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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293 Comments

  1. hi

    we are a group of friends planning to visit Leh in august end, we have planned out itenary with the help og local hotel there in Leh. as i have read all the messages above, i wanted to know that as we arrive at Leh morning on day, we are just resting entire day. day 2 just visiting monastries near by, day 3 – going to Nubra valley and staying there overnight, day 4 – coming bck to leh and resting. Day 5 – going to Pangong lake and staying there overnight. so my concern is at day 5 will be ok to go to pangong and stay there.. correct… thanks & rgds

    • Sam, most likely it will be OK to stay but all depends on how your bodies are coping up in earlier days. If the bodies are fine, most likely there will not be much of a trouble.

  2. Dear dheeraj bhai, above you have mentioned that route from nubra to pangong via shyok village will open in 2012. What is the position of road in 2015

    • There isn’t any change in the status of the route. It still remains closed when the Shyok river gets swollen in the month of July, August and at time June too. one of the mountain is very unstable and landlside keeps happening there and hence not suggested till date to take this route.

  3. Hi Dheeraj,

    Based on My travel plan for this year June i will be going to pangong directly from hunder. Is the Shyok river route really terrible or we can make it. We will be 8 bikers and 2 couples… i dont want to come back to leh as i have already done the bookings. Which route should i take – wari la or shyok

  4. Hi Dheeraj,

    I was going through above comments & i need your input on my upcoming Leh trip.

    I’m planning to visit Leh between 24’rd May to 2’nd June. I’m planning to travel with my wife & 6 years old daughter.

    After going through all the online information, i found that it’s important that i have to stay in Leh at least for first two days for proper acclimatization.

    Here is what i’m planning on high level –
    1) 24, 25 – Relax in Leh, visit places around… depending upon how much you are comfortable with condition.
    2) 26 – Leh to Nubra Valley*
    * I can stay for one more day if there are good places to cover in Nubra Valley
    3) 27- Nubra to Leh
    4) 28 – Rest in Leh, visit place around Leh
    5) 29 – Leh to Pangong Lake**
    ** If Pangong Lake is not suitable for staying with Family in the evening camp then, can come back to nearby city.
    6) 30 – Pangong Lake to Leh

    I still have 3 days pending (like 31’st May to 2’nd June) so open for your suggestion like, If there are any places in between Pangong Lake & Leh then i’m fine to stay there and relax so we don’t find any issue with high altitude.

    Questions –
    1) First question, wanted to check with you, is it safe to travel with 6 years daughter on this trip? any extra cautious/ precaution i need to take for my daughter?
    2) Feel free to suggest best itinerary considering fact that, we are traveling with family & minimize high altitude issue…
    3) There are lot of uncertainity like depending upon weather there, our body condition on height etc… what do you recommend like, do i need to book Hotels/camp in Nubra or Pangong before reaching Leh or i can book from Leh itself via. hotel or agent etc..?
    4) As recommended in your one of comment, make a day trip to Pangong Tso, but from Leh it’s @175 Kms and back and forth from Pangong, will most take whole day & you dont get enough time to enjoy over Pangong Lake right? Like you start at 4 am, reach around noon and then say spend 3-4 hours and come Leh around 10pm… so in this case you mostly get just 3-4 hours…

    Best Regards,
    Narayan (Vadodara, Gujarat)

    • Hi Narayan,

      I will suggest that you refer the link for the travel plan: http://devilonwheels.com/leh-ladakh-most-common-itinerary-by-air/

      Regarding questions:
      1. It is fine to take the children of such age group because AMS do not matter with respect to age or sex or any physical health condition. It can happen to anyone of any age or sex or fitness I shall say :D.. The issue with children is that they tend to exert the body considering it the same kind of place they belong to and this elevates the chances of getting struck with AMS. Secondly, they are not much expressive about their uneasy feelings, so it is parents who need to watch out and take care that the child is not suffering from uneasy feelings, headache or nausea and is behaving properly. With 5+ year child, I think he/she would be able to convey the uneasiness with little efforts. If you notice any such feeling or he/she tells you about such a feeling then please do not ascend anywhere, either descend to lower altitude or stay at the same place to watch things overnight and if symptom increase then start descending immediately. Same is applicable for any adult as well. And yes, do keep the body adequately hydrated!!
      Also, PLEASE read the article: Traveling to Ladakh with Kids or Babies. This article covers this topic in complete detail.

      2. Done above
      3. You can book it on the spot if you can search a bit here and there. May be if at all book for first couple of days as you land in Leh
      4. Many people do day trip to Pangong Tso, takes about 12 Hrs up and down with an hour or so at the lake. But, you can stay over at the Lake as you are going in May end and many options of stay will be up and running at that time of the year.

      Regards
      Dheeraj

      • Thanks Dheeraj for replying back in time.

        1. Make sense. Even i myself have issue with height but once spend few hours then i can do trekking. I been to rohtang pass in the past & was fine during up-hill but faced issue while going down hill.
        2. Thanks for sharing common itinerary, will do necessary change in my plan.
        3. So your recommendation is to book once, i land there. I’m planning to book for first couple days and then check with either hotel or agent over there & finalize next plan.
        4. As i have enough days pending so, planning to stay 1 night at Pangong Lake. Lets hope at that time, i get accomodation easily.

        Further more…
        1) Do you know any travel agent there, who can arrange for Taxi and if required then book Hotel on given dates?

        2) Will BSNL prepaid work there? I learnt that it’s not working…

        3) Do we expect rain in May end-June starting time? So accordingly i can do packing… I guess temp. will be in range of 5*c to 15*c.

        4) I read that we have to do bargaining hard with Taxi and Hotel guys so what is your general experience like, do they give double-triple rate?

        Thanks and Best Regards,
        Narayan

        • Hi Narayan,

          Answers to your further queries:

          1. You can check with info@offbeatescapes.com who have got good feedback in the past two years from many readers.
          2. Prepaid does not work in Ladakh. Only Postpaid connections work in Ladakh.
          3. Ladakh is a rain shadow region, rains rarely reaches there.
          4. I never experienced that thing in Ladakh :)

          Regards
          Dheeraj

  5. Is it possible to cover leh-pangon tso- leh in one day? and Leh-Tso Moriri-Leh on the second day?
    or leh-pangong-Tso Moriri-Leh in two days?

    • Aronee, Leh – Pangong Tso – Leh as a day trip is possible if you wish to spend about 12 Hrs of journey and is done by many tourists. However, Leh to Tso Moriri and back to Leh will need 2 days as it takes about 8-9 Hrs one side to reach Tso Moriri from Leh.

  6. Hello Dheeraj,

    Great website!!

    I’m planning to travel to Pangong Tso in June from Leh…. Will be flying to Leh from Delhi. I won’t have too much time but still want to plan the best trip possible in 3-4 days. Need your advice on:

    1. What’s the least number of days, considering the time needed to acclimatize to the conditions in Pangong Tso. How many days should I plan to be in Leh before traveling to Pangong Tso?

    2. Assuming I rent a taxi from Leh, is this a trip that I can take with my children (10 and 12) and my mother (64 years old). Or does it require considerable walking/ extreme climatic conditions?

    3. Will I need a permit to visit Pangong Tso from Leh? If yes, where can I obtain that?

    Thank you and best wishes!

    Tarun

    • Hi Tarun,

      1. Below I have suggested the least days of Ladakh trip you can make with a detailed plan.

      2. The trip suggested below can be done in the taxi with no walking required.

      3. No, you do not need any permit to visit Pangong Tso being Indian National.

      Day 1 | Delhi – Leh (By Flight)
      — Checkin at Hotel. Many hotels provide free pick and drop from Airport. Ask while you book them.
      — Take ample of rest as well as water or anything that keep your body hydrated enough. DO NOT OVER HYDRATE. Take ORS Soluted water or ORS – L tetra packs from home.
      — Do not over exert your body at any cost. Avoid too much up-down on stairs or avoid it in entirety, if possible.
      — After 5-6 Hrs of rest you can visit Leh Palace, Local Leh market, Shankar Gompa .
      — If you feel exerted go back to Hotel, have dinner at Hotel and take rest. Avoid any exertion. Else continue and,
      — Follow the sunset by stroll at Changspa road and have a nice dinner on varied cuisines offered in-around Changspa road.
      — Go back to hotel for overnight stay at Leh.
       
      Day 2 | Leh Local Sightseeing + Acclimatization
      — Hire a taxi from Leh taxi stand or Hotel whichever suits you.
      — Bargain hard with taxi driver. Book that single taxi for entire trip after explaining the complete plan.
      — Take his inputs if you feel reasonable and if required modify the plan accordingly but should suits you best.
      — Ask him to be with you guys starting first day itself, if required and charged reasonable else do it at your own.
      — Again DO NOT over exert and take little steps and slow walks only.
      — If feeling OK then do Local sightseeing. To know the about the places to visit check the link: Travel Guide for Local Sightseeing of Leh Town in Ladakh
      — Do not use stairs at any of these places just to see them as it will exert your body much more.
      — Overnight at Leh
       
      Day 3 | Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder
      — Head for Nubra Valley and stay overnight at Hunder / Diskit
      — On the way enjoy a cup of soup at Highest Motorable Pass (as claimed) Khardung La
      — Diskit has monasteries with tallest lord Buddha statue and Hunder has sand dunes and bacterian camel safari

      Day 4 | Hunder / Diskit – Sumur – Panamik – Sumur – Khardung La – Leh
      — Sumur has a famous monastery to check out and Panamik has hot water springs
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 5 | Leh – Pangong Tso – Leh
      — Do not plan to stay overnight at Pangong Tso as you will not be acclimatized and may fall sick. So, make a day trip only.

      — Overnight at Leh

      • Hi Dheeraj,

        Thank you for such a detailed reply. I really appreciate the time you put into planning everything out for me and responding so quickly! I have a follow-up question. If I were to only visit Pangong Tso, can I skip Day 3 and Day 4…. and directly do Day 5?

        Day 3 | Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder
        Day 4 | Hunder / Diskit – Sumur – Panamik – Sumur – Khardung La – Leh

        Thanks, again!
        Tarun

        • Tarun, not really because your body will not be acclimatized and hence you will feel more uncomfortable traveling to Pangong Tso and in case you plan to stay overnight on Day 3 at Pangong Tso, that can further create miseries due to AMS.

  7. Mayank Fajalia on

    Thanks a lot, I m talking about shyok village road from agham to durbuk, Can we travel by that route in june? What is the condition of road right now? Permition required?

  8. Mayank Fajalia on

    Hello, Nice website. Thanx 4 it.
    We r 5 bachlors are planning to visit Leh in June. Our ticket is booked. We will reach there by flight on 12th June, and return flight will be on 22th June. We have 11 Days and 10 Nights.
    Our planned is as:
    12 June :

      • Mayank Fajalia on

        Hello, Nice website. Thanx 4 it.
        We r 5 bachlors are planning to visit Leh in June. Our ticket is booked. We will reach there by flight on 12th June, and return flight will be on 22th June. We have 11 Days and 10 Nights.
        Our planned is as:
        12 June : Reach leh
        13 June: : Nubra velly, Leh – Khardungla Deskit – Hunder. Night hold at Either Hunder or turtuk..
        14 June : Turtuk – Deskit – sumoor – Panamik. Night in Panamik.
        15 June : Panamik – Sumoor – Leh.
        16 June : Leh to Pangong Lake. Night hold there.
        17 June : Pangong to Hanle. Night at Hanle.
        18 June : Hanle – Chumur – Tsomoriri. Night stay there.
        19 June : Tsomoriri to Leh.
        20 June : Leh – Alchi – Leh. Night stay at Leh.
        21 June : Leh sight seeing.
        22 June : Morning checkout.

        My questions here are :
        1. If We travelled from bike from Leh to nubra velly as per our above sheduled, Can we go?
        2. If we travelled in Innova, then can we approach directly Pangong route by Chang La pass from Nubra velly? What is actual condition of that route now? How much time taken by innova to reach spangmik by Chang La from Khalsar?
        3. As per above mentioned planned, at which route we have to take a permit to go there? And what is procedure to take permit? ( also guide how we get..!!!)
        4. Please, give your suggestion for this plan and feedback. We have 10 nights for Ladakh, and we are trying maximum cover, Hope on you. We have not any idea more than you. Wait for your reply. Thanx.

        -Mayank Fajalia, Bharuch (Gujarat)

        • Hi Mayank,

          Your itinerary needs some changes. You MUST rest for first 2 days in order to acclimatize properly before you venture the heights of Khardung La. Regarding PAngong Tso to Hanle to tso Moriri, read the article first: Tips for Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri Direct Route

          1. Yes.
          2. Are you talking about Wari La route? If yes, June early it might be closed due to snow presence.
          3. You need permits for Pangong Tso to Hanle to Tso Moriri and even after permit there is no certainity that army will allow you
          4. Refer comments above.

          Regards
          Dheeraj

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