Navigating the road to Tsomgo Lake, Sikkim's high-altitude treasure
Tsomgo Lake, also known as Tsongmo Lake or Changu Lake, is a glacial lake situated at an impressive elevation of 3,753m (12,313ft) above the sea level. Nestled in East Sikkim, this lake stands as one of India's most renowned glacial lakes, captivating visitors with its seasonal color changes and deep-rooted cultural significance.
Journey to the Lake: Road 310
The road leading to Tsomgo Lake begins in Gangtok, Sikkim's capital. Known by various names, including Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Gangtok-Nathula Highway, Road 310 spans 37 km (23 miles). The ascent is staggering; the road climbs a whopping 7,500 ft within 35 km, presenting travelers with breathtaking views and numerous hairpin bends. Starting from Gangtok at 5,410 ft, the road soars to about 7,000 ft within just 15 km, showcasing a steep gradient. As of 2017, the road has been improved, though conditions can still be challenging due to weather effects.
Experience and Caution on the Route
Traveling this road offers magnificent mountain views, which might be disconcerting for those susceptible to vertigo. The journey also features several picturesque waterfalls. Due to the road's sharp curves and significant altitude gain, travelers are advised to eat lightly to avoid discomfort from altitude-induced nausea.
Tsomgo Lake's Significance and Beauty
This serene lake, whose name means "source of water" in the Bhutia language, is deeply revered by the Sikkimese. Reflecting different colors with each changing season, Tsomgo offers a mesmerizing spectacle, especially during winter when it remains frozen.
Visiting Regulations and Permits
Given its location in Sikkim's restricted areas, certain regulations apply to visitors. All Indian tourists need to obtain permits to visit the lake. For foreign nationals, special permits are mandatory. Foreign visitors must be in groups of two or more and should apply for a visitor’s permit through a registered travel agency. The road to Nathu La, nearby, runs along the lake's northern side, enhancing the scenic journey.
Pic: debasish borgohain