India is a vast country and home to some highly diverse landscape. To the north lie the mighty Himalayan mountains, while the north-west is famous for the dry desert-like climate of Kutch and Rajasthan. The southern states of Kerela and Tamil Nadu are home to a large biosphere reserve and backwaters, while the north-east represents the exotic and the untouched wilderness. Along with this large variety of natural settings, India is also blessed with plenty of inland water bodies. Lakes in particular are quite spectacular and scenic, not only due to their colour but also due to the setting in which they are located. This post is the first part of the ‘Most Incredible Lakes of India’ collection. Below listed are some of the most famous, spectacular and must visit lakes of the country:
Deriving its name from Bhima, a character in the famous Indian epic of Mahabharata, BhimTal is located near the famous north Indian hill station of Nainital. The lake has an island at it’s center (island has an aquarium) and offers activities like mountain biking, boating and horse riding. Some sources suggest that the town of Bhimtal, where the lake is situated, may have been part of the silk route.
Looking at the picture above, one might have guessed the location to be Lake Pukaki in New Zealand. But it is actually ChandraTaal (chandra means moon) lake, situated in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. The name is derived from the crescent-like shape of the lake, resembling the shape of the moon. Situated in the Himalayas at an altitude of 14100 feet, this lake can only be accessed by foot from July to early October, after which snow covers all the roads and paths leading to the lake. With views like in the picture above, the remote and inaccessible nature of ChandraTaal might be worth the trouble.
The focal point of Kashmir valley, Dal Lake is famous all over the world. It is one of the most scenic places in the world and has received lots of media attention mainly because a whole host celebrities have visited and stayed at this iconic lake. Famous musicians like Pandit Ravishankar and George Harrison, political world leaders, as well as countless movie stars have all been here. Riding on colourful boats called shikaras is a must and if time allows, one should stay overnight in a houseboat. April to September is the best time to go.
Located in the eastern state of Sikkim, Gurudongmar lake is one of the highest lakes in the world – at an incredible 17,800 feet! At such heights and remoteness, the lake has a spiritual feel to it. Sikhs and Buddhist locals hold strong religious beliefs in this lake due to ancient legends linked to their religious leaders. Open to all Indian citizens (non-Indians require a permit), this lake is frozen for 7 months of the year. It takes about 7-8 hours from Gangtok to reach the lake and 3-4 hours from Lachen town.
The largest fresh water lake in North-East India, Loktak lake is situated in the state of Manipur. This lake is most well known for its floating “phumdis” or vegetation mass. Phumdis have been very resourcefully used by locals for building homes as well as for creating circular enclosures in the water that replicate fishing nets. Also located at the southwestern end of the lake is the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the world’s first and only floating park. This floating national park is home to endangered brown-antlered deer. This lake offers plenty of reasons to visit.
Pangong Tso is one of the most unique lakes in the world, because one part of it lies in India while the other part lies in China. This trans-national lake is filled with brackish water, and hence there isn’t much wildlife that lives in its waters. Being so close to the Chinese border means that an inner line permit is required to visit the lake. The most beautiful aspect of Pangong Tso is its stunning aquamarine colour, which is a result of light reflecting off the glacial salts present in the lake water. This natural beauty is why a lot of Indian movies are shot at this scenic lake.
Pichola Lake is arguably one of the most romantic spots in the country. It is located in the old royal city of Udaipur, India’s center of tourism and grand weddings. There are four islands in the lake, of which one island is the famous Lake Palace, now a luxury 5-star hotel. While on the lake, one can get a fantastic view of the 16th century City Palace which is located along the lake. The history, royalty, architecture and picturesque views are what you experience when at Lake Pichola.
Kerela, often referred to as god’s own country, has many water bodies. One of them is the scenic freshwater Pookode Lake. Pookode sits very picturesquely between lush green hills and forest, and is a great place for recreational activities including zorbing on water! Another thing to watch here is the colourful blue water lily flower. A close encounter with nature on the calm waters of Pookode Lake is best enjoyed from December to June.
A cousin of the beautiful ChandraTaal lake, the Surya Taal is also located in the Himalayan mountains of Himachal Pradesh. It is named after Surya the sun god and is located in the most spectacular of settings. Its emerald greenish colour, surrounding majestic snow capped mountains, and narrow winding roads cutting through the rugged landscape make the sight of this lake quite spectacular. On route from Manali to Leh, make sure you stop at this incredible lake.
Tso Moriri lake is another one of the Himalayan gems. At almost 15000 ft above sea level, the lake is as incredible as the journey to the lake itself. En route to Tso Moriri, is it said that one will see purple coloured mountains. Tso Moriri has to be every traveler’s dream, with its emerald blue colour contrasting beautifully with brown rugged mountains in the background and sun-kissed grassland surrounding it. A rough drive over gravel roads is needed to reach Tso Moriri.
Vembanad Lake offers a classic Kerela backwater experience, especially if you set out on a houseboat and sail along, with swaying palm trees and lush green landscape on either side of the water. This lake is the largest in Kerela, and the longest in India. The most unique thing about visiting this lake is the chance to explore and observe life in villages that are dotted along the lake. In essence, you experience the real Kerela by visiting Vembanad lake.
Read part 2 of this series here.