“You save the best for the last” sang Vanessa Williams in her famous single in the early nineties. Our tour operator seemed to share the same belief by wisely planning our visit to the majestic Chandrataal Lake on the last day of our travel itinerary to Spiti.
I had never visited a high mountain lake before. Only heard stories. So I was extremely excited about this visit to Chandrataal Lake. As mentioned in my earlier post, our trip to Chandrataal was planned from Kibber, where we had spent the night before. From Kibber, it was a 5-6 hour drive to Chandrataal Lake. We started our drive early in the morning to ensure that we reached our destination by noon and had ample time on our hands to trek to the lake and explore the destination.
The drive from Kibber to Chandrataal took us around 6 hours and we arrived in Chandrataal campsite, located around 2 kilometers away from the actual lake by noon. Camping on the banks of Chandraatal Lake is prohibited. Camping is permitted only in notified areas by the local forest department.
Our camps were located in a large campsite shared by several camp operators. Each camp operator offered various its own tent options – from Swiss tents to dome and geodesic tents. The Swiss tents which looked quite comfortable were mostly sold out in advance. We were provided with basic dome tents which were decent but lacked the charm and comfort of the Swiss tents. Since, I was travelling alone it did not matter much. However for those visiting with families, it is advisable to check with your travel operator in advance about the type of tent that will be allotted to you at the campsite to prevent last minute surprises and inconveniences.
Chandrataal Lake: Quick Facts
While most people (including me) tend to spell and write Chandrataal as a single word, it is actually two different words – Chandra and Taal. In Hindi, the dominant language in India, ‘Chandra’ stands for Moon and ‘Taal’ for lake. So in literal sense, Chandra Taal translates to ‘Moon Lake’ in English. It derives its name from its unique crescent shaped appearance. The lake is located at an elevation of approximately 4300 meters above sea-level.
Chandrataal is accessible by a motorable road from Batal which is located 14 kilometers away. For the more adventurous types, there is trekking route from Kunzum Pass which is lesser in distance – approximately 8 kilometers. Both the routes are popular with tourists depending on their personal health and preferences.
The last motorable point from Chandrataal Lake is located around a kilometer away. Visitors need to trek the last leg of the destination on foot. I personally feel it is a good initiative because constructing a road till the shore of the lake will ruin its pristine environs.
I started my trek to the lake and reached my destination within 15 minutes. The first sight of the lake, a large emerald green water body is bound to evoke a surreal experience to every visitor.
I slowly walked the last few meters of the trek, soaking every moment of my last few steps to the shore of the lake. On reaching, I filled my water bottle with some water from the lake and drank it. The water from the lake tasted divine. I later learnt that Chandrataal Lake is one of the largest fresh water mountain lakes in the world.
I spent next one hour by the sitting quietly on the shore of the lake, occasionally clicking a few pictures. I then decided to trek up one of the adjacent mountains to get an aerial view of the lake. On climbing up one of the adjacent mountains, I was greeted by the sights of a distant glacier in an adjoining mountain. Climbing up also provided me the complete crescent shaped aerial view of the Chandrataal Lake, the reason for my trek up the mountain. After spending a few minutes clicking photographs, I decided to leave for my camp. Although, I wanted to spend some more time, the rough chilly mountain air that was blowing made me decide otherwise. Slightly jaded, but satisfied I walked to my vehicle and reached my campsite in an hour. The evening was spent at the campsite sipping rum and inhaling the fresh mountain air. Dinner was served at the campsite early and after a quick dinner I decided to call it a day.