The famous and sparkling blue Pangong lake is situated near Leh-Ladakh in the Himalayas, approximately at the height of 4350 meters. This endorheic lake is 12 kilometres long and extends from India to Tibet, with two-thirds of it lying in the latter. Owing to its altitude, the temperature here ranges from -5°C to 10°C as a result of which the lake freezes completely during winters in spite of its salinity. A unique feature of the lake is that it does not remain blue throughout the year or even the day, rather it changes colours from azure to light blue to green and grey too! It has been a tourist attraction for a very long time and has gained further popularity after being a 'hot-spot' for many film shoots, apart from being an essential for anyone travelling to Leh - Ladakh. The sublime beauty, crystal waters and gentle hills of Pangong Lake are an exceptional example of the beautiful landscape of the region.
Due to the briny water, the lake does not support aquatic life other than some ocean bugs called crustaceans by oceanographers. Pangong lake is home to many migrating birds in summer, and one can witness numerous ducks and gulls "surfing". Other than being a haven for these birds, it is also an important breeding ground for birds like Brahmani ducks and seagulls. Some are lucky to spot a Kiang which is a wild ass or a Marmot, which is a brownish rodent native to Ladakh that can grow upto the size of a small dog. There are two streams from the Indian side that form the wetlands and marshes at the edges. It is the beauty of the impeccable blue waters that embezzle the tourist's attention the most. The serenity and tranquillity of this place are the tourist's paradise.
The natural setting of Pangong makes for a perfect destination for a quaint little camping adventure. If you wish to camp at the lake, you might want to consider tenting which is the only viable option. The tents are quite clean, cosy and comfortable with meals included in the package. in addition to the camps, you can also try out homestays here where local households provide accommodation. The ideal place to live is 32 kilometre from Pangong lake in a place called Tangste. Also, there are places to live in and around the vicinity of Lukung which is close also located close by and has the provision of eco huts. One can, however, be based at Leh, which has numerous options for accommodation and take a day trip to the lake. The beautiful setting of this destination makes it an ideal spot to relax and unwind.
Winter turns the landscape of Pangong into a shimmering and snowy extravaganza. The mountains exhibit a kaleidoscopic contrast with sand dominating one side while snow makes an appearance on the other. The lake freezes to an absolute turquoise, and you can even walk all over this frozen beauty. The sun doesn't make much of an appearance and fog envelopes the landscape. However, the temperature here gets to a minimum of -14°C, so be sure to pack loads and loads of woollens!
The unadulterated natural beauty of the Pangong Lake makes it a favourite destination among directors for shooting and filming. A number of blockbusters have been shot here, which includes amazing works such as Dil Se, 3 Idiots, Heroes, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Sanam Re, Waqt and Tashan among many others. The Bollywood junkie in you will definitely feel like a superstar here!
It is best to visit this lake in summers, precisely from the month of June to the month of September as in winter due to its extreme weather and high altitude the vacation would not be as enjoyable and the lake would be frozen as well. A visit in summer will open an avenue to witness different migratory birds and other flora fauna.
It is a breathtaking 5-hour drive from Leh, with the entire route to this destination being the epitome of scenic beauty. The Lake falls on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control and you are required to get Inner Line permission. Also because the Pangong Lake is situated very close to the border, you will be allowed to visit only up to the Spangmik village. From Leh, you need to pass through the Changla Pass and the through Tangste. Regular buses by the state road transport corporation are also available. In addition to this, you can hire taxis, motorbikes, jeeps and cars are reasonable prices as well. Make sure you have enough fuel in your vehicle as there are no petrol pumps in Pangong.
There are a few eateries and stalls at the lake selling popular local items, Maggi and tea. One might want to, however, carry their own food for a trip to the lake. While options for food at the lake are limited, you may find popular and local preparations such as Thukpa which is a noodle soup, Tsampa, known in Ladakhi as Ngamphe (roasted barley flourished barley flour), and Skyu which is a heavy pasta dish with plenty of veggies as well as the very popular and delicious Momos which are steamed dumplings stuffed with vegetables or meat. Drinks include tea, coffee, beer and Chang which is an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.
Pangong lake is best seen on a trip to Leh. From Leh, start early to enjoy the sunrise during your drive to Pangong Tso. Spend the whole day, till the afternoon exploring the lake and its surrounding lake Tso Moriri. One may also go about exploring the rest of the Changtang Wildlife Sanctuary.
1. It is advised to carry more and sufficient warm clothes to withstand the cold weather.
2. It is an ecologically fragile place where littering is a serious offence. Kindly dispose your waste wisely.
3. An inner line permit is required to visit Pangong lake. The permit will be easily available at the Dc's office in Leh by submitting an application. It is preferred to carry 5-6 copies of the permit as it has to be submitted at various check points.
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