Camp at 4225m in Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India
The Pangong lake trip has been one of my favourite travel experiences. It was not actually about the final destination rather the journey towards the lake itself. Getting there requires journeying between high altitude barren mountains & lush valleys of Ladakh. During winter, you’re gifted with snow peaked mountains filled with glaciers & waterfalls. Perhaps the lack of oxygen or vast scenic beauty will leave a mark on your memories.
“While several high mountain passes remain closed in winter, the Indian Army keeps the road through Chang La pass open all year round. This means Pangong Lake can be visited throughout the year. You will have to do adequate preparations for the harsh winter as well as get necessary security clearances as well.” Normally you will be going with a tour guide or on a bus, the security clearances are to pass through the check points which the drivers or company do for you.
10KM before you arrive to Pangong Tso, you will see a valley full of Marmots – apparently the like to live in the area and are a rare endemic species.
To the left, once you’ve passed all the green lushness, you drive through arid mountains, probably due to the season. Just when you’ve lost hope, a blue piece of water body reveals itself. You’re about 30 minutes drive from Pangong Tso Lake.
There is no escaping the blue lake, its there, you’re there, and it’s amazing. Step out of the car, taste that fresh air, gaze at the lake from left to right and go to it. You will find people offering you to ride a cycle – it comes from a Bollywood film which made the place famous for Indian tourism.
To be honest with you, once you’ve seen the lake, the thought of “is that it” will cross your mind. Hit yourself, shut down that brain and look around, that’s when things got interesting. Get into the scenery, look for this local man with some domestic Yak just chilling by the bank. You can’t ignore the feeling of being at one of the few untouched places of earth. Those beautiful blankets covering the Yak. The man’s UV burnt face, life is so different from him. That when it gets to you, you are far aware from home.
When you arrive to Pangong Tso, you will be famished, even if you’re full. This is due to the journey taking place on a high altitude plane,- if you did not know, the higher you go, the less you taste. There are plenty of cafés nearby, don’t be picky, they all sell the same, maggi noodles, momos, parathas & soup.
Kids roaming around while their parents work at the restaurants. Women work harder than men in these remote areas.
I was eager to take some pictures, if you are not the photography hungry person, explore around, have some tea, talk to the locals, they are kind.
If you’re an eater like me, make sure to indulge yourself in the local restaurants with some Momos, a Tibetan speciality & far tastier than the camp food you’re about to get.
You will find an Instagram picture wherever you look. You have to be quick though, as every minute the picture will be changing. Thats because either you have clean skies and a blue lake, or you have a dull lake with beautiful clouds. If you’re here for the night, drop everything at the camp, grab your camera, a drink and spend the sunset at the river bank. The breeze from the lake, the sound of the water crashing in the lake edge, Pangong Tso Lake will live up to its name.
Once the sun is going, it’s just a matter of minutes before it gets pitch black. There are camp lights however power cuts are frequent too. You don’t want the lights, if you are a photographer, this is the place to capture the MilkyWay. Look up and click, the skies are lined with starts wherever you see.
It’s a place to relax, chances are that during the night you will either not want to come out as the temperature drops!, or you’ll want to spend it around a camp fire with some drinks.
Most tourists, will spend a night & will rise early to make headway towards Leh to reach before the sunset. Party at night, but enjoy the rest under the stars, waking up early, Pangong Tso has its own beauty to offer.
In the morning, grab yourself a warm drink, a blanket & walk down to the lake to see if you can get a glimpse of a beautiful sunrise. I didn’t as it was sort of cloudy & the mountains surrounding were blocking the sun. Nonetheless, quite the peaceful view and a once in a lifetime experience.
What do think of the stay overnight? Let me know in the comments.