Maximum Altitude: 15100 ft
Duration: 4 days
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
Amidst the snow clad mountains and sun kissed meadows, the Satopanth Lake is one of the high altitude lakes in the Himalayan region that is often dubbed as the lake of divinity. The story goes that Lord Brahma, Mahesh and Vishnu descend on earth during auspicious days to take a dip in the pristine water of the lake and meditate here. Interestingly the lake is triangular in shape and each corner is said to be a dedicated spot for one of the holy trinities. Hence the Satopanth Lake is considered as one of the sacred lakes in the Garhwal Himalayan region. Every year thousands of pilgrims undertake the journey to reach the vicinity of Satopanth Lake to take a holy dip in the water in the belief that it will wash away their sins. Certain species of birds are found here, which pick up the pollutants of the lake and thus keep the lake clean. These birds are not found anywhere. The local belief is that they are the Gandharvas disguised, who guard the lake against evils.
There is one more story from the time of Mahabharata. It is said that after the war, the Pandavas came to Satopanth valley, in search of peace and on the way to Satopanth, all four brothers Bheema, Arjuna, Nakul & Sahadev died along with Draupadi. Yudhisthira, the eldest of Pandavas could reach to Satopanth and from Swargarohini, he ascended to heaven alive. As you can see, this crystal clear glacier lake has a strong hold in mythology.
The journey to Satopanth Lake commences from Mana village, which is approximately 3 kilometers up from Badrinath. Badrinath is one of the Hindu “Char Dhams” which is popular for hosting a shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The trek passes through several small streams, villages, alpine meadows and thick forest and once you step at a mighty altitude, you embark upon the dangerous glaciated tracks. The journey is as beautiful as it is adventurous. The snow covered Himalayan peaks of Neelkanth, Chaukhamba, and Balakun loom over the waters of the glacial lake and form a surreal silver horizon.
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Day 1: Badrinath to Laxmivan (12,000 ft) – 8.5 km
A short drive from Badrinath will take you to the mystical village of Mana which is also known as the “last village of India”. The gurgling sound of River Saraswati welcomes you in the village. The river is known as Gupt Gamini or the hidden river since it flows just about 100 metres from its origin and then merges into Alaknanda at Keshav Prayag in Mana.
The trail takes you to is Bheema Pul. It is said that Bheem created this stone bridge so that his wife Draupadi could cross Saraswati river during their journey to heaven. The view of this extraordinary bridge and the din of the flowing river make this place interesting. Vasudhara falls – 5 km after Bheem Bridge this astonishingly high waterfall is very attractive. The most interesting aspect about this place is that all the water here becomes vapour and vanishes into the atmosphere. The view looks like the Ganges is descending from the sky.
You will walk along the dense forest, feel the peaceful aura of this beautiful place and spot the Bhojpatra trees and different variety of flowers. The astounding view of the nearby mountains like Chaukhamba, Neelkanth and Balakun will make you fall in love with the trail. The first campsite of the Satopanth Tal trek is Laxmivan. After reaching the campsite, you can go by the river and click pictures. Or you can sit by the camp and enjoy the view of peaks around you. From this campsite, you will see the Vasudhara waterfalls disappear and see Chaukamba and Swargarohini trying to peak out as you move up ahead slowly.
Day 2: Laxmivan to Chakratirtha (13658 ft) – 9.5 km
The trail from Laxmivan to Chakratirtha is tough but is also full of excitement and the view of the snowy peaks. The well marked trail is dotted with the green patches amidst the vast terminal moraines of Dhanno Glacier.
On the way you can see the beautiful alpine flowers blooming in the valley, after which the glorious view of the three peaks of Bhagirathi will appear at the Satopanth Valley. Gradually climb the steep ridge of the mesmerizing Sahastradhara (literal meaning- thousand springs). Chakratirtha is a beautiful camping ground with green grass all around and towering peaks surrounding you. On reaching the campsite, roll on the ground and gaze at Mount Neelkanth. At night you may also hear the glacial ice breaking away into a thunderous sound.
Day 3: Chakratirtha to Satopanth Lake and back to Laxmivan (15100 ft) – 12 km
Enjoy a cup of tea with enigmatic mountains around you and soak in the sun rays which are illuminating the snow covered peaks. Start a little early as camping is not allowed near the lake so you’ll have to trek down to Laxmivan.
The trail will take you through the puzzling maze of boulders and moraines. You may also hear tumbling sounds of avalanches through the valley. In the last stretch of the trek, you’ll come across a couple of steep slopes and walk over the loose soil which will increase the difficulty of the trek. But the moment you reach the top of the ridge and see the emerald lake for the first time, all your tiredness will vanish.
The breathtaking views will sweep you off your feet. Nothing could have been more serene than gushing winds, broken glaciers and mighty peaks. The heavenly lake justifies all the myths and stories surrounding it. You’ll believe that this is actually the lake of Gods. After spending some time, descend down to the Laxmivan campsite and spend one more night in the middle of the mountains.
Day 4: Laxmivan to Mana
This is the last day of the trek. Wake up to the chirping sounds of the colourful birds, have a nice breakfast with a view and then tumble down to Mana village. You can continue to your onwards journey from here, or decide to spend some time in the pretty village of Mana.
Visit the Vyas Gufa where Ved Vyas, the renowned scholar lived and composed the famous four vedas. Interestingly, the roof of the cave looks noticeably flaky and does appear like a bundle of palm leaf manuscript. It is also believed that from this cave he narrated Mahabharata to Ganesha who was the assigned scribe to write the epic. And it’s not surprising to see Ganesh Gufa, a cave just a few metres downhill from the Vyas Gufa.
Talk to the locals who will tell you these stories proudly and with such honesty that you cannot help but believe them. Also, don’t forget to enjoy a cup of tea at India’s Last Tea Shop.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to travel to Satopanth Lake Trek is in summers (Mid May – June) and Post monsoon (September – October), when the weather remains pleasant and the sky clear for some magical views of far-flung high mountain peaks.
How To Reach
By Air: Jolly Grant of Dehradun is the nearest airport to Badrinath. The airport is well connected to Delhi with regular flights, whereas Badrinath is well connected by motorable roads with Jolly Grant Airport.
By Rail: The nearest railway station to Badrinath is Haridwar/Rishikesh. The Rishikesh railway station is situated 295kms before Badrinath on NH58 and is well connected by with major cities of India. Trains to Rishikesh are frequent and Badrinath is well connected by motorable roads with Rishikesh. Taxis and buses are available from Rishikesh/Haridwar to Badrinath.
By Road: Badrinath is well connected by motorable roads. Buses and taxis to Badrinath are easily available from major cities of Uttarakhand state like Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Karnprayag, Srinagar and Chamoli.
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