Gosainkunda is the kind of place where pilgrims and trekkers alike feel a sense of attainment.
The trek to Gosainkunda is a walk through a landscape that tests a pilgrim’s resolve and a trekker’s physical abilities. And whether you are a devout pilgrim determined to bathe in the sacred lake or a trekker out to experience one of Nepal’s most famous treks, you revel at finding yourself in a landscape that is still wild and in some ways ancient. But it is also one that changes day after day, sometimes every couple of hours. Every step brings a new type of terrain, a variation in vegetation, a fresh perspective. But it taxes the body to the same extent as it rewards the mind.
For a smoother, and thus, pleasanter, transition from the urban to the bucolic, it is better to trek to Gosainkunda from Sundarijal. The gradually but relentlessly ascending trail from Sundarijal gives you a feel of the trek to come. So do the birdsongs, the rejuvenating sound of flowing water and the presence of vegetation so dense that it seems on the verge of caving in. Tiny villages appear, surrounded by a sea of rice or buckwheat. Structures indicating human presence thin with each day on this trek. Beginning from Sundarijal also spares you the hours on a rough road that one must endure to get to Dhunche, the other starting point for this trek.
For five to six hours after the village of Mulkharka, depending on your walking abilities, you walk through forests. The monotony of trees and dappled paths breaks only in Chisapani. There, you pat yourself when you arrive around a corner to see Himalayan peaks glowing in the evening light. After elation fades, it dawns on you that your destination is somewhere in the vicinity of those faraway mountains.
The travail, the surreal scenery, the isolation, and above all the height you find yourself in, all evoke a feeling of having left things behind. To pilgrims, and to some trekkers, Gosainkunda is a special place, a spiritual enclave sequestered in a nook of the Himalayas. But anyone trekking there feels they are on their way to a place they are unused to, whose unfamiliarity is also its attraction.
The last leg of the trek is a passage – quite often a plod – through gaunt, black mountains. Boulders the size of cars are strewn everywhere. Waterfalls – wispy, streaky, torrential – plunge down from craggy mountains. Green and red lichens stick to the black rock walls like splotches of vermilion.
Kundas, or lakes, begin to appear at regular intervals on the last kilometer or so to the holiest of them all. Langtang Lirung rises in the distance, one jagged jewel in a string of many embellishing the horizon. Then, as your legs and minds are beginning to reel from the continuous walking, you arrive at the rim of yet another deep crater. And there is Gosainkunda, the lake whose sanctity and remoteness pull people living in the comfort of cities to suffer for days to get to it.
For pilgrims, Gosainkunda’s toughness is a test of their spiritual resolve. For trekkers, its splendors are justification for being on the trail. And both come to understand, to varying degrees, the truism that the path to things sublime passes through suffering.
Between the majestic Surya Kunda and Gosainkunda there are a couple of small lakes. These are picturesque and appealing in their own ways. Their surroundings unchanged by wooden huts and signboards, these are ideal if you are seeking solitude. Neither are they lacking in beauty, as Surya Kunda or Nag Kunda will attest.
The short hike to the summit north of the lodges is worth doing. The view from there, weather permitting, is of a horizon of white peaks, prominent among them Langtang Lirung (7,234 m).
How to get there
Dhunche to Gosainkunda
This is the route of (relative) convenience. You drive for five to six hours from Kathmandu to Dhunche, the headquarters of Rasuwa. From there you begin your trek. It increases the chances for altitude sickness significantly, for the trail on this route increases in altitude much more abruptly than on the Sundarijal route.
Sundarijal to Gosainkunda.
This is the longer route of the two. Fast walkers can make it to Gosainkunda on the third day of starting from Sundarijal, with stops in Chisapani and Ghopte. Taking a week for this trek, from Sundarijal to Gosainkunda to Kathmandu via Dhunche, is best.
Although food and shelter are available in every village on this trekking route, sometimes there can be a considerable distance between two villages. So carrying sufficient food and water is advisable. Same goes for medicines. A trekking pole is a must on this trek. Or get a strong stave in some village. Sunscreen and sunglasses for protection against the high-altitude sun. Gosainkunda is cold year-round. Carry warm clothes.
Things to Remember
Gosainkunda is within the Langtang National Park. Permits are required to enter it. If you are a foreigner, you will also need the Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) card. The latter is available at the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal office in Katmandu. It’s best to pay your entry fee in Kathmandu, at the Nepal Tourism Board office. Carry these cards and receipts with you until your trek ends.