There are two kinds of people who venture out of their homes to explore new places – tourists and travellers. If you are the latter, trekking to and camping at Chandratal ought to be the highlight of your Spiti explorations. Here is everything you need to know about camping at Chandratal to pull it off like a pro:
What is Chandratal?
Situated at an altitude of 14,100 feet in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, Chandratal is a 2.5 kilometre wide fresh water lake that gets its name from its crescent-moon like shape. Surrounded by snow capped towering Himalayas in the distance, brown mountains with a slight hint of vegetation all around, this is a destination that’s all about breathtaking views and an all-pervading sense of calm.
A Lake Where Fairies Descend
Himachal, that has earned itself the title of Dev Bhoomi or Land of Gods, abounds in mystical local legends and mythological tales. No matter which obscure nook and cranny you visit, the locals always have an intriguing back story to recount, complete with Gods, angels and demons. Chandratal is no different. Locals believe that it was from here that Lord Indra took Yudhishthira to swarg in the epic of Mahabharata and is, thus, a blessed water body visited by fairies at night.
The more believable account of how Chandratal was discovered by humans is that it served as a resting point for traders commuting between Spiti and Kullu valleys. But believable is boring. The heaven and fairies tale adds to mystic appeal of this fascinating destination. I’d keep an eye out for those fairies at night.
Chandratal can be accessed either via Kunzum Pass or Batal, covering a distance of 8 and 14 km, respectively. There is some semblance of a road from Batal and you can take a jeep ride almost up to the lake but the road is treacherous and narrow, with barely enough room for one vehicle at a time. Losing focus even for a second can be perilous. Even on this route, you have to take a short hike from the end-point of the road to the lake.
The trek from Kunzum Pass is the preferred choice for those with an adventure streak, some stamina and good health on their side. The 8-km steep climb is quite an arduous task and you must train for it for at least a fortnight before the journey. There is also a small unmettled road that goes from Kunzum Pass top to Chandratal, but that’s just as perilous as the one from Batal.
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit Chandratal, like the rest of Spiti, is May and June or Sept and October. Try to plan your Chandratal camping trip around a full moon night, as the moon’s reflection glistening in the lake water is a heavenly sight.
Camping at Chandratal
There are a lot of camping sites around Chandratal. Earlier the camps were situated within a 1 kilometre radius from the lake. However, camping by lake banks has now been banned to preserve the local ecological system, and the camp sites have been moved back by three to five kilometres.
The cost of stay varies for different camp sites, starting at Rs 1,500 per person, inclusive of meals. Considering that it is a remote location, you have to be prepared for a no-frills dining experience. Most camp sites serve humble meals comprising dal, rice and vegetables, but at that soaring height, even that seems heavenly. Coffee and tea are readily available at all times and rest assured you’ll order your fair share of them to beat the chill.
Most camp sites are clean and the basic amenities offered here, be it the ten, bedding or blankets, well-maintained.
Washrooms are a major cause of concern when you are camping outdoors. The washroom facilities at most camp sites are fairly decent, with some offering attached facilities and others common public conveniences, depending on the charges. It’s a good idea to check the camp site amenities before finalising one.
Some of the popular camp sites at Chandratal include Parasol Camps, Wandertrails, and Jamaica’s Camp.
Pitching Your Own Camp
You can pitch your own tent for camping at Chandratal. In fact, it is the preferred camping option for most trekkers. It is advisable to do a bit of research before setting up your camp and stay close to an established camping site. You can also talk to the owners of these camping sites to pitch your own on their premises and access their kitchen and washroom facilities. Of course, you’ll have to pay for these services.
Even if you are looking for a solitary experience, camping by the lake is a no-no. For one, it is illegal for individuals as it is for organised camp sites. Secondly, a lot of wild animals from the surrounding jungles come to the lake in search of water and you risk jeopardising your safety. And lastly, local shepherds consider themselves the de facto owners of the lake and its surroundings. You don’t want to ruin this unique experience by rubbing the locals the wrong way.
Other Accommodation Options
Camping is certainly not for everyone. If you just cannot compromise on amenities to experience wilderness of nature, you can plan a day trip to Chandratal, falling back at Batal for a night stay at one of PWD guest houses or home stays equipped with all basic facilities for a comfortable stay.
Is Camping at Chandratal Safe?
As with any adventurous exploration, there are no looming safety concerns as long as you don’t take any outrageous risks. Don’t venture out alone and stick to the trek trail while going to and back from the lake, and you should be all right.
Planning to go? Read more at Spiti Travel Guide.
To share your experience trekking and camping at Chandratal, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.