Kashmir has the ideal mix of mountains, meadows, and water bodies to lend it an air of picturesque enchantment. It is a land of turbulent rivers and placid lakes imbued with an air of utter serenity. When you think of lakes Manasbal is one such lake in Kashmir you must visit to experience the magical quiet and tranquility of the limpid waters and surrounding environment.
Manasbal takes its name from Mansarovar and has legends associated with it. It is said that a rishi spent a lifetime creating a length of rope long enough to reach the bottom but could not. He threw himself into the waters and was submerged for eternity. The Lake is fed by springs and excess water drains into the Jhelum through channels constructed for the purpose. The locals believe the lake has no bottom. However, surveys reveal it has a depth of about 13 meters and it is 5 km in length and 1.2 kilometers wide. The Lake is located alongside the Jhelum River at a height of about 1500 meters. On the East, you will find the Baladar Mountains and to the south, you will find the Ahtung Hills. Kondabal, Ganderbal, and Jarokbal are the three villages located close to the Lake.
Manasbal is about 30 kilometers north of Srinagar. You can catch a bus or hire a taxi for the round trip. Spend a satisfying day at Manasbal and return in the evening.
The waters are limpid, calm, and placid. A Shikara Ride on the waters is one of the best ways to experience the full magic of the Lake. As you ride, you will come across lotus growing profusely near the banks. In summer the lotus blooms and adds to the beauty of the Lake. Nearby is the Mughal Garden said to have been built by Nur Jahan. You can walk around the Lake easily since there is a path constructed around it or spend time in the garden and enjoy a picnic. Birds gather here in large numbers and as such, the Lake is also a prime destination for birdwatchers in this area. Water skiing is another activity that can keep you engaged. There are facilities to hire equipment and instructors to teach you the craft.
Not far from the Lake, you will come upon the ruins of a 17th Century Fort, the Darogabagh, said to have been built by Moghuls as a halt for caravans.
Recent excavations unearthed an ancient Hindu temple to the east of the Lake. The temple dates back to 800 or 900 AD and is constructed of grey stone in the Kashmiri architectural style. You will also notice remnants of Buddhist shrines on the shore.
Apart from tourist activities, you can also view locals engaged in fishing collecting fodder plants that grow on the banks, or harvesting lotus roots.
Accommodation and Food
It is best to stay in Srinagar and plan your day trip to Manasbal. Carry along provisions or make do with locally available food at Dhabas and restaurants near the Lake.
Travel up north and you will come to Wular, the largest freshwater lake. Other places of interest in the vicinity are Khilanmarg, the ShivaTemple, Ferozpore, Parihaspora, and Gulmarg. Sumbal and Ahansar are two smaller lakes to the west.