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A Complete Guide to Pangong Tso Lake, Ladakh

A Complete Guide to Pangong Tso Lake, Ladakh

By CarolUpdated Oct. 14, 2022

The Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh is among the world’s highest saltwater lakes due to its elevation of over 4,000 m (13,000 ft) above sea level. A scene from the hit Bollywood movie 3 Idiots was shot here.

One unique feature of the lake is that its water can change color through the day. Travelers can also see some migratory birds, like ducks and seagulls; the marmot, a rare species of squirrel; and wild donkeys.


  • Pangong Tso Lake was featured in the 2009 Bollywood movie 3 Idiots.
  • The lake is a haven for seasonal animals like ducks, seagulls, and the rare giant squirrel, the marmot.
  • The lake’s waters can change color from sapphire to light blue to green to grey.
  • There are many homestays and luxury tents around the lake that offer accommodation for visitors.
  • Travelers are advised to spend three to five days getting accustomed at Leh to avoid altitude sickness in the future.

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Where is Pangong Tso Lake?

Pangong Tso Lake is situated in the Changthang region to the east of Ladakh. It extends for 135 km (84 miles) and is located between two countries, India and China. It is about six hours away from Ladakh’s capital, Leh.

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Why visit Pangong Tso Lake?

The renowned Pangong Tso Lake has a unique feature: the color of its water doesn’t always remain blue. It can change from sapphire to light blue to green to grey.

After it featured in the 2009 Bollywood movie 3 Idiots, the lake gained popularity, attracting around 1,000 visitors daily. Travelers not only come to see its pristine blue waters, but also to enjoy the wonderful scenery and the serenity of the environment.

Being one of the world’s highest lakes, Pangong Tso Lake does not support much aquatic life. However, travelers can spot animals, such as ducks and seagulls, migrating here during the summer. You can also spot brown rodents, called marmots, and wild donkeys.

When to Visit Pangong Tso Lake

It is best to visit Pangong Tso Lake in the summer, from May to September. The weather throughout this time is comfortably mild as there is less snowfall. We do not recommend visiting in winter, as the weather will be exceptionally cold and the lake will be frozen.

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Recommended Activities around Pangong Tso Lake

There may not be too many things to do around Pangong Tso Lake, but the available activities are sure to be very exciting and memorable.

1.Visit Chang La Pass

Before coming to Pangong Tso Lake, one can visit Chang La
Pass. It is the world’s third-highest passable mountain road, accessible through Leh. The pass is known to have snow all year round, and you can see it melting during the summer.

2.See the seasonal animals

Seasonal animals like ducks and seagulls are a major attraction of the lake. Travelers can see these animals gliding over the waters. One can also see rare giant squirrels, known as marmots, about 10 km (about 6 miles) from Pangong Tso Lake, in the mountainous region.

3.View the pristine waters

The best thing to do at Pangong Tso Lake is view its pristine waters and enjoy the beautiful and serene surroundings. One may even witness the lake’s waters changing colors. A popular activity among travelers is taking selfies by the lake.

4.Go camping

Camping at the lake is a fun activity for families. At night, you can set up a bonfire and prepare a meal. You can also stare into the glittering sky filled with stars. At dusk, you can enjoy the amazing view of the sunset with the mountains in the background.

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Where to Stay Around Pangong Tso Lake

Tents are set up along the side of the lake. Most of them have hot water but are not heated. Electricity is only provided for a few hours.

Another, more comfortable, alternative is homestays. Many are located in nearby villages. The facilities differ with every homestay, with different styles of rooms and bathrooms.

If you wish to stay in more comfortable facilities, you can opt to stay at luxury camps located at Maan village. They are quiet and private. A good option is to stay at Pangong Hermitage, which costs INR 18,000 per night.

You won’t have to worry about food, as the homestays and camps provide meals. There are also many stalls around the lake that sell foods such as momos (steamed dumplings), thukpa (noodle soup), and skyu (pasta with vegetables).

Health and safety tips when visiting Pangong Tso Lake

The main problem that travelers need to watch out for when visiting Pangong Tso Lake is altitude sickness. Higher elevations have thinner air, which means that people can have a hard time breathing. The best solution to reduce the severity of this issue is to spend three to five days adjusting to the height.

As Leh is located 3,505 m (11,500 ft) above sea level, travelers start feeling altitude sickness the first time they fly into the city. You can minimize this by taking a drug called Diamox. Travelers are also advised to spend a minimum of three nights at Leh before heading out to the lake.

In the middle of the trip, it is also advisable to spend a night at Tangtse village. Here, you can get a good night’s rest as well as go to the medical centers available at the village if you experience shortness of breath.

Travelers are also strongly advised to avoid smoking and alcohol, and to stay hydrated. Recommended clothing includes cotton shirts, woolens, thermal jackets, earmuffs, and windproof jackets. Sunscreen is also essential to protect yourselves from the hot sun.

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Permit to visit Pangong Tso Lake

Foreigners wanting to visit Pangong Tso Lake should first get the Protected Area Permit (PAP). You can apply online at or at a registered travel agent in Leh.

At least two people are required in order to procure a PAP. If you are a solo traveler, your name will be listed in a different group. After receiving the PAP, you do not have to remain with the group. The permit costs INR 400, plus an environment fee of INR 20.

How to reach Pangong Tso Lake

Travelers usually go by road, preferably in SUVs. The two best starting points for the trip are Leh and Nubra Valley.


The distance between Leh and Pangong Tso Lake is roughly 160 km (100 miles). Travelers first pass through Changla Pass and then through Tangste village. The journey takes around 5 hours.

Nubra Valley

There are two routes to Pangong Tso Lake from Nubra Valley. The first is through the Wari La Pass, which takes around 8–10 hours. The other way is to travel along the Shyok River.

Explore Pangong Tso Lake with Asia Highlights

If you would like to start planning your trip and get incredible guides to Pangong Tso Lake, contact Asia Highlights. We arrange your itinerary for you so that you don’t have to worry about the small details — you can just enjoy your trip.

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