How to Plan a Trip to Tso Moriri from Leh

by Vargis.Khan

Ladakh is a land of lakes, some really big and some quite small. One thing that is common among them however is that they are all equally beautiful. No matter the size, each lake here deserves a visit and is enough to inspire the awe out of anyone. A deep blue lake under a deep blue sky in the grey of deserts of Ladakh; surrounded by green in small patches with snow capped peaks rising in the background is a photographic opportunity not to be missed. In this article, I will provide details on one such lake, Tso Moriri; and how you can include it in your Ladakh itinerary.

tso moriri

Also referred to as “Lake Moriri” or “Mountain Lake”, Tso Moriri and its surrounding area is protected as a wetland reserve. It is located in Ladakhi part of Changthang Plateu at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft). Pangong Tso is bigger in size than Tso Moriri but is divided between India and China; which makes Tso Moriri the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India. The lake is about 26 kilometers in length and 3 to 5 kilometers in width.




Moriri is usually referred to as a freshwater lake which is not completely true. Its water is slightly salty but hard to notice while drinking due to which it is perceived as freshwater. The lake is fed by water from melting snow and springs and currently has no outlet. It is accessible by road only during summer when both the highways leading to Ladakh are open. Internal road from Leh to Karzok however remains open throughout the year; so if a person was catching a flight to Leh, they can visit Tso Moriri anytime during the year.

Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh

Tso Moriri for long has been overshadowed by Pangong Tso but with recent boost in tourism in Ladakh; number of people traveling to this lake too has increased. If you are planning a trip to Ladakh and would like to visit Tso Moriri as well; then mentioned below in this articles are details related to the different routes you can take; accommodation choices available and some other important tips to be considered during the trip.

There are several ways that you can include Tso Moriri in your itinerary. You can either travel here from Leh and go back or include it while traveling to Pangong Tso. A lot of people take a deviation and visit the lake while traveling from Leh to Manali. No manner how you chose to reach here; a night stay here comes highly recommended. You can get accommodation here as a hotel, guest house or camp site; details of which are provided further in the article.

Tso Moriri Permit

Tso Moriri is considered a part of inner line, areas closer to border; hence an Inner line permit is required in order to visit here. For foreign nationals, a Protected Area permit has to be procured before they can travel from Leh to Tso Moriri. Inner line permit can either be applied for and obtained in person from DM office Leh or online. Protected area permit however needs to be obtained through a registered travel agent. Please read through the article below for more information on how to get these permits.

Also read:

How to obtain an Inner line permit for Ladakh?

Step by step guide to get an Inner line permit online?

How to obtain a protected area permit for Ladakh?

Leh to Tso Moriri Road Map

In order to explain the route better, I will post a map of roads connecting Tso Moriri to Leh. Please click on the map to view it in full size.

tso moriri map

How to reach Tso Moriri from Leh

There are three different routes that you can take to reach Tso Moriri from Leh. First and the shortest route runs through Chumathang Valley. Second one goes through More plains; will have you cross Tanglang La and you can also visit Tso Kar while traveling on this route. Third and the longest route is via Pangong Tso and Changthang valley. Common thing about all three routes is that they will all have you exit at Sumdo from where, you will travel the last 50 kilometers to reach Karzok. I will explain all three routes in detail.

Route 1: Leh to Tso Moriri via Chumathang

This as I mentioned is the shortest and the most common route to reach Tso Moriri from Leh. Journey will be as mentioned below.

Leh – Shey – Karu – Upshi – Kumdok – Kere – Chumathang – Mahe – Sumdo – Namashang La – Karzok (Tso Moriri)

Leh to Tso Moriri distance

Total distance covered while traveling this way would be approximately 220 to 240 kilometers. Travel time can be anywhere between 6 – 7 hours depending upon your speed and breaks.

Also read: A Complete Road Map of Entire Ladakh

Leh – Upshi – Kumdok – Kere – Chumathang – Mahe:

It is highly advised that you start from Leh as early as possible. Take the Manali – Leh highway and continue till you reach Upshi. This should not take you more than an hour and a half at most. Take a break at Upshi If you are hungry as you wont find anything apart from Maggie and biscuits to eat till Karzok. Leave the Manali – Leh highway at Upshi and take the diversion towards Mahe. This road will be pretty hard to miss but ask the locals if you are unsure.

At Upshi market, you will come across a bifurcation. Road on your right goes towards Manali and the cut on your left is for Mahe. Turn on your left and from there it is pretty much a straight drive to Mahe. Road will be a mix of good bad and ugly. Chances are that you may not even find a road at some places between Kumdok and Chumathang and will be pretty much traveling on a dirt road.

Mahe – Sumdo – Namashang La – Karzok:

There is a check-post at Mahe where you need to register yourself. Right next to that check-post, there is a bridge. This is the road that you will have to turn on to reach Sumdo. Ask the locals if you are not sure.

Right after Sumdo, the ascent for Namashang La starts; which is not really that steep actually and the road is OK as well. However a few kilometers after you have crossed Namashang La, there will be no road at all and you will travel on dirt tracks until Karzok. These tracks will get confusing several times and you will have to stop and think which way to go. Best way to travel around here is to either follow a cab (Sumo or Bolero run by locals] or to follow the track which seems to be the most prominent and traveled on. The first lake you will come across to after Namashang La is Kiagar Tso.

Also read: A Comprehensive List of all Tourist Places in Leh Ladakh

Continue on the tracks and 10 kms before Karzok you will come across a bifurcation. The dirt track will continue to go straight and you will notice a tarred road going towards your left. Do not turn on this road as it goes towards Chumur. You may see a few boards reading that the road straight ahead is closed but keep heading straight on the dirt tracks to Karzok.

Route 2: Leh to Tso Moriri via Tso Kar and More Plains

This route is slightly longer than the first one in terms of both distance and travel time due to two high altitude passes in between and bad roads. Journey will be as mentioned below.

Leh – Shey – Karu – Upshi – Rumtse – Tanglang La – Debring – Tso Kar – Polo Kongka La – Puga – Sumdo – Namashang La – Karzok

Traveling by this route, total distance covered will be around 260 kilometers. Travel time will easily be around 7-8 hours.

Leh – Shey – Karu – Upshi – Rumtse – Tanglang La – Debring – Tso Kar:

The first part of this journey until Upshi will be the same that I explained above. However, upon reaching Upshi, continue on Manali Leh highway towards Rumtse rather than taking the turn towards Chumathang. The ascent for Tanglang La starts after Rumtse upon crossing which you will reach Debring. Continue heading towards Pang. Right where the More plains start, you will notice a road going towards your left. There are also a few dhabas there that should make it easy for you to spot the road. Leave the Manali Leh Highway here and take the road towards your left. The first lake on this route is Tso Kar which will be approximately 22 kms from this diversion.

Also Read: How Safe Ladakh is for Tourists?

Tso Kar – Polo Kongka La – Puga – Sumdo:

Second lake on this route is Startspuk Tso, a small lake which can easily be missed or confused as Tso Kar itself. Road too will vanish after Tso Kar and you will be traveling on dirt tracks. A few kilometers after Startspuk Tso is the ascent for Polo Kongka La. The climb is not very steep and you will barely notice it despite the bad road conditions. Continue on this road till you reach Sumdo. From Sumdo, take the turn towards Karzok. Journey will be the same as I explained previously in the article.

Route 3: Leh to Tso Moriri via Pangong Tso and Chushul

The third route that can be taken to reach Tso Moriri is the longest and also the least travelled on. This to be honest is not really the route from Leh to Tso Moriri; but rather from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri. Lot of people who want to cover both lakes in their itinerary chose this road to reach Tso Moriri directly from Pangong, rather than coming back to Leh.
Route of the journey is as below.

Leh – Sakti – Chang La – Tangtse – Spangmik (Pangong Tso) – Man – Merak – Chushul – Tsaga La – Tsaga Village – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Karzok (Tso Moriri)

I have explained this entire route in details at this link. Please read Pangong Tso to Moriri Lake Direct Route

Important Tips

There are a few important things you need to know while traveling on this road. First of all, depending on what all places you covered; a round trip to Leh via this route will easily be around 650 to 700 kilometers. It means that you will have to make serious fuel arrangements as there is no other gas station available once you leave Leh. Second is that permits for this route are not issued to foreign nationals, only Indian citizens can be allowed here. Third is that this is a very remote region and you will hardly come by any other travelers. Roads for most of the part will be really bad. Until Chushul as a matter of fact will be no road at all and you will continue to ride on track marks made by other passing vehicles.

Ideally, the stretch between Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri should be done in two days with a night halt at Hanle; but if must do it in a single day; then please ensure that you leave Pangong Tso by as early as possible; by first light of the day.

Tso Moriri Altitude

Tso Moriri is located at a staggering altitude of 4,522 meters, 14836 feet.

Altitude Sickness at Tso Moriri

Due to its high altitude, Tso Moriri is one place in Leh where you are most like to suffer from altitude sickness hence it is strongly advised that you do not immediately after reaching Leh; or while on your way to Leh from Manali. It is always best to reach Leh first, then go to Nubra Valley, thus giving your body time to adjust to the high altitude. After you have spent a few days in Ladakh, then you should plan a visit to Tso Moriri. For more details in on what altitude sickness is, what its symptoms are and how to deal with it, please read Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh and How to deal with it.

Best Time to Visit Tso Moriri

The best time to visit Tso Moriri is between June and September, when tourist season is at its peak. While the road from Leh to To Moriri remains open throughout the year, except for times when heavy snow at Tanglang La may have blocked the road temporarily; going there in winter or non-tourist months may result in a fight for accommodation. Between June till September, all the hotels and guest houses are fully operational and you will easily find a place to stay in any budget. Second advantage in these months is that the public transport services too are available. So if you are not traveling by your own vehicle, then finding a bus or a shared taxi between June till September is not really that difficult.

Tso Moriri Birds

In a 1996 survey It was revealed that Thirty-four species of birds included 14 species of water birds of which 6 are the vulnerable species were found around this lake. So if bird watching or catching pictures of some rare species of birds is on your mind then Tso Moriri is the perfect place to do so. For this purpose as well, months between June to September are the best as the lake freezes completely in winter and there are almost no bird to see around it until it melts completely.

Accommodation at Tso Moriri

There are several hotels, guest houses and camp sites in Karzok where you may chose to stay. For names and phone numbers of some of the hotels at Tso Moriri, please read Guest Houses, Camp Sites and Hotels At Karzok. In case you are planning to camp on your own, please do not do so anywhere near the lake. Tso Moriri is considered as a protected wetland reserve and camping close to the lake is prohibited by Law. If you want to pitch your tent, please do so near a camp site or a local Dhaba. You may even pay off a little to the existing camp sites to give you a spot; in return they will also let you use their washroom facilities.

Tso Moriri Road Conditions

From Leh to Upshi is a smooth tarred road. Between Upshi and Mahe is a mix of good and bad, mostly good. From Mahe to Sumdo is bad and after Sumdo to Karzok is all dirt trail. If you are coming from Tso Kar side, then you will find good smooth road until Sumdo with the exception of Tanglang La and Polo Kongka La where the road usually remains broken. From Pangong Tso, it is a dirt trail all the way till Chushul. After Chushul till Loma is a good smooth road. From Loma till Sumdo is a mix of good and bad.

Best Vehicle for a Trip to Tso Moriri

If you have a hatchback or Sedan, you must travel only via Upshi or Tso Kar. The Chushul route is best done if you have an SUV with good ground clearance.

Leh to Tso Moriri Bus Service

Bus service between Leh and Tso Moriri is not really that frequent. A bus from Leh for Karzok leaves only 3 times a month, on 10th, 20th and 30th, at 6.30 in the morning. Fare per person is Rs. 370. However, if this does not match your itinerary, you can easily get a shared taxi from Leh Bus stand going towards Tso Moriri. Fare for shared taxi will be close to the Bus fare.

Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Ladakh with Children

Tso Moriri Weather

Day temperature during summer remains moderately warm though there could still be strong cold winds on some days. At night, the temperate drops close to zero degree Celsius. In Winter, the lake freezes completely and temperature remains several degrees below zero.

ATMs and Banking Services at Tso Moriri

There is no Bank or ATM at Karzok or on he way. Debit or credit cards too are not accepted here. Please ensure that you withdraw and carry enough cash before you leave Leh for Tso Moriri.

Petrol Pumps at Tso Moriri

Like ATM, there is no fuel station at Karzok or on the way. Please ensure that you make proper fuel arrangements before you leave Leh; depending on your itinerary. For more details, please read Spare Fuel in Ladakh, Where do you need it?

Mobile Connectivity at Tso Moriri

No matter which network you are on, your mobile phone will not work at Tso Moriri at all, and this also includes BSNL or MTNL networks. For more details on mobile reception in Ladakh, please read Mobile Phone Services in Leh and Other Areas of Ladakh

Manali to Tso Moriri

A lot of people plan their journey in a way that they want to cover Tso Moriri before reaching Leh. This however cannot and should not be done. Cannot because you need Inner line permit to get there for which you will first have to go to Leh. Should not because of Acute Mountain Sickness which I described above. Best way is to first reach Leh, get used to high altitude, arrange your permits and then return to Tso Moriri.

Conclusion

This I think pretty much covers most of the important factors related to planning a trip to Tso Moriri. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our Community Forum and I will be glad to answer.

 

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26 comments

101 Things to do in Leh Ladakh | Must do Things in Ladakh - Vargis Khan August 31, 2019 - 11:28 am

[…] which is a rare sight at Pangong. This is what makes the scenery here so different. Please read How to visit Tso Moriri from Leh for a complete travel guide on Tso Moriri […]

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poulami mukhopadhyay April 16, 2019 - 1:59 pm

Hi Vargis…

First of all kudos to you for the brilliant one stop blog for all sorts ofof Ladakh trip experiences and itenararies and tips .

We as a group are planning to visit Ladakh this June but due to shortage of time we would be taking Manali Leh highway only while going and return from Leh to Delhi via flight.

While going through Manali Leh highway is it better to go via Tso Kar Tso moriri to Leh….or we should follow the normal travel route and visit the place from Leh and head back to Leh for return journey.

It would be great if you can advise.

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Vargis.Khan April 16, 2019 - 5:47 pm

Hi Poulami – I would not recommend going to Moriri from Manali. Please see the post below. Should answer your questions.

https://vargiskhan.com/log/tso-moriri-from-manali-doable/

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Neelabh Chakravarty August 28, 2018 - 5:12 pm

Hi Mr Vergis,
Thanks for the route detailing pangong to Moriri, it gave me some currage to attempt, I have already done Srinagar to Leh, Nubra & Pangong from Sheok route and returned from Manali in the month of June in our Toyota liva a hatchback now kindly help me on:
1) is Pangong to Moriri more difficult than the Hundar to Pangong?
2) we are four adults and a child
3) is this route has difficult water crossings specialy in June
4) what if we take the Leh route from Pengong and instead of going to Leh we take the tourn for Moriri. Will there be any issue reaching in the same day approx 322 km.
5) from 19th reaching Leh till 30th we want to cover Nubra, panPang Moriri and back to Delhi via Manali
Please advise.
6) My in-laws are British national but holders of OCI. Is there any issue on getting permits for any of the routes.

I assure I will keep on bothering you till my execution.

Thanks & Regards
Neelabh Chakravarty

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Vargis.Khan August 28, 2018 - 6:18 pm

Hello Mr. Chakravarty,

1. Yes
3. Not many and not too tough
4. It will be a very long journey but doable. Will take about 10-12 hours
6. You will have to get a PAP for which you will need to contact a travel agent in Leh.

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Ram August 23, 2018 - 7:53 am

Hi Vargis,

Your blog was a great resource while planning for our journey. We took the Pangong to Moriri route (Route number 3 in your itinerary) . Like you mentioned, it is deserted for the most part with sporadic activity in Merak and Chulshul. The route was wonderful though. We got to see the Chinese border up close and a lot of Army activity which we generally do not get to see.

Like you mentioned, our driver stocked up on some fuel as there is a dearth of fuel pumps en route. I recommend taking this route only if you have a local / driver alongside as most of the journey will be through deserted areas.

Cheers!
Ram

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Satish July 24, 2018 - 2:09 am

Hello vargis sir can I cover most of the leh by shared taxis with. My wife and 6 yr old daughter ..It should I book a privatecar..I’m in two minds

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Vargis.Khan July 24, 2018 - 2:25 am

Satish Bhai you can do it but shared taxis may or may not be available and you will have to of course look around. At some places there may not even be available. Private taxis will be convenient but will cost you a bit high. If budget is not a problem then definitely go for a private cab.

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Nikhil Moulick July 16, 2018 - 1:58 am

I shall visit pangong lake and tso moriri with a group. The group will go to Manali via Tso kar. Please state whether I should follow them or return to Leh ? I am 65 yrs old. Will I get a share taxi from Tso moriri to Leh easily ?

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Vargis.Khan July 16, 2018 - 3:16 am

Yes you will be able to find a transport from Karzok to Leh. Public transport from Moriri to Manali will be tough though.

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Ravinder Bishnoi May 18, 2018 - 5:20 am

Hi Vargis, I am planning a solo trip from Chandigarh-Shimla-Kaza-Debring-Tso-Moriri-Pangong- Khardung la-Leh-Kargil-Srinagar-Chandigarh on bicycle. Last year I did cycling till leh, this time I want to turn towards tso moriri from debring instead of going to leh and then coming back, my only concern is that how can I get the ILP without going to leh. Please suggest some solution.

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Vargis.Khan May 18, 2018 - 1:47 pm

Hi Ravinder, The only way is to find a local travel agent in Leh who can get the permits on your behalf and courier them to you. You will of course have to send your IDs and money to him.

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Ravinder Bishnoi May 19, 2018 - 4:38 am

well, I don’t know anyone, if you know someone who can either courier or send it to me at Debring please suggest me. Thank you.

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Vargis.Khan May 20, 2018 - 7:37 pm

Sorry Ravinder Bhai. Even I do not know anyone who could help with this.

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Suman Dey May 16, 2018 - 4:49 am

Can you suggest how to reach Rupshu valley from Tso moriri

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Vargis.Khan May 17, 2018 - 2:40 am

Rupshu Valley is the entire region of More Plains, Pang, Tso Kar etc. You will be traveling right through it as you go from Manali to Leh. or towards Tso Moriri.

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Akram Khan April 26, 2018 - 11:13 am

Can i get a stay option in Debring?

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Vargis.Khan April 26, 2018 - 4:55 pm

Yes there are a few chadar tents there that you can stay at.

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Jack March 20, 2018 - 7:15 am

Hi Vargis Sir,

i want to make a budget trip and my plan from Leh to tso Moriri will be on a weekend in June, so is it possible i will get shared transport from Leh to tso Moriri, if yes what might be the cost to & back?
Also i will be spending 1 night at Tso Moriri. So as you said above, i trust that there should be budget rooms between 500- max 2000 for 2 persons with toilet/bathroom facilities

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Vargis.Khan March 20, 2018 - 2:31 pm

Yes Bhai, you can easily find a public transport in on weekends as well. Shared taxis for Leh to Tso Moriri start early in the morning from Leh bus stand daily, fare would be between Rs. 400 – 500. And yes, you will be able to find accommodation as well easily.

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Jack April 23, 2018 - 11:07 am

Thnkx for the revert. can you let me know how is the night sky at Tso moriri (are there stary lines like milky way 🙂 😛 ) because as per my research i do not see much ppl going to tso moriri and there are less topics or blogs or discussion on tso moriri trips

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Vargis.Khan April 23, 2018 - 3:06 pm

Night skies are clear all over Ladakh including Moriri.

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Nisith Ranjan Ghatuari February 11, 2018 - 2:01 pm

I am flying to leh and will be there from 22nd April to 1st May 2018. I have the following doubts.

1) IS it will be possible to make a bike trip to Moriri and Pangong lake ? what i have just thought of is to 1st go to tso moriri via tanglang la pass. then from there to henle, from henle to pangong and back to leh via Chang la . is this possible , means all the passes will open by my travel time . where i can get the information regarding opening of the passes .

2) As the bus service timing to moriri not matching my plan , can i get any shared taxi during these period for tso moriri.

3) By this time is the bus service to pangong opened or not?

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Vargis.Khan February 12, 2018 - 6:16 pm

1. Yes it is.
2. No shared taxis on Chushul, Hanle route.
3. Yes

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Aadya C December 16, 2017 - 10:42 am

Hi sir,
I’ve read your articles and they are all very helpful. I wanted to know if it’s possible to visit tso morir and tsokar in may as it’s confusing whether they will be open or not.
Are the hotels and bookings open in may?

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Vargis.Khan December 18, 2017 - 3:27 pm

Hello Aadya – The road from Leh to Tso Moriri will definitely be open in May so yes, you can plan.

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