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. :
    (91)-(3592)-202315
    (91)-(3592)-202323
  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

Hi bro Me along with my 4

Hi bro

Me along with my 4 friends are going to North Sikkim tour during 2nd week of May 2016, after a gap of 2 years. We had already covered Gurudongmar and Yumthang valley.

Can you provide some info about some other places where we should go to be close to nature and far from rush. Dont mind visting the gurudonmar lake.

Would we find snow during 2nd week of May?

Would we find flowers in Yumthang valley?

Thanks

Chances to see snow are high

Chances to see snow are high around Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang valley in second week of May. I am not sure if its flowering season in Yumthang. Autumn and Spring are generally very coloful in the valley. Unfortunately North Sikkim is not entirely open for tourists. Most of the places are out of bound for tourists so you can not go beyond places you already visited.

Hi Abhisek, I came across

Hi Abhisek,

I came across this page while searching our North Sikkim tour.

I have few questions.

# Is Gurudongmer Lake must-visit place?

# Is the following itiniary good for 6 days North Sikkim Tour?

 

Day1 Mumbai to Gangtok

  Day2  Gangtok

Start for excursion to Tshangu Lake Further 10 kms from Tshangu Lake on lays the legendary Baba Mandir. Tshangu Lake: situated at a height of 12400Ft / 3780 Mts / 43Kms in 3Hrs one way, with an average depth of 50 ft. The cool water of the Lake is perfectly attuned with the scenic beauty around. NEW Baba Mandir: at an altitude of over 13,000 feet. It was built in memory of a soldier in the 23rd Punjab Regiment, who drowned in a stream near the spot. Legend says he later appeared in a dream to one of his colleagues where he requested that a temple be built in his memory. Return back to hotel in the evening. Overnight at hotel Day3  Gangtok - Lachung(125 kilometres/ 7 hours) Check out of the hotel at Gangtok and proceed to Lachung. On the way visit Tashi view point, Kabi Longtsok, Seven sister’s water fall Singhik view point.  Arrive in the evening at Lachung. Check into the hotel. Overnight at the hotel Day4  Lachung - Yumthang - Lachung (25 kms/1 hour 30 minutes way ) Gangtok (125 km/6 hrs ) Proceed for a half day excursion to Yumthang Valley. On the way visit the Hot Spring and Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary. Hotel transfer to Gangtok. On the way, see Bhim Nala water fall & Twin water fall. Arrive in the evening at Gangtok and check into the hotel. Overnight at the hotel. Day5  Gangtok - Darjeeling (125 kilometres/5 hours) Proceed for half day sightseeing to Droul Chorthen, Research Institute of Tibetology, Directorate of Handicraft & Handloom (Closed on Sunday), Flower Show. Afternoon transfer to Darjeeling (7380 Ft / 2250 Mts, 125 Kms / 05 Hours) Upon arrival at Darjeeling, check into your hotel. Day6  Darjeeling Early morning (approx. 4.30 AM), you will visit Tiger Hill before the break of dawn, to see the sun rise over Mount Everest, the highest mountain peak in the world (subject to clear weather). On your way back stop at the Ghoom Monastery, the holiest monastery in Darjeeling and Batasia Loop.  You will be driven Japanese Temple, Peace pagoda, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute & Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoogical Park(Closed on Thursday) Later visit the Tibetan refugee help centre. Visit to Happy Valley Tea estate Evening return to your hotel or walk around the streets of the colonial city Darjeeling. Overnight at the hotel. Day7  Darjeeling - Bagdogra (90 kilometres/3 hours and 30 minutes) - Bagdogra - Depart

Yes, Gurudongmar is indeed a

Yes, Gurudongmar is indeed a must visit attraction of Sikkim. Itinerary looks doable to me.

+- Vishnu

Hi Vishnu I and some of

Hi Vishnu

I and some of friends want to visit Sikkim in the month of october,please suggest by visiting where we can get snow.

pls reply.

Chances to see snow are very

Chances to see snow are very less in October. You can try your luck in North Sikkim. specifically around Gurudongmar lake and zero point.

+- Vishnu

Hi Vishnu,   Great

Hi Vishnu,

 

Great article!

 

I am planning to visit Sikkim during 20-26 March. It'd be great if you could answer a few queries I have pertaining to his.

 

1. Can these 2 lakes be visited during this period?

2. What about Nathu La pass, Pelling and Zero point? Would these roads be open during this time?

3. Is the RAP needed if we decide to trek to Cholamu Lake from Zadong? Also, is this a day-trek?

 

TIA. Cheers.

Cholamu is out of bound but

Cholamu is out of bound but tourists but Gurudongmar can be visited in March this year as there is not much snow.

Yes, Nathula, Zero point and Pelling would also be accessible.

Permits are not issued for Cholamu any longer.

+- Vishnu

Could you please recommend

Could you please recommend homestays, campsites or budget hotels in Lachung, Yumthang, Lachen & Thangu/Chopta Valley?

Please contact travel agent,

Please contact travel agent, he will easily arrange accommodation at Thangu Valley, Lachung, Yumthang, Lachen & Chopta Valley.

Thanks bruceleon.

Thanks bruceleon.

I dropped you an email,

I dropped you an email, please check and revert back. its about travel agents

I dropped you an email,

I dropped you an email, please check and revert back. its about travel agents

Hi Sudip, I wish i can but i

Hi Sudip,

I wish i can but i had visited it long back when there were very limited accommodation options. I am sure now there are many homestays available.

+- Vishnu

Hey Vishnu Let me first thank

Hey Vishnu

Let me first thank you for replying to everyone's query very patiently. I really appreciate it.

I along with my family (including parents who are above 60) is planning to visit Sikkim in mid/end May and have decided to visit Namchi, pelling and Gangtok. I am really fascinated to visit Lachen and Gurudongmar lake. I have few queries in this regard.

1. How advisable will be it to travel to Gurudongmar lake along with elderly people and kids (1 year to 5 years)?

2. What is the average temperature during mid/end May?

3. Do we need any permit for Lachen or Gurudongmar lake?

4. Do we need to trek for Gurudongmar lake? If yes, how long and how harsh is the trek?

5. Any other information I need to know.

Thanks in advance.

I think kids below 4 would

I think kids below 4 would not be allowed to Gurudongmar but there is no problem visiting with elder people. Be mindful that Gurudongmar is really high altitude and people get hit by AMS. if your parents are having any health issue then there is no point.

May is hot month. can not comment on temperature.

Yes, you will need permit and can be procured very easily in Gangtok.

There is no trek for Gurudongmar lake. Vehicles go till the lake bed.

Enjoy the captivating landscape.

+- Vishnu

Hi, Trekking can be done from

Hi,

Trekking can be done from yumsdong via Donkiala pass tp gurudongmer and till cholamu(ofcourse currently not allowed)

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 .

Regards

Anurag

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?

Regards

Joy

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

Hi,

 

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

 

Thanks

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

 

Avijit

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: bhijeavijit@gmail.com

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

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

Sir,

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?

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