Tag Archives: Gurudongmar Lake

Travel Guide for 10 Days Darjeeling Sikkim tour

We (AllGUDTHINGS), known as the unplanned travelers, are quite random in our travel plans. If one hour we are at home, another hour we will be packing and leaving for some destination. Exactly the same happened during our anniversary. The plan was to go somewhere in Himachal from Delhi, then came Munsiyari in Uttarakhand and by night the whole plan changed and we opted to go for a Darjeeling Sikkim Tour. Most people, don’t trust us on this, but yes we booked our tickets at midnight for Bagdogra Airport, Siliguri in West Bengal and boarded our flight next morning at 11:00 am. So, without any schedule, plan or bookings we left to explore the tea estate land Darjeeling and the smallest state of India, Sikkim.

Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

About Darjeeling Sikkim

Darjeeling, a hill town is located in the lower Himalayas in West Bengal at 6700 feet. It is well known for its Darjeeling tea, the world’s third highest mountain Kanchenjunga, and the UNESCO world heritage site the Darjeeling Himalayan Toy Train. Darjeeling is 68 Kilometers from Bagdogra and 80 Kilometers from Siliguri via Hill Cart road and can be reached in almost 3 hours.

Darjeeling Toy Train Steam Engine

Whereas Sikkim, the least populous and second smallest state of India is divided into North, South, East and West Sikkim. It is known nationally as the most environmentally conscious state, having banned plastic bottles and polystyrene products. The state is a host for the highest peak of India i.e. Kanchenjunga and 35% part of the state is covered by Kanchenjunga National Park. Its capital is Gangtok. Interestingly, Sikkim was earlier not on every tourist’s radar but thanks to social media for giving it glamour.

Tea Estates in Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Tea Estates in Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Itinerary for Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Day 1– Fly to Bagdogra airport from Delhi. Hire a Zoomcar from Siliguri and then head further to Darjeeling. Read our experience of Zoomcar from Siliguri to Sikkim

Day 2– Explore Darjeeling

Day 3- Drive to Gangtok from Darjeeling

Day 4- Explore Gangtok and surroundings

Day 5-7 North Sikkim Tour. Visit Lachen, Lachung, Gurudongmar Lake, Chopta Valley, Yumthang Valley, Kala Pathar, Katao

Day 8– Drive towards West Sikkim to reach Pelling but unfortunately, we had to come back to Gangtok because of a massive landslide on the way.

Day 9 – Explore East Sikkim (Rumtek Monastery and Surroundings)

Day 10 –Drive from Gangtok till Siliguri by Zoomcar, then to Bagdogra airport by cab, and further flight back home to Delhi

Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Total Expense Breakup

  • Flights – Because of offseason (July – August), to & fro ticket (Delhi – Bagdogra) cost us Rs. 12,000 for two people
  • Zoomcar for the whole trip – Rs, 20,000 for first 965 Kilometers, and 5,000 Rs. as refundable security. Above this, the additional Kilometers will be charged at Rs. 15 per kilometer
  • North Sikkim Trip – Rs. 16,000 including cab, accommodation and permit + Rs. 4000/- for covering additional places like Kala Pathar, Zero Point, Chopta Valley, and Katao
  • Cab from Bagdogra airport to Siliguri – Rs.1400 to and fro
  • Hotel in Darjeeling – Due to the offseason we got Rs. 7000/- Club Room in Rs. 3500/- (Heritage Hotel); So, Rs. 7000/- for 2 nights including two meals
  • Hotels in Gangtok – Rs. 2500/- per night again due to offseason (Rs. 10,000/- for 4 nights)
  • Miscellaneous meals – Breakfast between Rs. 500- Rs.700 whereas Dinner costs around Rs. 1000- Rs. 1500. Total cost approx. – Rs. 15000/-
  • Shopping – Rs. 5000/-

Transport in Darjeeling Sikkim

Darjeeling and Sikkim both have well-connected roads and can be reached via bus, shared or private cabs. The self-drive option is also open in Darjeeling and certain districts of Sikkim, just that one needs proper permits for it. So, being road trip lovers we opted for a self-drive option and did the complete journey with Zoomcar from Siliguri.

Zoomcar Parking Lot Siliguri. - Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Zoomcar Parking Lot Siliguri. – Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Private and shared cabs run at very short intervals from Bagdogra airport. Shared jeep charges almost Rs. 150/- per person but it moves when it is full and there are 10 people in the jeep between 7 am to 3 pm. There is another Luxury class, share ride, which carries only 5 passengers by the name Wizzride. It starts from Siliguri and takes one to Darjeeling at a fare of Rs. 475/- and Gangtok at a fare of Rs.712 per seat. Whereas the private cab charges are Rs. 1850.00 for small car and Rs. 2200.00 for a large car.

Bus, the cheapest mode of transport starts at 7:00 am from Siliguri and go up to Darjeeling/ Gangtok. Night service is not available.

Darjeeling Toy Train Track runs parallel to road from Siliguri to Darjeeling

Another exciting option is to travel by Darjeeling Toy Train. The diesel engine hauled toy train leaves from NJP station i.e. New Jalpaiguri railway station; in the morning around 9 am and it takes about 7 hours to reach Darjeeling. The train can also be boarded from Siliguri Town and Siliguri Junction stations that are 5kms and 8kms away from NJP respectively. One side fare for First Class is Rs. 1,285/-. For the Darjeeling Toy Train schedule, check here.

Permits/ Interstate Rod Taxes for Self Drive Zoomcar

From Siliguri to Darjeeling, we didn’t pay any tax but while entering state Sikkim from West Bengal, at Rangpo we paid an interstate tax of around 700 Rs for 9 days. This amount is nonrefundable by Zoomcar and you will get an alert in the Zoomcar app as soon as you enter the sate.

Note: Zoomcar cannot be taken to North and East Sikkim because the permits for the regions are issued to the Travel agents only. For Day 5-7 we parked our vehicle at the hotel itself.

Day Wise Itinerary Breakup

Day 1 – Flight to Bagdogra Airport from Delhi, Took Zoomcar from Siliguri and moved to Darjeeling

Board a flight from New Delhi airport and you will land at Bagdogra airport in 2 – 2:15 hrs. Bagdogra airport is a small airport. Within minutes, you will collect your baggage and make an exit. At the exit gate itself, you will be surrounded by plenty of cab drivers quoting random prices. If you have not booked your cab earlier, we advise you to take an exit, walk for 500 meters and book a cab at the prepaid counter.

We hired the cab for Siliguri, from prepaid taxi stand at Rs.700/-. In 45 minutes he dropped us to the Zoomcar parking lot. As, we reached the Parking lot, our Red Scorpio and the customer care executive was waiting for us. He checked our license on arrival and handed us the documents bag, which had car RC, insurance and other important documents in it. Further he asked us to do quick inspection of the car and make a note of the scratches, dents or any other issues.  To be on the safer side, we made a quick short video and took pictures of the car.

Further, the customer representative logged into the app showed us the checklist explaining all the modules, took our signatures, handed us the keys and we were all set to go. For more details check our post experience with Zoomcar from Siliguri to Sikkim.

Tea Estates in Darjeeling
Tea Estates in Darjeeling

Within 15 minutes, we were on the road to Darjeeling. The road to Darjeeling is a beautiful road with the narrow gauge track on one side and valley on others. From one point, there are continuous ascent and tea estates on another side.  We took the Hill cart road also known as the main road and reached Darjeeling in 4 hours. Clouds were pouring, there was hardly any visibility and all we could smell was freshness in the valley.

Route: Siliguri- Kurseong- Sonada- Ghoom- Darjeeling

Accommodation at Darjeeling

There are plenty of accommodation options in Darjeeling from luxurious hotels to budget ones, guest houses and heritage homes. We choose to stay at the Central heritage resort and Spa Hotel, constructed in 1905. The hotel has heritage and a newly constructed block.

Central Heritage Resort & Spa in Darjeeling
Central Heritage Resort & Spa in Darjeeling

We chose to stay at the Heritage Club room, which completely reflected the design of the Colonial era. The room had extensive woodwork, antique furnishing, fireplace, paintings, and all required necessities. In a hotel, there are two multi-cuisine restaurants and one of them has a bar too. Also, there is also a separate bar lounge with a designated smoking area. Food is good and we advise you to must try fish from their starters menu.

Restaurant at Central Heritage Resort
Restaurant at Central Heritage Resort

Note: The Central Heritage resort is located centrally right in the market area, and the mall (chowrasta) is only a 4-5-minute walk from here. Rest markets, taxi stand, railway station, and great restaurants are also within easy walking distance from here. 

Day 2Explore Darjeeling

Darjeeling, the queen of the hill stations is also the home to a Toy train and is a land of tea estates. The bustling town, towered over by the majestic Khangchendzonga (8598 m), also has many amazing attractions around it.

Darjeeling Toy Train Station.
Darjeeling Toy Train Station

But we just had one day for Darjeeling in 10 days’ Darjeeling Sikkim Tour. So, it was impossible for us to check every attraction and here is what all we checked and will recommend to you.

  • Get up early and go to Tiger Hill for catching the first sunlight on snowcapped peaks of Kanchenjunga. If the weather is clear you will also get a glimpse of Mount Everest. Unfortunately, during our trip there was heavy rain so we skipped going to Tiger Hill.
  • Go for a stroll to the Darjeeling railway station. See how till the day, the steam engines of Toy Tain are set and the train track is cleaned
  • Toy Train starts at 7:40 am from Darjeeling Railway station. Opt to go till the nearest station Ghum/ Ghoom, which is the highest altitude station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Rail track. It’s a 2-hour round trip covering a total distance of 14kms
  • Head to Batasia Loop, which is one of the greatest engineering marvels till day. The Loop was commissioned in 1919 for the toy train to handle a steep gradient of 140 feet. Just after Ghoom, there is a sharp fall as the toy train moves towards Darjeeling so this was the only way to reduce the gradient of the slope. 
  • Go to Chowrasta/ or the mall for the relaxing stroll and shopping. In August, practice for 15th August was going on mall road, so we enjoyed the perfect show in a mist
  • Enjoy delicious Thupka and momos which you can find on every corner.
  • Visit Darjeeling Tea Estates and learn about the various types of tea. We brought some flavors for ourselves from Golden Tips. Also read the guide on Darjeeling tea, before buying for yourself
  • Visit Peace Pagoda sitting atop the Charlemont Hill. It was established by the Japanese Buddhist monk Nichidatsu Fujii as a way of promoting World Peace and harmony
  • If you have more time, then do visit Kalimpong, Sandakhpu, Himalayan Mountaineering Institue, Padmaja, and Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Chowrasta in Darjeeling- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Chowrasta in Darjeeling- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Day 3 – Road trip from Darjeeling to Gangtok, Sikkim

Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim lies 100 Kilometers from Darjeeling and can be reached in 5-6 hours. Tea estates in the valley accompany you on the way, further taken over by River Teesta/ Tista. Roads in West Bengal are well built and starts getting narrower after some Kilometres. You will cross several small colourful villages on the way and at times expect taking detours too.

Route: Darjeeling- Tista- Meli- Rangpo- Singtam- Ranpool- Gangtok

Eco Tourism project on the way from Darjeeling to Gangtok
Eco Tourism project on the way from Darjeeling to Gangtok

At Rangpo cross a bridge and there is a check post. Here, you need to pay, interstate tax for driving from West Bengal. We paid Rs. 700 for almost 8 days. For documentation take your car’s Registration Card and Driving License and the whole process takes around 15 minutes.

We reached Gangtok by 4:00 pm and the first thing was to search for a Hotel near MG Marg, as we had no prior bookings. July – August is considered the off-season period, so we were sure we will get it on a bit of a search.

Gangtok during Monsoons
Gangtok during Monsoons

Accommodation at Gangtok

Just like Darjeeling, there are plenty of accommodation options in Gangtok. We planned to stay at Chumbi Residency, located on the Tibet Road, and just 5 minutes’ walk away from the main market M.G. Marg.

Lobby of Hotel Chumbi Residency in Gangtok
Lobby of Hotel Chumbi Residency in Gangtok

The hotel lobby of Chumbi residency was well decorated with artifacts reflecting the Sikkim culture and the huge glass on one end gave the complete view of landscapes with floating clouds in between. We opted for the Jade room at Rs. 2500 per night. The room was super comfortable, cozy and well furnished. It had the perfect feel of the bedroom, as it was going to be our abode for the coming 4-5 days. The staff welcomed us with a pleasant smile and were super helpful. They guided us with all the petty details, we needed on our unplanned trip.

Jade Room at Hotel Chumbi Residency in Gangtok
Jade Room at Hotel Chumbi Residency in Gangtok

Note: The Chumbi Residency has its own parking space and lets you leave your vehicle while going for a North Sikkim tour. Also, they have one of the best restaurants of Gangtok by name, Tangerine, which serves Continental, Oriental, Indian and Sikkimese cuisine.

In the evening we went for a quick stroll at MG Garg and were impressed by the vibes of the place and food options we can enjoy here.

MG Marg Gangtok
MG Marg Gangtok

Day 4 – Explored Gangtok and Surroundings

Gangtok, the neat and clean vibrant town is full of life and is equally peaceful too. There are plenty of things to enjoy in Gangtok and its surroundings. So, here is what we will suggest to you.

Bakthang Waterfall in Gangtok
Bakthang Waterfall in Gangtok
  • Take a stroll at MG Marg. It has plenty of amazing cafes, bookstores, and restaurants to chill out
  • Visit the nearest Bakthang waterfall. Also enjoy tea, Momos, and Maggi from the tea vendors there
  • Admire the views of Kanchenjunga from Kanchenjunga viewpoint
  • Pay a visit at colorful Hanuman Tok and Ganesha Tok
  • Visit Lal market to buy Dalle (the spiciest chili in the world) and some more souvenirs
  • If you’re Skipping North Sikkim, then we would recommend you to visit the glittering Tsomgo/Changu Lake, Nathula Pass, and Tashi View Point. However, if you are visiting North Sikkim, then you can skip these sites and the Tashi viewpoint will come on your way
  • In the evening head to MG Garg and enjoy some local Momos and Thupkas or relish good food and local drinks at a café. We have explored some amazing cafes during our visit and will be writing about them soon
Ganesh Tok in Gangtok
Ganesh Tok in Gangtok

Day 5 – Drive to North Sikkim (Lachen)

The real Darjeeling Sikkim tour started here, as we will be visiting the remotest area i.e. North Sikkim. For the next 3 days, our Zoomcar was in the parking lot and we will be tripping in the local cab as one cannot drive his/her own vehicle or take Zoomcar to the restricted areas of Sikkim. Moreover, Indians need inner line permit whereas foreigners need restricted area permit for visiting these areas. For us, the last minute bookings and permits were arranged by our Hotel staff with a trustworthy driver.


Documents for Permit

Carry an identity proof (Aadhar Card, Voter ID, Driving License, Passport) of each individual along with 2-3 photographs.

Our day started with a call from a driver (Sharon Chettri) at 9:00 am. He instructed us to carry water, snacks, medicines, and other necessary stuff on the way as it is going to be a long and tedious day. We packed and left at the earliest. As soon we took an exit from Gangtok, vistas started changing. Surroundings became completely green and the roads turned narrow and winding. The journey looked like a marvel with endless waterfalls and panoramic views of Himalayas. We advise you to make multiple stops in between to sip tea with views, have food and obviously for photography.

Tea with views on the way to Lachen
Tea with views on the way to Lachen- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Route to LachenGangtok – Mangan- Chungthang- Lachen

Distance – 110 Kilometers

Time to reach – approx. 6 to7 hrs. but in seasons this can go up to 8-10 hrs.

Note: From Mangan, the restricted area zone begins. Here, at the check post, your permit will be checked and you will be advised to purchase a plastic bottle as ahead Mangan plastic bottles are not allowed. Isn’t that wonderful? Also buy some snacks and munchies, if you are not carrying from Gangtok.

Views on the way to Lachen in North Sikkim
Views on the way to Lachen in North Sikkim

Accommodation and Meals in Lachen

We reached Lachen by 5:00 – 5:30 pm. It was raining continuously and the temperature had already dipped by several degrees. The driver took us immediately into Hotel Sinolchu (included in our package) and on arrival, the owner served us hot tea. We relaxed for some time and then left for a walk in the beautiful village.

The Colorful Dining area of Hotel Sinolchu at Lachen
The Colorful Dining area of Hotel Sinolchu at Lachen

At Lachen, there are limited accommodation options. Although, lots of new good hotels are coming up but in offseason many are closed; so just expect the basic accommodation and meals. Basic accommodation means guest house with very limited facilities. Our hotel rooms were small, had two single beds, an attached washroom, and unpredictable lighting. Meals served too were quite basic and it included Rice, Dal, Veg, and Chapatti only. One or two shops in the evening were open and were serving hot Maggi, Thupka, and Momos.

Early Morning views of Lachen
Early Morning views of Lachen- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Day 6 – Drive to Gurudongamr Lake, Chopta Valley, Kala Pathar and night at Lachung

Lachen is the mid-point to the remotest and highest Gurudongmar Lake. From here the distance to Lake is just 67 Kilometers but it takes almost 5 hours to reach. So, start your day quite early at 4:30 am to reach Gurudongmar Lake by 9:00 – 9:30 am.

Route: Lachen – Thangu Valley – Gurudongmar Lake

The graveled road ahead Lachen turn into pebbly and muddy road with wide pot holes.  Road becomes a single lane road and your driver will be driving at a speed of 10- 15 Kms/ hr. Just think that you will be off-roading for most of the time. Your driver will make a quick stop for a breakfast before reaching Thangu Check post. It will be too early for breakfast but we advise you to have something to avoid AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). After this, the road turns bumpier and green landscapes are taken over by barren mountains.

Road to Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim
Road to Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim – Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Further, the last checkpoint and settlement come at Giagong i.e. at 15,000th feet. you can use public convenience and enjoy soup or tea at the café. Just, 9 kilometers before the destination, roads turned smoother and well-constructed and you start seeing the snowcapped peaks. Landscapes around will keep you hypnotized throughout and in the next few minutes, you will be standing by the glistening blue Gurudongmar Lake. For the detailed experience please read the complete post on Gurudongmar Lake.

Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim
Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim

It was already 11:30 am. Our driver was shouting for us to come back as the wind and water speed has already increased but we were not ready. Anyways we had too and started our journey back.

On the way, we took a detour to Chopta Valley and Kala Pathar. The Chopta Valley, at 13,200 feet is just 2-3 detour from Thangu. It is a valley of green carpet and flowers and it left us completely stunned by its riots of colors. The valley is still unexplored but it looked like a heaven for the nature lovers.


From the valley keep ascending further on the pebbly road, crossing multiple waterfalls till 14,850 feet to see the snow-covered black cliffs known as Kala Patthar. It is a very close point at Indo- Tibet border and there is no human settlement here.

Kala Pathara is a new, less known tourist destination and is not included in the North Sikkim package. You need to pay your driver some extra money for this trip. Our driver asked us Rs. 2500/- per destination but we negotiated and paid him lump sum Rs. 4000/- extra. We left the place by 2:30 am and reached back Lachen by 4:00 pm.

Road to Kala Pathar in North Sikkim- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Quick lunch at Lachen and we further left for Lachung. It was already pouring and we were afraid of Landslides on the way. So, we just planned to cover the distance at the earliest without taking much stops. From Lachen, Lachung is just 47 Kilometers but it takes around 3 hours to reach. 

Route: Lachen- Chungthang – Lachung

On the way, comes the Bhewma waterfall also known as Amitabh Bachchan Waterfall. Here water falls from a height of 275 meters, and it is known so because of the shooting of the movie Aankhen starring Amitabh Bachchan at this particular spot.

Accommodation and Meals in Lachung

We reached Lachung by 8:30 pm and checked in to our Hotel the Cliff View Residency, located a bit away from the main town. Quick hot water bath, followed by dinner and we were ready to sleep. The rain was still pouring and we were still literally about the journey ahead to Yumthang valley.

View from our room in Lachung- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
View from our room in Lachung

Our Hotel included in the package was very basic but had an excellent view. The room was clean, had a double bed and quilts with lots of mosquitoes. Dinner too was basic just like in Lachen and included the similar Dal, mixed Veg, Chapati, and Rice. So, we seriously advise you to inquire about the accommodation and meals with a tour operator before booking the North Sikkim Trip.

Day 7 – Drive to Yumthang Valley, Zero Point and Transfer back to Gangtok

Our day began at 6:00 am and by 7:00 am, we left for Yumthang valley, also known as the valley of flowers. In light, Lachung looked much bigger than Lachen and perfectly green with beautiful landscapes all around.  

On the way to Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim
On the way to Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

Route: Lachung – Yumthang- Zero Point

As we crossed Lachung, roads became narrower with a continuous ascent. Clouds were floating in between the Himalayas and last night rain had made everything looked cleaner and greener. At times there were no roads and we were just driving on the stones and water streams but we were completely hypnotized by the views around.


Finally, we entered the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary in the Yumthang valley, from a beautiful gate. The road was lined on both sides by the flowering plants and we could see the tributary of River Teesta, (Lachung Chu), flowing in between the valley. And then came a halt! We rushed out of the car to see what has happened. It was a massive landslide because of the last night rain and there Our fear came true. We waited for half an hour but there was no scope of getting it Cleared.

River Lachung Chu Tributary of River Teesta in Yumthang Valley- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
iver Lachung Chu Tributary of River Teesta in Yumthang Valley

From there we took a U-turn and seeing our disappointment our driver took us to another place Katao, situated at 13,500 feet along the Indo- China Border. Katao too offers the panoramic view of Himalayan ranges and is known as the rival of Yumthang Valley in beauty. Just like Sonamarg in Jammu & Kashmir, it is also known as Switzerland of India.

Way to Katao in North Sikkim - Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Way to Katao in North Sikkim

We spent some good time there and started our journey back to Gangtok. Fully exhausted, we reached Gangtok back by 6:00 pm.

Day 8 – Drive to West Sikkim and Back to Gangtok

We started our day in a relaxed manner, with a good breakfast and left in Zoomcar to reach Pelling town, located in West Sikkim. The plan was to chill for the remaining days in West Sikkim and then back to Gangtok but destiny had planned some other surprise for us.

Butterfly Waterfall on the way to West Sikkim- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Butterfly Waterfall on the way to West Sikkim.

We started our journey seeing Google Maps and instead of going back to Singtam, we planned to take the other scenic route; crossing east and South Sikkim to reach West Sikkim i.e – Gangtok – Bakthang Waterfall- Samdong- Rangang- Ravangla . The route was extremely scenic with multiple detours and waterfalls. But all that starts well doesn’t end well too. After driving for 6 hours, we couldn’t cover 80 Kilometers. And just 10 Kilometers before Ravangla, there happened a massive Landslide. So, left with no other option we had to take a detour to reach Singtam and back to the base, Gangtok.

Day 9 – Explore East Sikkim and Surroundings

Gangtok lies in East Sikkim and left with just a day in hand we thought to explore the surrounding areas only. The area on our mind was Zuluk but it too needed a permit and could be explored with the local operators only. So, we gave up on it and made a visit to the Rumtek Monastery and Karma Shri Nalanda Institute.

Rumtek-Monastery in East Sikkim- Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Rumtek-Monastery in East Sikkim

Rumtek Monastery, one of the largest monasteries in Sikkim is located on the hilltop and faces the Gangtok city. Many sacred objects are housed within the complex, and one of the most magnificent is the Golden Stupa, which contains the precious relics of His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa. Just opposite to it is the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute, for higher Buddhist studies.


From there we drove, further in East Sikkim, to soak our eyes with some more gorgeous views and ended our day by doing restaurant and café hopping.

Day 10 – Drive to Siliguri to hand over Zoomcar, Transfer to Bagdogra Airport and Back to Delhi

Even after spending enough time in Sikkim, we were not ready to leave and we are totally in LOVE with the state.

Anyways, we left around 9:00am. Distance from Gangtok to Siliguri is just 115 Kilometers and expected time to reach was 4:30 hrs. But we took a margin of 2 hours, to handover over Zoomcar because of the bad roads, landslides and unexpected detours in Sikkim. But unexpectedly reached within the time span, handed Zoomcar at Siliguri office in 15-20 without any damage and took a flight back to Delhi.

Flight Back to Delhi from Bagdogra Airport -  Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Flight Back to Delhi from Bagdogra Airport

Some Tips for Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

  • The closest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal and it takes around 5 hours to reach from there to Gangtok. However, the new airport in Sikkim has opened this October 4, and this will certainly make it easier for travelers who plan to visit the city. It’s located, about 33 km from Gangtok so travel to Gangtok will come down from 5 hours to just one.
  • If you are traveling in Monsoons i.e. July- August expect a lot of change in plans due to landslides, excessive rain and detours whereas in season time there are long queues
  • Roads are really bad in Sikkim, so the traveling time can go hours beyond the expected reach time
  • Driving a Zoomcar in the state was fun and locals didn’t create any problem for us, except a big stare. All we hear about the locals creating a problem for self-drive vehicles is just a rumor
  • One cannot drive his own vehicle or take a Zoomcar to the restricted areas like North Sikkim, and East Sikkim
  • Sikkim is not just a Buddhist state. Most of the people are Hindus and they follow Buddhism
  • Smoking is banned in public and plastic too. You might just get penalized for throwing the wrappers anywhere on the road
Darjeeling Sikkim Tour
Darjeeling Sikkim Tour

So, during our Darjeeling Sikkim tour, we tasted Darjeeling and all the districts of Sikkim but missed reaching many destinations too due to excess of rains and landslides. We saw a lush green beautiful Sikkim, with almost Zero tourists. Overall, it is a trip to remember forever.

If you still have any questions for us, leave in the comments. We will be happy to answer them.

Trip to North Sikkim – Complete Guide

Endless muddy roads, green pastures, barren mountains, changing landscapes, glistening blue high altitude lakes, small quiet monastery towns with a little habitation, flower sanctuaries is what perfectly describes the aura and beauty of North Sikkim.

Trip to North Sikkim

North Sikkim

North Sikkim, the largest district of Sikkim, is also the least populous districts of India and is no less than a paradise on earth. Years back, the zone was non – touristy but the increased social media reach and awareness has put it on every tourist’s radar now. Indeed, the North Zone of Sikkim receives lot of tourists for 6 months and rest 6 months, mother nature lays snow covered and replenishes itself just like Chandratal, Spiti valley, Nubra Valley and Leh Ladakh.

The first time we saw a picture of Gurudongmar lake in North Sikkim on Instagram, it marked to our bucket list. So, recently during our unplanned Sikkim trip, the only plan we had was to visit Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim.

At Tashi point on the way to North Sikkim.

So, after reaching Gangtok from Siliguri via Zoomcar, we started inquiring about the trip to North Sikkim. And we found that You cannot make a self-drive road trip beyond Mangan and the Zone can be explored only with the local travel agents. So, it seemed like a complete Tout game. Apart this we needed answers for the more questions running at the back of our mind. So, we thought to inquire more and do online research. Online research took us to the  TripAdvisor’s Sikkim Travel forum ; where there were plenty of questions and many didn’t had the complete information. So, we are writing this post to include all the information what tourists like us are looking for, before taking up a trip to North Sikkim.

Trip to North Sikkim

No doubt the journey and terrain of North Sikkim is hard but we felt that much of the hype is created by tour agents and touts only. These guys try to scare you, squeeze down your itinerary and cut your pockets in every way. Anyways, if you have made up your mind then there are different types of itineraries to choose from.

Lachung in North Sikkim

North Sikkim Itinerary

Itinerary 1 (2 nights 3 Days)

Day 1: Gangtok to Lachen via Chungthang (120 kilometers, 6 hours drive). Overnight stay at Lachen

Day 2: Early morning trip from Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake. While on the way back include Chopta Valley and Kala Pathar. In the evening head back to Lachung and overnight stay at Lachung.

Day 3: Early morning trip to Yumthang valley, Zero point (Yumesamdong) and post Lunch head back to Gangtok. One can also add a trip to Katao

Itinerary 2 (1 Night 2 Days)

Day 1: Gangtok to Lachen via Chungthang (120 kilometers, 6 hours’ drive). Overnight stay at Lachen

Day 2: Early morning trip from Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake. While on the way back include Chopta Valley and Kala Pathar. In the evening head back to Gangtok.

Itinerary 3 (1 Night 2 Days)

Day 1: Gangtok to Lachung via Chungthang (120 kilometers, 6 hours’ drive) and overnight stay at Lachung

Day 2: Early morning trip to Yumthang valley, Zero point (Yumesamdong) and head back to Gangtok post Lunch. You can also add a trip to Katao.

Out of all the above 3 itineraries, Itinerary 1 is the ideal one to explore the beauty of North Sikkim. Indeed, we felt three days for the North Zone are less and it should be extended to at least 4 days. However, if one has a lesser time then he/she can opt for Itinerary 2 or 3.

Note: Early morning trip means your trip will be starting between 5:00 -6:00 am and you will be returning back to the base i.e. Lachen and Lachung by 2:00 – 3:00 pm.

On the way to Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim

Permit for visiting North Sikkim

North Sikkim shares border with the People’s Republic of China and comes under sensitive zone. So, only few areas are open for the travelers which can be visited only with the special permits, just like inner line permit in Ladakh.

North Sikkim Map

We got to know that the special permit is issued only to the travel agents and not to the travelers individually; that too on the same morning of journey. Whereas the fact is that the permits are issued to individuals but for that you need to run several times to the government offices and sometimes you end up losing the complete day. So, the hoax of permit is spread by the touts and travel agents to confuse tourists and gain business.

Our Suggestion: Book a trip with the good driver who can arrange for permit himself instead of tour operator or with the hotel reference.

Note: Permit to Gurudongmar Lake is issued only to Indians here whereas international tourist need to take the permits from Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, otherwise they have to option to visit the scenic Chopta Valley

Documents For Permit

Carry an identity proof (Aadhar Card, Voter ID, Driving License, Passport) of each individual along with 2-3 photographs.

On the way to Lachen from Gurudongmar in North Sikkim

Choose a Vehicle

Rugged terrain means a rugged vehicle too. So, a big yes to SUV – Bolero, Scoprio or Xylo and no to Innova and Sedans. Innova is a rugged vehicle but because of the low clearance from ground, it fails to cross the rough roads.

Along with this, there is an option to choose between the shared or personal vehicle. Personal vehicles are expensive but they offer you more freedom and privacy. Shared vehicle are affordable but there is a misconception that shared means everything shared including accommodation. Actually, this is not the case. Solo travelers will get their own space and do confirm the same with the agents before enrolling.

Our Suggestion: Choose personal Bolero for having ultimate fun and making “N” number of stops on the way

On the way to Kala Pathar in North Sikkim

Choose the Hotel

Travel agent’s packages include food and lodging. And the price of package will range according to the accommodation one chooses from home stay, budget or luxurious hotel.

At both Lachen and Lachung, majority of the places look like Home stays only. They have basic amenities and are really clean and cozy. Rest, the hospitality of the locals really covers up for everything.

Recently, during our visit we saw huge luxurious structures coming up. You can also check their listing on websites like Tripadvisor.

Our Suggestion: Prefer staying in a home-stay to enjoy the local culture and hospitality.

Package Cost

The package cost includes cost of travel, fuel, permit, food and accommodation.

For personal vehicle cost for 2 Night 3 Days package is around 18,000 – 20,000 in off season and 25,000 in season. For 1 Night 2 Days package costs around 8,000 -10,000 in off season and 12,000 in season.

The shared vehicle costs around Rs 3,000 -4000 for 2 Night 3 Days package in off season and can go bit higher in season.

Note: Package doesn’t include a trip to Chopta Valley, Kala Pathar, Zero Point and Katao. You need to pay extra to your diver for covering each of these. He will ask for almost Rs. 2500 to each point. Negotiate for all the places together and he will settle down around Rs. 4000/-.

The green Chopta Valley in North Sikkim

From where to book Package for North Sikkim

There are several agents on MG Marg which can help you in booking the package. We booked for ourselves through the Hotel Chumbi Residency and it costed us slight less than the MG Marg prices.

There are several online sites from where you can book the package. You can also check the list of registered tour operators for taking North Sikkim trips.

Our Suggestion: Book a tour at least one or two days in advance

When to visit North Sikkim

North Sikkim is accessible only for 6-7 months in a year. During rest months, roads get snow covered.

Season: April to June and November to February. In April – May, rhododendrons are in full bloom at Yumthang Valley whereas from November to February the lake is frozen and surrounded by white peaks. October too is considered as an ideal month, as the sky will be clear and there will be no snowfall.

Off season- July – September. There are high chances of landslides due to rain but then there will be hardly any tourists

Our Suggestion: Visit North Sikkim in off season, when the clouds will float over greens, rain will make everything look fresh and everything will be quite reasonable.

Shingba Rhododenderon Sanctuary in North Sikkim

Clothes for trip to North Sikkim

In North Sikkim the altitude changes drastically from 9,000 feet to 17,000 feet and so, does the weather changes here. It gets quite cold and windy at high altitudes. Do carry woolens in all seasons along with cap and gloves.

Note: Remember to dress up in layers while travelling in North Sikkim

Points to Remember

  • There are high chances of Altitude Mountain Sickness in North Sikkim. So, do carry Diamox and camphor to protect it. Also keep on sipping liquid and munching food to avoid AMS
  • Children below 5 years and adults above 60 years are not allowed to visit North Sikkim especially the Gurudongmar Lake. Also the people with ailments like Heart diseases, high Blood pressure, need to have a doctor recommendation for visit. Please do respect that. It’s for your safety and well-being.
  • There are almost no roads in North Sikkim but the journey is a lifetime experience
  • Don’t try to rush directly from Siliguri to Gurudongmar. The journey will be super tough and not at all advisable
  • One doesn’t need to carry whole of his/her luggage to North Sikkim. Hotels in Gangtok have provision of keeping it in their store rooms
  • Plastic is banned in North Sikkim. So buy a refillable from Mangan and fill it wherever you have a chance

We did the trip to North Sikkim with driver Sharon Chettri and his contact details are: 8348815694. He himself too organizes the trip, which costs quite less than the tour operators.

Trip to North Sikkim

If you have any questions or want any more information on North Sikkim, feel free to ask us in the comments.

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Gurudongmar Lake

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Gurudongmar Lake – One of the Highest Lakes of the World

The turquoise blue water was glistening and changing its color every minute in the sun. There was pin-drop silence except the breeze and fluttering of Prayer flags. Clouds were getting dramatic – One moment they were making formations in patches, whereas other moments they engulfed the snow-covered peak. We were totally in awe of the beauty of Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim or actually hypnotized by the magical power of it.

Gurudongmar Lake

Trip to Gurudongmar Lake from Lachen

It was August and monsoon season was at its peak. The chilliness in the weather had increased. We reached Lachen in the evening, around 5:30 pm for a trip to Gurudongmar Lake from Gangtok after 6 – 7 hours’ drive (107 km). Locals were dressed up in sweaters and jackets and in no time we joined their fleet. It was still drizzling in the evening but we wanted to see Lachen, so went for a quick walk. 

Evening View of Lachen Village - Trip to Gurudongmar Lake
Evening View of Lachen Village

As we turned back it was already 7:00 pm, our driver asked us to have dinner by 8:00 pm and go off to sleep. He also reminded us to put an alarm for 4:00 am. Yes! 4 in the morning as we had to leave at 5:am, to explore the magical Gurudongmar Lake, also known as Gurudamba Lake.

At 4:00 am, the alarm rang. I snoozed it and dozed back in the quilt. It again chimed after 10 minutes and I chimed out at Tashi! Get up boy, we have to leave in 45 minutes. Quickly he got up and we dressed up in layers knowing that we will be gaining height in the next 67 km (distance from Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake) from 9,000 to 17,800 feet.

Early morning at Lachen Village - Trip to Gurudongmar Lake
Early morning at Lachen Village

We stepped out at sharp 5:00 am and there was good daylight along with clouds. We were super excited to see the beauty which we had seen till day in the pictures only but at the same time, there was fear of landslides ahead. Our driver too had a similar fear because of the heavy rains. But with the fingers crossed and positivity, we all left to take the journey ahead.

Roads to Gurudongmar Lake from Lachen
Roads to Gurudongmar Lake from Lachen

After Lachen, the pretty narrow roads had started losing all the gravel. There was continuous ascent descent but the gushing Lachen River was flowing alongside to give us company. From curvaceous, the roads turned to super curvaceous. And sitting alone at the back seat, I was tossing up on all sides. But I was enjoying that too, as I had both the windows to look at the views and click pictures. 

Near Thangu - trip to Gurudongmar Lake
Near Thangu

As we started gaining altitude, the rain started pouring again and at other places, the mist had taken over. There was green all around. Everything looked pure, fresh, and clean and waterfalls were accompanying is throughout the way. Yes! There were ‘N’ of them and each of them was gorgeous. Some of them were even flowing directly on the road.

Homestay at Yathang Valley - Trip to Gurudongmar Lake
Homestay at Yathang Valley

We had to reach the Thangu check post (i.e. 35 km from Lachen) by 7:30 am but before that, we made a quick stop at a homestay run by Pema in Yathang Valley (4000 meters) for breakfast. She made us enjoy the delicious bread Omellete, Maggi, and coffee with a view.


From her balcony, we could see the huge carpet of greens with a river flowing in between;  just that river here had become wider and it was roaring now OMG! This place is no less than a paradise.

On the way to Gurudongmar Lake

And we left for Thangu, a quick stop at the check post and we were ready to go further. The roads further turned bumpier, more rugged and it was amazingly sunny.

Near Giagong Check post - Way to Gurudongmar Lake
Near Giagong Check post

The green landscape was slowly taken over by the barren land and clouds were now just the patterns in the deep blue sky, and we entered the alpine zone.


We were at Giagong i.e. at 15,000th feet the last check post and stop with some settlement, café, and public convenience. After permit entry, we had momos and tea with some army Jawans at Dare Devil Café and left further.

Landscapes on the way to Gurudongmar Lake

From here the landscape had changed altogether. They looked similar to the ones from Spiti Valley and Ladakh but there was an absolute feel of Sikkim too.

Metaled road before Gurudongmar Lake
Metaled road before Gurudongmar Lake

9 kilometers before our destination the road turned smoother and well-constructed. All we could see now was miles of straight graveled road, snow and cloud covered peak in between the brown mountains and the floating clouds in the deep blue sky. This is something beyond our imagination and what we can say is the true shades of NATURE. I guess, we were destined to see this!

Road to Gurudongmar Lake

The driver kept telling us how the army takes care of these roads and maintain them but we were lost in our own world and couldn’t stop taking pictures. Suddenly, a board showing 17,800 feet came up.

Ascending on Hillock to reach Gurudongmar Lake
Ascending on Hillock to reach Gurudongmar Lake

From there, he took off-road and started ascending on a hillock. 5 more minutes of drive and we will be at our destination. It seemed my heartbeat has increased and yes it had.

At Gurudongmar Lake North Sikkim

We had reached our destination at 9:30 am and without a thought, I got out of the car. I stood there silently and said to myself is this for real. Magical! Ethereal! Serene! Dope! Heavenly –what it is. These words were juggling inside me. This is so different than other high altitude lakes (Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Tso Kar, Chandratal and Surajtal), we have seen till day.

Magical Gurudongmar Lake
Magical Gurudongmar Lake

The turquoise blue lake was glistening in the sun. No one was around it despite the properly built pathway. I jumped to go downstairs. Our Driver and Tashi came running behind me to stop, but they couldn’t, and seeing me overwhelmed Tashi joined me.

Stairs at Gurudongmar Lake

Look at it! Isn’t this magical? Literally, I have no words to describe our feelings. People suffer from breathlessness and get hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) at 17,800 feet North Sikkim Lake. But we don’t know what magic happened to us. We got recharged at its first sight. Indeed, it hypnotized us.

Crossing Bridge at Gurudongmar Lake

On one side of it, there were rows of fluttering prayer flags whereas on the other end there was a small wooden bridge to go on the other side of Gurudongmar lake. We crossed the bridge to go around and the Lake changed its color and shape.

Peripheral Walk at Gurudongmar Lake

We continued walking for 2 kilometers around the Lakes periphery and still, there was more. The total peripheral length of Gurudongmar lake is 5.3 Kilometers. Locals attempt for complete circumvallation because of the sacred believes and it takes them around 4-5 hours. Imagine walking that long in the bare minimum oxygen zone. We too wanted to see it from all sides but our driver stopped us from attempting the same.

Gurudongmar Lake and Glacier
Gurudongmar Glacier

It was already 11:30 am and the wind and water speed have increased. We had to turn back but we were not ready. While climbing each step, we were still looking back at it.

On the top, at the plinth is a Sarva Dharma Sthal; the place of worship for all religions and there are interesting legends linked to it.

History of Gurudongmar Lake

Gurudongmar Lake is considered to be the sacred lake by Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists and it remains frozen from November till May.

One of the legendary stories is that in the 8th century, the Guru Rimpoche or Padmasambhava visited the place, before heading to Tibet. That time the people of Gurudongmar village appealed to him, to make the lake a source of drinking water. He touched the lake and made a part of it snow-free. Whereas others say, in 15th century Guru Nanak Dev Ji, passed through the Lake while his return from Tibet and then the people of Gurudongmar village appealed to him. He touched the part of Lake with his stick and made it snow-free.

Since, then the Lake is considered as scared and devotes carry the water of Lake.

Route from Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake

Gurudongmar Lake lies at a distance of 67 kilometers from Lachen and can be reached in 4 hours via car. The nearest airport is at Siliguri.

Route: Lachen – Thangu Valley – Gurudongmar                 

Condition of Roads: Mud and stony roads (or no roads) except the last 9 kilometers. There is a continuous ascent and descent

Road to Gurudongmar Lake

Preferable Vehicle: Scorpio or Bolero. Complete No for Sedans and small vehicles.

Best Time to visit Gurudongmar Lake

The Lake remains frozen from November till May. the

Season: April to June and November to February is considered as the full season time. In April – May, rhododendrons are in full bloom whereas from November to February the lake is frozen and surrounded by white peaks. October too is considered as an ideal month, as the sky will be clear and there will be no snowfall.

Offseason- July – September. There are high chances of landslides due to rain but then the whole lake will be yours.

Expected Temperature at Gurudongmar Lake

November is the time, when the temperature starts dripping and lake starts freezing. Expected temperature in November is between -2 degree Celsius to -15 degree Celsius. From December to February one can expect extreme snowfall & cold. And temperature can go as low as -25 degree Celsius. From March to April, temperature lies between -20 degree Celsius to 0 degree Celsius. In May – June, it may go up to 5 degree Celsius. And in Monsoons i.e. July – September, temperature goes up to 10 -12 degree Celsius.

Permits for Gurudongmar Lake

One needs a restricted and protected area permit from Sikkim Tourism Department to visit Gurudongmar Lake and these can be organized only by the tour operators. The local Sikkim numbered personal cars are allowed with special permits whereas there is no entry for Self drive vehicles like Zoomcar. You need to summit one Identity proof and 2 photographs for the permit. 

Note: Foreigners can only visit the Gurudongmar Lake with the special permits from Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, otherwise they can only visit the scenic Chopta Valley which lies on the way at a distance of 2.5 hours from Lachen

Also Read: Leh Ladakh Inner Line Permit

Package for Gurudongmar Lake

One needs to take a package for visiting Gurudongmar Lake in North Sikkim and there are several options available with tour operators depending upon the vehicle and hotel, you want to take.

We opted for 2 Nights 3 Days Package which includes a visit to the Gurudongamr Lake and Yumthang Valley and one night stay each at Lachen and Lachung. The cost for the same was around18,000/- which includes Permit cost, accommodation, and food. The packages don’t include a trip to Kala Pathar, Chopta Valley and Zero Point. For including these too, you need to pay extra to drivers. Drivers will ask you additional Rs. 2500/-  per place. Do negotiate and they will settle down between Rs. 1500 – Rs. 2000/-.

We did this trip with driver Sharon Chettri and his contact details are 8348815694. He himself too organizes the trip, which costs quite less than the tour operators.

At 15000 feet on the way to Gurudongmar Lake

Important Tips

  • Start your journey from Lachen early because as the day progress, weather near Gurudongmar worsens. Ideally, the army personnel instruct you to spend half an hour there and leave by 10:30 am. We were there for almost 2 hours and still wonder how?
  • The daylight breaks very early in this region
  • Being at high altitude there are high chances of AMS. So, as soon as you feel any of the symptoms, do start your journey back to Giagong / Lachen. Oxygen administration service is available at Giagong and ask army jawans for the help
  • To avoid AMS, keep sipping water/ tea and have small meals too
  • Don’t exhaust yourself by running or climbing stairs repeatedly at Gurudongamar
  • Don’t litter and bring back your waste. Plastic is not allowed beyond Lachen and there are heavy fines for littering
  • Public convenience facilities are available at Thangu and Giagong
  • You might see some wildlife on the way as we saw Deer, fox, crane and yaks
  • Don’t click photographs in the army zones
  • Do apply lots of sunscreen. My face actually got burnt and tanned

Note: Children below 5 years and adults above 60 years are not allowed to visit Gurudongmar Lake. Also, people with ailments like heart diseases, high Blood pressure, need to have a doctor’s recommendation for a visit. Please do respect that. It’s for your safety and well-being.

Gurudongmar Lake

You can check more pictures of Sikkim and Gurudongmar Lake on our Instagram account or by using hashtag #allgudthings.