A trip to Spiti in my opinion is incomplete without spending a night at Chandratal. Camping here, either on your own or at a camp site, is a memorable experience. If you are traveling by your own vehicle and your budget of the trip allows; then incorporating night stay at Chandratal is not a problem. However things become a little tricky if you are traveling by public transport and within a budget. Per person charge at the camp sites here cannot really be called cost efficient; and there is no direct bus or shared taxi available to take you all the way to the lake. Walking 14 kilometers is not really everyone’s cup of tea and a private taxi would cost several thousand. If this sounds like a situation you are in; then in this article I will explain how you can plan a budget trip to Chandratal Lake.
There are three problems here really that need to be tackled with. One if of how you can commute; second if of where to stay and third is how to tackle the first two problems without burning a hole in your pocket. I will explain this from both aspects; if you are traveling from Manali and if you are traveling from Kaza.
Manali to Chandratal Lake
Coming from Manali, there are two daily HRTC buses that you can board. Both start early in the morning between 4 and 5 AM so you will have to be there at the bus stop in time. The bus will follow the Manali – Rohtang – Gramphoo – Batal – Kunzum Pass – Losar – Kaza route and fare per person for Kaza is around Rs. 200 – Rs. 250.
Once this bus reaches Batal you have two choices; either get down at Batal or get down at Chandratal diversion; a little before Kunzum Pass top. No matter where you get down though, your options to reach Chandratal from here are limited to three. Either you start walking 14 kilometers to the lake, or you wait for a shared taxi going that way, or you hitch hike.
Kaza to Chandratal Lake
If you are traveling from Kaza to Chandratal, there is an early morning bus that you can board for Manali. This bus follows the same route that I mentioned above for Manali to Kaza bus; just the other way around. Traveling by this bus, once again choices will be pretty much the same. Get down at either Chandratal diversion near Kunzum Pass top or at Batal. Once again, from here you will have to either trek, or find a shared taxi or hitchhike to the lake. Fare for Kaza to Manali bus as well is between Rs. 200 – 250.
Accommodation at Chandratal
There is no cemented hotel at Chandratal. It is a lake in middle of nowhere and your only choice of accommodation are the camp sites. Thing however is that per person charge including meals at these camp sites will at least be Rs. 1500 per person. If this doesn’t fit in to your budget, then your next available option is the Dhaba / Chadar tent at Batal where you can get a bed to sleep on for the night for around Rs. 200.
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.
How to plan a Budget trip to Chandratal Lake
If a trip to only Chandratal is on your mind and you do not wish to proceed any further towards Kaza, then I would recommend you get down at Batal. One important thing you need to consider here is the high altitude acclimatization. You do not want to trek to Chandratal while suffering from acute mountain sickness so better get down at Batal and stay there that day. There are Chadar tents / Dhaba at Batal where you can get a bed to sleep on for Rs. 200 easily. Sleep there for the night and let your body adjust itself to the high altitude. Next day either you can start trekking towards the lake or wait for a shared taxi. Most of the tourists traveling to Chandratal from Manali stop at Batal for tea and snacks so you can ask anyone if they can give you a lift till Chandratal.
If you are trekking, then I recommend that you start early in the morning and stay on the road. You do not want to wander on dirt trails and get lost in the mountains here. If traveling in shared taxi or hitchhiking, you will have to do the same for your return journey to Batal. In peak tourist season, a lot of people travel on this route so hitchhiking will not be a problem at all. Shared taxi from Batal to Chandratal will not cost you more than Rs. 50 – Rs. 100 per person.
The next choice is to reach all the way to Kaza from Manali. Do not get down at either Batal or Chandratal diversion and spend your night at Kaza first which is at a slightly lower altitude than Chandratal. From Kaza, rent a motorcycle and make a day trip to Chandratal. A motorcycle will approximately cost you between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500 depending on which one you chose but it will be greatly convenient. Start early from Kaza and you will reach Chandratal in 3-4 hours easily. Spend some time at the lake and be back in Kaza by evening. For renting a motorcycle, you can contact Jamaica at 9418200183 .
The third option is of getting down at Chandratal diversion which I will not really recommend if you are coming from Manali. The road between Manali and Kaza is extremely bad and even though the bus from Manali starts early in the morning, it may take some time to reach Kunzum Pass. Let us say for example, if you reached Kunzum around noon, there is no guarantee of how long it will take you to reach Chandratal. It may take an hour or even more. Then there is the question of returning back on the same day and find a ride back to Kaza or Batal; which again you do not know when you will find or if you will find at all. If coming from Manali, my best advice would be either get down at Batal or Kaza and plan a trip to Chandratal the next day.
If you are just traveling by public transport and staying at the camp site is not a problem; then you should get down at Chandratal diversion and wait for someone to arrive or start walking towards the lake. For example If you are coming from Manali and will go to Kaza the next day; then make a note of the time the bus arrived at Batal or Chandratal diversion because you will have to get back here at the same time next day; so that you can board this bus again to continue to Kaza.
If however, you are coming from Manali and intend on returning Manali itself, then you will have to reach Batal as early as you can. The bus from Kaza start around 6 and it will reach Batal by 8 or 9 so you will have to be present at either Chandratal diversion or at Batal to board it. If however you end up missing this bus; then your other option would be to either board a shared taxi or hitchhike again to Manali.
I hope this information on planning a budget trip to Chandratal 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.