Gurudongmar was on my bucket-list since 2011 when I planned with my friends for North Sikkim travel for the first time. Unfortunately, due to a devastating earthquake in Sikkim in the same year, we had to cancel our trip. Nevertheless, visiting Lake Gurudongmar was my destiny. I finally made it after 5 long years. 🙂
Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, at approx. 17,800 feet above the sea level, the holy lake is about 3.5-hour drive from Lachen, a small village where tourist can halt for the night.
We started early, at 4 am. It was a terribly bumpy ride on the rough mountain roads till the army check post after Thangu, which was our only halt during this hectic journey.
The road gets better from here, offering a smooth ride, which is a rarity in North Sikkim. 😛 😀
As we were nearing the lake the landscapes changed drastically without any trace of trees and plants. It looked more like a desert with dune-like formations visible at the horizon. Exalted and overwhelmed, one of our group members commented that the landscapes reminded him of Ladakh. 🙂
Whatever it might look like, the mountain desert looked outlandish and fascinating to me. I was spellbound with the sights of such exotic landscapes.
We saw herds of yaks grazing on the fields, totally indifferent about the tourist vehicles that were running past them.
Finally, we reached our destination, Lake Gurudongmar, at 7:30 am. That’s how the holy lake looked like in the morning light – still, calm, and unspoiled.
The first few moments were speechless in silent admiration to such divine beauty.
There is a temple on the bank. I didn’t find time to enter as I was too busy in absorbing the beauty of nature all around.
And of course, posing for the camera with the lake on the backdrop. 😉
However, amid this clean and clear environment, the taxis/rental cars were the direct agent of air pollution. These rental cars are so poorly maintained in Sikkim. I wonder why the local administration is so indifferent about them while it is so strict about keeping Gangtok clean.
In addition, there are the “litterbugs” who never forget to throw off their disposable belongings anytime, anywhere. If you zoom into the picture (below) you’ll see the discarded water bottles. Is it not the responsibility of the visitors, too, to keep the environment clean?
Our Tour Plan
We were lucky to have the weather in our favor during our tour from May 7 to 12, 2016. Our North Sikkim tour included 2-night 3-day Lachung-Lachen package. We stayed at Hotel Meylong in Gangtok and booked the Lachung-Lachen tour package through our hotel. You can check out my review of Hotel Meylong on TripAdvisor for more information.
Our North Sikkim tour plan was like this –
Day 1: NJP (New Jalpaiguri) to Gangtok (We reached NJP from Kolkata at around 9am by Padatik Express)
Day 7: Start for NJP after lunch and reach there by 7:30 pm and board the train to Kolkata
Some Important Info
Please note that if you are an Indian citizen, you should carry your Voter ID card/PAN card/driving license as photo identity proof along with 4-5 photocopies of the same document and an equal number of passport size photographs for Lachung-Lachen tour. You may need to submit these documents to get the travel permit. However, you cannot rent cars on your own and arrange the tour directly. You have to go via a local tour operator or your hotel’s travel desk. They will arrange everything for you.
Finally, don’t forget to pack an umbrella if you are visiting in the May-June season. You may need it anytime. 🙂
If I start talking (read ‘writing’) about Paro I won’t be able to include everything in one post. Paro is so beautiful and that beauty has so many facets to it that it is impossible for me to sum it up here. So it’s better to share the picturesque beauty in picture instead of words. 🙂
Finally the day came. We had to leave Thimphu for Paro. Our journey to Paro started at 10:30 am (IST) and we reached there at 12:30 pm (IST).
Paro, a fertile valley on the banks of the river Paro, surrounded by the sublime Himalayan Mountains, beckons travelers with its greenery, scenic beauty, and ample scope to explore the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.
I had heard a lot about this spectacular valley, which is dotted with monasteries, sacred edifices and landmarks,
and a small but lively township, which we were to explore next.
The river Paro meanders through the vale dividing it in two halves.
Although there were occasional rain clouds hovering over the valley, the weather in Paro was warmer during the day than that was in Thimphu. But the nights were pleasant in summer months (May-June).
Initially, it was mountains on both sides of the road.
As we entered Paro District the roads turned wider. The glimpses of the river running in parallel with the road made the journey even more exciting and visually appealing.
Finally we reached the point where we could meet Paro, the river. This is the place where you can touch, feel, and walk into the cool waters and enjoy a cable car ride across the river. 🙂
After an exciting rendezvous with Paro Chhu (‘chhu’ is river in vernacular) we were back on the road again, heading towards our hotel. We drove past the small cottages,
lush green paddy fields,
and the small but spectacular Paro Airport.
It seemed Paro greeted us with waving white flags on the roadside
and the rustling branches of peaches blooming with white flowers, everywhere. 🙂
Our car finally stopped at the gate of the hotel Mandala Resort Garden, a hotel with excellent views, I must say.
Whichever side your room is, you are entitled to get a clear view of the valley from the room as long as you are in Mandala Resort Garden. However, it is located in the hills outside the town of Paro, within 10 minutes’ drive from Paro Market.
I’ll soon share the story of my sightseeing in Paro. But before that, enjoy some more colorful panorama of this beautiful valley through my lens. 🙂
Hope you enjoyed Paro tour with me. 🙂 Stay tuned for more.
P.S: This is Part V of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay Series. You can also check out the first four posts of this series for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.
After a long dark rainy night it was a sunny morning in Choukori, a scenic hill station In Uttarakhand, India. As the thin veil of morning mist dissolved in the sunlight the range of snow white Himalayan Peaks were visible at a distance. The sublime view of the majestic mountain instilled a sense of hope, calm and serenity in me.
I always have a penchant for hill stations. The Himalayan Mountains with their magnificent snow-capped peaks and green pastures, standing tall in silence always attract me. So… when I got the proposal for a trip to Nainital I readily accepted it. The magical charm of lakes was bonus with the beauty of mountains. And now, when I am writing this post I feel happy about the decision I made in haste.
Nainital, the City of Lakes at the heart of Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. The scenic landscapes dotted with emerald-green lakes surrounded by mountains and pleasant weather almost year-round attracts tourists from all across the country.
Nainital district, also popularly called as the ‘Lake District of India’, consists of several naturally created freshwater lakes and mountains. Tal means ‘lake’ in local language. They say there were more than 50 such lakes most of which now have disappeared. The effect of human civilization!
Sometimes the thought of ‘how fast we are losing our forests and natural resources’ dreads me.
Where to Stay
We stayed in Hotel Shalimar, a budget hotel with a strategic location ensuring quick access to the town’s mall as well as spacious rooms overlooking the Naini Lake. The boat pier was visible right from the hotel’s veranda.
But if you are looking for a luxurious accommodation there is Grand Hotel on the Mall Road to offer you magnificent view along with high-quality service. . However, these are examples only. Hotels are aplenty in Nainital.
We reached the hotel at around 1 pm and took a much-needed shower and had lunch. After that we set out to explore the town.
Things to do
In my opinion there are five must-dos in Nainital District which are –
You will find two types of boats in Nainital for recreational purposes – paddleboats and rowing boats. The view of white swan-shaped paddleboats lining up the wharf at Naini Lake was simply inviting.
However, we finally went for a rowing boat since it can accommodate up to four people at a time excluding the boatman. Charge is Rs 210 per boat for a 30-minute ride. As we were enjoying the ride on the pristine water I looked at the promenade along the lake. It was lined with maple trees. There yellowing leaves were looking fiery in golden streaks of afternoon sun.
On my asking the boatman said that the depth of the lake in 128 feet which, I thought, is formidable! Fishing is allowed but you need special permission from the concerned authority. As we returned to the dock a wonderful sight caught my attention. A gaggle of geese gathered along the bank where some tourists were standing and throwing foods at them. It seemed like the ducks were asking – Hey! What do you have for us? 🙂
From my experience I think this is the first and foremost thing to do when you are in Nainital town. The ropeway or the cable car takes you to the Snow-View Point situated at a height 2270 meter from where you’ll not only get a panoramic view of Naini Lake but also a breathtaking view of the snow-capped peaks far away. One ride (to and from) costs Rs 150 per head for adults and Rs 100 for kids.
The board on the counter says the timing to buy tickets is from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. But when we reached there by 4 p.m. the counter was already closed. The ropeway is operated by the government. As we inquired we were told that there is a quota for daily tickets. As soon as the quota for the day is full the authority closes the booking counter. Unfortunately, that was the thing happened with us. We had to return disappointed because we did not have the time to go back the next day.
Sightseeing in Nainital mainly includes visits to Bhimtal, Sattal, Naukuchia Tal, Nainital Zoo, Waterfall, Sunset point and Khurpatal.
Bhimtal is situated at a lower altitude than Naini Lake. The aqua blue water beckons onlooker to have a boat ride or at least spend some time by the waterfront. Fish lovers may like to see the aquarium situated in the middle of the lake. Although the tickets for boating and aquarium are separate you have to collect them together from the waterfront office in case you wish to find out what’s in store at the aquarium.
It was a bright sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed boating under the sun. The smell of fresh water brought by the cool breeze rejuvenated my soul. It was the serenity of the place that I liked the most.
Sattal is a combination of three lakes joined together naturally. Apart from boating facility there is one more attraction. It offers a 15-minute trek to the church on top of the hill on the other side of the lake.
I enjoyed trekking along the narrow, steep walking trail with giant pines and other coniferous trees creating a canopy over my head. The trail ends in front of a Church. I sat down in front of the closed door of the church and tried to feel the silence and sanctity of the place amidst the constant chirping of crickets.
The lake Naukuchia tal is comparatively smaller than the previous two and to me the most beautiful one. The place was much quieter than the other two spots…probably because of lack of crowd. The boat wharf here is built with floating buoys. I stood at the end of the ramp facing the lake and felt like I was floating away – it was amazing! 🙂
On our way back we halted at the temple of Hanuman ji – Hanumangarhi Temple. The huge statue of the ape god standing like the guardian of the hills inspires awe and admiration.
Your Nainital sightseeing is not complete if you don’t visit the Waterfall; take a bird’s eye view of Khurpatal and watch the sunset from the sunset point there. We rented a small car for Rs 500 that will take us to the waterfall and return to the mall from where we started. The waterfall is about 15-20 minutes drive from the town center. It was nice sitting by the waterfall under the towering pines and listen to the sound of rippling stream.
On our way back we were to see Khurpatal and sunset point.
The sun was nearing the horizon. So, we left the waterfall behind and arrived at the Sunset Point, which awaited us with a grand surprise. I peeped down the cliff to discover the scenery that swept me off my feet! The sun was about to hide behind the mountain and I could capture only the following image in poor light. 😦
“It’s almost impossible to watch a sunset and not DREAM” – I read this quote somewhere. When we were watching the sunset at Khurpatal these lines occurred to my mind … so true!
Nainital Zoo, official name Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant Zoo, is one of India’s few high-altitude zoos. Here you will get a hint of Kumaon’s rich flora and fauna. Be prepared for a face-to-face meeting with some of Himalaya’s rare animal species such as snow leopard and black bear. In addition, there is leopard, Siberian tiger, wolf and wide variety of birds.
This one is for adventure lovers. If you have a strong heart and feel the urge to fly like a bird go for paragliding at Bhimtal. The cost for a single trip is Rs 1500 per person. I thought I need some more time to gather the courage to take up the flight. However, here is a glimpse of the Bhimtal paragliding site for your perusal … 😉
Even if you are travelling on a budget, shopping is UNAVOIDABLE.
To me, shopping is a part of travelling, especially in a place like Nainital where you’ll find so many things worth buying. The mall road is lined with stores offering woolens, candles, woodcrafts and ornaments. There were trendy woolen caps, scarves, stoles, ponchos, cardigans and jackets for kids, women and men. Price for women’s caps range from Rs 100 to 500 depending on the knit quality and design of the items.
However, I could not resist buying a few sets of woolen cap and neck-scarf for my sister and me.
Well… how do you like my new accessories?
The Mall Road leads to the main chowk (‘market’ in vernacular term), flanked by a Gurdwara and Nayna Devi Temple at one side and a Mosque and a Church on the other. The chowk is the recreational center of Nainital town. There were Tibetan and Cashmere stores as well in the main market.
Nainital is also famous for candles. You’ll find a variety of candles at the stores. In fact, candle making is an art here. Diwali was round the corner and I bought some colorful pieces of candles as a souvenir to take back home.
Eating in Nainital
After shopping we had some snacks (Aloo Tikki) and a cup of hot chocolate from a street-side eatery. There is no dearth of food outlets in Nainital – from full-service multi-cuisine restaurants to small street-side food stalls there is something for every budget. You’ll get a list of eateries in Nainital here. If you want to relish a cup of coffee in the afternoon while enjoying the view of Naini Lake Café Coffee Day on the Mall Road would be the right place for you.
Just like every good thing has an end, our Nainital exploration came to an end and we left for Kausani the next morning. But deep inside my heart I felt an urge to coming back in the city of lakes someday.