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All About Safari at Chitwan National Park

It was pitch dark when we checked into our hotel. Little did we know in which area of Jungle we were. Lights were dim in the resort but the sound of River Rapti in Nepal was quite inviting. Immediately, we rushed to sit near it and after a few minutes, we heard growling noises. Hotel staff came rushing with a huge white torch, shouting there is an animal and after spotting it, he showed us a huge mother-daughter duo – One-horned Rhinoceros drinking water from the River Rapti. In the white spotlight, they looked shiny white. We were completely amazed upon seeing them near the resort. Now the curiosity to see Rhinos for real in Chitwan National Park in Nepal had increased several folds.

Safari at Chitwan National Park

About Chitwan National Park

The Chitwan National Park is the first National Park of Nepal, established in the year 1973. It spreads over an area of 952 km2 and its altitude ranges from 330 feet in the river valleys to 2674 feet in the Shivalik hills. In 1984, Chitwan park was granted the status of a UNESCO world heritage site. Chitwan Park also contains a Ramsar site – Beeshazari Tal in its buffer zone. The Park extends into four districts Nawalpur, Parsa, Chitwan, and Makwanpur.

History of Chitwan Park

Until the end of the 19th century, Chitwan used to be the favorite hunting ground for the royals of Nepal.

  • In 1950, the Chitwan forest and grasslands expanded over 2600 km2 and were home to about 800 rhinos. After that when poor farmers from the upper hills moved to the Chitwan Valley in search of arable land, settlement happened and poaching of wildlife began.
  • By end of 1960, the jungle was cleared, malaria was eradicated and thousands of people settled there and only 95 rhinos were left.
  • The dramatic decline of Rhinoceros prompted the government to deploy guard posts and army patrolling all over Chitwan Park
  • To prevent further extinction, National Park & Wildlife Conservation act was enacted and Chitwan National Park was declared the first National park of Nepal in the year 1973 with an area of 544 km2. During this period, Tharu communities were forced to leave the land.
  • By the year 1977, the park was enlarged to its present area, 952km2.
  • In the year 1984, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site
  • 1996, the buffer zone of 766 km2 was added
  • 2003, Bishajari and associated lakes were declared wetlands under Ramsar Convention
  • Now, in the year 2022, Park has more than 700 Rhinoceros.

Note: One-Horned Rhino is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. They have been listed on the IUCN red list of threatened species in the year 2018.

Just like Ranthambore National Park and Sariska National Park, Chitwan National Park is also divided into the main Jungle area and a buffer zone. There are 12 entry gates to the park.  It has a diversity of ecosystems – The Churia hills, Ox-bow lakes, and the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu, and Narayani Rivers. 

Chitwan National Park consists of tropical and subtropical forests. Sal forests cover 70% of the jungle land, whereas 20% is grasslands. There are more than 68 different types of grasses and the most common one can see during the jungle safari is Elephant grass, known for its immense heights, (which can grow up to a height of 8 meters).

Chitwan National Park (CNP), Nepal
Chitwan National Park (CNP), Nepal

The park is home to more than 700 species of wildlife, 68 species of mammal, over 546 birds, 55 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 120 species of fishes. Some of the endangered fauna found in the park are – One-horned rhinoceros, Gaur Bison, Royal Bengal tiger, Wild elephant, four-horned antelope, Pangolin, Golden monitor lizard, Python, Bengal florican, Lesser florican, Giant hornbill, Black stork, While stork, etc. Park also has the highest population density of sloth bears with an estimated 200 to 250 individuals.

The Narayani Rapti River is home to magars and gharials.  Every year gharial eggs are collected along the rivers to be hatched in the breeding center of the Gharial Conservation Project, located within the Chitwan National Park, where gharials are reared up to an age of 6–9 years. Then every year these young gharials are re-introduced into the Narayani-Rapti river system, of which sadly only very few survive.

Gharial Conservation Breeding Center at Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Gharial Conservation Breeding Center

Interesting Facts about Chitwan National Park

  • Word Chitwan means “Heart of the Jungle”
  • Chitwan Park is considered Asia’s Best National Park for viewing wildlife
  • Park has the second largest population of one-horned Rhinoceros in the world
  • Earlier the park was known as Royal Chitwan National Park. In 2006, the word Royal was removed

Safari at Chitwan National Park ….Continuing the Story

The night was long and the next morning was gloomy. It was pouring heavily. There was a doubt, about will we be able to go on Safari. If not the same day, then the coming day was no option, as we were traveling with our baby (1 year old) and the next day our parents had their Safari booked.

Tenzin, said mam, do not worry. It happens almost every day. Rain will stop surely, but we were scared. Till then, we enjoyed Elephants crossing River Rapti from the balcony of our room. Around 10 am, the rain stopped and he informed us to be ready by 12:00 pm (Nepal Time). However, our curiosity to see Rhinos was too high and we were ready by 11:00 am itself.

Elephants crossing River Rapti, Nepal

Around 12:00 pm, he sailed us in his Bolero crossing Sauraha, to the main entry point. There we could see boatmen making their canoes ready on the Rapti River. Within the next few minutes, Tenzin handed us tickets and asked us to walk down to the bank of Rapti River to cross River by Canoe.

Entry-Exit st Sauraha to Chitwan National Park
Entry-Exit st Sauraha to Chitwan National Park

Crossing River Rapti in Canoe

I asked Tenzin if we would cross-River in this. He said yes! It will be fun. Don’t worry it will not sink and we will cross this in the next 10 minutes. Tashi was first to enter and I followed him. He took out a small stool hanging on the side and sat on it. Then he was instructed by the guide to keep the next one for the next person and so on. Almost 10 people followed us in the canoe. The boat/ canoe was full and it started sailing. Almost half of the boat was inside the water. Fear of boat tilting was still on our minds.

River crossing by Canoeing at Chitwan National Park
River crossing by Canoeing at Chitwan National Park

There, the man in front with a blue hat shouted, look crocodile. We thought he was joking but actually, he was there, looking around with those popping beady eyes. We all got scared, seeing him that close but the guide was like -“No worries”. It comes close to the canoe but is not interested in humans, and the next minute he went down into the water.

Exactly after 10 minutes, we were on the other end, which means in the jungle area (River Rapti separates Chitwan town from Jungle. Animals do come around River to quench their thirst) and their Jeep driver was ready to take us inside the jungle.

Jeep Safari at Chitwan National Park
Jeep Safari at Chitwan National Park

Jeep Safari at Chitwan National Park

The Jeep started sailing. The jungle was lush, with thick green forest and elephant grass-covered tracks on both sides. Looking at the height of the elephant grass around, we were wondering, would we be able to see any animal here and there only the guide asked the driver to halt. It was time to give way to wild Elephants coming from the front.

Tracks were too rough and just ahead we saw spotted deer with big antelopes. First, he was trying to hide, but then came in the middle of the road and gave us a wonderful pose.

Spotted Deer at Chitwan National Park
Spotted Deer at Chitwan National Park

Every here and there, things looked moving in the jungle. After a few minutes, I shouted at the peak of my voice, something is moving there. The driver stopped his vehicle immediately and the guide with his binoculars showed us the huge sloth bear. Not one but two of them were running one after another.

Sloth Bear  at CNP, Chitwan National Park
Sloth Bear at CNP, Chitwan National Park

Further, the rough Zigzag trails lead us to Lotus Lake or Kamal Lake. As the name says, the Lake was decorated with lotus and there Rhinoceros was beating the heat in the lake. We waited patiently for him to come closer and show his face. However, he did not.

Kamal Lake / Lotus Lake at CNP
Kamal Lake / Lotus Lake at CNP
One Horned Rhinoceros in Kamal Lake..jpg
One Horned Rhinoceros in Kamal Lake

Ahead, we saw mother-daughter Rhino both standing in the opposite directions. Looking at the jeep arriving nearby, one-horned Mother Rhinoceros came in front of the vehicle to protect her child. Remember, Rhinos are peace-loving animals. They do not attack unless they feel threatened.

Mother Daughter One Horn Rhinos in CNP, Nepal
Mother Daughter One Horn Rhinoceros in CNP, Nepal

Advice as given by our guide, If you see a rhino – stay behind or on the side. Rhinos do not turn their heads. If you stand in front of them, they will surely attack you.

Single Horned Rhinoceros at Chitwan National Park
Single Horned Rhinoceros at Chitwan National Park

It was almost halftime. Time for a break as well as time to visit Gharial Conservation Breeding Centre.

Gharial Conservation Breeding Center

The Gharial Conservation breeding center was inaugurated in the year 1978, to enhance the population of Gharials. The entry fee is NPR 100 per person. Under this program, gharial eggs are collected from the riverbank. Then hatched, reared, and released in the main Rivers of Nepal to increase their population in the wild.

Gharial Conservation Breeding Centre
Gharial at Gharial Conservation Breeding Center
Alligator with Half Jaw at CNP Breeding Centre
Alligator with Half Jaw at CNP Breeding Centre

After a break of 15-20 minutes, it was time to head to another zone of Chitwan National Park. Fingers were still crossed as we wanted to see more animals. However, there too, we could only see – Rhinoceros bathing, Sambhar, monkeys, Langurs, and Peahen.  By now, it was almost 5:10 and we were at the exit gate. Along with all this, we too spotted a variety of birds and Kingfishers.

Sambhar in National Park, Nepal
Sambhar in National Park, Nepal

From there again we took a canoe boat ride to cross the Rapti River. The river was glowing during sunset. Just there, we saw an alligator on the River bank. He opened his big jaws and grabbed a fish, in a single shot. Wow! That was too quick.

River Rapti at Sunset
River Rapti at Sunset

That was the end of Jeep Safari. From there we climbed uphill and the hotel boy was waiting to drive us back.

Types of Safari in Chitwan National Park

There are 4 types of Safari options in Chitwan National Park and the park is divided into 4 different areas too.

  1. Jeep Safari – Private or Shared (There will be 8-10 people in a shared jeep)
  2. Elephant Safari – Up to 4 people can sit
  3. Safari on Foot / Jungle Walk
  4. Boat Safari / Canoeing

Areas in the Park

  • Amaltari – The Western sector is one of the preferred entrances by the tourists to the Chitwan Park as it is closer to the Mahendra Highway. This region has the Rapti, Narayani, and Reu rivers and is considered the right spot to see animals. Jeep safari and other safaris cover this region.
  • Kasara The Mid sector holds the museum and the park headquarters. You can find a famous religious site, Bikram Baba here. A little away from the headquarters, is the Gharial breeding center, where crocodiles, turtles, and muggers are bred. This region is covered on foot, usually.
  • Madi-Bagai – The Southern sector is the deep forest region. Tourists usually are not taken to this part of the jungle.
  • Sauraha – The Eastern sector is another important entrance to the park. This region covers the Churia hill regions. We stayed in this area of the park.

Safari Timings at Chitwan National Park

  • Shared Jeep Safari Timing – 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm (Rest timing changes with season and availability of vehicle)
  • Private Jeep Safari Timings – 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
  • Elephant Safari – Happens in the morning, mid-morning, and evening and is for 1.30 hours
  • Canoeing – 7:30 am – 9:30 am
  •  Elephant Breeding Centre Visit Timings – 6:00 am -6:00 pm

Safari Cost at Chitwan National Park

Park Permit Fee

  • Cost of Entry for Foreigners 2000 NPR
  • Price for Locals – 150 NPR
  • Entry For SAARC Citizens (Indians)– 1000 NPR
  • Children Below The Age Of 10 – Free

Jeep Safari Fee

  • Cost of Shared Jeep Safari – 2500 NPR per person
  • Cost of Full Day Safari – 4000 NPR per person

Elephant Safari Cost

  • Elephant Safari For Foreigners– 2500 NPR Per Elephant (2 People)
  • For Locals – 200 NPR
  • Cost for SAARC – 1000 NPR

Elephant Breeding Center (Timing – 6 Am To 6 Pm)

  • Entry Cost For Foreigner – 100 NPR
  • For Locals – 25 NPR
  • For SAARC – 50 NPR
  • Cost For Bathing Elephant – 200 NPR

Canoe Ride

  • Half-Day Canoe Ride – 1400 NPR
  • Full-Day Canoe Ride – 1800 NPR

Documentary Filming Fee / Drone Fee

  • For Foreigners – USD 1500
  • SAARC Nationals – 50,000 NPR
  • Locals – 10,000 NPR

How to Book Safari at Chitwan National Park

There are several safari tour operators in Chitwan as well as Sauraha. We suggest you do some research before booking safaris to make sure, to get a good deal and experienced guides.

We had a limited no of days (3 days) and had no know-how about the best tour operator. Online research too did not provide us with much detail on how to book a safari at Chitwan Park, except for the various tour packages. So, without wasting much time, we opted to go with the deal our resort (WAR – Wildlife Adventure Resort) offered. They charged us NPR 2500 (Jeep Safari) + NPR 1000 (Permit cost) + NPR 100 (Crocodile Breeding Ground) = 3600 NPR per person per safari.

Wildlife Adventure Resort, Chitwan
Wildlife Adventure Resort, Chitwan

The best part of the deal was hotel people ensured dropping and picking us up at the Safari entry-exit point. In addition, he made sure we had an experienced guide with us.

Where is Chitwan National Park?

Chitwan National Park lies in south-central Nepal. It lies at a distance of 170 Km from Kathmandu, 150 Km from Pokhara, and 1019 Km from Delhi by road.

How to reach Chitwan National Park?

We, AllGudThings did a road trip by car to Nepal from Delhi, covering the golden triangle of Nepal i.e. Kathmandu, Pokhara & Chitwan.

Our itinerary was Delhi – Pokhara – Kathmandu – Chitwan National Park. Chitwan lies equidistance from Kathmandu, Pokhara, or Bandipur and we opted to go after Kathmandu. However, it is directly reachable too from Delhi by car, air, or local transport.

India Nepal Border at Sanauli
India Nepal Border at Sanauli

From Kathmandu / Pokhara

By Air (Duration – 20 minutes)

There is a direct 20 minutes flight from Kathmandu as well Pokhara to Bharatpur. Afterward, one can hire a cab, and reach the Sauraha or Baruli side of the National Park, which is approx. 20 km and can be reached in approx. 40-45 minutes.

By Local Transport / Private or Shared Cab (Duration – 6-7 hours)

The other option is to take a daily tourist bus or private/shared cab from Kathmandu / Pokhara and it will take approx. 6-7 hours to reach.

Note: For going from other parts of Nepal too, one will require to go through Pokhara or Kathmandu by taking a private transfer, or riding local buses.

How to Reach Chitwan National Park, Nepal from Delhi

Chitwan National park lies 1019 km from Delhi and can be reached via air, train, bus, and shared or private vehicle.

By Air

From India, there are direct flights to Kathmandu and Pokhara and further from, there is a connecting flight to Bharatpur (the nearest airport to Chitwan National Park).

By Train

The nearest railway station to Nepal, in India, is Gorakhpur or Raxaul. From Gorakhpur, one can travel to the Border area Sunauli via road taking the bus or shared or private cars. The travel time is approximately 3 hours. From Sunauli you can cross the border on foot and can further continue the journey from the other side of the border in Bhairahawa in private or shared cabs or by bus to reach Chitwan.

By Road

There is a direct bus service from Delhi to Kathmandu. The air-conditioned Volvo buses commence the journey via Agra and Lucknow to the Sunauli border. While Sunauli is the most popular entry point, the other border crossing is at Banbasa in Uttarakhand.

We did a road trip to Nepal from Delhi NCR via Gorakhpur in our own private vehicle and our route ahead in Nepal to Chitwan National Park was from Kathmandu.

Route: Kathmandu – Prithvi Highway – Mugling – Bharatpur – Ratnanagar – Suaraha – Chitwan

Road Conditions – The Chitwan National Park lies 169 kilometers from Kathmandu and it took us about 6-7 hours to reach. There are road works going along the Prithvi Highway, leading to slow down of traffic movement and sometimes traffic jams happen for many hours.  Otherwise, the roads ahead are good and it is a scenic trip, through the Trisuli Valley with steep forest-covered hills and farming villages. The road turns south at Mugling and heads towards the Terai.

Way to Chitwan National Park
Way to Chitwan National Park

Best Season to Visit Chitwan

The best season to visit Chitwan National Park is from September to March when it is pleasant and the temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius.

April & May are the hottest, with the temperatures going around 40 degrees Celsius but the chances of wildlife too are higher as wildlife gathers more at waterbodies to quench their thirst and beat the heat. We visited in mid-may when days were hot but it too use to rain every day.

June to September is the monsoon time and safari becomes inaccessible if flooding happens. During this time, one can still visit the buffer zone.

November, December, and January are the coldest month. The weather is clear and offers good clear views of the Himalayas.

Other Activities to Enjoy at Chitwan National Park

1. The Elephant Safari, Jungle Walk, or Canoe Ride at Chitwan National Park.

Elephant Safari / Elephant Jungle Tour (Timing – 1 – 1.30 hours)

The Elephant jungle tours usually happen in the early morning, mid-morning and late afternoon. They cost around 2500 rupees (NPR) for Foreigners and 1000 NPR for Indians and SAARC. People who either own or have hired out Elephants, usually run these tours.

Four people can do a safari together on an Elephant. It is a good option but we were not comfortable doing it.

Jungle Walk

Walking Safari / Jungle Walk, seemed quite risky to us. Therefore, we did not opt for it too, although we saw some people doing it with two guides. Half-day jungle walk is for 3 hours and it costs around 2800 – 3000 NPR.

Jungle Walk at Chitwan National Park
Jungle Walk at Chitwan National Park

On returning, we enquired about it and the hotel staff shared some interesting tips for Jungle Walk at Chitwan.

  • Never stand face to face with a rhino or elephant. If you feel they are coming towards you, run zig-zag into the jungle and not in a wide-open space.
  • For a sloth bear act like becoming big, shout loudly, be intimidating and if possible hit on their nose
  • After all this, I asked him for a tiger. He laughed and said run. Rest will be your luck.

Canoeing at River Rapti / Canoe Ride (Timing – Half day / Full day)

While canoeing on the Rapt River, you get to see the popular Marsha Mugger and Gharial Crocodiles in their natural habitat. Also, you can spot rare species of birds, reptiles, and more in the wetland.

2. Enjoy Tharu Cultural Show

Tharu people are recognized Nationals and indigenous to the Himalayas. The Tharu Cultural show takes place in the evening between 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm.  It is a wonderful show to learn about the Tharu culture and traditions. The show includes various types of songs, dances, and Peacock dances.

3. Visit Elephant Breeding Center / Hattisar

The Elephant breeding center is located in Saurha and is open from 6:00 am – to 6:00 pm. It was established in 1985 for the captive breeding of domesticated elephant trapping for domestication. The Entrance ticket is 100 NPR for a foreigner, NPR 50 for SAARC, and NPR 25 for Nepalese.

4. Bishazari Tal / Beeshazar Taal / 20,000 Lakes

Bishazari Tal, a Ramasar site is an oxbow lake system in the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park. This wetland covers an area of 7,900 acres at an altitude of 286 m (938 ft) and is situated in the Siwalik range to the south. The Lake is a wildlife corridor and does not need any special park permit for visiting. Bishazari lake can be visited on its own or with the help of a nature guide and it is open throughout the year. While driving to the Lake, you get to see some exciting landscapes as well you can spot animals, wonderful birds, butterflies, and mammals.

Bishazari Tal in Chitwan National Park
Bishazari Tal in Chitwan National Park

Way to Bishazari Lake

On the main East-West Highway heading toward Bharatpur, there is big signage. Further, there is a sign for Twenty Thousand Lake Farm Resort off to the right, just follow the canal. Just after their sign next to the canal, stop and buy a ticket. You need to show this ticket to the Army stations at two points along the canal.

What all to carry for Safari at Chitwan National Park

At Chitwan National Park, mornings and evenings are pleasant in summer but days are hot and winters are cold. So, dress and carry stuff accordingly.

Clothes – For a safari in the summers, do wear fully covered cotton clothes. For Safari in winters, wear clothes in layers (inners/ sweaters), so it is easy to remove one if required. Please avoid dark/bright colors for Safari. Neutral colors are best for Safari.

Sun Protection – Do carry sunglasses, cap, hat or visors, and sunscreen of high SPF value.

Toiletries & Medicines – Keep the prescribed medicine as well as an emergency kit. Mosquito repellants are a must.

Eateries Also, carry some eateries in your bag. You can eat them during halftime, around Gharial Breeding center, when they stop jeep for around 20 -25 minutes. To stay hydrated carry a water bottle too.

Note: Please don’t litter in the jungle and bring back your bottles and wrappers.

Overall Safari Experience at Chitwan Park

The Chitwan national park is completely different from the national parks we have visited (till date) in India. Chitwan Park is huge, lush green, and has plenty of flora and fauna. Trails are narrow here and on both sides, you will find elephant grass reaching almost 7-8 meters. Chances of seeing wildlife are plenty but do not go with the expectation to see tigers only. Tigers here can be spotted occasionally only.

Injured Rhino at Chitwan National Park
Injured Rhino at Chitwan National Park

The park is to protect endangered one-horned Rhinoceros, and you will spot a few of them in different ecosystems. We saw around eight rhinos. Apart from that, we saw multiple crocodiles, bears, sambhar, deer, wild boar, etc. Safari lasted for 5 hours, so do carry water and eateries along.

Accommodation at Chitwan

Chitwan has plenty of hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and homestays. We stayed in Sauraha at Wildlife Adventure Resort (WAR).

Wildlife Adventure Resort lies on the Rapti River Bank. It is a lush green resort surrounded by rice fields, Tharu Village and Rapti River. The resort has around 14 rooms and each room has two balconies. From these balconies, you can easily spot animals coming to the river.

Open Restaurant at Wildlife Adventure Resort Sauraha
Open Restaurant at Wildlife Adventure Resort Sauraha

All rooms are absolutely neat, clean, and spacious but the washrooms are just average. The staff is helpful and courteous. The restaurant by the Riverside is a plus and the basic food is good.

Double Bed Cottage at WAR, Sauraha
Double Bed Cottage at WAR, Sauraha

Food at Chitwan

Sauraha has plenty of great restaurants in the market. Do try local Nepal food here. Apart from this checks out the Greasy Food Restaurant. They serve local as well all other cuisines at quite a reasonable price. Do try their Nachos salad, pizzas, and biryani. They were yummy and good quantity-wise.

Greasy Food Restaurant at Sauraha
Greasy Food Restaurant at Sauraha

Some Important Pointers

  • The Indian currency is widely accepted in Nepal. For small shops, keep some amount of Nepal currency.
  • There are few ATMs in Chitwan.
  • Wear full-sleeved clothes while doing Safari at Chitwan, to protect yourself from getting scratched in the jungle
  • Washroom facility is available at Gharial Breeding Conservation Centre
  • Respect local traditions and culture
  • Don’t litter anywhere
  • Animals do not attack unless they feel threatened
  • Spend at least 2-3 days in Chitwan to enjoy wildlife
All about Safari at Chitwan National Park

FAQs

  1. Why Chitwan National Park is famous?

The Chitwan National Park is considered the best national park in Asia for viewing wildlife. Here you can spot endangered one-horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger, Spotted Deer, bears, Monkeys, Wild Boar, and a variety of birds and mammals.

2. Is Chitwan National Park worth visiting?

Chitwan National Park is worth visiting as you can see endangered One-horned Rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger, Spotted Deer, bears, Monkeys, Wild Boar, and a variety of birds and mammals in their natural habitat. The Safari experience here is completely different from the other safaris.

3. What is the most famous thing about Chitwan?

Chitwan is famous for Chitwan National Park Safari. Here you get to see plenty of animals, birds, mammals, reptiles, etc in the jungle. Apart from this, a canoe ride in the Rapti River of Nepal is also highlighted here.

4. Which is the best time to visit Chitwan?

The best time to visit Chitwan National Park is from September to March when it is pleasant and the temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius. April & May are dry and hot months but chances of spotting wildlife too are higher this time. December to February are the coldest months.

5. What we can do in Chitwan?

At Chitwan, you can go on Jeep Safari, Jungle Walk, Canoeing at River Rapti, and visit Elephant Breeding Center and Tharu Cultural Village.

6. How many days do I need in Chitwan?

At least 2-3 days you should spend in Chitwan National Park. The more time you spend here, the higher the chances of spotting wildlife.

7. How long is the drive from Kathmandu to Chitwan?

The Chitwan National Park lies 169 kilometers from Kathmandu and it approx. took us about 6-7 hours to reach. There are road works going along the Prithvi Highway, leading to slow down of traffic movement and sometimes traffic jams happen by many hours.  Otherwise, the roads ahead are good and it is a scenic trip, through the Trisuli Valley with steep forest-covered hills and farming villages. The road turns south at Mugling and heads towards the Terai.

8. What is the climate of Chitwan?

Chitwan has a tropical monsoon climate with high humidity all through the year. Here monsoon starts in mid-June and eases off in late September. From October to February Temperature lies around 25 degrees Celsius whereas in summers i.e. from April -to June it can go as high as 40 degrees Celsius. From July to October, it lies between 30 -35 degrees Celsius.

9. Are there tigers in Chitwan National Park?

There are almost 93 tigers in Chitwan National Park but the chances of spotting them are very rare.

10. How many Lakes are there in Chitwan National Park?

There are around 56 Lakes in the Chitwan National Park. The most famous one is Bishazari lake / Beeshazari or 20,000 lake which lies in the buffer zone of the park. Anyone can visit this lake on their own and, does not need a special park permit for visiting.

Maldives Travel Tips You Must Know

Maldives, the epitome of natural beauty is a paradise for Honeymooners & hub for water sports lovers. In this Travel guide, we will be discussing in detail Maldives travel tips.

2022, is the year when most people are looking to travel again. So, how about Maldives this year. Has that name aroused your travel lust? Surely, it has. The Maldives is 99% water and 1% land. It has 1190 islands (200 inhabited), turquoise blue clearest water, beautiful beaches with the whitest sand, live coral reefs, overwater dreamy resorts which take luxury to a new level, spectacular wildlife, and palm tree forests making this island country a dreamland.

Earlier Maldives used to be a destination for elites and honeymooners only. In 2019, the Maldivian government allowed staying up on islands and opening guesthouses and homestays. Therefore, the game changed and now it is a perfect travel destination for every traveler, be it families, solo travelers, divers, etc. The Maldives offers a plethora of activities and accommodation options for all tourists. They have hotels from luxurious stays to mid-range hotels to homestays.  

So, before planning and traveling to the Maldives, check out this Maldives travel tips & guide.

Note: Trip to Maldives can be clubbed while travelling to Middle East (UAE) or Srilanka too.

Maldives Travel Tips

Maldives travel is exciting but you need to keep in mind these Maldives travel tips for a safe, comfortable, and happy vacation in this beautiful island nation. Proper planning will give you a stunning experience, a complete work break from daily mundane life.

Maldives Travel Tips

1. Plan your trip according to the weather

November to April is the peak season in the Maldives, so all activities and accommodation will be available at skyrocketed prices. For the budget trip, best is to plan during shoulder season (the time between peak season & off-season) i.e. from April to September. During this period, you will get exciting discounts and great services too.

Note: Rain is common during the off-season, but it does not rain all day.

2. Prepare an itinerary month beforehand

After choosing the travel month, prepare an itinerary according to what the Maldives has to offer and what you would enjoy doing most. Start making bookings based on that. Remember to space out the adventure sports so that you are not too exhausted to enjoy the rest of your trip. Leave a buffer day in your itinerary.

3. Make an advance booking for flights & hotels

The golden rule of travel is – “Flight tickets & hotels are cheaper when you book them in advance”. The closer you are to the travel date higher goes the cost. So, overall travel is cheaper when you book it months in advance.

In addition, check, whether you wish to go via a travel agent or want to make bookings for yourself. In either case, many companies offer discounts and great deals on packages. You can look out for flash sales that can cut down your cost of travel. Many companies also offer deals around slack times.      

4. Choose Airplane rides wisely

A round trip seaplane ride in Maldives is an unforgettable experience but quite expensive too. The best affordable option is to book a flight to Male and then a speedboat for transportation between Maldives islands to reach the specific islands. Another option is the Maldivian domestic flight for the transfer but the flights can get delayed and there is also no scheduled time for seaplane transfer between the dawn-to-dusk window. So try to plan for the flight that land in the first half of the day to get transferred to the island before sunset, otherwise you might have to spend the night at Male and take the earliest transfer the following day.

Seaplanes at Maldives
Seaplanes at Maldives

5. Maldives visa

Any foreigner traveling to the Maldives, doesn’t require a pre-approved visa. The tourist visa is granted for all nationalities on arrival to the Maldives. However, the person must satisfy the basic entry requirements to get immigration clearance upon arrival.

An Indian passport holder too does not need to apply for a Maldives visa, as there is a facility for a visa on arrival for Indians in the Maldives. But, make sure to carry, all valid travel documents, and your passport should be valid for 6 months from the date of arrival.

Note: For the Maldives visa on arrival for Indians, you need to have accommodation and return details to get a visa.

6. Get an international travel insurance

Travel mishaps are common and can happen to anyone anytime. So, it’s better to be prepared and have travel insurance.

Imagine, after landing in the Maldives you get to know your baggage has gone missing. In that case, you may be able to fend for yourself with the money you have, but travel insurance can pay for the missing bag. At the same time, if any medical emergency arises in the Maldives, you can look to your travel insurance to cover the cost. If you are unwell or there is an injury, that renders you immobile; your travel policy will also cover you for emergency medical evacuation. If your trip gets canceled, your insurance will cover the costs as well. Getting travel insurance for Maldives is the perfect way to ensure your trip is not disrupted due to any financial setbacks.

7. Pack & Tavel light

Less is more. So, packing light is always better. In Maldives, the climate is hot and humid, so pack clothes made of cotton only. Avoid synthetic materials such as silk as they will make you feel uncomfortable and requires a lot of care and maintenance too.  Do carry comfortable shoes with an excellent grip to help you navigate on the beaches as well as keep your toes comfortable while walking. Also, carry swimsuits, sunscreen, toiletries, surf wax, personal care products, and a medical emergency kit.

If you want to experience marine life, do carry your fins, snorkeling, surfing, or diving gear to cut down on renting costs. Most important, do carry a water-resistant or underwater camera with a polarizer to shoot all the action on land and underwater.

Note: Bikinis, are not allowed on all Island. Practice modesty and wear bikinis or skin-tight clothing only when at the resort islands. On the local islands, there are some “bikini beaches”, which are specially meant for tourists to visit.

Maldives Travel Tips

8. Prepare a list of experiences to indulge in

There are many things to experience in the Maldives such as going on a cruise for a romantic meal on board. If you are an explorer, you can take a private boat to an isolated island to enjoy the spoils of nature in peace. For an adrenaline rush, you can go for the water sports in the Maldives. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and underwater sea walking are some of the other exciting activities in the Maldives.

9. Check & Compare prices for water activities

The Maldives offers a plethora of water sports i.e. Sea kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, stand-up paddleboarding, wakeboarding, boating, and the whale, dolphin, or Manta watching trips. Almost all resorts and private organizers offer these activities. Do, compare the prices before choosing one.

Water Activities in Maldives

10. Look at Taxes & Hidden Costs

Look out for the extra cost on the imported food and drinks at resorts along with their 10% service cost and 8% service tax. Do not miss the public price on menus, taxes on equipment rentals, spa sessions, and more.

Note: Tipping is not common in the Maldives therefore; it is not an obligation to tip. However, if you feel that the service provided was commendable and you should praise them, then you can provide a tip.

11. Learn Basic Terms in Local Language

Whether traveling to any country, it is always better to learn the basic words in the official language for a smooth experience. But, it is not necessary for Maldives as the country has a strong tourism game and most people speak English, especially at resorts and restaurants. You can also include a translation book in your Maldives tour plan.

12. Buy a local sim card at the airport

Resorts in the Maldives do offer Wi-Fi service but they are completely unreliable. So, to stay connected to your family and friends, and not to be struck, it is advisable to buy a sim card at the airport itself.  

13. Drone Photography

In 2022, drone photography has picked up and everyone wants to capture the pristine white beaches with bungalows in between the turquoise water in the Maldives. But, note in Maldives some resorts have a complete No Drone Photography policy for the protection of their guests. So, do check before flying one.

Sunset in Maldives

14. Keep USD for easy transactions

Maldivian Rufiyaa is the national currency used in the Maldives, but USD is widely accepted everywhere. Apart from the local islands, most of the shops have things labeled in USD. Credit cards are used widely including the resorts, but keep cash too for purchasing the miscellaneous items. Also, it is difficult to find an ATM near Maldivian islands.

15. Don’t carry Alcohol

The Maldives is a Muslim-dominated country. The only place where someone can enjoy a drink without any worries is at the private resorts. Also, do not carry alcohol while entering the country. If you are carrying, you might be fined by the customs.

Conclusion

Traveling to the Maldives and experiencing what the place offers is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and do enjoy it to its fullest. Use these Maldives travel tips to get the best out of this trip and make the memories of a lifetime.

Dambuk Orange Festival – Confluence of Speed, Music & Oranges

“Let the adventure in you come and experience the confluence of speed, music and oranges with us at Dambuk” – read the email in our inbox. We couldn’t believe our eyes – it was an invite to attend the Dambuk Orange festival at Arunachal Pradesh. Without any if & buts it was a big yes, as we will be heading to the another lush green North East state i.e. Arunachal Pradesh (the land of rising Sun), after Sikkim.

Dambuk Orange Festival

Brief about Dambuk

Dambuk, a Tehsil in Lower Dibang Valley is one of the unexplored places of Arunachal Pradesh. The land is fed by Dibang River in the east and Sisar River in the west. So, in summers i.e. from April to late October the land becomes the prisoner of nature and it can only be reached only via Elephant back, boat or helicopter. So, this is one land which is easily accessible by roads only in winters, unlike Leh Ladakh & Spiti valley.

Dambuk Orange Festival, Arunachal Pradesh

It is also the 10th least populated district and is occupied by Adis and Idu Mishmi tribes. The tribes are majorly into agriculture and they cultivate super juicy Oranges. Dambuk, as fascinating the name is; so being the journey to reach this place.

How to Reach Dambuk

Dambuk lies 30 kms from Roing (district headquarters), 268 kms from Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh state capital) and 189 kms from Dibrugarh (largest city of Assam). The place has no direct flight, train or bus connectivity. The nearest airport is Dibrugarh airport and further journey can be done only in private or shared cabs.

The view before landing at Dibrugarh Airport - On the way to Dambuk Orange festival.
The view before landing at Dibrugarh Airport – On the way to Dambuk Orange festival.

Our route: Delhi to Dibrugarh by air and further by private cab. The time taken from Dibrugarh to reach Dambuk is 4-5 hours. So, total duration to reach Dambuk from Delhi is 8-9 hrs.

Delhi – Dibrugarh – Tinsukia – Roing- Dambuk

After reaching Dibrugarh in Assam, our excitement levels were already swelling. We wanted to rush at earliest as it gets dark here after 4:30 pm. So, with in no time we board our cab and left for the off road adventure. After crossing spanning tea estates, Brahmaputra river, thick forests and driving on the stones and unpaved road, we reached Dambuk around 6:30 pm, completely ignorant about what was all around except the gushing voice of Brahmaputra River.

Sunset at River Lohit - Tributary of River Brahmaputra on the way to Dambuk Orange Festival
Sunset at River Lohit – Tributary of River Brahmaputra

The early sunrise made us rise early and we were pleased to see the splendid beauty. Brahmaputra River was flowing in the lap of Himalayas. There were specks of snow on the mountain peaks, sun was playing hide and seek in the clouds, birds were singing, green was budding, adventure vehicles were lined up and Oranges were hanging from trees. The whole aura seemed extra ordinary and there were clear signs of spectacular confluence of Oranges, Music and Adventure i.e. Dambuk Orange festival.

Camps at Bomjir Dambuk - Orange Festival , Arunachal Pradesh
Camps at Bomjir – Orange Festival Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh

What is Dambuk Orange Festival

Dambuk located amidst the rain forests of Lower Dibang valley in Arunachal Pradesh is a venue for the Dambuk Orange festival. It is an extravaganza of music, speed, local dances, culture and food.

Orange Festival Dambuk 5 – was a treat to senses and soul. It had all what an adventurous soul like us need- from the happening local sports, dances, adventures, tribal food, music and adrenaline pumping activities. The festival spread over 4 days had day and night stage. The day stages branched from Galo dialect to local folk, classical music to jazz, thoughtful music to rock and poetry. Whereas as the night stages begun after the sun sets on the festival ground. Musicians and bands from India and international, electrified the Dambuk in an unrestrained way.

Some of the highlights of Orange Dambuk festival are:

1. Oranges

The Khasi Mandarin highly juicy and sweet oranges, hang beautifully on the slopes of Himalayas in the apt environment. They are available in 16 varieties and is liked nationally as well internationally. The first global consignment for the Arunachal Pradesh Mandarins (65mm-70mm diameter) were signed up in 2017 and today majority of it is exported. You hardly get to buy few for yourself. Indeed, the demand has already overpowered the supply.

In the Orange Orchard at Dambuk orange festival
In the Orange Orchard at Dambuk orange festival

Price of these oranges vary from Rs. 5- Rs.10 per piece and one can buy them in a beautiful handmade basket/ box in Rs.200/- (Expect No Bargaining

2. Adventure

Before attending the Dambuk orange festival, we always thought that the extreme adventure like 4X4 fury is in its nascent stages in India but the festival broke our misconception completely. Indeed, the Dambuk valley is a perfect setting for adventure lovers to get a frill of adrenaline rush.

Dambuk Orange festival - Confluence of music, adventure and oranges

In 5th edition of Dambuk Orange festival (the first of adventure and music festivals), almost 50 teams from all over India, participated in the JK tyre 4X4 fury championship. The competition was spread over 9 stages ranging from coursing the Sisar River located on the outskirts of Dambuk to crossing the dry river bed with spectacular mountain backdrop, to tackle the steep downhill section in Sinah river, to crossing the slush and swamp.

Jk Tyre Orange 4*4 Championship - Dambuk Orange Festival

The last stage of the Fury gave us shivers. The whole act was more of a teamwork thing. If one vehicle went steep downhill and crossed the stony riverbed, other was well geared up at the top to pull it back by the use of winches. You actually need a daredevil heart and nerves of steel to perform these acts in the lower Dibang valley. Hats off to all the participants and definitely the winners.

Jk Tyre Orange 4*4 Championship - Dambuk Orange Festival
Jk Tyre Orange 4*4 Championship – Dambuk Orange Festival

Apart all these, there were special provisions for other adventure activities like dirt cycling, ATV rides in the deep forest, parasailing, para motoring for around 20 minutes and landing among the orange orchards, white river rafting in the Brahmaputra river, Zip lining, Scuba diving, and elephant rides.

Of all these sports we tried our hands on River Rafting, scuba diving, para motoring, ziplining etc. River rafting and scuba diving was done in association with NIMAS (National Institute for mountaineering and adventure sports).

Scuba Diving in Brahmaputra River, Dambuk Orange Festival
Scuba Diving in Brahmaputra River, Dambuk Orange Festival

River rafting was super fun in group. The instructors from NIMAS taught us how to maneuver the raft among the tides in the river and move smoothly. We crossed rapids of grade 1+K3, 2+k2 while covering 10 kilometers. Getting wet with the chilling water and sun rays pouring to make you dry, made the Rafting experience unforgettable. Scuba Diving in the River, too is exclusive.

River Rafting in Brahmaputra River, Dambuk orange Festival
River Rafting in Brahmaputra River, Dambuk orange Festival

3. Music

Music the soul of Dambuk Orange festival, rocked the festival grounds every night around 5:30 pm. Total 28 bands, out of which 25 Indian and 3 International Brands made the crowds literally grove to their music. Boys, girls, travelers, media, rally drivers all were swaying and jumping with every beat and it was too infectious for us to be spared.

Dambuk Orange Festival - music

The last day weather was showering its blessings in the form of rain but who could have stopped the crowd. People were flowing with umbrellas and in rain coats to listen to the Swedish Band The Thundermother and The Iron Maidens (world only female tribute to the The Iron Maidens). We too were in the same league, got completely wet and swayed with locals and friends in this night to remember.

Kathmandu Killers at Orange festival Dambuk

Although each band had set the stage on fire with its own type of music from trance to punk, hardcore, metal, classical etc but of all the Iron Maidens won our heart. We loved the enthusiasm of lead vocalist Kristen Rosenberg, the way she cheered and appraised the crowd and rocked our Indian flag on the festival stage.

Kristen Rosenberg from the Iron Maidens at Dambuk Orange Festival
Kristen Rosenberg from the Iron Maidens at Dambuk Orange Festival

Other attractions of the Dambuk Orange Festival

Cultural performances by the tribes. We witnessed the Adi Tribal dance, where men were dressed up in black, with a huge head gear. This dance is performed as a celebratory dance, after winning the war and their energy levels were truly beyond appreciation.  

Orange eating competition was the another highlight of the competition. There was a huge participation and the one who ate 6 oranges in a minute won the competition

Tribal Sports like archery, angling, tribal house building, orange plucking and forest walks were also on the venue for locals and travelers.

Local Jewelery of Arunachal Pradesh , Dambuk Orange festival
Local Jewelery of Arunachal Pradesh , Dambuk Orange festival.

Local handicrafts like cane and bamboo baskets, woven and knitted handbags, Dao (themetal knives with bamboo sheath) and brass ornaments were also put on sale at shacks.

Traditional Food & drinks at Dambuk Orange Festival

The Orange festival Dambuk is a great place to savor over fresh, traditional local tribal food. Some of the dishes we tried were Pork, egg fried ginger, Chana chat, orange pudding, Pao Bhaji and the farm fresh Khasi Mandarin (Orange) juice, prized from Rs.100- Rs.200/-.

Pao Bhaji at Orange Festival Dambuk
Pao Bhaji at Orange Festival Dambuk

Along with food, quench your taste buds with the local Rice wine known as POKA, available in 3 varieties as Black Poka, Poka with effervescence and white Poka. The best Poka we liked was effervated one served in the local made Bamboo glass.

Poka tasting session at Dambuk Orange Festival
Poka tasting session at Dambuk Orange Festival

These little shacks at a makeshift village Dambuk, is the most interesting place in the festival as music, booze and talk flows among the random people and you end up making friends.

Shacks at Orange Festival Dambuk

Venue of the Orange Festival Dambuk

The orange festival is a unique orange themed music and adventure festival, organized in the temporary village Dambuk, surrounded by Himalayas in the backdrop laden with orange orchards. The venue was completely organic made with Bamboo sticks and clothes and robust enough to bear the rains. It looked everything has been made just for the festival.

Idea behind the Dambuk Orange Festival

The idea of Orange festival Dambuk was laid down by Mr. Abu Tayeng in association with Government of Arunachal Pradesh to spur tourism in the unexplored land, to increase the employment opportunities for tribal people and to stimulate the economic development.

With Mr. Abu Tayeng Director of Orange Music Festival Dambuk
With Mr. Abu Tayeng Director of Orange Music Festival Dambuk

Today, because of these efforts by locals of Arunachal Pradesh, a state is known nationally as well international for music and adventure festivals like Hornbill festival, Ziro festival of Music, [email protected] mechuka, Orange festival etc.

Accommodation in Dambuk

There are not many accommodation options in Dambuk. One can either pitch his/her own tent or book the place in temporary place We stayed in Bomjir camps, one of the beautiful natural camps, around 15 kilometres from the festival venue. Bomjir has permanent bamboo huts and tents with attached washrooms. Don’t expect the luxury here, but they are warm enough to make your comfortable. You can book the accommodation here with them.

Dining and Bar area at Bomjir camps, Dambuk Orange festival
Dining and Bar area at Bomjir camps, Dambuk Orange festival

Transportation in Dambuk

If on one end, accommodation is a challenge in Dambuk, then transportation too is no less. There are total around 10-15 vehicles which takes care of all the travelers in the fest. Be prepared to walk for miles and then hitchhike. Indeed, this is one of the another level of adventure in the music and adventure festival.

Permit for Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh, a border country shares its border with Bhutan in the west, Myanmar in the east, and is separated from China by the McMahon line. For visiting the state, Indian Nationals need to have the Inner Line Permit for Arunachal Pradesh and International tourist must carry Protected Area permit.

Indian nationals can apply for ILP here.

Must carry for Dambuk

  1. Remember to carry the festival tickets. You can register here
  2. Inner Line Permit certificate
  3. Identity Proof like Aadhar card, voter ID, Pan card etc
  4. Enough Cash. We didn’t find any ATM nearby Dambuk.
  5. Only Airtel and Jio connectivity was there in the zone.
  6. Comfortable sturdy boots for walking
  7. Warm jacket and wind cheater as the temperature drops down at night
  8. Rain Coat and umbrella as it can unexpectedly rain here
  9. Some extra clothes, if you are up for the adventures like scuba diving, river rafting etc
  10. Basic medicines are a must, as there are no chemist shops in the area
  11. Torch, hat and sunscreen lotion

What to avoid carrying to the Orange festival Dambuk   

  1. Avoid wearing any type of expensive jewelry
  2. No illegal/ offensive items as there is a check post before entering the state
  3. No outside alcohol
  4. No weapons and drugs

Our Overall Experience

Dambuk the nestled town in Arunachal Pradesh is a sheer natural beauty. The Dibang river flowing nearby with mountains in the backdrop makes it a musical land. The place and festival is a perfect mix of everything traditional and modern; to music, speed and thrill, yet maintaining the distinct rustiness of the state.

Dambuk Orange Festival

So, if you are done with the common places and looking for unique adventure head over to the Orange Festival Dambuk. You can check more pictures of Dambuk on our social channels Instagram and Facebook or use hashatg #allgudthings

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnETo_ElstL/?taken-by=suruchimittal

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnJcV4Kl8N7/

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.