Be mesmerised by the enchanted Pangong lake
Pangong Tso Lake, the largest Brackish lake in Asia is situated at a height of about 4,250 m (13,900 ft), is around 134 km long, much of which extends into Tibet. The lake is 5 km (3 mi) wide at its broadest point. In the sun, the lake is a deep shimmering blue and green backed by barren tan-colored mountain with snows depending on the season, the sight that is stunningly beautiful and pristine. Tourists are allowed only as far as Spangmik, about 7km along the south west shores, but the journey to get here and the views are certainly enough reason to come here. Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh (around 160km), most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road, traversing Changla pass (5289m/ 17800ft).
The spectacular lakeside is open during the tourist season, from May to September. The lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds, such as the rare black-necked crane. Spangmik and a scattered tiny villages along the lake's southern shore are the summer homes of a scanty population of Chang-pa, the nomadic herds people of Tibet and south-east Ladakh. There are small hostels and tent camp hotels in the village of Tangtse, some 40km from the lake.
The unadulterated natural beauty of the Pangong Lake makes it a favourite destination among directors for shooting and filming. A number of blockbusters have been shot here, which includes amazing works such as Dil Se, 3 Idiots, Heroes, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Sanam Re, Waqt and Tashan among many others. The Bollywood junkie in you will definitely feel like a superstar here!
The beauty of Pangong Lake is in itself reason enough to warrant a trip there. However, there are other things to do at Pangong Lake that will keep you excited during the duration of your stay here. One of them is camping. Camping at the Pangong Lake can be an enthralling experience. Build a campfire, get a barbecue going and enjoy the beauty surrounding you – how much better can it get?
Although leaving the warmth of your camp is extremely difficult, go ahead and step out. During the night, the stars of the sky shine in all their glory. The feeling you get is that of oneness, of the skies and the universe immersing themselves in you. At dawn, get out of your camp and watch the sunrise. Watch, as the rising sun gradually disperses the darkness and ushers in light. Carry a camera with you, and capture these splendid moments.
The route to Pangong Lake is as beautiful as the lake itself. To get a glimpse of this beauty, stop about 10km from Pangong Tso Lake, if you are coming from Leh. You will be greeted by a few signboards saying, “Stop here to see rare endemic species Marmot”. Marmots are large squirrels which are found in mountainous areas and reside in burrows. Despite being quite dodgy, they do come out from their potholes during the day, so there is a good chance of spotting them.
An adventure is all about taking on challenges, and being brave enough to try anything unusual. One of the unusual things to do in Pangong Lake is to take a dip in its cold waters. Usually, tourists leave Pangong Lake after sunrise as they have to reach Leh before sunset. Before doing so, take a dip in the lake. Yes, it sounds crazy, and you would be crazy enough to try it. But craziness is what makes an adventure thrilling and memorable.
It is best to visit this lake in summers, precisely from the month of June to the month of September as in winter due to its extreme weather and high altitude the vacation would not be as enjoyable and the lake would be frozen as well. A visit in summer will open an avenue to witness different migratory birds and other flora fauna.
It is a breathtaking 5-hour drive from Leh, with the entire route to this destination being the epitome of scenic beauty. The Lake falls on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control and you are required to get Inner Line permission. Also because the Pangong Lake is situated very close to the border, you will be allowed to visit only up to the Spangmik village. From Leh, you need to pass through the Changla Pass and the through Tangste. Regular buses by the state road transport corporation are also available. In addition to this, you can hire taxis, motorbikes, jeeps and cars are reasonable prices as well. Make sure you have enough fuel in your vehicle as there are no petrol pumps in Pangong.
There are a few eateries and stalls at the lake selling popular local items, Maggi and tea. One might want to, however, carry their own food for a trip to the lake. While options for food at the lake are limited, you may find popular and local preparations such as Thukpa which is a noodle soup, Tsampa, known in Ladakhi as Ngamphe (roasted barley flourished barley flour), and Skyu which is a heavy pasta dish with plenty of veggies as well as the very popular and delicious Momos which are steamed dumplings stuffed with vegetables or meat. Drinks include tea, coffee, beer and Chang which is an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.
The natural setting of Pangong makes for a perfect destination for a quaint little camping adventure. If you wish to camp at the lake, you might want to consider tenting which is the only viable option. The tents are quite clean, cosy and comfortable with meals included in the package. in addition to the camps, you can also try out homestays here where local households provide accommodation. The ideal place to live is 32 kilometre from Pangong lake in a place called Tangste. Also, there are places to live in and around the vicinity of Lukung which is close also located close by and has the provision of eco huts. One can, however, be based at Leh, which has numerous options for accommodation and take a day trip to the lake. The beautiful setting of this destination makes it an ideal spot to relax and unwind.