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:
- Turtuk Village – Day 30
- Siachen Base Camp – Day 31 & 32
- Yarab Tso Lake – Day 33
- Panamik Hot Water Spring – Day 33
- Murgi Waterfall & Ensa Gompa – Day 33
- Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake via Shyok Road – Day 34
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We spent about an hour here walking around and clicking pictures and then started our return journey.
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.
After a short break, we resumed our journey.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After what seemed like an eternity of driving, we finally reached the top of Chang La.
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.
- Journey Ahead: Leh Hall of Fame – In the Memory of the Martyrs
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.