Tso Moriri lake in Changthang region of Ladakh is one of the most beautiful, calm and sacred (for ladakhis) high altitude lakes in India. In fact, it is the largest high altitude lake in India that is entirely in Indian territory. This beautiful blue pallet lake is about 7 km wide at its broadest point and about 19 km long.
Being part of the wetland reserve under Ramsar site, it is actually known as Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve. You cannot pitch any camps near Tso Moriri or construct any stay option near the banks of the lake. It is the highest Ramsar site in the world. The place is full of flora and fauna is found in the region.
Since it is near to the Line of Actual Control, you need to get Inner Line Permit to visit Tso Lake, both as an Indian as well as a foreigner.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Tso Moriri Lake Leh Ladakh
The beautiful multi-shades of blues offered by this lake along with a picturesque landscape around gives this place an extremely romantic and breathtaking feel. However, in reality, the place is harsh and difficult to survive especially in winters.
There is only a couple of cemented accommodation available around the lake in the form of homestays 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.
So, even though you might feel tempted to include Tso Moriri in your trip to Leh Ladakh, it is important to plan your trip to this high altitude place properly. This travel guide will help you with it.
Tso Moriri is located about 240 KMs from Leh town of Ladakh district in Jammu & Kashmir. You cannot make a day trip from Leh to Tso Moriri lake as it will be very hectic and not worth it. Hence, you should plan for a two day trip to Tso Moriri from Leh.
Tso Moriri lake is one of the high altitudes lakes of India at a staggering altitude of 4595 Meters or 15075 Feet, yes higher than Pangong Tso.
Best Time to Visit Tso Moriri Lake
In general, the best time to travel to Tso Moriri lake is in the summer months when Ladakh peak season is in full flow.
Similar to what we learned about the best time to travel to Leh Ladakh, in the months of January to March, lake Tso Moriri remains mostly frozen, extremely cold conditions with no options to stay around the lake. Apart from some homestays at Korzok, Chumathang is the next best bet to stay nearby this lake.
In April, the lake starts to melt and starts transforming into the beautiful palette of multi shades of blue colors. Then, May to August is the peak tourist season but as compared to Pangong Tso it gets less number of tourists.
Tso Moriri in September and October
The tourists start to reside as cold starts to set in and accommodation tents pack up which are near to the lake. IMO, this is by far the best time to visit Tso Moriri and see the full glory of beautiful shades of blue color in the lake. 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.
Visiting Tso Moriri in Winter
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 temperature at Tso Moriri. You can also find some homestays in Nyoma village and a guest house in Chumathang. Both Nyoma and Chumathang are much warmer than Tso Moriri lake in winter months.
Nyoma has few guest houses having slightly better facilities to fight the cold and provide comfort in winter months than the ones in Korzok. Similarly, Chumathang has Hot Spring Guest House and due to the presence of hot springs, Chumathang itself is quite warm and lower in altitude.
If the sun is shining and you do not mind the hard cold winters, then you can make the day trip to Tso Moriri from Chumathang or Nyoma 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 Tso Moriri from Leh
You can reach Tso Moriri from Leh by road via Upshi – Chumathang – Mahe route. Tso Moriri Lake is also connected from Pangong lake directly by Chusul – Tsaga La – Loma – Mahe route.
You can also travel to Tso Moriri lake from Manali Leh Highway via Tso Kar – Puga – Sumdo route. The diversion point to Tso Moriri from Manali Leh Highway is Debring just before Tanglang La pass. However, this route is mostly used to exit from Tso Moriri towards Manali rather than the opposite.
You can read the reasons on not to visit Tso Moriri lake from when coming from Manali to Leh.
Let us look at the different routes that you can use to travel to Pangong Tso from Leh town or Nubra Valley which will help you in planning your trip to it.
Route from Leh to Tso Moriri Lake
This is the most general route to reach Tso Moriri from Leh. You can reach in about 7 – 8 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) – Upshi (13 KMs) – Kumdok (19 KMs) – Kere (53 KMs) – Chumathang (34 KMs) – Mahe (22 KMs) – Sumdo (10 KMs) – Korzok or Tso Moriri(53 KMs) = 240 KMs
You can cover Thicksey, Hemis, and Shey monasteries while going through this route if you haven’t covered them earlier while going to Pangong Tso. This route provides the best road conditions of all other routes. So, if you are one of those who prefer relaxing vacation and does not want to rush through places then, I will suggest making a two day trip to Tso Moriri 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 as well before attempting to sleep near Tso Moriri or Korzok. If you are short on time then you can also exit towards Manali from Manali – Leh Highway from Tso Moriri via this route only but you need to ensure that you have enough fuel to cover about 550 km without any fuel pump.
Route from Pangong Tso Lake to Tso Moriri Lake
There exist a direct and an indirect route between Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso as well and in most general cases, you will always be doing it from direct route of Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri because you can exit Ladakh from Tso Moriri towards Manali – Leh Highway after visiting Tso Moriri without coming back towards Leh and secondly, Tso Moriri is higher than Pangong Tso so as per acclimatization schedule you should stay near Pangong Tso before spending night at Tso Moriri.
Pangong Tso Lake to Tso Moriri Lake via Changthang (Merak – Chusul – Nyoma)
You can go to Tso Moriri from Pangong Tso 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 whole Ladakh region. Foreigners are not allowed to go beyond Man – Merak Villages as permits are not issued to them for this route.
Hence, they need to follow the indirect, slightly longer route to Tso Moriri from Pangong Tso. A special permit to cross Chusul is required from Leh DC office in order to travel on this route.
The route along with the distance between the subsequent places is as follows:
Spangmik (Pangong Tso) – Man (9 KMs) – Merak (12 KMs)– Kakstet (4 KMs) – Chusul (24 KMs) – Tsaga La (33 KMs) – Tsaga Village (20 KMs) – Loma (23 KMs) – Nyoma (22 KMs) – Mahe (25 KMs) – Sumdo (10 KMs) – Namashang La – Tso Moriri / Korzok (53 KMs) = 235 KMs
You need to make sure you carry fuel for about 550 – 600 KMs because you will be covering Leh – Pangong Tso – Nyoma – Loma – Tso Moriri – Leh without any other petrol pump. And if you want to exit Ladakh through Manali – Leh Highway from Tso Moriri then also carry petrol/diesel for about 650 – 700 KMs as the next petrol pump will be available at Tandi.
Otherwise, you need to come back to Karu or Upshi, refill and move back again towards Manali – Leh Highway.
Pangong Lake to Tso Moriri Lake via Chumathang
The indirect route that goes from Chumathang is the longer one, where you need to go all the way back from Pangong Tso to Leh up to Karu and from there you can take left towards Upshi – Chumathang – Korzok to reach Tso Moriri.
This route can be followed by foreign tourists who are not allowed the permit for Changthang (Man – Merak – Chusul etc) region if they do not want to go back to Leh. But, IMO one must go back to Leh from Pangong Tso, refresh themselves and start towards Tso Moriri next morning instead of the very long day via Chumathang.
You need to mention both Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso on your permit form in order to undertake this route. The route along with the distance between the subsequent places is as follows:
Spangmik – Lukung (16 KMs) – Tangtse (34 KMs) – Durbuk (9 KMs) – Chang La (32 KMs) – Sakti (34 KMs) – Karu (10 KMs) – Upshi (13 KMs) – Kumdok (19 KMs) – Kere (53 KMs) – Chumathang (34 KMs) – Mahe (22 KMs) – Sumdo (10 KMs) – Namashang La – Korzok or Tso Moriri(53 KMs) = 339 KMs
Of course, you can plan the route from Tso Moriri to Pangong lake but in general it does not fit in the overall plan because of acclimatization and loosing the opportunity of exiting via Tso Moriri to Sarchu to Manali route.
Do not forget to refill petrol/diesel at Karu or Upshi petrol pump and if you want to exit Ladakh through Manali – Leh Highway then also carry petrol/diesel for about 500 – 550 KMs as the next petrol pump will be available at Tandi.
Otherwise, you need to come back to Karu or Upshi, refill and move back again towards Manali – Leh Highway.
You can check the detailed Tso Moriri map. You can download this detailed map of Leh Ladakh by right-clicking & then select the option: “Save Image As…”
Road Conditions and Preferred Vehicles
The higher ground clearance vehicles are preferable and 4×4 ones would definitely be helpful especially between Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri via Man – Merak – Chusul – Nyoma (Changthang) route. However, for the general route from Chumathang, quite a few people do it in hatchbacks and sedans as well which depends upon your skills to drive and road conditions at the time of travel.
In general Leh to Tso Moriri road condition via Upshi – Chumathang route is good enough for any type of the car including hatches and sedan.
It is always recommended to carry these important spare parts when you drive to Ladakh.
How to plan a trip to Tso Moriri lake?
Generally, when you plan a trip to Tso Moriri, then at least a one-night stay is recommended to truly witness the mesmerizing beauty of this blue colored 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.
As it will take you about 8-9 hrs to reach Tso Moriri from Leh, it does not make any sense to go there, touch it and come back in a single day. Also, you miss a chance to take Tso Kar – Taglang La route when coming back to Leh from Tso Moriri.
If you plan to exit Ladakh from Tso Moriri to Sarchu to Manali route, then plan for a three day trip with night halts at Tso Moriri and Sarchu before reaching Manali from Leh.
Generally, most people plan a two day Tso Moriri itinerary like:
Day 1 | Leh – Tso Moriri via Chumathang – Namashang La
- Cover Korzok Monastery
- Overnight at Tso Moriri or Korzok
Day 2 | Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Debring – Taglang La – Rumste – Upshi – Karu – Leh
- Cover Tso Kar Lake and Taglang La (some part of Manali – Leh Highway)
- Overnight at Leh
You can also check our most common Itinerary for a Ladakh trip
Where to Stay
You cannot find accommodation on the banks of the lake because it is restricted to pitch the camps there being a Ramsar site wetland reserve and sanctuary for migratory birds. You can pitch the tents near the other tented colonies pitched just before Korzok village or find an accommodation in Korzok village.
Both ways you will definitely have a clear and broad view of the 24 KM in length, 6 KM in width this magnificent blue colored high altitude lake.
For a comprehensive list of accommodation options or hotels or camps around Tso Moriri lake, you can refer these good Tso Moriri hotels or accommodation options to stay.
Medical Facilities Nearby
The nearest basic medical health center may be available at Korzok Village though I am not that sure about it. 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 from Leh with you.
Where to Eat
The options of eating places at Tso Moriri lake is fairly limited to the homestays and camping sites available Korzok.
You will not find any phone or mobile signals at Tso Moriri lake. Only post paid connections work in Leh Ladakh and BSNL has the widest coverage followed by Airtel and Reliance Jio.
Petrol Pumps near Tso Moriri
Nearest Petrol Pump is at Karu (about 204 KMs) from Tso Moriri and comes on the way to Tso Moriri from Leh. I will suggest that you top-up the fuel from Leh itself and then drive/ride up to Tso Moriri. In case you are planning to exit from Manali Leh Highway, do not forget to carry spare fuel with you so that you make it to Tandi. The overall distance that you will be covering without petrol pump will be 550 KMs on Leh – Tso Moriri – Sarchu – Manali route.
You will not find any ATMs near Tso Moriri lake and hence, it is always better to carry cash from Leh (the only place where you find ATM in Ladakh) itself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let us look at some of the most frequently asked questions about Pangong lake. In case I have missed to cover any question in this article, feel free to give me a shoutout and I will answer and add to this list.
As per taxi union rates of 2018, a two day trip from Leh to Tso Moriri taxi fare is Rs 14283 and Rs 29056 for a three-day trip from Leh to Tso Moriri to Manali.
There are three buses that travel from Leh to Tso Moriri every 10th, 20th and 30th day of the month. The Leh to Tso Moriri bus leaves at 6.30 AM on these dates from Leh bus stand. You can read all about Leh to Tso Moriri lake bus service.
If I have to choose between Pangong Lake or Tso Moriri, I will personally visit Tso Moriri lake every time just because of its raw nature and less crowd or less commercialisation. However, if you are visiting Leh Ladakh for the first time, you should visit Pangong Lake because it is something that you should not miss on your first trip to Ladakh without regretting.
It is highly NOT recommended to make a one day trip to Tso Moriri lake. You should always plan for at least two days trip from Leh
Tso Moriri lake is one of my favorite places to visit in Ladakh, sometimes I feel it is much better than Pangong Tso lake. However, for the first times in Ladakh, I am sure Pangong Tso is something that they should not miss.
I hope this travel guide of Tso Moriri lake helps you plan your trip successfully.
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