Road Trip: Gangtok to Lachen

I’m going to share with you my amazing trip from Gangtok to Lachen in Sikkim. Lachen is a beautiful village in the north of Sikkim, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lush green valleys. It is also the gateway to the stunning Gurudongmar Lake, one of the highest lakes in the world. If you are looking for a serene and scenic getaway from the hustle and bustle of Gangtok, then Lachen is the perfect place for you.

My son Judhajit (Babai) has completed his MBBS and internship in Gangtok, Sikkim. Jaya and I went there to get his things packed and transported. Sikkim is divided into four parts: North, South, East, and West. We managed to chip in a quick 3D2N road trip to North Sikkim during our stay and things were lined up to manage a trip. We, three of us, like to travel very well. Jaya has a problem of travel sickness on the circuitous roads of mountains. But that doesn’t daunt her from venturing on mountainous roads. She travels with her stock of medicines always in her purse.

Gangtok lies in the East and the road north culminates with the villages of Lachen (‘big pass’) and Lachung (‘small pass’) beyond which the asphalt turns into a gravel track and eventually disappears. That’s where we’re headed.


Due to the proximity of the India-Tibet border, every tourist needs to take permit beforehand and it, generally, takes a day.  The tour operators or the taxi drivers arrange for the permits and they only need copies of valid photo ID card and photographs for getting the permits. Babai had booked our trip so that we don’t lose a day.

Journey Begins…

We started my journey from Gangtok in the morning at around 9:45 am, as it takes about around 7 hours to reach Lachen by road. The drive was scenic and enjoyable, as we passed through many quaint villages, waterfalls and bridges along the way. We also got to see the majestic Teesta River, which flows along the North Sikkim Highway

The road is not in the best condition, but also not in the worst. It doesn’t really feel bumpy for most parts of the journey and the speed with which you travel gives you ample time to absorb in the beauty outside.

Sikkim is a land of exotic waterfalls. This small Himalayan state boasts of a thousand waterfalls! Most of the waterfalls of Sikkim are snow-fed and ultimately meets either Teesta or Rangeet river. Some of the waterfalls jump on the road creating a mist and the droplets make you wet.

The Dzongu area and the road between Lachung and Mangan in North Sikkim are blessed with the maximum numbers of waterfalls in Sikkim. Numerous waterfalls astride the main road make the trip to North Sikkim extremely picturesque.

North Sikkim is close to international borders with China and therefore the movement in this area is monitored by the Indian army.


The first check-post was at Kabi. The driver had several copies of the permits to be submitted and registered at each such check-posts.

Kabi is a historic site of significance where the two important tribes of Sikkim i.e. Bhutia and Lepcha signed the ‘Treaty of Blood Brotherhood’ in the 13th Century. Mt. Kangchenjunga was held as a witness to the treaty wherein the two tribes proclaimed to remain as blood brothers.

Kabi Lungchok (literal meaning: stone erected by our blood)
Life-size statues of the Lepcha and Bhutia ‘blood-brothers’ who signed the treaty has been erected at Kabi Lungchok (literal meaning: stone erected by our blood).
Seven Sisters Waterfall

After we crossed the Kabi check-post at around 11.30 a.m., we stopped at a huge, cascading waterfall, known as Seven Sisters Waterfall at Kabi Lungchok. This is a serene waterfall seen in three distinct tiers. From the road, all the waterfalls are not visible. There is a rack of steps which can be taken to view it a bit more closer. A further climb up the steps leads to another kaleidoscopic view of the waterfalls. to give the clients a better view of the 4th drop but there are more falls hidden above which is not visible from the vantage point hidden behind the rocks somewhere. The water is very transparent and shallow at few places. There is also a mini cave-like structure near the waterfall’s walkway.

To facilitate the tourist to savor the pristine beauty and to be with nature, Sikkim Tourism Department has set up a waiting shed and a cafeteria where visitors can take a refreshing break. After having tea at the waterfall cafeteria, we moved on.

Lunch at Phodong

There was another check-post at Rongong near Phodong. After crossing the Rongong post, we stopped for our lunch. It was then 1.00 p.m. We had our lunch at a restaurant named Green Valley. After a warm nice Sikkimese lunch, we moved on.

A small hiccup

The journey was going quite smooth. There was a wet patch before Mangan as it had rained last night. A truck with cement mixing machine was finding a bit difficult to move at a point and our driver thought of overtaking the truck. But the right side wheels got stuck in the mud. It’s a heavy Innova car and it couldn’t manage to pull it up despite having 4-wheel drive. Seeing us in distress, a couple of vehicles stopped by and helped us in pushing up the heavy Innova. The more we tried, the deeper it was slipping into the ditch. There was a truck standing nearby. One of the fellow vehicle drivers managed a rope and the truck pulled it up while we all pushed the car. Thanks to all these strangers and drivers who helped us in the afternoon on a mountainous road.


We moved on and passed by the largest town of north Sikkim – Mangan. This little town sits as the headquarter of the North Sikkim district, perched at an elevation of 4,000 ft. above sea level, also serving as a transit base for people travelling to other much popular tourist destinations of the region including Lachung, Lachen and Chungthang. Mangan is known as the Cardamom Capital of the world. The climate and terrain best suit the cultivation of the larger variety of Cardamom here.

Naga Waterfalls

On the way to Lachen, we also passed by many unknown waterfalls on the way. After crossing Mangan, we stopped at the Naga Waterfalls. It’s also a cascading waterfall. It was drizzling there and the wind was chilly, but still, we moved out to enjoy the beauty of the waterfalls.

It was then 4.00 p.m. and it’s raining. We had a cup of hot tea at one of the tea-stalls on the side of the road. Then we moved ahead towards Toong.


We reached Chungthang in the afternoon. Chungthang is a small town where the roads to Lachen and Lachung diverge. The town of Chungthang is present at the confluence of the rivers Lachen and Lachung Chu. There is a dam on the river here. It is also a historical place, as it is believed that Guru Padmasambhava visited here and blessed the land with rice and fruits.

There is another check-post here. After the formalities done by the driver, we moved ahead for Chungthang. We took the left road towards Lachen, which was about 26 km from Chungthang.

The 1200 MW Chungthang Hydropower plant.

The road to Lachen was narrow and winding, but also very scenic. I could see the lush green hills and forests on both sides of the road, and occasionally some yaks grazing on the meadows. The weather was pleasant, but we could feel the temperature dropping as I ascended higher.


Lachen is a lovely hill station near the Indo-Tibetan Border, on the North Sikkim Highway. It is about 129 km from the capital Gangtok. The pine-covered valleys and black cliffs of snowy-white hills of the Eastern Himalayas start from Lachen, which makes it one of the most gorgeous towns in Sikkim and is a very attractive tourist place. It is located at an elevation of 9,022 ft (2,750 m). The natural beauty and lush vegetation are worth all the praise.

Lachen means ‘big pass’ in Tibetan, and it is a small village with about 250 families living there. The people are mostly Buddhists and belong to the Lachenpa community. They are very friendly and hospitable. The village has a few hotels, shops and restaurants, but it retains its rustic charm and simplicity. Lachen is famous as the gateway to the sacred Gurudongmar lake.

Unlike other places in India, Lachen has its unique form of local self-governance called the “Dzumsa”. Every household is a member of this traditional administrative system, this institution is in charge of governing and organizing activities within the village.

Dzumsa is a traditional administrative institution of the villages of Lachen and Lachung in North Sikkim, India. It is a self-government system where a headman, known as the ‘Pipon’, is elected to chair the community where all the disputes are settled in a democratic manner. This system of self-governance was established during the first half of the 19th century in order to provide structure and cohesion for societies and their activities. The traditional system of Dzumsa is still prevalent in North Sikkim.

Lachen was made open to tourists only towards the end of 2000 and since then a handful of options to stay and essential facilities have been established. Tourists come here only to enjoy the true beauty of Mother Nature. We were booked in Hotel Holiday. It was already dark, when we reached there, although it was just 6.00 p.m., and it was raining. The owners of the hotel we stayed in were courteous and cheerful and had us all comfortably settled in within no time.

We were told that the power transformer has blown up and so there was no electricity in the town that day. The generator at the hotel would stop running after 8.30 p.m. and so we had to finish our dinner by 7.30 p.m. Babai, and I went out in the drizzle to buy a battery-powered torch and to have a look of the tiny town. We realised then that we should have carried a torch with us. 

lachen town

There wasn’t much to explore —  just more hotels and a few ration shops along the main road till half a kilometer and nothing beyond that. What was interesting to see was that all ration shops sold liquor as well (different types of rum), which we assumed was popular due to the cold climate.

Lachen Monastery

Lachen Monastery is one of the oldest in Sikkim and built in 1858. It was then a small hut like structure with only 6 monks. But later in 1977 with financial aid from Sikkim Government, it was reconstructed to its current form. The strongest faith here is the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism. The Lachen Monastery is positioned atop the village and provides you with a bird’s-eye view of the village and also of Lachen Chu and the alpine forests. 

Guru Padmasambhava introduced the people of Tibet to the practice of Tantric Buddhism. He is regarded as the founder of the Nyingma tradition. The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. “Nyingma” literally means “ancient.” The Nyingma tradition actually comprises several distinct lineages that all trace their origins to Guru Padmasambhava.

There is no proper tourist accommodation beyond Lachen. So almost all tourists visiting Gurudongmar Lake stay at Lachen overnight before proceeding to the lake the next morning. And along with the lake, a typical tour also combines a visit to Chopta Valley, a beautiful valley located in-between Lachen and Gurudongmar which gets covered with flowers in spring and with snow during winter.

We were tired after the long journey. We had our dinner at our hotel. The food was simple but tasty, and it warmed us up after a long day. We went to bed early, as we had to wake up early the next day and leave for Gurudongmar Lake latest by 6 am. Gurudongmar Lake is one of the main attractions of Lachen, and it is located at an altitude of 17,800 feet near the Indo-China border. It is one of the highest lakes in the world, and it is considered sacred by both Buddhists and Sikhs. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava blessed the lake with his touch, and Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited here during his travels.

Our trip from Gangtok to Lachen was one of the most memorable trips of my life. I got to experience some of the most beautiful places in Sikkim, meet some wonderful people and witness some amazing natural wonders. It was a trip that enriched my soul and refreshed my mind.

If you are planning to visit Sikkim, I highly recommend you include Lachen in your itinerary. You will not regret it! Thank you for reading my blog post! And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more travel stories!

33 thoughts on “Road Trip: Gangtok to Lachen

  1. Pingback: North Sikkim | Day 2: Lachen-Gurudongmar Lake-Chopta Valley-Kala Pathar-Lachung – Indrosphere

  2. estelea

    Waou you ve been there !!! One of my fav place in India, so beautiful and untouched (at least that’s how I remember it .. 8 years ago). Thanks for this stunning series, I needed a bit of fresh air here in Hanoi 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. estelea

        Lucky you 🙂 I remember back then it was so clean and so pure ! I loved Srinagar for the same reason- although Sikkim is far safer. Your country is filled with gems

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Gurudongmar Lake – Indrosphere

  4. Dear Sir,
    I read the whole series. It was very enjoyable. We plan to follow the exact route as you this year. We are planning for late October. Could u pls suggest if that’s a good timing.
    Also could u give any idea as to what the total cost might be for the exact same route and journey as yours.
    I am asking for an estimate involving fooding, lodging and car fare

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pritam. October is a good time. We booked with a tour company for an Innova with lodging and boarding included. You get options on sharing basis and that depends upon your budget and the number of people accompanying you. The all-inclusive trip cost us Rs.30K. There are many such tour operators in Gangtok. Wishing you a nice trip.


  5. As always, well-written post.
    You always write informative posts, but this post is related to that area of India, about which I have minimal knowledge, so it was more fun to read this post.
    Well written on Lachen Monastery too. I am studying Buddha Monastery these days, so I found it even more enjoyable.

    I had no idea about an administrative organization like Dzumsa, this too I got completely new information after reading your post.

    The Seven Sisters Waterfall brought back childhood memories.
    We used to remember the capitals of the Seven Sisters state by this name.

    All the images you posted are good.
    Information related to permits is very beneficial for many tourists.
    thnx 2 share

    Liked by 1 person

Please add a comment if you enjoyed this post.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s