Travel Guide for Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh

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Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

Pangong Tso lake in Changthang region of Ladakh has emerged as one of the most wanted places to visit among domestic tourists in recent times especially after the Bollywood blockbuster "3 idiots". Now, in India one can see a lot more movies and advertisements being shot around this mesmerizing lake. This slat water, beautiful ocean like lake is about 5 KM wide at its broadest point and about 134 KM long with about 60% of the length extending into Tibet. During winters the lake freezes completely, which itself is a great experience to witness if you have seen the other colors of the lake. Being very near to the Line of Actual Control, one need to get Inner Line Permit to visit Pangong Tso. You can get more details on Inner Line Permits here: Inner Line Permits for Leh – Ladakh. Starting May 2014, Indian Tourists does not need Inner Line Permits for Pangong Tso lake. Read more about it here

The beautiful multi shades of blue color offered by this lake along with a picturesque landscape around gives this place an extremely romantic feel as shown in Bollywood film songs. However, sitting behind the TV/LCD it looks so but in actual reality the place is extremely harsh and difficult to survive especially in winters. There is only one cemented accommodation available around the lake and the facilities like electricity, medical aid, hot running water, western toilets etc. are rare to find. The lack of oxygen makes survival difficult if your body is not properly acclimatized to its high altitude and hence, one need to plan his/her journey extremely carefully to make it acute mountain sickness free vacation.

Magical Blues of Pangong Tso
Magical Blues of Pangong Tso
Location

Pangong Tso lake is located about 170 KMs from Leh town of Ladakh district.

Altitude

Pangong Tso lake is one of the high altitudes lakes of India at a staggering altitude of 4350 Meters or 14270 Feet.

Season for Traveling to Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

In January to March, Pangong Tso remains mostly frozen, extremely cold conditions with no options to stay around the lake. In April types, it starts to melt and starts transforming into the beautiful multi shades of blue colors off the shores. Then May, June, July and August is the peak tourist season and they generally flock the shores of the Pangong Tso lake. In this summer period, a large number of birds can also be seen around the lake including the most common  Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks.

Come September and early October, the tourists starts to reside as cold starts to set in and accommodation tents starts to pack up. According to me, this is by far the best time to visit Pangong Tso to see full glory of beautiful shades of blue color. The colors are purely magical at this time of the year and with less number of tourist comparatively, you get better deals and enjoy more. After second week of October up to December, all the accommodation packs up and the only nearest place you can stay is either in some home stay with basic facilities to fight the harsh cold or in some guest house at Tangste with more better facilities to fight the cold. If sun is shining and you do not mind the hard cold winters, then also you can make a day trip to Pangong Tso from Tangste to see magical shades of blue color at this lake.

How to Reach Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh
Route from Leh to Pangong Tso Lake

This is the general route to Pangong Tso that most people take to visit this ever beautiful lake in Ladakh. You can reach in about 5 – 6 Hrs depending upon the number of break you take in between. The route along with distance between the subsequent places is as follows:

Leh – Karu (36 KMs) – Sakti (10 KMs) – Chang La (34 KMs) – Durbuk (32 KMs) – Tangste (9 KMs) – Lukung (34 KMs) – Spangmik (16 KMs) = 171 KMs

You can cover Thicksey, Hemis and Shey monasteries while going through this route. This route provides the best road conditions among all other routes. So, if you are one of those who prefer relaxing vacation and do not want to rush through places then, I will suggest make a two day trip to Pangong Tso lake via this route from Leh. Of course, I assume your body has been acclimatized properly by staying for couple of nights in Leh and spending a night or two in Nubra Valley before attempting to sleep near Pangong Tso. If you are short on time then you should make a day trip to Pangong Tso via this route only, being best in road conditions, so fastest among all.

Route from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso Lake

Many of the domestic tourists are short on leaves and also do not want to miss the opportunity of sunrise/sunset at Pangong Tso by making a day trip. Hence, when they visit Nubra Valley (always recommended for better acclimatization) first most of them seek some route from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso directly without going back to Leh. For all such people, there exist two routes from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso:

Nubra Valley – Wari La – Pangong Tso

This route goes via mighty Wari La pass, one of the most remotest passes of the Ladakh region and takes about 11-12 Hrs again depending upon number of interim breaks you take. The route is long and rough and hence require you to leave very early from Nubra Valley, so that you reach Pangong Tso (Lukung or Spangmik) before sun goes down. If you are planning via Wari La route then keep confirming from the BRO posts that come by to check the road conditions ahead. It is extremely remote region and you will hardly find any tourist or vehicle going past by you. Hence, in case required, help would be long to find. You need to mention Wari La on your permit form in order to under take this route. The route along with distance between the subsequent places is as follows:

Diskit  – Khalsar (19 KMs) – Agham (31 KMs) – Tangyar (11 KMs) – Wari La (28 KMs) – Tathok (25 KMs) – Sakti (4 KMs) – Chang La (34 KMs) – Durbuk (32 KMs) – Tangste (9 KMs) – Lukung (34 KMs) – Spangmik (16 KMs) = 243 KMs

Do not attempt this route in early season because, first it might not be open being low on priority for BRO and second roads are not stabilized in early season. So, being remote again help might be hard to find. You also need to carry spare fuel from Leh to cover about 425 – 475 KMs because many a times the petrol/diesel is not available at Diskit, Nubra Valley petrol pump and you will be covering Leh – Nubra Valley – Wari La – Pangong Tso – Leh without any other petrol pump.

Nubra Valley – Shyok Village – Pangong Tso

This route from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso goes via Shyok Village and is on the cards to be opened in the year 2012. It is much shorter than the Wari La route, takes about 6-7 hrs from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso and hence will save more time and energy. But, again there are some nasty landslide prone stretches on this route which BRO has found hard to tackle and stabilize a road through it. In the year 2010, few of the people did make it through this route but around flashfloods time the whole route was washed-off again. As per BRO, they might throw open this route via Shyok village in this year that is 2012 and it will be a great relief for the tourists, at least having less time on hands. You need to mention Shyok Village on your permit form in order to under take this route. The route along with distance between the subsequent places is as follows:

Diskit – Khalsar (19 KMs) – Agham (31 KMs) – Shyok Village (48 KMs) – Durbuk (18 KMs) – Tangste (9 KMs) – Lukung (34 KMs) – Spangmik (16 KMs) = 175 KMs

You also need to carry spare fuel from Leh to cover 350 – 400 KMs because many a times the petrol/diesel is not available at Diskit, Nubra Valley petrol pump and you will be covering Leh – Nubra Valley – Wari La – Pangong Tso – Leh without any other petrol pump.

Route from Tso Moriri Lake to Pangong Tso Lake

There exist a route between Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso as well and in most general cases, you will always be doing it from other way around that is from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri because you can exit Ladakh from Tso Moriri towards Manali – Leh Highway after visiting Pangong Tso without coming back to Leh and secondly, Tso Moriri is higher than Pangong Tso so as per acclimatization schedule you must stay near Pangong Tso before spending night at Tso Moriri. However, for the informational purposes you can go to Pangong Tso from Tso Moriri directly via the remote and ever beautiful Changthang region. The drive between Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri is one of the most beautiful drives in whole Ladakh region. You need to mention all the places mentioned in the route below on your permit form in order to under take this route. The route along with distance between the subsequent places is as follows:

Tso Moriri (Korzok) – Sumdo (53 KMs) – Mahe (10 KMs) – Nyoma (25 KMs) – Loma (22 KMs) – Tsaga Village (23 KMs) – Tsaga La (20 KMs) – Chusul (33 KMs) – Kakstet (24 KMs) – Merak (4 KMs) – Man (12 KMs) – Spangmik (9 KMs) = 235 KMs

Though highly unlikely but if at all you are doing in this order then you also need to carry spare fuel from Leh/Upshi/Karu to cover about 600 – 700 KMs because you will be covering Leh -Tso Moriri – Nyoma – Loma – Pangong Tso – Leh without any other petrol pump.

Preferred Vehicles

The higher ground clearance vehicles are preferable and 4×4 ones would definitely be helpful especially between Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso as well as Nubra Valley – Shyok Village – Pangong Tso route. However, quite a few people do it in hatchbacks and sedans as well which depends upon your skills to drive and road conditions.

Suggested Itinerary for Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

Generally, at least one night stay is preferable to truly witness the mesmerizing beauty of this blue colored salt water lake. Of course, one night stay will help you watch sunrise and sunset over the picturesque landscape and increase the charm of your vacation to great extent. Most people, generally do:

Day 1 | Leh – Hemis Monastery – Pangong Tso Lake

  • Cover either of Hemis, Thicksey and Shey on the go towards Pangong Tso
  • Overnight at Pangong Tso (Spangmik or Lukung)

Day 2 | Pangong Tso Lake – Thicksey Monastery – Shey Palace – Leh

  • Cover either of Hemis, Thicksey and Shey on return to Leh
  • Overnight at Leh

You can also check the most common and very well balanced itinerary for whole Leh – Ladakh region covering all major tourist destination including Srinagar – Leh Highway and Manali – Leh Highway, at the below link: Most Common Itinerary for Leh – Ladakh 

Accommodation Options at Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

For a comprehensive list of accommodation options or hotels or camps around Pangong Tso lake, check the link here: Good Hotels or Accommodation options near Pangong Tso – Ladakh

Medical Facilities near Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

The nearest basic medical health center is at Tangste Village about 50 KMs from Spangmik village and 34 KMs from Lukung village. You can get basic first aid including Oxygen doses at some of the tents/camps, I guess.

Food Joints near Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

Being a remote place, you will either be eating in the home stay at Spangmik Village or at the camps/tents you might be staying overnight.

Phone Signals at Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

You will not find any phone or mobile signals at Pangong Tso lake.

Petrol Pumps near Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

Nearest Petrol Pump is at Karu about 135 KMs from Pangong Tso and comes on the way to Pangong Tso from Leh. I will suggest that you top-up the fuel from Leh itself and then drive/ride up to to Pangong Tso.

ATMs near Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

You will not find any ATMs near Pangong Tso lake and hence, it is always better to carry cash from Leh (the only place where you find ATM in Ladakh) itself.

Conclusion

It is a great place to visit and I am sure if you visit Ladakh, this one surely is not the place you would like to exclude from your plan. I hope the above information will be useful for your upcoming Leh – Ladakh trip.

Please feel free to post any queries or doubts you might have in planning your trip to Pangong Tso place in the comments section below. If you have been to Pangong Tso lake, kindly share your thoughts and other information you might feel will be worth sharing with other fellow travelers and prove helpful to them.

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446 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I am planning bike trip with couple of my friends Leh – pangong tso , pangong tso – leh, leh – Nubra valley, nubra valley – leh (4 days)

    Which is better ? first pangong tso lake or Nubra valley ?
    Can some one suggest good bike rentals contacts in Leh?

    This willbe of great help

    thanks,

  2. Mukesh Popli on

    I have planned fr 7 days tour with my wife.
    1. Delhi to leh via flight and check in the hotel and rest
    2. Leh local market, gurudwara pather sahib, megnatic hill etc
    3. Pangong lake and return to leh
    4. Nubra valley and stay there
    5. Return to leh via khardungla pass
    6. Explore leh and near places
    7. Return flight to delhi

    I have some questions in mind, need advice
    1. Round trip to pangong lake is doable or not ? Is there any adventure to explore at pangong ??
    2. Should I get taxi from leh to nubra valley and at what cost. Or is there any other mode of transportation ??
    3. I need bullet on rent while exploring Leh, should I get the same from leh ?

    • Hi Mukesh,

      You should alter as below:

      3. Leh to Nubra Valley
      4. Nubra Valley to Leh
      5. Leh to Pangong Tso
      6. Pangong Tso to Leh

      1. Just enjoy the nature as suggested above
      2. Cost of two day trips above for both will be around 20K
      3. Yes, you can hire the bike in Leh

  3. Hi Dheeraj

    I am planning a 7 day trip to leh by flight in mid july.
    1st day – Leh local
    2nd day -going to pangong and return
    3rd day nubra
    4th day return from nubra
    5th day -tso moriri
    6th day -return from tso moriri
    7th day return flight

    Is this proper? and should i stay 1 night at pangong or nubra i am confused in that.
    Is overnight bike driving safe from leh to pangong and return.?
    I am a solo traveller and planning to do a bike journey to pangong and nubra.
    I have no booking at tsomoriri so i will get a good camp at a cheaper rates like 400-500 reaching der ??

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hello Nihar,

      I will request you to drop Tso Moriri, first two days rest and then followed by two day trips to Nubra and PAngong Tso. Else you will fall sick the way you have planned your trip.

  4. Jake Morrissey on

    Hey there, I’m planning on traveling to the area soon and had a quick question. Is the road from Leh to Pangong Tso safe to travel on a motorcycle in late June? Thank you!

  5. Hi Dheeraj,

    We are 6 of us planning to travel in this September, our plan is as below. Need your suggestion on this
    Day1 Friday -Bangalore to Delhi reaching Delhi by 11pm then travel towards Manali
    Day2 Saturday-Reaching Manali and over night stay
    Day3 Sunday -Manali to Jipsa, over night stay in Jipsa
    Day4 Monday- Jipsa to Leh over night stay in Leh
    Day5 Tuesday- Leh to pangong lake, night stay in pangong
    Day 6 Wednesday – leave early morning from Pangong to Leh then to Nubra valley via khardungla pass over
    night stay in Dikshit
    Day 7- Start early from Dikshit to Leh then to Kargil on same day night stay in kargil
    Day 8- Kargil to Gulmarg night stay in Gulmarg
    Day 9-Gulmarg to Srinagar night stay in Srinagar
    Day 10 -Flight to Bangalore
    Is this plan looks practical? Traveling from Pangong lake to Leh then to Nubra valley?
    and next day from nubra to Kargil?

    Please let us know ur view on this. We will be booking private taxi for travel

  6. Hi thank you for so helpful information. Please could you suggest if we should really cover Tso morari lake? We are going for Leh ladakh via a tour operator for 10 days (Delhi-Sri nagar-Leh Ladakh-Manali-Delhi) but to cover Tso morari lake he is asking for additional day plus 17k and we are already tight on time.

  7. Hi Dheeraj,

    Google maps has much shorter distance times to the ones you’ve stated. For example Nubra Valley to Spangmik via Wari La is 5 hours 40 minutes and 233 kms. I’m assuming they’re incorrect? How long would it take on a motorcycle? Also what is the condition of the Shyok village route nowadays? We’ll be going in early July. We dont have a complete itinerary yet but at this point it’s basically Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar – Day off – Kargil – Leh – Day off – Nubra Valley – Pangong Lake – Continue on down to Manali. How does this look to you? The distances for each of these legs online are all roughly 4-5 hours. is this correct? Thanks.

    • Yes Alex, they are. Google does not take into account the roads/dirt tracks and speed on it and some part of sightseeing too. I have included a realistic number which is normal when we drive/ride on these trecherous routes.

      Cars and motorcycles does not matter much as the speed is more or less the same, may be 10% here and there. Shyok village route is OK but you should be careful and not venture in there without any other vehicles

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