Given that the Himalayas are among the tallest mountains in the world, the lakes formed here are some of the highest in India.
These lakes are blessed with beautiful topography, however, this varies with the location; some water bodies are surrounded by lush greenery and some come with beautiful views of mountains and rivers. Being in the midst of nature, the lakes provide a sense of calm and tranquillity, making you feel at peace. On the other hand, they’re located at high altitudes, making it tough to reach, in turn, becoming great spots for adventure enthusiasts.
The highest lakes in India with some of the best views
Gurudongmar Lake, located in Sikkim, is among the highest lakes in India. Situated at an altitude of almost 17,800 feet, the water body is surrounded by the Himalayas. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava, the Indian Buddhist master, came to a village nearby and saw that the people were troubled due to a lack of drinking water. This is when he went to the water body, which was completely frozen, and struck the ground. This thawed a large part of the lake and provided people with fresh water.
Today, certain parts of the bright blue lake are still frozen. The water’s surface reflects the surrounding mountains and makes for a mesmerising sight. Not just that, the lake itself is a holy and adventurous site, attracting both kinds of tourists equally.
How to reach: Gurudongmar Lake is located approximately 120 kilometres from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. You can reach Gangtok by flight, and hop onto a cab from there.
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Among the highest lakes in India, Tso Lhamo is located at an altitude of about 17,500 feet. The freshwater lake is in close proximity to the Tibetan border, and thus, one needs an Army-approved permit to visit. It is also the origin of the river Teesta and is one of the ‘Tso Chen’ of Sikkim (Gurudongmar Lake is another one of them).
Tso Lhamo is one of the most visually rewarding lake treks in India. In the spring season, areas around the lake are covered in a bed of flowers, making the already stunning scenery more picturesque. It is also home to migratory birds and local wildlife.
How to reach: The lake is about 10 kilometres from Gurudongmar Lake, which is 120 kilometres from Gangtok. Hail a cab from Gangtok to reach this destination
Located just below Bara Lacha Pass, Suraj Tal is probably among the most scenic lakes that you will see. One of the highest lakes in India, Suraj Tal is where Bhaga River originates, flowing downstream to form the Chandrabhaga. The destination is also a holy spot because of this and has religious and spiritual significance. It is located at an altitude of over 16,000 feet and is 800 metres long.
The crystal clear water of the lake reflects the snow-topped mountains on which Bara Lacha Pass rests. Not just that, dawn here is a beautiful sight, with the sun’s reflection shining beautifully on the ripples of water created on the lake’s surface.
How to reach: The lake lies on the Manali-Leh route and is about three kilometres from Bara Lacha Pass. You can reach it by road, be it on a bus, car or bike.
Roopkund is definitely an intriguing spot, and not an easy one to reach. The lake has an altitude of 14,882 feet and a width of about 40 metres. It is mysterious because of the presence of human skeletons at the bottom, earning it the name ‘Skeleton Lake’.
One of the most popular ways to reach here is via a trek, which takes you through deep forests and the wilderness. It is a truly beautiful place to visit, and the eerie stories around the lake will send chills up your spine.
How to reach: Kathgodam is the nearest railway station, from where you can board a cab to Lohajung. From here, the trek to Roopkund begins.
Another lake located in the cold desert of Ladakh, Tso Moriri is slightly less popular than Pangong Tso. Located at an altitude of 14,836 feet, the lake is a sight to behold! The water here turns from light blue to deep blue. You’ll see wildlife such as yaks, marmots, wild ass, cranes and hares.
The lake, which lies completely in Ladakh in the Trans-Himalayan Region, is roughly 26 kilometres long and about five kilometres wide. It is made up of alkaline water, which cannot be directly consumed. The place is also a reserve for the Indian Wildlife Association, where the organisation has set up a research base.
How to reach: Tso Moriri is about 220 kilometres from Leh and can be reached by car, bike or bus.
Located in the stunning Spiti Valley, Chandra Tal is a place that you must visit. The ethereal lake turns even more magnificent at night, as the moonlight reflects on it. This is one of the reasons camping is a popular activity here, as are lake treks to the destination. Located at a height of about 14,100 feet, Chandra Tal is surrounded by Himalayan peaks.
The lake is crescent-shaped and has a place in Hindu mythology, too. It is believed that Lord Indra came here to take the only surviving Pandava, Yudhisthira, to heaven in his mortal form. It is also believed to be the source of origin for the river Chandra, which later merges with Bhaga to form Chandrabhaga.
How to reach: Located on the Manali-Kaza route, Chandra Tal is about 110 kilometres from Manali and can be reached by road
Bhrigu Lake stands at a height of over 14,000 feet, east of the Rohtang Pass in Kullu. Named after the famous sage Maharshi Bhrigu, this is a popular spot among trekkers because of the adventures encountered along the way.
The trek to the pond-like lake is a long journey, wherein you’ll pass through lush forests, vast meadows and sleep in tents. Legend has it that in the winters, even though the surrounding mountains witness snowfall, Bhrigu Lake does not freeze as the Maharshi used to meditate right by it.
How to reach: Bhrigu Lake is best reached by a trek, which begins at Gulaba. From Manali, the nearest bus stand, the lake is roughly 17 kilometres away.
You may recognise this lake from the popular movie, 3 Idiots. Pangong Lake (Pangong Tso) is massive and located at around 13,862 feet above sea level. It lies close to the Sino-Indian border, with about 40 per cent of the lake being in Ladakh and 50 per cent in Tibet (China). The remaining 10 per cent is disputed and is part of the buffer zone between India and China.
At its widest, the lake is five kilometres, while the length is about 130 kilometres. A part of Pangong Tso is made of saline water. While it doesn’t harbour much aquatic life, the lake is a popular breeding ground for migratory birds. Also important to note is that you cannot visit Pangong Tso without a permit since it is located close to the border.
How to reach: Board a local taxi or bus from Leh (which has the nearest airport) to reach the lake.
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Sela Lake is located en route to the beautiful Sela Pass, a popular trekking destination. Perched at an altitude of 13,650 feet, it is also called Paradise Lake thanks to its picturesque views. One of the highest lakes in India, Sela is the origin of several small rivers in the Himalayas. It also serves as the gateway to beautiful destinations like Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
The lake and its surroundings have limited vegetation because of the altitude. It is also a breeding ground for local birds and wildlife and is a great place to visit if you are looking for some calm.
How to reach: The lake is about 260 kilometres from Tezpur, which houses the nearest railway station. Hail a taxi, bus or bike from here to reach the lake.
Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim sits at a height of about 12,313 feet above sea level and is surrounded by magnificent hills and forests. It is close to Gangtok. The lake changes colours based on different seasons, going from a sapphire blue in spring to ink green in the winter.
Tsomgo is associated with many myths and legends and is considered holy by the locals. With its rugged mountain terrain and steep valleys, the lake is a perfect backdrop for photoshoots.
How to reach: Tsomgo Lake is located 40 kilometres from Gangtok and can be reached via road.
Located on the route between Kaza and Shimla, Nako is a small lake in the Kinnaur district. One of the highest lakes in India, it is perched at an altitude of almost 12,000 feet. Up close, its clear water shines a green hue, thanks to the abundance of trees around it.
Vehicles cannot directly reach the lake, so you will have to park your car and walk for about five to ten minutes. Because of its small size, Nako doesn’t find mention in most stories on lakes at high altitudes, but if you’re travelling from Kaza to Shimla (or the other way around), a short stop here is a must.
How to reach: The lake is around 111 kilometres from Kaza. The best way is to reach by local transport, car or bike.
Among the major attractions in Srinagar, Dal Lake is at an altitude of about 5,800 feet. The waters reach minus temperatures in winter. Dal Lake is an important part of Srinagar’s culture, hosting floating markets and is home to many shikaras and houseboats.
Every year, the city welcomes thousands of tourists who flock to the Dal to experience its beauty and shikara rides. This also makes it an important part of tourism in the city. The lake is surrounded by lush wetlands that add to its greenery and picturesque views.
How to reach: The lake is located in Srinagar, which is connected by road, train and air to cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
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Hero Image credit: Franz Hajak/Unsplash; Featured Image credit: Shutterstock
This story first appeared on Travel+Leisure India and South Asia.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Gurudongmar Lake, which is at a height of 17,800 feet, is among the highest lakes in India.
Answer: Ojos del Salado Lake is the highest in the world, while Gurudongmar Lake is among the highest lakes in India.
Answer: Manasbal Lake is said to be the deepest lake in India.
Answer: The Wular Lake in Kashmir is India's largest freshwater lake.
Answer: While not the highest lake in India, Pangong is not only India's, but the world's highest saltwater lake.
Answer: Dal Lake is the second largest lake in Kashmir, but not the largest lake in India.