There really cannot be an aspiring travel blog, without having a story from Ladakh in it. Hence, the need of the hour. This article aims to take you to the enchanted Pangong Lake. While even a ready thesaurus might not suffice in describing the beauty of this place, I will try nonetheless to give words to the Leh-Pangong journey that I undertook last summer.
(P.S. You may put the song ‘Haminastu’ to set the moods right for this. Haminastu translates to ‘If there is heaven on earth, it’s here’, and Pangong is the most worthy of that title.)
Before Kareena Kapoor rode on to a scooter along the banks of Pangong in the last scene of 3 Idiots, Mani Ratnam had already popularized the spot while shooting Shahrukh Khan and Manisha Koirala for the song ‘Satrangi Re’ from the movie Dil Se in 1998. Shahrukh Khan again took us to Pangong in ‘Jab Tak Hain Jaan’, this time with Anushka Sharma daringly diving into the freezing waters of the lake. So there, the King Khan himself has validated this spot for you twice.
Enough Movie Talk, let’s get to the place now. While most of the backpackers and passionate travelers will prefer taking the road route, Delhi-Manali-Awesome Highway-Leh, I did not have the luxury of time (which many corporates are seldom entitled to), and hence took the air-route. Air India, Jet Airways and GoAir have direct flights from Delhi to Leh on a daily basis. You will be amused to be transported from an altitude of 200m to 3500m in just 1hr 30mins, and there you’ll be in Ladakh. Julley Ladakh !!! (Julley is a common word of the region meaning ‘Hello’). For those who would tend to get paranoid after reading a lot about Altitude Sickness on blogs, gulp in a tablet of Diamox the night before leaving. (Take another tablet after end of Day-1 in Leh, and you should be fine). Fast forward from the airport to Leh Main Market in a taxi, you can easily get bikes/Innovas booked for your day long road trip to Pangong.
My suggested timeline:
9am land in Leh, book your vehicles, and chill till 11am. Leave for Pangong. It should take you 5-6 hours to Pangong (depending on the number of photo stops you take). This will get you to Pangong just at the time of Sunset, and trust me my friend, your cameras will then fail.
Route from Leh to Pangong
The 150km route will take you through Karu, Chang La, and Tangtse Village. You will also be able to take pit stops at Thicksey, Hemis and Shey Monasteries. The monasteries are guaranteed to give you a rich Buddhist spiritual experience. There is an eerie calmness about a monastery, and can be expected to throw you into deep thoughts. Moreover, for the shutter bugs, the monks will be more than happy to get clicked and you can come back with fantastic portraits.
This should definitely be a Maggi Stop on the way. At 5,360m this is claimed to be the world’s third highest motorable pass. Chang La, which literally means ‘Pass towards the South’, can be reached after a steep climb from Sekti Village beyond Leh. During summers small streams appear across the road, making the climb a challenge for the bikers. Visit the Chang-la Baba Ka Mandir to see the colourful prayer flags juxtaposed against the white snow clad mountains. The descent from Chang La towards Tangtse Village is again very steep. Beyond Tangtse there will be a couple of teaser lakes, try to hold on to your excitement there and keep moving, as Pangong will magically reveal itself 35kms from Tangtse.
Magical, Enchanted, Eerie, Spellbinding, Uncanny, Baffling, Enigmatic, Alluring, Bewitching (There, that’s the thesaurus overuse coming out). Pangong Tso, literally meaning ‘High Grassland Lake’, is at a height of 4350m and is a staggering 134km long lake, extending from India to China. It is an endorheic lake (the what ??), meaning that a closed water lake that doesn’t drain out to sea or a larger water body (Okay, no more GK facts).
The place offers surreal backdrops, and definitely gives profile pictures for everyone on the group. Mysteriously, the light from sun hits the blue waters of the lake and continually changes hues, from blue to indigo to purple to green. It goes crazy at sunset. A number of camp sites have been prepared at the shores of the lake. I booked one at a nominal rate of 2000/- per night. It starts getting a lot windy and cold at night, but your excitement should keep you warm. As night should approach, prepare your playlist (My suggestion: Theme track from Interstellar :p ) and go out for a walk along the shore. If you are lucky to get a clear evening sky, you will find yourself under one of those Milky Way Starry nights that you have seen only on National Geographic. It will for sure make you feel like quitting your job and settling in Pangong for life. (Sigh. If Only.)
Wake up to an early sunrise the next day. If you decide to spend your life in Pangong, then you can linger around for another day, lazying around the lake shores, waiting for colours to appear and preparing your resignation letter. You can alternatively move ahead to Tso-Moriri, or start heading back for Leh.
Tips for Travelers:
- Diamox Tablets for Altitude Sickness
- SPF 50 Sunscreen to avoid any sun burns
- Shades to avoid sun again, and to look good basically
- A mix of winter and summer clothes. Days can be decent warm now in summer months, whereas nights are cold
Best time to Visit: May-Aug
So, there you ‘Go’ !!!