How to Travel to Pangong Tso

Introduction

Pangong Tso is an incredibly beautifully high altitude lake situated in the Himalayas. This endorheic lake is among the world’s highest brackish water lakes. Situated on the Indo Chinese border, Pangong Tso is renowned for its cinematic backdrop and breathtaking beauty. This is among the main tourist attractions of Ladakh and every year a large number of tourists visit the lake to experience the enchanting beauty of the lake. For those who are looking for how to travel to Pangong Lake, here we have gathered all the information about traveling to Pangong Tso.

For travel enthusiasts, Pangong Lake is a dream destination. This high altitude mountain lake is spread over 134 km, extending from India to China. Approximately 60% of the lake is situated in China and 40% is situated in India. This is a saltwater lake and has very low micro-vegetation. There is no aquatic life in the lake, however, it acts as the breeding ground for a variety of birds.

You can spot an exotic species of bird here such as Bar Headed Goose and Brahminy Ducks. You can spot them on the bank of the lake along with a number of species of wildlife like Kiang and Marmot. The lake freezes in winter and you can walk on the frozen lake. Also, drive you can over it in winters. You can reach the lake by crossing Chang La Pass, which is the third highest motorable pass in the world.

Take a look at the travel guide, which helps you to gather information about how to reach Pangong Lake, things to carry, tips, places to stay, and routes.

How to reach Pangong Tso

Pangong Lake is situated 223 km from Leh and is easily accessible by different routes. You can reach there directly from Leh or visit there via Nubra Valley. En route, you will cross two high altitude mountain passes, Wari La Pass and Chang La Pass. The route from Wari La Pass is a lesser known and less explored path, which offers a unique road trip experience. Here is the detailed information about the leh to Pangong routes, places to visit, places to stay, places to stay, and places to eat en route.

Route 1: Leh - Shey - Karu - Sakti - Chang La - Durbuk - Tangtse - Lukung - Spangmik - Pangong Lake

Distance from Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La: 223 km Travel Time: 6 hours (approx.)

Places to visit en route
Thiksey Monastery, Shey Palace, Shey Monastery, Stakna Monastery, Hemis Monastery, Chang La Pass, Spangmik Village, Chagar Tso, Pangong Lake View Point
Places to eat en route
Shey: Rancho Cafe, Punjabi Dhaba
Thiskey: Cafe Cloud , Lazeej Restaurant, Bilal
Namdruk Restaurant
Karu: angong Restaurant, The Singey Villa Restaurant
Chang La Pass: Army Cafeteria
Durbok: Pangong Way, Wah Ji Wah
PTangtse: angong Cafe 
Spangmik: 3 Idiots Food Stall, 
Accommodation en route 
Thiksey: Chamba Camp, The Ice Guest House, 
Karu: The Verda Driftwood Lake Homes, Midway Guest House, 
Tangtse: Hotel Pangong Residency, Royal Tangtse Guest House, Chang La Guest House, Thenzing Guest House

 

Route 2: Leh - Khardung La Pass - Khalsar - Diskit - Hunder - Khalsar - Agyam - Wari La - Sakti - Chang La - Durbuk - Tangtse - Lukung - Phobrang - Pangong Lake

Distance and Travel Time from Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La Pass: 126 km / 4 hours (approx)

Distance and Travel Time from Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake via Wari La: 300 km / 8 hours (approx)

Places to visit en route
Khardung La Pass, Hunder Sand Dunes, Diskit Monastery, Siachen River, Sumoor Village, Shyok River, Taktok Gompa, Wari La, Chang La Pass, Tangtse Monastery, Spangmik Village, Chagar Tso, Pangong Lake View Point
Places to eat en route
Khardung La: Rinchen Cafeteria, 
Nubra Valley: Gyantse Restaurant, Cho Cafe
Durbok: Pangong Way, Wah Ji Wah
Tangtse: Pangong Cafe
Spangmik: 3 Idiots Food Stall
Accommodation en route 
Nubra Valley: Lotus Eco Resort, Hunder Sarai Resort, Desert Himalayan Resort, The Creek, Diskit, Osay Khar Resort
Tangtse: Chang La Guest House, Hotel Pangong Residency, Royal Tangtse Guest House, Thenzing Guest House

 

Route 3: Leh - Khardung La Pass - Khalsar - Diskit - Hunder - Khalsar - Shyok - Durbok - Tangtse - Lukung - Phobrang - Pangong Lake

Distance and Travel Time from Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La Pass: 126 km / 4 hours (approx)

Distance and Travel Time from Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake: 229 km / 6 hours (approx)

Places to visit en route
Khardung La Pass, Hunder Sand Dunes, Diskit Monastery, The confluence of Shyok and Siachen River, Sumoor Village, Tangtse Monastery, Spangmik Village, Chagar Tso, Pangong Lake View Point
Places to eat en route
Khardung La: Rinchen Cafeteria, 
Nubra Valley: Gyantse Restaurant, Cho Cafe
Durbok: Pangong Way, Wah Ji Wah
Tangtse: Pangong Cafe
Spangmik: 3 Idiots Food Stall
Accommodation en route 
Khardung La: Silok Guest House, Punchok Wangdus Hotel
Hunder: Weeping Willow Camps, Organic Boutique Homestay
Nubra Valley: Stone Hedge Hotel, Lchang Nang Retreat
Tangtse: Pangong Delight Camp, Hotel Pangong Residency, The Pangong Inn, Royal Tangtse Guest House, Tangtse

Petrol Pump en route Pangong Lake

There are very limited fuel pumps available in Ladakh Valley. If you are planning to visit Pangong Lake from Nubra Valley then you can refill your tanks in Leh and then in Nubra Valley. There is only one petrol pump in Diskit in Nubra Valley and the last filling station is near Khalsar.

After that, there is no pump en route to Pangong Lake. It is highly recommendable to carry extra fuel from Leh as there might be a possibility that the availability of fuel is limited in Nubra Valley. And from Nubra Valley also, carry enough fuel so that you will not face any problem as there is also no other fuel pump at any of the villages en route Pangong Lake including Sakti, Tangtse, Durbuk, Lukung, and Spangmik. Also, you will not find fuel anywhere on Shyok Road, not even in black.

If you are traveling to Pangong Lake directly from Leh via Chang La then the last fuel pump is situated in Karu and after that, you may find fuel in black at some of Dhabas, otherwise, you will not get fuel. Make sure you will carry enough fuel to cover the complete distance. Otherwise, you have to buy the fuel in black near Pangong Lake from roadside restaurants or chadar tents.

Also Read: How and Where to Carry Spare Fuel for Ladakh Trip

Traveling to Pangong Lake by Car

This is the best and the most convenient way to travel to Pangong Tso. You can start your drive from Leh and reach Pangong Lake directly via Chang La. Most tourists who wish to go to Nubra Valley also choose to reach Pangong Lake from Nubra Valley via Wari La.

This route is less explored but offers an incredible experience to travelers. While traveling from the Nubra Valley route, you will cross Khardung La Pass, Wari La Pass, and Chang La Pass, which are among the highest mountain passes in the world. The Wari La Pass and Chang La Pass are a bit difficult to cross.

There are several water crossings involved in this route and the road condition is not very good. You need a tough car to cross these passes as the ascent is steep and road conditions are also not very good. However, if you are planning to visit Pangong Tso directly from Leh then you have to cross only Chang La Pass. Some of the recommended vehicles for the journey:

Sedans/ Hatchbacks: You can travel in this vehicle to Pangong Lake from Leh. However, you need to be very good at driving if you are planning to travel in a hatchback. These vehicles are good for at least the climb up/ down for Khardung La, Wari La, and Chang La. However, it is not advisable to travel in this vehicle if you are traveling via Wari La as it is very difficult to travel in this vehicle in early summers as there are several water crossings and the route is tough.

High Ground Clearance SUVs (4×2): This is also a good option to travel to Pangong Lake. It is manageable and you can cross the high altitude passes with ease as compared to sedans and hatchbacks. However, traveling in this type of SUVs in early summers is difficult as the streams on the road and ice-melting make the road slushy and muddy.

High Ground Clearance SUVs (4×4): This is the perfect option to travel to Pangong Tso from any of the routes. It can easily climb the steep ascents of Wari La, Khardung La, and Chang La Passes. It has good ground clearance and a powerful engine, which is certainly helpful in crossing the streams, climbing up and down the mountain passes in summers.

Some of the best cars for the trip to Pangong Lake via Wari La, Chang La, and Khardung La are:

  • Mahindra Thar
  • Toyota Fortuner
  • Tata Safari
  • Mahindra Scorpio
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Mitsubishi Pajero

Tips

  • Make sure you will leave your extra luggage in Leh as the ascent to the high altitude mountain passes is not easy.
  • It is advisable to travel light as the ascent to Wari La and Chang La is difficult.
  • Check the components of your car and Get it serviced before the trip.
  • It is essential to get your car's engine oil and oil filter changed before going on the trip as this will help you obtain optimal performance from your car engine. Make sure that the electrical system of the car is working fine with no worn-out wires anywhere.
  • Check all the shock absorbents and fluids.
  • Fill up the tanks and check the tires.
  • Check the braking system and carry the essential kit.
  • Adjust steering and check the wheel alignment of the car.
  • Make sure that the car is in good condition and has a powerful engine.

Traveling to Pangong Lake by Motorcycle

Going on a bike trip to Pangong Lake is a dream of every biker. The journey from Leh to Pangong Lake directly or via Nubra Valley is a unique experience. Traveling by bike is an amazing way to travel. However, the major issue is climbing up the high altitude mountain passes and crossing the water streams. But with your driving skills and with the selection of the best motorcycle you can reach Pangong Lake. Climbing up the Wari La, Chang La, and Khardung La is not for faint hearted. You need to be very careful while driving on these rugged and winding terrains. For this route, you need a motorcycle that has a good and powerful engine that can climb up and down the mountain passes. If the motorcycle does not have a powerful engine then it will not climb the mountain pass and you have to return without completing the journey. Some of the best bikes for the road trip to Pangong Lake are:

  • Royal Enfield 350
  • Royal Enfield 550
  • Hero XPulse 200
  • Royal Enfield Himalayan
  • Bajaj Dominor 400
  • Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

Tips

  • Travel light and solo. Do not carry a pillion rider on this route. If you have extra luggage, then leave it in Leh. Carry only essential baggage.
  • Get your bike serviced and make sure it is in good condition.
  • Check wheel alignment before starting for the trip.
  • Make sure about carbonator tuning.
  • Ensure suspensions are in good condition.
  • Double check fluid levels such as engine oil, brake oil, and coolant.
  • Check tires for air pressure.
  • Make sure the chains are properly lubricated and are not too tight or loose.
  • Make sure the bike has gear oil and suspension oil.

Travelling to Pangong Tso by Bus

You can board a bus from Leh for Nubra Valley. It is the cheapest option among all. However, the timings and the schedule for the buses and fix, which you need to confirm at the Leh bus stand. Also, it is advisable to book your ticket in advance that can be done only from the Leh bus stand one day prior to the journey. There are government run buses for Pangong Tso from Leh that do not ply daily. So, if you are looking to travel to Pangong Tso by bus then you have to plan accordingly.

Tips

  • Book a ticket one day in advance from the Leh bus stand.
  • Confirm the timings of the buses in advance.
  • Carry dry eatables, chocolates, biscuits, and dry fruits for the journey.
  • Carry a water bottle, which you can refill en route.

Travelling to Pangong Tso by Taxi

There are regular taxi services available in Leh for Pangong Tso. You can either book a private taxi or board a shared taxi from the Leh bus stand. Private taxis are costly, however, the shared taxi is cost effective. The fare of the shared taxi is almost the same as the fare of the bus. You need to confirm the shared taxi in advance from the taxi stand.

Tips

  • Confirm the timings of the shared taxi one date before the journey.
  • Book the private taxi in advance.
  • Do not carry much luggage if you are travelling in a shared taxi. It is advisable to leave extra luggage in Leh.
  • Make sure you will keep your important documents like permits, identity proof, and cash handy.

Best time to visit Pangong Tso

June to September is the best time to visit Pangong Tso when the weather remains comfortable and routes are open. However, the lake becomes accessible throughout the year except when the heavy snowfall blocks the mountain passes.

If you are planning to visit from Wari La then you can travel to the lake only from mid-July to end-September as for the rest of the time, the pass is covered with snow.

You can travel to Pangong Lake from Leh via Karu and Nubra Valley route from June to September. The roads in Ladakh are managed and maintained by Border Road Organization (BRO), they kept the road to Pangong Lake open throughout the year as it is the border area. However, it is not advisable to visit the lake in the winter months as there are chances to get stuck in between due to heavy snowfall.

Road Conditions till Pangong Tso

The road conditions from Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La is comparatively good. The roads are well paved and smooth. There is only one bad section on this route that is around Chang La top but the rest of the journey is comfortable. If you travel from Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake, then you have to cross Shyok River and there are several water crossings in the summer season. You may come across several rough patches along with the slushy roads. The road from Shyok to Durbuk is mostly broken and this is majorly the only rough patch on this route. If you travel via Wari La, then the bad section of the road is limited between Agham and Sakti. Crossing the Wari La is a challenge on its own but with your driving skills and vehicle with the powerful engine, you can travel on this route also. This is the less explored route among all but worth visiting.

Places to stay near Pangong Tso

Pangong Lake is a popular tourist place and among the main attractions of Ladakh. There are a large number of tourists visiting this place every year due to which you can find several places to stay. There is no dearth of accommodation options available here, which caters to every kind of traveler such as families, friends, honeymooners, solo travelers, and leisure seekers.

You can choose to stay at hotels, guest houses, camp sites, swiss camps, and chadar tents. The nearest place from Pangong Tso where you can stay is Spangmik and this village is sprawling with camps and hotels. You can find budget accommodation for luxury options here. In Spangmik, most of the camps and swiss cottages are available. However, most of the homestays and guest houses are located in Tangtse, which is situated 35 km from Pangong Lake. If you are looking for cheap and affordable options to stay then you can find accommodation at Tangtse. You can easily find camps near Pangong Tso from the economic to luxury category. The Swiss tents are the most popular accommodation option among tourists and chadar tents are the second preferred option to stay such as Wonderland Camp, Pangong Camp Resort, JKTDC Hotel, Camp Red Start, Spangmik, Pangong Tso Kongma Resort, Pangong Inn, Pangong Delight Camp, Himalayan Wooden Cottages etc.

Also Read: Where to stay Near Pangong Lake

Things to Carry during Leh to Pangong Tso

  • Make sure you will fill your fuel tanks completely and also carry extra fuel in from Leh, Karu, and Nubra Valley, otherwise you will have to buy it in black from
  • Spangmik. Carry cash from Leh as there is no ATM in Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso. Make sure you will carry enough cash for a road trip.
  • It is important to carry sturdy and comfortable shoes.
  • Carry your important documents like photo id proof, accommodation tickets, and permits in a waterproof bag. Also, keep them handy.
  • Pack the first aid kit along with the prescribed medicines and basic medications for fever, cough, cold, and mountain sickness.
  • Carry heavy woolens as the mountain passes and Pangong Lake experiences cold weather throughout the year.
  • Chargers of all your electronic devices along with the power bank.
  • Tripod, spare Battery, memory cards, and card reader for your camera if you are into photography
  • Carry a waterproof jacket, an umbrella, and windcheater in the monsoon season.
  • Make sure your backpacks are waterproof.
  • Rechargeable torch and cells for the torch.
  • 3 socket Belkin Surge Protector
  • Goggles (for protection from sun rays) Sunscreen Lotion with high SPF (50 or above)
  • Mustard Oil (for applying on legs, arms, and face as they can become dry due to cold winds)

Tips

  • Make sure you will have a basic understanding of your vehicle and know how to repair it in case of urgency as there is no village after Khalsar from the Nubra Valley route and after Karu on the direct Leh to Pangong Tso route. If your vehicle breaks down, you would definitely be in trouble so ensure that you will learn about vehicle repair.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat small meals in the form of snacks to avoid motion sickness. Do not travel empty stomach and do not overeat either.
  • It is important to get acclimatized properly before you plan to ride the highest motorable roads in the world.
  • Apply moisturizer, and sunscreen lotion to save yourself from sunburn. Wear sunglasses in the snowy areas as UV rays reflected from the snow can cause snow blindness or sunburn your cornea.
  • Heavy woolen garments are a must while traveling to such high altitude passes.
  • Carry a first aid kit with medicines for nausea, headache, and vomiting as Acute
  • Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a common phenomenon at high altitude places.
  • Keep yourself warm and hydrated. It helps in saving yourself from AMS.
  • Be a responsible traveler, do not litter packets and wrappers anywhere.
  • Drive well within speed limits as the roads are too treacherous to handle.

Permits

Pangong Lake is situated near the Indo Chinese Border and lies in the restricted/ protected areas. The permit is required to visit the Pangong Tso due to security reasons. If you are planning to visit Pangong Lake from Nubra Valley, then you need a permit for Nubra Valley as well. There are two types of permits - Inner Line Permit (ILP) and Protected Area Permit/ Restricted Area Permit (PAP/ RAP).

The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is for Indian nationals. You can apply for Inner Line Permit in two modes - online and offline. If you wish to apply for the permit by online mode then visit the official website of LAHDC (Leh Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council) http://lahdclehpermit.in/. Fill in the details, the route on which you wish to travel, pay the fees, take the printout of the online application, and then visit the DC Office in Leh to get the permits stamped in person. For offline mode, you can directly visit the DC Office in Leh where you have to fill the form, pay the fees, and get the permit stamped. You are required to show valid photo identity proof issued by the government to get your permit stamped. Also, make sure you will keep the extra copies of the Inner Line Permit as you are required to submit the copies at several checkpoints before visiting Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso.

The Restricted or Protected Area Permit (RAP/ PAP) is required for foreign nationals. This permit can be issued to a group of tourists consisting of two or more persons. If someone is planning to visit here alone then they have to contact the tour agent who will help you to group together with any group so that your permit can be issued without hassle. However, it is not mandatory for you to travel in the same group or with the same travel agent mentioned in the permit. You need to mention the circuits, which you are going to cover while traveling in Ladakh, and RAP/ PAP is valid for specific tourist circuits with the exact entry/ exit points. Foreigners are not allowed to visit areas other than the ones indicated in the permit. Also, they are not allowed to stay in the restricted/ protected area after the expiry of the permit.


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