Rara Lake is located in the far western region, in the Mugu district of Nepal. This amazing lake is the biggest and deepest lake in Nepal. It has a surface area of 4.2 sq mi and a maximum depth of 548 ft. The lake’s altitude is 9,810 feet above sea level. Due to the unique habitat this lake provides to many endemic species, it was designated an area of international importance by UNESCO’s conservation on wetlands. Though the lake only covers 4.2 square miles, the actual protected area is 6.11 sq mi because of the extending wet lands.
Rara Lake receives water from snow melt and monsoon rains. However, in recent years, the monsoon rain volume has been less than normal. This coupled with habitat destruction and pollution increases the vulnerability of aquatic species associated with the lake. Some of the aquatic life also lives in the streams and rivers the lake drains into. The lake drains into the Mugu Karnali River through the Nijar River.
How to get to Rara Lake
Rara Lake does not have a direct land route leading to it. By car or bus, it will take approximately 21 hours and 18 minutes to get there from Kathmandu. The route follows the Prithivi Hwy until it merges with E-W Hwy/AH2. Once on the E-W Hwy, it merges again onto the H 12 and Karnali Hwy/H 13. This highway flows into F 154, which takes you to Briat and 10 linear miles away from Rara Lake. From here you must walk through uncharted terrain to get to the lake.
If you are looking for more of a direct route and less of an adventure you can take a flight from Nepalgunj to Talcha Airport, which is about 14 minutes by car and 5 miles away from the lake. Flights are conducted by Nepal Airlines and Tara Air. Of the 2 ways to get to Rara Lake, I would choose flying. It is about 20 hours faster and less dangerous. Upper-Himalayan Treks and Adventure can charter your trip for you. Note: airlines may not offer flights to Rara lake for days at a time. Be careful when planning your trip, if you are going without a travel company, you could get stuck.
What to bring
This is always the question I struggle with. There are a few variables to contend with before deciding what to bring. Some of my concerns when wrestling with this question are over-packing, and under-packing, being prepared for weather, ability to purchase gear on location, and if I really need it or if it’s a luxury. What I normally settle on is packing layers for the season I will be in. Sherpa Adventure Gear has great quality products with a wonderful selection for both men and women. Their products are designed and manufactured to be layer-able.
In addition to your standard clothing, I recommend you bring sunglasses, water filter, or SteriPEN or sanitizing tablets, sunscreen, hat, and a sleeping bag. If you need any of these items or camping and outdoor gear, try Eastern Mountain Sports. They have great deals on a lot of necessities. You will not need a tent to visit Rara Lake, unless you want to camp outside of a lodge.
When to go and where to stay
The geographic location of the area offers opportunities for summer travel not permitted by the eastern part of Nepal. The far west district of Nepal receives less rain during the monsoon season. The average 10-year volume of rain from July through September is about 31 inches. During the summer season the temperatures are also quite warm. It is possible to explore this region without too much distress during this time.
I would still say the best times to travel to Rara Lake is during the spring and autumn months (March through May, and September November respectively). April, May, September, and October offer ideal weather conditions, which are warm, dry and clear. Winter conditions though clear and beautiful are quite cold. This area does receive a lot of snow, which makes it quite picturesque in the winter.
There are 3 hotels on the lake and 1 down the street from the airport. They all seem to offer the same service and provide the same Nepali style lodging. Your three choices for staying on the lake are Village Heritage and Resort, Rara Hotel and Lodge, and Danphe Hotel. Hotel Chandanath is available for people not wishing to stay on the lake. If you wish to stay at Rara Lake Upper-Himalayan Treks and Adventure can arrange it for you.
The most expensive item on this trip is the airplane ticket. The rest of the costs are associated with living expenses such as food and housing. Fortunately, you do not need any permits or licenses to visit the area. You could probably do the whole trip with less than $300. I am including an itemized list of expected costs below.
- $20/day food
- $20/day room board
- $200 transportation
This area has yet to attract groups of foreigners like some other popular destinations in Nepal. As a result, the prices have remained relatively low.
Rara Lake does not have much historical significance. The locals around the area speak of a legend involving Lord Krishna and the lake. As legend has it, every year the monsoon rains would cause the lake level to rise to such an extreme degree that it flooded nearby villages. After many years of repeated flooding the villagers spent 8 months dedicating their prayers to and worshiped the god of compassion and love, Lord Krishna. Krishna was honored by their devotion. At the end of the 8th month Krishna shot an arrow into the south-east side of the lake forming the Nijar river and opening the lake to drain into the Mugu river.