In Uttarakhand, there are the majestic mountains, and then there are the magnificent lakes. The state that lies in the lap of the Himalaya is sprinkled with gorgeous expanses of water fed by glaciers that make for perfect getaways, especially at this time of year when winter begins to take on a more mellow air.
Naini Lake – Mention the lakes of Uttarakhand and it’s Nainital, the lake that also lends its name to the hill station, that first springs to mind. Naini lake, at the centre of Nainital town, is woven into myth and legend. One story goes that three rishis created it and filled it with water from the sacred Manasarovar. It is believed also that it is a Shakti Peeth, the place where Shakti’s eye or nain fell. Today, Naini Lake attracts hordes of holiday-makers who go boating on the water body.
Khurpa Tal – A short drive from Nainital is Khurpa Tal, a hamlet which is untouched by modernity. At its hub is a clear water lake teeming with fish, and the lake is surrounded by lush farms; it’s the perfect place to experience Uttarakhand’s rural charms.
Bhimtal – Situated some 25 km from Nainital, Bhimtal, named after the strongest of the Pandavas, also goes back to the time of the great epics. The largest lake in Uttarakhand, Bhimtal lets you unwind by its clear waters, amidst spectacular scenery. There’s a small island in the middle of the lake which can be reached by boat.
Sattal – An unspoilt expanse of water, Sattal is made up of seven interconnected lakes. Set amidst oak and pine forests, the lake has facilities for swimming and boating. At this time of the year, you’ll also spot an array of migratory birds here.
Naukuchiatal – From Nainital you can also make a trip to Naukuchiatal, thus known for its nonagonal shape. Boating on the clear lake is a hugely popular leisure activity, besides angling and bird-watching.
Hemkund – Situated at an altitude of 4,300 m, Hemkund, or the Snow Lake, is sacred to both Hindus and Sikhs. It is believed that Lakshman meditated by the lake and recovered after being wounded by Ravana’s son in battle. According to the holy Granth Sahib, Guru Govind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikh faith, meditated on the bank of this lake in one of his earlier births. Hemkund is reached via a steep trek from Ghangharia and the effort is more than worth it.
Kedar Tal – Situated at an altitude of 4,425 m and about 20 km from Gangotri, this is a splendidly clear lake in which you can see the Thalay Sagar peaks reflected on a clear day. Rough and challenging treks are part of the Kedar Tal break.
Kagbhusandi Tal – This is avast and beautiful lake on the way to the Valley of Flowers. Remote and hard to reach, it keeps its charms for the intrepid traveller. Craggy peaks encircle this high-altitude lake, making for a dramatic setting. From here you can catch glimpses of the Neelkanth, Hathi, Chaukhamba and Nar-Narayan peaks. Treks from Vishnu Prayag and Govind Ghat provide fabulous views of the Garhwal Himalaya.
Nachiketa Tal – Situated about 30 km from Uttarkashi, Nachiketa Tal has a picture-perfect setting, with aNagdevi temple by the lakeside. The lake is considered sacred and locals take a holy dip on the day of Nagpanchami.
Dodi Tal – This crystal clear lake in Uttarkashi, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ganesh, feeds the Asi Ganga which later merges with the Bhagirathi river. Dodi Tal, believed to have curative properties, is famed for the Himalayan golden trout and rainbow trout that swim in it.