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Lachen

Lachen is one of the most picturesque and peaceful regions of Sikkim and is in its North District. This small hamlet is situated at an elevation of around 8500 feet. Lachen literally means "big pass".
The drive from Gangtok crosses two settlements which is a bit bigger than Lachen or Lachung, they are Mangan and Chungthang. On the way there is a small settlement where the River Lachen Chu & Lachung Chu meets is called Chungthang. It is 90 kilometers from Gangtok. It has a breathtaking landscape. Believed to be a religious place for Buddhism, it is believed that that Guru Padmasambhava visited this village while visiting Tibet and rested on a rock where he left his footprint.

Lachen is the base for visiting higher altitude destinations of Chopta Valley and Gurudongmar lake. The people of Lachen are simple and helpful. Life here is quite a hardship due to the cold and rough terrain. The mesmerizing scenic beauty of the region is worth all the trouble and thus this place has become one of the most popular tourist destinations of the region. 

Lachen is the base camp for North Sikkim trek to Green Lake. It’s quite strenuous due to the extreme weather condition and is also quite challenging. Lachen is also the access point to the high altitude lakes like Gurudongmar Lake and Tso Lhamu Lake. Tourists are not allowed to visit Tso Lhamu lake though. Indian tourists are allowed to visit Gurudongmar lake whereas for international travelers the tour is limited to visiting Chopta valley. Guests with breathing problems and cardiac problems are advised to consult a doctor before visiting Gurudongmar lake as it is close to 17000 feet in altitude and the air is quite thin here. 

The Small Hamlet of Lachen has a Monastery. It was built in 1858 and is a Nyingma Buddhist monastery. It is home to Lachen Monastic School. Villagers spend their summers on the alpine pastures bordering Tibet tending to their yaks.

Gurudongmar lake is situated at an altitude of nearly 17100 feet. It is nearly 65 kilometers from Lachen. On the way is Chopta Valley; next comes Thangu which serves as a stopover to tourists. They spend some time acclimatizing before traveling to Gurudongmar. Gurudongmar Lake is the second highest in Sikkim after the Cholamu lake and the air is quite thin here. Cho-Lamu or Tso-Lhamu Lake is situated at an altitude of 17400 feet. It is just 5 kilometers from Gurudongmar lake. It is one of the sources of the river Teesta. The lake is considered as sacred by both Buddhists and Hindus. There is an ITBP post nearby and it is generally out of bounds for civilians due to its proximity to the Tibetan border.

Wildlife includes Khangchendzonga National Park and Shingba Wildlife Sanctuary being the major attractions along with the rhododendrons. A famous trek route to Green Lake starts from Lachen. The route is Gangtok - Lachen – Day Rest - Jakthang - Yabuk - Rest camp & A Day Rest - Green lake & back - Yabuk - Jakthang - Lachen - Day Rest - Gangtok

The view of the lake and the landscape around the lake is breathtakingly complemented by the tranquil ambiance. It’s a holy place of Buddhist and Sikhs. During peak winter the whole lake freezes barring a small length along its periphery even at – 20°C

Spoken language is Sikkimese, a dialect of the Tibetan language. People are mostly Buddhists here. Locals of Lachen are known as the Lachenpas. They retain their age old village administrative system and the village chief is called the Pipen.

The area is restricted for foreigners, but special passes can be procured for a partial visit. Foreign Nationals cannot visit Gurudongmar Lake but can visit Lachen & Lachung with a local guide. Inner Line Permit is required for Indians too.

Communication

The nearest Major Airport is Bagdogra Airport (IXB) and is nearly 250 kilometers and requires one night stay in Gangtok. Newly built Pakyong Airport (PYG) is closer to Gangtok and has become operational since October 2018. Lachen is 127 kilometers from Gangtok and is a 5-6 hours drive.

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