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. A huge number of tourists visits this lake in the summer months, making it one of the top travel destinations in India.
This slat water, a 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 sight to witness if you have seen the other aqua / blue colors of this pristine lake.
Since it is near to the Line of Actual Control, you need to get Inner Line Permit to visit Pangong Tso, both as an Indian and foreigner.
Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh
The beautiful multi shades of blue color offered by this lake along with a picturesque landscape around give 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 are only a couple of cemented accommodation available around the lake and the facilities like electricity, medical aid, hot running water, western toilets etc. are luxury in itself. 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 so as to avoid acute mountain sickness.
Pangong Tso lake is located about 170 KMs from Leh town of Ladakh district.
Pangong Tso lake is one of the high altitudes lakes of India at a staggering altitude of 4350 Meters or 14270 Feet.
Best Time to Travel to Pangong Tso Lake
Similar to what we learned about the best time to travel to Leh Ladakh, in the months January to March, Pangong Tso remains mostly frozen, have extremely cold conditions with no options to stay around the lake except few basic homestays in Spangmik and Man – Merak villages.
In April, the lake starts to melt and starts transforming into the beautiful palette of multi shades of blue colors.
Then May to September is the peak tourist season. Tourists flock to the shores of the Pangong Tso lake in these months. 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 late September and early October, the tourists start to reside as the cold starts to set in and accommodation tents start to pack up. According to me, this is by far the best time to visit Pangong Tso to see the full glory of beautiful shades of blue color in this lake. The colors are purely magical at this time of the year and with less number of tourists comparatively, you get better deals and enjoy more.
After mid-October up to December, all the accommodation packs up and the only nearest place you can stay is either in some homestay with basic facilities to fight the harsh cold or in some guest house at Tangste, about 34 km away from the lake.
Tangtse has few guest houses having much better facilities to fight the cold and provide comfort in winter months. 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. However, do not forget to check the weather conditions before leaving from Leh.
How to Reach Pangong Tso Lake
Route from Leh to Pangong Tso Lake
This is the general route to Pangong Tso that most people take to visit this beautiful lake in Ladakh. You can reach in about 5 – 6 Hrs depending upon the number of breaks you take in between. The route along with the 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 of all other routes. So, if you are one of those who prefers relaxing vacation and does not want to rush through places then, I will suggest making 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 a 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 because it is best in road conditions in comparison to other routes and hence fastest of 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 remotest passes of the Ladakh region and takes about 11-12 Hrs again depending upon a 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 the sun goes down.
If you are planning via Wari La route then do check the conditions at Agham village before ascending towards it. It is a 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 do not need any special permit for Wari La pass route and permits for Nubra Valley & Pangong Tso are sufficient for traveling on this route.
The route along with the 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 firstly Wari La might not be open being low on priority for BRO and secondly the roads are not stabilized in the early season. So, being remote place any help might be hard to find.
You may carry spare fuel from Leh to cover about 425 – 475 KMs because Deskit petrol pump in Nubra Valley may not have fuel. Well, since 2016, the fuel availability is much better now at the Deskit petrol pump. If you do not find it then 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 from Shyok Village and has become quite popular among tourists with less number of days in past couple of years, as of 2018.
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 landslide prone stretches on this route and sometimes you may have a couple of nasty water crossings to tackle. So, leave early in the day from Nubra and confirm about route conditions at Agham village. If you are alone, it is better to wait for few vehicles at Agham village to tag along with them.
You do not need any special permit for Shyok Village route and permits for Nubra Valley & Pangong Tso are sufficient for traveling on 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. In most general cases, you will always be doing it 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
Secondly, Tso Moriri is higher in altitude than Pangong Tso. So, as per acclimatization schedule, you must stay at Pangong Tso before spending a 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 the entire Ladakh region. A special permit to cross Chusul is required from Leh DC office in order to travel on 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.
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.
It is always recommended to carry important essentials when you self drive to Ladakh.
Generally, at least a one-night stay is preferable to truly witness the mesmerizing beauty of this blue colored saltwater 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 our Most Common Itinerary for Leh Ladakh
Where to Stay
For a comprehensive list of accommodation options or hotels or camps around Pangong Tso lake, you can refer these good stay options nearby the lake.
Medical Facilities Nearby
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 else you can carry your own oxygen cylinder with you.
Where to Eat
Being a remote place, you will either be eating in the homestay at Spangmik Village or at the camps/tents you might be staying overnight.
Mostly, you will not find any phone or mobile signals at Pangong Tso lake. However, there is a BSNL tower setup at Lukung as of 2018 and it does work many times. You need to carry post paid BSNL or MTNL connection to get some connectivity in Ladakh.
Petrol Pumps near Pangong
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 the lake.
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.
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 questions or doubts you might have in planning your trip to Pangong Tso in the comments section below. If you have been to this beautiful place, kindly share your thoughts and other information you might feel will be worth sharing with other fellow travelers and prove helpful to them.