Chandratal Lake, Spiti Valley
At an altitude of 4270 Meters approx. Chandratal lake in Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh lies between a low ridge and the main Kunzum range. Mostly surrounded with snow, this deep blue-water lake has a circumference of 2.5 Kilometers. Some people also call it Moon Lake and is also one of the the source of the violent Chandra River. Moulkila and Chandrabhaga mountain ranges having snow capped peaks and snow slopes around the valley measures from 3000 Meters to 6500 Meters approximately. Locales there, believe that it is this point from where Yudhishtra (Eldest among Pandava of Mahabharata epic) was taken to heaven in his mortal form. It’s a very luring place.
Location of Chandratal
Himalayas | Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Altitude of Chandratal
4270 Meters or 14220 Feet (approximately)
Climate at Chandratal
Very cold during winter and temperature may drop well below even – 20 degrees. Although cold during summer, snowfall can happen anytime of the year here. Do not forget to take heavy woolens any time of the year you are going.
How to reach Chandratal
Possible road route(s) from Delhi to Chandratal by road are:
- Delhi – Kullu – Manali – Rohtang La (3978 Meters) – Gramphoo – Chattru – Battal – Chandratal
- Delhi – Shimla – Narkanda – Karcham – Powari – Puh – Nako – Tabo – Kaza – Losar – Kunzum La (4551 Meters) – Chandratal
Nearest Airport is Bhunter near Kullu and Jubbarhattii Airport near Shimla and Nearest Railway station is at Shimla connected with Kalka through toy train.
If you are driving, choice shall be SUVs/MUVs for sure (Safari/Sumo/Xylo/Scorpio/Jeep etc). 4X4 is not really required but it’s an added advantage anyway for such terrain. If you are riding Motorcycles, Mountain Bicycles just be very careful at some of the stretches as bike may skid due to heavy filthy roads and water crossings. Well, human feet are almost always required to trek some part in this journey so be ready to use them anyway 😉
Road conditions are not so good once you are off the Manali – Leh highway i.e. when you take a right turn from Gramphoo towards Battal. It is basically a Dirt track all the way till Chandratal. Same applies when you cross the gor from Losar to Kunzum La and move towards Chandratal till Kunuzm La crossing board. At this crossing taking a right will take you to Chandratal and left will lead you to Battal – Gamphoo – Manali (Left) / Leh (Right).
From Battal 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.
You will also have to clear 2/3 water crossings during this stretch of Battal / 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.
Season to visit
Pre-requisite: Any one of the passes viz. Rohtang La (Rohtang Pass) or Kunzum La (Kunzum Pass) are open for traffic.
June Last Week to September Second Week
It will be the best option to visit Chandratal in July-August month window when the roads are cleaned up by till very end and Chandratal becomes accessible by road. So, you can take your vehicle at the parking point of Chandratal from where you need to hike about 2 KMs for the rest of the journey.
June first three weeks / September last week
Well you may try your luck first week June onward but it’s highly likely that trek from Battal onward will be tough due to the presence of snow and for sure not motor able till the very end. You may just reach Battal and then need to trek in the presence of snow which makes it all very tough. We went Delhi to Chandratal via Manali in June first week 2009. Here is my experience for the same: Visit to Chandertal
Rest of the year
As soon as the passes (Rohtang La and Kunzum La) close, Chandratal gets disconnected via road from Delhi-Manali or Delhi-Kaza/Losar route. Now if the passes are closed then being beyond there passes it would be inaccessible via road by any route. The whole valley from Chattru onward get’s loads of snow.
Things to Carry
If you are traveling in a pleasant time window i.e. July-August you don’t really need any special thing apart from you basic travel kit and few medicines. But, if you are traveling in a dicey time window to a terrain like Chandratal Lake better prepared with the following must haves –
- Snow/Water proof shoes, preferably comfortable, light weight (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/Water proof clothing i.e. Jackets and Lower
- Heavy Woolens
- Woolen socks [carry 2 extra pair in case one any gets wet]in your backpack. Wet socks won’t let you walk with all strength
- A small towel in your back pack to keep yourself dry as much as you can
- A water bottle say 1 Ltr for your backpack
- Camping gear if you need to setup your own camps
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
Accommodation Options at Chandratal
There isn’t anything else here apart from temporary camps setup by local Bishan Thakur – Parasol Camps & Retreats at Chandratal and few others. You can contact Bishan of Parasol Camps at 09418845817, 09459910098, Nawag: 09459073908, 01906-200204. You can write to them at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org …. The camps are more spacious, have mattresses & quilts and very comfortable. He does have 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
Well, there is 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 100 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 is a PWD Rest House as well now at Batal and you can take rooms there and eat at Chandra Dhabha with Dorje Uncle and Aunty ji. 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 setup 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 bank of Chandratal Lake is concerned, it has been banned by the GOVT. lately so you need to pitch tents along side the parking site which is about 2.5 KMs from the lake from where you need to hike this remaining distance. Please respect the rules and nature else one day it will punish in its own way.
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.
Some more Tips to visit Chandratal
- Never cross the water nallas in 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 bites 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.
- 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 visit 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 about acute mountain sickness and importance of acclimatization at the link below: Acute Mountain Sickness and Importance of Acclimatization
- 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 ideal place for trekkers. You can start off trekking from here to Padum, Zanskar Valley passing through Shingola as well as Baralacha/Phirtsela. It is around 24 km from Keylong and offers facilities for camping.
- Bara Lacha La This pass which is cross roads on the summit is 75 km from Keylong. It 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 2-3days trek