The Pangong Tso Lake means a “High Grassland Lake” located in the Changthang region of Ladakh. The lake is situated at an altitude of 14,270 ft (4,350m). The Lake is 134km and 5km wide and a cross border lake between India and China. Considering the altitude of the Lake and its saline water the lake has very few flora and fauna. The bareheaded duck and Brahmini Ducks are few common species found here. The lake was earlier an outlet for the Skyok River but was cut-off from natural phenomena. The Lake is famous for its blue waters and is very famous for the Bollywood industry since the shot of the movie 3 Idiots where the climax was shoot. During winters, the Lake freezes up completely and is amazing to be viewed from the top as beneath the lake resides different shades of blue.
The lake can be reached by three directions among the common is via Leh and two different routes via Nubra Valley.
From Leh Via Chang La
This is the most common route that people take to visit the lake. It is a 4hr journey to start from Leh town but considering the traffic congestion, it may take even longer. One has to cross several villages and one pass. The stretch runs as follows:
Leh – Karu (35km) – Sakti (12km) – Changla Pass (35km) – Durbuk (28km) – Spangmik (48km) making a total distance of 159km. the route is accessible from May to September.
From Nubra Valley via Shyok
This route from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso via Shyok village was open for civilians in 2012 prior to which this was accessible only for the Indian army. It is much shorter than the Wari La route, takes about 6-7 hrs from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso and but is more prone to landslide and floods. The best part of the route is there are no passes to be crossed. The route along with the distance between the subsequent places is as follows:
Diskit – Khalsar (19 Km) – Agham (31 Km) – Shyok Village (48 Km) – Durbuk (18 Km) – Tangste (9 Km) – Lukung (34 Km) – Spangmik (16 Km) making a total of 175 Km. The route is open throughout the season of April to September but purely depends on rain gods and landslides.
From Nubra Valley via Wari La
This route goes via mighty Wari La pass, elevated at an altitude of 17, 427 ft (6,312m) and then the Chang La Pass of 17,538 ft (5,360m). It is one of the least recommended routes to reach pangong Tso Lake. It is also the deserted and less explored places of the Ladakh region and takes about 8 Hrs to reach Pangong Tso Lake. The route is long and rough and hence require you to leave very early from Nubra Valley, so that you reach Pangong Tso before sunset and enjoy the beauty of the lake
Diskit – Khalsar (19 Km) – Agham (31 Km) – Tangyar (11 Km) – Wari La (28 Km) – Tathok (25 Km) – Sakti (4 Km) – Chang La (34 Km) – Durbuk (32 Km) – Tangste (9 Km) – Lukung (34 Km) – Spangmik (16 Km) = 243 Km
The best time to visit Pangong Tso Lake to admire the beauty of the lake is between May to September any due between 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. The lake is very beautiful on a sunny day. The cost of a two-day trip with stay at Pangong Tso Lake would cost around Rs 12,500 – 18,000 based on the route in which you travel.