Ladakh; Whenever someone hears this word, they mainly imagine high altitude mountains, vast cold dry desert complimented by the flow of Indus and a rich Tibetan-Buddhist culture that attracts thousands of travellers every year. But that’s not all! Ladakh is also blessed with some of the most magnificent high altitude lakes that look like gems from far and above. Lakes in Ladakh are famous for their unique shades and hues, the altitude, the size and the stories associated with them. Lakes in Ladakh should definitely be a part of your ‘places to visit in Ladakh’ list.
Thanks to the movie ‘3 Idiots’, the Pangong Tso lake is now one of the most popular tourist attractions near Leh, Ladakh. This lake in Ladakh is the No. 1 destination for travellers and tourists. Situated at the height of 4,300m, Pangong Tso lake spreads over three countries- India, China and Tibet. It is known for its unique turquoise colour that has different shades at every corner. If you’re standing at a height and look at the lake from above, you will see the different shades of blue everywhere. You can reach Pangong Tso from two roads.
The first route (which 99%) of the people travel upon is via Khardung La. The second route, which most of the people are unaware about) is from the other end of the side of the lake via Chushul. The lake is surrounded by beautiful tents that offer magnificent views during the season. In the off season of winter, the lake is frozen and reaching the lake is a task because the roads are blocked. The flora and fauna of the lake is very minimal. The 360 degree views from the lake are spectacular and breathtaking, with the lake at the foot of mighty mountains.
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Situated in eastern Ladakh, Tso Moriri is another lake in Ladakh known for its beautiful hues, isolation and the mountains exceeding 6,000 meters on both the east and west sides. It is situated at an elevation of 4,522 m. Associated with myths and legends, Tso Moriri is known to be a cursed lake from where nobody derives water for any purpose. Legend has it that a girl drowned in the frozen lake saving her Yak. Since then, the village of Korzok has not used the lake as a source of water.
You can reach the lake through two routes. First is via Upshi – Chumathang – Mahe route and the second is from Manali Leh Highway via Tso Kar – Puga – Sumdo route. In recent times, the lake has come under threat from tourism which has disturbed the ecosystem around the lake. The lake freezes during winters with temperatures dropping to -40 degrees in the region.
A very small saline lake located at an elevation of 4,705m, Kyagar Tso is another lake which is near Tso Moriri. If you’re on your way to Tso Moriri, you will hit this lake a few kilometres before Tso Moriri. With no population or vegetation around, the area near the lake is completely barren and the road is bumpy as well. The sudden climb can cause headaches and nausea but all is worth for the views are more than rewarding.
The weather here is harsh so it is necessary to be prepared before everything. There are no petrol pumps around this area as well. The lake is small yet it is as beautiful as other lakes in Ladakh- pristine colours and its size (7.5km) define it!
Located in southern Ladakh in Rupshu valley, Tso Kar stands at an elevation of 4660m, 250 kms from Leh. It is also known as the ‘White Desert’ because of the salt deposits around the banks of the lake. It is one of the few lakes with marshland around it making it favourable for rich wildlife. Birds like black necked crane, Brahmi ducks and great crested grebe can be found here. Mammals like kiang, ibex and snow foxes also attract wildlife lovers. Like all the other lakes is Ladakh, views from Tso Kar are magnificent with the lake merging with the mountains at every end.
Another hidden gem in Ladakh is the lake of Yaye. A volcanic lake located at an extreme height of 4988m, the region around the lake is barren. Besides yaks and sheep, it is difficult to find anything around here. The nearest road head is Mahe, 12 kms away from the lake.
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All the lakes in Leh and Ladakh freeze during winters. Hence, the best time to visit is between the months of June and October. By the starting of November, the temperatures start to drop and visiting these lakes become risky. Lakes that are isolated also require permits which can be taken from the tourism office in Leh. It is better to take a personal car/bike with extra fuel to avoid any unwanted situation, especially during the night.
I hope your travel plans for the year are sorted, after this read. Happy Traveling now!