Pangong Lake also known as Pangong Tso is a beautiful endorheic lake situated in the Himalayas and is 134 km long, extending from India to China. Pangong Lake is situated at a height of 4350 m and is one of the biggest tourist attractions of the country. The beauty and allure of this lake has attracted people from all over the country and beyond. The lake is said to be in the process of being identified as a wetland with international significance under the Ramsar Convention and if everything goes as expected then the Pangong Lake will be the first in South Asia to be a trans-boundary wetland and that too under this convention.
The one factor that makes this Lake so popular is the fact that it keeps changing colors. Situated in the Himalayan range it is approximately 140 km from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir. The name of the lake Pangong was got from a Tibetan word Banggong Co that means a narrow and enchanted lake. And now you know that the lake has got its name rightfully. You will know this when you visit the beautiful lake of Pangong. You are sure to be enchanted by the charm. And because the lake is a long stretch, one third area of the lake lies within our country and the other two third portion lies with Tibet and is controlled by China.
All you need to do is take a five hour drive from Leh to reach Pangong Lake. The best part about this journey is the route that leads to the lake. You have to pass through Ladakh which is another great tourist attraction of the country and drive over the world’s third highest motorable mountain pass called the Chang La. The first glance of this alluring lake and its blue waters is enough to leave a lasting impression on your mind. What tourists and explorers love the most here is the narrow stretch of land that goes straight into the lake. This spot has also been a favorite among many photographers. If you are planning to visit Pangong Lake, make sure you do not visit during winters because the whole lake freezes during this season of the year. Also the region has really harsh winters, so avoid places like these during winters. The fascinating fact about Pangong Lake is that it has saline water and even then the water freezes and also because of this the lake cannot have any kind of vegetation or even aquatic life. But again, you do not have to be disappointed; you will be treated to the views of many migratory birds like black necked cranes and also seagulls. This place is paradise for bird lovers especially with sightings of other birds like rodents that are said to grow up to the size of a dog. For activities, you can camp on the shores of this lake and this one is going to be sheer delight for adventure enthusiasts.
The Pangong Lake falls on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control and to visit this beautiful lake you are required to get Inner Line permission. Also because the Pangong Lake is situated very close to the border, you will be allowed to visit only up to a certain area. You can explore the lake till the Spangmik village. Whenever you plan to visit this magical place, make sure you do carry a lot of winter clothes. The climate is cold and after dawn it gets harsher. Do not expect any kind of boating activities here. Being situated so close o the border, the Pangong Lake is still considered to be a very delicate region to visit. Visit this place only for its beauty and magnificence. And for any kind of adventure, the only option that you got is to camp on the shores of the lake. If you love photography, this place is going to be an absolute delight.
And just for a gentle reminder, the Pangong Lake has also featured in a Bollywood movie- 3 Idiots. Remember the scene where Kareena Kapoor goes to meet Aamir Khan riding a scooter? That is Pangong Lake and those of you who have watched the movie know that the picturesque beauty of Pangong Tso or the Pangong Lake is unmatched for.
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Where to stay:
If you are looking for an accommodation somewhere close to the Lake, then tents are the only option that you can consider. Like we mentioned earlier, camping is allowed on the shores of the lake. The region has pretty limited options to stay at and even in the surrounding regions. You could also look for Lukung- they offer decent camping options with Eco Huts. Else, you could also look for accommodation in Spangmik; and these accommodations are standard hotels with just basic facilities. And if you have the skills of bonding with locals, then you will be surprised to know that the locals offer accommodation. The only thing that might be a little uncomfortable for some is the fact that toilets are shared and some are outside the house.
Apart from this you can also consider some options in Tangtse village situated in Leh. This village is situated approximately 34 km away from Pangong Lake. From mid range to budget hotels, there are a lot of accommodation options that you can find in Tangtse.
Hotel Pangong Residency (094192 43495, Tariff- Rs 2800 onwards) is a one of the best accommodation options that you can consider. Pangong Residency has an ideal blend of both modern and local architecture. Situated in Tangtse village, the reason why many tourists prefer this hotel is not just for its facilities, but also for its close proximity to the alluring Pangong Lake. The tranquil surroundings and the picturesque landscapes make your stay in this hotel a memorable one. This is an ideal place if you have wanted to spend some time amidst lush greenery and calm environment. The staff is very forthcoming and they ensure your stay with them is a comfortable one. The interesting part about this hotel is also that they provide medical aid ranging from Oxygen cylinders and doctors on call. From here you can explore the village and interact with locals. You never know you might be also treated to the traditional Ladakhi food.
There are some great accommodation options in Spangmik that are homestays. In fact most of the accommodation found here are homestays and an added advantage with home stays are that they serve delicious home cooked food. It gives you a feeling of being home away from home. The facilities are all basic and the prices are pocket friendly. You do not have to burn a hole in your pocket to find accommodation in Spangmik. There are guest houses too like the Padma Guest house that offers spectacular views of the Pangong Tso Lake. You cannot book your rooms here in advance and the bookings can be done only after you reach there. The price for a double bed here is Rs 700 to Rs 1000.
For more facilities you can also try the Himalayan Retreat located in Spangmik that is also a tented accommodation with attached western bathrooms. Electricity here is only for a limited period and the cost for tents here is Rs 3500.
Another great accommodation is the Pangong Inn that is also located in the vicinity of Pangong Lake.The location is what makes this place so beautiful. Usually you will find tent accommodations near the lake, but the Pangong Inn is a concrete structure with basic facilities provided. The food is decent and the staff is also friendly. The tariff is Rs 3500 onwards.
The other option that you can consider is booking accommodation in Leh. Leh has many hotels since it is one of the biggest tourist destinations of the country. People from all over visit Leh and it has been a favorite among bikers and explorers. So if you have put Pangong Lake in your itinerary, then there is nothing to worry about the accommodation. We have listed down some of the best hotels in Leh for you.
Grand Himalaya (094192 08786, Tariff- Rs 7400 approximately) is a great, luxury hotel n Leh. This hotel has spacious rooms that are designed elegantly. The rooms overlook some really scenic views and the staff is very forthcoming and helpful. The Hotel also serves some delicious food and hence it is one of the best hotels in Leh. So you now know that if you want to visit Pangong Lake, you must look for accommodation options in Leh.
Hotel Nalanda Ladakh(072987 93414, Tariff- Rs 3900) is a hotel with a very European style architecture. The outside of this hotel is bright and with cute windows. The rooms have been individually decorated and are also very cosy. With an in house restaurant and a very comfortable lounge area and also a spacious terrace, Hotel Nalanda has everything that a tourist may look for in his stay. The hotel is also located to other attractions like the Leh Palace that is a 17th century building and also the golden statue that is situated at the rural Shanti Stupa.
Tips that you must keep in mind when you visit the Pangong Lake:
Always pre book your accommodation since most of them are always full. It usually is very difficult to find accommodation near the lake as most of the tents are also occupied. So always pre book hotels and if not you could also opt for home stays in Spangmik and also Tangste villages. They may be a tad less comfortable than your other hotels but the location of the hotels will make you forget all your other woes. Some bathrooms may not be western and some rooms may not have an attached bathroom- these are some facts that you must keep in mind. You can also carry your own sleeping bags if you are hygiene conscious. If you are like any other backpacker who finds comfort in whatever given then do not bother carrying these.
During the peak season, since Pangong Tso has just one accommodation that is cemented, pre book here. If prefer cemented building accommodation with all the facilities and with the lake at a closer proximity, this is the only option you have. So be smart and get your rooms booked in advance.
Carry adequate winter clothes and a medical aid ready in case of any emergencies. Keep woolen clothes and also sweaters since the temperate of this region is quite fluctuating.
Altitude sickness is a very common problem on your visit to Leh or anywhere around. So the day you land Leh, make sure you take at least a day’s rest so that your body gets acclimatized
Be well aware if the fact that Leh Ladakh is an ecological place and hence be a responsible traveler and do your best to keep it safe and clean. Avoid using plastic bags here.
Do not expect any phone signals at Pangong Lake or the nearby area. This in fact is a good thing since people get to explore the attraction and make the most of their time in this beautiful place: something that smart phones may be an obstacle to.
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Where to eat:
Pangong Lake has very limited options for one to eat out. Hence on journeys like these it is always advisable to carry your own stock of food. There are some locals who provide home made food that is always better than what you get in hotels since they are healthy and delicious. There are also some eateries around the lake but those eateries are pretty expensive. Most of the tourists eat from homestays at Spangmik or from the tents where they camp at. So this is the only source of food that you will have unless you plan to carry enough stock.
Best time to visit Pangong Lake: Visit Pangong Lake any time between June to September. The winters are quite harsh in this region and the lake freezes. Hence the best time to visit Pangong Lake is during these months.
How to reach Pangong Lake:
Most people usually prefer taking the Leh to Pangong Tso route. This route will take you about 6 hours and this totally depends on how many breaks you decide to take on your way. This is the route that you will follow:
Leh to Karu- to Sakti- To Chang La- to Durbuk- to – Tagnste- to – Lukung-to- Spangmik-to- Pangong Lake.
Now while you do take this route, you can also explore the many attractions that are located on the way. Hemis and Shey monasteries are few of the attractions that you must explore. This route also has one of the best roads and hence it is also the fastest. It would be recommended to take a two day trip to Pangong Tso so that you can halt at Leh, before you head out to the lake. This will help you acclimatize your body to the high altitude.
Another route that most domestic tourists prefer is the Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso Lake. This route will take you through Nubra valley to Wari La and then to Pangong Tso Lake. Nubra Valley is always the best to halt at for a better acclimatization. The Wari La Pass is one of the most secluded passes in Ladakh and it takes about 11 hours approximately to reach your destination. This again depends on the number of breaks you want to take. So it also means that the route is longer as compared to the Leh route and it is also a rough route to cover. Set out early from Nubra valley if you want to witness the much talked about sunset at the Pangong Lake.
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The average minimum and maximum temperature of Pangong lake is as given below. The best time to visit Pangong lake is also specified.