My fascination with the Himalayas began at a very early age and the range’s pristine lakes hold an unrivalled allure for me. When I visited Tso Moriri in Ladakh, the remote lake had a magical ability to inspire mental clarity and peace of mind. Here are some of my favourite Himalayan lakes that I visited and some that are on my wishlist:
Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim
A breathtaking journey from Gangtok to Lachen village takes you to the spectacular Gurudongmar Lake at 17,000 ft. Snow clad peaks, lush greenery and waterfalls make this route special. Gurudongmar Lake is among the top 15 highest lakes in the world and the second highest lake in Sikkim and India.
Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Dongmar) touched and sanctified the lake. Even in extreme winter, a portion of the lake does not freeze. The waters are said to have curative properties and many tourists carry back the water. Halt overnight at Lachen and you need a permit to visit the lake. Oxygen is in minimal supply here, so staying for more than an hour is not recommended. The view of Mount Siniolchu and Khanchendzonga are ample reward for the effort.
Getting there: 8 hours from Sikkim’s capital Gangtok. Excursions begin from Lachen village
Tso Moriri, Ladakh, Kashmir
Tso Moriri is special for me for I visited it with my partner in the early stages of our relationship. Located in secluded, breathtaking Rupshu Valley, Tso Moriri Lake (4,000 meters above sea level) is flanked by lofty mountains. About 29 km long and 8 km wide, the startlingly blue Tso Moriri is one of the most serene and sacred high altitude lakes in India. In fact, it is the largest high altitude lake in India that is entirely in Indian Territory.
As part of the wetland reserve, it is forbidden to pitch tents or construct anything near the banks of the lake. It is the highest Ramsar site in the world. Though the landscape is surreal, it’s harsh and you need to acclimatise. You need a permit to visit the lake as it is very near the Line of Actual Control.
Getting there: Leh to Tso Moriri – 250 kms/ approx 7 hours
Lake Tsomgo/ Changu Lake, Sikkim
It is believed that Buddhist monks used to study the colour of the water to forecast the future. The lake also holds significance for the Jhakris (faith healers) of Sikkim who congregate here annually on Guru Purnima to offer prayers. Foreign visitors have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitor permit.
Kedar Tal Lake, Uttarakhand
One of the highest lakes in Uttarakhand, this pristine, emerald lake is situated next to Kedar Bamak Glacier at the foot of Thalaysagar and Brigupanth Peak. At 5065 mts, Kedar Tal (also known as Lord Shiva’s lake) is one of the most beautiful high altitude lakes of India. The holy town of Gangotri is the base camp for the trek to Kedar Tal. The trekking route is open for trekkers from May to October.
Mansarovar Lake, Tibet
At an altitude of 4727 m, Lake Mansarovar is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. Situated at the foot of Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar displays an exquisite play of colours ranging from crystal clear blue water near the shores and a deep emerald green at the centre. Visit the ancient Chiu Gompa Monastery built on a steep hill. This holy lake is one of the important pilgrimages (“Manasarovar Yatra”) for Hindus and Buddhists.
Getting there: Go through Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) or through private tour operators in Nepal & Tibet.
Namtso Lake, Tibet
Lake Namtso (Tibetan for ‘Heavenly Lake’) is the largest high altitude lake in the world at 4700 m, and its surface area is 1940 kms. It is also the highest saltwater lake in the world. The lake is outstanding for it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, open grassland, dotted with yak herds and local nomads, making it one of the most beautiful places in Tibet. The Tashi Dor monastery is located at the southeastern corner of the lake. Acclimatise in Lhasa before your visit.
Getting there: Take a day trip from Lhasa
Suraj Tal Lake, Himachal Pradesh
At 4980 m, Suraj Tal Lake in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. The lake is the third highest in India. The name means sun (suraj) and lake (tal), hence is revered as the lake of the Sun God. A holy dip in the waters of the lake is said to absolve one of all sins.
Fed by the Bhaga River, the lake lies just below the summit of the Baralacha Pass where roads leading to Spiti, Ladakh and Zanskar meet.
Getting there: The lake lies en route from Manali to Leh.
Sela Lake, Arunachal Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh is pristine and should be on your wishlist if you want to go off the beaten path. Sela Lake in Tawang is also known as Paradise Lake for its incredible beauty. The lake is located close to Sela Pass (13,700 feet), the second highest Pass in India. The lake is also considered sacred.
Getting there: Tawang is about of 80 kms from Sela Pass