Heaven, Peace, Silence, and Tranquility at one place? Come and spend a few hours at Pangong Lake! A pristine location marked by subtle to high peaks around, crystal blue waters and the vast expansion catches the eye so much, so long as if a magic is happening right in front of the eyes.
Pangong Lake, also known as Pangong Tso, lies calmly at a breathtaking elevation of 14,270 feet. Interestingly, the lake is 12 km long and marks itself between the laps of India and China. Rather, 60% of the portion is stretching in the neighboring nation and this excites every traveler to be here.
The surreal clean blue waters are actually brackish or salty in nature and this feature doesn’t let any aquatic life survive in the same. Moreover, the temperature range between -30 to -10 degrees make even this salty lake freeze with thick ice sheets, which is quite opposite in case of salt ridden water bodies.
This picturesque landscape location enhances its beauty with the arrival of migrating birds every year and attracts many travelers in search of adventure, photographs, bird-watching and chilling experience. Pangong has another unique and catchy feature; when it acts like a chameleon and changes its color from blue to green to even grey at times.
There is not a single reason to say No to this beauty once in a lifetime. And if you wish to repeat it again, it’s a blessing!
Best time to visit: It is amazing to experience the beauty of Pangong in months of May-September. In the rest of the months, winters turn harsh and get a thick coat of frozen sheet. Though the lovers of natural beauty visit the place even in winters to walk over the lake and making their fantasy live.
Altitude: The altitude of the Pangong lake is around 14,270 feet above the sea level. Even after this height, fierce travelers reach here for some perfect time and solace.
Distance Between Leh and Pangong Lake: A marked distance of 225 km or a drive of 6 hours will land one up at Pangong lake.
Permits: As Pangong lake is settled at a border zone of India and China, Indians need to take Inner Line Permit which can be issued online as well as offline from Tourist Information Center at Leh Market. Foreigners need to take Protected Area Permit which is also available online.
How to reach Pangong Lake from Leh?
It is said, Journey matters more than the Destination!
Various routes taking towards Pangong to Leh are filled with adventures and excitement. And in this case, you are lucky as the destination is mesmerizing as well. Check out two possible routes that one can take to reach Pangong from Leh.
Route 1: Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La
Leh – Shey – Karu -Sakti – Chang La -Durbuk – Tangste - Lukung – Spangmik – Pangong Tso
This direct and shortest route towards Pangong lake from Leh takes you to 6-7 hour journey via Shey, Karu and Sakti and mid-way to Chang La. Amongst them, Shey is nearly 15 km from Leh and has a major attraction as Shey monastery and Shey Palace which is located nicely at the hilltop.
Moreover, Shey used to be summer capital of Ladakh in ancient times. Now the palace is lying in ruins but still two festivals take place here every year. At the monastery, one can observe the tall and calm structure of Shakyamuni Buddha along with colorful and catchy murals.
Moving ahead, at a distance of 23 km from here, you get to meet a small village Karu, where small shops, tea stalls and food joints are present. Moving towards Sakti, a drive of mere 9 km has to be done. You can visit Takthok monastery here which attracts even from a faraway distance. A certain sect of Buddhist Lamas reside here and make this gloomy location look livelier.
After this, a major stopover can be recorded at Chang La. Chang La can be reached in another 1 hour drive (34 km) and interestingly, it is third highest motor-able road in the world at an altitude of 17,590 ft. Here, you can take another stopover to click pictures and make videos of beautiful scenery around. Enjoy some hot black tea at Army camp here.
From here, the road gets little messy while driving to Durbuk but later on smoothes up. At Tangste, you can find many shops and hotels once again to sip another pack of tea or coffee and calm the body from cold climate. From here, drive for another few hours hours or 58 km to catch Spangmik village. This village is known for multiple camps that offers view of lake very well. Another 1.5-2 hours drive from here makes you reach Pangong where you can relish the beauty of your ultimate destination.
Route 2: Leh to Pangong Tso via Nubra Valley
This route is not taken by many travelers due to longer driving hours of about 13 hours and tiredness one might get. But enthusiasts who want to add Nubra Valley and other major attractions like Diskit and Tathok in their itinerary during a short snap and manage their time, take this route for sure.
The route has another subdivision:
a. Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake via Wari La:
(Diskit / Panamik - Khalsar - Agham - Tangyar - Wari La - Tathok - Sakti - Chang La - Durbuk - Tangste - Lukung - Spangmik)
From Leh, when you take the road to Diskit, you need to drive for at least 4 hours to cover 116 km. Here, Diskit monastery, the oldest and largest of Nubra valley is waiting for you. Surely, it is going to mesmerize anyone with its grandness and beauty of 32 meter tall Buddha, colored wall mural and unique architecture on hilltop.
Pass through small village section named Khalsar, Agham, and Tangyar later and cover another major portion of your journey.
Crossing through Wari La, one of the most difficult passes is an adventure on its own.
Next you will reach Takthok where Takthok monastery will be waving at you from far hillocks. Rest of the route goes the same way as discussed above.
The distance of whole route is not more than 250 km but covering them can be little hectic due to rocky roads, steep paths and lot of breaks one need to play with during the travel hours.
We would suggest that you shall cover this route along with attractions by dividing it a time slot of 2 days.
It is also best advised to start this journey early in the morning, take properly mentioned permits with your name mentioned so Indian Army doesn’t deject you and carry spare fuel as you may not pass any petrol pumps on the way.
b. Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake via Shyok:
(Diskit/Panamik - Khalsar - Agham - Shyok Village - Durbuk - Tangste - Lukung - Spangmik)
The route is comparatively shorter than the above-described, of about 175 km, but Shyok road is a dusty and boulder loaded trail which is quite risky and challenging. One must take a calculative risk considering weather, driving experience and readiness for any mishaps.
At this route, you need to take a diversion from Agham village towards Shyok Village. This zone experiences landslides and floods due to Shyok overflow at times. The wet and flowy roads become tricky with sharp stones underneath that are not easily visible.
After crossing safely, you can continue your route via Durbuk, Tangste, Lukung and Spangmik. You will be surely proud on yourself after being safe and looking at majestic Himalayan tips around.
Make sure your plans are made only after knowing prior conditions, before you check-out from your hotel at Leh. And Cover the route only when you have expert driving skills.
Accommodations at Pangong Lake
The beauty and nature is still intact nicely at Pangong lake and one would not be able to find much of concrete hotels or resorts nearby. Mostly, campsites, cottages and small guest houses would support your stay. Along with the same, you also get to enjoy meals, chit-chat with locals, good services and of course, Pangong lake in front of the eyes.
1. Alpine Huts: The wooden cottages facing the Pangong lake are very comforting with insulated rooms and snuggly beds. With ample parking space, one can enjoy the comfort of dining, living and delicious food, here at the cottage site. Take a stroll at night around and enjoy stargazing. The best part is, it is an 800m walk from the Pangong lake. If you are drop dead tired after a long hour drive, just hop in the cottage.
Tariffs to stay at Alpine huts begin from Rs. 4000 and above.
2. The Pangong Inn: A deluxe hotel near to the Pangong Lake is ready to welcome you all. Well spaced rooms, awesome views, multiple amenities, dining are all here for a perfect stay. A proper set of hygienic washrooms en-suite and ample parking space are available for luxury. Solar panels can be seen here as well for nature made electricity and they make us realize the worth of nature’s gift to survive in extreme conditions.
Get your bed or room here starting from the price of Rs.3800.
3. Hermitage At Pangong: This place is a Wow to look and stay at! These white cottages are settled near the lake and staying here is like staying in the heaven. It is so as the rooms are loaded with panoramic full-length windows, modern amenities, and plenty of spaces. Park the vehicles near and sip some coffee at the verandah.
The luxury and services at Hermitage can be availed from Rs.13,000 and above.
4. The Kora Pangong: A beautiful campsite beside the blue lake where Tibetan flags welcome all is Kora Pangong. The tents are comfortable and well marked by cozy beds, thick blankets, parking space, clean washrooms and of course, a view never to be forgotten. A night here would make your stay more lovely with a sight of migrating birds and dense clouds up above in the sky. Excellent service is a cherry on the top. A drive of around 2 hours to the camp will make you reach here easy via Pangong Lake road.
From Rs.3300 and above, book a comfortable stay.
5. Camp Whispering Camps: Nestled amidst the bank of Pangong Lake in Spangmik, Camp Whispering Camps has been considered as a heaven for the thrill seekers and the adventurers. Guests get an opportunity to enjoy a spectacular view of mountain range, glittery lake and relish the amenities present while admiring boutique style and decor. Make your camping experience special and perfect with a delightful stay at Whispering camps.
For a comfortable stay, the price range begins from Rs.5700 and above.
6. Camp Redstart: A beautiful site that offers its own garden to chill at is Camp Redstart. One can stay in comforting tents with a perfect 180-degree view of the mountains and the beautiful lake. The happy staff and excellent service will make anyone happy to the core of heart. There are new luxurious and spacious Deluxe Tents with attached bath and plenty of parking space to park your vehicles at.
From a basic price of rs. 4300 and above, you can stay and enjoy at camp Redstart
7. Pangong Retreat: A perfectly settled camp at a platform overlooking the Pangong lake is here. Pangong Retreat offers all an agreeable settlement giving an essential convenience. This enables one to appreciate- the brilliant grass, the nightfalls, the mountains, and the Pangong Lake. 25 liberally dispersed, peaceful and noteworthy tents are present here which require an impeccable excursion.
The approximate price starts from Rs 4000 per person.
8. Camp Martsemik La: 34 carefully numbered tents with joined restrooms welcome all in this eco-camp. One will be able to not only view Himalayan ranges and Pangong lake from here but also enjoy various activities at the open verandah with your group of friends or family. The luxury dining space and comfortable beds with thick blankets are all you need after getting tired from the journey. Dive in the view with Tibetan flags waving at you.
Book this camp at 4500 Rs. per person and chill near Pangong lake.
9. Wonderland Camp: Another one of the best camps in Pangong is located in the heart of little town, Spangmik. The pleasing environment is conjoined by excellent services, staff, 24-hour front work area, and wonderful dining that serves delightful delicacies. The best part about Wonderland camp is amazing unobstructed views it provides of mountain ranges and Pangong lake.
From Rs. 3900 per person, get a camp to stay.
10. 100 Sky Camp: Luxury and Comfort is all here at 100 Sky camp. This waterfront location gives a catchy view of extravagant virgin natural beauty. All the rooms of the camps are very well built and well maintained, attached with bathroom and 24-hour water running facilities. Enjoy your stay at camps that are well built with all the state of art facilities.
Tariffs to stay at 100 Sky camps begin from Rs. 4600 and above
Pangong Lake and its Bollywood connect
A Bollywood buff never misses the most interesting location of the movies. And when you have seen movies like 3 Idiots, Sanam Re, Dil Se, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Waqt, Tashan, and Heroes; you wouldn’t have missed Pangong Lake at the backdrop.
All the jaws drop when artists dance, drive their vehicles, spend some quality moments in the frosty space and all the hearts pump high to reach Pangong lake. Any Bollywood lover feels like its another heaven for them. Moreover, Kareena Scooty has gained prominence surely amidst Bollywood movie fans.
The craze has gone so high that you can find many yellow scooters here with the marked poster of movie actress along with some famous actions. People love to get captured in their cameras and post them online to show their Bollywood love.
In fact, now a days many TV commercials and famous bloggers from around the world love to showcase the natural beauty of Pangong through their camera lenses.
People also love to visit places where Phunsukh Wangdu from 3 idiots showed his intelligence and love for education. Overall, there is no doubt upon the fact that Pangong Lake has become one of the vibrant places to visit at because of Bollywood’s lenses.
The Lake in Winters
During May-September, you can see water with slight ripples and when the sun shines above it, it literally glitters. As the winter arrives, the temperature drops down quick with an extreme of -15 to -30 degrees at times. This makes the lake go freeze like a thick hard sheet which turns white from its turquoise green color.
The lake is not easily accessible in winters due to heavy snowfall that blocks the roads connecting the location. But army vehicles or local jeeps that travel to connecting towns can drop you nearby. The beauty of Pangong lake in winters is a worth to look at and click some pictures around.
During the month of mid-January to mid-February, the lake becomes a perfect setting to play cricket or enjoy the chit chat while walking over the surface. Yes, it is like another ‘chadar’ that usually is famous for the name of the frozen Zanskar river. It is actually typical to find anyone here in such harsh winters. But you never know, adventurers can wander any place, any time in search of right solace and perfect peace at the end.
Also, If you have that spark within to observe world’s another natural wonder, add another activity in your bucket list to visit Pangong lake in winters.
Essential Info about Pangong Lake
1. Mobile Connectivity: Well, we would say why do you need a connectivity of any mobile phone or any connection when you are looking at one of the World’s most beautiful lake, camouflaged with mirror shadow.
And No! There is no mobile network available at Pangong lake; even if it is a postpaid connection. No BSNL/MTNL or Airtel is going to show it’s head up. And this is rather the best way you can spend some of the best time in heaven.
2. Medical Facilities: The answer is again a big NO! You will not find any doctor or in-house medical facility at Pangong. The only way to reach the nearest medical option is Tangtse village which is 100km from here. You need to drive at least 2 hours or more to reach for any quick medical session.
It is hence, best advised to carry a basic medical kit with appropriate medicines, bandages etc. Moreover, carry a good pack of warm clothes with yourself to stay away from fever/cold.
3. ATM's: No! And a No! You won't be able to find any ATM either at Pangong lake or nearby to a good distance. From moderate camps to luxury hotels, you will not be able to dispense any money. Even, none of them accept credit or debit cards.
We recommend you to plan the itinerary and carry extra cash beforehand, apart from the planned one. This is one of the most important task you must keep in mind. Though there are ATMs present in Leh, so you have another option to take your cash from.
4. Petrol Pumps: Well, you will be disappointed here as well. There are no petrol pumps either at Pangong or anywhere near it. Gas filling stations or petrol pumps are only at Leh.
So, we would suggest you to keep the petrol tank full and enjoy the unhindered ride to and fro Pangong.
5. Food Joints: All the tents, campstays, homestays and hotel at Pangong provides meals to its guests at an added cost. One can also get them customized based on the special needs or dietary requirements.
Apart from in-house food joints, you can find small stalls nearby that provide tea/coffee, momos, thukpas, lentils-rice too. If you wish to catch a restaurant, go to P3 which is renowned for delicious Tibetan food with an awesome lake view in front. Chhang is an alcoholic beverage that can be found at nearby locations only on festive occasions. If you are lucky, you can find it the time you visit.
6. Minimum Duration for Visiting Pangong Lake: If you are taking a drive from Leh to Pangong, you need a minimum of 6-7 hours from one side only. Considering your stopover for at least a hour, you can return back by late night bak to Leh.
So, it takes at least 1 day to cover it. We would recommend you to stay there overnight and enjoy the beauty for at least a full day. Moreover, you will be able to cut out your tiredness as well with a stay and carry the rest of the journey fresh and peacefully.
Frequently Asked Questions :
1. Why is Pangong Lake Blue?
This Endorheic lake that cannot drain anywhere out has a color of blue due to few atmospheric reasons. When the sun shine, the wavelength strikes as well. Amongst all the colors, red gets absorbed fast due to longer wavelength but blue scatters. This is the basic law of Physics.
So, when white light from the sun enters the ocean, it is mostly the blue that gets returned back, making the color look deep blue.
2. What is the depth of Pangong Lake?
Around 328 feet or 100m is the depth of Pangong lake.
3. Why Pangong lake is salty?
Pangong lake is endorheic in nature which means that water cannot move out of the lake due to a very low drainage basin. This property has let the salts evolved in water since the time unknown. So, presence of salts, slight evaporation and almost no-drainage has given Pagong a salty nature.
4. Why is Pangong Lake a famous tourist attractions?
Set amidst beautiful mountain ranges, the blue waters of Pangong are attracting thousands of tourists every year. It is situated at an altitude of 4350m and has an extension towards China.
Hence, the beauty, serenity, nationality, adventure, calmness; all drive one towards the Pangong.
5. Is camping famous around Pangong Lake?
Oh Yes! There is a lot of scope of camping around the lake. From basic to luxury tents, cottages to nearby resort camps, one can find variety of camps with different amenities. The only thing common among them is breathtaking view, comfortable rooms, snuggly beds and amazing aura outside windows. Nature can be closely felt without the walls and hence, camps are perfect and famous around Pangong Lake.
6. Can I visit the Lake during winters?
Well, Yes! The lake gets completely frozen with thick surface at the top during winters and is a worth to look at. The only issue you may face is blockage of roads due to snowfall. But you can still reach here by catching flight to Leh and travel with the help of locals or army or hire a safe vehicle which you are expert at to reach Pangong.
7. Pangong Tso is Tibetan for?
Pangong lake, also known as Pangong Tso in Tibet, means ‘high grassland lake’. The lake shares its boundaries with China and India and hence carry two various names at one point of time.
8. What is the colour of Pangong Lake and what is the reason behind the colour?
Well, logically the lake does not changes its color by itself. It is the sunshine, weather, scattering of lights and intensity of sun rays that hit the water surface that make the color of lake look chameleon from deep blue to blue, to greenish and even grey at times.
9. What is the average weather around Pangong Lake?
The weather at Pangong lake ranges from very cold to mild winters around. The temperature that tills between ranges from -30 degrees in January-February to 23 degrees in month of June-July. So, an average can be taken as cool weather. Hence, one travelling to Pangong must carry good set of woolen clothes, even if it is summer. At night, temperature fall low and gives goosebumps on the skin.