Pangong Lake

The descent from Chang La reveals a stark landscape that brings awe and fear. Snow-clad mountains again turn dry and arid. The sandy river bed reminds of a desert. The long, winding roads are often breached by the brooks formed by melting snow. Camps of Changpa nomads are seen on the slopes. These nomads rear yak, sheep, goats and horses. Yak milk (rather nak milk, the correct name for the female ones) is used to make cheese and the goats are sheared for the prized cashmere wool.

On the way to the Lake, at Darbuk, is a memorial to Indian soldiers who laid their lives in the 1962 China war. Past the rocky and rugged terrain, we reached Tangste, another military settlement.

Further ahead is magical Pangong Tso, at about 14000 ft and spread over about 700 sq km. According to Wikipedia, Pangong Tso had an outlet to Shyok River, a tributary of Indus River, but it was closed off due to natural damming. The brackish lake that freezes completely in winter is part of the Changtang Plateau, a small part of which extends from Tibet to Ladakh. Changtang also has the famous lake Tsomoriri among its proud possessions.

Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake lies across the Indo–China border; about 60% of the lake is in China. Naturally, it is a disputed territory. Visiting the area requires permit, to be obtained from the tourist office in Leh.

Pangong is breathtakingly scenic. The blue expanse of water and the barren mountains overlooking it presents a marvelous landscape we have never come across before. Sunrays play on the lake’s surface and make it look iridescent. The changing hues and the calm water with tiny waves lapping at the shore bring about a dreamlike experience that is so amazing that we just wanted to remain there for ever. There are accommodations available near the lake, but our itinerary didn’t include that. So we had to go back, or rather rush back after a couple of hours as the small brooks we crossed on the way might not remain small. A hot day can make the snow melt more and the brooks could swell up. Crossing them would become more challenging then. Getting stuck on the road and spending a chilly night out was not an exciting option. Our driver mentioned that such incidents are not uncommon. On our return, at one place, a vehicle got stuck in gushing water and it required considerable effort and time to pull it out.

Pangong Lake and Ladakh has become part of regular tourist itinerary, especially after final scene of the movie Three Idiots was shot in this mesmerizing location. As more regular (read irresponsible) tourists flock to Pangong, the area gets polluted so much that it may not retain its charm for long.

6 Comments on “Pangong Lake

  1. I really loved it. It is really beautiful. a beauty that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We were supposed to go next month on August 22nd before the winter starts( for that is last trip this year) , but we had to cancel it due to some reason. They were offering a such good deal for the whole trip which was to last for a week. Now maybe, only next year.
    I loved the beautiful cloud formation in some of your pictures . Lucky you!!
    By the way can you tell me about the details of your trip, what type it was and how much did it cost you. I am not looking for an adventure trip, but just to soak in the beauty of these places. Are the so called group trips really comfortable?
    My email:

  2. I too hope I get to it before the tourists ruin it. Its been a pending dream for quite long now 🙂
    By the way, nice post and good pictures!
    Are the first couple of pictures shoot on full zoom, wish they were wide angle…

  3. It looks beautiful right now! let me just hope that i get to go before the tourists ruin it for me 🙂

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