One of the highest lakes in the world, located at an altitude of 17,800ft on an extension of the Tibetan Plateau, this lake holds great religious significance for the Buddhists of Sikkim. The lake remains frozen during the winter and foreign tourists require a special permit to visit it. Located a mere five kilometres away from the Tibetan border, the magnificent lake stands under the shadow of the sacred peak of Khangchen Gyao. Fed by glaciers and snow-melt from the plateau, it is renowned for its stark ruggedness and unparalleled beauty. The lake region also has an abundance of high-altitude wildlife such as yaks and blue sheep. The best time to visit is between March and June. Gurdongmar Lake is a 4–5 hour drive from Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Botanical Garden near Gangtok is a paradise for those with a bug for flora. With its different species of rare flowers, plants and trees, ‘pretty’ would be an understatement for this park. A perfect destination for travellers looking for Sikkim’s endemic trees and plants like orchids, the garden also attracts tourists from around the country for its picturesque layout and its proximity to the Rumtek Monastery. The garden houses numerous species of orchids and over 50 different species of trees including a number of oaks. Foreigners need a permit to enter, which can be taken from Siliguri. The Botanical Garden is located 24km from Gangtok and you can hire a taxi for a day-trip that also includes a visit to the Rumtek Monastery.
LACHUNG & YUMTHANG
While travelling around North Sikkim, stopping for a few days at Yumthang and Lachung is an absolute no-brainer. Lachung is an exquisite little riverside town often described as the ‘most picturesque village in Sikkim’, while the Yumthang Valley is renowned for its stunning variety of wildflowers, located on meadows beyond the treeline. Picturesque valleys, waterfalls, rivers, authentic little villages and a breathtaking view of the snowcapped Himalaya make Yumthang and Lachung unique destinations in Sikkim, perfect for travellers looking for a short getaway from civilisation. Bagdogra airport in West Bengal is about 128km away from Lachung while the nearest major railway station is New Jalpaiguri, about 127km away.