East of the Kashmir Valley in India is a land of incredible beauty – Ladakh. With better tourist infrastructures and connectivity, many tourists, both Indians and foreigners, are now turning to Ladakh as visiting the Kashmir Valley continues to remain risky. Ladakh is a high-altitude meadow and desert region that is flanked by China in the East, and Pakistan in the North and West.
There are many places to visit in Ladakh, like the Nubra Valley, Tso Moriri, Khardung La Pass, Magnetic Hill, Kargil, the Zanskar River, and the capital Leh. But one place that has emerged as a tourist hotspot is the Pangong Tso or the Pangong Lake.
Pangong Tso is a high-altitude lake located at 14,270 ft or 4,350 m above the sea level. In Tibetan language Pangong Tso stands for “high grassland lake”. It’s a long 134 km long lake that extends to China. At its broadest point, the lake is 5 km. In fact, 60% of the lake is in China, though most tourists visit the India part. It is a saline lake, but still, the lake freezes completely in the winter months.
There is no aquatic life or fish at Pangong Tso because of the high salinity. There are just a few crustaceans, but on the surface, you will find plenty of gulls and ducks. There are herbs and some species of scrubs around the lake, giving it the “high grassland lake” name. Currently, the Ramsar Convention is considering identifying Pangong Tso as a wetland of international importance.
Life at Pangong Tso
The eerie atmosphere around the lake is often broken by several kinds of ducks and gulls flying low over its placid surface. During summer, which is short lived in this area, the lake becomes a veritable breeding ground for Bar-headed goose, Brahmini ducks and a few other birds of similar species. The wildlife consists mostly of kiang and Marmot, which are sometimes seen in the nearby region.
It’s a stunning lake that is surely going to stay in your memory for long. The air is completely unpolluted, and the water is crystal clear. You can see reflections of the surrounding barren landscape and the snow-capped peaks, which is so different than the rest of India. The water keeps changing its colors, which surprises everyone. There is a narrow stretch of land, which goes directly into the water. It’s a favorite spot for the photographers.
Silence falls quietly after dark. The sky is clear, offering you views of thousands of stars that you cannot see from the busy cities. There are campsites around the lake where you can stay. You should certainly stay here for a night.
How to Reach the Lake
Pangong Tso is a 5 hour drive from Leh, most of it on a difficult and dramatic mountain path. The road passes through the villages of Shey and Gya and traverses the Changla Pass, where army sentries and a small tea-house greet visitors.
May to September is the best time to visit Ladakh and Pangong Tso.