Pangong Lake – The Jewel of Ladakh
It’s no secret that the Bollywood movie “3 Idiots” contributed a lot for the popularity of Pangong Lake. But in the process, it also led to this untouched beauty get ruined by tourism and so-called wanderlusters. After completing my Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) at Sonamarg, I reached Leh on 25th July 2018 and put this pristine beach on priority. I had missed out on visiting Pangong Lake during my trip to Leh for Chadar Trek in 2016 and there was no way I would have missed it this time around.
DOCUMENTATION FOR VISITING PANGONG LAKE
Now that the Pangong Lake comes within a protected area, the tourists need to take an Inner Line Permit (ILP) beforehand in Leh itself. The Permit fee is inclusive of Red Cross, Wildlife and Environmental Fees. I had opted for a week long permit for all the regions under ILP’s purview. You may read more about ILP here and apply for the permit online here. Please note that you have to take the print of the Permit Details document to TIC Office, Opp. J&K Bank in Main Market, Leh and make the necessary payment.
HOW TO REACH PANGONG LAKE
Pangong Lake is 220 kms away from Leh and it takes about 6 hours to reach, provided you leave before 7 am. There are public transport buses that ply between Leh and Pangong every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The bus leaves at 6:30 am and reaches Merak village by 2-3 pm. Please note that the same bus leaves from Merak in the morning, for Leh. The total fare for single journey is Rs. 270. If you are planning to opt for public transport bus option, then remember to add to it the expenses for overnight stay at Merak as well.
Somehow my itinerary didn’t allow me to choose the public transport option. And since I was accompanied by four of my trekking friends, we decided to go for a hired cab. Right next to the TIC Office, you may find many cab operators who would offer you different packages for popular places in Ladakh. For only Pangong Lake, no driver would agree below Rs. 7000 for the same day return ride. Somehow Bhagyesh in our group convinced a driver for a deal at Rs. 6000 (Rs. 1200 per head).
LEH TO PANGONG LAKE JOURNEY
So it was the morning of 27th July 2018 when we left for Pangong Lake. Our driver insisted us to leave before 7 am to be able to avoid the traffic due to fuel carrying Army trucks. We were thankful to him as we realized later that how long it would have taken for us, had we not left early. We left Leh at 6 am and reached Pangong Lake by around 12 noon. The only hiccup we had during the entire journey was at Chang La (17,590 ft) due to traffic slowdown.
Our driver was quite strict when it came to time management and it actually helped us. He didn’t halt at Chang La and told us that we can take a halt while returning. When we reached Pangong, he allowed us to spend only 1 hour at the lake. So after soaking in the beauty of the serene Pangong Lake, we returned to the nearby Dhaba for our lunch.
AROUND PANGONG LAKE
The water of Pangong is amazingly crystal clear but make sure you do not wade further as there’s a sudden drop in depth. The scooters shown in the movie “3 Idiots” are still there and could ruin your panorama photograph. For taking a photographs on the Scooter, you have to shell out Rs. 50 per person. The Dhaba has quite a variety when it comes to food, but the prices are high. However, considering the efforts it takes for bringing food supplies to such a remote area justifies it.
We left from Pangong Lake at 1:30 pm and got back to Leh by 7 pm and that too after taking multiple halts on the way. Although we got to halt at Chang La, by that time it was all crowded and people were just waiting for their turn to click photographs. A trip to Pangong Lake is basically a one day affair, unless you want to witness a sunset/ sunrise at the lake.
Watch the entire experience here:
BEST TIME TO VISIT PANGONG LAKE
June to September. One can even visit it when it is frozen during Winters (December to February) but the route becomes dangerous due to snow.
HOW TO REACH LEH
Air: The best but the most expensive option. Leh Airport is connected to Srinagar and Delhi Airports.
Bus: Public and Private transport buses ply between Srinagar and Leh (takes 3 days) as well as Manali and Leh (takes 2 days).
ACCOMMODATION NEAR PANGONG LAKE
- Pangong Camp Resort by JKTDC
- Camp Martsemik La
- Peacefull Homestay Merak
- Gongma Homestay
RESTAURANTS NEAR PANGONG LAKE
- P3 Restaurant
- 3 Idiots Food Stall
- The Golden Cottage & Restaurant
Drop your queries and suggestions in the comments section below and I would be more than happy to address them.
Till then…Happy Travelizing!!!