The so-called alpine lakes are nothing but high altitude lakes whose water is mostly very clear and pure. Some alpine lakes are salty. The Alpine Lakes in India are invariably fed by the melting glaciers and of course the rain.
Alpine lakes are usually located amidst high mountain ranges, green meadows, tall pine and fir trees, and even waterfalls. Hence, alpine lakes make ideal camping destinations for adventure travelers.
If the high altitude lakes are located in and around highly popular holiday destinations, you can find lakefront hotels and cottages that are just ideal for a family vacation in pristine surroundings.
Let us know some of the most beautiful alpine lakes in India.
Alpine Lakes in India: Tso Moriri, Jammu & Kashmir
The minimum elevation qualification for a natural lake to be classified under alpine lakes is 5000 feet. Lake Tso Moriri is located at an altitude of roughly 15,000 feet in Ladakh, J&K one of the beautiful Alpine Lakes in India.
See the calmness surrounding this Indian alpine lake. It seems nothing can disturb the silence hovering over the vast lake. Lake Tso Moriri is a big lake really covering an area of 30K acres. And It measures 19 km by 3 km by length and breadth respectively.
Tso Moriri gets frozen during winter making it an ideal winter lakefront holiday destination in India, some 250+ km from Leh, a holy town for Buddhists living in the nearby Tibet. A few local people offer home-stay and food but they are devoid of any sort of modern luxury and that includes electricity.
The lake Tso Moriri’s shores are great camping grounds. Apart from a trickle of tourists, bird lovers and ornithologists frequently make a tiring trip to this alpine lake village due to the movement of several migratory birds that include:
- Brown-headed gulls
- Great crested grebe
- Black-necked cranes
- Bar-headed geese
- Ferruginous Duck (a duck in brown color!)
The most common animal seen here is the Tibetan ass. Of course, the ubiquitous Yak can gaze at you without any emotion.
High Altitude Alpine Lakes in India: Pangong Tso, J&K
Some of you might raise an objection as to why this most important India alpine lake is not listed at the top of my list of high altitude Alpine Lakes in India. The reason for this obscure downgrade is because of the major part of this alpine lake lies in Tibet, China.
Lake Pangong situated at a height of 14,000 feet approximately. It covers an area of 604 sq.km and nearly 60% of it lies in China. The remaining 40% of this alpine lake is in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The distance between Pangong Tso and Leh is around 200 km. When you travel in a car with a local guide, he will excitedly shout “look, this is the Chang La pass”, an adventure traveler’s favorite mountain pass in the world.
Like any other high altitude Alpine Lakes in India, Pangong Tso also freezes during winter.
Visitors to this high altitude lake in India can spot the shy Mormots, a large squirrel.
If you are an adventurous type, you can choose to stay in an eco-hut. Ask around for home-stay offers and tent in Tangste, Lukung, and Spangmik mountain villages.
Oligotrophic Alpine Lakes in India: Gangbal, Jammu & Kashmir
Situated at height of 11730 feet, this alpine lake called Gangbal can be reached only after walking on the Himalayas for 15 km. The mountain walk starts from Naranag which is located 45 km from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. If you are too old to walk, you can hire a horse to carry you up to the lakefront situated at the foothills of Mount Haramukh. However, the trek is said to be sacred. In addition, the trekking path is said to be very scenic surrounded by vast meadows and a wide range of flora.
Interestingly, this Indian alpine lake is classified under the Oligotrophic lakes, which means the water is very clear, pure, and supports many life systems. The water is delicious to drink.
The zealous trekkers make a plan to walk through three mountain passes nearby namely:
- Nichnai Mountain Pass
- Zagibal Mountain Pass
- Gadsar Mountain Pass
Alpine Lakes in India: Suraj Tal, Himachal
This alpine lake in Himachal Pradesh’s Spiti Valley is located at a whopping 15,800 feet! When the water overflows from this high altitude Indian lake, it flows as Chenab River, one of the five rivers that comprise Punjab. The famous Bara-Lacha mountain pass is in the proximity of Suraj Tal. This high altitude mountain pass connects the Himachal Pradesh and the Jammu and Kashmir states.
In order to go to Suraj Tal, you need to hire a car from Keylong and from there, the Suraj Tal is 60 km away, on the Leh Manali highway. Some trekking organizers offer trekking tours along the Bara-Lacha mountain pass and around the Suraj Tal.
Remote Alpine Lakes in Sikkim, India: Gurudongmar
Lake Gurudongmar is truly a high altitude lake located in Sikkim, India. Its elevation is 17,800 feet. I wonder whether oxygen is available at this height! It does not attract nature lovers but the Buddhists too for who the lake Gurudongmar is sacred.
If you want to visit this remote lake, you can go by car from Sikkim’s capital Gangtok and travel the 190 km in about 6 hours. Enroute, you can spot the breathtaking Kangchenjunga peak, the third highest peak in the world.
Due to such a high altitude and snow-clad mountains surrounding it, the alpine lake remains frozen for nearly 9 months in a year.
Tourists and pilgrims take a small quantity of water from the lake as it is said to possess medicinal properties.
Alpine Lakes in India: Chandra Taal, Himachal Pradesh
Located at an altitude of approximately 14,000 feet, this alpine lake Chandra Taal lies in the vicinity of Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh. The popular hill station Manali is the gateway to Chandra Taal.
This alpine lake is fed by the River Chandra and is located in the backdrop of Moulkila and Chandrabhaga mountain ranges. Bird watchers like to go to Chandra Taal mainly to spot some rare avifauna such as the snow cock and yellow-headed wagtail.
The wagtails are cute birds that wag their long tail vigorously as soon as they land on the earth. Some other birds that seem to like the Chandra Taal are:
- Black-winged Stilt
- Blue Rock Pigeon
There is abundant prey for them on the marshy edges of the lake.
Alpine Lakes in India: Tso Kar, J&K
The alpine lakes’ names preceded by the word ‘TSO’ must indicate a ‘lake’. Situated at an altitude of 14,800 feet in the Rushpu Valley, Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir, Tso Kar is quite lengthy measuring over 7 km.
The surrounding small hillocks say the region is quite dry and desert-like. This Indian alpine lake water is saline in nature and hence not much of great flora and fauna are found. Nevertheless, you can still identify the Himalayan yaks, the Tibetan gazelles (Goas as they are also called)and sandgrouses, and the marmots.
Another rare animal that lives in these alpine regions in Ladakh is the Tibetan wild ass. Its native name is ‘Kiang’.
To see the Tso Kar, you have to reach Leh first from Srinagar(380 km). From Leh, Tso Kar is located at a distance of 160 km. The other alpine lake Tso Moriri is not very far off from Tso Kar.
Passionate bird watchers and wild animal enthusiasts pitch up their own camp on the banks of Tso Kar. They say it is worth the trouble in spite of extreme conditions. Only the Changpa nomads live there but not very near to the alpine Tso Kar.
Two alpine lakes in Uttarakhand State, India
Uttarakhand State with its capital Dehradun is home to all the major Hindu shrines from ancient times. This part (Garhwal) of the Himalayas has more rivers than lakes. Shall we call those rivers also as alpine as they originate at very high altitudes?
I will mention two alpine lakes in Uttarakhand and they are:
- Kedar Taal located at 15,600 feet, near Gangotri. This pure water alpine lake is fed by the melting snow from the surrounding peaks such as Bhrigupanth and Thalay Sagar.
Here is where you can see the most beautiful ‘blue sheep’.
Generally, in this part of the Himalayas, the avifauna range is wide and beautiful too. Gangotri is an important pilgrimage center in India for the Hindus. The Kedar Taal reached by trekking for two hours from Gangotri. In spite of very unfriendly mountainous terrain, you can spot a few tents put up by bird watchers.
The second alpine lake in Uttarakhand is called ‘Roopkund’. It is located at a very high altitude of 16,500 feet with the backdrop of majestic Trishul Mountain in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand State.
During the summer, when the snow melts to reveal the clear depths of this alpine lake, one can see several human skeletons lying at the bottom of the Roopkund. One can easily touch them as the bottom of the lake lies just 7 feet below. This part of the Garhwal region is a major trekking destination attracting fitness buffs from several countries.