A camp amidst arguably the best location in the Greater Himalayas. Chandratal is a gem of a high altitude glacial lake located a 8 hour drive from the town of Manali or a 5 hour drive from the town of Kaza located int he Spiti valley. Though there are a couple of other camps pitched in the vicinity of the mind bogglingly beautiful emerald lake of Chandratal, the best located camp and easily the most hospitable one is the Parasol Camp, located 2.5 kms before the lake.
First of all - The location.
The lake itself is a no camping and a no vehicle zone (thankfully!). Though the road has managed to reach a km before the lake (which is truly a shame, it should have remained at its original end-point of 2.5 kms before the lake) Parasol epitomises the respect for mother nature and her raw and fragile beauty by staying away from the lake. To add, the location of the camp is easily the most beautiful and spectacular camping location in the vicinity of the lake. There is a beautiful trail the leads from the campsite to the lake, well removed from the regular route and one of the best walks in the area. Ask for direction and walk this trail, you will remember the vistas for a lifetime.
Second - The hospitality.
Keeping in mind that the camp is located at more than 4000 metres (13,800 feet) and situated in the midst of the awe-inspiring though harsh climes of the Greater Himalayas, the hospitality here is nothing less than superlative! We were one of the first guests in the camp this year, and it had barely half-opened. The road to the camp (last 9 kms from the main road head at Batal) was still closed and everything had to be carried to the camp on mule-back or more commonly on human-back! The owner of the camp, Mr. Bishan Thakur, personally escorted us all the way to the camp, including lugging a 30 kg back pack with provisions only for us the entire 9 kms to the camp, including a chair and table just so that we could dine in comfort! This gesture of his will remain with us for a long time. Apart from the personalised care he takes, he is the first chap to have ever camped at Chandratal 5 years back, and knows the place like the back of his hand. To boot, he is a fantastic chef and he continued to cook personally for us through our stay. My wife and I have worked for 5 star luxury hotels almost all out lives, and we have never tasted yummier food! Bishan's tales of the mountains and his adventures kept us enthralled in their cozy dining tent, along with the never ending cups of coffee, tea, soups and simple but nutritious and tasty food.
Some more pluses that were totally unexpected - Parasol is the only camp that offers a western flush toilet in their toilet tent. The other two camps provide a dry pit (I inspected them to find that out).
To summarise, if there is a heaven in the Greater Himalayas, it is Chandratal. If there is a home that you can temporarily call your own amidst the sheer magic and beauty of this location, it is the Parasol Camp.