Guest Post by Sohini Kar on the Famous Lakes in Ladakh.
Visit Ladakh is almost incomplete if one does not set their foot on the two of its famous lakes – Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. ‘Tso’ means ‘Lakes’. There are almost more than ten lakes in the Ladakh region. But Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri stand out as the two most popular and famous lakes in Ladakh.
These magnificent and divine-looking Tso’s or lakes never fail to provide joy and pristine experiences to travelers. Sometimes all it takes to re-center and rejuvenates one’s mind and body, staring into a tranquil blue sky or endless stretch of water. Do you want to witness both at the same time? Then these two lakes should be in your bucket list without fail. The beauty and serenity of the two lakes allure travelers from all around the world to this rustic paradise.
Pangong Tso, 222 km from Leh, is one of the highest altitude lakes in the world. It stands at an elevation of 14200 feet above sea level. The Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake, which means a landlocked lake. It can retain water without allowing outflow to any external water bodies such as rivers or seas. The Lake, spread across an area of 699 sq km, falls on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control. Therefore, all travellers require an Inner Line. Permit to visit the Pangong Tso.
The Astonishing Journey…
The best part about this journey is the route that leads to Pangong Tso. What sets it apart is its rawness. It is remote but accessible. While traveling to Pangong Tso, one cannot rely on the internet and mobile connections. Interestingly all drivers here undoubtedly possess an innate ‘human GPS’ skill which is worth praising. During our childhood days, we have heard of the stories of wandering Arab Bedouins’ wonder and joy of suddenly landing up in an odd paradisal oasis amidst the scorching arid desert. I had a similar feeling. After six hours of strenuous drive from Leh, through the dry barren mountainous roads; over the world’s third-highest motorable mountain pass called Chang La; I caught a glance of Pangong Tso. Its endless ethereal blues spread its magnificent aura and sheer charm which is just enough to leave an everlasting impression in one’s mind.
Even though the Pangong Tso contains saline water, it freezes during winters. That’s what creates a fascinating experience. There is a lack of vegetation or aquatic life but this place is a treat for bird lovers. Migratory birds such as black-necked cranes, seagulls and many exotic birds can be sighted. Another peculiarity about Pangong which makes it top the chart of the most famous lakes in Ladakh is its ability to change colors.
Things To Do…
There are camping accommodations available for enthusiastic adventure seekers. They can stay by the lake shores and enjoy the scenic charm of the Tso. The pristine water of the lake is like a mirror, reflecting the skies and the majestic mountains. At night, the starry skies also offer a magical show. It is always better for travelers to plan a night’s stay and book tents in advance. This land is certainly a paradise for photographers. Photographers from all over the world flock here to capture the best angle and colors of the Tso.
An awarded Bollywood movie ‘3 Idiots’ popularised the Tso and boosted tourism here. The props used in the movie like a yellow scooter and three bum seats are still kept here. The tourists can use them for clicking fun snaps and framing for great memories. Besides ranking at the top among the list of famous lakes in Ladakh, it also occupies a special place in most traveler’s bucket lists. Travelers immerse into the brilliant stretch of blue hues- dreamy, imaginable, and in a way, spiritual. I guess I could go on gazing at the illimitable blues. My eyes captured the 360-degree panorama of the serenity. My mind wandered endlessly, about how the startlingly blue water mirrors the stubborn majestic mountains and the crystal clear blue skies above. The picturesque place made me feel like an amateur poet.
Tso Moriri is another of the most famous lakes in Ladakh. It is a hidden gem situated in the lap of the secluded and breathtakingly beautiful Rupshu valley. Picturesquely located at the heart of the Changthang plateau; Tso Moriri, meaning ‘Mountain Lake’, is breathtakingly beautiful. It is calm and is considered sacred by the people of Ladakh. Tso Moriri is higher than Pangong Tso. It is at 14836 feet. One needs an Inner Line Permit to visit Tso Moriri too. Tourists cannot pitch any tents or construct any infrastructure near the banks of the Tso on their own. However, there is only one cemented accommodation available around the lake. Tso Moriri is also a Wetland Conservation Reserve under Ramsar Convention and is rich in unusual varieties of flora and fauna. It is the highest Ramsar (wetland) site in the world.
From Pangong Lake we took Chushul- Tsaga La- Loma- Mahe route, to Tso Moriri. The 9 hours drive is extremely difficult. However, after seeing the beauty, serenity and magnificence of Tso Moriri, we realized that the journey is completely worth taking. Photogenic landscapes and spectacular sunsets are to die for. The mystical blue lake surrounded by majestic mountains gives pure joy, an absolute romantic sense to freedom and adventure. The mesmerizing beauty and the wondrous journey has made Tso Moriri one of the most famous lakes in Ladakh. Tso Moriri can be reached separately from Leh too. It is 220 km from Leh and takes around 6 hours.
Best Season to Visit
The best season to travel to the famous lakes in Ladakh is between May to September. The weather is pleasant and one can experience the various shades of the Tso and the sky. In the winters the lakes are frozen and most of the roads are closed due to heavy snow. On reaching Leh, one should take a day’s rest and then start his/her journey for acclimatization.
Checklist for Travellers
Here’s some checklist for travellers who have both Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri in their travel wish list:
- Assured medical checkup and consultation from doctors to ensure an acute mountain sickness free vacation
- Common medicines such as saline nasal sprays and headache-nausea medicines should be carried
- Issue mandatory Inner Line Permits for both the lakes
- Get acclimatized for at least a day to such high altitude travel
- Pre-book camping accommodations near the shores of the Pangong Tso to avoid congestion during the peak season
- Plan visit to such places only during the tourist season(May-August)
Make sure you are well equipped for this enchanting trip of a life time.
About the Author
Sohini Kar is a geographer and takes special interest in scouring the history, culture and cuisine of a place. She loves penning her valuable experiences down as she believes that these help her evolve as a person.