An intricate combination of all things tranquil and adventurous, Chandratal Baralacha Trek is the perfect excuse to wander off into Himachal’s bewitching mountainside. From heart-pumping hikes up mountain passes that could test your stamina, to the brinks to long moments of silence spent by the turquoise waters of the Chandratal Lake, on this trek you have a mixed bag full of cherishable memories to make! The Chandratal Lake lies amidst stark and rugged mountain highs denuded of vegetation, like an oasis of bliss. It is the very source of the Chandra River, which is one of the major tributaries of Chenab. Though camping by the lakeside has been recently restricted, the present itinerary still sufficiently covers much of the lake’s intimate vicinity for trekkers to stop by and soak deep in the fleeting moments of peace. Located at about 4,300 m, the Chandratal Lake is located in the Samudra Tapu plateau of Spiti valley, surrounded by barren mountains of scree on one side and cirque enclosing it from another. The dreamy crescent shape of the water has given it its name of ‘Chandra’, meaning the moon. Moving up, at 4,890 m, located on the Leh-Manali highway, you can reach the Baralacha La Pass connecting the Spiti, Ladakh, Zanskar, and Lahaul regions. While there are not many Himalayan trails that remain open and safe during the torrential months of June to September, the Lahaul valley way, covering Chandratal and Baralacha La stays sunny and welcoming during all through this period. To make your trip to Chandratal more enriching, you can also make a detour to Suraj Tal, a short way off Baralacha Pass. There’s no end to exciting snow-peak panorama photo-ops on this trek, look out for amazing views of the Lahaul range and peaks like Minar at 6,517 m, Talagiri at 6,279 m, Tara Pahar at 6,227 m, and Mulkila at 6,517 m.
Commencing from Batal, this trekking trail bends just a few kilometers away from Keylong - a popular backpacker’s destination near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Leading to the turquoise-hued Chandratal, the trail enjoys a panoramic window to Lahaul’s barren peaks standing afar against the blues. One can spot Minar rising at 6,172 m, Talagiri at 6,279 m, Tara Pahar at 6,227 m and Mulkila at 6,517 m. The surrounding landscape is sparsely vegetated, rugged, and akin to the ‘moonland’ topology of Spitian cold deserts. Trekkers were still allowed to camp by the lake not so long ago, though tourist approaches have now been substantially limited. From Chandratal onwards, the trail begins to bend towards Tokpo Gongma at 4,650 m and on to Baralacha Pass, and wheeling forward towards Manali after. Wanderlust in the Himalayan hinterlands knows no bounds on this trek, the exciting Suraj Tal lake vicinity can be trekked to, just on the way forward from Baralacha Pass.
The maximum altitude gained on the Chandratal-Baralacha La trek is 4960 m upon reaching the double pass of Baralacha La. Another next highest point reached on this trek is at Tokpo Yogma, at 4350 m, unveiling absolutely uplifting views of the Lahaul peaks.
Mid-June to mid-October is considered the best time to access the Chandratal-Baralacha La trek since the skies remain clear and the day time temperature is pleasant, whereas the nights are cold.
By Air: The nearest airport to Manali is Bhuntar, at Kullu, though most people prefer flying to Delhi or Chandigarh and find connecting road transport to Manali from there.
By Rail: The most recommended rail station nearest to Manali is at Chandigarh, buses and taxis up to Batal can be found from Chandigarh.
By Road: Regularly plying Volvos and state buses from Delhi, Chandigarh, and Dehradun to Manali are available.
Are There Any Shops Available?
Availability of shops becomes sparse after leaving Manali, though roadside eateries remain open all along the motorable till Batal and Baralacha La.
Is There Any Possibility of Altitude Sickness?
Adequate precaution to altitude sickness should be taken in preparing for this trek. A discipline for fitness must be followed for 4-5 months prior to the trek, heed to instructions by the trek leader on the journey in order to adapt organically to gradually gaining altitudes, and also receive precautionary medicine like Diamox on medical advice to stay fit during the journey.
This being an easily accessible trek connected to a major motorable road, remains popular with tourists from June to October. Don’t be surprised to find a lot of people at the destinations, by Chandratal and Baralacha La pass!