This was my first experience with High Altitude trek, even though there is not much altitude gain while you pass from Kunzum la (4300 Meters above MSL) to the Chandratal lake (4250 Meters above MSL) the distance of which is around 13 km. This lake is often visited by trekkers and tourists coming in from Manali be it Hampta pass trek or by jeep ride.
I had rated this place as most important one in my Spiti Valley tour of 2017, and i was not disappointed.
First of all, reaching this place was in itself a journey which took a toll on us. We were group of travelers coming in from Kaza, were direly needed a transport option to Chandratal. The HRTC bus which was reliable in other cases was of no much use, since there ran a single HRTC bus from Kaza 4 am every morning which was out of the option since we were not in position to make it that early after the arduous journey of 6 days via Shimla to Kaza and one more reason was no confirmed tickets i.e no guarantee of seats. So we hitchhiked with a tour organizer from Kaza at 5 am and reached Chandratal camp site by 9 am. And initially we planned on staying at Jamaica camps but we got better deal in Tenzin camps.
We decided to head for the Lake, and it was the most memorable and scenic trek/walk i have done in my entire life. The beauty of the lake cannot be expressed in words. The crystal clear water, light blue shade and brown mountains and green pastures at the banks made it look like doorway to heaven. And interestingly, the legend has it that, the mythological character Yudhistir from Mahabharath was taken to heaven from this lake by Indra. The banks are the perfect place to sit and enjoy the views of the lake, and i must tell you its maintained perfectly well, even though many tourists flock to this lake because of its popularity.
How to Reach:
1. From Manali : The route takes you via Rohtang pass - > Chattru -> Batal or Kunzum La -> Chandratal camps -> Trek to Chandratal lake.
The journey is 128 km to Chandratal camps. You have to take a turn near either Batal or Kunzum la pass, a good 4 to 5 hour journey. The HRTC buses runs between Manali to Kaza are one option if you are in budget travelling. Or else numerous cabs/rented 4-wheeler taxis are available from Manali.
2. From Kaza : The route takes you via Losar -> Kunzum la -> Chandratal camps. The total journey is 95 km to Chandratal camps. You can take a deviation to right from Kunzum la pass to reach the camps of Chandratal. The daily HRTC bus at 4 am from Kaza bus stop would be an option along with other Rented cars/taxis from Kaza. During summer make sure to leave Kaza early morning to avoid the Nalla's (puddles of melting snow water on roads)
Where to Stay:
There are numerous camps run by various sherpa's or local camp organizers. One of the well known are Moon lake camps and Jamaica camps, which takes online bookings as well.
But we had opted for Tenzing camps, because of the good deal we got at the last minute.
The charges at Tenzing camps were 800 INR per person (includes stay + food)
The charges at Jamaica camps were 1500 INR per person (includes stay + food), 1800 INR p.p (for attached bath facilities).
Things to Do:
You can visit the lake multiple times once in the morning and once in the evening to enjoy both the views.
And on the way to Lake, you will thrilled to see some glaciers far across northern side and a peak named as CB-13 which is snow capped and an eye catcher.
You will also get to see some of the smaller water bodies created in the summer due to melting snow.
Leave the camp before afternoon to be able to reach Manali or Kaza by sunset.
During winters the camps near lake will not be operational and most importantly the Kaza to Chandratal route itself will be closed.
The camps will be operational only till Mid of October every year and re-open at Mid of May post winters.
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