Have you ever visited a place twice and noticed how nature changes & unfolds itself differently? Well, it has happened to me a couple of times, and recently, I was walking along the shores of the Chandra Taal in Himachal, after nearly 2 years, and felt the same difference!
It was back in October 2017, when I had my first encounter with this mystical lake, located in Spiti Valley. I remember how the blue waters enchanted us, and it felt as if someone has poured gallons of ink in the lake. The prayer flags added more colors to the banks, where we sat for hours, soaking in the quaint vibes of the place. There were just about 20 people (including the 5 of us) and all we could hear was the sound of silence!
All That You Need To Know About Visting Chandra Taal:
How To Reach, Best Time To Visit, Where to Stay
Located at an altitude of 4290 meters (approx 14,200 feet), Chandra Taal is one of the most significant glacial lakes in the country, which is also considered to be extremely sacred amongst the locals. The lake is known to be the source of River Chandra, which is one of the tributaries of River Chenab. It is believed that Chandra Taal got its name from its crescent shape, and it’s often termed as ‘The Moon Lake’.
How To Reach:
Both times, I opted for road trips across Spiti Valley and my explorations took me to Chandra Taal, twice. The lake can be reached from Manali as well as from Shimla. One has to reach Batal initially, and further take a diversion to reach the lake.
Route from Manali: Manali – Marhi – Rohtang Pass – Chhatru – Batal – Chandra Taal
Route from Shimla: Shimla – Chitkul – Nako – Kaza – Losar – Chandra Taal
Chandra Taal lies at a distance of about 14 kilometers from Losar & approximately 13 kilometers from Batal, and it takes 45 minutes to an hour to reach the parking area. The motorable road ends there, and you have to hike uphill for a kilometer, and then descend to reach the lake.
Other than this, adventurous souls can also opt for a trek from Manali to Chandra Taal, via Hampta Pass. It is one of the most picturesque trek trails in India, and quite popular as well!
Best Time To Visit:
I would personally suggest you visit during the months of September & October after the monsoon clouds float away! The sky is usually clearer, and the azure waters invariably make everything surreal.
The months of July & August usually witness a major footfall in the valley, and thus, you’ll often find yourself surrounded by too many people! Also, there are possibilities of sudden showers, although the lake looks pretty gorgeous with the lush greens, growing on all sides.
I’ve not seen how the lake appears in the months of December / January, but I wish to be there at some point in time, to gaze at the frozen Chandra Taal.
Where To Stay:
There is a camping site located at a distance of about 5 KM from the lake. However, recently, the number of camps have been reduced. The other options are: hotels/homestays in Losar or Batal, the nearest villages where you can find decent places for accommodation as well as basic meals.
Myths About The Chandra Taal
There are several interesting stories associated with this mystical lake. According to Hindu Mythology, it is believed that after the battle of Kurukshetra, Lord Indra landed in his chariot at Chandra Taal to take Yudhishthira, the eldest of all the Pandavas, in the mortal state to heaven (Swarga). Due to its mention in the Mahabharata, many people still consider this lake to be sacred and avoid dipping their feet in the water!
During my recent visit, I overheard a conversation between Sahil (a friend from Himachal) and Ashok Bhaiya (the person driving our vehicle) which caught my attention and intrigued me immensely. That’s when I came to know about a Spitian Folklore about Chandra Taal, which says that the lake is taken care of by a mermaid, who often appears and steals stuff from unmarried men! The locals believe that once upon a time, a shepherd came and sat on the banks of the lake. The mermaid appeared and asked him to marry her. He refused her and left the place. The heartbroken mermaid, since then, has been living there and only unmarried men can see her! (Quite unbelievable, but people in the valley absolutely vouch on this tale!)
How The Beauty Of The Lake Changes Every Season!
In the month of October, it was the onset of winters. The sky was mostly clear and the water reflected the blue shades. It almost felt like the water of the lake was having some secret conversations with the sky. The rugged mountains surround the lake were already snowclad by then. Back in 2017, people were also allowed to visit the lake at night. It was a mere coincidence that we were at Chandra Taal on a full moon night, and we hiked up at around 11 ‘O clock, to watch the lake shimmer in the celestial lights.
We had spread our shawl on the bank to lie down and gaze at the sky, till we froze (quite literally!)!
Sadly, night treks to Chandra Taal are no longer allowed. A few months back, Himachal Tourism Board and the Koksar Gram Panchayat passed a notice which mentioned that camping near the Chandra Taal lake would be banned, due to the accumulation of kitchen waste and other garbage around these camps, which is now threatening the ecosystem & the existence of the lake.
And then, I was back there again in August 2019, to see a completely different picture! The lake looked pale blue, reflecting the cloudy monsoon sky. Green grass grew around the lakeside, with purple & yellow wildflowers, blooming here & there. Considered to be the ‘high season’ when people visit Spiti Valley, I witnessed a crowd that was bigger than what I had ever imagined!
Unlike the previous visit, the rendezvous with Chandra Taal was for a shorter period this time! It wasn’t even 15 minutes that I started to walk along the bank with a friend accompanying me, and it started to drizzle. Rains in the mountains can just out to be dangerous, and we had to take bigger steps to reach the parking lot, which is about 1.5 KM from the lake. The crowd also fizzled out in no time, as the drizzles turned to a heavy downpour.
By the time I reached the car, I was almost drenched & shivering, yet there was a contentment that filled the heart. I don’t know about the Gods & the fairies (neither do I believe in the myths & mysticism), but I do believe that nature can conspire to make things wonderful…and leaves a mark on your memories, to last forever!
As they say, ‘You never return the same as you had left’ – and it’s truer when you have such encounters with the Himalayas. I don’t know if it’s the air of mystery or the magic of the folklores, but Chandra Taal is a place that would enchant you with its beauty and leave you drooling for more. There’s something insanely beautiful about this place, that would keep calling you back…
If you’ve ever explored Lahaul & Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh or been to Chandra Taal Lake, then do let us know about your experience as well. We would love to hear about your stories too!