is recommended to reach early and depart before the winds and temperature get rough.
Fact 13: Thangu is the last place with shops on your way to Gurudongmar. Prepare to last without a shop for the next 10 hours.
The first halt on your way to the Lake is Thangu that takes around 2 hours from Lachen. The Lake is around 40 Km from Thangu and due to the rough terrain, it takes close to 4 hours to reach.
You will almost find no shop during this journey to Gurudongmar and back. So, stuff yourself with enough water and other essential things. You will need to last on these stuff for next 10 hours ( 4 hours to the Lake, 2 hours at the lake and 4 hours to come back to Thangu)
Preserve your camera’s battery life because you will soon witness places that could partially be justified with photographs.
If you are lucky, you might even receive fresh snowfall on your way to the lake. You will come across army barracks, uninhabited villages, frozen patches of valleys and landslide damages.
Fact 14: Your permits will be checked by the Indian army twice before you reach Gurudongmar
Thangu is the last civilian settlement area where your permits will be checked and you will also receive medical facilities if you require them.
Your breakfast will be served here. It mostly comprises of buttered toast and eggs or Egg Maggi.
Once you cross this check post, you are literally on your own as there is hardly any habitation ahead.
The last check post is Gaigaon, at 15,000 feet. Your permits and papers will be checked for the final time at this check post.
Snow Capped Mountain view from North Sikkim
Fact 15: Do not miss the spectacular view of Gurudongmar Valley
In a few miles from Thangu, you enter a desert valley of sorts. This is called the Gurudongmar Valley.
There is uniqueness about the desert valley that leads up to the great Lake. It is a long stretch of gravel and black sand, coming together in patches. It looks formidable yet spellbinding. All you will come across is one herd or two of yaks and a handful of herdsmen around.
Fact 16: Gurudongmar Valley is beautiful but do not get carried away and stay calm.
You may or may not experience breathing difficulties or nausea at this altitude. However, this is the point where breathing difficulties start. Many times, a tourist gets carried away with the beauty of the place and get involved in lots of physical activities like playing with the snows, going for small hikes for better selfies etc.
With a lot of physical activity and less oxygen, it is quite common for tourists to feel sick and decide to call it a day.
Staying calm helps in avoiding the condition from getting worse.
Fact 17: Once you reach the Lake. Stay calm and savour the beauty.
While you huff and puff inside the vehicle and wonder at the vast stretch of a desert valley in front, your car will take a steep uphill road and reach your destination in a matter of minutes. There it lies; both breathtaking and intimidating at the same time.
The Lake is a feast for the eyes. You will have to get off the vehicle and walk towards the lake. Reaching the edge of the lake could be difficult unless your lungs are trained to withstand the thinness of air since you are required to go down a flight of stairs.
However, the beauty of the lake and the surroundings are so stunning that you could simply stand over the cliff and take it all in.
Fact 18: Do not miss Mini Switzerland ( Chopta Valley) on your way down from the Lake
Your journey downhill from Gurudongmar could be exhausting. All the additional work that your lungs have been doing in order to keep pace with the decreasing levels of oxygen in the air, will make you feel sleepy and groggy.
However, you can expect the picturesque landscape of Chopta Valley to charge your cells.
If you are the type that loves visiting the hills in the monsoon months, then you will experience the wonders of Nature spread out in this valley itself in the months of May-September. It will be filled to the brim with rhododendrons, primula and other flowers that bloom in the wild.
If you prefer the summer or the winter months, you will witness a completely frozen valley that has a charm of its own.
It is for a reason that Chopta Valley is popularly known as ‘Mini Switzerland’ of India. It is located at a height of 8,790 feet above sea level and experiences heavy snowfall in the winter months of November to March.
However, this is also the time when it looks picturesque because of the frozen valleys. The best time to visit is from October to November and again from April to May. Adventure sports like snow skiing, snow trekking, rock climbing etc can be thoroughly enjoyed in Chopta Valley.
Fact 19: Your lunch in Chopta Valley will stabilize your health conditions.
While going downhill from Chopta Valley, you will have your first meal of the day that usually comprises of bread, butter/jam, boiled eggs, thick noodle soup, Egg Maggi etc. If you experience nausea, dizziness or headache while going uphill, this meal will help you settle down because your glucose levels will get stabilized after a while.
So, until now we have outlined all the facts that you got to know before planning a trip to Gurudongmar Lake. Here again, posting a summary pic of all the facts for you to keep it handy and share with your friends and relative who are interested. Hope you will find this helpful.
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