Saturday 2 September 2023

Places to Visit in Sikkim - Khecheopalri Lake

Khecheopalri Lake, Sikkim

Khecheopalri Lake, also known as Khechuperi Lake is located in West Sikkim at a distance of about 32 km from Pelling. In Pelling I was staying at Rufina Palm Bliss Hotel and from there it takes about one and a half hours of drive to reach the lake from Pelling town amidst forests and multiple waterfalls.

View of Khecheopalri Lake at the ground level

The lake, situated at 5938 feet altitude, is surrounded by dense forests and forms like a bowl to accumulate the water of the surrounding Ramam Mountains. 

A walk on the periphery of the Khecheopalri Lake, Sikkim

From the last vehicle point, the walk towards the lake is serene and easy next to the wetland area and one can hear the chirping of a lot of birds. The Buddhist (and Hindus) revere the site and one can see many Buddhist prayer flags next to the lake. Since the local consider the lake as sacred so bathing in the lake is not permitted.

Buddhist Prayer Flags in the wetland of Khecheopalri Lake, Sikkim

At the path at the lake level, you cannot see the full form of the lake. To see the complete lake and the nearby forests one should make an effort and go up a steep climb of about 15 minutes and then at the top all of a sudden the full view of the lake and the surrounding areas is beautiful and mesmerizing. 

A cave used by Buddhist monks for solitary meditation 

While going on this climb just a few meters from the top is a small cave which is used by the Buddhist monks for prayers in isolation (quite common among the Buddhist monks to stay alone in a cave or room away from others meditating where there is no contact with the outside world.  (For sustenance, their food is kept outside by other monks, who then leave without meeting the monk).

Khecheopalri Lake, Sikkim

The area has dense forest around the lake. I had earlier visited West Sikkim nearly 34 years back (that time I had done the Kanchenjunga Base winter snow trek in this region) but after such a long gap also I did not see much deforestation. Maybe this is due to the very environment friendly campaign of the Sikkim government of planting 100 saplings for each birth.  

A complete view of the Khecheopalri Lake and its surrounding Ramam mountains

If you want to reach directly to Pelling then the nearest Airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal at a distance of about 145 kms. Pakyong airport in Sikkim is closer but has lesser flight options.

Sunday 1 January 2023

Places to visit in Ladakh - Pangong Tso

Pangong Tso, Ladakh

It is said that sometimes the journey is equally important, if not more, than the final destination. The same can be said for most of the journeys & destinations in Ladakh, an erstwhile province of Jammu & Kashmir and now a Union Territory. 

On way to Pangong Tso, Ladakh

My journey from Nubra region to Pangong Tso (or Pangong Lake), though long, was mesmerizing what with the clear green waters of the Shyok river and rivulets on the way as well as the moonscape mountains having different hues at every turn.

Shyok River, Ladakh

Changthangi, Ladakh

On the way I saw the Pashmina goats, also known as Changthangi (for the region they come from) grazing at high altitudes.


Yaks grazing, Ladakh

Then there were the Yaks feeling at home and grazing in the frozen pond and grass landscape. Yaks are at home in extremely low temperatures at these high altitudes. Yaks are sturdy beasts of the region providing not only milk and cheese but also as beasts of burden to the locals especially in winters when all motorised transport may cease in remote areas.

Pangong Tso, Ladakh

The lake at 14270 feet is 134 km long though only 1/3 is in Ladakh & the remaining is in Tibet. The lake has an endorheic basin, which means that it retains water and has no outflow. The lake completely freezes over in winters. Due to being endorheic, the water is salty and the Pangong is considered the world’s highest salt-water lake.

Pangong Tso with mountains on the eastern side

The photo does not justify the beauty of the place with the lake having multiple colours of blue, which is mesmerizing. One can just sit here and watch the lake changing colours – i.e. various shades of blue.

At the Pangong Tso, Ladakh

The hills, some bare and others snow clad add to the aura of the place. In summers, there is accommodation available here but after end-October most of them close it for winters though few eateries are still open in November.

Shades of Blue, Pangong Tso, Ladakh

You can reach Leh, capital of Ladakh by air or by road (long journey). From Leh you can book cabs/bikes. Travel in Ladakh is expensive because of long distances between destinations. Best time to visit Pangong Tso is summers but then be prepared to see lots of tourists trying to be ‘three idiots’. From Nubra to Pangong Tso the drive is about 270 kms and takes about seven hours. If one goes from Leh via the Chang La (at 17688 feet) then the distance is about 225 kms and take about five and a half hours.