I am reminded of the resounding words of the poet, W.H. Davies, as I talk about the Satopanth Taal. He says,

“What is life full of care, there no time to stand and stare;
No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night”

In the midst of enormous mountains adorned in nothing but speckles of white, rising above the sea level by about 4600 meters a lake stands full of stars, (as described by the poet), in the Indian state of Uttarakhand is the Satopanth Tal. Exactly speaking, the lake is 25 kilometres from the holy place of worship for Hindus, Badrinath – The Abode of Lord Badri Vishal. Badrinath, the seat of the god Vishnu in his aspect of Badrinarayan, is the most important of the four sites in India's Char Dham pilgrimage, and is situated among the giants of Indian Himalaya, at the height of 10,248 feet above sea level.

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Firstly, we pass through Mana village, about 3kms from Badrinath dham, the last village on the Indo-Tibet border has a lot of Mythological importance. It is the confluence point of Alaknanda and Saraswathi rivers – also known as Guptha gamini, and is popularly known as Keshava prayag. Cave temples dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Sage Vyasa and the Muchkund cave are noteworthy places here for Hindus to visit.

Crossing the makeshift bridge over Alaknanda river, we reach the left bank of the valley. There is a temple dedicated to Mata Moorthy, said to be the guarding goddess and serves as resting place too. After crossing the Dhano glacier, the spiritual journey passes along the swift flowing river, hopping boulders.

At different places along the journey we will find various names associated with Pandavas as a tribute to their heavenward journey. At Mana we will find the first memorial of the Pandava kings as The “Bhima Pul” is named after the Pandavas king Bhima. The stone bridge is believed to have been made by Bhima himself for the Pandavas so that they could cross the violent Saraswati river. After crossing Alaknanda river over the makeshift bridge, proceed to the left bank. Next is Lakshmi Van, Draupadi is said to have kicked the bucket here. Next comes Bandhar, The stream here is known as the stream that helped Yudishthir quench his thirst and is said to have been made by Arjuna’s arrow. Retracing Pandava’s path, Bhimber is the next halt. The pillar made of huge boulders, reminds us of the place where Bhima breathed his last. Next at Chakratirtha, it was Arjuna’s who came face to face with death. Yudishthir and his pet dog were the only two who made it to heaven alive.

Around Badrinath every place is steeped in legends, so are Lakshmi Van and Chakratirtha. It is said that goddess Lakshmi ( goddess of wealth) and her husband Narayan ( the preserver) meditated in Lakshmi Van and Chakratirtha respectively and while meditating Narayan kept his famous Sudarshan Chakra on the valley which depressed by the weight of Chakra formed a beautiful round shaped meadow surrounded by lofty mountains.

Visible along the journey, the Vasudhara Falls is one of the major attractions. Water cascades from an elevation of approximately about 150 meters, though we would feel only a few droplets falling on us because of the height, into the valley below with its foggy appearance. At the junction of Satopanth glacier and Bhagirath Khadag glacier we get a glimpse of the mighty Chaukhamba rising above the valley.

After the hurdles of Lakshmi Van and Chakratirtha are crossed. While going uphill, we can see the all Holy triangle shape of the lake Satopanth Taal . At the foot of Chaukhamba massif , the lake is very difficult to locate and access, and is well protected from the casual forays of commercial trekking . High ridges and treacherous glaciers surround it leaving only one route of access that too over razor-sharp ridges and perilous broken glaciers. It is said that villagers of Mana sprinkle the ashes of the dead in these holy waters so that the dead get liberation from the circle of life, which is a very important concept in Hinduism. Also, once a year, on an auspicious day of yogini ekadashi the trimurtis or the three main Hindu Gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - are said to take a bath in this lake. Secondly, as the name suggests, it is the path of the truth, hence, the Stairway to Heaven. It is also believed that the mighty characters of Mahabharata, the Panch Pandavas, along with Draupadi, passed from here when they were ascending to Heaven

Further Surya Kund and the Chandra Kund, two tiny streams, are seen flowing playfully in the Himalayas.

The lake is synonymous with the peak Mt Satopanth, 7075 m. It was firstly tried to reach from both the sides, North east and north west by Austrians in 1938. However, the first people to reach the peak were the Swedish people in 1947.

This place, Satopanth lake is exceptionally stunning but the drawback of it is that it is a little deserted but filled with unlimited opportunities for mountaineering. Mountain peaks such as Mt. Balakun 6,471 m (21,230 ft) lies between the Bhagirathi glacier and Satopanth Glacier and Mt. Neelkanth – The jewel of Gharwal 6596 m ( 21,640 ft ) lies to the East of the lake. View of mountain peaks at dawn and dusk is a visual retreat to eyes.

One can stay in the tents or in the caves during nights. Travelling across the glacier and after hours of climbing on the perilous moraine, one will have a glimpse of the hidden lake. The very first point that will stun a person is the odd otherworldly or heavenly ambient of the lake, peaceful and relaxing. The amazing shape of the lake is even more stunning.

Trip Highlights
  • Triangular shaped glacial lake lies hidden at an altitude of 14450 ft.
  • It is considered a one of the pristine high latitude lakes of Devabhoomi.
  • Mythical lake is surrounded by Satopanth peak, Neelkanth, Balakun, Parvati Swargarohini and other peaks.
Trip Facts
  • Joshimath Altitude: 6152 ft
  • Chamtoli Altitude: 11,844 ft
  • Laxmi Van Altitude: 12,510 ft
  • Chakratirth Altitude: 13,655 ft
  • Overall Trek distance : 46 kilometres
  • Satopanth Tal Altitude: 14,455 ft
  • Best time to visit : Between June to September
  • Difficulty level : Moderate (It is Subjective)
Why to choose?

As a Himalayan lover it is necessary to understand the reason for choosing Satopanth Tal Trek :

  • It is one of High-altitude lakes of Uttarakhand Himalaya, situated at an altitude of 4600m deeply steeped in Mythology and referred in epics.
  • Total trekking distance of 46 kms from Mana border is covered in 7 days.
  • The trail is moderate with Moraine and good for beginners too.
  • You get to see a few prominent peaks such as Mt. Chaukhamba, Mt. Balakun, Mt. Swargarohini and different views of Mt. Neelkanth peak.
  • Acclimatization and height gain to suit to everyone's requirement, and weather conditions
Trip Cost Includes
  • Food : During Stay and Snacks during Evening Refreshments only
  • Travel : Tempo Traveler/SUV Similar Non/Ac/Bus
  • Accommodation : Basic Multiple sharing or dormitory/Tent.
  • Group Size : Group size 12 and Above.
Trip Cost Excludes
  • Any trip extensions, Stay due to road blocks or landslides, extra meals, Accommodation
Itinerary:
Day One - Drive from Haridwar to Joshimath – 310 Km – 10 hours.
Meet and greet at Dehradun Airport/Railway station. Journey via Srinagar and reach Joshimath. Overnight stay. Duration 11 hours.
Day two - Drive from Joshimath to Mana and from Mana hike to Chamatoli. 7 hours Overnight staycampsite.
Traverse by road from Joshimath Hotel to Mana and from Mana hike to Chamatoli (7 Hours, overnight stay in tents).
Joshimath is the gateway to Sri Badrinath Dham, Bhadri Vishal or the sacred Badrinath Math. Our way to Badrinath will hardly take us two hours’ drive by road. But this path is very perilous and traffic is guarded by letting vehicles go in batches from either side of the road.
Five hours more from Badrinath and we reach a small hamlet called Mana. This hamlet is believed to be the last village of India on the Indo-Tibet border. The tea shop at the end of the village boasts to be the last tea shop on the Indian side of the border. This last touristy village steeped in Mythology has Ganesh Cave, Vyas Gupfha, Natural bridge Bhim Pul, Sarawathi river and Muchkund Cave with stories from epic Mahabaratha. It offers a variety of things if you are shopaholic - Handicrafts, woolen clothing. Further for the seekers of adventure is Vasudhara Waterfalls at Alkapuri origin of Alaknanda river. During winters, even the villagers of this village come down to Chamatoli. Then we continue to walk down from Mana, the small and scenic village to Chamatoli, though a short distance one might want to wait and take pictures along the way.
Day three - Trek from Chamatoli to Sahastradhara camp, Overnight stay in tents.
A walk from Chamatoli to Sahastradhara camp (6 Hours, 14 kilometers – 14000 feet, Overnight stay in tents).
The hike will take us across unbelievably large open places. But fortunately the result of the climb will be a view of thousand springs.
The meaning of the words, Sahastra Dhara, is thousand water bodies. It is a scenic place, where River Baldi and the natural caves look spectacular. It is a 9 meters deep waterfall and has a deepening pit on the limestone below. Also, there are sulphur springs here which have medicinal qualities. The water from the spring is a cure to any kind of skin allergies. The other unique feature of sulphur springs are that the sulphur content in it keeps the water in the spring at a lower temperature. The trek will be unique as it is not too difficult, except if the climate is bad. The walk is tiring but the scenery around will leave you so spellbound that you will hardly notice your tire.
Day four - Trek to Laxmivan – 9 Km – 5/6 hours. Overnight stay in tents.
Hike from Sahastradhara to Satopanth Tal. (8 Hours, 18 kilometers - 15100 ft Overnight stay in tents).
While we start the hike on a positive note, we should still know that the glaciers here can pose a problem in walking. The triangular lake – Satopanth Tal – extends on both the ends to about 1 kilometre in length. Though the way that you will have to make through the glacier will be horrible, the sight of the popular Himalayan peaks like Mt.Neelkanth, Mt.Chaukhamba, and Mt.Balakun Satopanth glacier and Mt.Swargarohini will please you.
Day five - Trek to Chakratirtha – 11 Km – 6/7 hours. Overnight stay in tents.
Hike to Swargarohini base camp and see the dazzling Chaukhamba and come back to Satopanth Tal camp. (8 hours, 25 kilometers - 20500 ft, overnight stay in tents).
It is a deserted hike in Garhwal Himalayas. It is cozy on the foot of the well-known Nilkantha Peak. From the Swargarohini Base Camp, one can see the mighty Narayan Parbat and Balakun Peak.
This hike is a very difficult one as it steeps and climbs very harshly. This hike is only for experienced hikers or for those who are enthusiastic in testing their physical capacity.
Day six - Trek to Satopanth Tal – return to Sahastradhara Via Chakratirtha – Overnight stay in tents.
Hike from Satopanth Tal to Sahastradhara (via Chakratirth, 8 Hours, 18 kilometers - 15100 ft, Overnight stay in tents).
After this point, we will descend on the trek back from where we started and recollect the pleasant memories; we have had so far on the trip.
As an addition, we will see the Chakratirth. which is a holy place of worship for the Hindus. The pond here is in perfect circle as the chakra that was placed by Lord Narayan. The lakeside is lined with Bhoj trees. These are used for religious purposes. Also, scriptures were written on these leaves.
Day seven - Trek from Sahastradhara to Chamtoli via Lakshmi Van - Overnight stay in tents.
Trek from Sahastradhara to Chamtoli via Lakshmi Van (8 hours, 14 kilometers – 14000 feet, Overnight stay in tents).
As mentioned earlier, we will descend on the trek back from where we started and recollect the pleasant memories; we have had so far on the trip.
Day eight - Hike from Chamtoli to Badrinath – Drive to Joshimath Hotel.
Hike from Chamtoli to Badrinath – Drive to Joshimath Hotel (7 hours- 42 kilometers – 3133 feet).
Chamtoli is in the lap of the mighty Himalayas and is filled with scenic beauty. The place is captivating and represents beauty at the fullest. It is the closest to Lord Narayana’s shrine of Badrinath, but Chamtoli itself is a mythologically relevant place.
Day nine - Drive from Badrinath to Haridwar – 310 Km – 12 hours.
Start early morning journey via Rudraprayag. Reach Dehradun by night. End of the trip.
What to Expect?

A trip graded as a Moderate takes you to high altitude regions - above 3000m / 10,0000 ft and will involve considerable altitude gain 800 ft - 1200ft over the course of the trek. Altitude will have an effect, hence one would need to be careful about Acclimatization. The guide will educate about acclimitization procdure.Moderate treks will have multiple days which involve considerable amount of ascents and descents and would require walking for more than 5 - 6 hours.
There might be a day or two of camping in relatively high altitudes above 4000m / 13,000ft. A typical trek will last around a week to ten days depending on the region and is fro those who have exposure to Himalayan treks, for people who have completed a beginner trek.
Good fitness levels are needed to enjoy these trips.Preparation of your body by doing some fitness actitivies before the trip would help. Prior trekking experience would be an added advantage.

Important Information:
Things To Carry
  • 1 pair of Shoes : Carry well broken/used Shoes with good Sole & ankle protection and that will sustain usage during the trek. Avoid wearing new shoes to avoid bite and blisters.
  • 1 Backpack : Light Weighted & approx 30 litres in volume with multiple pouches,good zip & straps.
  • Clothing & Toiletries : For your daily usage
  • 1 Jacket : Early mornings and nights can get really cold.
  • 1 Cap/hat : help in protecting your head and face from direct sunlight during treks.
  • 1 Water bottle : carry some reusable water bottles along.
  • 1 Towel : quick dry light towel.
  • 1 Head lamp / Torch : Keep it handy and use it only required.
  • 1 Personal Medical Kit : Carry few tablets such as crocin, Paracetamol, Band aid, cotton. ORS satchets. Glucose, Volini spray and crape bandage.
  • 1 Medic Kit : always pack a first-aid kit in case things go the other way.
  • 2 Batteries: Carry recharged spare batteries.
  • Gloves : Gloves that will keep your palms warm during extreme cold.
  • 1 Whistle : Whistle for signalling and use in times of distress only.
  • 1 Sun glasses : Carry tested and right one to protect from harsh Sunlight only.
  • Sleeping Bag : At times, there might be extreme cold and the camp beds might not be good enough to give you a good night’s sleep. It is better if you have your own warm sleeping bag.
  • Mobile : Use if for communication only. Check with trek coordinator of network availibility carry BSNL SIM if required.
  • 1 Poly Bags : To carry trash and wet clothes.
  • 1 ID Proof : Carry Photo ID proof DL / Voter Id/ similar.
Routes to reach
    • By Train:We recommend to Overnight train to Dehradun from Capital city of Delhi. New Delhi to Dehradun A/c special train from New Delhi is the best option. The Scheduled reaching time to Dehradun Railway station is at 5:40 am.
      Nanda Devi Express – Train No 12205 (Departure 11:50 pm: Arrival 5:40 am)
      Dehradun Express - Train No 12687 (Departure 21:10 pm: Arrival 5:00 am)
    • By Flight: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport to reach Dehradun, located about 25 km from the city. There are daily flights from Delhi to Dehradun.
    • By Bus: Buses ply frequently from New Delhi to Dehradun from ISBT Kashmere Gate. Private buses options too are available.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What do I need to trek?
A. One must be able hike to a minimum of 5 to 6 kms without any issues, that’s all! Also, if you have any particular health problems such as respiratory problem, heart problems, one must check with the doctor regarding the hike.

Q : Is Satopanth Tal suitable for Beginners ?
A: Individuals desiring to do Satopanth tal should be experienced trekkers, we often suggest people wishing for Satopanth and Swargarohini Yatra that this must be taken as a high-altitude Himalayan trek and the pilgrims must have prior trekking experiences like Kailash, Adi Kailash, Kinnaur kailash or similar, preferably all.

Q: How chilly is it?
A: It is a question of where you belong to, but in terms of Indians – it is quite freezing. The temperature in the high altitudes can even be about -5 degrees during night time. Warm clothing is a must, though it adds to the weight of your luggage.

Q: What type of food will be provided during the trip?
A: Summiters give plain vegetarian food which is not too heavy and apt for hiking. Pizza hut or Anand Bhavan will not be in the picture nor will hunting be an option. There will be enough to sustain and apt will be served when hungry.

Q: Does mountain water cause harm?
A: No. The mountain water is clean. But if you are skeptical – a mineral water can be bought.

Q: Is there a charger point for my phone during the trek?
A: The end point that you can charge during the trek is at Mana Village but depends if electricity is there during the stay.

Q: How to prepare for this trek?
A: You must try and get accustomed to walks or jogs on a daily basis.

Q: How to Reach Joshimath?
A: Private SUV vehicles ply regularly between Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun. It takes 10 hours to reach Joshimath.

Q : What does Vehicle to Joshimath cost ?
A : It would cost around Rs 5500 to Rs 6000 for one trip either way.

Q : Is Camping next to Satopanth tal is allowed ?
A : No. From 2018 as per Uttarakhand High Court order (Petition No: 123/2014), one cannot camp on alpine and subalpine meadows/grasslands, locally called “Bugyal”. Therefore, forest department has revoked the permit to camp at the lake, i.e. Satopanth Tal. Starting from Sep 2018, one has to reach the highest camp which is at Chakratirtha and visit Satopanth and return to the same camp.