Chandratal Lake is magnificence personified in the form of a hauntingly beautiful, crescent-shaped lake of crystal waters. Beauty takes a whole new meaning, once you arrive at the sight and take a look at Chandratal, which derived its name from the lunar shape it resembles. A nature lover's food for the soul, the excursion to Lake Chandratal brings a perfect end to the short and rewarding Hampta Pass Trek through the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti.Chandratal Lake
Can you skip the drive to Chandratal? Yes, you most certainly can. It would probably give your tired body some rest and you can be on your drive back to Manali faster. But you should also consider the other and more exciting side of the coin.
The drive from your last campsite of the trek at Chhatru to the lake will take somewhat around an hour. But it will give you some of the best treats for the eyes and the mind before you leave it all behind to go back to your mundane life. It would be your one last chance to shake up the adventurer within you.Campsite at Chhatru
Chandratal Lake, located at around 4,250 metres altitude, is one of the designated Ramsar Site wetlands of India. Safely protected by lofty peaks of Pirpanjal, the lake encircles an extensive, lush green meadow dotted with colourful wildflowers. In these meadows, if you are lucky enough and choose the right time to visit, you can see shepherds of the native Gaddi tribe grazing their flocks of sheep - a picture-perfect mountainous frame for you to capture, preferably with permission.
The lake itself is as stunning as it gets. While the sun is up, the brilliant blue sky reflects in the transparent water of the lake, colouring it in its shade. As the sun sets, a dark emerald takes over the shimmering Chandratal, and with nightfall, it becomes a body of glistening black. On the nights the moon is visible, its reflection flickers ever so softly in the Chandratal Lake, giving its moniker quite a poetic justice.
Further inland along the meadow is the camping site and some scattered tents, ready to be rented out to the highest bidder. If you happen to stay the night, lying on the green grass staring at the starlit night sky is going to be an unparalleled experience. Otherwise, you can stay till afternoon and drive back to the Chhatru campsite for the further journey back home.
So now you decide for yourself, whether you want to save some time or have the experience of a lifetime.Alternate ways to visit Chandratal Lake
If you are not going for the Hampta Trek, no need to fret. The Hampta trekking trail is not the only route via which you can access the beautiful lake in the lap of Pirpanjal.
Manali offers the easiest accessibility to Chandratal Lake in Himachal Pradesh. You can either hire an SUV or go full traveller mode with a private, open-hood jeep, which is the most convenient means of transport if you are travelling in a group but also probably the costliest. But given the experience of the journey and the fact that you will be sharing the expense, it is completely a value-for-money trip.Famous Chacha Chachi Dhaba at Batal
There is yet another cheaper and more exciting alternative for the adventurous at heart. If you do not wish to hire an SUV or a jeep and do it the more rustic way, you can catch a bus to Kaza and alight at Batal. After you cross Rohtang Pass, other than Chhatru, this is the only place en route to Chandratal Lake from Manali where you can get something to eat and use washrooms. At Batal, you can take a breather at a local Dhaba, refuel yourself and trek to Chandratal Lake as well. You will experience stunning scenes on your uphill journey to the lake. The stay in Batal also helps you get accustomed to the altitude and increasing cold that driving the whole way up there at a stretch - so it is less harsh on the physique.
Another route will take you via the Kunzum Pass, which is the nearest motorable road to Chandratal. The parking lot along this road is only 2 kilometres away from the lake.Suitable time to visit Chandratal Lake
If you do not choose the right time to visit the lake, the journey can become exceedingly difficult and might not become a success as well. It is because of the high altitude of the lake's location and the obvious climatic adversities that follow.
During winter, the lake stays inaccessible and the weather is not one that we can thrive in. so the roads also remain closed during the colder six months of the year. However, the snow starts to melt around June and July. By September, Chandratal Lake, as well as the entire Lahaul-Spiti Valley, experiences the most magnificent of climates. The sky remains sterling blue at all times during the day, with the mountain peaks around visible clearly - standing tall and proud. The weather remains pleasantly cool and crispy. Therefore, the month of September is the ideal time to go for the trek as well as to pay a visit to Chandratal Lake.
Before that, August gets hit with the heavy monsoon, treacherous roads and lack of amenities on the way. The only thing you get is the risk of landslides and overflowing waters of mountain stream blocking your way. And after that, from October, the mercury starts to drop and the local shops slowly start to close their businesses from mid-October. After that, it goes subzero and there is no chance of visiting till next summer.