Leh To Pangong Tso Travel Guide

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Pangong Tso, literally meaning "enchanted lake" is definitely the most beautiful lake located in Ladakh. Once ours but now shared after the Sino-Indian war, 60% of this lake is in Tibet and Line of Actual Control between India and China passes through the lake. Even though a border point, this lake still attracts tourists from all over the globe. A Trip to Ladakh is incomplete without a visit to this beautiful Lake.

Pangong Tso is located roughly around 175 kms from Leh. Road is mostly good and even though a round trip to Pangong can be done in a day if you started real early from Leh, it is highly recommended that you make it at least a 2 day trip and spend the night by the lake. If you plan to return to Leh the same day, most of your time will be spent in travel and the entire trip will be a rush through.

Accommodations and Other Facilities :  Accommodations on this route are available at several places. Tangste is the village that has the most number of hotels and guest houses and pretty decent ones too.

Second comes Lukung. This is more of a camping site right by the lake. You can either pitch your own tent here or can rent one at one of the camping sites. However there is no electricity available at these camping sites. You may also want to check thoroughly about dining, bedding and toilet facilities before checking into a camp.

Village of Spangmik has a hotel but a little costly one. This hotel can also arrange for you to camp by the lake but that would also be a luxury tent, hence costly again. Apart from this hotel, locals at Spangmik can also arrange for your night stay for as cheap as Rs. 200 / night but that would only be just a mattress and blanket layed out on the floor, in a shabby room shared by many other travelers.

There is no petrol pump on this route hence it is absolutely necessary to tank up in Leh and carry some extra fuel in case you feel that your vehicle cant carry enough to complete the journey.

There is no phone service, no pay phones and your mobile will be out of coverage as soon as you cross Thiksey. Ironically though, I spotted an Internet cafe at Tangste the last time i was there. Not really sure if its still there.

Route of this journey is as below :

  • Leh – Shey – Karu [45 kms]
  • Karu – Shakti – Chang La [40 kms]
  • Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste [60 kms]
  • Tangste – Lukung – Spangmik - Pangong Tso [30 kms]

Inner line permit for Indians and Protected area permit for foreigners is required to visit Pangong Lake. Click Here to read about how to obtain ILP and Click Here to read about obtaining PAP. Please also ensure that you always carry multiple photo-copies of your permit as you would be required to submit them at several check-posts.


leh-to-pangong-tso-map-with-distances


Leh – Shey – Karu :  Even though its only 175 kms from Leh to Pangong Tso on a pretty smooth road, this journey can still take up to 8 hrs because of the frequent stops you will take to enjoy the beautiful vistas. Hence an early start from Leh is advised. Take the Manali - Leh highway and drive till you reach Karu, which will take you less than an hour.

Karu – Shakti – Chang La :  From Karu, leave the Manali - Leh highway and turn left towards Shakti. Here you will need to submit a copy of your inner line permit in order to continue towards Chang La, ascent of which starts a few kilometers after crossing Shakti.

Chang La, literally meaning "Pass towards the South" is claimed to be the third highest motor-able road in the world, located at 17,590 ft. It is called Mighty Chang La because of its steep and "tough near the final ascent" climb. Once at the summit, take a photo-break and enjoy the beautiful scenery around you.

At the top of Chang La is an army base and small cafeteria, which offers free tea, without milk however. So if you don't mind sipping down black tea, it is good place to sit with a cup in your hand and beautiful Himalayan peaks all around you. Take photos next to several signboards reading "Chang La, 3rd Highest Motor-able Road in the world"

You can also Visit Chang La Baba ka mandir built by Indian Army under the belief that Baba will protect & save people from any mishap here.

Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste : After Chang La, continue on the descent towards Durbuk. Road initially is bad, closer to the top of the pass, after which it remains super smooth for rest of the journey.

In a couple of hours, you will reach the town of Tangste, the big town on this route with severals shops, hotels and guest houses. It is also a preferred stop for several people who reach here towards late evening. If you also have reached Tangste late in the evening, it is advised that you spend the night here rather than continuing to Pangong because finding accommodation at Lukung or Spangmik sometimes can be a tough.

If you reached Tangste around noon, have your lunch here. You may find the menu a bit costly but the food is decent and at least you will have variety which you may not find at Pangong.

Tangste – Lukung – Spangmik - Pangong Tso :  After Tangste, it is a straight run to the village of Spangmik, right on the shores of Pangong Tso. Roads are extremely good however there are areas where you will find streams of water flowing down from the hill on the road. Caution is advised as these streams can be deep a little deep sometimes.

Within an hour, as the road turns from tar to dirt track, you will get your first sight of the beautiful lake. Get ready to be mesmerized and enchanted.

You can either chose to stay at the tenting accommodation at Lukung or continue to the small village of Spangmik, last point till where civilians are allowed.

There is also an Army base by the lake and a souvenir shop in case you are interested to buy something that would remind you of the trip.


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