Pangong lake in the afternoon

Pangong Lake – The most popular lake in Ladakh

My post today is more of a picture-post about Pangong Lake, the most popular lake in Ladakh. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The original name of the lake is Pangong Tso, with “Tso” being the Tibetan word for a grassland lake. One-third of the lake lies in India, and the rest in China.

A very large section of the Indian population had not heard of Pangong lake till 2009. That’s the year when the popular Aamir Khan movie “3 Idiots” was released. This lake was where the final scene of the film was shot. Since then, the popularity of Pangong lake has grown across the country and a visit to “the 3 Idiots lake” is a must-do for practically any Indian visiting Ladakh.

Pavilions alongside Pangong lake
Pavilions alongside Pangong lake

I’ve been lucky to see Pangong lake both in summer as well as winter. In summer, the colour of the water in Pangong keeps changing according to the level of sunlight and clouds. In winter, the water freezes over and I had a great time walking (and slipping) on the frozen Pangong lake.

Some more images from the late summer visit to Pangong lake –

Clear waters at Pangong lake
The water is crystal clear, salty and brr cold!
Pangong lake around sunset
The lake at twilight
Pangong lake at sunrise
Watching the sun about to rise over the mountains

Increasing tourism in the region has brought its own challenges of infrastructure and ecological balance to Pangong Lake and the area around it. I hope the local administration will continue to keep a control over the area, and not let it get over-touristed like so many other places in the country.

Getting to Pangong Lake:Β Β Pangong Tso lies about a 6-hour drive away from Leh, the capital of Ladakh and the only airport in the region. Leh is connected by flight to Delhi, Srinagar and Mumbai. Cabs or bikes can be hired from Leh to Pangong for a day-trip or overnight excursion to the lake.

Stay at Pangong Lake: During summer (Mid-May until about the end of September) you will find seasonal camps set up near the lake. These will be basic tents with toilets but no other mod-cons. If you are in reasonably good health, and happy to rough it out for unforgettable sunrise and sunset views, then you might want to stay overnight. Be prepared though – the area gets terribly windy at night. Also, the lake is at a much higher altitude (14,200 feet) than Leh (11,500 feet), so you will need to acclimatize in Leh first.

If you are travelling with children or older persons, I would recommend a day trip and return to Leh, to stay at the lower altitude.

Camp at Pangong lake
Typical camp at Pangong

Whether you visit for a day-trip or brave an overnight stay, Pangong lake is an unforgettable, unmissable part of a visit to Ladakh. Do remember though that you are in an ecologically sensitive area, and act like a responsible traveller.

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Pangong Lake is the most famous and popular lake in Ladakh

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51 thoughts on “Pangong Lake – The most popular lake in Ladakh”

  1. I love Pangong – it’s my favourite place in Ladakh at the moment. I travelled to Ladakh in 2010 – yes I was inspired by the beauty of Ladakh from the movie 3 Idiots – I made that trip 6 months after the movie was released πŸ™‚ I’m a little disheartened to read about the tourism mass in Ladakh now and I’m hoping that the local tourism authorities are aware about the impact of tourism on ecological balance and do something positive about it.

  2. Nice info about Pangong lake. It’s serenity and beauty attracts many travellers. I’ve been planning to visit the place, but couldn’t make it till now. Hope to visit it soon.

    1. Thank you Cynthia! I hope you make it to North India soon, and do look me up when you’re in my neck of the woods 😊

  3. Ladakh is on must-see places for this year and I really hope to check this off my list. The Pangong lake did become a highlight it started becoming a part of Bollywood movies. It is a beauty beyond words, and this looks gorgeous in your pictures, and I can’t imagine how much overwhelmed I’ll be when I finally see it in person.

  4. Panong Lake looks very beautiful in 3 Idiots movie and in your pictures too. It is really a serene and stunning place where one can relax peacefully. It is on my wishlist from long. But after it has gained popularity, I have heard, it has been overcrowded.

  5. Pangong Lake sure looks beautiful! What a pretty place to take it slow and enjoy the views–I would love to watch the lake change colors throughout the day. Great getaway idea!

  6. This lake is beautiful. Definitely, love that mountains surround the love, which makes it that much more pristine. Looking forward to visiting someday!

  7. Ive never heard about Pangong lake but it looks stunning! I might have to check this 3 idiots movie to see the beauty on tv for now! I love how it looks like during sunset! So magical ! I can just image how wonderful it looks like when its frozen too!

    1. Hi Agness. You will love Ladakh and Pangong. Technically swimming is possible, but usually all one can do is wade in for a bit because the water is so freezing cold!

  8. I have been to Pangong lake twice. Its beauty is unparallel. I would love to see the Tibet side too. You are true 3 idiots made it a popular place. It has also had an adverse effect on the same. Hope measure are taken to protect the ecologically sensitive place.

  9. Pangong Lake is definitely picture-perfect, you were not hyping that at all. I love that this lake is so calm and I could just imagine having a picnic along the banks. The backdrop of the mountains is just screaming for its photos to be taken!

  10. Though I’m all for the educational and financial benefits of tourism, I hope the growing crowds are able to respect such a spectacular spot. I’m the sure the lake brings a welcome bit of relief from the otherwise dry desert climate- the contrast between the clear blue water and the vast landscape is truly extraordinary. Thank you for the glimpse into the beauty of Ladakh.

  11. I can understand why Pangong lake is popular! Look at it! The lake is gorgeous with a stunning surrounding! I have heard of Ladhak and its area but it is first time I ever heard of Pangong lake. Sing. Another beutiful place to add to my travel wish list!

  12. I have always been fascinated by mountains that are on a lake. The lake is so blue and the mountains look like a movie. I love your photos. It is so important to appreciate and visit such gifts in nature

  13. The crystal surface barely rippled by the wind, enclosed in a crown of mountain as a precious gift from the Earth… Pangong Lake came to me as a dream of water and peace. I think I am not the only one wishing to go there and definitively I hope local administration can manage the tourism and keep the balance between nature and human needs.

  14. I have been to Ladakh. There is so much to see there, so many beautiful monasteries and so much natural beauty. But this lake was the highlight of that trip. It is really very beautiful. Beautiful pictures πŸ™‚

  15. It’s always amazing what filming a movie in a location can do for tourism. Hopefully, they get a handle on things before this beautiful location gets too trampled. And you mentioned salty! Is the lake connected to the ocean or is it a contained saltwater lake? Now I’m off to look up 3 Idiots!

  16. The mountains are so stark. It feels like you are so far away, far from civilization! I can’t imagine how bad you felt. I was in Cusco Peru which is at a very high altitude and felt awful. This place is even higher!

  17. What a beautiful place and the water looks so clean and clear! It does sound like it is a bit of a journey to get out there though. Still I think the mountains and the lake look worth it. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  18. A beautiful lake – and beautiful photos. And beautiful surrounding scenery. Is there anything more pretty than a lake surrounded by mountains? Not in my book!

  19. These photos are incredible. Well done! And what an amazing looking place. I agree that tourism is a double-edged sword. So often that that the environment is destroyed due to tourism.

  20. I never knew you’ve such lovely pictures in your library! Wonderfully written too. This place is like heaven on earth…

  21. I’ve heard a few times about the movie 3 Idiots but never seen it. Guess it’s a very iconic movie if that’s one of the reasons why this lake became so famous πŸ™‚ I’ve never heard of this place but it looks so beautiful! Wouldn’t mind pitching my tent there in summer πŸ™‚

  22. I’ve never heard of this lake. I had to open google maps to find out where it is πŸ™‚ Great pictures, thanks for sharing #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  23. I think we should sit near the lake whole day to capture the different colors that it has to offer..the lake is mostly amazing in the morning and afternoon

  24. The scenery here looks so beautiful. The 6 hour journey seems totally worth it. It is so good that you can camp here to. Ah! I just imagine waking up to that stunning lake in the morning. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh it was absolutely gorgeous Katie, and despite my feeling ill due to the altitude and the sleepless night, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

  25. I love, love lakes! And, I like them, even more, when they are surrounded by mountains. Sometimes, it is better to keep some places in “secret.” When movies and TV shows shoot places to popularity, crowds start to visit and a bit of the magic is lost. Hope that has not happened to this lake. #WeekednWanderlust

    1. Yes I agree. Sometimes some places should be kept secret just so they can be preserved. This lake has lately seen a fair amount of activity as in camps coming up and more visitors, but I believe the administration has now framed new rules to protect the lake.

  26. I wanted to go to Leh – Ladakh when I was in Srinagar. It was November and they just closed the road so I did not get the chance to do so. I badly want to go and your pictures seriously fuelled my wanderlust again!!! Awesome landscapes, I have to go!

    1. Ah bad luck. I seriously love Ladakh, unfortunately lately haven’t been able to go back due to health reasons. You absolutely must go whenever you get a chance. May to October is your window.

  27. Oh my, that looks just incredible. I love the colours. Hard to believe it freezes in winter although I guess you’re pretty high up there. I wonder how people living there feel about the film bringing people to the region. Good and bad I guess.

    1. Yes, good and bad. They like the fact that it brings business to locals (homestays, small eateries, cab drivers). But they are also unnerved by the crowds, and the tendency of the tourist to generate and leave behind a bunch of trash.

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