High Altitude Lakes


Pangong Lake - Located at an altitude of 14,500 ft / 4,267 M in the Chang-thang region of Ladakh, Pangong Tso (150 kms) is a long narrow basin of inland water body, about 5-6 kilometers at its widest, and over 140 kms long. One-third of the lake is in India while the rest lies on the Tibet side of the border, where most of the feeder streams are also located. It is the largest brackish water lake in Asia and presents an amazing and captivating sight to behold in its spectacular setting.

The Chang-Chenmo, a range of ochre sandy hills encircling it from the north, provides a spectacular backdrop to the lake's placid water which changes colour from turquoise blue to deep blue, depending upon the condition of the sky. Spangmik and a scattering of other tiny hamlets along the lake's southern shore are the summer homes of the nomadic Chang-pa herdsmen. They cultivate a sparse crop of barley and peas in summer. But in winter they unfold their yak wool tents (rebo), and take the flocks of sheep and pashmina goats to the distant pastures for grazing. One of the few types of birds seen in and around the the lake is the rare Black Necked Crane.

Tso-Moriri -Tsokar Lakes Circuit - The area traversed by the Manali-Leh road is known as Rupsho. Here, the Zanskar range turns into a landscape quite unlike anywhere else in Ladakh with bare rolling multi-hued hills and high-altitude valleys. Yet the region supports some exotic wildlife such as hordes of Kyang, the wild ass of the Ladakh and Tibet plateau, Tibetan marmots, hares etc. Korzok, situated at 15,000 ft (4,572M) with its dozen or so houses and an ancient gompa, is the only permanent settlement. Otherwise the Rupshu region is inhabited only by nomadic Chang-pa herdsmen, who live in yak-wool tents (rebo) all year round, moving between the pastures that exist wherever streams make growth of grass possible.


The first lake on this circuit is Tsomo-riri. For visiting this lake, drive upstream the Indus, past the hot springs of Chumathang, up to Mahe. Here cross over to the left bank of the Indus and follow the Puga stream through a narrow gorge-like valley upto Puga-Sumdo. From here the straight road leads to Tso-Moriri while the one turning right leads to the Tso Kar area. The road to Tso-Moriri passes over a wide pass with a small brackish water lake at its base. At the end of the drive through some wilderness, suddenly the vast expanse of turquoise blue water of Tsomo-riri appears on the horizon, surrounded all around by mountains. This is a brackish water lake, about 28 km long and 8 km wide, located at an altitude of 15,000 ft / 4,572 m above sea level. As the sun begins to set, the surrounding peaks attain a golden tinge, providing a stunning backdrop to the dense blue water of the lake. It is the breeding ground for numerous species of birds including the bar-headed goose, the great crested grebe, the Brahmini duck and the brown-headed gull


For visiting the other lake in the circuit, retrace the road till Puga Sumdoo after an overnight at Tsomo-riri, and thence follow the left road. At about 4 km from Puga Sumdoo, we reach the wide base of a valley which turns into a green carpet of grass, with hot water shot out of sulphur springs like geysers. At an hours' drive from here is Polo-Kongkha Pass (about 16,500 ft /5,030 M), a long wide tabletop, at the base of which one can have the first glimpse of Tso Kar or "White Lake". This is a small lake of deep blue water with a chain of snow peaked mountains as the backdrop. The lake produces salt deposits all around its shores which are collected by the nomads and sold all over Ladakh. The nomad settlement of Samad Rokchen is located next to the lake.

After sightseeing and lunch at Tso-kar, we start out return journey of the tour. A 20- minutes drive gets us on the Manali–Leh highway, enroure crossing Taglang-La (5260 M / 17, 582 Ft), second highest motorable road in the world. Upon descending from the pass the road passes through picturesque villages till the Indus River is met at Upshi, from where Leh is an hour's drive only.

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