Pangong Tso, also referred to as Pangong Lake, is one of the most beautiful places to explore in India. We’ve put together an essential guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh for travelers hoping to explore this spectacular place. Situated in the Himalayas at an incredible height of 4,350 meters, this stunning endorheic lake is 134 km long and extends all the way from India to China. Despite the saline water, the lake is completely frozen during the winters and presents a surreal spectacle. Not part of the Indus river basin, Pangong Lake is a separate landlocked river basin by itself.
Make plans to travel to and explore this stunning lake on your vacation this year. Book a few cheap last minute flights if you don’t have time to make flight reservations in advance. To help you plan the perfect itinerary, here’s an important travel guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh.
Location of Pangong Tso Lake:
The breathtaking Pangong Lake is located in eastern Ladakh Changtang region and lies about 170 km from the town of Leh. Among the highest motorable passes in the world, the route runs across the Ladakh Range via Chang La at an incredible 5,260 meters above sea level. What is important to remember is that the lake is disputed territory with about one-third of it lying in India while the rest is in China-dominated Tibet.
Permit and permissions required to visit Pangong Lake:
This is one of the most crucial parts of our travel guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh. Pangong Tso Lake is among the areas in Ladakh that require special permits to visit them. This is because these areas are considered to be “inner line” as they are in close proximity to borders with either Pakistan or China. To visit Pangong Tso Lake, Indian tourists will need to acquire an Inner Line Permit (ILP) while foreign nationals will need a Protected Area Permit (PAP).
Indians can apply for an ILP online at http://lahdclehpermit.in/ which is a government launched web portal. They can also get it from the Tourist Information Center located at Leh Main Bazaar near Jammu and Kashmir.
Foreigners will find it convenient to get a PAP from any registered travel agent in Ladakh. Solo travelers will be clubbed in a group since, theoretically, there must be at least two foreigners traveling together to obtain a PAP.
[Note: Citizens of China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and Bangladesh need to get permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi to obtain a PAP. They will need to apply through the Indian consulate in their respective countries.]
For those arriving in India on business class flights and unrestrained by budget, there are luxurious glamping (glamorous camping) facilities by the lake. Well equipped, the tents provide comfort-cum-luxury facilities such as western toilets, hot water, electricity, and Wi-Fi. There are comfortable homestay options as well for travelers on a budget. While it may not be a luxurious stay, all basic amenities will be provided and the hosts will ensure you have everything else you may need. It’s one of the best cheap places to stay in India. Also, you will get the chance to enjoy delicious home-cooked meals. Opting for a homestay is one of the best ways to mingle with the locals.
Food option is an integral part of our guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh especially for travelers who happen to be foodies. Owing to its remote location, you cannot expect to run into high-end restaurants at Pangong Tso Lake. However, there are a handful of eateries and food stalls in the vicinity of the lake serving everything from momos to plain dal and rice. If you do wish to dine at a restaurant, the P3 restaurant renowned for its lip-smacking Tibetan dishes is a good option.
Places to visit near Pangong Lake:
There are plenty of nearby attractions you can enjoy when visiting the stunning Pangong Tso Lake. Our guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh lists Tangtse Gompa as one of the top attractions to enjoy here. It’s the best place to enjoy great views and hang around for a bit with your travel buddies before moving onto the next attraction. You can also stop by for a cup of tea at the Chang La Pass en route to Pangong Tso Lake.
There is a palace at Shey and several Buddhist monasteries along the way which you can explore. Some of the most popular monasteries are Thiksey, Stakna, Shey, Tangtse, and Hemis. Wildlife lovers can spot a Himalayan marmot at the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary that falls between Pangong Lake and Leh.
At the Pangong Tso Lake, bird watchers can go camera-crazy and click some amazing shots of migratory birds. There are Yak rides to enjoy as well. Leh to Pangong Lake day trip will be among the most exciting ones you’ll ever make.
How to reach Pangong Tso Lake:
There are two ways to reach as suggested by our guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh. One of the ways is from Leh while the other is from Nubra Valley.
From Leh: Leh to Pangong lake distance by road is approximately 160 km. The ride may be bumpy at first but Leh to Pangong Lake road conditions do get better gradually. If you’re coming via this route, you will need to take the Manali-Leh highway until you reach Karu. From here, you must turn left toward Sakti and continue on toward Chang La. Keep going toward Durbuk until you reach the town of Tangtse. Pangong Tso Lake will start appearing after a distance of about 8 km from here. You will cross several other lakes along the way and can choose to camp at any of them.
From Nubra Valley: There are two ways to reach Pangong Lake from Nubra Valley. One route will take you across the high-altitude pass Wari La situated at an incredible height of about 17, 400 feet. The second route will require you to travel along the Shyok River.
Important tips & suggestions:
An integral part of our travel guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh, these essential tips and suggestions will ensure you have a hassle-free trip.
- Don’t forget to get the necessary permits before the trip. Carry them along safely as there are chances of being stopped by officials who may ask see them. Just in case, carry photocopies as well.
- Pack enough warm clothes as the region you are about to travel to is a very cold one. This is especially important to do if you’re visiting in winter.
- Altitude sickness is a very real thing and you must take at least a day’s rest to get properly acclimatized.
- Avoid physical exertion, alcohol, and smoking for the first 48 hours to minimize altitude sickness.
- When forming an itinerary, proceed in an order of lowest to highest altitude destinations. This will give you enough time and space to acclimatize well.
- Carry a medical aid kit. This is all the more essential if you’re heading out on a motorbike tour of Ladakh.
- Pack a few healthy snacks for the journey as there aren’t too many eateries along the way.
Best time to visit Pangong Lake:
Our guide to visiting Pangong Lake in Ladakh suggests that best time to visit depends on what you wish to do and see here. The route across Chang La Pass is kept open by the Indian Army even during the winter except when it snows very heavily. So it’s possible to visit Pangong Tso Lake all year round. If you enjoy snow, then visit during the winter and revel in a walk across the frozen lake. You can book cheap flights for a visit any other time of the year as well. The shimmering lake is just as beautiful in any other season as it is in winter. Camp along its shores and enjoy the captivating beauty of the unadulterated landscape. June and July are peak tourist seasons and you should avoid them if you wish to visit sans the crowds and commercialization.