Perched between the mountains at a dizzying height of 12400 ft above sea level, the Tsomgo Lake is one of the few high-altitude lakes in India situated on the Gangtok-Nathula highway. This lake is a part of every tourist's itinerary and for a good reason- its overwhelming scenic beauty. Enveloped by steep snow-capped mountains and resting between a bright green carpet of alpine forests, the charming beauty of Tsongmo Lake is bound to leave you in awe. The lake's mesmerising scenic allure combined with its legendary significance to the locals definitely makes it a must visit attraction of Sikkim.
Tsongmo Lake is a glacial lake that derives its water from the melting snows of the mountains around it. This glacial lake is famous for its colour changing waters. Monsoons see a bright aquamarine lake whereas, in the winters, the lake freezes into a translucent cover of ice. As the summer approaches in mid-May, the periphery of this lake is dotted with a thousand blossoming flowers that lend the waters a riot of vibrant colours.
In the Bhutia language, Tso means lake and Mgo mean head and essentially means 'Source of the water', holding immense religious and cultural significance to the Bhutia people. Considered as a sacred lake by the Sikkimese, Tsomgo Lake is associated with many myths and legends. They say the Buddhist monks used to analyse the colour of the lake to forecast the future!
The Tsomgo Lake's spectacular scenic beauty has charmed tourists from far and wide and keeps them yearning for more, especially during the winters and summers. As the spring sets in, rhododendrons, primulas, irises and multi coloured poppies create a colourful and vivacious outline along the borders of this oval shaped glacier lake. There are many exotic and medicinal plants too that bloom here in the summer. A view of the Tsomgo Lake during this time of the year is sure to make you fall in love with nature's enthralling and wondrous creations.
During the winters, the entire lake freezes into a giant tray of ice. The lustrous surface of this lake shines as the frost glistens under the soft sunshine. Witnessing this giant lake frozen solid at the base of the majestic snow-covered mountains is indeed a breathtaking feast for the eyes. Standing at the Tsomgo Lake, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Many rare migratory birds have made this beautiful lake their seasonal home, including the Brahmini duck. Hundreds of Brahimini ducks flock over here when the west gets unbearably cold and cosy up in these gentle waters.
Other than staring into the magnanimous beauty of the Tsomgo lake and losing yourself in its hypnotic charm, there are quite a few things that draw the attention of the tourists. One can trek along the sides of the lake in the deep snow or enjoy a ride along the periphery of the lake on colourfully decorated yaks and mules. About 200 meters away is a small market that sells yak cheese, trinkets and local curios to the tourists. Few stalls also rent out jackets, boots and gloves to help you when it gets extremely cold. There are small kiosks here that sell tea, coffee and local cuisine snacks. The hot Tibetan noodle soup is sure to revitalise and refresh you from within and will help you combat the biting cold in the winters.
New Baba Mandir is a very popular temple along the coasts of the glorious lake and is dedicated to the late and well renowned Baba Harbhajan Singh, a loyal soldier of the Indian Army. It is believed that the water kept in this shrine develops medicinal properties and can cure any longstanding diseases and ailments.
There is also a small Shiva temple that has been constructed along the banks. About ten kms from the Tsongmo lake lies the famous Kyongnosia Alpine Sanctuary. This sanctuary is home to many exotic animals like the endangered Red Panda, the Himalayan Black Bear and incredibly beautiful birds like the Blood Pheasants.
Tsomgo Lake is shrouded in myths and legends. It is said that in ancient times, the Buddhist monks were able to predict the future just by observing the lake's colour- a darker tinge of the water indicated a darker or more troublesome future. The faith-healers of Sikkim, popularly known as Jhakhris visit this lake during Guru Purnima and Raksha Bandhan to offer prayers and derive benefits from the healing qualities of the waters of the pristine lake.
The Tsomgo lake is located in a restricted area and requires all visitors to obtain permits that allow them to enter the otherwise restricted area. Foreign nationals are required to obtain special permits. These permits cannot be obtained online, and you will need to go through officially certified travel agents and tour operators who will get the permit for you. There is no fee or cost associated with obtaining these permits, other than the agent's fee, and you will be required to submit an ID proof and two passport size photographs. Permits take a day or two to arrive.
Between April and May, the lake is covered in a breathtaking blanket of rhododendrons and orchids. The weather is pleasant and ranges between a low of -1 degrees Celsius and 18 degrees Celsius. From October to December, the skies are clear and offer a vivid and unobstructed view of the surroundings. Temperature ranges between 5 degrees Celsius and 26 degrees Celsius. From January to March, the entire lake is frozen, and the temperature goes as low as -20 degrees Celsius.
Tsomgo Lake is situated in Gangtok, which does not have its own railhead. The closest railhead is the Siliguri Railway Station in New Jalpaiguri at a distance of 148 kms. You can take a taxi to Gangtok or take a bus from Siliguri Bus Station which is right next to the railway station. It takes about 5-6 hours to get to Gangtok from here.
There are special cars available for hire that go to the Tsongmo Lake with skilled drivers trained to drive at such high altitudes. Reserving such a 7-seater vehicle will cost you INR 4000 for one round-trip. You can choose to share the vehicle and pay INR 450 per head.
It is important to note that the air at such altitudes is very thin that makes breathing difficult for infants, senior citizens and people with any heart or breathing problems.
1. Make sure to wear/carry boots when travelling to the lake as it tends to be very slippery. Plastic boots are also available for rent near the lake for approximately INR 50. Also, carry an extra pair of socks.
2. Try to visit the lake during the early hours of the morning as there are some slide-prone areas on the way and you don't want to be stuck there during the late evening.
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A must visit. The serenity of the place can revive your inner self and give you immense joy. You can thoroughly enjoy with your loved ones, amidst the thick blanket of snow and the misty winds. The lake view exudes piousness. A true epitome of nature's glory.
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