Guide to Gurudongmar Lake & Chopta Valley

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Heard of Gurudongmar Lake?? I bet you have. If you have been to any of the high altitude lakes in The Himalayas like Pangong Tso, Chandratal, Tso Moriri, you know the beauty of such landscapes. For others, you have to take my word for it. No amount of description or photos would do justice.

It is “Simply Magical”.

Gurudongmar is one of such lakes at an altitude of 17800 ft in Sikkim.

The first time I laid my eyes on Gurudongmar, I was mesmerized at the various shades of water, snow-capped cliffs forming a natural barrier around creating a surreal beauty. A monk takes care of a small monastery next to the lake. I envy him because he is privy to this paradise on earth. However I do not envy the cold he has to bear, which are worsened by the constant winds.

How to Reach – Gurudongmar Lake

There is no public transport to the lake and hiring a taxi is the best option. On the day you visit the lake, try leaving early around 3 am – 4 am, have only tea/light snacks and proceed to Thangu. You can breakfast at Thangu around 6 am – 7 am and proceed towards Gurudongmor in order to be back in Lachen for lunch.

Villages nearby Gurudongmar are Thangu (30 km) and Lachen (65 km). Lachen is about 6 hours from Gangtok (approx. 130 km). Please check this article on how to reach Gangtok and other important info.

Reaching Gurudongmar Lake requires a long and at times back-bending travel. The roads leading to the lake were virtually non-existent until a few years ago. However, now there are smooth roads once you cross Giaogang check-post at an altitude of 15000 ft.

Your Inner Line Permit will be checked at Giaogong Army checkpost. You need to cross the checkpoint between 7:30 am and 10:30 am in the morning. You also need to exit by 12:30 pm as the weather turns unpredictable here. The small Army shelter provides everyone with free piping hot tea/coffee which is much needed in that cold. There is a small souvenir section run by the Army selling coffee mugs, holy water from the lake etc. Please support our army by buying from there! You have restrooms too in the premises for public use. 

Smooth roads leading to Gurudongmor Lake
Roads towards Gurudongmar Lake

By Road

  • Gangtok – Mangan – Lachen. Overnight at Lachen
  • Lachen – Thangu – Gurudongmar Lake – Thangu – Lachen – Gangtok

The journey from Thangu to Gurudongmar will refuse to fade away from your memory. A vastness which seemingly spreads across the horizon, alpine pasture lands where Yaks and blue sheeps lazily graze around, local folks churning Yak’s milk into Cheese in their homes, the absence of (or little) human influence will make you want to live there permanently leading a simple life like that of nomads. Other than fellow tourists and occasional army vehicles, this lake is still one of the least populated areas.

Gurudongmar Lake is at a high altitude, please take all necessary precautions. You could be likely hit by AMS if you over-exert yourself. It is generally advised to reach early before noon and not stay longer durations at the lake itself. You must know about the principles of acclimatization and its importance.

Moraines enroute Gurudongmar
Moraines enroute Gurudongmar

Chopta Valley

On your return journey from Gurudongmar, take a turn to reach Chopta valley. There are numerous Chopta valleys in Himalayas and this one is above Thangu village at an altitude of 13000 ft. A mud-track road runs parallel to the valley and you can travel for a few kilometres to see it stretching far.

Vistas at Chopta Valley
Vistas at Chopta Valley

Vegetation is different due to high altitude and a stark difference is visibl. There are meandering criss-crossing all over the valley. You will feel a wilderness and a sense of elements seeking you. Rhododendrons are scattered everywhere, birds are calling and the valley is a hotspot during birding season. Park your car and go down the mud track to spend a few hours on your way back from Gurudongmar. Take a stroll along the river or simply sit on the rocky beds and enjoy the view.

Chopta Valley
Chopta Valley

Best Season to Travel

The best time to visit Gurudongmar/Chopta is during October – November when there are clear skies and the lake isn’t too cold to visit. Though temperatures drop drastically in December, it gives you a chance to see snow-covered Chopta Valley and frozen lake. During Spring flowers would be blooming in the valley.

Permits

Since Gurudongmar Lake is close to an international border, foreign nationals cannot visit the lake. Foreigners can go until Chopta Valley. However, Indians can visit the lake after getting the Inner Line Permit. Any of the travel agencies in the Government approved list can help you get the permits.

Gurudongmar Lake
Gurudongmar Lake

Accommodation

You need to keep Lachen or Thangu as your base while visiting Gurudongmar/Chopta. Lachen is mostly preferred due to better facilities available. 

Lachen

  • Delight Royal at Lachen has a wonderful view of snow-clad mountains right from its doorsteps. Rooms are spacious enough but basic considering the remoteness of the village. 
  • Hotel Blue Pine is a budget range hotel in Lachen. Expect basic rooms and good views from the hotel. They can be reached at +91 8348903404 or +91 7585919875

Thangu

There are limited options available in Thangu. Most of them are very basic, not very comfortable and may not be suitable for kids or elderly. Thangu village at an altitude of 14000 ft has an average temperature of 5 to 10 degrees even during summer months. Please take necessary precaution if you plan to stay at Thangu especially during winters as it experiences heavy snowfall

  • Tshetenla Lodge, Thangu. They can be reached at +91 9434867312
  • Kunga Restaurant, Dragon Lodge & Restaurant are sort of rustic homestays in Thangu. 
Thangu Village in early winters
Thangu Village in early winters

Conclusion

We bring back wonderful memories from mostly every vacation. We need to live for moments that can’t be put into words easily. A trip to Gurudongmar Lake and Chopta Valley will remain as a vivid and unforgettable memory in your mind and hope this article helps you!

You can club this trip as part of your larger North Sikkim tour. Have you been to Gurudongmar earlier? How was your experience? Or you are planning to go there? Do leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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About Author

I am Lakshmi, a software professional living in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. I spend most of my holidays, long weekends on trips (Himalayan, wildlife safaris, birding, architecture etc.) and remaining of the days planning these trips! I am interested in photography (Landscapes, wildlife). I caught the Himalayan bug early on and fell in love with the mountains. The mountain keeps calling me every now and then; and we end up meeting as often as office leaves permit. On other days, I am either immersed in a book or would be watching movies.

2 Comments

  1. Comments section gets closed in 90 days. You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there !!

  2. Hi Lakshmi, Did you travel alone? Do you think its safe for a single female traveler to use a personal taxi to get from Gangtok to Lachen to Gurudongmar? I will be traveling next week, and I am not sure if getting a personal taxi is safe since the distances are long and maybe not all that populated.

    • Hi Surabhi,
      I did not travel alone. Did you try posting your travel plan in DoW Travel Partners Calendar? (https://devilonwheels.com/dow-travel-partners-calendar/) Try to see if you get like-minded people travelling around the same time.

      Yes the routes are long and less populated, but from my personal experience I have not seen drivers or hotel owners behave badly to tourists. It usually is the other way around. Not to discourage you, but have you traveled solo before?

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