The sheer magnificence and mesmerising beauty of the moon can be found in the desolate landscapes of Ladakh. Popular treks like the Markha Valley hike and the Stok Kangri trek are also tangible proof of the enchanting vision of Ladakh’s vast topography. For all those trekkers who travel in search of an experience like no other, the Chandratal trek to Baralacha La in Spiti is the quintessential adventure package.
The four day trek from Chandratal to Baralacha La is one of the most charming and popular treks amongst hiking enthusiasts. However, the trek is also not as frequently ventured upon by most trekkers due to the difficulty of the climb.
Know More Here:
- The Chandratal Trek: A Brief Breakdown
- The Chandratal Lake: A Moon on Earth
- Legend Has It
- Best Time of the Year
- The Best Routes
- Chandratal Trek: The Full Breakdown
- Trekking Essentials
- Fitness for Chandratal Trek
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Chandratal Lake, situated at a height of 4,300 metres, is vouched by all its visitors to be one of the most striking sights of nature, especially at night. The Chandratal Trek is very often added as a part of the Spiti valley itinerary and is a highly sought after experience in Ladakh.
The Chandratal Trek: A Brief Breakdown
- Where it is Located: Himachal Pradesh
- Number of Trekking Days: 5-6 Days
- Trekking Grade: Moderate to Difficult
- Base Camp: Manali
- Max Altitude: 14,100 feet
- Trekking Distance: 60 km
- Trail Type: Wilderness Trail
- Best Time to Visit: Mid June or Mid October
- Livingit Grade: Enthusiast - Advanced
The Chandratal Lake: A Moon on Earth
The Chandratal Lake literally translates into the “moon lake” (Chandra = moon; Tal = lake) and is located at a sky high altitude of 4,300 metres. Tucked away in the Lahaul and Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh, the lake is actually the primary source of the Chandra River and the name is said to be derived from the crescent like the shape of the water body. Even though the Chandratal Lake is relatively smaller than some of the other high altitude lakes like Moriri and Pangong, it is still one Spiti Valley's finest trekking experiences.
The Chandratal Lake was once historically a popular spot amongst traders and merchants from Tibet and Ladakh, who would often travel to Spiti and Kullu valleys for business. Soon enough, the place became a booming tourist destination, attracting adventure and travel enthusiasts from across the country and the globe. The lake is incidentally located 6 kilometres away from the Kunzum Pass in the Spiti and Lahaul district, in Himachal Pradesh.
Legend Has It
According to ancient mythology, the Chandratal Lake is believed by many Hindus to have once been the place where the King of the heavens, Lord Indra’s chariot was taken up by Yudhishtira, the eldest of the five Pandava brothers. Yudhishtira stole the chariot in order to begin his journey to the heavens.
But the famous lake is also known to have other origin stories.
The water body is said to represent the tale of the two lovers, Chandra and Suraj Taal, who once decided to meet at the Baralacha Pass.
Chandra, the beloved daughter of the moon and Suraj Taal or Bhaga, the son of the Sun God, were deeply in love – which, however, was never approved by their opposing parents. Together, the two decided to elope and upon reaching the lake, chose to be wedded in a celestial union. The route taken by Chandra from Baralacha La Pass to the Chandratal Lake is currently seen as a popular trekking route followed by several hikers. Her route from the Kunzum Pass returning to the Baralacha La can be seen as the path in which the river flows today. The Chandratal Lake is also believed to have been consequentially named after Chandra and Suraj Taal.
Best Time of the Year
The best time to go for the Chandratal Trek is from mid June to October. The snow cover around this time is not so much that it hinders with your trek, but is just enough to give you picturesque panoramas all along the trail.
- Summer: 12 to 20 degree Celsius (day); -2 to 6 degree Celsius (night)
- Winter: 12 to 18 degree Celsius (day); -6 to 4 degree Celsius (night)
The Best Routes
The distance from Delhi to Manali is approximately 536 km, which can be covered via flights, trains, or roadway options like buses and cars. Manali and Chandratal is around a 7 to 8 hours journey, where many choose to drive for a predominant part of the trek; until the path becomes steeper and narrower.
Manali to Chandratal Distance: 124 Kilometers
It is very important to remember that when you travel by road towards Chandratal through the Rohtang Pass, it is critical that you obtain Rohtang permits from the SDM office in Manali or an online portal. For motorcyclists, a certificate from the SDM office of Manali would have to be undertaken in order to allow bikes to cross the path.
The road to Chandratal from Kaza spans around 6 to 7 hours, through which you will end up crossing the Kunzum Pass. The road towards Losar would lead you to the Kunzum Pass top of the pass. After which, slight descensions towards Batal from the top would lead you into a small narrow pathway towards Chandratal.
Kaza to Chandratal Distance: 51 kilometres
While there are frequent buses from Kaza to Manali, it is best suggested that you take a bus from Kaza and get off at the Chandratal diversion, after crossing the Kunzum Pass. From here onwards, one can easily trek their way to the lake.
The visit to the Chandratal Lake is a three-day journey from Shimla. This route would make more sense if the Chandratal Lake is one of the many aspects of your Spiti valley trip. By entering through Shimla, you can cover the entire stretch of the Spiti valley circuit and exit at the Manali covering of the Chandratal Lake. One can either take a direct flight or a train to Shimla and would then accordingly use the motorable roads or trekking paths depending on the itinerary.
Shimla to Chandratal Distance: 530 Kilometers via Reckong Peo, Puh, Kaza, and Batal
Chandratal Trek: The Full Breakdown
Manali to Chika
Upon reaching Manali, one can easily drive to Chika either by using a local taxi or cab service or with their own private vehicles. En route to Chika, trekkers will pass the Vashisht Temple and can even stop to experience some of their famous hot water springs. Chika is usually considered the second base camp of the entire trek.
Chika to Balu ka Ghera
The actual trekking begins at Chika, towards the Dhauladhar range. The five hour trek begins with a beautiful view of the Himalayan peaks, with each snow capped mountain top welcoming you with each step of the hike. After crossing an expansive meadow of indigenous flora, hikers will come across a log bridge that will lead you into the Balu ka Ghera grounds. The name literally translates into the “land of the bears” and is known to be the hibernating grounds of the great Himalayan brown bear.
Balu ka Ghera to Siagoru via Hampta Pass
This trek spans over 8 hours and it is advised to start early in the morning to get the best glimpse of the Himalayan landscape across the day. The terrain consists of gradual slopes and is filled with nomadic gaddi shepherds. The path continues into the enchanting trails and forests of the Hampta valley. One can rest and replenish their resources at the Hampta village. Beyond the village, much further down the trail, trekkers will arrive at cross near the Lahaul valley. This would eventually lead one into the Siagoru basecamp.
Siagoru to Chandratal
This part of the trek will be relatively easier and will allow every trekker to witness the magnificence and enormity of the Pir Panjal ranges of the inner Himalayan circles. Before Chandratal, hikers are likely to encounter the stunning and picturesque cold desert of the Spiti Valley. This dominating topography is an indication of nearing the region of Chatru, from where it is best advised for hikers to drive through the extraordinary trails into Chandratal Lake.
Anand, in his blog about the Chandratal trek, writes, "The weather was clear. The lake was placid and ripple free as there was absolutely no wind. This led to unbelievable reflections in the lake. The immaculate lake had all the properties of a mirror."
If you're planning to camp at the Chandratal Lake, make sure to set up your tents at least 2 km away from the actual lake, as any closer is not allowed by the authorities.
Chandratal to Tokpo Gongma
Unlike the previous parts of the hike, the trek from Chandratal to Baralacha La is a journey that takes every trekker’s breath away - sometimes literally. The trek to Tokpo Gongma from Chandratal would require crossing over a few streams along the way on an undulating terrain. The trail is relatively hard to identify, especially due to the vast spread of boulder zones. One can even spot gaddi shepherds along the brown and rocky landscape. The Tokpa Gongma River can be easily spotted from the wide and fast currents of the water, joining into the Chandra River. One would have to trek further upstream to reach the snow bridge to cross over the river to the campsite on the other side.
Tokpo Gongma to Tokpo Yongma
As you traverse through the rocky terrains of the region, it would become apparent that the journey forward would require a couple of stream crossings trudges. The following path is punctuated with icy snow ledges and interspersed boulder zones. As the trek progresses, many would have to endure a steep climb upward, for around 70 to 100 metres into a scenic and pleasant campsite in Tokpa Yongma. The flat and green patch of land is encompassed by snow capped mountain peaks and is also inhabited by gaddi shepherd encampments.
Tokpo Yongma to Baralacha
From Tokpo Yongma campsite, the climb towards Baralacha is a gradual inclination but is a comfortable trek. The trail is marked by an array of prayer flags and cairns and on every side; one can view the impressive and momentous ranges of the Himalayas. The path continues into a terrain of plain and lull areas, until one reaches the descent into a vast stream, severing the trail. Upon crossing the stream, one is immediately welcomed by the peaceful and panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and snow covered peaks.
The view from Baralacha is said to make any shutterbug beam in excitement, with its thin mist covered atmosphere and an overall exquisite image from the mountain top. The trail downward and ahead would require a handful of stream crossing encounters until reaching the Leh-Manali road head. Once the road head approaches, it becomes evident that the trek is almost coming to its conclusion.
- A pair of dry clothes and three warm layers (include thermals)
- Two pairs of trekking pants
- A poncho or a jacket and a fleece scarf or shawl
- Sturdy and durable trekking shoes/boots
- A woolen cap or earmuffs
- Woolen and waterproof gloves
- A light towel
- Sunscreen (SPF 40+)
- Toothpaste and a toothbrush
- Hand sanitizer
- Cold cream
- Plastic covers
- Water bottles
- Cutlery like spoons, mug, lunch box, etc.
- Trekking pole
- Headlamp or LED lights
- Sunglasses (mostly for snow blindness)
- Crocin for fever
- Avil for allergies
- Combiflam as a general painkiller
- Digene for acidity
- Crepe bandage and ointment in the case of any injuries
- A small roll of cotton and gauze
- Moov or Relispray for muscular pulls, aches, and sprains
- Antiseptic screams and bug spray
- Photocopies and originals of government IDs - driver’s license, voter’s ID, Aadhar card, PAN card
- Medical certificate and disclaimer, filled out by both the trekker and the doctor.
Always carry water bottles and energy bars/snacks like dry fruits or nuts with you.
Fitness for Chandratal Trek
No matter what trek you go for, there is a major emphasis given to ensuring that your physical wellness and ability is paid attention before embarking on any trek. Making sure that your cardiovascular endurance and stamina are looked after and that your body is receiving ample amount of exercise and rest is a vital factor before venturing on any trek.
Cardio exercises and core strengthening activities are best suggested before venturing onto such treks. It makes it easier for you to hike and fully explore the landscapes. Moreover, exercises help prepare you for the trip. The experience of walking long distances with heavy weights will also be a useful preparation.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the best time to go on the trek?
The months from May to October are the best once for this trek.
- Which type of shoes should I buy?
Buy a quality pair of sturdy trekking shoes that cover your ankles. Avoid using sport shoes as the trails are uneven and tricky. But in case you buy new trekking shoes, remember that it is vital to try them out at least for a month before you begin the actual trek.
- How much weight will I have to carry?
Around 10 kg per traveller is best advised.
- Will there be mobile connectivity?
No. There will be very little to no mobile connectivity from the very beginning of the Spiti Valley trail, unless you are carrying a satellite phone. But this gives you the perfect opportunity to put your phone away and thoroughly enjoy the lush expanse of flora and fauna that accompany you on every step of the trek. If you’re lucky enough, you may just spot a deer!
- What is the difficulty level of Chandratal Lake trek?
While the trek is moderately difficult, regardless, it is still a hike for trekkers of all backgrounds and experience levels. Amateur trekkers have every opportunity to venture onto the trails.
- What will the temperature be like?
The temperature in and around the valley fluctuates between the summers and winters. While the best time to visit the Chandratal lake is in October, it is best advised that your pack accordingly to the time and month.
- What is the minimum age required to do the Chandratal trek?
The minimum age required to go on this trek is 14+ y/o. But more importantly, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the individual is physically fit.
- Can we consume alcohol if it's really cold during the trek?
Consumption of alcohol or any other forms of intoxicants are strictly prohibited during the trek. This is done to maintain decorum and safety amongst all trekkers, considering the potential hazardous conditions that may be encountered.
For any trekker that wishes to see the extensive beauty that Ladakh’s natural landscape has to offer, the Chandratal trek provides the ultimate and most ideal adventure package. It brings forth everything that is exciting about hiking across the vast and versatile grounds of Ladakh and Spiti and the very charm of having to trek across various distinct terrains and environments.
Not only does the Chandratal trek introduce every hiker to the captivating vision of the Himalayan valleys and ranges, it also allows each and everyone to become closer to the life and spirit of the Himachali valleys. With relatively easy and gradual fluctuations in gradients, the Chandratal trek is a sure shot winner amongst some of the best Himalayan hikes.