Glaciers are moving mountains of ice. There are many of these in Sikkim among which the most important ones are Zemu Glacier, Rathong Glacier and the Lonak Glacier in North Sikkim.
The Zemu glacier is the largest and the most famous glacier of the eastern Himalayas. It is 26 km in length and is situated in a large U-shaped valley at the base of the Khangchendzonga massif in northwestern Sikkim. The Teesta River rises from the snout of this glacier.
Many tributary glaciers feed
the trunk glacier. The side valleys in which these glaciers lie open into the
main Zemu Valley from different directions. Icefalls and waterfalls have formed
at the junction of the tributary glaciers with the Zemu glacier.
Sikkim has many hot springs known for their medicinal value. The most important are the ones located at Reshi , Yumthang and Ralang. These springs are considered holy as one of the four holy caves is located here. This holy cave is called the Kadosangphu or 'cave of the occult fairies' and lies on the south of the four cardinal points.
Yumthang Hot Spring - At an altitude of 12,000 ft, 135 km from Gangtok in North Sikkim, a few hundred metres off the road, after crossing river Lachung over a wooden bridge lies a small hut which houses a pool where sulphur water of hotspring is collected for taking a dip.
Phurchachu Reshi Hot Spring - Around 25 km from Gyalshing, near Reshi, after crossing the Rangit river by a pedestrian bridge, hardly ten minutes from the highway is Phurchachu springs with medicinal properties, ideal from skin disease.
On the face of it, one would not expect to find lakes on such a rugged terrain. But surprisingly, Sikkim does have lakes though not very large in size. These lakes are both spring fed as well as river fed. On the highway between Gangtok and Nathu La, 34 kms. from Gangtok lies the serene Tsomgo(Changu) Lake at an altitude of about 11,000 feet. Khecheopalri lake is another well known lake that lies on a bifurcation of the route between Gyalshing and Yuksom . Menmecho lake, Green lake and Samiti lake are some other beautiful lakes.
Tsomgo(Changu) Lake somgo literally means "source of the lake " in Bhutia language. ' TSO' means lake and ' MGO' means head. At about 40 kms. away from Gangtok , this serene and holy lake is situated at an altitude of 12,000 ft on the Gangtok - Nathu La highway. It is about 1 km. long, oval in shape, 15 meters deep. It is also a home of brahmini ducks besides being a stopover for various migratory birds
The lake remains frozen during the winter months up to mid-May. Between May and August it is possible to see a variety of flowers in blooms, including the rhododendrons, various species of primulas, blue and yellow poppies, irises etc. It is also an ideal habitat for the red panda and various species of birds.
20 Kms. further away from Tsomgo(Changu) Lake is this beautiful lake which lies cradled between the mountains below the Jelep La Pass and is the source of river Rangpo-chu. It derives its water from melting snows around. The lake is famous for its Trout and a farm to cultivate these fish also exist nearby.
hecheopalri lake is considered as one of the sacred lakes of this state both by the Buddhist and the Hindus. The lake remains hidden in the rich forest cover. It is believed that the birds do not permit even a single leaf to float on the lake surface. There is a motor able road from Pemayangtse right up to the lake area.
For those interested in spending a night or two in the peaceful environment a trekkers hut has been provided by the tourism office. The hut is presently managed by a local person and provides comfortable stay providing a taste of local cuisine which may include 'chang' brew made of fermented millet. There is also a pilgrim's hut, managed by the tourism department , which is meant to provide accommodation to the people who come on pilgrim tours.
Kathok and Khecheopalri are two important lakes of this area. Khecheopalri, known as the "Wishing Lake", is one of Sikkim's most sacred lakes. A festival held every year at Khecheopalri Lake during February-March draws people from all over Sikkim. Another is held at Yuksam during Decembe-January in connection with Kathok Lake.
The Green Lake is fast developing into a take-off point for mountaineering expeditions to the peaks of this area. The Green Lake may in the minds of many conjure up an image of beautiful, exotic waterbody, but sadly it is not true. Infact in 1899 the lake had disappeared according to D. W. Freshfield who writes, the hollow enclosed between the covering moraines of Zemu and Green Lake Glaciers has been lately a lake, and was now a lake basin.
As you climb towards Gochala Pass and pause to take a deep breadth, you can enjoy the colour of transparent torquise of Lake Samiti- A glacial lake in the Onglathang valley. (a view from west sikkim) in the feed of Kanchanjangha.
Tso Lhamu Lake
Tso Lhamu is a lake which lies on the plateau that juts into Sikkim into Tibet. From this moderately sized lake, the Teesta River takes birth as a trickle hardly a foot wide. The water in the lake flirts with ice before getting frozen in winter. The reflection of the surrounding mountains doubles the beauty. Everything looks so prehistoric that you Almost expect to see a Dinosaur amble by. A flock of birds, the cranes swims on the placid ice water of Chola Mu. These birds are migratory from Russia, China and other parts of India.
It is a big natural lake cupped in deep crater. The rim of the crater is so hard above the lake level that it is easy t o photograph the complete lake without using a wide angle lens. As you invoke the blessing on the bank of this Pristine Lake, you cannot help thinking that it is here that God really resides.
The mountain ranges are interspersed with the passes which can be used to cross from one side to another. On the Eastern Chola range the most important passes are the Nathu La and Jelep La both at an altitude of about 15,0000 ft. and Bhutah La at an altitude of about 13,000 ft. The first two lead to Tibet and the third to Bhutan.
On the west boarder of Sikkim and Nepal, the most important pass is Chiwabhangjang, which has an altitude of 10,300 ft. The other passes on the west is Kang La. In the north one of the important passes is the Kongra La.
Five kilometers to the north of Jelap la pass, on the same altitude on a range that runs into Tibet, is the rarely used Nathula pass on the Sikkim-Tibet frontier. The zig zag track becomes steeper as it leaves Gangtok, but makes up in the changing landscape which becomes more sublime with ever inch of ascent till it reaches the calm waters of the lake. Nuk Tahyi in a region, bleak and dismal. from the submit two roads from both Jelap and Nathula passes unit in a track leading to the Chumbi Valley of Tibet. On the one side stands a change of imposing peaks dividing from Tibet, on the other yawning abyss of ravines and gorges.
At Nathula the Chinese and the Indian troops face each other almost at breathing distance. It was in the news quiet a lot when skirmishes between the two countries occurred on this pass. Jelap la was used by Younghusband to attack Tibet in 1903 and to commemorate this the path through Jelap la is called the Young husband track. Nathula and Jelap la passes for a part of the trade route between India and Tibet till 1962 .
Flowing almost right across the length of Sikkim is the River Teesta. Teesta originates from the Cholamu lake where it is hardly a stream. No one can imagine that this innocuous looking stream would transform into a thundering mighty river less than a hundred kilometers downstream. Meeting Teesta at the border between Sikkim and West Bengal is its major tributary the river Rangeet which originates from the Rathong Glacier
During monsoons the otherwise innocuous looking rivers of Sikkim become swollen, swift, muddy and dangerous. The rivers are narrow, serpentine and full of rocks and hence are not navigable. Because of swift currents hitting rocks, the rivers are very noisy and can be heard for miles together. The Teesta finally joins the Bhramaputra in Bangladesh.
The rivers are fed by snow melting on the mountains as well as rain that accumulates in the catchment areas during the monsoons. Human settlements usually must exist above the level of rivers and hence even if flooding takes place life and property remain safe.
The verdant green landscape of Sikkim is broken here and there by waterfalls that leap out of the hillside to the valley floors in plumes of white. Waterfalls are found almost all over Sikkim but there is a profusion of them in North Sikkim specially on the road between Mangan and Lachung as well as in the Dzongu area. Most of the waterfalls are perennial and are spring water fed but there are many that derive their water from elting snow. Except for a few most of the waterfalls are unnamed.
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