Seven Gorgeous Lakes in North East India
The North Eastern region in India consisting of the Seven Sister states and its eighth sister state, Sikkim is a unique blend of rich history, heterogeneous culture and alluring nature. The destinations in these states are not only a storehouse of natural beauty but also a repository of India’s rich history and patriotism of the people of North East. The seven sister states consisting of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura is best known for offbeat travel and discovering hidden gems. While discerning travellers might already have an idea of what the North East region offers, many who have not traversed the roads yet have tons of surprises awaiting them.
This blog specifically lists out seven lakes in the North East region that are all different in altitude, geographical settings and of course how they appear before our eyes. When we talk of lakes in India, what comes to our minds is the city of lakes – Udaipur, where travellers experience the royal heritage of India, witness the beautiful palace set against some gorgeous lakes. Deviating away from this setting, we even think of the high altitude lakes like Pangong Tso in Ladakh. But not often do we think of lakes in the North East, probably because they do not encounter as much traffic as the other destinations do. And this, in a way is a important factor to let these places remain in their true form, hidden and untrodden.
Read ahead to know about these wonders of nature situated in the North East region along with all the details you would need to know if you plan to visit these hidden gems.
Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim
A major attraction in North Sikkim, Gurudongmar Lake is frequented with tourists of all ages. Situated at a height of 17,800 ft, it is a high altitude lake in Sikkim. Gurudongmar Lake is surrounded by snow-capped Himalayan ranges and the reflection of these peaks on the transparent water of the lake is indeed a treat to the eyes. The sight of prayer flags fluttering on one side of the lake, stones aligned on top of one another as people made a wish and the still waters add up together to make an absolutely magical sight.
Gurudongmar Lake is also considered holy by the locals. According to legends, the lake remained frozen throughout winters causing a scarcity of water. The locals prayed to Guru Padmasambhava and he touched a part of the lake which now, never freezes even during winters, making Gurudongmar Lake spiritually an important place.
How to reach Gurudongmar Lake?
- Gurudongmar Lake can only be accessed with a Protected Area Permit. Only Indian citizens are allowed to visit these remote areas in North Sikkim and foreigners are prohibited due to its close proximity with China.
- In order to visit Gurudongmar Lake, your base should be Lachen, a quaint village in North Sikkim situated about 120 kms from Gangtok. It takes between 7-8 hours to reach Lachen from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.
- You are required to stay in Lachen for a night and visit Gurudongmar Lake on the next morning, leaving as early as 4am. The connecting city is Gangtok and nearest airport is Pakyong in Sikkim.
- The best way to travel to this remote part of Sikkim is to travel with a company who organizes experiential tours. The Doi Host and Tagalong Backpackers organizes some amazing road trips to North Sikkim. Watch their space to keep yourselves updated on their trip dates.
- For solo travellers, budget travelers and people who have limited time, the 2N/3D North Sikkim Packages are a savior. While the journey might get a bit uncomfortable considering the fact that 10 people are made to share a Tata Sumo, the value for the entire package is quite good. Your travel, permits, accommodation and food for 2 nights and 3 days is covered within 2500-3000 INR. You can book these travel packages from your hotel or the tour operators lined up all around MG Marg in Gangtok.
- You can not head to Gurudongmar Lake in your own vehicle or on a rented self drive. Only registered travel companies are allowed to travel on this route.
- However, bikers can head to Gurudongmar Lake on the bikes provided they have the permits. Any bike rental service in Gangtok will be able to help you with the permits. If you are heading there by yourself, there are many homestays to choose from to spend the night.
Where to stay in Lachen?
To know more about how to plan your trip to Gurudongmar Lake, check this detailed North Sikkim Travel Guide.
Make sure you follow the travel protocols and latest SOPs issued by the state of Sikkim. They can be checked on the official Sikkim tourism website.
Kecheopalri Lake, Sikkim
This mystical lake situated in West Sikkim has a great significance in Buddhism as well as Hinduism. Kecheopalri Lake is believed to be an emanation of Goddess Tara and the shape of the lake resembles he footprint. Lord Shiva is also said to have meditated in the caves above lake which makes the lake extremely holy for Hindus.
Also known as wish fulfilling lake, Kecheopalri Lake is located about 31 kms from Pelling, the relatively touristier destination in West Sikkim. The altitude of Kecheopalri Lake is 6000 ft. Though the surrounding areas of the lake are covered in thick forests, the surface of the lake remains clear all throughout. Whenever leaves fall on the surface of the waters, the birds mysteriously come and pick the leaves up. There is a Buddhist shrine at the entrance of the lake and a wooden platform adorned with prayer flags that go right into the lake. Visitors are allowed to talk into the wooden platform.
Kecheopalri Lake can be visited on a day’s tour from Pelling. But the best way to experience the splendid beauty of the lake and the village is to put up in a homestay and gel in with the locals, go for local hikes and discover the unexplored caves. You wouldn’t regret any of it.
How to reach Kecheopalri Lake?
- Pelling is the nearest town from Kecheopalri Lake.
- Nearest airport is Pakyong and a comparatively larger connecting point is Gangtok.
- From Gangtok, you can get shared or reserved vehicles directly to Pelling. Spend a day in Pelling for sightseeing.
- Book a cab from Pelling the next day till Kecheopalri Lake. Its advisable to keep an extra day to explore this relatively unexplored destination.
- No entry permits are required for West Sikkim. Both Indians and foreigners are allowed to visit West Sikkim.
Where to stay in Pelling / Kecheopalri Village?
The latest SOPs for travelling to Sikkim can be checked on the Sikkim Tourism Website.
Chandubi Lake, Assam
Chandubi Lake is a perfect destination to head out for a picnic or a long drive from Guwahati. It is also a great location for spending a weekend or to go camping. Chandubi Lake is an eco tourism hotspot in Assam and is surrounded by thick forests, pristine tea gardens and quaint villages. In winters it becomes a paradise for bird watchers and photographers as a large number of migratory birds arrive in this natural lagoon. A quiet evening by the lake, watching the sun go down would be a sight worth remembering, if you happen to visit Chandubi Lake.
Chandubi Lake is a marvelous creation of nature. A devastating earthquake measuring a magnitude of 8.3 on Richter scale hit Assam in 1897. As a result of this earthquake, the forests disappeared and the lake emerged. Chandubi Lake has gained popularity among locals as a picnic spot and the recent developments around the lake which offers camping facilities have made it a even more happening spot among the young crowd. You can enjoy a leisurely boat ride on the lake or engage in camping activities in the jungle camps.
How to reach Chandubi Lake?
- The nearest city is Guwahati, having an airport and railway station connecting major cities in India.
- From Guwahati, Chandubi Lake is just about 65 kms. You can hire a vehicle from Guwahati for the whole day and visit the lake on a day’s tour.
- Alternatively, self drive car or bike rentals are a good and convenient option to get started with your journey.
- You can also choose to stay there for a night and return to Guwahati the next day.
Where to stay in Chandubi Lake?
Check this blog on six jaw dropping destinations in Assam to plan a complete trip to Assam.
Sela Lake, Arunachal Pradesh
Located on top of Sela Pass, Sela Lake stands between the borders of Tawang district and West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh. Set at an altitude of 13700 feet, Sela pass is one of the highest motorable passes in India and serves as the only connection between Tawang and the rest of the country. It is said that there are about 101 lakes in Sela Pass, out of which Sela Lake is the most popular one.
Sela Lake remains snow clad throughout the year except for the few summer months. All year long, a thin icy sheet can be spotted over it. Clear blue skies overhead and a serene landscape before your eyes, a witnessing the Sela Lake and experiencing the geographical significance of it cannot be described in words. You have to be pay a visit there to know what I am trying to convey.
Legends say that many monks have meditated by the Sela Lake and thus it is spiritually an important place too. The locals consider the waters of Sela Lake holy.
One should avoid visiting the lake in peak winter months as the entire area remains covered in thick snow, blocking movement of vehicles. Early winter months till beginning of December and April is a good time to visit the lake.
How to reach Sela Lake?
- Traveling to Arunachal Pradesh is only permitted on pre-decided tourist circuits, after obtaining a permit.
- The permits can be obtained online for individuals or groups.
- You do not need to plan a separate visit to Sela Lake but make it a pit stop on your way to Tawang from Bomdila/Dirang.
- Alternatively, you may visit Sela Lake and Sela Pass on a day’s tour while staying in Tawang, but that adds an extra day to your itinerary. The previous option saves time.
- From Bomdila/Dirang, there are shared vehicles available for Tawang but they might not stop at Sela Lake for you to explore the place. Best option is to hire a vehicle for this stretch so that you can make a stop at your desired spot and spend some time at Sela Lake.
To know the details about permits and how to plan your journey, check this 7-Day Arunachal Pradesh Travel Itinerary.
Sangetsar Lake, Arunachal Pradesh
Can a lake be named after an actress? If you think that the idea is bizarre, then you’re completely wrong. Sangetsar Lake is a high altitude lake in Arunachal Pradesh which is now more famously known as Madhuri Lake, named so as Madhuri Dixit and Shahrukh Khan shot their movie Koyla in this spot.
Located at a distance of 35 kms from Tawang, Sangetsar Lake falls is set at an altitude of over 12000 ft, close to the Indo-China border. This natural lake which was formed as a result of a flashflood caused due to a massive earthquake. Having Tawang as your base, you can take a whole day to visit Sangetsar Lake, P T Tso and Bum La Pass.
As you leave Tawang, the condition of the roads might keep you on your toes considering the condition of the road. But the captivating sceneries are sure to keep your gaze hooked out of the window throughout your journey. There is a well maintained trail to take a walk around the trail. The Indian Army runs a café beside the lake which is undoubtedly a great spot to sip a cup of tea while appreciating the marvelous creation of nature surrounded by mountains and valleys.
How to reach Sangetsar Lake?
- Sangetsar Lake is visited on a day’s tour from Tawang.
- A vehicle (Tata Sumo or Scorpio are the most common ones available) would cost you about 5000 INR for the whole day’s trip to take you to Sangetsar Lake. P T Tso and Bum La Pass. This can be booked through your hotel in Tawang or through local tour operators.
- An entry permit is required from the Office of the Deputy Commissioner in Tawang to visit these regions. Do note that this permit is a separate one and is not the Inner Line Permit. This particular permit is not issued online. Your local tour operator or driver can help you to procure one.
Where to stay in Tawang?
Check this Itinerary for Arunachal Pradesh to know in detail about how to reach Tawang and plan your journey.
Loktak Lake, Manipur
Manipur is a brilliant assortment of nature’s bounties. Starting from verdant valleys to sprawling mountains and freshwater lakes, Manipur has an abundance of beautiful and offbeat destinations which can be explored. Out of them, Loktak Lake is a must visit if you are planning a trip to Manipur.
Locals consider Loktak Lake to be a jewel of their state. The largest freshwater lake in Northeast India, Loktak Lake is located about 53 kms away from Imphal, the capital city of Manipur. The lustrous water of this lake is covered with phumdis which is one of the main attractions of this lake. The vibrant phumdis or floating islands are floating biomass with rich nutrients for plant growth which exists in circular shapes all over the lake. Hire a boat and explore the lake and the phumdis. It is advisable to avoid the motorboats and opt for one where the boatman rows the boat and take you around in a slow pace, narrating stories of their life and about interesting facts about the place.
Loktak Lake also houses Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating National Park in the whole world. Keibul Lamjao National Park, covering 40 square kilometers is a habitat for the endangered Sangai Deer. To visit this place, you’d have to travel back to Moirang and take a shared taxi to Keibul Lamjao National Park. There is an entry fee and extra charged are levied for cameras.
How to reach Loktak Lake?
- Imphal is the connecting city if you are traveling from any other parts of the country.
- You can directly fly to Imphal or take a connecting flight via Kolkata or Guwahati.
- From Imphal, you’d have to take a taxi till Moirang. This is an hour long journey covering about 30 kms. Shared taxis are available for INR 50 at the taxi stand near Jiribam, Imphal Market Road. You can reserve a vehicle for yourself as well.
- Next, you’d have to take another taxi from Moirang to Thanga. This is a short ride of 15 minutes and shared taxis would generally charge about 10 INR.
Where to stay in Imphal / Loktak Lake?
Travelling to Manipur requires an Inner Line Permit which can be acquired online from the state’s official ILP website.
Umiam Lake, Meghalaya
Umiam Lake or Bara Pani is an artificial lake situated at a distance of about 17 kms from Shillong along the Shillong-Guwahati Highway. The vast lake is spread over 220 square kilometers. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, Umiam Lake is one of the most famous tourist spots around Shillong. The vastness of the lake is the major highlight. Travellers can take a boat ride on the lake to experience the tranquil environment and soak in the calmness of the lake. The sight of the golden sunrays in the evening with mountains creating a silhouette in the backdrop is a sight which will soothe your soul.
Adventure enthusiasts could experience water sports like kayaking and water skiing. These activities are offered by Umiam Water Sports Complex on all days of the week. The lake remians open between 9am to 5pm.
Though most of the people make Umiam Lake an hour long stop over as a part of their Shillong sightseeing, an overnight stay by the lake would be a choice you will never regret. There are not many options to choose from. There is an eco hut built right along the lake, from where you can experience a spectacular golden sunset. A luxurious property is also available which overlooks the lake. Apart from these two options there are couple of homestays and resorts located a little further away from the lake which are equally beautiful. You could choose what suits you best.
How to reach Umiam Lake?
- The nearest city is Shillong. If you are flying in from other states, you’d be flying to Guwahati Airport first and then transfer to Meghalaya by road.
- If you are heading to Umiam Lake from Shillong, you can simply hire a taxi to drop you off. It is a short drive of about 45 minutes.
- In case you want to make this your first stop after arriving in Meghlaya, you can simply hop on to a shared Sumo from Guwahati and ask the driver to drop you at Umiam Lake.
- Alternatively, you can also reserve a vehicle from Guwahati to Umiam Lake.
Where to stay in Shillong?
If you wish to explore Meghalaya, this 7 Day Meghalaya Travel Itinerary would surely help you plan your trip.
In case you are interested to know about the offbeat destinations in Meghalaya and want to explore these destinations, check this blog about Five Offbeat Destinations in Meghalaya.
So next time you plan a trip, you may say no to the already crowded touristy destinations and head to these relatively unexplored places in the North East. Whichever state you choose to visit, you will get an option to include one or two of these lakes in your itinerary. You will not regret ditching the luxuries and embracing the sustainable stays near these lakes. Nature never fails!
Hailing from the foothill town of Siliguri, Michelle takes keen interest in storytelling, through words and photographs. Having a home so close to the mountains is what she considers a gift. A law student and freelance content writer at present, she often takes time out to travel to the mountains and pen down her experiences. She believes in giving back to the community through volunteering in local projects and strongly supports community tourism.