The most popular tourist destination in Ladakh India & a realistically breathtaking elevation of 4,350 meters above sea level, presents the pristine Pangong Lake.
Notably, it is declared to be the world’s highest saltwater lake.
The lake is unusual & did gain a lot of fame from the past few years because of several unique reasons. The interesting fact about this surreal spectacle is that it is completely landlocked & doesn’t get drained, unlike other lakes that flow into a water stream like a river or an ocean.
Lake Leh rose to fame & elevated in several tourists drawn here every day after a popular Bollywood movie “3 Idiots” was shot.
The temperature here ranges from -5°C to 10°C & as a result, in winter the lake completely freezes which is in itself a divine sight to witness.
This lake has always been of great interest to geologists & the color-changing element from azure to light blue and green to grey simply is attention-stealing.
The awe-inspiring beauty, crystalized water & gentle hills together make it an exceptional landscape.
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This lake is located in the eastern region of Ladakh, Changthang. Going by the numbers, it is located about 170 KMs from Leh town of Ladakh.
Tourists probably prefer a 2 days trip from Leh to Pangong Lake, to enjoy to the fullest & explore the remote area in a better way.
One thing to remember is, the lake is sensitive disputed territory. Technically 3rd of the lake cut through belongs to India & rest lies in the China-dominated Tibet.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Pangong Tso lake, a remarkably natural landscape is during summers, to be precise from June to September.
You can witness a range of migratory birds, and other flora & fauna.
If you are planning to spend your time at this supernatural destination to the fullest & enjoy the breathtaking view, slight snow & greenery, summers are the best.
Enjoy the color-changing shades like a rainbow pallet, as the lake starts to melt.
In Jan to March, the lake is mostly frozen resulting in extreme weather & high altitude. This could make your homestay most of the time.
How to Reach
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Through the breathtaking valley, snow-capped mountains & lush green route, tourists experience a complete pack of scenic beauty throughout the road journey.
There are 2 possible routes to reach the Lake, each embarking upon a special experience for visitors:
Route 1: Via Leh > Hemis > Chang La > Pangong Tso
This route provides the best road condition & highly preferable for those looking for relaxing vacation time. This route is by far the fastest & most comfortable option.
You can visit popular must to stop by monasteries like Thiksey, Hemis, and Shey, which come on this route.
You will also cross the Mighty Chang La Pass via this route.
For those owning their vehicle are recommended to fuel up full, as there are no petrol pumps near Pangong lake.
Apart from that Regular buses, taxis & motorbikes, jeeps and cars are available at a reasonable price as well.
This route is a 170 km ride taking approx. 5 to 6 hours, that depends entirely on the number of breaks you take.
Route 2: Via Nubra Valley > Agham > Shyok Village > Durbuk > Pangong lake
This route became recently known & turned out to be the choice-able route for adventure seeker tourists.
Going through this route takes about 6 to 7 hours, with a view so relishing yet challenging. Especially suitable for travelers who wish to add rough experience to their journey through a dangerous road, finally to garner a glimpse of the blue/green waters of the lake.
Dangerous water crossing, sharp twist & turns, landslide-prone stretches are sure to catch your attention throughout this route.
It is always better to tag along with a vehicle & don’t go by all alone through the empty roads. You don’t require any other permits for shyok village, the permit for Nubra & Lake leh is enough.
Where to Stay
There is an array of accommodation facilities around Pangong Lake.
One thing to keep a note of is, visiting Leh is not about a luxurious vacation plan with top-rated hotel & fine quality food. Unlike other travel destinations, this trip is all about exploring as much as you can, living like a local & spending night in tents & homestay.
Tourists here enjoy the maximum at camps & tent stay & gain a unique perspective of life.
Stargazing, bonfire, light music, fresh air is what one gets to experience here.
Most of the tents are not heated through, and the night can get really cold, so take consideration of that. The tents have attached bathroom, western toilet, hot water facility too & are pretty spacious.
Very few hotels but good homestays options are available as a cozier alternative for tourists. The facilities vary depending upon the type of homestay chosen, like private rooms, dorm rooms, hostel-like rooms. The rooms are good enough to get proper sleep & western to local style bathroom attached.
Remember to double-check with your hotel & camp organizers, to ensure the area is legal.
Also, the lake is a Ramsar site wetland reserve, thus not allowing campers to camp at the lake.
However, there are few homestay options that give you a great view of the lake. Choose amongst the one that gives you the closest lake sight.
Where to Eat
Being a remote place, you will either find yourself eating in the homestay or in tents whichever option you’ve chosen for a night stay.
Don’t expect Hi-Fi food & luxurious food platter served on the table; Just like other tourist destinations have to offer.
While visiting Pangong Lake and especially a location so remote, sufficing your hunger pangs is the secondary preference, first is to explore!
This is an unusually appealing & extremely serene filled spot; you will find yourself lost in the charm completely.
The food you can have here is nutritious & healthy. You can try different flavors of Maggi, hot & tempting soups, and some fresh fruits or snacks. In addition to it, you can always try out the tempting momos.
Things to do Near Pangong Lake
Apart from soaking the gloriousness of this beautiful hidden heaven, there are many admirable things to do.
Leave the materialistic world, without internet, signal, ATM, petrol behind 100 km, and head into a whole new world amidst the chaos.
1: Make Friends with Marmots
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Approximately 20 km before you reach Pangong Tso, there will be a signboard visible saying “stop here to see rare marmot”.
These rare species stay in potholes and they often pop out.
Have some patience, wait for a while & see how they come out, with a far friendly approach. They are surely a treat to your eye & very rare in India.
2: Bird Watching
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Grab your camera, look around the lake & spot beautiful Migratory flying bliss, a spectacular birdie paradise & a major attraction for flora lovers.
You will love how they can turn playful in no time, wandering above the lake, with their wings wide open.
Flocks of Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks will leave the sight truly mesmerizing to experience & capture in your cam.
The color-changing lake depicts a different element of nature, & a perfect muse for nature photographers. It is not just about the DSLR that will work wonderfully, but a simple camera phone won’t hide the beauty of this location.
It is an ideal spot for time-lapse, candid photography, nature clicks but does not spend too much on clicking. Relax, give yourself a nature treat & let your soul rest in the lapse of nature for a while.
4: Night Camping under the Sky
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Camping near the lake at night, amidst peace, tranquility, glittering shiny sky will leave you in awe!
The atmosphere during the night is very calm, prepare your food, have a great time with your travel partners. Make your mark to this destination & moment as an unforgettable time of your life.
5: Attraction near Pangong lake
After having a great time near the lake, there are other places too, to explore & enjoy your time. Few of the nearby attractions are a must to visit, to gain an insight into the local people, their culture, food religious values.
Tangtse Gompa is a nearby monastery to explore the architectural preference of the spot, Chang La pass is claimed to be the world’s third-highest pass.
Also, famous Buddhist monasteries like Stakna, Thiksey, Tangtse, and Hemis will give you a whole new perspective.
If you are planning to stay for a day or two, visit the wildlife sanctuary of Changthang, and explore the flora & fauna habitat.
6: Wake Up Early
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Starting your day with the sunrise is a picturesque view, it might look a little hazy early morning, but you will see the shades of the lake changing its colors.
The sunlight reflecting on the lake is a moment to experience & not capture. It is hard to fill by words of how gorgeously charming the lake looks in the morning.
As the lake is situated at a high altitude, you can expect special means, considering it can affect your health.
Leh has a great medical facility available for tourists, that specializes highly in altitude sickness. However, around the pangong lake, you won’t find multiple medical facility options.
The nearest place where you can find a doctor or some medicine is at Tangtse village, which is situated for about 50 kilometers from the lake.
In addition to it, there are army Medical Camp too near the Lake
Mobile Connectivity and Internet
While you are planning a Leh Ladakh trip & especially the popular pangong lake, you need to bear in mind that mobile connectivity & the Internet is far limited.
Since you don’t want your dear one back at home to worry, prepare them beforehand & keep them informed about your daily itinerary.
You will mostly be disappointed with no mobile signals at the popular Tso lake. However, don’t lose hope as BSNL proves to be the reliable mobile server in Ladakh India offering widest coverage in the region.
It is advisable to carry postpaid BSNL or MTNL connection & enjoy some connectivity because it does work many times.
Petrol Pump & ATM
You will worry about fueling up petrol in your vehicle especially when you are going to a remote location. About 135 KMs from the beautiful Lake is a place called Karu where you will find a petrol pump.
This destination comes on the way while you are reaching Pangong Tso from Leh and it seems to be a perfect spot to halt, enjoy the weather & go on your journey.
Although, you can buy petrol from local shops, by paying a little extra. However, It is strictly not advisable to buy, as they provide low-quality ones. In case of serious emergencies, you can buy from them as a temporary solution.
Finding an ATM near the lake is not too easy. Thus, it is highly advisable to carry cash from Leh. However, you can easily find ATMs in Ladakh.
Useful Information about Pangong Lake
Since the enchanting Lake falls under the Sino-Indian Actual Line of Control, it is of utmost importance to get an inner line permit to visit the spot.
The Indian Nationals don’t need to bother as obtaining an individual permit is possible. However, foreign nations are required to obtain group protected area permits with a minimum of 3 people in the group.
And not just that, they must be accompanied by an accredited guide.
To obtain the permit, you can get it from the tourist office in Leh in exchange of a petty fee.
Tips before visiting Pangong Lake:
More than a decade ago, Leh Ladakh Tourism was only for adventure travelers & the main reasons were road connectivity & hard terrain. But now it is not just a destination that attracts adventure or solo travelers but family too.
To make your time at the lake worth remembering, we’ve addressed a few of the best tips.
To make your journey smooth
- Higher ground clearance vehicle, probably 4×4 or a rough bike is suitable to drive you through & to the Lake easily.
- Before you start your journey to the Lake, it is better if you carry spare fuel, as there are no petrol pumps around the lake area.
- If you want to reach early, with lesser traffic & a seamless smooth riding & driving experience, make sure you start your ride early in the morning.
- Make sure you are updated about the importance of permit & aware of how to get it without fail
- Mountain Sickness & high altitude can cause trouble to health, & is a very common phenomenon at this spot. So carry a first aid kit & do not depend entirely upon the medical facility.
- It is advisable to carry ample woolen & warm clothing to withstand the cold weather. Nights can be highly freezing, leaving you sleepless the whole night. So be prepared!
- To watch the crystal-clear blue water of the Lake, you must visit the spot at noon. The sunrays falling on the lake is a mesmerizing view to watch.
- This lake is an ecologically fragile place, thus littering around is a serious offense, do not dispose of any waste & be a responsible traveler.
- The best time to visit is from May to October and it is the peak season, where tents & homestay are mostly full.
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FAQs on Pangong Lake
Where is Pangong lake situated?
Pangong Tso lake, popularly known as Pangong Lake, is a narrow, deep, saltwater lake, situated in the Ladakh Himalayas region about 134 km long, extending from India to China at a height of almost 4,350m.
Why is Pangong Lake Blue?
The reflection of the clear blue sky on the lake & the sun rays falling on the lake make it look beautiful blue colored. Although, the Lake is renowned & popularly visited for its color-changing ability apart from just the blue color.
Can you swim in Pangong Lake?
Although it is not yet banned to swim in the Lake. However, this is a highly natural spot, the lake being beautiful because of less pollution & littering. Thus, it is better not to use it as public bathing or swimming, no matter how much you want.
Can we stay at Pangong Lake?
Hotels at Pangong Tso are pretty rare & there are hardly a few countable fingers. The most preferable option is to homestay or chooses camping for tents near the lake. Rooms will be comfortable, there are proper bathrooms attached & quite in the budget.
How do you get to Pangong Lake?
This beautiful lake is easily reachable within 7 hours from Leh. There is a proper bus, taxi & vehicle service provided from Leh for tourists. You can explore through different routes, and it is always advisable to know the road condition before beginning your journey.
Is Pangong lake frozen now?
Although it is highly saline water, the lake still freezes completely in the winter. All together the lake covers 604 km but you won’t experience frozen lake throughout the year. Summers are good & probably the best time to visit & eye crystal blue water.
Why is there no Fishing in Pangong Lake?
It was a freshwater lake that turned out brackish due to excessive mineral formation. Thus resulting in an extremely less micro vegetation. To date, it is reported to have no fish, no aquatic life present in the lake. And therefore, it is one of the hottest topics for the geological departments.
Is it advisable to stay overnight at Pangong Lake?
It is a great idea to stay near the lake, preferable is a camp stay to give a different perspective to life altogether. Especially during the full moon time. It looks mesmerizing with the bright moon behind the lake.
Is Pangong Lake Worth it?
It is one enchantingly beautiful destination in Ladakh and shouldn’t be missed out. Be it’s a natural beauty, the color-changing magic, the fauna, mountains, reflection of the sky in the lake. Everything together makes it a perfect spot!
How do I get a permit for Pangong lake?
Indian tourists are advised to gain an inner line permit & foreigners require a Protected area permit. This permit is requiring to visit inner line places like Nubra Valley, Turtuk, Hanu Villages, Merak, Nyoma, Tyakshi, Chushul, Hanle, Khardung La, Pangong Tso, Loma Bend, Digger La, Tangyar, Tso Moriri, Dah.
Final Thoughts on Pangong Lake Travel Guide
Pangong Lake is indeed an exclusive mind freshening destination & awe-inspiringly beautiful. Visiting Ladakh & not going here is like a trip wasted! Some things are still a mystery of this spot, as the depth of the ocean is unknown. Also, the lake is salty but in winter it gets completely frozen. There are many reasons to visit this breathtaking destination & it’s impossible to sum it all up in this article.
I hope this information on Pangong lake in Ladakh’s guide is useful to you. If you are planning for an upcoming trip to Leh, Ladakh, do not forget to include this destination in the Top 5 places to visit in Ladakh. And also contribute your bit to keeping the destination clean & gorgeous.
So brace yourself, be ready to embark upon a journey that will blow your mind. Make sure that you are mentally as well as physically prepared to take tough routes & challenging roads to Pangong lake. After all, this journey is going to be the best trip of your life undoubtedly.
Are you one amongst the luckiest travelers to have seen the color changing Pangong Lake? What is your worth to remember the experience? We would love to hear your experience in the comment section.