Chitta Katha Lake

‘Chitta’ in local language means White and ‘Katha’ means water reservoir, so a reservoir of crystal clear water is all about lake. “Chitta Katha Lake” is a deep bowl shaped body of water is mostly snowbound during the year. The surrounding of lake is very calm and peaceful. Chitta Katha Lake is next to “Chitta katha Sar” and is located in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. The major attraction of the lake is its milky white colors of water from which the name of the lake is derived.

Location: Chitta Katha Lake is located in Shonter valley, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan at the altitude of 13,500 feet (4,100 m).  The lake is accessible from Kel by a 20 kilometers (12 mi) jeep track and then 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) hiking trek. Kel is the base camp to this lake.

Trekking of Chitta Katha Lake:

Only accessible in July and August, on the way to Lake there are two beautiful streams at Shounter and at Chitta Katha.

The trek for this lake starts from Upper Domail (referred as Utli Domail by some local people and maps) village, which can be reached through a two hours jeep ride from Kel. Regular jeeps take Rs 100-120 per person for a one-way ride while whole jeep can be booked in Rs 2000 – 3000.

The actual trek starts from a small village with the same name i.e. Chitta Katha. If you are coming from Kel, you can get dropped at the main road a couple of kilometers short of Upper Domail village (used for hiring guides/porters and for having snacks).

From Upper Domail, the gentle walk up to the Chitta Katha village takes around thirty minutes. From the village, there are two options to reach lake. One goes along the Chitta Katha Nullah and is pretty steep as well as narrow at certain points and could be difficult for inexperienced trekkers.

Journey takes 4 to 5 hours for experienced trekkers, whereas it could be more than that for the new ones. The other one takes a bit longer round and is used by the Gujjars when their livestock has to be moved with them. To use this trek, cross the footbridge on Nullah and follow the trail ascending up and remaining at the right side of the rocky face of mountain.

This rocky face is one of the places around Domail where ruby gemstone is found and used to be extracted from. There is a steep ascend for about a couple of hours after which the track opens up in a wide valley at the base of “Hari Parbat” peak. This Mountain (Hari Parbat) is sacred for some people who relate it to Lord Shiva and consider it abode of the Lord and identify it as Kailash. It is located in Shontar valley of the Tehsil sharda of Neelum district of Azad Jammu Kashmir. Chita katha can be approached from kel to domel bala about 20 km through jeeps and then 5km trekking by foot.

There are a couple of settlements here at the starting and ending points of this open valley. From the settlement at the end of this valley, the path ascends again steeply. This is a nice place to camp for the night if you do not want to return in the same day. After a tough ascend of another hour or two one comes across a flat surface from where Chitta Katha Lake can be reached in half an hour. The look of the lake with turquoise colored water and snow covered mountains the background makes this lake extremely fascinating.

Trek of Chitta Katha Lake is extremely picturesque since on the way to the lake one come across beautiful settlements of AthMuqam, Dawarain, Rati gali, Sharda, Kel and Tao Butt.

Caution: Must bring your NIC with you at any place in Kashmir, Especially in Neelum Valley, because there is a border of Jammu and Kashmir at various places, where there is a strict checking. In Neelum Valley at bridge, Check post and army camps it is restricted to take pictures, no cameras are allowed, before taking pictures you should confirm from the locals and any army officer.

Sajjad Sarwar

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