Pangong Lake, An Adventure Day Trip from Leh in Ladakh

The azure blue lake playing a game of thrones as sunrays change their course of the daily path. Pangong Lake is situated about 220 KM away from downtown Leh, capital of Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Pangong Lake is also known as Pangong Tso and Pangong Tso Lake.

Frozen Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Frozen Pangong Lake, Ladakh image[1]

Featured as an exotic destination in many Bollywood movies (rumor suggests even GOT or Game of Thrones movie was shot here during April of 2018), Pangong Tso displays the untouched Himalayas at its best! We were staying at Leh and visiting Hemis Monastery for Naropa festival. However, no visit to Ladakh will ever be complete without visiting this iconic lake!

Pangong Lake azure blue waters

Pangong Lake azure blue waters

Read More – Naropa Festival at the Hemis Monastery[2]

Pangong Tso: The Beautiful Pangong Lake in Ladakh

Colors of the Pangong Lake

Colors of the Pangong Lake image[3]

A huge saline water lake remains frozen during the bitter winter that reigns on Ladakh for the larger part of the year; Pangong Lake showcases many shades of blue. However, from April end to early September, you may get lucky and find Pangong at her azure best! Two-thirds of the Pangong lake falls under Tibetan plateau, now within the Chinese international border. The remaining of the one-third waterbody falls under Indian territory. Since it is close to the international and disputed border, expect a lot of army tanks and camps. The Indo-Sino war of the 1960s had army tank scaling up the pristine landscape and leading to a lot of bloodsheds. I wonder how & why!

Panorama of the Pangong Lake

Panorama of the Pangong Lake image[4]

Read More – Best Places for Photography in the Himalayas[5]

If you delve a bit into the history of Himalaya, you will be able to dig out a connection between the Indian Ocean and Pangong Lake. The literal translation of the Tibetan word Pangong Tso means High Grassland Lake. It is believed that the Pangong Lake is what remains of the sea when the Himalayas emerged out of the sea. Pangong Lake is saline is nature and has no fishes in it.

Pangong Tso Lake

Pangong Tso Lake

Situated at an altitude of 4300 Meter height, it does not harbor a favorable condition for fish stock to flourish. That said, Pangong Lake is a thriving place for the migratory birds who feed on the moss and make the temporary nest to lay their eggs.

To stay overnight at Pangong Lake or to visit as a day trip?

Pangong Lake is a prolific example of how beautiful nature is when the man does not pollute! It is understandable if you want to spend a few nights by the banks of this pristine lake and reconnect with Mother Nature.

Himalayan Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Himalayan Pangong Lake, Ladakh

However, keep a few things in mind, mostly for safety. For example, it can get extremely cold. Remember, I am talking about minus 20 deg Celcius or so at night. Accommodation is very basic, mostly tented and this can cause severe physical exhaustion.

Read More – Short Day Trips from Leh in Ladakh[6]

Nightlife at Pangong Lake means having a hot plate of Maggi and sitting by the lake and star gazing. if you are into astrophotography, this is your best bet in India!

Bright Sunshine over Pangong Lake

Bright Sunshine over Pangong Lake image[7]

Many claim the sunrise at Pangong Tso to be an unforgettable experience too!

I preferred a day trip because I feared the bitter cold and the extreme road conditions!

ILP: A Permit to enter the Protected Area

Since the area falls under delicate international border scrutiny, we had to obtain an ILP (Inner Line Permit) to access Pangong Lake. We paid around INR 600 per person and got it done through the guesthouse personnel.

Riding a motorbike beside the Pangong Lake

Riding a motorbike beside the Pangong Lake image[8]

If you are visiting Pangong Lake from Leh as a day trip, I suggest starting as early as possible. An arduous 5 hours journey follows through treacherous road, which can bar your entry depending on weather condition. In case of being stranded, the army will come and help you. However, daylight is your ideal safeguard against natural odds.

We started at 5 am, drove for 40 KM straight, had breakfast by the banks of Indus river opposite Hemis monastery and journeyed further.

Snow-capped Himalayan mountains reflecting in the Pangong Lake

Snow-capped Himalayan mountains reflecting in the Pangong Lake image[9]

The journey and multiple pit stops

The journey to Pangong Lake is an eventful one, especially if you are coming from Leh.

As you scale the heights, you will lay your eyes on a few dramatic landscapes. Snow-capped barren mountains everywhere, the robust still road going straight towards heaven, sparse vegetation, leave alone any local!

You know you are entering Chang La pass!

Chang La Pass: A High Himalayan Pass

At Chang La Pass

At Chang La Pass

It is claimed to be the second highest motorable road in the world! Chang La (5360 M) can be your first pit stop en route Pangong Lake. The top of the pass houses a Chang La Baba Mandir. Colorful flags adorn the temple walls. Chang la is crucial since it is situated at an incredible height. If at all you will fall prey to AMS, the symptoms will start to showing here!

Landscape of Ladakh en route to Pangong Tso

The landscape of Ladakh en route to Pangong Tso


From Chang La pass, a steep descend will follow. It is around 3 hour’s long drive from Chang La. The winding road takes you through some of the stunning otherworldly landscapes. Local nomads with their cattle herds will dot the mountain walls. Water streams from glacier melts will crowd the floor with a weak streak of green vegetation. A few yaks graze by the side. Very furry Himalayan dogs walk on the thin ice sheet in search of water.

Read More – Ladakh for Vegetarians[10]

Tourists at the Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Tourists at the Pangong Lake, Ladakh image[11]

A few army camps have open tea-stalls for 24 hours. The washroom is also available unless you want to bare it all in front of nature. Every drop of water is priceless in the region; you must remember this while using the washroom.

The long journey is a treat to your eyes. There are wild asses running along the car. A few rivers play hide and seek in the valley beside. In summer, it is all dry… In winter, it is covered with snow.

Himalayan Marmot - a large Squirrel

Himalayan Marmot – a large Squirrel

The Himalayan Marmots will greet you soon after. These fat rats, indigenous to this region, will look at you with all the inquisitiveness and innocence in their eyes, reminding of the first legendary human-penguin encounter in Antarctica. They live underground. Many interconnected marmot caves-holes are spread across the land. Step carefully!

The There Beckons, Pangong Lake

The first glimpse of Pangong Lake cannot be put into words. It is a blue waterbody, reflecting the dome of a blue sky; blue so deep that it hurts your eyes!

First sight of Pangong Lake

The first sight of Pangong Lake

The entry is a bit messy with countless tourists crowding the popular movie spots. Spot where Three Idiots, the Bollywood movie, was shot now has a colorful three-bum seater placed for the fans. The film was after all responsible for sending a lot of tourists here. If you fancy this touristy stuff, make a stop here.

I preferred a stop a few KM ahead. It was serene, lacking the touristy chaos, tranquil and calm. Just how you would picture Pangong Tso to be!

The lake boasts of clear waters with least to none pollution. Oh wait, there are plastic bottles scattered here and there, thanks to tourists. Please carry it back to your car and discard in Leh if you can.

Migratory bird on the blue waters of the Lake

Migratory bird on the blue waters of the Lake

Must remember while visiting Pangong Lake, Ladakh

  1. Take care of your health. AMS or the altitude sickness is a common occurrence here and can cause serious damage to your health. Medication may not be readily available. In case of sudden sickness, do not risk the entire journey. Also, carry medicine, water, and warm clothing. Best way to avoid AMS is to acclimatize in Leh for at least 2 days after reaching there.
  2. Funny it may sound, Ladakh is actually a cold dessert and harsh sunrays penetrate the skin in the morning. The sunrays are the secret of red faces of Ladakhi women! However, if your skin is not accustomed, can be really affected when exposed under the heat. Carry sunscreen to safeguard or stay covered as much as possible!
  3. Leave no trace behind. Bring back all your plastic mess lest the fragile geography becomes more susceptible to ecological imbalance!
  4. Swimming is not allowed in the Pangong Tso lake.

This is a guest post by Madhurima Chakraborty.



Madhurima Chakraborty is a Kolkata born, Bangalore based travel blogger of Orangewayfarer. She loves food, sarees, books, clicking pictures and environment-friendly way of traveling. Aspires to travel to Antarctica someday.

She represented Inditales at Naropa Festival in Ladakh[12].


  1. ^ image (
  2. ^ Naropa Festival at the Hemis Monastery (
  3. ^ image (
  4. ^ image (
  5. ^ Best Places for Photography in the Himalayas (
  6. ^ Short Day Trips from Leh in Ladakh (
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  8. ^ image (
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  10. ^ Ladakh for Vegetarians (
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  12. ^ Naropa Festival in Ladakh (

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