From turquoise lakes to emerald ones, from ones that remain frozen for most part of the year to the ones that gush with freshwater and the fishes within them, India is home to diversity in every way and that includes the lakes as well. Here’s a look at some of the highest ones in our vast country:
Tso Lhamo Lake
Altitude: 5,486 metres
How to reach: You would require a Restricted/Protected Area permit visit first and foremost. Make sure to arrange this well in advance as visits to this lake are highly restricted. From Lachen this is about a 75 kms drive.
Best time to visit: March to April, September to November
In the first place, getting a permit to visit the breath-taking Tso Lhamo Lake is in itself an achievement. The highest lake is also known by the names of Cho Lamo or Cholamoo. In the spring seasons the lake gets wrapped with a bed of flowers all around. And if you have an eye for it the scenery gets prettier with a flock of migratory birds who also come to visit the lake! You will also find mighty peaks surrounding it and the trademark prayer flags fluttering away in the Sikkimese air, altogether making for the most mesmerizing panoramic view.
Altitude: 5,430 metres
How to reach: Fly down to Bagdogra. Travel to Lachen by road. Stay overnight. Start early the next morning to reach Gurudongmar Lake by road. This would again require inline permits.
Best time to visit: September to October, February to June
The only thing matching up to the height of Lake Gurudongmar is probably the number of times I have gushed over how gorgeous this lake is. I have said it a gazillion times and will always say it, its one of the most beautiful sights my eyes have laid on. The water is a stunning bright blue with parts of it still laying in its frozen form. And making a fence of protection around the lake are peaks with dollops of ice-cream sundae like snow on top. Folklore too runs rich here with the Buddhists crediting Guru Rinpoche and the Sikh community expressing gratitude to Guru Padmasambhava, for bringing the frozen water into a flowing state on the prayers of the local folks. The lake is revered as a holy one.
Altitude: 5,430 metres
How to reach: You can take a flight to Pantnagar and then travel till Kathgodam. Or take a train from Delhi to Kathgodam. Stay overnight and drive till Lohajung. From there, you shall trek to reach this lake!
Best time to visit: May and June, September and October
Now that you are craving to see some high-altitude lakes, what better way of earning a visit than trekking up to one?! Trek through deep forests and a throng of meadows in order to reach an opening which beyond beautiful is also blessed with an abundance of mythology. For years there have been speculations around the skeletons found near the lake. While some narrate that it is a troop of a king’s platoons who were cursed by the king, others state that the goddess had cursed the king too. Visit the lake and huddle up to lend an ear to these stories that tickle your thoughts which beckon to be lost in the mountains.
Altitude: 4,950 metres
How to reach: Fly down to Bhuntar or alternatively fly to Delhi and take a bus till Manali. From Manali take a bus to Zingzingbar. These can be limited so make sure to check in advance. From Zingzingbar you have to trek till the lake. You can halt at Keylong.
Best time to visit: mid-May to mid-October
Now if the thought of trekking up to a high-altitude lake has you excited, then you are sure to love this one. This is an ideal escape within nature as you get to explore the incomparable scenery offered in Lahaul Spiti. It is situated on the popular Manali-Leh route and the visit to the lake also has religious reasons. Many believe that a dip in its waters will wash away your sins. Having been named after the Sun God, there isn’t conclusive evidence as to how and why this came to be adopted. But in my mind, it would have something to do with how the blue water twinkles under the rays of the Sun. And with the story of two lovers but we will get to that in another lake, as it’s a lake-y love affair. ?
Tso Moriri Lake
Altitude: 4,595 metres
How to reach: Fly down to Leh or alternatively, fly down to Srinagar and then travel by road till Leh. This lake is located in the Changthang Plateau and the drive takes approximately 8 hours.
Best time to visit: June to August
In Spiti’s cold desert sister, Ladakh, lays the popular Pangong Lake. Its popularity takes away from the lesser known but higher in elevation, Tso Moriri Lake. The mountainous region has a string of brown peaks pecked with white at the top. And the water goes from light blue to a deeper shade as your eyes look further ahead. In addition to the yaks your eyes expect to see in Ladakh, here you will also be greeted by their friends, the marmots, wild ass, hares, bharals and cranes. This is ideal for the ones who look to get away from crowds and immerse themselves within the peace and quiet of nature.
Altitude: 4,300 metres
How to reach: Fly down to Bhuntar or alternatively fly to Delhi and take a bus till Manali. From Manali to Chandrataal is about a day’s drive spanning over 8 hours.
Best time to visit: Mid-June to November
If you are headed to Spiti you would have most likely heard of the Chandrataal Lake. As you walk around the ethereally beautiful lake, at one point you will see a perfect reflection of the peaks in the low-laying water. A popular tale is that Lord Indra had descended to this lake to take the eldest and the only surviving Pandava, Yudhisthira, to heaven in his mortal form. But even further back comes another tale written seemingly by nature itself. They say the daughter of the moon fell in love with the son of the Sun. When their parents didn’t accept their unison, the two decided to elope and the Chandra Tal and Suraj Tal are testimonies to them. Doesn’t that make them that much more lovely?
Altitude: 4,300 metres
How to reach: From Manali reach Gulaba and thereafter trek up to the lake.
Best time to visit: October to May
A visit to this lake is a week long treat because that’s the amount of time you have to spend for trekking up to this lake. You will trek through dense forests and sprawling meadows, overlooking the occasional peak here and there, camp out and experience the traveller’s way of life in a tent, sit around bonfires and converse and to add to it all, be rewarded by the sight of a lake in the end. The circular pond-like looking lake is surrounded by peaks all around which in the winter months are draped with snow. And even then, the lake never freezes which they say is because Maharishi Bhrigu used to meditate right next to the lake.
Altitude: 4,225 metres
How to reach: Fly down to Leh or Srinagar and then reach Leh by road. From Leh reaching Pangong takes approximately 5 hours, if not more.
Best time to visit: May to September
When you read the title of this article, I’m sure this name would have popped up in your mind. The talk of Ladakh and of high-altitude lakes in India can never be complete without bringing up Pangong. Made popular with the 3 Idiots fame, this lake is today visited by hundreds every year. Its time to once again greet the yaks, walk around and let yourself be smitten by what you see. The lake’s temperatures run into freezing figures, so, who’s in the mood to take a plunge into the blue waters?! ? Most of all you will find yourself gazing at the waters that extend into all kinds of blue.
Altitude: 4,170 metres
How to reach: You could fly down to Salonibari, however, this airport isn’t as well-connected, so, a better option would be to fly down to Guwahati. From there as you travel by road towards Tawang, you can visit the Sela Pass and Lake.
Best time to visit: September to November, March to May
Sela Pass is the highest mountain pass in the state of Arunachal Pradesh which paves our entry into their gems like Tawang and connect it to the rest of the country. Within the folds of this mountain pass, lays a lake bearing the same name, Sela. The name comes from a heroic tribal woman. During the Indo-Sino war of 1962, a sepoy named Jaswant Singh valiantly fought off the Chinese troops single-handedly near the lake. Sela and another woman would bring him supplies and help treat his injuries despite the threat. On seeing the decimated body of Jaswant Singh, it is rumoured that she killed herself. The name is thus in her honour. At the same time, the lake with its crustal clear waters and shelter of peaks from the Eastern Ranges, has also earned itself the name of Paradise Lake.
Altitude: 3,801 metres
How to reach: Fly down to Srinagar and from there travel by road till Sonmarg. From there you will have to take a taxi till Shitkadi Village which shall be the starting point of your trek.
Best time to visit: June to September
But how could this list be completed without a taste of our beloved Kashmir? Here is an alpine lake the sight of which is earned by trekking through the scenic terrains of this state. Those who wish to can even reach here with the aid of booking ponies till the point which may sound easy but is not always such a fun affair for your back in such regions. Located in close proximity to the Vishansar Lake, the joy here is that you can visit two high-altitude lakes together! These glacial lakes even freeze with the coming of winter making it a surreal sight. Located in the valleys of Sonmarg which stands for “meadow of gold”, this is amongst the treasures waiting for you over there.
So, there you have it, the 10 highest lakes of India. How many of them have you seen for yourself so far?