A sparkling, cobalt-blue lake cradled by slopes of camel-coloured snow desert, Pangong Tso extends across the far east of Ladakh towards the Chinese border. The journey to it takes around five hours from Leh, but the trip is far from arduous, passing as it does through constantly changing and relentlessly spectacular landscape.
The lake is 134km (83 miles) long and around 5km (3.5 miles) wide at its broadest point. Only the northwest end falls within India; the eastern half sits on the far side of the disputed border with the Tibet Autonomous Region (officially part of China). The cause of military conflict during the Sino-Indian War of 1962, this is still a delicate border, but tourism is nowadays allowed for travellers in possession of an Inner Line Permit (which we will arrange for you in advance).
The recent addition of seasonal camps dotted along Pangong Tso’s southern shore allow visitors to spend a night or two is this exquisite corner of the Himalayas. Time your visit well and you may catch sight of a bar-headed goose or Brahminy duck – just two of the migratory species that spend the summer months on these high wetlands.
Visiting Pangong Tso requires a minimum two-day extension to your tour, but it’s one we wholeheartedly recommend, particularly for photographers. The landscape is truly extraordinary, and at its most sublime in the hours after dawn and before dusk.