Tsomgo/changu lake from gangtok in January: permit & photos

Tsomgo lake also known as the Changu lake is one of the most sacred and revered lakes in Sikkim. It lies on the way to Nathula Pass from Gangtok situated at the altitude of around 12,000 feet. Here are more details about this lake.

About Tsomgo/Changu lake in Sikkim

Tsomgo lake permit

Sikkim is under restricted area regime due to its proximity to neighboring countries like China. And therefore all foreign nationals require Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit any part of Sikkim including Gangtok. This permit is also popularly known as the Inner Line Permit (ILP). Indians, however, do not require this.

Certain areas like Tsomgo Lake, Nathula, Yumthang Valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Dzongri etc are defined as Protected Areas and have special army deployment. Both foreigners and Indians require a separate permit known as a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit such places. But few protected border areas like Nathula and Gurudongmar Lake are not accessible to foreign nationals at all.

Changu Lake Weather

In January, Feb and until May, the temperature generally remains below zero. However, with April, the temperature starts rising but remains mostly below 8-10 degree. In May, the average temperature is around 14-15 degree Celsius. It costs around 600-700 per person in a shared vehicle like Sumo or Maxx.  and exclusive ones might charge around 4000-6000 depending upon the vehicle.

Changu Lake Ropeway

There is also a ropeway facility at the Changu lake which you can enjoy to get the panoramic view of the wilderness of the Himalayas.

Changu Lake Ropeway Cable car operation time: 8:00 am to 3: 00 pm
Tickets are available at Tsongo Lake. Contact numbers: 99323-71775/ 94744-42184

My Changu Lake Travelogue

Have you ever felt the frigid temperature of January at 12000 feet? Have you ever wondered that when you are at higher altitude it really becomes tough to climb steps and hearing ability seems to get reduced? Have you walked over a frozen lake and seen the partly frozen lake? Have you ever seen brown winter grasses and white snow lying over them under green trees?

Gangtok City in morning

Destination: Gangtok from Majitar

It was 3rd of January, having barely got out of Christmas and new year fever. When I heard the trip to Nathu la pass was next on the list, I jumped and chuckled at my superfluous luck. Wow! What a surprise was it! Very next day, our journey began from Gangtok, capital of Sikkim. It was almost 8 in the morning. we were 25 in numbers, fully clad in winter wears like a barbie doll fully respecting the rules of Iran and covered in full.

we got engorged inside two vehicles, fully packed leaving no space in between and also none of us wanted to. The vehicle moved on towards Nathula pass. It was a beautiful, sunny but a cold day with bits of foggy clouds hovering above us (we were gonna meet the clouds soon. No! We were going to cross them and go at higher altitude too).

At times when we were leaving Gangtok behind, we were not the only people who were going to visit the Indo China Border, there was a caravan of vehicles moving silently on the mountainous road. Roads are maintained By BRO(Border Road Organization), but were not in a good motor-able condition more over they were a single road but It was more exciting to see vehicles following each other.

Gangtok left behind

Something to learn: Don’t stuff your belly too much. Eventually, you might feel vomiting temptations while climbing circuitous roads at higher altitudes. And people don’t like to open window to invite freezing air inside.

3rd mile Police check post:

After crossing third mile police check post, we stepped into the great Himalayan wilderness. The brown grasses, green pine trees, untouched snows sparkling in the sun light, were presenting a vivid aura of the taste we had expected to taste.

On the way to Nathu laSnow lying along the way to Nathu la pass

This part of the Himalayan ranges are deep forested over miles and miles of areas.  Hardly any civilization could be seen at these altitudes. These areas are more inhabited by the army than civilians. The azure sky; vehicles sometimes disappearing into the clouds; smoke coming out of the vehicle disappearing into the clouds too like meeting their old families; Only sound coming, comes from the engine and only heat too. When looked behind, the road appeared to be clanged with the mountains like the life line over the hills.

Roads on the way to Nathu la passRoads to Nathu la pass, Indo China Border clanged like threads with hills

As we moved further, the terrain grew more rocky, the ascending gradient grew steeper and the depth of the valley on the other side were getting deeper. At times, there were no roads for a long stretch and vehicles were  waddling through mud and dirty water of clouds and molten snow. We were so much excited to see the snow all along the way that sometimes we were set into the auto-mode and screams came along when it was really surprising. After driving for almost one and a half hour, we stopped at Kyongnosla waterfall.

Next destination Kyongnosla Waterfall:

–At almost 10,400 feet
–crystal clear water but not allowed to be touched
–foggy weather around

When we stopped at Kyongnosla waterfall, it was unimaginable to see a waterfall in the liquid state running down the mountains at such altitude in the month of January in more over in winter. My experiences say some places even at the altitudes of 7000 feet receive heavy snowfall in the month of January.  The water were really really cold but clear as crystal. I can’t say the depth of the pool but I was able to see the bottom of the water pool made by the fall very clearly.

Kyongnosla waterfall at 10400 feetKyongnosla waterfall at 10400 feet

At one side of the Jawaharlal Nehru highway to Nathu la pass, was the astonishing water fall and at the other, was a huge and deep valley. The weather was such foggy that we could not even see at the other side of the road. It was completely white and fuming (I can’t say It was dark). It seemed as though some one was sitting far deep in the valley and was fuming white soft clouds like cotton for us. Clouds were rising along the valley slowly.

Sometimes breaking apart and taking different shapes and touching us like a queen.  We used to get some times drenched in the white mass coming to engulf us and were standing nowhere in total white peaches. If you ask me, then I had say that we really tasted the clouds and yes! I sipped them through my mouth, they were enough cold to make my teeth colder.

Partly Frozen sacred Changu Lake also calles Tsongmo LakePartly Frozen sacred Changu Lake also calles Tsongmo Lake

Destination: Changu lake:

–A glacial lake at a distance of almost 40 kms from Gangtok.
–In Bhutia language, it name means “Source of the lake” and it is also considered sacred.
–Its at an altitude of 12400 feet, oval in shape and one kilometer long.

Something to learn: If the lake is partially frozen, don’t try walking over the thin frozen ice. you cant imagine, how cold the water would be inside to freeze you numb.

Tsomgo also called Changu lake oval in shape, dripping water over cloudsOval shaped Tsomgo (Changu) lake meeting horizon and the clouds

It was a heavenly feeling, an oval empty box perfectly filled with blue tranquil color with vibrant dark blue shades painted over it. A still and serene lake, never saw before, engulfing a story with in. There are few shops and stalls around it.

A few things you should try at these shops: Yak-cheese, light-weight shawls, A hand fan made up of fur, tea and Maggie (Don’t miss them ever) and I am sure you would enjoy it.

shop at Changu lakeA Shop at Changu lake also called Tsomgo Lake

Yak at Changu (Tsomgo) Lake                  Taking a Yak-ride at Changu (Tsomgo) Lake could also be fun

A waterfall, frozen,still and hanged in winter near Nathu la passA waterfall, frozen, still and hanged in winter near Nathu la pass

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About trekkerp

Author of The Girl from the Woods and a Travel writer from India looking forward to collect quirky tales from around the world

8 Replies to “Tsomgo/changu lake from gangtok in January: permit & photos”

  1. Akash

    How to get the permit in advance? Can you explain the normal process to get it after arrival also?

    • trekkerp Post author

      I had gone there long ago but I think the permit is available at the Gangtok taxi stand itself or you can ask the taxi drivers, they can arrange.

  2. Pratap Singh Rana

    I have never seen any place in my life before this beautiful and dreaming Tsomgo or Changu lake of Sikkim

    • trekkerp Post author

      Yes, Its really a safe path and full of military cantonment area all along the way.. so no need to worry … go with free mind and enjoy fullest 🙂


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