Where to travel
If you are curious about flora and fauna, and love the Himalayan scenery, trek to the Chandra Tal (4,270 meters), a high altitude lake in Lahaul Spiti district, Himachal Pradesh.
What to do & see
The Chandra Tal, located in a rock basin ascribed to the glacial action, is more than1,000 meterslong and about 500 meterswide. In Hindi, “Chandra” means moon and “Tal” means lake. That is why this lake resembling to the half-moon is named as Chandra Tal. The lake is the principal source of the Chandra River, a tributary of the Chenab River, which is a tributary of the Indus River.
Gaddis with their animals spend the summer in the verdant environs of the lake. Nearby high altitude meadows covered with wild flowers in vibrant colors complement the fresh water lake during summer. The lake almost freezes during winter. Although the lake and its environs are rain deficient because it is outside the south-west monsoon’s reach, nutritious grasses and herbs dot the tree-free landscape. You can spot Acquilegia, Leontopodium himalayanum, Potentila, Primula, Ranunculus, Rheum spiciforme, Rosularia alpestris, R.webbianum and other herbs. The area is home to blue rock pigeon, hoopoe, jungle crow, raven, snow pigeon, redstart and wagtail.
Since the Chandra Tal Wetland supports endangered mammals, including blue sheep, Himalayan ibex, Royal vole and snow leopard, it is declared as the Ramsar site. The wetland at the altitude of more than 4,000 meters is the largest wetland in Himachal Pradesh. In 2007, the Government of Himachal Pradesh planned to declare the Chandra Tal Wetland and the nearby areas as a wildlife sanctuary.
At the Kunzum La (4,550 meters), the Baralacha, Pir Panjal and Greater Himalaya ranges converge, thereby, the area is of special interest for geology enthusiasts and professionals. The Kunzum La, a watershed between the Chenab and the Sutlej rivers, connects the Lahaul and Spiti valleys. The wide pass commands sweeping views of the Spiti Valley. About 11-kilometer-long Kunzum La to Chandra Tal trail descends steeply in the north of the pass. The trail, running along the Chandra River, affords charming views of the Greater Himalaya. The Mulkilla peak (6,480 meters) and the Chandra Bhaga (CB) group of peaks form a charming backdrop to the trail.
If you start the trek from Batal (3,950 meters), you can spot Dharamsura (6,446 meters), Lalana (6,265 meters), Papsura (6,451 meters) and Whitesail (6,455 meters) peaks hemming the Bara Shigri Glacier. The lake from Batal, situated on the road connecting Lahaul Spiti district to Manali in Kullu district, is about 15 kilometers.
Don’t forget to carry camera and enough number of film rolls if you have a film format camera, as you will get plenty of opportunities to press the shutter.
Since this trek winds through areas located above altitude of 4,000 meters, proper acclimatization is necessary.
When to go
How to reach
You can choose from the following three trails leading to the lake area:
- Traditional trail followed by the shepherds and their animals every summer
- About 11-kilometer well-defined foot path between the Kunzum La and the Chandra Tal
- About15 kilometerslong trail from Batal to the Chandra Tal
You can return by the route selected. Catch a bus from Manali, a famous tourist spot in Himachal Pradesh, for either of trailheads. To reach the Kunzum La, board a Kaza bound bus from Manali. Get down at the pass. However, the bus service is very limited. Book in advance. Batal, located on the State Highway(SH), is about120 kilometers from Manali.
Manali is about 570 kilometers from Delhi.
If you want to spend a night at the lake, carry a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment and provisions.