The Mesmerizing Lake that Changes Colours – Pangong Tso, Ladakh

traveller Osheen

Pangong Lake, originally known as Pangong Tso (Tso means lake in the native language of Ladakh) is an extremely gorgeous site located amidst the high grasslands of the Ladakh region in North India.

The sheer beauty of Pangong Tso or more popularly known as just the Pangong Lake, makes travellers visit it from far and wide. Pangong Tso is of the serene bright water that changes shades from blue, green and even reddish at times. The rugged mountains on one side of the lake add to the stunning view.

All the hype about the water being so blue is all true. Although Pangong Tso gained fame after the climax of 3 Idiots was shot here, no pictures or videos do justice to the beauty of this lake. One can only experience this endorheic lake by visiting it. In the current piece, I will elaborate on each and every aspect of the Pangong lake that will prove useful for a traveler to this beautiful place.

Pangong Lake

Standing at an elevation of more than 4,300 meters, Pangong Lake is the world’s highest saltwater lake. Here, you don’t need anything ‘to do.’ Simply staring at the unrealistic views and letting it all sink in is enough. It’s a must-visit in Ladakh.


Pangong Lake: An Overview


150 kms North of Leh, Ladakh, India

Mode of Travel



Budget Stay

Guest House offers budget stay and budget eating options too with clean and comfortable rooms.


Mornings are calm and peaceful. Sunrise from behind the mountains is quite a soothing scene. Evenings get quite windy.

Villages to Visit

Spangmik Village

Traveller Warnings

Little or no network connectivity. The temperature gets low enough to mildly freeze the water in bottle and buckets. Take extra layers of warm clothes even during April, May and June.

Food Specialty

Tibetan food – noodles, momos, fried rice. North Indian food – Thali, Roti and curry


Weather Conditions and Average Temperature at Pangong Lake

The weather conditions at Pangong Lake vary according to the season. The best weather conditions are during the summer months i.e. March to May. 

During the summer months, the temperature at Pangong Tso varies between 8°C and 30°C.  In the winter months, temperatures can drop to as low as -14°C. During monsoons, the weather conditions of Pangong Lake remain slightly humid. 

How to reach the World’s Highest Saltwater Lake? – Preferred Routes

Pangong Lake can only be reached after a 5-6 hour drive from Leh. It needs to be mentioned here, that each year, both routes 1 & 2 are constructed all over again for safe travel by the Border Road Organization. This is because once the snow starts to melt and Shyok River is at its full strength, this road can’t be accessed.

Route One

Leh via Chang La or from Nubra Valley via Shyok Villages and Tangste.

Route Two

Leh – Khardungla – Nubra Valley – Agham – Shyok Village – Durbuk – Tangtse- Pangong Tso – Chang La

Nubra Valley

No matter what route you choose, you’ll come across the beautiful Nubra Valley on the way. Do halt at this wonderful spot. In addition to being scenic, it has a rather interesting history – it used to be a trading route between Tibet and Turkistan!

Note: Route no. 2 can be accessed only in the early season when snow from the mountains hasn’t started to melt and Shyok River is not in its best appearance. This whole stretch has various water crossings (some nasty ones), loose rocks, sharp stones, big rocks underwater crossings or standing water or sometimes even Shyok River itself on the road. However, it’s worth your time and has some of the best landscape sightings in the complete Leh journey. Previously, this route used to be challenging due to sharp stones and big boulders. This, however, is a thing of the past. It is now 85% road and 15% uneven terrain. Make sure your driver is familiar with this route.

Leh to Pangong Lake Distance

The approximate distance between Leh and Pangong is about 154 kilometres. It takes 4 to 5 hours to reach Pangong Lake from Leh. Try starting early from Leh to be able to spend ample time in and around Pangong Lake. The entire journey from Leh to Pangong Tso is splendid. It will be a good option to stay overnight at Pangong Lake and witness the beauty.

Inner Line Permit for Visiting Pangong Lake

Inner Line Permit (ILP)  is a travel document issued by the Government of India. It allows visitors to travel to a protected area for a limited period of time. Obtaining the ILP is essential for all the citizens who do not belong to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Foreigners travelling to Ladakh are required to obtain the Ladakh Protected Area Permit (PAP).

The PAP is required for visiting areas like Nubra Valley, Khardung La, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Dah, Hanu Villages, Man, Merak, Nyoma, Loma Bend, Turtuk, Tyakshi, Chusul, Hanle, Digger La, etc.

Best Time to Visit Pangong Tso

Visit Pangong Lake between early May to September, if harsh winters are not your cup of tea. Even during May, the temperature goes down to -10°C. 

One should avoid visiting between November to February, as Pangong Lake is completely frozen and it can be enjoyed only when the snow has melted. Locals told us that during this time, the Indian Military Patrolling Vehicles can travel over the lake to the border. The multi-shades of the lake start appearing in mid-April, when the snow starts to melt. By April end and early May, it regains its beauty.

Pangong Lake

Ladakh in winter is not for the faint-hearted. It requires rigorous acclimatization, planning, and fitness. Furthermore, many roads and destinations are inaccessible because of the snow. Pangong Lake also is completely frozen during the winter months. Although the ever-changing colours can’t be seen, you could walk on the frozen lake, and also enjoy ice skating!

Accommodation Options Near Pangong Lake

Pangong is at a very remote location and thus, the choice of accommodation is limited. Staying options include Chadar tents, cottages, guest houses, and campsites. If you wish to spend your time near Pangong Tso, tents and cottages will prove comfortable. Try to opt for cottages with attached washrooms.

Spangmik, the nearest village to Pangong Lake has various small cottages and tent accommodation options available. You can also opt for camps. These camps have a sleeping capacity of 2-4 individuals per camp and have toilets attached to them. The ones that overlook the lake are generally more expensive than the ones that don’t offer the exact view of Pangong Lake.

The journey to Pangong Lake is lovely. No matter what route you take to reach this lake, do not return in a single day. Stay a night or two in the tents or cottages and witness the life around you. Watch the lake change colours when the sun sets and enjoy a warm tea on its shores. When the sun rises again, feel the warmth of sunlight and the rays making the lake appear heavenly. Talk to the helpers and cooks and find out about their lives, and don’t forget to wave goodbye to them when you leave.

Eating Places Around the Lake

The food options easily available to travellers near Pangong Tso are –

  • Aloo Paratha
  • Dal Chawal 
  • Rajma Chawal
  • Bread omelette
  • Maggi noodles
  • Momos
  • Thupka
  • Different varieties of soups
Momos Himalayas

You will be sure to find freshly steamed momos in most parts of Ladakh. It’s an absolute treat to devour a plate of hot momos in the freezing cold. What’s even better is the spicy chutney it comes with. It makes for my favourite snack in the Himalayas.

A Good Restaurant to Stop by at Pangong Lake

A restaurant by the name of P3 is a good place to sit and savour a meal, while at Pangong Lake. Not only does the P3 restaurant provide delicious food but also a heartwarming ambience and a lovely view of the lake. The prices of most food items are reasonable, and the staff is hospitable. The speciality of this place is its Tibetan food, so make sure you try it.  

Spangmik Village Near Pangong Lake 

Spangmik village is located around the Pangong Lake and is home to a community of people known as Changpas. They hail from Changthang Valley in Ladakh. They cultivate a few crops in summer. In winter, however, they move to warmer places. In recent times, more and more visitors have started visiting Spangmik village. Thus, some of the families have turned their homes into homestays for travellers.

The village lies between the Chang Chenmo mountains and Pangong Lake. It literally gives you a feeling of being at the edge of the world. An army check post bars civilians from going any further towards the border of Tibet, ahead of the village.

The Chang Chenmo Mountain Ranges

The Chang Chenmo mountain range stands tall at the Pangong Lake. Greyish brown in colour, these mountains add beauty to the lake. The entire landscape of the Chang Chenmo mountains along with the Pangong Lake makes for one hell of a natural canvas. 

The Change Chemo range is historically significant – it leads to the disputed Aksai Chin plateau. Disputes over the Aksai Chin plateau were the reason for the 1962 Indo-China War.

Marmot Sitings on the Way to Pangong Lake

About 8 to 10 kilometres before Pangong lake, a cute Himalayan creature can be found hiding in burrows or even on the side of a remote road. This animal goes by the name Marmot. It is one of the highest-elevation residing mammals in the world. Any visitor who spots a Marmot should be careful not to disturb the innocent animal. Due to the heavy influx of travellers on the way to Pangong Lake, marmots have decreased in number over the past few years.

Marmots in Ladakh

Generally referred to as large ground squirrels, Marmots are cute and innocent-looking mammals residing at high altitudes. If you are lucky to come across marmots, please ensure that you do not scare them away by going too close or taking pictures.

Popular Festivals Celebrated at Pangong Lake

Pangong is home to a lot of festivals. If possible, time yourself around the festive seasons. 

Dosmoche Festival

This festival is celebrated in the month of February and is one of two festivals celebrated on the arrival of New Year (the other being Losar).

Dosmoche Festival 2019: 2-3 February

Losar Festival

Losar festival, as per the Lunar Calendar, is celebrated for 2 weeks during the month of December and January. This festival is fervently enjoyed by Ladakhi Buddhists by offer prayers to the Gods, both in Gompas and in their native shrines.

Losar Festival 2019: 27 December

Hemis Festival

This festival is held in the month of June or July and is devoted to the respected Guru Padmasambhava.

Hemis Festival 2019: 11-12 July


Tips for First Time Travellers Visiting Pangong Lake

If you are travelling to Pangong Lake for the first time, here are some useful tips to keep in mind –

Tip one 

Since Pangong Lake actually changes colours, make sure you spend a night here and witness this amazing lake in the morning and evening as well. Do not speedily visit the lake.

Tip two

The temperature at night goes below -10°C. To keep warm, you should bring along your best winter wear and thermal wear.

Tip three

As Pangong Lake is situated at a remote location, luxury is not an option. Be prepared for power cuts during the day. Generators will be available during dinner time only. 

Tip four

During the peak season, it is advisable to book your accommodation in advance. Otherwise, you’ll face difficulty finding staying options both near Pangong Lake as well as Ladakh in general.

Tip five

Carry extra toilet rolls. These can be handy as at times the water freezes overnight.

Is it Possible to Budget Travel to Pangong Lake?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to travel on a budget to Pangong Tso. Just keep the following suggestions in mind –

If traveling solo, use public transport for cheap travel options, or make contact with other fellow travelers so that you can share a cab. Speak with travel agents since they can help you with the contact numbers of other solo travelers.

Pangong Lake

You could also try your hand at hitchhiking if you’re travelling on a tight budget. A number of bikers going to Pangong have a place for another person at the back. If you’re comfortable with the idea of it, you could give it a shot and travel for free.

Budget accommodation, camps and cottages with attached bathrooms in Spangmik can range from 2,000-3,000 INR per night. Homestays without food can be as nominal as 800INR. Though they allow a maximum of three people in a cottage, you can always negotiate and manage four people in a cottage with an extra bed.

Pangong Lake and Bollywood

A lot of Bollywood movies have had various scenes shot at the picturesque Pangong Lake. However, the lake rose in popularity after Aamir Khan’s starring movie, ‘The Three Idiots’ was shot there. The region has witnessed a heavy increase in visitors ever since. It is our duty as travelers to keep the lake clean.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pangong Lake

Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about visiting Pangong lake.

How is Pangong Lake in winter?

The lake freezes during winter.

What is the best time to visit Pangong Tso?

May to September

Can we swim in Pangong Lake?

The water temperature is very low, so it’s best to stay out of the water.

What is the Pangong Lake altitude?

4250 m or 13940 Ft above sea level

How much time should I spend at Pangong Lake?

It is recommended that you at least stay a night at Pangong.

What is the taxi fare from Leh to Pangong?

Rs 10,000 for one night’s stay

Rs 8.000 for up and down

Are there any buses available from Leh to Pangong Lake?

Buses from Leh to Pangong Lake run twice a week to a Spangmik Village.

They start as early as 6.30 am on Saturday and Sunday.

(confirm the previous day)

What special care should I take at Pangong Lake?

If you are planning to stay the night, make sure your body is properly acclimatised to the altitude.

Also, the Himalayas have a fragile environment. Let’s be responsible travellers.

Pangong Lake

Spending a few hours at Pangong Lake is a real treat to the eyes and the soul. However, the real challenge now is to preserve the quality of the lake. Due to a sudden influx of tourists and rapid commercialisation, biodiversity is gradually being disrupted. It is the duty of travelers like you and me, to care for wonders like these, and preserve them for generations to come!

Plan a trip to Pangong Lake soon. Observe the changing colours and make sure to stay overnight.

Happy wayfaring 🙂



Osheen Jain

Osheen Jain is an avid reader since her school days and has an interest in dystopia, classics, science fiction, and western philosophy. Sips black coffee from a beer cup. Chooses adventure and photography over snuggling in a blanket every single time. She is a learner by the day and a freelance writer when the sun goes down. A caffeine addict, and snapper in between, Osheen loves mountains and woods, not for escape but because they are powerful, mysterious, dangerous, and beautiful. She believes that words have the power to change the world for the better.