Changu Lake

Why To Go

Located at a height of around 12400 ft. from the sea level, Changu Lake or Tsomgo Lake offers a panoramic sight of amazing scenery that few other places can parallel. The glacial ice melts into crystal clear water, forming the body of Lake Tsongmo, or Changu Lake. The lake is located 38 km from Gangtok in the state of Sikkim, in India, cradled by the Himalayan Mountain Range. Just few kilometres away from the India-China border, the lake is near one of the well-known passes in the Himalaya, Nathula Pass. ‘The source of the lake’ as the name ‘Tsomogo’ in Bhutia means, is indeed the source of unique natural beauty. Nestled amidst the green alpine forest, the serene beauty of the Changu Lake would leave you in awe.

Within some minutes of drive taking off, Gangtok is left behind and the mature beauty of a wet temperature forest takes over. Slopes laden with oaks, pines and ash begin. The wind gets colder. You get a stop at the tiny settlement of Kyongnosla for tea, a picture-postcard alpine village beside the Rongchu stream, where unprepared travellers can buy glove and woollen socks. Then mountains near the tree line start losing their greenery. Glacial frozen streams define solid, shining white trajectories down the mountains. The fog shines silver. Greenery gives way to red or brown thorny shrubs. Then, they all give way to snow.

It is the habitat of different species of birds and wildlife like Red Panda.

Travel Tips

The best time to visit Changu Lake is during the months between March and June, and from October to November, before the winter creeps in. Winter is extremely cold here and the road gets frozen completely. Also, you will need to obtain permits beforehand as the place is located in a sensitive area. The lake gets frozen in winters and it is the time when tourists can best enjoy a Yak safari on snow.

Things To Do

The main attraction of the place is of course the lake itself. Depending on what time of year it is, you may find the lake sporting a frozen top, or reflecting the surrounding mountains in its crystal clear water. The lake is also famous for its changing colour. It is aqua marine in monsoon, while in winter the icy covering has a translucent effect; and as the summer comes, the lake turns into vibrant colours because of the colourful blossoms that are bounded along the periphery of the lake. In fact, in earlier days, Buddhist monks used to read the changing colour of the lake to predict the future. You can also take a ride on one of the many colourfully decorated yaks. If you do not want to ride a yak, you have the choice of taking a ride atop a mule, which is equally colourfully decorated. And if all this riding makes you hungry, do not worry, the place has a number of food stalls which sell the local delicacies like momo, thukpa or phagshapa. The food also forms part of the to-do list while making a trip to Lake Tsongmo. There is also a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva where you can pay a visit to. Considered as a holy lake by the Sikkimese, it is itself is very beautiful, the landscape is equally so. There are many flowering trees which when in full bloom transform the entire landscape. Some of the trees that you can see here are primulas, rhododendrons, iris, and blue and yellow poppies. The lake is also a known place where the Brahmini ducks reside. Several other species of migratory ducks come here to stop on their way to warmer locations. If you are lucky, you can spot a red panda, an animal which is now endangered.

Getting Around

There are not too many buses that ply near Lake Changu. You will need to take long walks around the place to get from one place to another. There are shared taxis which operate within a fixed area. You can also rent cycles from some of the locals in Gangtok and use these to explore the locality. If you need to go somewhere a bit far away, you can arrange for a private car or cab in advance. A ride on beautifully decorated yak or mule is a must.

How To Reach

FLIGHT

The nearest airport is at Bagdogra in Siliguri. From the airport, the distance to Changu is around 160 km and takes around 6 hours. You can cover the remaining portion of the journey by taking a shared taxi or bus. Cars for rent are also available.

TRAIN

The nearest rail station to Changu is located at New Jalpaiguri. The station there is connected to the major stations in West Bengal, and via that to the rest of the country. The distance between Changu Lake and New Jalpaiguri is around 156 km and it takes around 6 hours to reach Changu lake from the station.

ROAD

Changu is well connected to Siliguri and Gangtok. Buses leave for Changu from both these places. You will also get shared taxis and private cars. You may also do a break journey by giving a halt at Gangtok and then reach Changu Lake. The distance is app. 40 km.

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Surrounding Attractions

There are a number of places that you can go to after you have been to Changu. Ranka Monastery is quite nearby and attracts a lot of tourists. You can also go to Saramsa Garden. The place is noted for its beautiful flowers and colourful butterflies. Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary is another place to go. You may also make a trip to Rumtek Monastery, which is less than 60 km. Nathula Pass is just 16 km and you should not miss it. Less than 3 hours away lies the city of Gangtok in all its grandness. Further two and a half hours from Gangtok you will find the famous Baba Mandir, a temple dedicated to a brave soldier. This has turned into a major crowd puller in the area.
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