Pangong Tso – Ladakh Trip

As amazing a sight as anybody will ever like to see, this beautiful lake with hues varying from turquoise to emerald (depending on the angle of sun rays), is indeed a sight a to behold. I rode from Leh to Pangong on my bike and after crossing breathtaking Chang La and barren Tangtse, the first sight of the lake surrounded by stark landscape left me awestruck.

Pangong Lake

The mesmerizing Pangong Tso

The moment of wow is when the stark landscapes and barren terrain opens up to the spectacular Pangong Lake Surrounded by naked mountains on all side, this wide lake is open to tourists from May to September. The lake offers spectacular views and one could see it change the color from turquoise to emerald as the sun rays projects different angles on the water surface.

Pangong Tso Ladakh

Riding along Pangong Tso near Spangmik

First we (my brother, a common friend and I) just sat by the Pangong Lake soaking in the sight and trying to find the word to describe how we felt. For a long time no one spoke or talked and we just let the emotion sink in. Later came photo frenzy. At the 3 idiots point (where the climax scene of superhit movie featuring Aamir and Kareena was shot) our Royal Enfields became the cynosure of all eyes and everyone wanted to take their picture sitting on one of them. It was an exciting feeling and fun experience.

Pangong Tso is a Tibetan name which means “long, narrow, enchanted lake”. It’s not difficult to know why it was named so by the locals when you visit this high altitude lake in Ladakh and literally get enchanted by its stunning beauty. Located at an altitude of 14,270 feet (4,350 meters), Pangong Lake is 134 kilometers long and extends all the way to China (More than 60% of the lake is located within Chinese territory).

To really savor the lake I’d recommend that you should spend at least a night at Pangong. Accommodation is easily available near the lake in camps and homestays. We took the first vacant homestay available at Spangmik (where most of the camps and homestays are located). It cost us as low as INR 500 for the night. But homestays don’t have attached toilet and hot water facilities. Camps which cost INR 3000 and more do have running hot water and attached toilet facility.

After dumping our bag in the homestay, we again headed for the lake. Sunset by the lake was amazing as interplay of light and clods painted a spellbinding canvas on the sky. Night was cold but our Homestay was surprisingly warm. We had no trouble during night and no acute mountain sickness (AMS) to any 3 of us. To avoid AMS, it is always advisable to spend first 2 days in Leh before heading out to Pangong Tso.

We woke up to a mesmerizing sunrise as the morning sunlight cast a golden hue on the barren mountain top. The view was amazing. After breakfast and another stroll by the Lake we once again took the bike to drive back to Leh. The experience was one of the best and unforgettable.

Well with Ladakh, once is not enough, twice is not enough, an entire lifetime is not enough. Ladakh is the stuff dreams are made of and Pangong Tso is perhaps the climax of that dream.

Now some practical information if you are planning your trip to Pangong Tso during your trip to Ladakh. Well obviously you will be visiting Pangong Tso. I mean visiting Pangong Tso definitely count as one of the reason people visit Ladakh. Let me try to present you with as many information on how to reach, time to visit, vehicles to use and other practical information to plan your trip to Pangong Tso in Ladakh.

Best Time to visit Pangong Tso, Ladakh

The best time to visit Pangong Tso Lake is from June till September. The passes connecting Pangong to other towns in Ladakh remain motorable for most part of the year. However the extreme cold weather from November till April means that most of the camps and homestays remain close and food and lodging becomes rare. With the routes via Manali (Rohtang Pass) and Srinagar (Zojila Pass) opening in late May and again closing in November, the maximum tourist arrival also takes place from June till October.

Modes to reach Pangong Tso Ladakh

There are basically 3 modes of transportation (vehicle types) you could use to reach Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh. One is the two wheelers, second is the hired cars/taxi/private vehicle and the third is by bus from Leh.

Whereas two wheelers and cars/taxis could reach Pangong Tso via Leh, Tso Moriri side or the Nubra Valley side; buses ply to Pangong Tso from Leh only. The point to note is the availability of fuel. The nearest petrol pump is in Karu which is closest to Leh making the route from Leh via Chang La the most preferred route to reach the lake. People opting for Nubra Valley or Tso Moriri routes are advised to carry enough spare fuel to make to Leh.

How to Reach Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Pangong Tso Lake could be reached by road from 3 different routes. The details are following:

Route from Leh to Pangong Tso Lake (The most preferred and recommended route)

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

This route is the most well maintained route to reach Pangong Lake. The army at Chang La ensures that the route remain open and free of obstacles during the tourist season. In case of snow falls or landslides, this particular route gets the priority attention of the army and gets cleared first than the other two routes. The state transport bus also operate on this route only. Read my post on How to Reach Pangong Tso by Bus for details.

Route from Tso Moriri Lake to Pangong Tso Lake (235 Kilometers)

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)

This route requires that even Indian Nationals need to carry appropriate inner line permit. Foreign nationals could not take this route. The road is not in very good condition and for some stretch roads are virtually nonexistent making it a tiring and challenging route to reach Pangong Tso. Extra fuel also needs to be carried.

Route from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso Lake (243 Kilometers)

Diskit  – Khalsar (19 KMs) – Agham (31 KMs) – Wari La (39 KMs) – Sakti (29 KMs) – Chang La (34 KMs) – Durbuk (32 KMs) – Tangste (9 KMs) – Spangmik (50 KMs)

This route goes via mighty Wari La pass, one of the remotest passes in the Ladakh region. Traveling time is well over 11-12 hours depending on number of breaks you take. The route is long and rough and requires that you leave Nubra Valley very early in the morning. Also consider climbing very steep gradient to reach the top, tough enough to make your vehicle whimper 🙂

If you are planning to ride then only recommended motorcycle is Royal Enfield. Don’t try to approach this route on a hired motorcycle. It is very very risky. If on a four wheeler 4WD is recommended.

Whichever way you are traveling, with several water crossing, stretches of bad road and steep ascent, rest assured that your driving skills and mettle

It is also advised that you don’t plan to travel solo on this route as this route is rarely used by other vehicles. If your vehicle breaks down. There will be no help in either directions for miles.

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.

Petrol Pumps near Pangong Tso Lake, Ladakh

Karu about 135 KMs from Pangong Tso is the nearest place to get your fuel tank recharged

Accommodation Options at Pangong Tso Lake – Ladakh

Although tents – some calling themselves luxury tents – are available aplenty, most of the accommodation option as well as food near Pangong Tso is very basic. The living condition is harsh and the connectivity equally tough.

With beginning of tourist season in late May, camps are set up mostly near Spangmik Village which is where you’d also find most of the homestays. Whereas tents may offer facilities like attached washroom and hot running water (depending upon the price you are willing to pay); most of the homestays and tents don’t come with attached toilets and don’t offer facility of running hot water.

Depending upon the cost of accommodation food may or may not be included in your rental. Here are the details of some of the tents and homestays along with approx. cost.

Padma,  Gongma and Sasoma Guest House

  • Price Range: Rs 700 – 1000 for a double bedroom. Some include meals too.
  • Location: Spangmik Village
  • Category: Home Stay

MarTseMik Camping Resort

  • Price Range: INR 3500 – 4500 for luxury tents
  • Contact: Mr. Muthup Namgial: 09419177658, 09906981777, +91-1982-257030, 01982-253010
  • Location: Spangmik Village

Camp Watermark (Pangong Panorama)

  • Price Range: INR 2500 – 3000 for luxury tents without meals at Panorama.
  • Contact: info@offbeatescapes.com
  • Location: Spangmik Village

Himalayan Wooden Cottages

  • Price Range: INR 2200 – 2500 for a double bed room
  • Contact: 09716507246 or info@offbeatescapes.com for email
  • Location: Spangmik Village

Pangong Camp Resort

  • Price Range: Rs 3500 – 4000 for a double bed room
  • Location: Spangmik Village

For more on how to prepare for your holiday, ream my post on How to Prepare for Trip to Ladakh. If you happen to take your own bike or hire one, do read my post on How to Prepare for Trip to Ladakh by Motorcycle.

Here are a few more pics from my trip:

Spangmik Village Tent

Pangong Tso beauty cannot be described but can only be experienced. While most do a day trip to the lake, I highly recommend that you spend a night in Spangmik

Spangmik, Pangong Tso, Ladakh

A couple taking evening stroll near spangmik

Pangong Tso

Pangong Tso, literally meaning “enchanted lake” is definitely the most beautiful lake located in Ladakh.

Pangong Tso Lake, Ladakh

Me sitting by the Pangong Lake

Last updated on 27th April 2016

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