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Chandratal Lake

Discussion in 'Himachal Pradesh' started by JatJ, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. JatJ

    JatJ New Member

    I am going to Himachal Pradesh this year in June, and one of the destinations I will be visiting will be Spiti. When there I would like to take my family to the Chandratal Lake and spend some time there.
    I would like to know what things we can do at Chandratal Lake, as I know some lakes provide some activities like boating or games for kids in some kinds of packages.

    I would like to know about the surrounding area of the lake as well, as we plan to spend most of the day there, something on the likes of a picnic destination
     


  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, welcome to the forum!

    Chandra-Tal-lake.
    (Images from Lodhra, Sudhakar Bichali, Shiraz Ritwik and Lost)

    Overview

    The Chandra Tal is also known as the Chandra Lake, sometimes Chandra Tal Lake. It is a high altitude lake situated at about 4,250 metres above sea level. The distance between Manali and Chandra Tal is about 140 kilometres. However, the rough and bumpy terrains can make the journey even longer than the estimated distance. Chandra Tal is one of Himachal Pradesh's most virgin and pristine lakes. It is located in the Spiti Valley, en route to more remote destinations like Kaza and Tabo. Usually, the Chandra Tal is approached from Manali and most travellers take two days from their itinerary for this trip, since you need proper acclimatisation prior to reaching the lake.

    Opening Times of Chandra Tal

    As mentioned above, Chandra Tal is accessed usually from Manali, via the Rohtang La. For those without vehicles, the preferred way of reaching Chandra Tal is by taking a bus from Manali going to Kaza and alighting at the Kunzum La before trekking for the lake. This is also the preferred route of those coming in from Kaza. As you can see, both approaches to Chandra Tal are via high altitude passes which means these areas are covered with snow at most times of the year. Hence, you can only visit Chandra Tal during the opening times of these passes, which is from the June to around the end of September each year. The rest of the year, the roads leading to Chandra Tal are closed and the areas are savaged by heavy snowfall.

    Best Time to Visit Chandra Tal

    The best months for visiting the Chandra Tal are from the end of June until the first few weeks of September. The timing of your visit is very crucial, especially if you are inexperienced trekkers. From the beginning of June, the first few weeks, the paths leading to Chandra Tal are all covered with snow so trekking can be very difficult. Even vehicles might have a hard time passing through the motorable roads. The same goes for the last few weeks of September, the roads are starting to be covered with moderate to thick snow by this time. The months in between, from August to July, are the preferred months of many travellers as the roads are usually cleared by this time from snow. The area where the lake is located is in a rain shadow region so it is not as affected by the monsoons as much.

    Chandra Tal Trekking.
    Chandra Tal Trekking (Image from Kamakshi Pal)

    How to Reach Chandra Tal

    1. By Road (Private or Hired Vehicle) From Manali - The distance between Manali and Chandra Tal is about 140 kilometres. The route involves a combination of both road journey and a bit of trekking.

    Manali to Chandra Tal Route

    Route to TakeManali > Marhi > Rothang La > Gramphoo > Batal > Chandra Tal Campsite > Trek to Chandra Tal
    From Manali, you need to drive to Marhi and then to Rothang La. Usually, road conditions for these two stretches are good, sometimes average. If you decide to visit during the first opening weeks of Rohtang La in June, then you're bound to encounter traffic jams in this stretch. Total driving distance from Manali to Rohtang La can average around two hours, more or less. After Rohtang La, you would be descending into Gramphoo, roads are primarily okay in this stretch. If you intend to stay near the lake for a few days, you can also buy your necessities in this area, as this is the last town where you can find shops. From Gramphoo, you would need to reach Batal, which you would mostly be doing in a patchy stretch of roads. At the most, you'd reach Batal in around four hours. From Batal, you can reach the Chandra Tal Campsite in around an hour's time. And from the campsite, the lake is merely 10 to 15 minutes of walking away.

    2. By Road (Private or Hired Vehicle) From Kaza - The distance between Kaza and Chandra Tal is about 150 kilometres. This route also involves a combination of both road journey and trekking.

    Kaza to Chandra Tal Route

    Route to TakeKaza > Lozar > Kunzum La > Trek to Chandra Tal
    From Kaza, you need to drive to Lozar, which is about 30 minutes away. Here, you can have your last meal prior to reaching Chandra Tal as the last dhabas are located in this stretch. Until Kunzum La, the roads are quite good, though patchy in some parts. But in around four hours, you would reach the pass, since traffic is quite rare in this stretch. From Kunzum La, you can start your 18-kilometre trek until Chandra Tal. For those who motorcycles, you can continue your journey until the last 200 metres before the lake though you would be passing through rough terrains. However, the roads here are too narrow for other larger vehicles which is why it is advisable to just undertake trekking if you have a car with you. The trekking is mostly downhill, which makes it a bit bearable but you'd be crossing several streams along the way.

    3. By Bus From Manali - If you don't have your own vehicle, you can still visit the Chandra Tal using public transportation. There are no direct buses from Manali to Chandra Tal so you have to utilise an indirect bus journey. You can board a bus from Manali going to Kaza and alight at Kunzum La along the way. From Kunzum La, you can trek to reach Chandra Tal. From Chandra Tal, you can walk a bit to reach the Chandra Tal Campsite and stay there for the night, then catch the bus the next day heading to Manali.

    Timing of HRTC Bus (Kullu to Kaza)

    CategoryDeparture from ManaliArrival on Kunzum LaFare
    Bus to Kaza5:009:00Rs. 295
    The bus is operated by the Himachal Road Transport Corporation. It starts its route from Kullu at around 4:30 in the morning and arrives in Manali at around 5:00 in the morning. Departure time varies but make sure you get to the bus station at around 5:00. It would then arrive in Kunzum La at around 9:00 in the morning, from where you can trek to reach the Chandra Tal. Fare is at Rs. 295 per person so still more affordable as compared to hiring a vehicle or a cab. Alternatively, you can also just alight at Batal and from there, hitchhike with other travellers that are reaching Chandra Tal or trek if you're up to it. If you intend to go back to Manali on the same day, then you can catch the bus plying to Kullu/Manali from Kaza.

    Timing of HRTC Bus (Kaza to Kullu)

    CategoryDeparture from KazaArrival on Kunzum LaFare
    Bus to Manali4:3011:00Rs. 360
    As you can see, the bus reaches Kunzum La at around 11:00 and Batal at around 11:30. You need to reach any of these two pick-up points at the designated times or earlier if you need to go back to Manali the same day. The fare is at Rs. 360 per passenger for this route. You can also opt to just ride the same bus you boarded earlier but on the next day, as it returns to Kullu via Kunzum La and Batal.

    Accommodations in Chandra Tal

    There are no hotels or resorts located close to the lake. There are only tented accommodations, located about 10 to 15 minutes of walking away from the lake. This is known as the Chandra Tal Campsite and it is here that you can find various camping sites providing for tents for tourists. You can also bring your own tents, especially if you have your own vehicle. But if you're reaching Chandra Tal via public transportation, you can just rely on these camping sites for your convenience.

    There are several camping sites around the Chandra Tal Campsite. The two most popular ones would be discussed and their amenities would also be highlighted. The first one is the Parasol Camps and Retreat which has about 20 tented accommodations for rent. You can choose from two types of tents: Standard Tent and Exclusive Tent. The Standard Tent have mattresses and blankets, it can comfortably fit two to three persons. The tents are hygienic and can be fully closed to avoid cold air from entering. There are common portable bathrooms in the campsite as well for the use of staying guests. The Exclusive Tent has wooden beds with mattresses and its own attached bathroom though it costs a bit more. Prices for tents vary but it's around Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,000 per night.

    For dining, the campsite arranges for meals in their own tented dining area. Meals are varied as well, ranging from non-vegetarian to vegetarian ones. Activities like star gazing and games are also arranged for by the owner. During night time, you can enjoy a cozy bonfire whilst listening to the background music or the stories of the locals. Amenities like first aid, mosquito repellants and torches can also be provided for by the owner. If ever you acquire AMS, the campsite also has oxygen cylinders to help you cope more easily.

    The other campsite is known as Jamaica's Camp, the name of the owner of the site. Again, this campsite has tented accommodations though they are more basic as compared to the previous. The tents have mattresses and blankets too that can help in alleviating some of the cold. There are common portable washrooms for the use of guests. The campsite also provides for hot meals for tourists. Another good feature of this campsite is that they offer for all-inclusive packages including trek to Chandra Tal and tented accommodations.

    Jamaica's Camp.
    Jamaica's Camp (Image from Balochi Sondhi)

    The Chandra Tal

    Now that you have been provided information about the best time to visit the lake, how to reach the lake and the accommodation options, let's go to the Chandra Tal itself. Did you know that Chandra Tal means Moon Lake, or more poetically, the Crescent-Shaped Lake? The lake gets its name from its moon-like shape, resembling that of the crescent shape of the astronomical body. It rivals the beauty of the other lakes of the region, like Tso Moriri or Pangong Tso. It is not as inaccessible though unlike these lakes, since it is located quite close to Manali and Kaza.

    Chandra Tal is a sweet-water lake with crystal clear water, that changes hues all throughout the day as it reflects the colours of things around it. During morning, you can clearly see the reflection of the mountains in the lake, as it forms some ripples and waves. During noon time, the clear blue skies lend its colours to the lake. And during sunset, you might even find the orange hues of the setting sun on the lake. Thus, it's perfectly normal to witness the lake in a different hue from a previous visit or even as you relate its beauty from fellow travellers. That's the beauty of Chandra Tal, it's a lake full of surprises that never disappoints.

    Chandra Tal.
    Chandra Tal (Image from Nazia Khan)

    There are many legends surrounding the Chandra Tal, perhaps because of its evoking and mysterious beauty. For the Hindus, the lake is very sacred as it has a story related to the Pandavas. As the story goes, the Pandavas had to pass through Chandra Tal for their journey to heaven. However, only Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas was able to survive the journey to the lake as he has the purest soul. It is here that the deity Indra brought him from earth to heaven. As such, Hindus believe that swimming in the holy lake can rid one of their sins, much like taking a dip in the Ganges River.

    There is also a local legend that supports the name and shape of the lake. It is believed that once, Chandra, the daughter of the moon god, and Bhaga, the son of the sun god, met unexpectedly at the Baralacha La. It was love at first sight but their parents objected seeing that they come from different times of the day. Chandra was to be the ruler of the night while Bhaga was to be the ruler of the day. Still, the two wanted to be married and decided to meet again at the Baralacha La. On the day of their meeting, the two still were not able to get married because they arrived at different areas of the pass. Feeling sad and sorrowed, the two became the rivers of Chandra and Bhaga, which flowed mightily and finally met at Tandi. The Chandra Tal and Suraj Tal, both located on opposite sides of the Baralacha La, are said to be the forms of the lovers.

    Chandra Tal evening.
    Chandra Tal (Image from Unsung Blues)

    Such stories only give more life to the lake. Surrounded by mountain views all around, the Chandra Tal marvels in its untouched beauty. The mountains around form a cliff-like, cirque formation that stuns the viewer. The lake is about four kilometres long in distance and half a kilometre in width. Though you can circle the entire lake premises within an hour or two, the higher altitude might render you breathless. But many Buddhists, who also consider the lake sacred, do a parikrama around the lake for luck and respect.

    Activities in Chandra Tal

    Activities around the lake are very few. You can indulge in swimming, perhaps around the months of July or August before the lake becomes too cold. The crystal blue water of the lake is surely inviting but the cold temperatures can be very uncomfortable. If you are physically fit, you can also try a parikrama or circumambulation of the lake. It can take around one to two hours though to cover the entire lake distance. As you walk around the paths of the lake, you might find stones piled on top of one another. It is considered as a form of good karma if you add in a stone to this pile. Others consider it lucky if you are able to pile seven stones on top of one another near the lake.

    Piles of Stones in Chandra Tal.
    Pile of Stones in Chandra Tal (Image from Make it Happen)

    Other activities like boating or water sports are prohibited in the lake to preserve its beauty. Even the tented accommodations were moved a kilometer further to ensure the preservation of the lake. You can, however, enjoy a small picnic by the lakeside, provided that you clean up after your meal. This small gesture would surely be appreciated by the locals, who not only rely on the lake for their living but have also considered the lake as special and sacred to them. For photography enthusiasts, photo taking is allowed in the lake premises so you can capture all angles to your heart's content or even take that perfect selfie with the lake.

    It is also perfectly okay to just stare at the mesmerizing hues of the lake, all day long. It's rare to find such untouched water bodies in this world, where you can clearly see the underwater stones and sand bed. Or where you can enjoy the purest water without worrying whether it has contaminants inside it. Take it all in and you would surely have this journey etched in your mind forever.

    What to Bring in Your Trip to Chandra Tal

    The climate in Chandra Tal and the surrounding areas is generally quite cold. During day time, temperatures can go as high as 30°C or more. But night time can bring about chillier climates, reaching below 20°C at times. Thus, it is essential to bring light to heavy woollens, depending on which part of the country you're coming from. Blankets are also recommended especially if you have children with you. Other essentials like socks, scarves and bonnets would also come in handy. If you plan to trek from Batal or Kunzum La, you need to bring waterproof shoes and jackets as well. If going during the beginning of winter, end of September, then do bring snow-proof shoes to help you in trekking in snow.

    You also need to bring a water bottle, filled with water prior to reaching the area. Though there are some shops in Batal that can fill your bottle, it's best to come prepared. Ready to eat meals and instant noodles are also great options so you won't need to rely on buying from the shops, which can be non-existent in some areas. Do bring a first aid kit as well as medicines for headaches, stomachaches and even prescription ones. Bring lots of biscuits and small snacks for the little ones as well.

    If you're bringing your own vehicle, make sure you have spare tires and proper tools for changing tires. Also bring at least an excess litre of petrol for your vehicle. Gadgets like camera, tablets and music players would also come in handy. Don't forget to bring your portable chargers as outlets are not available in the tented camps. A torchlight might also come in handy, especially if you plan on trekking during night time or early morning. If you want to save some money, you can also bring your own tent and foldable mattress.

    Conclusion

    This concludes our guide for your trip to Chandra Tal. As they say, sometimes, the most beautiful destinations are worth the trip. The journey to reach Chandra Tal can be very difficult, especially for those who don't have their own vehicles. Even for those who do, if you have lower clearance ones, the journey can be bumpy and dangerous too. Still, these issues shouldn't stop you from visiting the most pristine lake of the Spiti Valley. This is the place where poets are made, as the water of the lake can truly inspire and make a better person out of you.

    I hope this helps you!:)
     

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