Tag Archives: Gurudongmar

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.

Related posts

Gurudongmar Lake

Our Experience with Zoomcar from Siliguri to Sikkim

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.