A breathtaking spectacle in more than just one way, an overnight camp stay at Pangong Lake was the perfect addition to my trip to Leh-Ladakh. If you are wondering how to visit Pangong lake, then read on.
We first heard about the lake from our travel agent.
A quick Google search later we realized that we were in for a major treat, but even the stunning photos on the internet did not do the place justice.
The exhilarating experience of seeing the sunset while standing on the banks of the lake had a magical feeling to it.
And even though the winds were freezing cold during the night we spent in the tents, I would not exchange that experience for anything in the world.
The serene and big lake with its blue water, the mighty mountains guarding it and the rocky banks provide a picturesque view that is unforgettable.
The smell of Maggi and the sound of Bullet motorbikes going past the window are some of the first things that you notice on landing in Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.
If you are planning your trip to Leh-Ladakh this year, one of the first questions that you are going to be faced with is, what is the best time to visit Leh? April to June is the best time to visit Leh Ladakh. In this 2096 words blog post of mine, read the Best time to visit Leh – Ladakh: The Complete Guide with weather & festival dates.
Most people were first acquainted with the beautiful landscape of Pangong Lake because of the iconic last scene of the movie 3 Idiots. And although this scene has led to the commercialization of the location post the movie, it has not reduced the novelty of visiting one of the prettiest attractions we have to offer in this country.
Moreover, tourists can even pose with a yellow scooter and enjoy their own movie moment while they are there.
What does Pangong mean? Pangong Lake, or known to the locals as Pangong Tso, derives its name from the Tibetan language and means ‘high grassland lake’. Some people believe that the name is because of the size of the lake and means ‘extensive concavity’ or a large hollowed-out area.
Where is Pangong Lake situated?
Pangong Tso is located in the Changthang region of Eastern Ladakh. The drive from Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region, takes about six hours and this picturesque drive is an adventure in itself.
What makes Pangong Lake special?
At an elevation of 14,270 feet (4,350 meters) above sea level, it is one of the highest lakes in the world. It is completely landlocked, unlike most other water bodies, and does not have any way to drain out. Only 1/3rd of the lake is in India and the rest is in China-controlled Tibet, as the Line of Actual Control passes through the lake.
Why is Pangong lake salty? Initially a freshwater lake, the Pangong Lake turned brackish because of mineral deposits. This is also the reason why there are no fishes or any aquatic life in the lake. However, it acts as a breeding ground for several migratory and water birds. Despite its salty water, the lake freezes over during the coldest months.
Apparently, it is even possible to drive over the lake during winters.
Why is Pangong Lake Blue? Pangong lake is also known for its changing colors. The bright blue, pollution-free skies of Ladakh make the lake appear crystal clear and dazzlingly blue. But during some hours in the day, Pangong Lake appears to be green and even red!
How many days are needed for visiting Pangong lake?
Many tourists decide to make a one day trip to Pangong Lake. While this is a good option for those who are on shorter trips since one definitely must not miss out on the opportunity, my advice would be to opt for a one night stay.
This is mainly because the one day trip may be very tiring and there may not be enough time to enjoy the beauty of the location. I highly recommend staying the night and watching the colors of the lake change as the sun rises and sets over it.
There are many travel agents in Leh who offer one day and overnight tours to Pangong Lake. You can easily book your tour through them. For those wanting to travel on their own, taxi services are available from Leh to Pangong. The rates for one-day trips are fixed. There is a bus service available for those traveling on a tight budget.
When is the best time to visit Pangong?
The best time to visit Pangong Lake is from May to October. This is the period when most camping sites and homestays are open to the public. The temperatures are still low but the climate is enjoyable. The Indian Army ensures that the road to Pangong is open and functional throughout the year. Therefore, you can visit at any time around the year.
However, it would be advisable to avoid the cold months from November to February because of the subzero temperatures and frequent snowfall.
In this detailed 2096 words blog post of mine, read the Best Time to Visit Leh Ladakh & How – Weather & Festivals.
How does one get from Leh to Pangong Lake?
To reach Pangong Lake from Leh, you could either take the direct route from Leh or choose between the other two roads which are via the scenic Nubra valley. The direct route takes you through Shey and Chang La Pass and covers an approximate distance of 160 kilometers. The roads via Nubra are not convenient unless you wish to include a visit to Nubra valley in your itinerary.
The Chang La pass of the Ladakh range, which at 17,586 feet (5,360 meters) above sea level is one of the highest motorable roads in the world.
- For those wanting to travel on their own, taxi services are available from Leh to Pangong.
- A two-day trip from Leh to Pangong and back generally costs close to Rs 10,000. The rates are decided by the Ladakh Taxi Union.
- There is a bus service available for those traveling on a tight budget and the rate is Rs 250 per person for a one-way trip. You could also opt to take a shared taxi from the Leh bus stand and the fare will be between Rs 400 to Rs 500 per person. For a breakdown of the rates click here.
The Chang La pass was covered in a thick layer of snow when we visited Leh even though it was in the middle of May.
Not yet ready for a High Altitude Adventure? Then these beginner treks will get you or your young one going.
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Special Permits for Indians for visiting Pangong Tso
Pangong Lake is in a border area between India and China, therefore, Indian citizens, as well as foreigners, are required to have special documentation with them during the visit. Indians need to have an Inner Line Permit (ILP). The ILP is an official travel document that the Government of India issues to citizens of the country traveling to a protected or restricted region of the country. It can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre in Jammu and Kashmir in Leh’s Main Bazaar.
PAP for Foreigners (except for Bhutanese Citizens)
Foreigners, on the other hand, require a Protected Area Permit (PAP). They need to be in a group of two or more people in order to apply for a PAP at the DC office in Leh. The applications need to be made through a registered Travel Agent in Leh or through the official website of the Leh administration.
The travel agents often club solo travelers with a group of foreigners they have while applying for the PAP, however, this does not imply that they need to travel together. The exception to this is that Bhutanese citizens do not require PAP to travel in this region.
Permits for citizens belonging to India’s neighboring countries of Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Burma are issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi. For those in India on diplomatic or official VISA, the permit is issued by the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.
Safety and Acclimatisation in Leh Ladakh
The entire Ladakh region may seem daunting to those traveling to such high altitudes for the first time. If the necessary caution and care are taken then the altitude will not come in the way of your enjoyment.
For those traveling by air, it is necessary to keep in mind that the rapid ascent makes it even more difficult to acclimatize. As you will frequently be reminded in the airport and by locals, it is advisable to take the first few days slow.
The quantity of oxygen in the air is much lower than what people visiting from the rest of the country are used to. This means that issues with breathing, weakness, and fatigue are common effects on the first day.
The problems faced by those traveling by road to Leh from Srinagar or Manali are comparatively less because one gets gradually acclimatized to the drop in the oxygen levels.
Spend your first day in Leh resting and sleeping. Prescription medicines are available for those who face serious health problems.
Those who have existing medical conditions must consult their doctor before planning their trip. Medical-grade tanks or oxygen bars are effective options for those suffering from moderate or severe altitude sickness.
Though while we were there the locals advised us not to make use of this equipment unless really necessary because they apparently reduce the bodies ability to cope with the change.
Those who face severe shortness of breath, especially while asleep or coughing must seek immediate medical assistance.
It is advisable to take it slow for at least three days after reaching Leh, sticking to checking out only the local tourist attractions and not exerting yourself too much. It is common for people to adjust to the climate and air pressure by the third day.
One handy trick we learned while traveling in this region was carrying chocolates and chewing gum because they helped to maintain our blood sugar levels.
Don’t forget to carry sunscreen Lotion
Another thing we realized during our visit to Pangong Lake was that the sun is very harsh in the region since it comes in direct contact with our skin rather than being blocked by clouds or smoke. So using sunscreen is a must.
A tried and tested Sunscreen lotion is Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 110 PA++ +. You can check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here. For your young one check out Banana boat water resistant- tear free sunscreen lotion for kids SPF 50+ (90 ml).
Pangong Lake is at an elevation of 14,270 feet, so it means ascending further while traveling from Leh. Precautions to avoid high altitude sickness are even more important. Keeping warm and controlled exertion helps, especially if you have taken the time to acclimatize yourself before braving the journey.
These posts will help you plan your trips so that you stay safe and healthy.
- Travel First Aid Kit: Advice from a Wanderlust Doctor.
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Things to do near Pangong lake
Apart from admiring the Pangong Lake tourists can spot many rare and migratory species of birds. In the colder months, there are yaks for tourists to ride. There are several attractions between Leh and Pangong including the monasteries of Stakna, Thiksey, Hemis, Shey, and Tangtse.
We had a lot of fun exploring the old palace in Shey and the view from the surrounding area was breathtaking.
The Himalayan marmot is a shy species from the squirrel family. The Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, on the way to Pangong Lake, is one of the only places where the cuddly and adorable mammals are friendly and do not run away at any sign of humans.
While making our way to Pangong we stopped to spend about some time with them. The trick was to stay very still and the harmless animals would come out of their burrows.
Accommodation and facilities.
Accommodations in this region range from modest homestays to tented camps. While on our trip to Pangong we stayed in one such campsite. Our tent had an attached washroom and there were provisions for hot water if required. However, the tents were not heated. As the night fell, the air became cooler and the winds entered through the flaps of the tent which made the entire experience thrilling and exciting.
We ate our meals in the reception area which was cozy and heated. The location of our tent was excellent and we could see the lake from them. The night sky was absolutely beautiful and we could see an abundance of stars.
While the tents are for the adventurous at heart, homestays provide a cozy alternative. They are either private guest rooms of hostel-like dorms and allow tourists to enjoy a taste of the local culture.
Accommodation in Leh Ladakh
If you like cozy home stays and would like to try out the local cuisine then check out Lhachik Guest House. Shanti Stupa is 2.4 km from Lhachik Guest House. The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, 10 km from the accommodation. You can check the availability and latest price of Lhachik Guest House by clicking here.
If a luxury stay is on your mind then check out The Grand Dragon Ladakh. Situated in the ancient city of Leh, this eco-friendly hotel overlooks the famous Cold Desert and the surrounding mountains. Cultural shows and evening bonfires are made available on demand. You can check the availability and latest price of The Grand Dragon Ladakh by clicking here.
If you are looking for having High Altitude Adventures within India then you will find the following posts interesting AND helpful.
- Kanamo Peak in Spiti is a non-technical trekker’s dream come true. With proper acclimatization, a reasonably fit person can climb this 19,560 feet (5960 meters) snowbound mountain ridge. Attempting Kanamo Peak in Spiti? Here’s What To Consider!
- A detailed guide on what does it take to cycle from Manali to Leh and cross 5 high altitude passes in the Himalayas. Cycling from Manali to Leh: This is how I got Leh’d!!
How to reach Leh-Ladakh?
By Road: One can go to Leh city on the Srinagar-Leh-Manali circuit on bikes or in jeeps. You will reach Ladakh through Kargil from Kashmir Valley (434 km) and the highway is open full-time from June to November.
The experience of the one night stay in Kargil while traveling via the Srinagar-Leh highways is supposed to be an experience of a lifetime. There are packages available for the same.
The Manali- Leh road (473 km) is open from mid-June to early October and gives you the opportunity of driving among the walls of snow that Rohtang Pass has to offer.
You can also opt to travel by public transport. There is an HRTC bus service for Leh from Delhi as well as Manali. The journey from Delhi involves an overnight stay at Keylong since the journey is long and risky in some places.
By Train: If traveling by train is the most convenient mode for you then the closest railroad station is Jammu Tawi. Trains are available from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai to this station. Then one can take a taxi to Ladakh from there however, this may prove to be quite a long and tiring journey for few.
By Air: One of the easiest ways to travel to Leh has to be via a flight. The Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport is the main airport in the area and is a military terminal. There are several flights from Delhi, Jammu, and Srinagar to Leh every week. There are just a few medical precautions that need to be kept in mind while traveling to Leh by air.
If this is your first trip to India you will find these posts helpful:-
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Leh Ladakh Travel Video
This video by Prasad Salve will work as a tour guide for the people who are traveling there for the 1st time. Also, you will get exposed to the Ladakhi Culture and its History.