India is home to several pristine lakes nestled within verdant landscapes. A trek to any one of them is just as much about the journey as the destination. We round up a list of spots that you must add to your post-pandemic trekking bucket list. By Eshita Srinivas
From peeking out of the rolling hills in the Western Ghats to sitting at the foot of high-altitude formations of the Himalayas, several lakes across the country come with glistening waters and are surrounded by the melodic chirps of birds perched atop lush trees. The promise of their beauty motivates several local and international travellers to slip on their trekking shoes and head on a journey through rough terrain. While some are best explored during certain months of the year, others are the perfect end to a long hike on any day of the year. Here are a few we think you should consider exploring.
Embark on an adventurous trek to these stunning lakes in India
Chandratal, Himachal Pradesh
A barren, stunning lake in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, this lake is a popular one amidst seasoned trekkers in the country. The sweetwater lake sits 4,350 metres above sea level and is the source point of the river Chandra, one of the tributaries of the river Chenab. In winter, the lake freezes and is almost impossible to reach due to the snow. But between June and October, the trail to this spot is exciting, challenging, and highly rewarding. Trekkers often camp next to the lake and watch the water change colours with that of the sky as the sun sets. The backdrop of the mountains and the carpet of verdant grass only add to its beauty. It takes most trekkers four days to get to the lake.
Green Lake, Tamil Nadu
Although treks to lakes up North are incredibly popular, spots down South are worth exploring as well. The Green Lake trek in Ooty, for instance, makes for a magical experience. The lake is largely uninhabited and surrounded by lush trees. Only the occasional fisherman visits it and many trekkers recall fond memories of watching ripples across the lake on a winter afternoon. The best time to head here is between September to March and the journey is just about eight hours long. The lake sits at 2,134 metres above sea level and demands that visitors conquer an uphill climb through dense forests with pine and eucalyptus trees, to reach it. Next time you’re in Ooty, give this trek a go!
Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim
Perched at 5,430 metres above sea level, the Gurudongmar lake is one of the highest lakes in the world and was named after Guru Padmasambhava, founder of Buddhism and is believed to be sacred. It’s just a few kilometres away from the Chinese-Tibetan border and is largely unexplored. The terrain here can be as rough as it is beautiful and you’d need to be prepared for some physical exertion before you’re rewarded with stunning landscapes with pretty rhododendrons.
This lake is the source of the river Teesta and is just 9 kilometres away from the Chola Mu lake, which sits at 5,100 metres above sea level. Due to the proximity to the China border as well as the complications with the weather and terrain, those who wish to explore these lakes need a written permit from the Indian army and the government of Sikkim. The trek begins at Lachen and takes about two days to complete.
Deoria Tal, Uttarakhand
An emerald lake that sits 2,438 metres above sea level, Deoria Tal on a bright, clear day stunningly reflects the snow-clad Chaukhamba peaks that surround, and loom over, it. At night, a starry sky greets visitors. This is an easy, quick trek that begins usually at a small village called Sari which lies 12 kilometres away from Ukhimath town in Uttarakhand. Although camping in the meadows that lead to the lake is banned by the government, trekkers usually pitch their tents a few metres away from the lake. The best time to visit is between March and May and October and November. Winter shrouds the landscape in a blanket of snow and it isn’t as advisable to head there then or during the monsoons due to greater chances of landslides. Most people take a little over an hour to get to the lake from Sari.
Kareri Lake, Himachal Pradesh
This one takes you through dense forests with pine trees that host several different species of birds. As you make your way to the Kareri lake in Himachal’s Kangra district, the forests make way for rocky grasslands that are stunning to behold. The freshwater lake, which calls the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas home, sits at 2,934 metres above sea level and is formed by nearby glaciers. Naturally during the winter, it freezes up and the best time to head here is in the months between March and July and September and December. The trek begins at Kareri village and on the way, vibrant streams, shepherd villages, and towering mountains greet visitors. This is a great weekend option and several campsites along the trail with food options make it easy for beginner trekkers.
Parashar Lake, Himachal Pradesh
An underrated Himalayan lake trek, this one is nestled in the valleys of Mandi, in Himachals’ Dhauladhar range. A stunning spot throughout the year, the journey involves thick forests and snow-capped mountains. Head here during the winter months of January and February to witness the magic of snow and the stillness of the frozen lake. Post monsoon is when the lake’s popular floating island, which takes up about 21 percent of its area, is at its most stunning. The mysterious island is believed to float across the river to change its position through the year, with local lore stating that catastrophe would strike when it ceases to do so. The trek could begin from Mandi or Kullu and take about two days through both routes.
Dhankar Lake, Himachal Pradesh
A quick hour-long trek from Dhankar village in Himachal Pradesh takes you to Dhankar lake, which sits at 4,140 metres above sea level. Although the duration isn’t much, the climb is steep and challenging and along the way, you will find crystal clear springs to drink from (although a bottle of water comes highly recommended). The lake remains frozen for about eight months in the year and is surrounded by verdant shrubs. Many visitors state that it shifts in colour, between hues of green and blue depending on the weather, time of the day, and the angle of viewing. An ancient stupa at the spot offers the opportunity to engage in spirituality and the lake itself offers breathtaking views of the Manirang peak, the highest of Himachal. The best time to head here is in the summer months between May and October.
Lonar lake, Maharashtra
Those who’d love a side of astronomy with their trek will enjoy heading to Lonar lake in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district. The lake was created when an asteroid collided with the earth during the Pleistocene Epoch millions of years ago. It’s one of four known hyper-velocity impact craters on Earth, the other three being in southern Brazil. The saline lake is a national geo-heritage monument and has a diameter of one kilometre. This spot is a major tourist attraction and the trek to it is quick and through a jungle that is home to peacocks. Monsoons can get messy here and the best time to trek is between November and January when the weather is pleasant. Early starts are ideal for the best weather conditions while trekking. A common starting point is the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) Hotel and considering how it’s only eight kilometres away from Mumbai, this is the perfect weekend getaway.
Great Lakes, Kashmir
Perhaps the most popular trek in Kashmir, this one offers adventurers stunning landscapes with postcard-perfect rolling meadows, alpine lakes, and towering mountains every day and covers major valleys as well as lakes like Vishansar, Krishansar, Gadsar, Satsar, Gangabal, and Nundkol. The high-altitude trek is challenging and spans a week, making it ideal for seasoned trekkers or those with some experience conquering challenging terrain. The payoff of all that physical exertion is stunning sights of the snow sliding off off the mountain to feed the lakes, clear skies that look straight out of a magazine, and (when in season) an explosion of different coloured flowers. This trek is best done in the months of July, August, and early September.
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