Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

by Vargis.Khan

The total distance from Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass is about 160 kilometers. This journey can easily be completed in 5 to 6 hours but a lot of that will depend on the condition of the road at Chang La which changes almost every year. If the road is good, by this route, you can even make a day trip to Pangong Lake from Leh.

Public transport is also available on this route. As a matter of fact, this is the only road that you can take to reach Pangong Lake from Leh if you want to travel by either a bus or a shared cab. Other routes like Shyok Road from Nubra Valley or the Chushul route from Hanle and Tso Moriri have almost no public transport services at all.

I was recently on a 2-month-long road trip to Ladakh. On the 34th day of our trip, we traveled from Pangong Lake to Leh via Chang La Pass. The post below is a brief narration of our journey. It also provides several necessary details that can be of help in planning a trip to Pangong Tso. To read the previous parts of the travelogue, please follow the links below.

Journey So Far:

You can also take a look at the YouTube video below of our journey. This can give you a better idea of the road conditions, places that you can visit on the way, and difficulties you can expect while crossing Chang La Pass.

Day 35 – Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

The plan for this day was to get up early, possibly by 5 am, and witness the sunrise at Pangong Lake. I even set up 3 or 4 alarms on my phone to ensure that I get up. But was I able to do it? Absolutely not.

Nights at Pangong Lake are always a little difficult because of a mix of a few things but mainly because of altitude sickness and the cold weather. Let us talk about altitude sickness first because this should be your biggest concern while planning a trip to Pangong.

Acute Mountain Sickness

Pangong Lake is at an altitude of 4,350 meters 14,270 ft. It is one of the highest locations in Ladakh and as a result, it is one place where you are most likely to suffer from acute mountain sickness. Upon your arrival in Leh, do not straight go to Pangong Tso. Spend a few days exploring Leh town and Nubra Valley first and then plan a trip to Pangong Tso.

If you start to suffer from AMS during the evening, then do not spend the night at the lake and return to Tangtse for a night stay. Please read How to Deal with Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh for more details on altitude sickness, its symptoms, and how to avoid it.

We were already there in Ladakh for over a month which means that by the time we reached Pangong, we were already well acclimatized. So even though we did not suffer from altitude sickness at all, a night of comfortable sleep is something that we still did not get at Pangong and this was because of the cold weather and strong winds.

Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Ladakh – A Complete Travel Guide

Cold Weather

Since you are spending the night at one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world, you should expect the temperature to drop well below 0 at night, even during the months of June and July. It gets really warm during the day but as soon as the sun goes down, the temperature drops drastically.

No matter how well you plan your trip, you will not be able to sleep peacefully and will surely feel restless near the lake which is what happened to us. The strong winds and the fluttering of the tent ensured that I woke up at least 10 times in the night.

To add to all of it, due to the freezing temperature, I had to sleep with my jacket on, and that was a heavy one. It made things a lot uncomfortable and the entire night, I just kept adjusting the jacket and the blanket.

As a result of all this, when the alarms went off at 5, I was absolutely in no mood to get up and step out of the tent. So I just turned off all the alarms and went back to sleep. Finally, at around 6.30 am, when the sun was up and our tent got a little warmer because of the direct sunlight, I finally had enough courage to leave the bed and step out.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

Good Morning Pangong

The moment I stepped out, I could not believe the weather at Pangong Lake. Just an hour ago, it was freezing cold and now an hour later, at around 7 in the morning, the sun was already so harsh that we could not stand in the sun for more than a few minutes.

This is also the reason why no one stays at Pangong for more than a day. Tourists usually arrive here during the evening by 4 or 5 am and they leave the first thing in the morning of the next day. You can stay here for a day more but the problem is that there will absolutely be nothing to do.

Because of the harsh sun, enjoying the lake and the natural beauty around is nearly impossible. Most of your time in the day will be spent sitting in your tent and you will only come out for a stroll in the evening. You cannot do that while the sun is shining bright in the sky or else you will get some serious tanning and possibly even skinburns.

We sat around near the tent for a while, had some tea, and decided to go near the lake for some photos and videos. This was my 6th trip to Pangong but irrespective of that, the beauty of the place is such that it invites you to click as many photos as possible.

vargis khan

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

Blue Waves Camp, Man Village

The campsite that we stayed at was known by the name of Blue Waves Camp. It is located in Man Village and was an average campsite – not too bad but nothing great either. The tents were large and spacious, the bathrooms were clean but the beds were a little uncomfortable. On top of it, there was absolutely nothing in the tent to even put our phones on. See the picture below.

blue waves camp

The food was also average. The only good thing about the campsite was that it was a little close to the lake and the view was great. It took us only 5 minutes to walk down to Pangong from the campsite.

We had arrived at this campsite from Nubra Valley directly via Shyok which I have talked about in the previous part of this travelogue. Due to roadblocks and traffic jams, by the time we reached the campsite, the time was 8 pm and it was pitch black and dark. The lake was not visible at all and we could only get a view in the morning.

man village

The amount of construction in Man Village also surprised me a lot. The first time I was here almost 13 years ago, there was absolutely nothing in the village except for a few small houses. We could not even get some water to drink out here and had to quench our thirst from a water stream.

But now, Man had nearly turned into a small town. The number of guest houses and campsites in the village was more than even the houses. This is the kind of boost in tourism that Ladakh saw in the last decade.

Also Read: Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri Route Guide

Man Village to Spangmik

After spending about 30 minutes at the lake, we came back to our campsite. We had some breakfast, and by 9 am, we were all set to return from Pangong Lake to Leh via Chang La Pass. The first destination was the village of Spangmik.

Driving through the streets of Man Village, we came back to the main road and started driving back. The condition of the road was super smooth and it did not take us long to reach Spangmik.

Like Man, there are a lot of campsites in Spangmik as well. Most of them are located at a spot called ‘3 Idiots Point’. It is the same spot where the last scene near the lake in the movie 3 Idiots was shot. See the campsites on the right side in the picture below.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

At first, we were planning to just drive by but then decided to check out this spot as well. So we turned right and started driving downhill to the viewpoint.

Also Read: Which is the Best Bike for Ladakh

3 Idiots Point

I first visited Ladakh in 2006 when it was still not considered a tourist destination. Those were the days when only foreign tourists used to come to Ladakh. Back then, when I first came to Pangong Lake, there was absolutely no one around. It was only my friend and I standing on the banks of the lake with not a soul in sight.

Much has now changed. When we reached the viewpoint, there were a huge number of tourists all around and all kinds of vehicles – from bikes to large buses. All of those were parked at this spot.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

Earlier, people were allowed to bring their vehicles all the way to the lake. But after tourism in this region increased, tourists started to drive their vehicles right into the lake, to get some cool photos and make reels. There were a few such incidents that came to the limelight. After that, bringing vehicles closer to the lake was prohibited.

Now tourists are expected to park their vehicles at this parking spot and walk the remaining distance. That is exactly what we did. There is not really much else to write about this part so I will let the pictures do the talking.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

We spent about an hour here walking around and clicking pictures and then started our return journey.

Tso Ltak

The condition of the road remained to be a mix of good and bad but mostly good. We drove non-stop for the next hour, crossed Tangtse, and reached Durbuk. Here we took another break to get some tea and something to eat.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

After a short break, we resumed our journey.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

We drove for a while and took our next break at Tso Ltak. It is another small lake at the foot of Chang La. Not a lot of people stop here as everyone is rushing to reach Pangong Lake. But in my opinion, though very small in size, it is still a beautiful lake and definitely worth taking a break.

tso ltak

After a short break at Tso Ltak, we started driving uphill to Chang La Pass. But we had only gone a short distance when I noticed another lake. This one was completely frozen, even though this trip was in the month of June. The view of the lake and the fact that it was still covered with a thick layer of snow compelled us to stop again.

frozen lake in ladakh

Chang La Pass

Until now, the journey was enjoyable on a smooth road and we were having a lot of fun. We weren’t prepared at all for what came after Tso Ltak. Let me post a picture.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

The tar from the road suddenly vanished and were now driving on a badly broken dirt road. BRO was working on restoring the road and there were a lot of diversions where all vehicles were driving up on a steep dirt road taking shortcuts.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

This caught me by a complete surprise. I had been to Chang La several times before. This was one stretch where the road was always in good condition. The only bad part was a few kilometers near the top. But other than that, I always found this road well-tarred and smooth. This time, however, the story was entirely different.

The drive that until now was enjoyable suddenly turned into a bumpy and painful one. Our speed dropped to merely 10-15 kilometers an hour.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

After what seemed like an eternity of driving, we finally reached the top of Chang La.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass

It was around 1 pm when we reached Chang La top. The sun was shining bright and it was way too hot to even think about taking a break. On top of it, because the road was broken, there was dust flying all around.

Sakti – Karu

For a minute, we thought to take a break at Chang La. But looking at the tourist crowd, the heat, and the dust we decided against it. So we just went across the top and started to drive down on the other side of the pass.

Another reason why we did not take a break was that we were going to cross Chang La in a few days. Our plan for the next weekend was to go to Pangong, Hanle, and Umling La Pass. For that, we would have to take the same route and visit Chang La Pass again.

So we thought that when we would be back here again in a few days and possibly early in the day, there was really no point in stopping now. After Chang La, I was hoping for the road conditions to improve but was again disappointed. Even on the Leh side of the pass, the road was equally bad and broken.

The drive remained to be a bumpy one and it took us another hour to finally reach Sakti. That is where the road got better and we found tarmac.


We drove non-stop after Sakti and only took a short break in Karu to stretch our legs and get much-needed tea. By 4 pm, we had arrived back at our hotel in Leh. In total, the journey of 155 odd kilometers took us 7-8 hours to complete. Most of the time was spent on the bad roads though. If the conditions weren’t so bad near Chang La, I think we would have easily completed the journey in 5 hours.

It was the 34th day of our trip and a Thursday. On Friday, we just stayed in our hotel and rested the entire day. On Saturday, we visited the Leh Hall of Fame and Zorawar Singh Fort in leh followed by a trip to Sham Valley on Sunday. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.

Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass – Conclusion

I hope the travelogue, pictures, and information above on traveling from Pangong Lake to Leh via Changla Pass were of help. If you have any questions, you can contact me on Instagram and I will happily answer. You can also consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and asking a question there.

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Anirudh Sharma May 2, 2018 - 7:51 am

sir i just want to ask a question that how can we book a taxi to rohtang pass from manali >>?? what will be the cost ?? and canwe b=ook it in advance if yes than from where and how ??? please tell…as i am planning my trip on 18 may to 20 may

Vargis.Khan May 2, 2018 - 2:10 pm

Hi Anirudh – Just reach Manali Mall road and ask around. There is no set cost, you will have to negotiate your best. These guys in peak tourist season even charge upto Rs. 10,000 for going to Rohtang.

Preetha June 24, 2017 - 10:38 am

Hi Vargis, I came across your article on the internal bus timings from.Leh to tso moriri , pangong etc. Is there an updated time table or is it as per your article dated 2014

Vargis.Khan June 25, 2017 - 11:59 pm

Information is updated Preetha. I updated it with information from this year.

vignesh June 23, 2017 - 6:37 am

I am traveling through zoom car. when i tried getting the pass online. it asked for the vehicle registration number. but zoom car number will be available only before 30 min of car pickup. is there any solution for this.

Vargis.Khan June 23, 2017 - 4:39 pm

You will have to get the permit after you reach Manali Vignesh Bhai, No other way around this.

dr sudha n m June 23, 2017 - 6:27 am

How is the road from manali to Kaza? I heard some roads are flooded.

Vargis.Khan June 23, 2017 - 4:40 pm

It is terrible right now. Numerous water crossing in between.

devC June 22, 2017 - 11:42 am

Dear Vargis,
There is no such order is my opinion. What’s the source? News is something different, that of additional vehicles which are of non-commercial nature.

Vargis.Khan June 22, 2017 - 1:19 pm

Hello Dev – A friend of mine was in Manali last week; traveling towards Ladakh on a motorcycle. He couldn’t get a permit to cross because the 800 quota for the day was done for, had to wait until next day before he was given a permit. What news did you hear?

devc June 24, 2017 - 11:51 am

There is no such news that rohtang travel permits will be restricted to 800 per day. Recently the system has gone from offline to online that’s why chaos occurred at a particular day. For rohtang tourism permits quotas have been revised and additional self owned cars are being allowed 100 being the number.
I think you mixed up between the two news. also there is a NGT order regarding strict compliance of people misusing travel permits for rohtang tourism purpose.Some camera’s are required to be installed for this at checkpost’s.

Request you to please verify your story again as it may give wrong info to potential travelers you being a trusted source.

Vargis.Khan June 25, 2017 - 11:56 pm

Thank you for pointing this out Dev Bhai. I will verify it again.

Puran Choudhary June 22, 2017 - 6:36 am

Hi Vargis, i would travel from tomorrow, and will reach manali on 24th, i first priority will be HRCT and HPTDC bus, hope there is no permit require for that. And what is latest traffic news for going to Baralacha. I’m trying to cross rohtang as assign as possible. Thanks

Vargis.Khan June 22, 2017 - 1:17 pm

Hello Puran Bhai, No permit required if you are traveling in a bus. Traffic towards Baralacha La is open as well

Puran choudhary June 24, 2017 - 11:04 am

Hello vargis im sitting at mall road manali right now, i reached today morning 8:30 via HPTDC, first thing first i booked tickets for keylong for 4am HRTC bus, which is really good ideas so far, because i just heard solang valley is jammed pack, rohtang pass is full 6-7 hours for waiting in traffic.
I tried pay extra money for solang valley but local driver refused to go because of traffic. You can imagine now. I will update you later on.

Vargis.Khan June 25, 2017 - 11:58 pm

Thank you Puran Bhai. While you are in Manali, would you mind verifying the authenticity of this news as well? That vehicles crossing Rohtang have been limited as well?

Puran Choudhary June 28, 2017 - 10:00 am

Hello vargis bhai, thanks again for your valuable tips, i have reached Delhi back today afternoon, it was really awesome trip, if you cross Rohtang Pass, at Rohtang Pass, snow is dirty, so I crossed to keeling, small but beautiful place, as per schedule, i went to Baralacha La Pass, and that was the TIME OF MY LIFE, beautiful place, very low people, little bit problem because of low oxygen, but if you take 2 days course of DIAMOX before going there you are all good to go. Don’t spend so much time there, don’t run, don’t go after drinking and smoking, some people were smoking there just to showoff, an doha was really harmful for them, I saw live that moment when he was totally helpless, thank God he was ok. Best time to go from Manali to Rohtang is as early possible, i saw many people who went there late, and count reach on top. Thanks to HRTC bus who was really bearable if you keep raise all luxury like ac, food n all. Kokshar was the mid point to have breakfast. I would say one more thing, don’t go while there are 3-4days holidays, Manali mall road was azadpur sabzi mandi, there was huge rush and all big and famous restaurants and hotels was asking huge amount of money from people. I stay in local guest house but nice one. Thanks BRO who really make our trip smooth and comfortable by making roads so neat and clean for travelling, work is going on more roads. After 2 years of so manali to keeling tunnel will be good option for visitors if work is done on fix timing. Thats from me thanks to you again, i learned one more thing, if you have patience and cool mind you can make your trip amazing. Good to have friend like you Vargis bhai. I’m planing next trip very soon and i would require help that time. Thanks bro

Vargis.Khan June 28, 2017 - 3:08 pm

Hello Puran Bhai – I am so glad that your trip turned out to be awesome. I would love to see some pictures if you don’t mind sharing. Did you take the HRTC Manali to Keylong bus?

Puran Choudhary June 29, 2017 - 6:58 am

Very god morning Vargis bhai, yes i took around 1000 pictures, including mobile phones and my DSLR. I would be so happy to share my experience, please let me know where i can put pictures. Yes as per your advice I took HRTC bus, at 4am morning n i had to wait for 1:30 hours at Rohtang Pass, but after that beauty comes, just crossing rohtang pass, it was 8-10 km normal road, but after that it was like flying an aeroplane. It was really good idea to cross Rohtang Pass, thanks to you bro. We stayed at Keylong. Kyserkersk Lodge, had dinner at same place, price was good. We hired innova for 6500/- for Baralacha La Pass. All my family members are happy to see that heaven called BaraLacha La Pass. Here is my Itinerary – 23th June – Delhi to manly from HPTDC bus, good driver, good bus, at right time. We reached Manali in the mooring on 24th – around 8:30am – first thing first I went straight to HRTC bus booking counter and booked tickets for 8 person. Than booked a guest house in our budget – get fresh and took rest and visited 1-2 places like van vihar and monastery. At other places it was huge rush. In the morning on 25th june we woke up at 2:30 and picked up bus for Keylong, reached keylong. Stopped at Kokshar for breakfast, reached keylong. at 12pm. After reaching there, immediately booked a guest hotel and cab. Reached Baralacha at 5:30pm, took lots of snaps came back around 9 at hotel. Had rest, took bus on 26th june, it was huge jam on rohtang pass, thanks to HRTC bus and specially you who made our journey easy and hassle free. Came back at Manali at same day in the afternoon, had rest at hotel, ladies did shopping twice and walked towards Hadimpa Temple, wait for some time there, came back at hotel in the eve, again walked out at Mall Road at Manali, it was like huge huge people out there because of 3-4 days holidays. On 27TH June, wake up like in delhi around 9 get fresh, walked towards van-vicar again, and shopping than in the eve took bus towards Delhi. Only issue was Chirag travels who dropped us at single border, from there we had to take cab to reach home. That is my experience so far.

Vargis.Khan June 29, 2017 - 4:31 pm

Great feedback Puran Bhai and I am so glad that you and your family enjoyed the trip. Can you share the details of taxi driver in Keylong? I will add it to the blog to help others. You waited at Rohtang for 1.30 hours even after leaving Manali at 4 AM? Why the delay?

If you wouldn’t mind, can you please share a small write up and a few pictures at the link below?

Puran Choudhary June 30, 2017 - 6:59 am

Hello Vargis bhai, rohtang pass enter supposed to open at 6am, we waited for that, and another problem was a truck that was coming from up and no space for that to cross. Slowly slowly we crossed pass that why it took time. Secondly i tried to post pictures on gin blog, but I can’t see any picture upload option, I can mail you. Shamsher – that driver’s name n his number is – 8894533740, he is from Keylong, he has innova. Thanks Bro – keep helping

Vargis.Khan June 30, 2017 - 3:52 pm

Thanks Puran Bhai. One you are at the forum, you will need to click on “Post New Thread” button towards the right side of the page. It will give you an option to create a new post where you can share some travel tips and pictures.

Sameer June 22, 2017 - 4:35 am

Can I get the permit online? We are supposed to cross Rohtang on 26th June

Vargis.Khan June 22, 2017 - 1:16 pm

Permits are available online. Please read the article at the link below.


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