Pangong is situated at an altitude of 4,350 m above sea level in the northeast of Leh which is in the eastern part of the Jammu and Kashmir state in India. This blue blackish lake which is 134 km long and 5 km wide extends from India to Tibet, with two-third of its length in Tibet. This area is under army control. Travelers require passes provided by Deputy Commissioner of Leh. To reach Pangong, one has to travel 30 km up the Manali-Leh highway to reach Karu. Pangong is 113 km from Karu.
Tourists have to cross a total of five army check posts. There is a five-hour drive from Leh, over the tough mountains to reach Zingral Check post, beyond which lies the world’s third highest motorable pass, named Changla Pass which is 5486 m high. Crossing this pass, tourists will stumble upon Pangong Tso (Tso means lake in Ladakhi).
It is believed that this lake was formed by large masses of ice left behind by retreating glaciers in the last ice age. Perhaps, the freshwater in this landlocked lake has evaporated over the years and turned brackish. However, this salty water freezes in winter. The lake is a fine example of nature’s craftsmanship.
Chang La Pass:
The mountains in Chang La Pass appear to be painted in green, violet and brown hues. This area is rocky terrain. A school of mountaineering is located here, which imparts training in various degrees of rock climbing. Tourists can see lush green pastureland with yaks and mountain cows grazing in them. Just two km short of Pangong Lake, travelers pass through gravelly terrain. From here one can see the tip of Pangong. No vegetation is found in the lake, though scrubs and perennials grow in the marshes around the lake. Tourists can enjoy a panoramic view of the villages below the Chang La Pass.
After crossing Chang La Pass, tourists can halt for a picnic lunch at Tsoltak, which is the summer pastureland of yaks.
Arriving at Durbuk, travelers can take a short drive to the western shore of the lake. Here one can enjoy the landscape in the backdrop of the Pangong. Travelers can enjoy the colourful effect produced by the reflection of sunlight on the brackish water.
Pangong is home to a variety of migratory birds, especially siberian cranes. Travelers can enjoy the solitude of a day or two and zoom their cameras to shoot these black-necked beauties. Bar-headed geese and waterfowl are the other birds seen near the lake. Other wildlife in this area are kiang, the largest of wild asses, yaks and pashmina (mountain goats). One can stay here in tents and enjoy the silence around the lake. Being transparent to a good depth, it is easy to pick pebbles from under the water. The placid Pangong is not only a tourist paradise but also a geologists’ domain.
Tourists can take regular flights from Delhi to Leh, which is in the eastern part of Jammu and Kashmir. In Leh, travelers can hire a taxi to Pangong. They can also motor all the way to reach the lake. Pangong is accessible by road from Delhi via Manali-Jispa-Darcha-Sarchu-Leh-Kardungla and onto Pangong.