Leh is adorned by beautiful sights and mesmerizing landscapes. There are many lakes in lap of Leh valley. Tso moriri lake and pangong lake are better known. But, the most famous lake is Pangong which shot to fame after the climax scene in “3 Idiots”. After the movie grossed massive fame, the locals didn’t wait long to start promoting Pangong lake as a major tourist attraction.
So, we gave in the many recommendations and decided to visit Pangong lake one day before our Stok Kangri trek. Locally known as Pangong Tso, the lake is situated at a distance of 180 KMs from Leh and due to the terrain, it takes around 4.5 hours to reach.
‘Tso’ literally translates to Lake in the local language and you will see many water bodies marked as ‘Tso’ in Google maps. So, if you wish, you can take a detour and discover a new lake, away from the touristy eyes. You can read my blog “Is Tso Moriri lake better than Pangong lake” to make a decision.
We started early morning when the first rays of Sun had just started to illuminate the distant peaks in far horizon. With local music playing melodiously in the background, we admired the myriad patterns of sun rays bouncing off the icy peak shoulders in distance. In no time we were scramming through the highway, away from the Leh town. In an hour or so, we stopped at a pronged T section for breakfast. From here, the road split in two, one leading to Pangong lake and another to Tso Moriri lake.
While sipping tea and savoring delicious Aloo Parathas, we saw a group of folks gathering around nearby. We heard whispers that the road to Pangong lake was affected by a landslide. The road would be blocked until cleared by the government authorities. We now had two options. One, return to Leh and indulge in some local sight seeing or two, continue the journey to Tso Moriri Lake. The 2nd option would cost us an extra 80 KMs total. But, going back to Leh wasn’t really a wise option as we had covered a couple of sights previous day itself. So, we upheld our gut to visit Tso Moriri lake and we were off road tripping again!
The road turned a bit rough after junction. We admired the landscapes around us while the driver paid close attention to each bump and stone on the road. The sky was as looking ravishing in it’s blue coat and tiny shreds of white clouds moved swiftly with the wind. Patches of green pastures kept appearing frequently where blue sheep grazed calmly. The snow clad mountains looked alluring from distance. We kept our car windows open, allowing the cold waft of wind bounce off our faces. Gradually, we were inching close to Tso Moriri lake and gaining a bit altitude with each sharp curve the road led us to. In last 2 hours, we had gained an altitude of 3,000 feet.
As we approached Tso Moriri lake, we came across another lake, Tso Kyagar. The lake was greenish in sight and reflected the surrounding hillocks beautifully. We decided to stop here for some time and snap a few clicks. We didn’t spend much time here as we didn’t want to miss Tso Moriri Lake if the weather suddenly went bad. Above 14,000 feet, weather is not really a trustworthy friend. So, we were again en route Tso Moriri lake quickly.
Finally, we reached Tso Moriri lake, situated at an altitude of 14,800 feet, the highest lake in Leh region. Notably, the highest lake in India is Tso Lhamo, North Sikkim, which stands at 17,490 feet.
Tso Moriri lake was like a chapter from a book written on your most beautiful dreams. The turquoise and calm waters looked pristine. The brown shaded mountains at the edge of lake looked happy, admiring their own reflection in the crystal clear lake. Rounded pebbles rested nonchalantly under a clear layer of water. Lake currents caused due to the wind had shaped them up nice and round. Ducks swam around calmly, oblivious to our presence. The surroundings looked as peaceful as a pyramid’s dome. The fact that there were no tourists around, not even a single one, made the time spent at Tso Moriri lake even more blissful.
Some of my friends took off their clothes and dipped in the ice cold water! As I was not carrying change, I had to satisfy myself by standing ankle deep in the lake. It was probably the coldest lake I had ever encountered! My nerves didn’t feel this cold even during river rafting in Rishikesh.
We spent some time bouncing stones off the lake and snapping some pics of the lake. To capture the true essence of Tso Moriri lake on celluloid was a tough task! We tried jumping in air and got some good snaps which truly expressed our feeling of liberation! Who wouldn’t feel liberated when surrounded by the best of nature! We spent enough time reveling in the beauty of Tso moriri lake and it was an enriching experience.
The landslide which occurred today would have caused trouble for many and I empathize with them. But, had it not been for the landslide, we would have not have visited Tso Moriri lake.
In far distance, between two protruding hillocks, we saw a small tornado shaping up. A distant corner of the lake was enduring heavy rainfall. We observed the sky and it seemed that an army of dark clouds was marching towards us.
We decided to call it a day and after taking some final clicks, started back to Leh. In backdrop, grey clouds had taken over the dominating peaks. The snow clad shoulders of these peaks were now engulfed in dense rains and became invisible. From the car’s rear glass window pane, I stared at Tso Moriri lake till it was out of my sight.
Below, I have answered some FAQs related to Tso Moriri lake
1) Can Tso Moriri be covered in one day:
Yes, that’s exactly what we did. You shouldn’t plan Tso Moriri lake along with any other attraction. It will be hectic.
2) How much time does it take to reach Tso Moriri Lake from Leh?
One side would take just about 5 hours
3) Are there any special permits required to visit Tso Moriri lake?
4) Can Pangong lake and Tso Moriri lake be covered in 2 days?
If will be pretty hectic if you come back to Leh after covering one lake and plan for the 2nd next day. You can camp at one lake and from there go directly to next lake without coming back to Leh. However, you need to take an inner road and for that, you require an inner line permit from the authorities
5) Can I camp at these lakes?
Yes. There are tour operators who arrange for camping. You can also carry your own tents and pitch it there.
6) If I had to choose one, which would it be? Pangong or Tso Moriri?
Both are equally beautiful. Pangong is however more touristy. If would like to spend some time devoid of tourists, I’d recommend going to Tso Moriri lake
7) How much does a cab cost?
We hired an innova and it cost us Rs 8,400 for Pangong lake. For Tso Moriri lake, we had to pay Rs 10,500. Hatchbacks are rarely available. In SUVs, you have Eco, Scorpio and Fortuner available apart from Innova.
I hope you found the article interesting and helpful. Leave a comment if you have any questions or would like to share your experience.