A cold desert and the land of high-altitude mountain passes, Ladakh has been blessed with breathtaking landscapes including its glistening crystal clear lakes. Lakes in Ladakh are called Tso. In the decent landmass that it owns, Ladakh has a number of stunning lakes. The best time to visit these lakes is between the months of May and September as during the winter months, these high-altitude lakes get frozen. Here are the popular lakes of Ladakh:
World’s highest salt lake, Pangong Lake is the most popular lake of Ladakh that is around 160 km from Leh. India owns only one-third of this lake, the rest of it is in Tibet, a region controlled by China. This endorheic lake is placed at an altitude of around 14,270 feet. The length of the lake is 134 km and it is positioned on the Changtang plateau in eastern part of Ladakh.
Also known as the ‘Hollow Lake’, its brackish water appears in different colors fur to sunlight. The lake and its surroundings are truly magical and simply mesmerizing. During winter season, the lake gets frozen, hardened like a road. This lake then becomes the venue of a gala festival of ice skating, which is attended by a huge number of skiers from all around the world. The area of lake is under the Indian army. While Indian nationals do not need any permit to visit the lake, foreign tourists require a permit that can be obtained for a small fee from deputy commissioner of Leh.
Drive via the attractive and serene countryside, through the world’s third highest motorable mountain pass- Chang La to arrive at the lake. The best time to Pangong Tso is from June to September.
Lake Moriri or Tso Moriri is a lake in the Changthang area, and is positioned at an altitude of 15,075 feet in Jammu and Kashmir. This lake is positioned amid Ladakh to the North, Zanskar to the West and Tibet to the East. It is one of the largest of the high- altitude lakes in the Trans-Himalayan region in India. Korzok village is another popular attraction here.
Fed by 2 streams and springs, Tso Moriri in 2002 was declared a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is also fed by melting water from the closely placed ice masses. The lake, home to a vast variety of flora and fauna, is 19 km in length and 7 km in width. The lake gets completely freezes in the winter months and you can even walk on it. Bird watching is a popular activity here as the lake attracts as many as 34 avifauna species.
Tso Kar / Tsho Kar
Connected by a small stream, Tso Kar can be termed as a twin lake as the western part of the lake has salty lake and the eastern part contains fresh water. Placed in the southern Ladakh, this vacillating salt lake lies in Rapshu and varies in size as well as depth. In the summer while it stays up to around 30 degree Celsius, in winters it falls down as low as 40 degree Celsius.
An inlet stream connects Tso Kar with Startsapuk Tso from its south-west end. Looking like plain pools, these two lakes are guarded by 2 peaks, Thugje and Gursan. A few years ago, this lake was an important source of salt that was exported to Tibet by Changpa nomads. Visitors can opt for tented camps on the western banks of the lake. The nomadic settlement of Thugje is another option. It is located 3 km northwards of Tso Kar.
Yarab Tso Lake
Located at a distance of around 15 km from Diskit region of Nubra Valley, Yarab Tso Lake is surrounded by the scenic village of Sumur. An uphill walk of around 15-20 minutes from the Panamaik village takes you to the stunning site of this lake.
One of the high-altitude lakes in Nubra Valley, Yarab Tso Lake is also known to be a sacred lake. On the crystal clear water bed of the lake, you can view the barren and rocky landscape of the surrounding area.
Tranquil and completely secluded, Mirpal Tso is placed close to Chushul. The southern end of this lake contains fresh water and the lake’s bed is sandy. It is located in the Chumathang Valley of Ladakh and lies at an altitude of 16,122 feet. In winters, it completely freezes, offering spectacular views. As the summer sets in, Mirpal Tso starts to melt into a royal blue color. If you want to see this lake in Ladakh in its full glory, visit it between June and September. For staying, there are no campsites or hotels near the lake but a small guesthouse can be found.
Located on the way to Pangong Lake, Chagar Tso is one of the most beautiful lakes of Ladakh. Though the lake is small it is worth visiting. It is a great place for birdwatching and admiring the mountain and trees that the lake is surrounded with. If you wish to spend quality time with your beloved and appreciate the glory of Mother Nature, Chagar Tso is your place to be. For the best experience, visit between July to October.
Kyun Tso and Ryul Tso
Located near Hanle and Nyoma, the twin lakes of Kyun Tso and Ryul Tso, are located at an altitude of around 5000 m above the sea level. Kyun Tso is also called chilling Tso. As the route to this lake is difficult and also permits are required to visit it, very little tourists come here. Mahe - Nyoma - Nidar - Thit Zarbo La is the way to these twin lakes.
Placed on the way to Tso Moriri, Kiagar Tso is another striking lake of the region and lies in the Changthang plateau. The surroundings of the lake are the dwellings of Changpas, the nomadic people of Ladakh. Tso Moriri and Kiagar Lake are 10 km away from each other.
Kiagar Tso or Kyaghr Lake is 3 km long, 22 m deep and 1.5 km wide. This lake with brackish water the place where a number of trekkers halt before moving forward to Kiangdum camping ground near the Tso Moriri. The site is 22 km away from here. The lake lies enroute Ladakh to Spiti in the Himachal Pradesh state.
Stat Tso and Lang Tso
Placed in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, Stat Tso and Lang Tso are twin lakes that are placed close to the highest point in Zanskar, Pensi La. These lakes are situated above 5000 m sea level and are perfect to escape for a tranquil holiday. Avid photographers will get some amazing pictures of the lake and surroundings. Or if you are planning a photoshoot in Ladakh, do visit this lake. The best time to visit Stat Tso and Land Tso is from May to August. And to reach here, shared jeeps or cabs can be hired.