Lakes are such an attractive, compelling life force. Cool breezes waft across their waters even on blistering days—lakes can calm and de-stress you just by being there. Many of India’s holiday destinations, from Nainital to Kodaikanal, are built around lakes, but the accompanying overgrown towns and bus loads of noisy tourists can quickly drown out the beauty a lake proffers. We suggest, instead, journeying to some lesser-known lakes, even if you’ve only got a tiny bit of adventure in you. If you’re willing to brave a little rough terrain, and perhaps hike to get there, you could be at some peaceful spots in just a few days. If you think it’s too much to do on your own, don’t hesitate to enlist the services of an adventure travel company.
20. Kareri lake, Himachal Pradesh
While the Kareri lake is small, views of the dramatic Dhauladhar mountains make the trip superlative. Summers here are gorgeous; in winter the area is blanketed in snow, with parts of the lake frozen, and you will have the place all to yourself.
Crystal clear: The high altitude Tso-Moriri can be trekked to in seven days from Rumtse village. (IndiaPicture)
Getting there: You can do this quicker, but Kareri is best enjoyed as a three-day trek from McLeod Ganj. Either get transport to Ghera and then walk, or trek from Stowbarry just outside McLeod Ganj. Still some energy left? Go further to Lamdal, another lake higher up the mountains.
Stay: Overnight at Kareri village before moving on to the lake. At the lake, camp at the small temple, or at the sheds that provide basic shelter from the cold. Alternatively, pitch a tent on the rolling green meadows and wake up to the reflection of the snow-capped peaks on the glassy water while cattle munch grass outside your tent. Cow -herds who spend the summer here in little mud houses will gladly sell fresh (organic, of course) milk.
21. Kecheoperi lake, Sikkim
Buddhists and Hindus consider this lake holy and take their shoes off before approaching it. Incense sticks burn on the shores, prayer flags flutter, and offerings of food and flowers sit on the shore. Small as it is, Kecheoperi’s unique tranquillity is only enhanced by the breeze rustling through the forests around.
Getting there: Drive 4-5 hours out of Gangtok to Pelling. An interesting walkway from Pelling to Yuksom, across quaint bamboo bridges dangling precariously over fast flowing rivers, winds its way up a mountainside dotted with wild flowers. Along the way, a little off the trail and almost hidden from view by greenery, is Kecheoperi. If you don’t want to walk, drive to the lake from Yuksom (2 hours).
Stay: There is a trekker’s hut if you’d like to spend a night in the area. It’s a kilometre away, since no one is allowed to stay by the lake.
22. Pangong Tso and Tso-Moriri, Ladakh
Lakes at high altitude are particularly stunning and these two remote lakes can be reached by jeep, without any walking. Pangong Tso is a vast expanse 5 hours from Leh, with much of its waters part of Tibet; the completely mesmerizing turquoise Tso-Moriri lies 8 hours’ driving time south-east of Leh.
Getting there: A two- to three-day jeep safari from Leh can take you to both lakes, but we suggest you do each separately and spend more time. Another option—while driving from Manali to Leh, a 4-hour detour brings you to Tso-Moriri (turn off 64km before Tanglang La). This route also goes past another, less interesting high-altitude lake called Tso-Kar, where simple accommodation is available.
If you’re fit and adventurous, and it’s July or August, trek from Rumtse, three days to Tso-Kar and another four to Tso-Moriri.
It’s best to book all/any of these arrangements through an agent.
Stay: Accommodation is organized in tents or villages nearby for Pangong Tso. For Tso-Moriri you can stay at Korzok village in tents or simple lodges. Visit mid-May to September only.
23. Maharashtra’s lake district (Lonavla area)
The Lonavla area has some easy-to-reach lakes that most tourists are too lazy to travel to.
The Pawna lake, for instance, is surrounded by three forts once held by Shivaji—Lohagad, Tikona and Tung. And though its shores near the dam are now dotted with villas and bungalows, venture further and you’ll find yourself alone, with only gently lapping waters and forest for company. Spend a quiet day, take a dip or, if you fancy, cast a line for fish. Similar lakeside jaunts are also possible on the far end of the Valvan lake and over the hill to a lake behind the Karla caves.
Getting there: Access to Pawna is via Lonavla or Kamshet. We prefer a hike across from Malavli station, past Lohagad fort. An interesting alternative is to cycle in via INS Shivaji to the Tung village and fort, and then hike down to a secluded spot on the water’s edge; on the way back, catch the 3pm ferry from Kolha, across the lake (cycle and all) and then continue back to Lonavla or Kamshet.
Stay: Lonavla has plenty of varied accommodation options; Kamshet has a few too.