I recently visited Spiti Valley for 7 Days and as a part of my itinerary, we reached Chandratal lake en route Manali on our last day. We started from Kaza around afternoon as we had planned on staying a night at Chandratal Lake campsite. In this Blog post, I have written about How to reach Chandratal lake; the options you have and which might suit you.
After a tiresome journey from Kaza on a dusty road and a subsequent hike, we reached the lake. Chandratal induced a sense of tranquility as the calm water created ripples due to the gentle wind. The bright prayer flags, fluttering by the lake indicated how strong the wind was and so did our ruffled hair. A gigantic brown shaded mountain, tucked in a corner, looked at its own reflection in the lake. The evening Sun created artistic hues in the sky and changed the color composition almost every 5 minutes. The lake happily reflected the changing shades on the canvas of the sky. After having spent an hour, I believe a Spiti Valley itinerary might be incomplete without Chandratal Lake.
The prayer flags at Chandratal lake (How to reach Chandratal lake)
However, I found Tso Moriri Lake in Leh better than Chandratal. But then traveling is more satisfying if you don’t keep comparing your experiences and cherish the best from each encounter with nature. Isn’t it? Well, I will write more about my Chandratal experience and tips to book accommodation in another blog post. Here, I am giving you some answers to the frequently asked question; How to reach Chandratal Lake.
Where is Chandratal Lake located?
If you are going from the Manali route, you will cover a distance of 202 KM to reach Kaza in Spiti valley. You will face 5 to 6 waterfalls, flowing over the road. After you cross these waterfalls, the toughest stretch of the route, you will reach Batal. From there, Kaza will still be around 55 KM far. But, to reach Chandratal Lake, you need to take a detour from Batal, leaving the Kaza route behind. The distance from Batal to Chandratal lake is 15 KM and it would take a little more than an hour to cover this stretch if you have a vehicle.
Where to place Chandratal Lake in your Spiti Valley itinerary?
As mentioned in my blog post How to reach Spiti Valley, I have recommended starting from Shimla and returning to Manali. That way, you will be able to enjoy scenic beauties on both of these routes. The best way to place Chandratal Lake is on your last day when you are leaving Kaza for Manali. Chandratal Lake falls on that route and when you reach there, you would have covered 25% of your total distance till Manali from Kaza. If you are staying at Chandratal Lake for a night, leaving the next day at early morning will help you cross the waterfalls before afternoon. Due to this, you will be able to safely cross the waterfalls before the water level rises after 12 PM.
Ways to reach Chandratal Lake
While planning on how to reach Chandratal Lake, you can consider two options. First one is an obvious option where you book a cab from Kaza till Chandratal Lake. If you are going to come back to Kaza after visiting Chandratal Lake, the cab should cost you between Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,500. But, if you are going to take the same cab to Manali, you will have to incur an extra cost of only Rs 2,000 in addition to the Manali cost. We took a cab for Kaza – Chandratal – Manali route which cost us Rs 13,000. Had we not covered Chandratal Lake, we would have reached Manali at for 12,000.
The 2nd option is a bit more exciting. Every morning, around 4 AM, a bus departs from Kaza for Manali. The same bus has a halt at Batal. You can take this bus and alight at Batal. From there, you can opt for shared taxis which cost Rs 500 per seat. However, the frequency of these shared Jeeps is not very high. So, that’s where the excitement kicks in. You need to hitchhike your way till Chandratal Lake. If you are looking for a little more excitement, you can choose this option.
There is a 3rd option as well, but I would not recommend it personally as it might not be worth. You can trek your way to Chandratal all the way from Batal. That’s 15 KM for you one way. I love trekking in the Himalayas. But, for this stretch, the landscapes pretty much remain the same. Also, there are no steep climbs on this trail which makes this trek more of a hike. But then, it wouldn’t be fair to compare this hike with the other Himalayan treks I have done. So, maybe you can give it a shot if you are not time crunched. There is another trek, from Kunzum pass to Chandratal. But, I am not sure about that.
Vehicles are not allowed till the lake. You need to hike for around 1.5 KM from a parking spot. (How to reach Chandratal lake)
The vehicles cannot go till the banks of Chandratal Lake. When you reach Chandratal Lake by cab or shared taxi, you will see the campsite first. From these camps, there is another 2-3 KM stretch of dusty road to reach a parking spot. Subsequently, you need to hike for 1.5 to 2 KM in order to reach Chandratal Lake.
They don’t allow campsites near the lake anymore, which is a good thing for the environment. But, camping by the banks and admiring the lake under moonlight would have been a great experience.
Restrictions on visiting Chandratal Lake
A few years ago, authorities allowed the campsite closer to the lake. But now the campsite is shifted 3 KM away. That’s actually a good thing from the environmental point of view, but camping by the lake would have been a tremendous experience. It was allowed to visit Chandratal lake at night as well. I can imagine how the lake would look at night, under shimmering stars and brightly lit full moon. But unfortunately, now you can’t visit the lake after twilight. Allegedly, there were some past visitors who got drunk and went swimming in the lake. A couple of them never came out. Due to that accident, this rule came to force. But, these mountain folks have a habit of telling random stories to tourists. So I don’t really believe this accident occurred. However, if it did it’s very sad.
Staying near Chandratal Lake
Don’t worry a lot about staying near Chandratal Lake. When we were planning for Chandratal Lake, a lot of people told us that it wouldn’t be possible to get accommodation as there is some festival going on in Spiti valley. But, our driver took us straight to Tenzin’s campsite. Tenzin is a happy-go-lucky guy with whom we enjoyed some liquor while sitting close to a heater. When I asked him how to book his campsite online, he laughed out loud. He said “You come directly, this online booking and all is not needed. Even though everything is full, I will accommodate you somehow”. Well, I say believe him and just go. Very few camps have online presence or representation through agents. Rest work completely on walk-ins.
I hope you will be able to figure out the best option for you based on this blog post. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me in the comment section.