Cholamu Lake - India's Highest Lake

Cholamu Lake: Source of Teesta River
                                                                    Cholamu Lake: Source of Teesta River

Himalayan range is abode of many of world’s high altitude lakes, many of these high altitude glacial lakes fall in India. World’s 14th highest lake and India’s highest lake is Cholamu lake.A mighty  elevation of 18000 feet from the sea level takes Cholamu lake to the top of the “highest lakes” list . While coming down the slope around 300 feet from Donkiala pass ( 18300 feet ) , one gets the first glimpses of this rather moderately sized , almost frozen lake.

cholamu lake , north sikkim , india's highest lake

at Thangu before Cholamu lake , almost frozen

 Donkiala pass is the north most Sikkim route which leads to Tibet border, which is just 5 kms from Donkiala pass.  This special geographical location of Cholamu lake makes it special and also makes it a very sensitive army area with Chinese army always putting pressure on international borders.

cholamu lake highest lake in india north sikkim

Cholamu Lake , India's Highest lake (18000 feet) (Image Courtesy : Rajesh Verma)

cholamu lake north sikkim india , very near to china border

Cholamu lake and Gurudongmar lake are connected by road (9 KM)

Cholamu lake being just 5 – 6 kms  away  from the Tibet border , is nearly off limits for commonplace tourists . One needs special permits, from Army and Sikkim police/administration to visit Cholamu lake. A normal tourist permit will only be issued to visit Cholamu Lake only when one has Army’s permit in place. Normally foreign nationals are not allowed to visit north most areas of Sikkim (this is unlike ladakh where both foreign nationals and Indians are allowed to visit tso Moriri Lake which shares its borders with China). Only Indians can get these special permits to visit two of the highest lakes in India that falls in this region, Cholamu Lake and Gurudongmar Lake.

gurudongmar lake , india's second highest lake , very near to Cholamu lake

Gurudongmar lake ,India’s second higest lake (world’s 15th highest ) at height of 17100 feet

(just 9 km away from Cholamu lake)

 Getting permit for  Cholamu lake :

If you are on a family trip with your beloved wife and kids, forget visiting Cholamu Lake , better opt for Gurudongmar lake ,if weather permits, for which one can get permit rather easily . Almost no travel agency will risk their vehicle and driver in this treacherous terrain, that is why if you ask them to arrange a permit for Cholamu lake , they will simply deny going there or at worse they will suggest you it is impossible to get the permit .

Cholamu lake: Highest lake of India

                                                                                      Cholamu lake: Highest lake of India

You must do following to acquire the required Restricted Area Permit (RAP)

  1. First thing first get your own vehicle enlightened , you need to submit details of your vehicle to get the permit.
  2. Visit The Department of Home, Government of Sikkim.This is located at Tashiling Secretariat, Gangtok
  3. Tel Nos. :
  4. At the secretariat submit your vehicle details your identity proof  and your residence proof  along with your passport sized photographs  (keep sufficient copies of each ,may be 10 or so  )
  5. Home department will issue letters addressing to (1)Inspector General Police, Gangtok (2) GSO-1, Black Cat Division, Indian Army, Deorali (3) the district collector of Mangan 4. sub-divisional officer of Chungthang (4) One copy for you. Collect all the letters yourself and submit them to respective departments to expedite the process.
  6. make sufficient copies of the above letters issues by home department for your journey.

 Foreign nationals can also get the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) but process is different for them. Contact your respective embassies before embarking on your journey to this area.

Cholamu lake Sikkim

Reaching Cholamu lake

Best time to visit Cholamu lake is October and November, one can expect clear sky during this season of the year. Visiting Cholamu lake just after the monsoons is not a good idea if you are planning to visit this lake on your bike. By that time most of the roads would be washed away with rains, and Border road organization (BRO) must be busy patching up the road as fast as they can during this time period.

The journey starts from Gangtok , state capital of Sikkim , one can reach Gangtok from NJP or Siligudi ,these are the nearest railway station . Nearest airport is Bagdogra (Siligudi). 

Gangtok (4,715 ft)  ------ 66 KM ---> Mangan  (3950 ft) -----34 KM ----> Chungthang  (5600 feet)

Till chungthang  the route is same for both,if you are planning to trek up to the lake or ride your thunderbird to Cholamu lake.

IF you are on your vehicle then head towards Lachen

Chungthang  (5600 feet)  ----- 22KM  ---> Lachen  (9,800 ft) ----- 30KM - ---->  Thangu   (13000ft) ----- 40 KM  --> Cholamu lake  (18000 feet)

 If you are trekking with your team then head towards Lachung

Chungthang ---- 25 KM-- > Lachung  (9,600 ft) ----25 KM -- -> Yumthang Valley (11,800 ft)  ---- 32 KM  -->Zero Point (zadong) / Yumesamdong  (16000 ft) (trek starts from this point) ------- ---> Donkaiala pass - --- -> Cholamu lake ( 18000 feet )

Zadong to Cholamu Lake Trek Route North Sikkim Gurudongmar Lake

Zadong - Cholamu trek route

Cholamu lake

 Facts about Cholamu lake

  1. Cholamu lake is India’s highest lake and world’s 14th Highest lake.
  2. Cholamu lake is very near to Gurudongmar lake (45 Mins drive).
  3. Maximum depth of the lake is around 5.5 meters or  18.3 feet .
  4. Many people  believe that  Cholamu lake is the source of river Teesta , which is not entirely true,actually river Teesta originates from a smaller glacial lake Khangchung  (some 100 – 200 feet farther from Cholamu lake ) .
  5. British botanists and explorersof the 19th century Joseph Dalton Hooker mentions cholamu lake in his “Himalayan Journals” about his 7th November 1849 survey of Lachen Valley

"Beyond this I recognised a hill of which I had taken bearings from Donkia pass, and a few miles further, on rounding a great spur of Kinchinjunga, I arrived in sight of Cholamoo lakes, with the Donkia mountain rearing its stupendous precipices of rock and ice on the east. My pony was knocked up, and I felt very giddy from the exertion and elevation; I had broken his bridle, and so led him on by my plaid for the last few miles to the banks of the lake; and there, with the pleasant sound of the waters rippling at my feet, I yielded for a few moments to those emotions of gratified ambition which, being unalloyed by selfish considerations for the future; become springs of happiness during the remainder of one’s life. The landscape about Cholamoo lakes was simple in its elements, stern and solemn; and though my solitary situation rendered it doubly impressive to me, I doubt whether the world contains any scene with more sublime associations than this calm sheet of water, 17,000 feet above the sea, with the shadows of mountains 22,000 to 24,000 feet high, sleeping on its bosom. "

Frozen Cholamu lake

      6.  Cholamu Lake should not be confused with Oracle Lake ( Lhamo la-tso) (17,388 ft) , Lhamo latso is situated in Tibet near Lhasa.

Image Courtesy: Regina Joseph

Hey, I'm going to visit

Hey, I'm going to visit north-sikkim at the end of March 2016 (more precisely 23-28 th March). Can you tell whether Gurudongmar Lake will be accessible that time or not? 

Chances are very bleak to

Chances are very bleak to reach Gurudongmar lake in March. You can visit Lachen, Lachung and Yumthang though.

+- Vishnu

Hi Vishnu , Best article that

Hi Vishnu ,
Best article that I have read till date on North Sikkim travel.
Please help me with your expert advice as I am planning a trip to Sikkim in May 1st week . We are 2 couples &  the itinerary is as follows.
Day 1. Arrive at Bagdogra & then leave for Darjeeling.
Day 2. Full day sightseeing at Darjeeling .
Day 3. Leave from Darjeeling to Gangtok.Evening at Gangtok.
Day 4. Full day sight seeing in Gangtok .
Day 5 ~Day 7 – North Sikkim including Lanchen , Lanchung , Gurudongmor , Yumthang valley etc .
Day 8. Back to Gangtok
Day 9. Back to bagdogra

Should i include pelling also ?
Should i choose pelling over darjeeling ?
Should I modify my itinerary ?
Will i find snow on any of the above places ?
Will I have to take prior permissions to visit any of the places ?

Thanks in advance .



Hi Anurag, While looking at

Hi Anurag,

While looking at your itinerary i do not see any space where you can add pelling. Darjeeling has its own charm so i would not recommend to skip Darjeeling over Pelling. May is not the best time to see snow but you can find it near Gurudongmar lake, Yumthang and Nathula pass.  Yes, ILP would be needed and you can obtain it from Gangtok.

+- Vishnu

Dear Vishnu, Can we get

Dear Vishnu,

Can we get cholamu lake (RAP) in the middle of April'16?



Cholamu is out of bound for

Cholamu is out of bound for tourists. permits are no longer issued.

+- Vishnu

Vishnu, you are doing awesome

Vishnu, you are doing awesome job. Keep it up.

We (me + wife + 13 yr old kid) are planning to visit Sikkim in April/May 2016 by our own car Renault Duster (non-AWD), we will be driving from Mumbai.

You said outside vehicles are not allowed in north Sikkim? I was very keen on driving to these places on my own with family.

Can you please confirm? I will want to drive my car as far as possible and if absolutely required will go for tourist vehicle.

I am confused about permits and all as well. We are Indian citizen, kid is US citizen.

Yes. Only Sikkim registration

Yes. Only Sikkim registration vehicles are allowed for Nathula pass and North Sikkim. With respect to permit, you and your kid would not have any problem if you are an Indian citizen but you will have to hire a local vehicle for the tour.

+- Vishnu

Hi Vishnu, Could you please

Hi Vishnu,

Could you please suggest that is it possible to go to Gurudongmar and zero point around mid january i.e 14/01/2016 and 15/01/2016?

No... Gurudongmar will become

No... Gurudongmar will become accessible in April mid.

+- Vishnu

Hi,   I am planning a trip



I am planning a trip between 2nd Jan 2016 to 10th Jan 2016, will below places be accesible and what are the chances of these being accesible.

Please guide


Yumthang Valley and Zero Point and Gurudongmar Lake



you can reach Yumthang and

you can reach Yumthang and Zero point but Gurudongmar lake would remain inaccessible.

+- Vishnu

Hi Vishnu,   Thank you for

Hi Vishnu,


Thank you for providing invaluable info throughout.

I am reaching siliguri by Dec 18th evening around 7 PM. 

My plan is to reach lachen the same night (is it possible?) and visit thange, gurudongmar lake, zero point the next day (not sure if it is possible in one day).

And to take bus from gangtok the day after to phuentsholing at the earliest as im planning to visit Bhutan as well.

To summarize, after reaching siliguri on dec 18th (7 PM) i want to visit the places around lanchen, going to bhutan from gangtok and get back to Siliguri on 24th Dec to catch my train. (6 nights and 5 days)


Please let me know the below details.

1. Permissions to get and procedures. (around Lachen and entering sikkim).

2. Travelling charge in bus and hird-taxi (not shared) to reach lanchen and day-trip.

3. Bus and booking details from gangtk to bhutan (phuentsholing).

4. is it possible to stay in monastry in lachen?

Im sorry if too much is asked. As Im visiting with my girlfriend, I just want to have all possible info.

If you prefer any hotels and travels, please send the details as well.


Thank you so much. Hooping to get your reply soon


If you are reaching Siliguri

If you are reaching Siliguri in evening then it is not possible to reach Lachen on the same day. i do not think you will get a taxi guy ready to drive to Lachen in night. Even reaching Gangtok will be difficult.

6 nights/5 days are very less to visit Sikkim and Bhutan. Even 6 days are not sufficient for a comprehensive trip to Sikkim...

Permits are issued from Gangotk. you can get it on the same day.

I do not know the current quotation of package.

I have no clue about staying in Monastery in Lachen. nevertheless there are plenty of accommodation options.

+- Vishnu

Nice Comment for Cholamu LAke

Nice Comment for Cholamu LAke and I have made planned to visit  with my family, so suggest me what the good time? 

Cholamu lake is out of bound

Cholamu lake is out of bound for tourists now.

Hi Vishnu,   We have palnned

Hi Vishnu,


We have palnned a trek to Cholamu LAke on 21st Oct. Please help me with information on how to get permit for the same. The numbes shared in the blog seemed to be wrong numbers.


Thanks in advance

Hi Pooja, Yes. number might

Hi Pooja,

Yes. number might not be working any longer. Cholamu lake is officially out of bound for tourists now. There is no way to get permit.

+- Vishnu

Bad luck! Can you suggest

Bad luck!

Can you suggest some 1 day treks that can be done from lachen or lachung duing the month of Oct

I am not sure if there is any

I am not sure if there is any 1 day trek but there is a lot which you can in and around lachen/lachung for a day.

I wish to visit cholamu

I wish to visit cholamu lake, gurudangmar lake with lachen , lachung in December-24 to 31st December. If it is possible to go their that time . Please late me know. I keen to go.


Cholamu would not be possible

Cholamu would not be possible however you can make it Gurudongmar lake if there is not much snow on the road.

  Dear Mr. Vishnu, I am glad


Dear Mr. Vishnu,

I am glad to see your support to all mountain lovers. If possible please provide some feed back or link on details of 'The Lake route trek'. I dont find any details in the net.

Thanks & regards



Green Lake ?? i also never

Green Lake ?? i also never hear Lake Route trek. There is one popular lake trek in Kashmir which is called "Great lakes trek".

  Hi Vishnu,   Here is the


Hi Vishnu,


Here is the route details. Pls share some input if possible. We have plan for this in mid Nov' 2015 .

Day 1: Uttarey to Chiwabhanzyang Day 2: Chiwabhanzyang to Dhoor Day 3: Dhoor to Meguthang Day 4: Meguthang to Lampokhari Day 5: Explore  numerous lakes in & around Danpheybhir. Halt at Lampokhari. Day 6: Lampokhari to Gomathang via Kagbhir & Omachang. Day 7: Gomathang to Yangsep Day 8: Yangsep to Pangdin Day 9: Pangdin to Dzongri via Bikhabari Day 10: Dzongri to Thangsing Day 11: Thangsing to Lamuney or Samitti Day 12: Samitti to Goechala. Back to Lamuney. Day 13: Lamuney to Thangsing. Day 14: Thangsing to Dzongri Day 15: Dzongri to Tshoka Day 16: Tshoka to Yuksom. Trek ends....... Regards A v i j i t email:

unfortunately i do not have

unfortunately i do not have any clue about this trail. it seems north-west sikkim.

Hi Vishnu, Good to see the

Hi Vishnu,

Good to see the information shared by.

we are also planning to Gurudongmar this '15 W1 on bike.

kindly guide me the total days need to get the pass and fro the total trip from Gangtok to Gantok.

Also please share the names of the offices on the route where passes n permits need to be taken for visiting Gurusongmar by bike.


Gangtok-Gurudongmar-Gangtok can be in done in 2 days and 1 night but personally recommend 3 days and 2 nights. Also included Yumthang in your itinerary.

Permits can be procured from Gangtok but i do not think outside sikkim vehicles are allowed in North Sikkim.

+- Vishnu

Sir, We are 23 perople to


We are 23 perople to visit sikkim and north sikkim from 23.5.15 to 29.5.2015.  Whether zero point is accessible at that time.  What are the places to visit in yumthang valley.  Whether oxygen is needed for zero point.  Some persons with light leg problems are also coming whether it is possible to visit zero point.  What is the weather in that time of the year in lachung, yumthang and yumesomdong

Yes, Zero point will be

Yes, Zero point will be accessible. There is no need of Oxygen cylinder for visiting zero point. Yumthang is motorable so it does not require any hiking. May-end would be pleasant but you can expect sudden drop in temperature during evening.

+- Vishnu

Hi Vishnu, I would be

Hi Vishnu, I would be travelling with my family (Mother of 60 years & daughter of 15 years) Lachen from Gangtok on 22.05.2015(need a hotel at Lachen pl help) next day Gurudongmar and other places and night stay at Lachung(Hotel need your help) next day to visit Mt. Katau, Zero Point & Yamthung(in a day 3 places possible!) and night stay at Mangan (need hotel help) as I have to catch next day night train from NJP. I have booked a INNOVA from NJP, is it good for that road condition!

Please help. Regards, S. K. Paul

I do not think that you can

I do not think that you can visit Katau. Army is no longer granting permissions for visiting Katau. Yes, Innova is ok for this trip. will send you more details over the email.

+- Vishnu

Hi Vishnu, We are 4 friends

Hi Vishnu, We are 4 friends want to visit gurudongmer lake at the end of April 2015. Could you please tell me is that time is right to visit gurudongmer properly or not. We also want to spent a night beside river teesta in a camp. What would be the preferable places for this purpose?

Gurudongmar lake should be

Gurudongmar lake should be accessible by end of April. There should not be any problem reaching there. About Camps besides river Teesta, there are few camps before Gangtok.

HI Vishnu, I came across this

HI Vishnu,

I came across this page while searching for my trip to create itinerary for lachung and lachen ,and must visit places there. it has ots of information and thanks to you and other colleagues who are posting queries.

I am planning trip in wk4 ,march or wk1 april. Do we get to see and feel snow at this time on gurudongmar or zero point.

I am travelling with my wife and kids ( 10 and 8 years)

I would like to know should 3day 2nights would be enough to cover lichen and lachung or it needs 4d2n.

Secondly ,at most of hotel I am talking every one offering combo package only and not just rooms , so is that a rule of land in that area. Pls can u help me out with some good hotels in that area ?

My itenary is as below

date       from                              to                                  night

3-Apr     bagdogra                         ganagtok                         gangtok

4-Apr     gangtok                          local site seeing                gangtok

5-Apr     gangtok                          nathula pass                    gangtok

6-Apr     gangtok                          lachen- Tashi View Point, Mangan, Singhik View Point, Sevensister Falls, Bhimnala Falls & Chungthang            lachen

7-Apr     lachen                            thangu ,chopta valley ,gurudongar  ,lachung    lachung

8-Apr     lachung                           yumthang , Yumeysamdong –Zero point , Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary ,lachung lachung

9-Apr     lachung                           darjeeling                                    darjeeling

10-Apr    darjeeling            l                       ocal site seeing                 darjeeling

11-Apr    darjeeling                                    kalimpong +local site seeing            kalimpong

12-Apr    kalimpong                       bagdogra


Do u think ,I am overspending days anywhere on the way. Or it can be optimized.



Nitin jain

Gurudongmar may be possible,

Gurudongmar may be possible, may not be possible. You can definitely see around Nathula pass, zero point and at Thangu.

3 days and 2 nights would be sufficient for North Sikkim tour.

Rest everything seems ok with your itinerary.

I will email you details about hotels etc.

Vishnu Kumar


Hello Vishnu,

                  We are planning to visit Gorudongmar lake in the beginning of octobar. Since we don't have any personal car that's why we already booked a private car from Gangtak for the journey. I found from your experience that, generally agency/driver will deny to visit over there by car. Could you please tell me if we can try to visit Cholamu lake from Gurudongmar by foot/trek ? I need your advice. Please reply me if possible. Thank you in advance.

Hi Abhisek, Cholamu would 

Hi Abhisek,

Cholamu would  not be possible by any mean unless you have some solid connection with Army... Gurudongmar you can easily go with any tour agent at MG road, Gangtok... Trek to Cholamu was previosly open for tourists but now it is closed...

=== Vishnu

Hello VIshnu, I am a novice

Hello VIshnu,

I am a novice trekker from Kolkata I would like to know is there any of visiting Gurudongmar lake in August will the roads be accesible.....

Yes, Gurudongmar will be very

Yes, Gurudongmar will be very much accessible in August..

hello vishnu , firstly

hello vishnu ,

firstly congrts on the splendid visits that u embark on ...

wanted to know few facts on cholamu , 

1. u said tht the letters to various ministries to be delivered personally , do all of them sit in the same building else where are their offices and when is this to be given to them .

2. in oct , is the road from gurudogmar till cholamu motorable in a 4 wheeler , if not can u highlight what are the handicaps . i have a sedan with me .




Hi Sumit,             Not to

Hi Sumit,
             Not to various ministries... you need to visit Home department office at Gangtok and submit your documents... Signed copies will be sent by department itself..

you can drive till Gurudongmar but i don't think road to Cholamu is motorable... after Gurudongmar, you will have to trek till Cholamu lake... I will personally recommend 4*4 wheel drive but Sumo sort of vehicles also make it easily..

Don't go with any vehicle with low ground clearance...

Vishnu Kumar

Hi Vishnu, Greetings and wish

Hi Vishnu,

Greetings and wish you a very very happy new year.

We are planning to visit Gorudonmar Lake as well as Cholamu lake on mid of march 2014,cld u plz let me know that is it a good time to visit there,how would be the weather at that time.



Happy new year to you as well

Happy new year to you as well Tarit... Cholamu is out of bound for tourists... very difficult to get permit for Cholamu lake...

Gurudongmar lake will also not be accessible during March.... you should postpone your trip if you want to visit Gurudongmar lake...

I m local of Gangtok -

I m local of Gangtok - Sikkim... we can organise photo tours to almost any part of Sikkim, Darjeeling, Bhutan... we ve bunch of young enthu photo and videographers workin in and around Sikkim... mostly with their cams...

Hi Vishnu, We r planning to


We r planning to visit North sikkim in April 2014. as one of us have breathing problem, we wanted to hire oxygen cylinder.can You please give some information about hiring oxygen cylinders(like in sikkim where it is available and cost of it.
Thank u.


Hi Kshama... I don't have any

Hi Kshama... I don't have any idea about hiring Oxygen Cylinders... I think it should be available in Gangtok... I have seen cyclists using it so i believe it should be there in Gangtok.... Best would be to try at some adventure tour operator....

Hi I have just come back from


I have just come back from a short trip to Sikkim. Three days in Gangtok and two in Pelling. Except for the trip to Changmu Lake, the Gangtok trip was disappointing. Pelling was awesome. I intend to go again but this time to higher spots to cover the lakes at higher altitudes.

My basic interest is photography. So I will be carrying lots of photography gear. How do I best organise a trip which goes relatively well as regards arrangements ? Who are the best (read most reliable) tour organisers? Cost is not an issue.

I am a very fit 63 but do not intend to climb although walking long distance even with my heavy gear is not an issue.

Thanks for a response

Swaranjeet Singh

Dear Sir, Glad to

Dear Sir,
Glad to hear about your interest in photography... What all lakes you are planning to visit...

Gurudongmar can be done own your own... all you need to arrange permits & vehicles from Gangtok...

Cholamu needs special permits which i am not sure authorities are still issuing the same...

Another off beat option is Green Lake which falls in Kanchenjunga National Park... Green Lake can only done by organized treks i guess...

As of now I don't have contacts details of any trek organizer in Gangtok... Will try to do research on this front....

Cholamu and Green Lake trek have got some steep patches (involves hiking)...

Vishnu Kumar

Hi Vishnu, We are going to

Hi Vishnu,

We are going to Gurundomarg lake on 29th Oct 2013. A siliguri tour operator will arrange the required permits.

We would like to know, recently if anyone you know got permit for "Cholamu Lake" so that we too can contact them directly to get our doubts cleared and apply permit in advance from bangaluru.

Deepak J Nayak

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