Himalayas are home to several lakes. Some of them are quite large and some very small but one thing that is common among all of them is the scenic beauty. No matter the size; all of them are equally and stunningly beautiful. One such verdant lake, cushioned against the mighty peaks, and cuddled high up Spiti valley is the beautiful Chandratal. Mostly included in an itinerary for Spiti valley trip, this beautiful lake is a must visit and spending a night here is highly recommended. If you have 4-5 days in hand and thinking of a place to visit, I would highly recommend traveling towards Kunzum Pass and then to Chandratal. In this article, I will provide details on how you can plan a trip from Delhi to Chandratal Lake.
If you have more days in hand then by all means; you can continue on traveling from Chandratal to Spiti valley. In this article however I will focus more on how you can reach from Delhi to Chandratal Lake; spend a night there and travel back home. I am using Delhi as a reference here but if you are traveling from any other place; then the details for Day 1 about reaching Manali will change; rest will remain the same.
How to Travel from Delhi to Chandratal Lake
For a brief introduction, Chandratal is a high altitude lake situation in the Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Literal meaning of the name is Moon Lake (Chandra – Moon, Tal – Lake) and it is at an altitude of 4,250 meters. The name derives from its crescent moon like shape but there is also a folklore associated with it. Read The Legend Of Chandratal for more details.
- Kaza to Chandratal Road Distance: 89 kilometers
- Manali to Chandratal Road Distance: 123 kilometers
- Delhi to Chandratal Road Distance: 660 kilometers
- Kunzum Pass to Chandratal Road Distance: 14 kilometers
- Shimla to Chandratal Road Distance: 370 kilometers
- Chandratal Lake Altitude: 4,250 meters
- Chandratal Lake Weather: Cold and windy during day, extremely cold during nights.
Delhi to Chandratal Lake by road
The best way to reach from Delhi to Chandratal is via Manali. It will be a 2 day’s journey; on Day 1 you will reach Manali and spend the night there; on Day 2 you will travel from Manali to Chandratal.
For the return journey, it will be the same route. Start early in the morning from Chandratal to reach Manali by late afternoon. From here, you can either spend another night in Manali or catch an evening Volvo to Delhi on the same day; which will drop you back at ISBT Delhi by morning of the next day.
If only Chandratal is on your mind, than a trip via Shimla is not recommended at all. While you can make it to the lake from Delhi via Manali in 2 days; from Shimla it will take you 4 days at the least. If you are short on time and still attempt the lake from Shimla, all of your time will be spend on the road. Journey will become too hectic and tiring; not the ideal vacation that you came looking for.
Only travel from Shimla side if you are including Chandratal with your existing Spiti itinerary.
Route for the journey from both Shimla and Manali will be as below.
From Manali: Delhi – Manali – Rohtang Pass – Gramphoo – Batal – Kumzum Pass – Chandratal
From Shimla: Delhi – Shimla – Reckong Peo – Puh – Nako – Tabo – Kaza – Losar – Kunzum Pass – Chandratal
The 14 kilometer long road to Chandratal bifurcates from near Kunzum Pass top. If you are traveling from Manali, this road is about a kilometer before you reach Kunzum Top. If coming from Kaza, you will have to cross Kunzum Pass and will divert on this road as you start on your descent towards Batal.
Delhi to Chandratal Lake Itinerary
As I mentioned above, quickest way to reach from Delhi to Chandratal Lake is via Manali. The Itinerary followed will be Delhi to Manali on Day 1 followed by Manali to Chandratal on Day 2. However from Shimla, Itinerary will be longer; Day 1 will see you in Shimla from Delhi; You will reach Reckong Peo or Puh on Day 2, Reach Kaza on Day 3 and finally at Chandratal or Day 4.
Delhi to Chandratal Road Conditions
Spiti is notorious for bad condition of its road. You will be on a smooth tarred road with a few bad patches from Delhi all the way until Manali. However after Manali it will continue to deteriorate till it becomes nightmarish. The road across Rohtang Pass is a mix of good bad and average till Gramphoo. The stretch between Gramphoo and Batal however is completely broken with several rivulets in between. From Gramphoo, it is a narrow dirt trail all the way to Chandratal full of lose rocks, water streams, huge stones and slush. Take a look at some pictures of the road posted in Spiti valley road conditions and you will get an idea.
This trip is best suited for an SUV and I would strongly advise against bringing a hatchback or Sedan. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 4X4 but good ground clearance is a must. If you are on a motorcycle, ride slow and carefully. Some of the water streams on the way are quiet deep and furious so before you cross; stop for a minute and inspect.
Delhi to Chandratal Lake by Bus
If however you intend on traveling by public transport; things become a little tricky. From Delhi there are several HRTC buses that start from ISBT. Most of these buses make the journey overnight; starting from Delhi by late evening and reaching Manali early in the morning. From Manali, you will need to board the morning bus going towards Kaza. Once this bus reaches Batal, you have two options; either get down at Batal or at the Chandratal diversion. There is no bus service that goes towards Chandratal or no regular shared taxis as well. Options are pretty much limited to three; either get down at Batal or Chandratal diversion and wait for a shared taxi to arrive; or start walking towards the lake; or hitchhike. In peak tourist season, there is a lot of tourist movement towards the lake so hitchhiking will not be that difficult.
For returning from Chandratal to Manali, you will again have to wait for someone to give you a lift, or find a shared taxi or walk 14 kilometers from the lake to the diversion at Kunzum Pass. A morning Bus from Kaza runs to Manali everyday. Once you reach the diversion, wait for this bus to arrive and board it.
Accommodation at Chandratal
The only accommodation choice at Chandratal is of camp sites. Charges per person at these camp sites will be above Rs. 1500 (including meals), depending on the camp. Please refer to the below articles for more details on the camp sites at Chandratal.
The only other option, in case you do not wish to spend so much at the camps; is the Chadar tent at Batal. You can come back to these Chadar tents after visiting Chandratal and stay here for the night. It is basically a Dhaba under a huge tent with a few beds laid out. Charges for staying here will be anywhere between Rs. 100 – Rs. 200
Hotels at Chandratal
The only concrete hotel available nearby is the PWD guest house at Batal. If you are able to find the caretaker and get him to agree in letting you stay, you can stay at the guest house and eat at the Dhabas which are right next to it. Batal has the facility of a satellite phone, number of which is 08991722020. If you want to call in advance and inquire about booking the PWD guest house, you can do so at this number. It belongs to the Dhaba owner at Batal but he is a very helpful person and will help you if he can.
Self Camping at Chandratal
If however you are camping on your own; please ensure that you do not pitch your tent right next to this lake. This is not permitted by the law. The nearest camp site at the lake is about 3 kilometers away. Best way to camp on your own is to talk to any of the camp sites and pay them a little to give you a spot for camping. In return; they will also allow you to use their washrooms. If you are not in a mood to cook, you can also order for your meals at the camp sites. Please also note that there is wildlife around Chandratal; so camping in the middle of nowhere can be dangerous as well.
The biggest problem while traveling to Chandratal via Manali is of Rohtang Permits. In order to get to the other side of the pass from Manali; you will need to arrange for a permit issued by SDM Office Manali. You can get this permit online as well as in person. Read Complete details on Rohtang Pass Permits for more details.
Acute Mountain Sickness in Spiti
Another problem that occurs while travelling from Delhi to Chandratal lake via Manali is of acute mountain sickness. From plains, you will get to an altitude of over 2000 meters at Manali in one single day. Then on Day 2, this altitude will again double to 4,250 meters at Chandratal; so there is a high chance that you will suffer from AMS during your night stay at the lake. Read Dealing with Acute Mountain Sickness in Spiti for more details.
Best time to visit Chandratal
Chandratal is only accessible after Kunzum Pass has been cleared of the snow. The visiting window is limited from June till September and out of these; June, early July or September is the best time to visit. In late July and August, Monsoon plays havoc in hilly regions and there remains a high chance of landslides around Manali and Rohtang Pass. Add to this the fact that while it rains, there will also be a lot of slush on the way; and even the water streams will be furious. Best to avoid going this way in the month of August.
Phone services at Chandratal
There is no mobile connectivity at Chandratal; no matter which network you are on. The nearest phone available is the satellite phone at Batal Dhaba that I provided details of earlier in the article.
I hope the above information on how to plan a trip from Delhi to Chandratal lake 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.