If you are a bird enthusiast, shutterbug, backpacker or just simply a nature lover, then, Pakhal should be on your must-visit list. A nature’s paradise, Pakhal Lake and a wildlife sanctuary by the same name about 50 km from Warangal are fast getting on the tourism map of Telangana.

Built by Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva in the 13th century, this man-made lake came up as a small tributary of Krishna River. The 30 sqkm-lake is surrounded by hilly terrain and a dense forest. The water body irrigates several thousand acres even today.

“It (Pakhal) looks like a beautiful painting in heavenly colours,” says Praharsha Majeti, photographer and professional biker. For this Warangal native, a visit to this place is a stressbuster.

Winter is the best time to visit Pakhal as several migratory birds make it their second home. Majeti rates a picture of the Dusky Eagle-Owl that he clicked at Pakhal among his favourites.

Planning a lake in the deep forests tells us about the foresight of the Kakatiyas, under whose regime Warangal or Orrugallu, as it was called then, flourished.

Pakhal Wild Life Sanctuary, abutting the lake, spans over 800 sqkm. If you are lucky and play a patient game, you could spot a nilgai, chital, leopard, jackal, sloth bear or even a bonnet macaque. The place is also known to have pythons, cobras, vipers, kraits and Indian chameleons.

The rising frequency of rare birds here is a reason for the birders to keep returning. Sriram Reddy, a wildlife photographer and member of the Hyderabad Birding Pals (HBP), first visited the lake last February. “We saw the Dusky Eagle-Owl then. This was the first record sighting of it from the Telangana region,” he recollects. The owl is not a native of Telangana. It thrives in North and North-Eastern parts of India.

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However, as the word spread about new species coming here, more people have started visiting the lake. “Pakhal was least explored by birders and photographers before 2018,” he says. The HBP has recorded about 225 bird species from Pakhal.

A Thick-billed green pigeon, Crested bunting, Red spurfowl, Brown fish owl and Mottled owl figure among the resident species. Migratory duck species like Red-crested pochard, Common pochard, Garganey, Gadwall, Northern pintail, and Eurasian pigeon too visit the place during winters, he says.

It’s not just the winged friends that Pakhal has. Be there at twilight to see the nature in its full glory. Sunrise and sunset, against the green hillocks, look splendid from vantage points. Or, take the road less travelled to explore the hills. Overnight stay is all the more better. You get to see the moonlit lake in all its shining glory.

“The sunrise from behind this lake is a must-see for nature lovers and photographers,” says Syamala Rupakula, who visited Pakhal a couple of weeks ago.

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Choose one of the cottages provided by the Tourism Department. There are seven such cottages, which cost about Rs 1,300 for the stay and a restaurant.

The journey to Pakhal from Hyderabad — it’s around 150 km — is tiresome as most part of the route is a single-lane road but definitely worth it. “We could say that was a good vacation,” Syamala says about the long walk the families had on a chilly evening. The place is a good spot for trekking.

The lush green forests and hills make Pakhal an appealing resort, says Manjula Desai, a photographer. “There are beautiful tree-lined hiking routes in all directions to enjoy walks and bicycle,” says Manjula, whose works are on Instagram with the handle @earthenframes.

The Telangana Forest Department is doing its bit to promote ecotourism here. K Purushotham, District Forest Officer, Warangal Rural, says that Pakhal is a popular picnic spot too as many families come here. “We do not allow anyone to cook here,” he says.

“Local police keep doing the rounds. We also have the forest guards at the checkposts,” he says. The department also conducts Vanadharshinis (forest visits). “We are promoting tree-bathing. Research has it that visiting forest areas has therapeutic values,” he says. For leisure, the Tourism Department organises boating.

There are also plans to introduce a zip-line in a month to give an adrenaline rush to visitors. While a herbal garden is already present, an environmental education centre and a butterfly park are on the anvil.

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“The trek around Pakhal is good. The rough terrain, seen in patches, adds to the zing. The place, however, is infested with monkeys,” says Sashi Kotte, a software professional from Hyderabad.

A two-day trip will be adequate to cover Pakhal, Laknavaram, Gundam Cheruvu and Pandhem — all a few hours’ drive from Pakhal. The place is well-connected from Warangal with dhabas dotting the Warangal highway.

How to reach Pakhal

  • The place is well-connected by bus. There are bus facilities from key bus terminals – JBS and MGBS to Warangal. Local buses too ply from there.
  • The Telangana Tourism Development Corporation also operates special packages covering key places in the erstwhile Warangal.
  • However, these are based on the demand from the tourists. The place is also well-connected from Karimnagar side too.
  • Private tour operators run day trips from Warangal to Pakhal, also covering Laknavaram.
  • Hiring a car saves time – it is around 140 km from Hyderabad – and more than half of the journey is on the highway.
  • The route, from Hyderabad side, touches Uppal, Aler, Jangaon, Ghanpur, Kazipet, Warangal and Narsampet.
  • From the Karimnagar side, the journey covers Timmapuram, Kannapur, Huzurabad, Elkathurthy and Warangal.
  • From Karimnagar, the lake is about 137-plus kilometres away. #KhabarLive