The Moon Lake: Chandartal, Himachal Pradesh
Chandartal is a high altitude lake wedged deep within the mighty Trans-Himalayas of the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh and is situated at a towering altitude of around 14,100 feet above sea-level (4,300 m). The lake has a crescent shape similar to the moon and hence it has been named Chandartal. The word Chandartal literally translates to Moon Lake and is easily the most sort after destination in the entire state.
To reach Chandartal, travellers have two options the first one is via a motorable road which exists between Batal and Kunzum La. The road is a one way unpaved dusty road and is functional only during the summer months from mid-June to mid-October. The second option is to hike to the lake via Batal or Kunzum La, the former being a more popular start point for the hike. A gentle hike up from the town of Batal and one will reach the pristine Chandratal Lake.
The road leading to Chandartal from the town of Batal is one of the most rugged roads in the country. But at the same time, it is also one of the most picturesque routes with winding mountain roads, snow-capped mountains, small streams and the Spiti river flowing below in all its might.
On nearing the meadows, travellers will notice plenty of campsites. This is the closest travellers are permitted to officially stay near Chandartal and from the campsite the lake is about three kms away. Travellers have an option of hiking the entire distance from the campsite which is highly recommended or taking the vehicle till the last point after which the lake is a short ten minute walk.
The hike is relatively very easy and the only concern for a rookie Himalayan hiker is the lack of oxygen along the trail. The hike takes one round around the mountain and passes through the smaller lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Along the way, one will spot plenty of wild flowers, stones of various colours and a 20m patch of land which has been struck by lightning and has been burnt.
The entire trail is very well-marked and as you near the lake there are sign board which will point you in the direction of the lake. The hike takes around 40-60 minutes and the final 500 meters of the hike is a climb over a small hill lock and on reaching the top one will get a bird’s eye view of Chandartal.
At the entrance of the lake, one will spot a small stupa covered with plenty of prayer flags to signify the Buddhist influence in the region. Once at the lake, travellers will be awestruck by the sheer natural beauty and the changing colour of the water from deep blue to light green based on the reflection of the sun rays.
All around the lake one will stop plenty of stones stacked on top of each other, these are called wishing stones and the local belief is that if you make such a pile with seven stones and wish for something with a pure heart, the Himalayan Gods will grant your wish.
The temperature around the lake even on a sunny afternoon is sometimes unbearable because of the high intensity winds which sweep across the lake and drastically affect the real feel of the place. The night temperature at Chandartal drops to well below freezing point even during the summer night. Thick woollens are a must and a sleeping bag will surely come handy if you plan on staying the night in a camp.
Accommodation at Chandartal is limited to only camping in tents. They are moderately priced and come with sleeping bags, all meals and make shift toilets outside. The food is served in a large dining tent and consist of very basic food roti, rice, mix vegetable, dal and noodles, tea, coffee and cold drinks are also available. Travellers can also pitch their own tent and pay a nominal fee at the campsite.
The best time to visit Chandartal is during the summer months from mid-June to end of September. Post this period, staying near the lake is all but impossible because of the extreme cold. Chandartal is accessible all year round through the trekking route via Batal.
Chandartal is not only the most beautiful lake in the valley but also one of the biggest attractions in the entire state. A road trip to Spiti Valley is incomplete without a visit to this magical lake and a night stay at the campsite is a must for anyone seeking the complete Moon Lake experience.
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