No More Camping at Pangong after 15th September

by Vargis.Khan

I just wanted to post this short thread as a quick update to everyone planning to travel to Ladakh in coming days. Yes, you read it right. There will be no more camping at Pangong Lake allowed after 15th September. And this is not because the camp sites will wrap up for the season; but because they have been asked to remove their constructions permanently. The High Court has asked Leh administration to remove all structures around Pangong Tso. Even Indian army has been asked to shift their structures around the lake to some other area.

Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Pangong Tso

This step has been taken in order to prevent degradation of the lake by taking well planned, sustainable and scientific steps. After the recent boost in tourism in Ladakh, several camps, restaurants, huts have come up along the banks of Pangong. Most of these structures are illegal and have been set up without any permission. Too many tourists and too many camp sites has resulted in an increase in all kinds effluents and contaminants; which poses serious threat to the very existence of the lake; as well as the wildlife around. Steps are also being taken to seal all bore wells and hand pumps; which are operating illegally and without permission.

Source: Greater Kashmir

Options?

What does this mean for you as a tourist? It means that you will have to chose from either of the following.

  • Make a day trip to Pangong. Start early from Leh by 5 AM, reach Pangong, spend some time and return by evening.
  • Look for a place to stay in the villages of Spangmik, Man or Merak if you want to stay close to the lake. However, considering the fact that these are just small villages and tourists arrive in thousands, chances are that you will not find anywhere to stay for the night.
  • If you are OK with staying a bit far from Pangong, look for a place to stay at either Durbuk or Tangste. Both these villages are about 30 to 40 kilometers away from the lake.
Is it Justified?

What are my thoughts on this decision? I think as a tourist who wants to spend a night at Pangong, I will be disappointed. On an overall basis however, I think it was a much required step. Ladakh as a whole is a very fragile region and has been in talks recently about increasing levels of pollution and trash. About a decade ago, when I first stood on the banks of Pangong, there was absolutely no one else as far as the sight went. It was just me and my friend standing there, two people all alone at the lake; worried about where to go for the night.

Much however has changed.After gaining popularity in recent years, Pangong pretty much has a “Kumbh ka Mela” on its banks during tourist season. A lot of these people are irresponsible tourists throwing trash, water bottles, chips packets, disposable plates in the lake. I even noticed a bunch of drunk guys taking a leak in the lake during one of my trips. They than took up a challenge among themselves about who can throw the empty beer bottles how far in the lake. At this speed, I think it would take just another 5 to 10 years before Pangong loses its beauty; and becomes a contaminated water body with shit floating in it; much like numerous other destroyed lakes in our country.

No More Camping at Pangong

A similar step was taken a few years ago when authorities banned camping at Chandratal, another beautiful lake in Spiti valley. I think as citizens of the country, it is our responsibility to preserve the natural beauty around us. We however end up doing the exact opposite of it. Numerous such tourists places in our country have already been destroyed; and authorities are now taking steps to save others, like Rohtang Pass. If you consider that angle, I think banning of camping at Pangong Lake can be considered a wise step. What are your thoughts on it? Do let me know in comments section below.

UPDATE

Camp sites are still operational at Pangong. Law was passed but not followed upon by the locals. Authorities too did not take any action. Below are some images shared by Kalyan Samaddar who recently traveled to Ladakh. In his words,

“There are plenty of cottages and tents. Rates are wildly fluctuating. If you book in advance from Leh then it might be around 1500-2000. If you reach Pongong early; and book the cottage on the spot then you can get at 700-1000 range. If you are a little late to reach in Pongong and most of the cottages has been filled up the the rate can sky rocket to 2000-3000 range!
We were moderately late and the first cottage asked for 1300! I said my foot! for this crap you want me to pay so much? Before I move to another place, another group snapped the cottage in front of me. I went to another one and the rate was absurd … finally had to pay 2000!!! Only consolation, this 2000 included dinner and break fast ..)

So the law is there but not in effect. Considering that the entire Ladakh is invested in tourism related ventures like this, I do not believe that the local authorities will take any actions either, unless the court or NGT cracks the whip even harder.

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31 comments

Pravishti June 20, 2019 - 7:44 am

Hi!
I’m travelling with my family to leh in first week of September and will be staying in camps in Pangong and Tsomoriri for one night each. Will it be too cold ? Should I stay in a walled accommodation instead ?

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Vargis.Khan June 20, 2019 - 12:56 pm

It will be cold but they provide good blankets and bedddings to keeep you warm.

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Pravishti June 20, 2019 - 4:45 pm

Then I can go ahead with the camps right ?

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Vargis.Khan June 20, 2019 - 11:00 pm

Yes you can

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Pravishti June 21, 2019 - 3:28 am

Thanks 🙂

Vargis.Khan June 21, 2019 - 12:41 pm

You are welcome !!!

Arun June 6, 2019 - 2:56 pm

Sir i want to know the cheapest rates of camps in pangong as well as in nubra

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Radhica Sethia June 1, 2019 - 5:04 pm

Hello… We are travelling to Leh on 14 June 2019.
Planning for 1 night stay at Pangong, two nighta at Nubra n 3 nights at Leh .We have 2 small kids 6 year n 7 year old with us . Should we opt for a cottage or tent to stay at Pangong n Nubra or a Hotel at nearby village.

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Vargis.Khan June 1, 2019 - 7:51 pm

Keep Pangong at the very end. Spend days in Leh, then Nubra and then go to Pangong and you should be OK. It is pangong where the risk of AMS is highest so allow your kids some time to acclimatize. Also take a look at the following post, should be of help.

https://vargiskhan.com/log/traveling-to-ladakh-with-children/

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Arun Shankar May 11, 2019 - 10:07 am

Hello Sir!!! Are the camps still operational at Pangong Tso?

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Vargis.Khan May 11, 2019 - 5:39 pm

Yes a few still are Arun

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Chints (@thechints) September 20, 2018 - 4:49 am

I agree with Amit. Camping and cottages are still operational, at least for now.

Advisable to book a day in advance as some are winding up for the season. Rooms were difficult to get in cottages on the 18th.

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Vargis.Khan September 20, 2018 - 4:17 pm

Thanks Chints

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Shilpa Varshney September 19, 2018 - 5:30 pm

Can u please guide me with cheapest n safe option for stay at pangong & and alternative option for taxi services they are very expensive.

Do rafting will be available in Oct start?

Also is it good idea to go khardunga by Scooty?

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Amit Dhawan September 19, 2018 - 6:15 pm

I have just returned from 7 Days Ladakh Trip. I can share with you whatever I experience over there.
I have stayed in Himalayan Wooden Cottage Near Pangong lake(Spangmilk). They charged us 2000 per couple for 1 cottage including Breakfast and Dinner, It is not crowded now a days in Pangong as it is getting chilling cold at night. I would not suggest you to stay at Campsite(Tent) because of cold weather and low oxygen. Try to keep it to day visit to Pangong. Start by 6:00 a.m. you will reach by 12:00 P.M. You can leave by 2-3 P.M. There is nothing much to do nearby Pangong Lake except admiring the beauty and photography which can be done in daylight only. Night stay is not recommended at this point of time because of the Cold weather and lack of Oxygen. if you don’t want to tire yourself by To and Fro Journey prefer staying at Cottage not in Camps. Keep Diamox along with you because you can feel breathless because of low Oxygen and chilling cold weather if you plan to stay for night at spangmilk. If you want to stay in cottage, you can directly go and book there, Here is the number of Himalayan Wooden Cottage if you want to book them in advance, You can call them 9469534870, 9419658753, 9419866757, 9906996291.
Regarding Taxi when you go to Leh market there were so many notice boards outside every tour agency for shared Taxi for Pangong, Nubra etc. You can check those notice boards if your plan suits them or can directly talk to them. I felt Ladakh very safe for travelling. We felt very safe even safer than our own hometown.
Water Level was low in Zanskar River for Rafting so we did not do it. We have already done Rafting in Rishikesh so did not find it interesting, I thing September will be the last month for Rafting as tourist season for them will be over and water level will further decrease as the temperature will go down.
Regarding taking Scooty to Khardung La pass. The road stretch 10 KM before Khardungla and 10 KM after is not in good condition. And moreover you cannot stay more than 15-20 minutes on khardungla because of the temperature in minus and chilling wind blowing there and low oxygen. If you stay there more than that you can get headache or get sick. I personally felt headache in 10 minutes and most of our group person felt that. So it’s your call to take scooty or not.
Rather than taking scooty to Khardungla take the scooty for Leh-Srinagar Highway, You can go till Alchi or Mangnetic Hill, On the way you can see Hall of Fame, Gurudwara Pathan sahib, Zanskar River Meeting point where Rafting take place, magnetic hill. The roads are better than any National Highway And you will find sceneries all around with smooth ride.
If you have any queries I will be happy to assist you.
Have a Happy and Safe journey,

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Vargis.Khan September 19, 2018 - 7:18 pm

Amit Bhai – Thank you for sharing these details.

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Amit Dhawan September 20, 2018 - 4:33 am

Your Welcome Vargis Bhai. Your website helped me a lot in planning my trip to Ladakh as this was my first trip to Ladakh. I will be happy to assist any queries if that can be helpful to someone.

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Vargis.Khan September 20, 2018 - 4:17 pm

Amit Bhai if it is possible, do share a small write up of your trip with tips like you mentioned here that can be of help to others. Along with some pictures. 🙂

I can post it on the blog in your name.

Amit Dhawan September 19, 2018 - 2:03 pm

I would like to update on the camping nearby Pangong Lake. I came back from Ladakh tour today only & stayed in cottage in spangmilk from 16th to 17th Sep. 1st of all I will like to update that camps and cottage are still operational over there, But my suggestion is don’t prebook any, as you will get lesser price over there as very less crowd was there. Most of the people were making day visit from Pangong or Nubra Valley But you have to start around 6-7 a.m then. We started at 9 a.m from Nubra and we reached around 4 p.m near Pangong including 2 hours of breaks in between. We were charged 2000 for 1 night stay including breakfast and dinner in cottage.
My another suggestion is that, don’t take camp over there, Go for cottage if you want to stay over there near Pangong.There was so cold over there that even after taking 1 Quilt And 3 blanket it was chilled over there in the cottage and many of our group person felt shortness of breathe during that night stay and we had to take diamox. So it would be very very cold in Camps.
There was not much activities to do near Pangong. You can just admire the beauty of Pangong and click hundred of photos.
Nubra-Pangong Road is operational and it took 7 hours for us to reach over there including 2 hours of lunch and tea breaks.
I stayed in Pangong and Nubra & if anyone want to have any queries for their upcoming trip I would be happy to assist.

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Vargis.Khan September 19, 2018 - 4:38 pm

Thank you so much for adding these details Amit Bhai, really appreciate it.

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Shalmalee Pandita June 9, 2019 - 10:27 am

Thank so much Amit.
Really very helpful.

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alsihamed July 8, 2019 - 12:37 pm

We are travelling to pangong on 5th of October 2019. And we choose for a camp to stay over night. Will it be too cold. Do we need to shift the stay to a cottage? Kindly advice.

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Vargis.Khan July 8, 2019 - 6:18 pm

No camps are ok too

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Aghraja September 14, 2018 - 4:25 pm

hi can i know the difference between pangong lake and pangong tso?
becauz in google maps both shows different location
also what is there to see in spangamik?
Regards,
Aghraja

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Vargis.Khan September 14, 2018 - 10:38 pm

Both are the same lake. And there is nothing to see in Spangmik, just a small village.

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Amit Dhawan September 9, 2018 - 5:02 pm

I had a word with one of the Camp owner. He told us that they have got STAY ORDER on camp removal order for 1 month. So for 1 month we can operate the camps. And he told us that don’t book any camp in advance. If camps will be operational he will accommodate us. If somehow they have to remove the camps he will provide us alternative Accomodation.
What should we do now. We are landing Leh on 13th Sep. We were planning to have a stay at Nubra Valley on 15th Sep, Nubra-Pangong on 16th Sep, Pangong Camp Stay on 16th Sep and Coming back to Leh on 17th Sep.
Should we go to Turtuk now from Nubra Valley on 16th Sep and making day visit to Pangong Lake only on 17th Sep.
We are having flight on 19th Sep. Should we change our itinerary? Or should we stay somewhere else near Pangong?

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Vargis.Khan September 9, 2018 - 6:46 pm

Hi Amit – If I was you, I would plan my itineraries two ways. One if you were able to stay at the lake for the night and second if you weren’t. As far as I know, they have clear instructions to remove camp sites. Also, Diskit to Pangong and back to Leh in a day is possible, you will just have to start really early. Do not start from Turtuk though because that is even farther so stay at Diskit or even better, at Panamik.

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Harsh September 9, 2018 - 4:24 pm

Hi Vargis Bhai, indeed I agree with you, it’s high time we start preventing the fragile ecology of Laddakh. In my recent visit to laddaLa, I was surprised to see the tourist rush, it has become just like another hill station with tourists all around. The area around pangong looks completely like mushroom farm with tents and permanent settlements all around. People visiting in swanky SUV’s and throwing every kind of filth all around. Standing at the banks gives you a feel that you are standing near lake in nainital surrounded by sea of tourists. Same is case with hundar as well. Imagine amount of garbage spread by so many tourists and by the settlements around such a beautiful place. They have even started providing liquors on demand. Place where finding a petrol pump was a blessing, you can easily spot places selling liquors. I think it’s a right decision, or maybe limits on permit on people visiting and vegivehi should be there if settlements are allowed. Save nature, save future.

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Vargis.Khan September 9, 2018 - 6:48 pm

I agree with you Harsh. Save Nature, Save Future. The city of Leh is already struggling about how to dispose of the huge amount of waste produced after the tourist rush. Ladakh has pretty much become second Manali in recent days.

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Gaurav Sharma September 9, 2018 - 3:18 pm

thanks Vargis buddy for such a timely update ! We’re planning to reach Pangong Tso on 3rd Oct 2018, and have planned to stay the night at Spangmik before heading out to Hanle next day. Will this ruling from high court, affect home stays at Spangmik too ?

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Vargis.Khan September 9, 2018 - 3:42 pm

Hi Gaurav – You are welcome brother. No this will not effect the home stays at Spangmik but considering that these are smaller in number, you may have difficulty finding one.

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