Chandratal lake in Spiti Valley is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in Himachal Pradesh. A trip to Chandratal would mean a mix of adventure and raw, desolate nature. You can reach this pristine lake by traversing through the most treacherous roads and climbing the high glaciers between Rohtang Pass and Kunzum pass. Otherwise, you can always club this trip and travel the road to Spiti Valley through Kinnaur to reach Chandratal lake.
But, once you reach Chandratal Lake, the first sight takes away all the pain of the arduous journey. In this article today, let me share with you a comprehensive travel guide for planning a memorable trip to Chandratal lake.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
About Chandratal Lake – Spiti Valley
At an altitude of 4270 Meters, Chandratal lake in Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh lies between a low ridge and the main Kunzum range. Mostly surrounded with snow in winters, this deep blue-water lake has a circumference of 2.5 km.
Some people also call it “The Moon Lake” and is also one of the sources of the violent Chandra River. Moulkila and Chandrabhaga mountain range having snow-capped peaks and snow slopes around the valley measures from 3000 Meters to 6500 Meters approximately. Locales there, believe that Chandertal is this point from where Yudhishtra (Eldest among Pandava of Mahabharata epic) was taken to heaven in his mortal form.
Setting all the legend and folklore asides, Chandratal lake in itself is a very luring place. It must be on top of your bucket list if you love the Himalayas.
Located in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, Manali to Chandratal lake distance is 125 km. You can either travel from Delhi to Chandratal lake via Manali. Or, you can also plan to take the longer route from Delhi to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur and further to Chandratal.
A lot of people also travel from Mandi to Chandratal lake, which about 250 km of a journey by road. It will take about 12 hrs to reach Chandratal from Mandi.
The motorable road to the lake exist only up to 12.5 km. After the road ends, remaining distance of 1.5 km is what you need to trek from parking point to all the way to the Moon lake.
The altitude of Chandratal lake is 4270 Meters or 14220 Feet (approximately). Hence, you can see that this lake is located at a very high altitude which means that you must plan your trip to Chandratal with proper acclimatization schedule.
Chandratal Lake Weather
Weather at Chandratal remains mostly cold to very cold throughout the year. During winter the Chandratal lake temperature lake may drop well below even – 20 degree Celsius. Although cold during summer, snowfall can happen any time of the year here in this part of Spiti Valley. Already in the last few years, I have seen heavy snowfall happening in June, August, September months as well.
Do not forget to take heavy woolens at any time of the year you are going. You can always refer what clothes to carry for Chandratal or Spiti trip.
So, when making a trip to Chandratal lake, make sure you are well prepared for any emergency even in the summer months. Winter months are not at all recommended for traveling to Chandratal lake.
When should I visit
As you can see that the months to visit Chandratal are pretty much limited to summer months. However, the definition of summer months can be different in a high altitude terrain like Spiti Valley. Let’s us look at which is the best month to visit Chandratal lake.
Pre-requisite: Any one of the mountain passes, Rohtang La (Rohtang Pass) or Kunzum La (Kunzum Pass) are open for traffic to make a road trip to Chandratal.
Chandratal in January to April
It is impossible to travel to Chandratal lake in the month of January to April as the heaps of snow blocks all the road beyond Losar. In fact, Manali to Kaza road remains closed in winter from November to May period. From Kaza side, the road to Losar even closes in the months of February – March – April.
During these winter months, the glaciers are piled up between Gramphu – Chatru – Batal road and Kunzum Pass – Chandratal diversion road.
So, even when you plan a trip to Spiti Valley in March, you cannot reach Chandratal lake.
Chandratal in May to June
Snow finally starts to clear up in May and snow clearance operations are in full swing. The road from Kaza to Losar opens but beyond Losar towards Kunzum Pass, the snow clearance will still be going on. Hence, in May it is again not possible to visit Chandratal lake.
It is in June first week or second week, people will be able to reach Chandratal either by trekking the 14 km diversion road from Batal or when the Batal to Chandratal road clears up by mid-June to late June period.
So after the middle of June to the remaining season up to September, you can take your car or bike at the parking site and continue the Chandratal Lake trek of about 2 km to reach this beautiful lake.
Still thinking of planning late May or early June?
Well you may try your luck first week June onward but it’s highly likely that trek from Batal onward will be tough due to the presence of snow and for sure not motorable till the very end. You may just reach Batal and then need to do the Chandratal lake trek in the presence of snow which makes it all very tough. I went on a trip from Delhi to Chandratal via Manali in June first week 2009 and it was a near death experience for me.
Chandratal in July to September
July to mid-September is one of the better time to visit Chandratal lake as the roads are open, camps are set up at camping sites and the weather is pleasant and favorable mostly. The roads are not in good shape, especially Manali to Kaza, with lots of notorious water crossings but you do not have a choice.
In August, you will need to face the monsoon hassles in lower hills that can cause some nightmarish situations. The parts of Kinnaur Valley and Delhi to Manali route will be facing the music of rains. But, once you cross Rohtang Pass form Manali side and Nako from Kinnaur side, it is very much OK to reach Chandratal.
Come September, the rains go away and it becomes one of the best time to visit Chandratal lake. The water crossings are pretty tamed on Gramphu to Batal road and further Batal to Chandratal. However, as the days pass in September, the cold sets in the Himalayas. The nights and morning gets cold and afternoons get cooler.
Chandratal in October to December
October is when most campsites at Chandratal are packed up and it becomes very cold to spend the night up there in Spiti, especially camping. I will not recommend planning a night stay near Chandratal lake in October and beyond up to next season that starts in June.
November and December are said to be the winter months in Spiti Valley. Here, it should be noted that the roads to Chandratal will close down anytime in October. Hence, in November and December, it is not possible to make a road trip to Chandratal, in general, unless you want to take a risk of your life.
The roads to Spiti Valley from Manali close with the heavy snowfall around the middle of November or December. Although the roads from Kalpa to Kaza remains open almost all around the year, the roads further ahead of Kaza to Chandratal can close anytime in November – December.
What is the Best time to visit Chandratal?
Looking at these details month by month, the best time to visit Chandratal lake is September month or you can also make a trip from the middle of June to July month as well. In September, the road conditions are best in shape with tamed water crossings. So, making a Chandratal road trip is very favorable in this time period.
You should also read my article on the best time to visit Spiti Valley for more details.
How to reach Chandratal
There are two possible routes from Delhi to Chandratal by road. One goes from Delhi to Manali and other goes from Delhi to Shimla to Kinnaur to Spiti Valley. Both the routes have its own advantages and disadvantages.
The route from Shimla – Kinnaur – Kaza
You can travel on this route starting from Delhi to Shimla or Narkanda. Then, from Narkanda move to Kalpa and further to Nako and Kaza. After exploring Spiti Valley, you can visit Chandratal from Kaza. The entire route is as follows:
Delhi » Shimla » Narkanda » Karcham » Powari » Puh » Nako » Tabo » Kaza » Losar » Kunzum La (4551 Meters) » Chandratal
I will strongly suggest that for visiting Chandratal lake you should travel from Shimla to Kinnaur and then visit Spiti Valley. Finally, when exiting Spiti Valley from Manali side, you should visit Chandratal lake.
This route from Kinnaur provides a gradual ascend and helps you acclimatize to the high altitude of Chandratal lake. Better acclimatization will help you fight the AMS and better enjoy your trip. Acclimatization is the key to success for any high altitude trip and this one is no different. So, please take it seriously.
The route from Mandi – Manali – Rohtang Pass
The shortest route from Delhi to Chandratal lake is from Manali side. It takes just one night stop at Manali from Delhi to reach this lake. The entire route is as follows:
Delhi » Mandi » Kullu » Manali » Rohtang La (3978 Meters) » Gramphoo » Chattru » Battal » Chandratal
Although the route from Mandi – Manali is the shortest route to Chandratal, it is a dangerous one too because it does not provide any acclimatization to your body. You sleep directly from less than 8000 feet to 14000 feet. By no means, your body can ever be acclimatized for such huge difference in altitude between two nights. Hence, the majority of people traveling to Chandratal lake from Manali does get hit with Acute Mountain Sickness symptoms.
This is the reason I always recommend to travel to Chandratal via Kinnaur side. If that is not possible and you only have the option to travel from Mandi to Chandratal lake, better sleep at Solang Valley and Batal before planning to sleep at campsites of Chandratal lake.
Bhuntar Airport near Manali is approximately 180 km from Chandratal lake and is the nearest airport too. The other one being in Shimla is 375 km away. However, due to their small size, these airports have limited capacity and connectivity. Next major airport is Chandigarh Airport which 300 km from Manali and 112 km from Shimla.
Hence, Chandigarh is the best place to start the journey to Chandratal if you are flying from any other part of India than Delhi or other Northern states.
Joginder Nagar railway station near Mandi is the nearest railway station from Chandratal about 290 km away. However, this would also have limited connectivity. My suggestion would be to have your endpoint of the railway journey as Chandigarh, which is well connected throughout.
By Public Transport
You can of course plan a trip to Chandratal lake by public transport. However, there isn’t any direct bus though you can still work it out if you like adventure.
Manali to Chandratal by Bus
There are two HRTC buses which run between Manali and Kaza every morning, as soon as the road to Spiti Valley from Manali get open in the season, mostly in June. You can hop on to any of these buses.
These buses run from Kullu to Kaza via Manali and it reaches Manali around 4.45 AM and leaves at 5.00 AM. Ticket to Kaza will cost you only about INR 250 approximately per person. You will need to get down at Chandratal diversion point after bus crosses Batal and either hike or hitch-hike for remaining 14 km to the lake.
Pro Travel Tip: You can read my article in detail on how to plan a Chandratal lake budget trip.
Shimla to Chandratal by Bus
There is an AC bus from Chandigarh, which reaches Shimla around 11 AM and then further connects to Reckong Peo. Also, there are two non-AC buses from Shimla till Reckong Peo. Then you can take the 7 AM daily HRTC bus to reach Kaza.
After reaching Kaza, you can follow the same Kaza to Manali bus and get down at Chandratal lake diversion point after Kunzum Pass to hitchhike further remaining distance as explained above.
By Self drive Car
If you are driving your car, the choice shall be SUVs/MUVs for sure (Safari/Sumo/Xylo/Scorpio/Jeep etc). A 4×4 vehicle is not really required but it’s an added advantage anyway for such terrain especially when tacking water crossings between Gramphu to Batal stretch.
Manali to Chandratal by Bike
When you plan a trip from Manali to Chandratal by bike you should note that you will be riding on one of the most
If you are riding Motorcycles, Mountain Bicycles just be very careful at some of the stretches between Gramphu to Chatru to Batal to Chandratal, are you will have to cross and tackle numerous notorious water crossings. Well, human feet are almost always required to trek some part in this journey so be ready to use them anyway 😉
Guide Road Map for Chandratal
Road conditions to Chandratal are not so good once you take the diversion off the Manali – Leh highway i.e. when you take a right turn from Gramphoo towards Batal – Kaza (Spiti Valley).
Manali – Chandratal Road Status & Condition
The road from Gramphu to Batal to Kunzum Pass is basically nothing but a dirt track with many water crossings all the way till Chandratal.
Kaza – Chandratal Road Status & Condition
If you are coming from Kaza towards Chandratal, you will find similar bad road conditions after crossing the Rangrik just ahead of Kaza. Well, the roads from Losar to Kunzum La and move towards Chandratal, the road condition further deteriorates. At this crossing taking a right will take you to Chandratal and left will lead you to Batal – Gamphoo – Manali (Left) / Leh (Right).
Main Troublesome Spots / Sections
From Batal to Chandratal from Manali side or Losar – Kunzum La crossing board to Chandratal from Kunzum side it gets even worse due to the presence of boulders/rocks throughout the stretch and you need higher ground clearance vehicles at many places.
You shall have to be extremely lucky negotiating with this stretch with lower ground clearance vehicles. It’s almost a kind of off-road driving experience. Presence of snow may make it more difficult. Many cars get damaged between Gramphu to Chandratal road.
You will also have to clear 2/3 water crossings during this stretch of Batal / Kunzum La Crossing to Chandratal and the current depends upon the time of the year. When I was there the latter one (near the lake) was very violent.
Things to Carry
Another common question I keep getting is what things to carry for a trip to Chandratal lake?
If you are traveling in a pleasant time window i.e. mid-June to mid-September, you don’t really need any special thing apart from your basic travel kit and regular medicines. But, if you are traveling in a dicey time window to terrain like Chandratal lake then better prepared with the following must have –
- Snow/Waterproof trekking shoes, preferably comfortable, lightweight (as you need to trek a lot) with powerful grip in Snow or slippery surface.
- Strong easy to grip wooden stick for holding gripping snow while trekking
- Snow/Waterproof clothing i.e. Jackets and Lower
- Heavy Woolens and Inner Thermals
- Woolen socks [carry 2 extra pairs in case one any gets wet]in your backpack. Wet socks won’t let you walk with all strength
- A small towel in your backpack to keep yourself dry as much as you can
- A water bottle for your backpack
- Camping gear if you need to set up your own camps at the camping site
Apart from the above list you can check my list of things to carry on a trip at the link : List of things to carry when you go on a trip
Where to Stay at Chandratal
There isn’t anything to stay at Chandratal lake because the camping is banned and illegal. The region comes Chandratal lake wetland reserve which is a Ramsar site protected under wildlife act. Hence, one cannot pitch camps near the Chandratal lake. There is a dedicated camping site about 2 km before it where you can pitch your camps. It is also the parking site where vehicles are parked and people trek further to the lake.
Parsol Camps Chandratal
Apart from self-camping at the camping site, there are temporary camps set up by local Bishan Thakur – Parasol Camps & Retreats at Chandratal and few others. You can contact Bishan of Parasol Camps at 09418845817, 09459910098, Nawang: 09459073908, 01906-200204. You can write to them at [email protected], [email protected] as well. The camps are more spacious, have mattresses & quilts and very comfortable. Bishan does have dining area & covered washrooms, if required.
You can refer DoW or my name to Bishan and he will surely offer whatever best in his capacity. We did stay with him at DoW Mega Meet and everything was managed very well by Bishan.
Chandra Dhabha Batal
Well, there is this all famous Batal Chandra Dhabha of Dorje Uncle which has room for 7-8 people on one side and on the other side they may allow you to stay if there is space available. Most of the space where food is served is occupied by workers and the Dhaba family itself, so if you are lucky you may get space to sleep there as well. They charge Rs 150 per person for a night stay and provide quilts as well. You can take as many quilts as available with them and if not in use by anyone.
There are many stories of Chacha Chachi bravery and they have been given gallantry awards too for saving lives of numerous people up there in this remote region of Chandratal Lake.
Batal PWD Rest House
There is an HP PWD Rest House as well now at Batal and you can take rooms there and eat at Chandra Dhabha with Dorje Chacha and Chachi. 08991722020 is the contact number of satellite phone at Batal and you can inquire from him if Dorje uncle can book a PWD Rest House room for you or couple of igloo type huts just in front of Batal dhabha that can save you from cold winds in the evening or night.
Dorje Uncle’s son Tenzin now also set up camps at Chandratal, you can reach him at Tenzing Camp – +91-8991722020. Else call up the satellite phone and ask Dorje uncle to do the bookings for his son’s camps.
As far as accommodation at the bank of Chandratal Lake is concerned, it has been banned by the GOVT. lately. So, you need to pitch tents alongside the parking site which is about 2 km from the Chandratal. After this point, you need to hike th remaining distance. Please respect the rules and nature else one day it will punish in its own way.
Other accommodation options
One more possibility is you can come back on Manali – Leh highway and rest at Khoskar (right from Gramphoo towards Leh side) in HP PWD Guest House. You can travel further towards Keylong and reach Sissu which has many decent options of stay as well 20 minutes ahead of Khoksar. I have stayed at Hotel Triveni at Sissu myself many times on my Ladakh and Chandratal trip.
As mentioned above, you cannot pitch your own camps at the banks of Chandratal lake but you can camp at the dedicated camping site.
Now there is always an option of taking your own camping stuff or getting them in a package with a guide or a porter. You can either hire camps from Manali or Delhi or buy your own if you are planning to camp many a time in future and serious about it. In case you are interested in camping then you will need tents, sleeping bags (-5 to -10 rated) and mattresses.
Attractions Around Chandertal
- Kunzum Pass At an altitude of 4551 m, is the main access to Spiti Valley from Lahaul Valley.
- Bara Shigri Glacier The largest glacier in Himachal Pradesh is located in the Chandra valley of Lahaul and it feeds the river Chenab. This glacier, 25 km long and about 3 km wide, lies on the middle slopes of the main Himalayan range.
- Sissu At an altitude of 3170 m, this place is famous because of a magnificent waterfall.
- Darcha At an altitude of 3360 m, Darcha is an ideal place for trekkers. You can start off trekking from here to Padum, Zanskar Valley passing through Shingola as well as Baralacha/Phirtsela. Darcha is around 24 km from Keylong and offers facilities for camping. A road to Shingo La has been built now and hence, you can plan a trip up there too.
- Baralacha La This pass which is crossroads on the summit is 75 km from Keylong. Baralacha la is on Manali –Leh road. It is also the watershed for the Chandra Bhaga and Yunam Rivers.
- Suraj Tal, you can trek from Chandratal to Suraj Tal and Baralacha La, however, that is a 2-3 days trek
Let us look at the common day by day trip plan for Chandratal lake. Well, as mentioned above you can plan your trip either from Manali side or from Shimla side. It will take more days or time to reach when you come from Shimla – Kaza route as compared to Manali route. However, traveling to Chandratal from Manali route will cause you AMS hassles.
Hence, you need to maintain a balance somewhere and my suggestion will be to club Chandratal trip with Spiti Valley in most cases. But if you do not have that many days at hand, you can refer my detailed itinerary of Chandratal trip in 4-5 days.
A basic plan for a trip to Chandratal is mentioned below as well but for detailed, refer to the article I linked in the last paragraph.
- Day 1 | Delhi – Manali and stay overnight at Solang Valley
- Day 2 | Solang – Khoksar/Sissu/Batal
- Day 3 | Khoksar/Sissu/Batal – Chandratal
- Day 4 | Chandratal – Manali
- Day 5 | Manali – Delhi
- ATM: Nearest ATM available is in Kaza and next one in Manali. Hence, make sure you carry enough cash on your Chandratal trip.
- Petrol Pump: Nearest petrol pump to Chandratal is Kaza, next you will get fuel at Tandi petrol pump on Manali Leh Highway. You should tank up at Manali as well.
- Medical Help: Losar has a medical dispensary which will be the nearest to get any basic medical help. Next best option to get any medical help on your trip to Chandratal is Kaza or Keylong.
- Mobile Connectivity: The moment you cross Gramphu and take the road to Chatru – Batal – Chandratal, there will not be any mobile connectivity with you. Hence, it is best to stick to my tips on mobile connectivity in Spiti Valley.
- Mechanics: The nearest mechanic you might get for any basic need is Losar and Gramphu. Anything major with your car or bike will need to be taken care in Kaza.
Other Tips for Chandratal Trip
- You do not need any permit for Chandratal. However, if you come from Manali side, you will need to get Rohtang Pass permit.
- Never cross the water nallas in a way which might get your clothes or socks wet. It will lead you to big trouble if you have wet clothes in such freezing conditions as chilly winds bite your bones. Try to protect your clothes as much as you can from getting wet. So, while crossing Nallas, just fold your lowers up to knee and remove shoes and socks before jumping in to cross it.
- Use your towel from backpack if you get wet to dry yourself as soon as possible.
- No Alcohol shall be consumed while trekking or hiking in the high Himalayas.
- Since Chandratal lake is at an altitude of about 14000 feet, it is not a good idea to go there without any acclimatization to stay overnight. Best way to plan a trip to Chandratal is that you come from Shimla side as the ascent is very gradual as compared to Manali side, of course, it takes more time to reach Chandratal from Shimla side.
- Do not forget to read my tips on acute mountain sickness and the importance of acclimatization.
No matter where you have traveled in the Himalayas, if you have not been on a trip to Chandratal lake, you have surely missed something. The magical morning reflections in the lake are something that can cure any type of mental or emotional turmoil raging within inside anyone.
A trip to Chandratal is one thing in life, I always appreciate and why not !! It gave the birth to this wonderful travel blog what we call Devil On Wheels 🙂 …
Have a travel question?? You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there.
If you know your friends or family are planning a Chandratal trip or Spiti Valley, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable trip.