Gosainkunda, the Sacred Lake District of Nepal
When I first heard of Gosainkunda I thought it was just a high altitude lake surrounded by mountains. While this lake is the most well-known, in reality there are over 100 lakes of different shapes and sizes in the area. Most of them don’t even have a name, and some cannot be reached by foot.
While the Gosainkunda area receives far fewer tourists than Langtang, for local people it is a place of worship. Both Hindus and shamans come here on pilgrimages, to bathe in the waters of the lake. It is believed that this lake was created by Lord Shiva himself, when he needed to quench his poisoned throat. In August, the full moon brings hundreds of pilgrims here. If you’re looking for a truly authentic experience, you should visit then. You will hardly find any foreigners as it is monsoon season. Even in April it was the only trek where I met more local people than tourists.
There are more myths and legends surrounding the place. One is that the lake is frozen six months a year, from October to June. But, when I was there in April, the lake was completely unfrozen and blue. However, the weather is much more volatile here than in some other parts of Nepal. It was very cold and foggy, and it snowed. Higher up, on the pass at 4,600m, all the lakes were frozen and all was white with snow.
The lake itself has a mystical sense. Although the weather was not great I decided to walk around the shores of the lake. The fog was dancing wonderfully, coming over the lake and engulfing everything, then three minutes later running away and letting the sun play on the water. All along the way there are small stone mounds. The water was quietly murmuring when touching them and it sounded like quiet prayers. Many birds were nesting, and it was tempting to wonder wonder whether these were spirits who had chosen to stay in this sacred place.
As wonderful as Gosainkunda Lake is, my favourite part was going up to the pass and seeing some of the other lakes. They would reveal themselves from the fog one by one like white phantoms.
There are several ways to reach Gosainkunda. One is coming up from Kathmandu on the Helambu trek. However, it is a long and steep uphill and I wouldn’t want to do the hike up from Melamchigaon to Phedi. It is hard enough to do it downhill (probably the toughest downhill I did). The beautiful thing is that, in this lower part, you hike through red rhododendron forests, so it is wonderful to do towards the end of April. If you really want to walk this path, do it from Gosainkunda down to Melamchigaon. Know that you can also go by foot all the way to Kathmandu, thus avoiding the horrible bus (one of the worst I rode).
The easiest way up is from Dunche. It is less steep and it’s only a three-day hike. Some local people do it in one day, but this is not advisable because of the altitude. Take the time to acclimatize and walk slowly while enjoying the wonderful views from Laurebina Pass.
This trek can also be linked to the Langtang Valley trek. When coming down from Rimche, there is a side trail after Bamboo going up to Thulo Syabru. This is the path I chose and I would do it again! The way up to Laurebina is tough but in spring it was full of pink and white rhododendrons. The smell, the colors, the small villages where people were going by their daily chores and agricultural activities made the trek one of the best I’ve done. I would advise stopping at Sherpa Cottage, a small colorful house on a green hill, surrounded by pasture. It has the best view and the people there took us in their kitchen to cook and eat together.
Whichever route you choose, do spend a couple of days in this lake district of Nepal. Let the magic of the lake envelop you and talk with the locals about what this place means to them.