When it comes to the high altitude glacial lakes in Himachal, Chandratal and Suraj are the true stalwarts. No other lake in Himachal comes even remotely close to them in terms of Popularity. So I thought why not do a Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake comparison post.
Based on my exhilarating sojourns to both these ethereal beauties, I am curating this comparison post based on ease of reach, altitude, accessibility, public transport, stay options etc. So lets dive into this one.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal Lake – All You Need To Know
Suraj Taal or Tso Kamtsi is one the highest glacial lakes of India located in Lahaul valley, Himachal Pradesh. Glaciers near Baralacha La feeding Suraj Taal give rise to Bhaga River.
While Chandratal Tal or Tso Chigma, located in Lahaul valley is the source of River Chandra known for its extremely scenic vistas.
The vistas in an around Suraj Taal and Chandratal lake are just awe-inspiring. And one must visit these celestial water bodies at least once in a lifetime. So here I am, explaining the key differences between the two lakes so as to help you plan a hassle free trip.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – Ease of Reach
I’ll be considering Manali as the reference to get to both lakes. Suraj Tal is at a distance of around 142 km from Manali with excellent road conditions. And it takes around 4.5 hours to reach from Manali.
While Chandratal is around 115 km from Manali. But the road conditions are terrible from Gramphu onwards. Basically you drive on a dirt track from Gramphu onwards. And it might take 5-7 hours to reach Chandratal.
Also the stretch from Gramphu to Chandratal is a no mans land with no villages, no network and extremely bad roads. So it is definitely easier to get to Suraj Taal based on my experience of traveling to both of them.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – How to reach
Again there are several ways you can reach Chandratal and Suraj Taal, but I’ll consider Manali as the starting as it is the most accessible town.
To get to Suraj Taal from Manali you have to first get to Keylong in Lahaul valley via Atal Tunnel. From there you reach Darcha, the last Lahauli village. From Darcha you start your climb all the way to Suraj Tal via Patseo and Zing Zing Bar.
The total distance from Manali to Suraj Tal is around 145 km.
To reach Chandratal lake from Manali, you have to first get to Gramphu via Khoksar. At Gramphu you’ll see one diversion going towards Kaza. You have to take that Diversion and follow the dirt track till Batal.
Some 3-4 km from Batal towards Kunzum La, you’ll see a diversion with a big board pointing the road towards Chandratal. So continue on that dirt track for 14 km and you’ll reach a parking spot from where you have to hike for 1 km.
The total distance from Manali to Chandratal is around 115 km.
By the way, here is detailed blog on how to reach Chandratal lake. This will be surely helpful for the first time travelers.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – Altitude
Suraj taal is perched at a dizzying altitude of around 15,800 ft near Baralacha La on Leh-Manali highway. And is one of the highest lakes in India.
While Chandratal is perched at a staggering altitude of around 14,100 ft near Batal in Upper Chandra valley.
The risk of AMS drastically increases at both Suraj Tal and Chandra Tal due to the extremely high altitude. So one needs to be very cautious when visiting them. Here is a detailed blog on how to tackle AMS at such altitudes
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – Accessibility
Both Suraj Taal and Chandratal lake are not accessible for around 6-7 months during winters thanks to the extremely heavy snowfall which blocks the way to these lakes.
Suraj Taal becomes accessible whenever Baralacha La is thrown open by the BRO. Baralacha La usually closes down by November after snow spells only to open around May of the next year. So Suraj Tal is only accessible from May to October.
Chandrataal lake becomes accessible during May end or early June. The lake usually closes officially on 15th October only to open in June of the next year.
Anyways both Chandrataal and Suraj Taal become too cold after 3rd week of September and the temperatures literally drop down several notches below 0 in October.
Also, chances of snow blocking the road is a real risk post September. So in my opinion you should make a visit to them before October.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal Lake – Permits
Earlier there were no permits required to visit either Suraj Tal or Chandratal. But as of June 2021 , government of Himachal made it essential for one to obtain epass for the travel to Chandratal lake.
I have no idea on how strictly are they checking for epass or is it even necessary anymore, but there is a dedicated portal available for the same to apply for epass to Chandratal lake. You can confirm once with the locals.
As far as Suraj Tal is concerned no such epass is required to visit the lake.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – Stay Options
There are no options to stay right near Suraj Taal. The last proper village before Suraj Tal is Darcha on Lahaul Side where you can get basic accommodation. You might also get basic accommodation in the Dhabas at Patseo, Zing Zing Bar.
If you are coming from the Leh-side, you can basic accommodation in the Dhabas at Bharatpur Tent Colony or Sarchu.
As far as Chandratal is concerned, there are plethora of Camps at meadows some 2 km before Chandratal Lake. The have decent swiss tents which cost around 1500 per person including breakfast and Dinner. Some famous camps include Moonlake camps, Jamaica camps, Tenzin Camps, Parasol Camps.
Other option to stay near Chandratal lake is at Dhabas in Batal. But you’ll get only basic accommodation.
By the here is a detailed blog on how to find a place of stay in remote villages Himachal. I am sure this will be quite helpful if you love staying at remote lesser frequented villages of Himachal just like me.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – Public Transport
There is no direct bus to either Suraj Taal or Chandrataal currently. And you have to take your own vehicles, hire private cabs or hitchhike.
In Summers of 2021, A bus service from Manali to Chandratal was started by HRTC, but due to less passengers the bus service was called off. This was confirmed by one of the conductors in August 2021 when I was traveling to Kullu from Kaza.
As far as Suraj Taal is concerned there is a hack. You can take the bus going to Leh from either Manali or Keylong and then get down at Suraj Taal. Once you are done exploring you can hitch hike your way to Darcha.
But you never know how much you would have to wait to get a ride. And staying at altitudes equal to Suraj Taal’s altitude for longer periods without proper acclimatization can lead to an increased risk of AMS.
By the way if are a budget traveler, you should definitely check out my detailed blog on how to explore himachal using public transport.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal Lake – Private Cab Cost
As you might have known owing to lack of public and remoteness of the region, hiring private cabs is your best to make a visit to Suraj Taal and Chandrataal.
For Suraj if you do not have your own vehicle, you can first get to Keylong in Lahaul valley by public transport. Then you can hire a cab for a trip to Suraj Taal and Baralacha La.
We personally ended up paying 4000 INR for a sumo from Keylong to Suraj Taal and back to Keylong. Which is not a bad deal if you are in a group.
As far as Chandratal is concerned, it is much more expensive. Usually people make trips to Chandratal from Kaza instead of Manali when they are on their Spiti trip. Kaza to Chandratal and back is around INR 10,000.
From Manali the taxi fare to Chandratal might easily be above 10,000 INR.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – Day Trip Possible ?
Making a day trip to Suraj Taal is quite doable even if you start from Manali. If you start from Keylong than nothing better.
It takes around 4.5 hours to reach Suraj Taal from Manali via Atal Tunnel. So if you start early by lets 7 in the morning you can easily reach the lake at noon. Spend an hour or so and head back to Manali. You’ll easily make it back before the dark.
While before Atal Tunnel opened up making a day-trip to Chandrataal lake from Manali was kind of very difficult to pull-off, now its quite possible if you start very early. Day trip cannot be made from Shimla-Kinnaur route.
So lets suppose you start from Manali at around 4 AM. Reach Chandratal by 10 AM. Spend a couple of hours there at the lake while enjoying the awe-inspiring landscapes. Leave by noon and you should be back to Manali by 6 or 7 PM in the evening.
By the way, here is a detailed blog on Rohtang Pass Vs Atal Tunnel. You should definitely check this out if you are planning to visit Manali anytime soon.
Suraj Tal Vs Chandratal lake – Which Has Better Landscapes
When it comes to the landscapes I feel Chandratal is much more picturesque than Suraj Taal. Don’t get me wrong both of them quite are celestial, but Chandratal’s ethereal beauty is on a different level.
Suraj Taal is located right near Baralacha La and is pretty much surrounded Gargantuan snow-capped peaks which have different shades of brown. But to be fair, the landscape is quite barren for most part of the summer.
Chandratal is surrounded by impeccable alpine meadows which come to life during the short summer.
And not to mention the awe-inspiring sight of snow-capped CB range peaks which just makes Chandratal lake and vistas around it so much more dreamy and celestial.
And of course, The different shades of blue during different times and seasons is the highlight of both Suraj Taal and Chandratal.
To conclude, I hope I properly put forth a decent comparison between Suraj Tal and Chandratal Lake so as to help you plan a perfect trip. In case you have an queries, reach out to me in the comments below.