Pangong Tso, 154-km to the southeast of
Leh , is one
of the largest salt-water lakes in Asia, a long narrow strip of water
stretching from Ladakh
east into Tibet. Only a quarter of the 130-km-long lake is in Ladakh, and
the Indian army, who experienced bitter losses along its shores in the war
against China in 1962, guard their side of the frontier.
An On Guard Area
Until the mid 1990s, it was off bounds to visitors, and tourists still need a permit to come here. The lake, at an altitude of 4267m, with the dramatic glacier clad Pangong range to its south and the Changchenmo range reflected in its deep blue green waters to the north, measures 4-km across at its widest point.
Bitter winds float across the brackish water making it one of the coldest places in Ladakh; visitors, who are usually glad to see the back of it. Still the lake provides a tantalizing view of Tibet in the distance, which, along with its proximity to Leh is the main draw for tourists.
There is little habitation in the region and even less transport. Occasional buses go as far as Tangse, but from there four wheel vehicles are required, which is why the easiest way to get here is on a two or three day Jeep Safari organized by one of the many tour operators based in Leh .
Visitors are restricted by the army from staying at Spangmik for longer than a couple of hours, and the usual itinerary involves camping at Lukung 15-km before the lake. Tour operators provide all the necessary facilities including tents and food and will arrange your permit.
Road: After going through Chemrey and Thak Thok,
the road to Pangong Tso crosses the 5,475m-high Chang-la pass, and then
continues to Tangse where there is a small Gompa, which used to be on a
vital trade route. Despite the height of the Chang la, the road, which is
of strategic importance to the army, is open throughout the year except
when clogged by the occasional winter snowstorm.