A few days ago, I posted an article detailing accommodation choices at Chandratal; post which I received a couple of emails asking how to plan a journey if the intent is to only visit Chandratal and not Spiti valley. I helped a few people with a Chandratal itinerary for 4 – 5 days trip then thought to post this here in form of an article, for everyone’s information. While a visit to this lake usually gets incorporated with a Spiti valley trip; a lot of people try to make a short trip to only Chandratal. Major reason behind this is that this small lake is gaining popularity as a preferred camping spot; and in my opinion; quite rightly so. Camping here is indeed a heavenly experience. If you have 4 – 5 days in hand, mentioned below is a Chandratal itinerary that you can follow to make a short trip to this beautiful lake.
Chandratal Itinerary – How to Plan a trip for 4 – 5 Days?
For the sake of this itinerary, I will assume Delhi as the starting point. If you are traveling from elsewhere, then your journey for 1st and last day will change; could be longer or shorter depending on where you stay.
There are two ways that you can reach Chandratal. You can either travel from Manali via Gramphoo and Batal; or you can reach the lake from Shimla via Kaza. However from Shimla side, you will have to travel through the entire Kinnaur and Spiti valleys before you make it there; a journey of 3 days at minimum. So if you only want to visit only Chandratal, the best way to do it is to plan from Manali side.
Traveling from Manali however has its own set of challenges which I will detail below.
Acute Mountain Sickness at Chandratal:
This will be your biggest challenge when planning a short trip to Chandratal. On Day 1, you will be at home in plains and will reach an altitude of 2000 meters at Manali by evening. On Day 2, you will reach Chandratal which is at an altitude of over 4000 meters. So within a matter of 36-40 hours, the gain in altitude will be at a tremendous speed, more than what your body could keep up with. This is more or less an inevitable situation for everyone; you will definitely suffer from some symptoms of mountain sickness, either at the lake or on the way. If however your condition starts to deteriorate, do not spend any more time at the lake and immediately travel towards Manali. If this is not an option then go to Kaza which may not be at a significantly lower altitude but you can at least hope to get medical attention there. Read Dealing with Acute Mountain Sickness In Spiti for more details.
Rohtang Pass Permits:
This will be the next biggest challenge. Traveling to Chandratal from Manali means that you will have to cross Rohtang Pass which requires you to obtain a permit; either online or from SDM office Manali. The restriction of limited number of vehicles traveling towards the pass make this entire process a big hassle. Read Rohtang Pass Permits : Details, Charges & How to Apply for more details. If however you are traveling by public transport, then there is no need to obtain any permit at all.
With the above being said, mentioned below is an itinerary for Chandratal that you can follow for a short trip. From Delhi, a minimum of 4 days is required to visit Chandratal and return back home. However, in a 4 days trip you will just be traveling on all four days and will get very less time (just a few hours in the evening and late night) at the lake. In order to actually enjoy the trip, I would recommend a minimum of 5 days.
Chandratal Itinerary – 4 Day Travel Plan
The below mentioned itineraries will apply both from the point of view of traveling by your own vehicle or by public transport. I will mention two itineraries, one for 4 days and other for 5 days. The details for your journey from home to Manali and then back home will pretty much remains the same. The only change will be around where you will stay while vising the Lake. The Itinerary will be:
- Day 1: Delhi to Manali
- Day 2: Manali to Chandratal
- Day 3: Chandratal to Manali
- Day 4: Manali to Delhi
A description of all these four days is details below.
Delhi to Manali:
This will be a long monotonous drive across NH1 and finally to Manali by late evening. Total travel time can be anywhere between 12-14 hours depending upon your speed and number of breaks you take. An early start, possibly by 4 AM, from Delhi is highly recommended. If you are traveling by your own vehicle, then the biggest concern would be the permits for Rohtang Pass which you should have handy as you will not have any time on Day 2 to get these from SDM office Manali. Either you can obtain this permit beforehand online or you can also contact a hotel in Manali and ask them to arrange for your permits. If the hotel agrees for an additional fee, check in with them for your night stay at Manali.
If however you are catching a bus from Delhi, then I recommend that you still make this a day trip. Board an early morning bus from Delhi that can drop you at Manali by late evening. Most of the Volvos or HRTC buses from Delhi start by late evening and reaching Manali next day morning which sounds reasonable but may not actually work for you. From Manali, you will have to catch an early morning bus towards Kaza and if the bus from Delhi did not arrive in time, you will miss the Kaza bus. So either board a day bus from Delhi or catch a night bus that will see you in Manali by 5 AM.
Manali to Chandratal:
Once again take an early start. This will help you avoid the possible traffic jam at Rohtang top. Secondly, the distance from Manali to Chandratal may not seem that great but the extremely bad roads will severely limit your speed due to which the total travel time will increase. Cross Rohtang La and while descending, take the diversion towards Spiti valley near Gramphoo. From here and until Batal; you will be driving on the worst stretch of road that you ever came across to. Numerous water streams, slush, lose stones; sharp rocks and narrow dirt road will make this journey one hell of a ride.
Once you reach Batal, continue towards Kunzum Pass and slightly before the top, you will notice the 14 kilometer long road that bifurcates towards Chandratal. This is the one you will be taking. It is barely wide enough for a single car so drive slow and keep an eye out for any car coming from the opposite direction. If there is one coming, find a spot wide enough to cross and wait for it there. About 4 – 5 kilometers before the lake, you will start coming across several camp sites that you can check in to as per your liking. Law does not allow camping at Chandratal so all the camp sites are at least at a distance of about 3 kilometers from the lake. You can check in to the camp sites and take a walk to Chandratal.
If however you are traveling by Bus, then you will have to catch the bus that goes to Kaza from Manali at 6 AM. Traveling by this bus, you will get down at Chandratal diversion from where you have three options. Either you wait for a shared taxi to arrive; chances of which are very less. Your second option is to hitchhike and in peak tourist season; a lot of people travel this way so you will have no trouble finding a ride. Third and the final option is to start walking.
Chandratal to Manali:
Today you will start your return journey via the same route you took to reach Chandratal. Take a morning walk at the lake and start towards Manali by 8-9 AM. No permits are required to cross Rohtang if you are coming from the opposite side towards Manali so you do not have to worry about that. Reach Manali by evening and stay here for the night.
If you reached Chandratal by Bus, then on this day you will need to ensure that you reach back the Chandratal diversion at Kunzum Pass before 8 AM. There is a morning bus that goes from Kaza to Manali which you will need to catch. It starts from Kaza sometime around 6 AM and reaches Kunzum Pass / Batal by 8.30 so be here before the bus arrives. Board this bus all the way back to Manali.
Manali to Delhi:
Once again, nothing but a long monotonous drive back home.
If you can spare a day more, then you can plan your itinerary for Chandratal even better. When it is a 4 days trip, most of your time is spent in travel. The actual camping time on the lake is just a couple of hours in the evening and a morning walk to Chandratal. Adding a day here would help tremendously and you would be able to enjoy the trip better. Mentioned below is a 5 days Itinerary for Chandratal.
Chandratal Itinerary – 5 Day Travel Plan
There are two ways that you can plan a 5 day trip. Either you follow the 4 days of travel as I mentioned above and add a Day 3 of stay at Chandratal Lake. I too would advise doing this. Another way to travel can be as below, which will be better if you are traveling by Bus.
- Day 1 – Delhi to Manali
- Day 2 – Delhi to Batal
- Day 3 – Batal to Chandratal to Batal
- Day 4 – Batal to Manali
- Day 5 – Manali to Delhi
If you are traveling by your own vehicle and budget is not a problem then I would recommend that you go to Chandratal on Day 2 and spend Day 3 there. If however you are traveling by Bus or on a budget trip, then I would recommend the second itinerary. Batal has a Chadar tent where you can get a bed to sleep on for as less Rs. 200 and food too at this Dhaba is not expensive.
So if the high charges of camp sites are not within your budget, you should stay here. Almost everyone traveling on this route stops at Batal for a short break; so traveling by public transport means that you have a better chance of getting a shared taxi or hitchhiking from Batal. If you want to stay at a cemented hotel and would not prefer a camp; then too you should stay at the HPTDC hotel at Batal.
Following the second itinerary, your Day 1 travel will exactly be the same as I described above. On Day 2 however, rather than going all the way to Chandratal, you will halt at Batal and stay there for the night. On Day 3, travel to Chandratal and be back to Batal before dark. If you are traveling by public transport; then just wait at the dhaba for either a shared taxi or someone who can give you a lift to arrive. Another way and probably the best one would be a walk through the mesmerizing Spiti valley. Since you have all day, start early in the morning and trek all the way to Chandratal. After spending some time there, you can either walk back or hitchhike. On Day 4 you will return to Manali and then to Delhi on Day 5.
I hope the above mentioned information on Chandratal itinerary was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our community forum and I will be glad to answer.