Chitta Katha Lake is an amazingly beautiful lake in Upper Neelum Valley. The word Chitta Katha comes from two separate words which are chitta which means white and katha which is used for water source or stream in the local language. 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 (as of 2009).
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. However, if you intend to hire guide/porters or even need a cup of refreshing tea before kicking off the trek, Upper Domail is the place. There is a small shop and a couple of restaurants where food and other items of local need are available. At least one of the two restaurant owner is planning to expand the facilities it has which will include accommodation. 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. 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 foot bridge 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 HariParbat peak. 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.
If you are willing to hire a guide for the trek, ask for Luqman or Mushtaq from main Upper Domail village. I found Luqman more competent and caring. As this area doesn’t see regular trekkers, rates are not fixed compared to the Northern areas and thus would have to be negotiated.