Leh To Tso Moriri Travel Guide

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Tso Moriri, located at an altitude of 15,075 ft is the largest of the high altitude lakes in the Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. Unlike Pangong, this lake is entirely within India and being a sweet water lake, it is home to wide range of wildlife. 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. This lake, like all other high altitude Himalayan lakes, is a beauty in itself however It has always been overshadowed by Pangong Tso. Despite the fact that both lakes are in a restricted area and permits are required to visit both, Tso Moriri doesn't get as many visitors as Pangong.

There are 2 ways to reach Tso Moriri. One of them, and, the easier one, is to approach through Moore Plains and the second one is through Changthang valley. This article covers the More Plains routes.

Route 1 : Total distance - 240 kms

Leh – Shey – Karu - Upshi [49 kms]
Upshi – Kumdok - Kere - Chumthang - Mahe [128 kms]
Mahe - Sumdo [10 kms]
Sumdo - Namashang La - Karzok [53 kms]

Route 2 : Total distance - 258 kms

Leh – Shey – Karu - Upshi [49 kms]
Upshi - Rumtse - Tanglang La - Debring [81 kms]
Debring - Tso Kar [32kms]
Tso Kar - Polakongka La - Puga - Sumdo [43 kms]
Sumdo - Namashang La - Karzok [53 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.

Please refer to the map below for these route Both of which are explained in detail later in this article.


leh-to-tso-moriri-map

 

Route 1

Leh – Shey – Karu - Upshi : It is highly advised that you start from Leh as early as possible. This journey can take an entire day to cover due to bad roads and frequent photography breaks. 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.

Upshi – Kumdok - Kere - Chumthang - Mahe : 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 Leh 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 Chumthang and will be pretty much traveling on a dirt road. While on a paved road, do not make the mistake of speeding as the roads around here are a lot bumpy and can stress your stomach and vehicle's suspension.

Mahe - Sumdo : 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.

Sumdo - Namashang La - Karzok : From Sumdo, take the turn towards Karzok. You can ask the locals if you are unable to spot the diversion. Right after Sumdo, the ascent for Namashang La starts. The ascent is not that steep and the road is not that bad. 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. 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 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.

This is the diversion mentioned above. Track straight ahead leads to Karzok, towards left is Chumur.

diversion-towards-chumur-before-karzok


Route 2

Leh – Shey – Karu - Upshi : This journey is just slightly different than the route above. Rather than taking the road towards Mahe from Upshi, you will continue till More Plains and take the diversion from there. Distance covered is almost the same with this route slightly longer. Several people go to Tso Moriri using Route 1 and return taking this route. It is highly advised that you start from Leh as early as possible. This journey can take an entire day to cover due to bad roads and frequent photography breaks. 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.

Upshi - Rumtse - Tanglang La - Debring - Tso Kar : After Upshi, continue towards Rumtse. 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. This can be easily spotted as there are a few dhabas at this bifurcation. 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.

Tso Kar - Polakongka La - Puga - Sumdo [43 kms] : 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 Polakongka 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.

Sumdo - Namashang La - Karzok : From Sumdo, take the turn towards Karzok. You can ask the locals if you are unable to spot the diversion. Right after Sumdo, the ascent for Namashang La starts. The ascent is not that steep and road is not that bad. 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. 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 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.

Leh to Tso Moriri is a 2 day trip at least. You can not hope to go to Tso Moriri, spend some time there and be back in Leh the same day. If you have time, spend a day in Karzok, around the banks of this beautiful lake.

Accommodations and Other Facilities : Accommodations on this route are rare. You will not find a decent place to stay till Karzok once you have left the Manali Leh highway. If you must break the journey in between for whatever reason, your best chance is to speak to locals at one of the villages and if you are lucky, they may arrange a place for you to stay. There are no guest houses or hotels however until Karzok.

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 Upshi.

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