You need to risk a dangerous road for this ethereal vision. Game?

One of India’s highest glacial lakes…

From your tiny window on the plane, peer out far in the distance; till your vision hits that wall of white…the mighty Himalayas clad in snow…across the entire horizon as far as you can see. Somewhere in this 2400 km long ‘Abode of Snow’ is the Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak…try spotting it. 

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Courtesy: Wikipedia

Siliguri city is a missable airport stop, but once you start the ascent into the Eastern Himalayan range towards Gangtok, try peeling your eyes off the landscape. The tree cover gets taller and thicker along the gently winding uphill road that affords unceasing views of peaks and valleys. River Teesta transforms from a gentle, gurgling stream to a wide, foamy river as she freely leaps over rocks and boulders on the way. Vivid wildflowers, 200-feet tall bamboos, huge ferns and palms, drooping cypresses, tree trunks adorned with soft moss…its a green paradise. Open the window of your car, let the cool breeze mess up your hair and try not to blink…you don’t want to miss even a second of the three-hour journey. 

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Arriving at Gangtok (meaning flat hill), you realize how aptly it has been named. Any other urbanised town, with modern amenities, restaurants and cafes, sans the traditional prettiness of a hill station. For now, head straight for your hotel…lovelier sights await.

Next day, after basking in the glory of a spectacular 5 am sunrise and a leisurely breakfast in the lap of nature, depart for a day trip to Tsamgo Lake, one of the highest glacial lakes in India. Located 12500 ft above sea level, its just 35 kilometers away, yet it takes over three hours of expert driving. The greenery of the flora adding freshness to the quiet majesty of the mountains. Tiny cars in the distance on the narrow road ahead, emerging from the thick foliage, then disappearing around the bend. Makeshift steps leading to a modest roadside temple, where multi-colored Buddhist prayer flags flutter. Army barracks, bunkers and military posts with green tin roofs that blend in with the environs. Peaky mountain silhouettes all around…so lofty, that you’re overcome by a deep sense of humility. 

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Narrower roads and steeper bends now. Zigzagging roads up hairpin bends, dizzying and steepest possible cliff edges. Buckle up! And have faith in the skills of your driver. Focus on the spellbinding sights instead, as the car climbs feet after feet. Feel the chill in the air and get dreamy-eyed as the floating clouds block your vision of the dark rocky mountains. At one stretch for a few kilometres, the road takes on a treacherous complexion. It is barely 10 feet wide here, with the open end uneven and rocky, mud and slush from the rains make you clutch your door handle. You’re hoping no car is coming from the opposite direction. A trail of loose boulders…reminders of a few recent landslides. Road repairs on the way, rescue bulldozers of the Border Road Organization, a stranded car or two. And then, first glimpses of snow!

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Finally, the last bad stretch is behind you, you can breathe again. You’ve arrived! Tsamgo Lake, pristine and still, blue as blue can be. Limpid and translucent, almost ripple-free. Surrounded entirely by snow-clad mountains standing silent and splendid since centuries, their reflection mirrored in the lake below. Untouched and pure, silent and royal, beckoning and inaccessible. Don’t walk up to it just yet. Just stand there and pinch yourself. It really is real! 

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Frolic in the snow, take an awkward walk, make fat snowmen, throw snowballs. If you lose your balance and fall, take advantage of it…lie there for a few minutes on the cold carpet that spreads out for miles and miles. Pure and dazzling white. Hear the sound of your own heartbeat, because there is not even a chirping of birds to break the peace. Just a lazybones yak, who refuses to budge or blink. Contemplate the serene beauty of the environs. Freeze the memories to survive your return to city life.

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92 thoughts on “You need to risk a dangerous road for this ethereal vision. Game?

  1. Well! Well! Well! What a beautiful sight after all the hours and treacherous routes. Hopefully things go as per plan and early next year around spring we are able to stick to our plan for Sikkim & Gangtok 🙂 Lovely descriptive captures

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Mindblowing pictures of Tsamgo Lake. I have been up to Siliguri and I get what you are talking about when you speak of the gorgeous views during the drive. Gangtok is high on my list and wish to check this off soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That sight is worth the effort I will say. I was in Kurseong in the month of Feb, but time was so less I couldn’t think of any extra sight seeing. Adding Tsamgo Lake to my long list of dream destinations.
    (you must add the name of this lake in your title and link, otherwise this will not come up in google search… just a suggestion. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, Tsamgo Lake is stunning! Sounds and looks like a pretty crazy road trip which will keep you on the edge of your seat, but well worth it for the final destination! Would love to make this journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the photos of blue Tsamgo Lake surrounded with snowy Himalayas peaks! I have never heard before of Tsamgo Lake. It is gorgeous. And the photo of the reflection in the lake looks surreal!

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  6. This really does seem like a wonderful break from city life. That lake looks truly pristine. I would love to go there and see the mountains and feel the wind through my hair.

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  7. I never would have thought of India for an experience like this! Thank you so much for sharing! India is still on my bucket list and this would be area would be quite the contrast to the other areas of India I’d like to experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been on some similar roads before, narrow, one car only width etc and in a 6 tonne motorhome which presents its own challenges. The addition of potential mud and slush would make it just that little more interesting. Great views, loved the lake and getting up at 5am for a sunrise would be something I would do. All looks amazing.

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  9. So, I assume you didn’t just stumble upon this lake, eh? I like sites that make you work, that ask if you really truly yes want to get there. I guess you earned that view. I feel guilty looking at the photo without doing any work myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That sight! I had seen Changu Lake when it was not surrounded by snow and I could still make out the place! Can never Sikkim, a place where I think my travel love actually began. Your post reminded me so much of my trip. BTW drive till Changu is super easy and chill compared to Gurudongmar – that was like the the riskiest drive ever!

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    1. North East is just so special. I’ve heard of Gurudongmar and seen stunning pictures of it…don’t know much about the drive, though. All the most stunning places in India are hidden and difficult to unapproach…untouched in every way.

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  11. Wow! I had never even thought of doing this but now I just have to go! Your photos are incredible and are really are truly breathtaking! It looks like it was definitely worth all of the hard work getting there!

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  12. Sikkim is one my most favourite places. When I was at Tsamgo lake, the lake was completely frozen. I had my first snowfall experience from there. Your post reminded me of the days I was in Sikkim. Amazing pictures.

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  13. Tsamgo Lake looks surreal and no lesser than a paradise! All your breathtaking pictures speak for itself how beautiful Sikkim is! During my college days, my batchmates went on a trip to East India. I was sick and couldn’t make it that time. I wish to visit Sikkim someday in my life. Thanks for this beautiful post Punita!

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  14. This is probably the 3rd blogpost I’m reading about Gangtok this week! With the summer peaking everywhere I guess so many are setting off to the Himalayan region! I haven’t seen the Kanchenjunga yet! Hope to go soon. ‘That’ road sounds incredibly scary! Will I take it? Most definitely!!!

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  15. I’m looking for culture shock. I think trekking here I’d finally get it. It looks calm and serence. I would definitely have to pinch myself being there! Nice job on all the reflective images. They’re not always as easy as they look!

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  16. This looks like it was a great experience. The driving on the 10 ft wide road part would be gut wrenching. I would not do well on that part. Probably best that I close my eyes on that part. The photos are great. Thank you for sharing.

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  17. What a beautiful colour that lake is. Some stunning photos that tempt me to travel there tomorrow. Thanks for the share.

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