Tso Moriri To Pangong via Chushul, Through The Road Less Taken!

Monday, December 12, 2011

All roads lead to Pangong!

Well with Ladakh, once is not enough, twice is not enough, an entire lifetime is not enough. Ladakh is the stuff dreams are made of. Road trips can never be the same again, after a tryst with this gorgeous piece of land set in high heavens!

Most of us who have been fortunate enough to travel to Ladakh would've visited the dream like yet totally real Pangong Lake. We would've crossed the almost always snow clad mighty Chang La and would've relished that hot cup of tea and the warm welcome from the Indian Army atop. We would've gradually descended into the Changthang only to have our heart skip a beat at the first sight of an electric blue strip and would've said a silent prayer hoping Pagal Nallah wouldn't turn crazy by the end of the day.

Those were the days of yore it appears. Pangong today is a different story altogether. After dear Aamir Khan showed the world what a heavenly lake could mean, the repercussions were kind of disappointing to say the least. Hordes of tourists, a million tents/rooms and a gazillion vehicles all along the 7km stretch from Lukung to Spangmik is what awaits today at the tranquil location. The first time, save for a few visiting vehicles along the shore, there wasn't a single piece of evidence suggesting human presence in the area. No tents, no resorts, no roads, just the awesome lake and the mountains. Today I see some sort of sheds by the shore too. Why don't we build a bridge on top and then maybe an underwater resort too!

Whining apart, Pangong still remains a work of art, beautiful and wonderful by all means. I just need to find new ground and new perspective, which is why I took the road less traveled to rediscover the magic of the azure waters.

As of today there are two approaches to Pangong, one from Lukung, which is one end of the lake. The other one is through the other end, via Chushul leading to Khaktse, Merak, Man and finally to Lukung. This route skirts dangerously close to international border making the journey all the more exciting. This way we'd also be able to see the entire 40kms of Pangong that lies with India. 

Details of the route in detail -

Route - Tso Moriri - Mahe - Nyoma - Loma - Tsaga - Rezang La - Chushul - Khaktse (Pangong Start)  - Merak - Man - Spangmik - Lukung (Pangong End)

How to reach - Retrace the route from Tso Moriri to Mahe bridge. At this checkpost after crossing the bridge, take right. Left goes to Karu and then Leh. Right goes towards Pangong. Proceed on this route till you cross Noma and reach Loma, where you find another checkpost and a bridge. If you cross the bridge, you'd go towards Hanle. Keep left, you'll reach Chushul.

How many days - The journey can be comfortably finished in a day. Be sure to have an early start at Tso Moriri so that you can enjoy the route without hurry. 

Things to note - Although the route if now officially opened for domestic tourists, it still doesn't have a lot of takers except for some crazy travelers. Chances are you might not see any vehicle the entire stretch. If you are lucky you'd cross an army vehicle or two. Be prepared for any emergency. Carry extra fuel and food as well. Chushul will be the only major settlement you'd come across over the entire day till you reach Pangong.

Inner Line Permit - ILP is available at the DC office in Leh. Either you can get it yourself or your travel agent can arrange it for you. Only your names will be required. Be sure to include all these names in the ILP to avoid any problems - Mahe, Nyoma, Tsaga, Rezang La, Chushul, Merak and Man. Since this route goes along the Indo-Sino border, Border Police can reject permission anytime. 

Who can go - As of today(2010) only domestic visitors can get the ILP for this route. If you are planning this route, make sure all are Indian Nationals and carry valid ID. Foreigners are not permitted on this route.
*Update* - Please check with the concerned officials on this rule, might have changed since.

Condition of the route - Although this is the shortest way to reach Pangong from Tso - Moriri, it will take a long time due to the road conditions. There is well laid tarmac until Loma but after that the road condition slowly deteriorates and becomes almost invisible by the end of it. As the tarmac disappears, you can see tracks ahead and follow them. There are stacks of stones all along the route to let you know the direction. Follow them as well. An hour or two after you cross Chushul, you will be treated to the first glimpses of the mighty Pangong Lake, tracks might disappear around here but you be sure to take a left here at this junction.  You would see a road going to right but don't be tempted to follow that, that will lead you to China!

Now I'll let the photos speak!

The fact that this route is so less taken already makes it feel like some exotic land. The colors of the mountains and the salt marches only add to the scene! Towards Nyoma.

The mountains turn purple around here and the colors are unbelievable, have to be seen to be believed!

As the purple disappears, the sands appear. In the distance you can see High Altitude Desert! As you enter the army area, barricades along the road, you find stallions here and there and a dead carcass by the road side to remind you of the awesome remoteness you are traversing though.

"This is a notified firing range Do not enter into it as it can endanger your life" the board says! Some thrill it is, to be in place such as this!

The desert hasn't left us yet, but neither has faint remnants of greenery. Green grass along the foothills of mammoth sand mountains and a lone Kiang wanders along.

The rivers keeps us company all the way until Loma, where we finally part ways. But until then what a charm it will be. The lonely road, mountains all around and the meandering of one gorgeous River alongside.

After Loma, the Kiangs can be found every now and then along with other wild animals. Keep your eyes wide open and I promise you will spot something spectacular.

The road has long disappeared and these tracks are all that remains of a previous quest by some other traveler. Follow the tracks all along and they will lead you to your destination. By now greenery is gone, wildlife is gone, the road is gone and all that is there is this barren magnificent vastness. 

Somewhere before reaching Rezang La Memorial I see this pile of horns by the side and it absolutely freaks me out! The winds blow at a high speed swooshing past my ears and there is not a soul around, not even any signs of civilization. My heart beats  fast as I get out of the SUV and walk alone towards the pile expecting anything to jump at me. I take this photo and scurry back to the jeep as if something chased me. Heart beat returns to normal and we drive away!

In the vastness, there lies a speck of color in the desert. As you come closer you will see it is a memorial in honor of the Rezang La War Heroes. A sad story of valor and gallantry you will find out as you read the boards there. Do stop over and take a look. 

And we finally arrive at Chushul, you'd be surprised to find it to be a rather big village. Just around the village you will be able to see the Chushul Salt Marshes where the endangered Black Necked Cranes migrate to, every year. You will also be able to see Spangur Gap. 

And the first view of the destination. The blue strip of the amazing Lake now will keep you company for the next 40kms showing you all kind of shades of blues! Like I said, don't take the right, it will lead you to China!

The landscape is out of this world as you reach the shore, the mountains welcome you, gentle waves invite you the extravaganza and the clouds don't want to be left out, they will create some drama too! Sit on the white sand and enjoy the serenity!

There, in a single photo so many shades of blue! What happens over the next two three hours, I can't explain in words. The route is just a track going by the lake side as she decides to change her color according to her changing moods! Many a times you'd feel like you would just drop into the lake but the mud holds its ground and let's you pass. Long after this first view you will reach Khaktse village, don't panic if you don't see anybody for a long time. After Khakste, you will cross Merak where you will find a checkpost, then Man, Spangmik and 
you have arrived

You Might Also Like

58 comments

  1. I visited Pangong by the traditional route (and of course, fell in love with it). But this route looks amazing! Would love to go to Ladakh again some day.. definitely some day soon! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. मैं भी दूसरे रुट से ही गया था वैसे अबकी बार इस रुट से भी जाकर देखा जायेगा। यह चाँग ला के मुकाबले कम परेशानी वाला लग रहा है।

    ReplyDelete
  3. Roads less travelled are always special! Ladakh is in the top of my list for next year :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beautiful snaps!! Make me remember the trip I did the other way Pangong->Hanley->Tso Moriri!!

    Good information.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Awesome Laddakh !! Beautiful snaps and a lovely blog :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Awe inspiring Neelima! I am already drooling here :)Bookmarking this page for all future references I hope you dont mind!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great stuff Neelima!
    thks
    Sujoy
    http://www.sujoyrdas.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Too bad that only domestic visitors are allowed...after seeing these pictures, I would really love to go! That pile of horns looks realy creepy, I wonder what's its purpose...a memorial to someone pets maybe?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautiful pics and info.

    Sandeep
    www.parkhi.net

    ReplyDelete
  10. ## Abhijit - yup, this route is amazing too! the best part is not just the different views but 40kms of Pangong! :)

    ## "जाटदेवता" संदीप पवाँर - Right, this route is not that cumbersome. But the lack of civilization makes it a tad difficult.

    ## Anu - Thanks! :)

    ## Kusum - surely visit Ladakh and I'll be happy to help if you need some info. :)

    ## Aravind GJ - I remember seeing the post on your blog. Thanks! :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. ## Shadows Galore - Thanks, hope to see you here again! :)

    ## Arnab Maity - Sure, please do! Thanks. :)

    ## Sujoy Das - Thanks! :)

    ## France Wanderer - I know, foreign nationals are not allowed due to the proximity to China as of now. Maybe it will change. I don't know the purpose of the pile of horns but saw it in many places enroute.

    ## Sandeep - Thanks! :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. A ladakh road trip is a dream for all, a road trip from tso moriri to pangong would be what i wonder..freaky freaky experience which I wana live upto asap!

    Looking forward to experience this journey this year!!

    Thanks for this bful post Neelima!

    Neha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hi,

      I'm planning trip to ladakh this august. my tour fellow suggesred me to take the route pangong-leh-nyoma,. but i would prefer to take the route you have mentioned. it is the safe route that can be taken right?? as normally no tour operators opt for the route mentioned above. help

      Delete
    2. Yes, this route is safe enough. Just that there will be not much civilization en route in case something happens. Carry food and fuel sufficient for a day and you should be fine.

      Delete
    3. Hi Neelima
      Am quite impressed reading your trip report - a masterpiece !
      You made a permanent impression within me through your lucid tale of the journey and compelled me a give it a try in July.
      I am planning to reach Pangong from Nubra on 18th & start early on 19th for Chusul route. If doable I shall try to spend the night at Hanle,Khaldo where I intend to visit a local school & mix a little bit with the villagers. I shall spend the night there either at Observatory guest house,if available, or at some village home stay. I made plans to go to Tso Moriri next day & spending the night there , proceed to Tso Kar on 21st. I shall leave Tso Kar on 22nd & go to Keylong in the evening.
      Himalayan travel is my passion & while enjoying the journey I also try to mix with local villagers specially kids. Photography & bird watching are other weakness of me.
      Wish all success of your future endeavors.
      subhankar paul
      spaul1110@gmail.com
      09831283411

      Delete
  13. Hi Neelima!!! Would you be able to tell me the distance in kms from Tso moriri to Pangong.
    Wonderful article & information.

    Thanks,
    Chetan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should be around 150 odd kms. I do not remember exactly, but we started in the morning around 10 am from Tso Moriri and reached Lukung almost around 4 pm driving leisurely with lots of photo breaks.

      Delete
  14. What great details - i just loved the 'little tips' for travel-so many of us forget to mention these once we've travelled- and I loved the pics. Am visiting Leh this August, hope to do it your way-thanks!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rina, hope you got a chance to go along this route.

      Delete
  15. Hi Neelima, Thanks for this post, I have made my travel plans for Ladhakh- Zanskar in June. Got couple of questions on this route, if you can please help me.

    1) From Jispa to Pangong thru Chusul covering Tso Kar and Tso Moriri can it be covered in One (1) day? If not what are the option of stay enroute?
    2) Do we need a permit to go on this route as we will not be going to Leh in first leg. If yes from where to obtained the permit?

    Will be grateful if you can please answer and suggest.

    Best Regards
    Sandeep

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sandeep, I don't think it is possible to do Jispa - Pangong via Tso Moriri in one day, even more so given the bad road conditions. Also the Chushul route is a sensitive area with ITPB checkposts. Even with permits ready sometimes people are sent back. Also the permit can be made only in Leh. Unless you know someone in Leh who can prepare the permit for you and hand it over to you at Tso Moriri, this plan might not be possible.

      Delete
  16. Hi Neelima,

    Is it possible to travel Jispa - Pangong via Tso kar in a day? consider we get all the permits in Jispa from our travel agency.

    Google maps shows distance to be around 400 km.

    Thanks,
    Nishi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nishi, in the mountains, time estimation based on google map distance doesn't count. :)
      The road is not tarmac, for most parts it is just a track or sand. It is going to take a lot more time. The entire 40kms of track along Pangong is dirt track. That was 3 years ago, I am not sure how much the route has been developed in the meantime. Besides you will be missing out on the amazing scenery if you intend to cover 400kms in a day. I'd suggest you break the journey at Tso Moriri.

      Or start from Jispa early in the morning and see by what time you reach Tso Moriri, if you reach by 11 or so, you can immediately proceed to Pangong which will leave you no time at Tso Moriri, but this is an option. also if you do go ahead with your plan, please update me also so that I can update my blog. :)
      All the best!

      Delete
  17. Hi Neelima,

    Awesome information...! :)

    We are planning bike expedition from Manali to Leh.

    On the 8th day we are going to Pangong lake from Leh. Also we are thinking of going back to Manali from Pangong in order to cover Tso Moriri lake.
    So the route which we are going to take is,

    Pangong - Tso moriri - Tso kar - Sarchu - Manali

    So, I have few queries regarding this.
    1) Is it feasible to cover this route?
    2) If yes, what is the approximate time that I'll need to reach Manali?
    3) What are the precautions that needs to be taken? (like petrol, food, living)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How do you intend to go to Tso Moriri from Pangong? If you are planning via the chushul route, this would've been a possible solution. It would've taken 3 days. But given the tense border situation at Chushul, I am doubtful about the permits.
      Day 1 - Pangong - Man/Merak - Chushul - Tso Moriri (Tents at Karzok)
      Day 2 - Tso Moriri - Tso Kar - Sarchu/Jispa (Can stay at Tso Kar /Sarchu/Jispa)
      Day 3 - To Manali

      You will might need to stock fuel for Day 1 and Day 2 as you will not find any civilization on this routes. You could buy fuel for black at Chushul, but my driver said it is not of good quality and chokes the vehicle. So I wouldn't take a chance.

      Delete
  18. We had a visit to Ladakh in june 2012.Although we ate from kashmir valley which itself is a paradise on earth but Ladakh is a unique place with Pangong lake and Nubra valley must see sites.I have been so crazy for pangong lake that I wish I could again get a chance to be there...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh wonderful! I have trekked in Kashmir to Vishnusar and fell in love with the place. It was beyond my imagination. But of course, Ladakh is awesome too! :)

      I wonder if you have read my Kashmir story, here it is - http://www.travelwithneelima.com/2012/07/kashmir-paradise-that-we-hardly-know-of.html

      Delete
  19. Hello Neelima..
    Excellent article.. I am travelling from Chennai to Leh in my SUV and doing Pangong - Hanle via Chushul if I get the required permits.. But what scares me is the China diversion that is to be avoided.. Is there any signboard or any tip or any photo that you can share in this regard.. How do I identify that I am indeed going towards Chushul and not China. Any help will be very supportive..

    Sathya

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sathya, just follow the stone piles are you are good. It is a straight patch of land between two mountains so you won't get lost here. Only once you spot the lake, keep to your left. Left is India and right is China. There will a road going to the right, do not take that. Instead follow the trail marks on the sand to the left after reaching Pangong shore. 40kms later, you will reach Lukung.

      Delete
  20. Also, is 50L of additional Diesel enough if I have to do Hanle, Tso Moriri, Jispa (via Polokolong La) and Tandi from Spangimik.. I would have filled to the brim at Karu when I am going towards Spangimik..

    Sathya

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, no idea about the fuel. It's 150 odd kilometers in all. You might get fuel at Chushul in black but it might not be pure.

      Delete
  21. We are planning a kashmir-leh-ladakh tour in the month of may-june. It'll be around 20 days(excluding train flight time), and we've planned kashmir in 5 days (just the main places), and the rest(around 15 days) will be for leh and ladakh. We'll be taking the srinagar-leh highway while going.
    Our checklist is:
    1) kargil 2) Janskar valley 3) nubra 4) Pangong lake 5) Tso moriri
    We'll be returning through the leh-manali highway, so I think we'll have to stay a night at Sarchu. My question is, is it possible for us to visit the places that I have mentioned, in the given period of time. If so, then how..?? We'll take the tso moriri- pangong route as you have described... Also, if time remains, then suggest a bit more places(excluding monasteries).

    And after all, I really adore your photography, and envy your life...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This route will require you to get permits which is rather difficult to get these days. Try your luck anyway at the DC office. And the places seem doable in 20 days. Check www.devilonwheels.com, Dheeraj's website for help with itinerary, you will find all practical info on the roadtrip and route planning there. You can refer to my guide on Ladakh travel. Hope this helps.

      Delete
  22. Hi Neelima,just read Loma-Chushul section of your log.Superb narration and some rare well captured pictures.The section between Loma bridge till Maan village is dream section to cover.Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, the entire route was a dream stretch for me!

      Delete
  23. Hello Neelima, great write up of an exciting journey!
    "Like I said, don't take the right, it will lead you to China!" ...it's probably because of this that they say its better to go to Tso Moriri from Pangong than the other way round. Were you given any such suggestion?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, no such suggestions but it is really not that confusing. Just don't take right when you near the lake, that's all! :)

      Delete
  24. Hi Neelima, I am planning to do this in July 2014, please let me know how long did it take for you to cover this distance and how many kilometers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Took us about 8 hours I think. I don;t remember the kilometers, could be 150 odd.

      Delete
  25. Hey Neelima,
    Excellent Pictures. Dont know why I hit this thread so late! I'm planning the same route in April 14. Any insights would be helpful. Did you have army contacts to do this route? I get a negative feedback from everybody saying this is impossible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Might be impossible because of the permits, these days it's tough to get the permit but apart from that no other issues. Check bcmtouring forums for more practical information on fuel et al. but no problems as such apart from permits, the route goes very very close to the border. Try your luck at DC office! All the best.

      Delete
  26. hi neelima , Excellent info n awesome pics. Thanks for giving us such a wonderful experience. We are planning to take this route in Aug 2014. Understand most tour operators are not keen on taking this route, Appreciate if you could suggest some tour operators. Also We are planning to take direct route from Pangong to Nubra. Again most tour operators suggest that we must come back to Leh from Pangong and then go to nubra, Have you travelled this route too, Request your suggestion on the same.

    Rgrds
    Preeti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Preeti, You can talk to my travel agent, he'll get it done if it's possible. You can refer my name too if you'd like. His name is Mr. Dehlex and his number is 09419178663.

      Delete
    2. hi neelima,
      thanks for ur reference, We could cover Tsomoriri to Pangong via Chushul.Also we were able to travel via Warilla pass. It was an amazing & awesome experience. Mr Dehlex was very helpful & cordial.He had made all excellent arrangements. We could cover these off-beat locations only bcoz we were inspired by your travels.
      Thanks once again.
      Regards
      Preeti

      Delete
  27. Hi Neelima,
    Recently came across blog...thanks for all the info, it's indeed a great blog. Can you please tell me if the routes are do-able in a hatchback (example, hyundai i10) ?
    I would like to drive in June-2nd half or if you could suggested a better month (when roads are better & stable).
    1. Leh to Nubra
    2. Nubra to Pangong (direct)
    3. Pangong to Chushul to Tso Moriri
    4. Tso Moriri to Tso kar to Sarchu/Jispa
    Thanks & Regards,
    Lokesh Sharma

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi Neelima,

    Thanks for your indepth infomation.I am planning a trip from Leh-Pangong-Man-Chusul-Tsomoriri route, with route plan as follows in the month of august with a team of 10 :

    Day1 : Leh to Pangong and stay
    Day2 : Pangong to Tsomoriri enroute Man - Chusul and stay
    Day3 : Tsomoriri to Kellong and stay
    Day4: Kellong to Chandigarh

    It will be great if you can give feed back of fesibility of this plan and probable expenditure of this trip.

    Thanks
    Dibyendu

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi , i'm planning on taking this route , tso kar - tsomoriri - pangong . How was this route with respect to altitude acclimatization ?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi, did you actually get to see the rezang la pass? or just the memorial

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi , i'm planning on taking this route , tso kar - tsomoriri - pangong. please let me know whether it is possible to get inner line permit at Tso moriri or manali. Also pls suggest me whether it is applicable to cover this route in a single day by bike.

    Thanks in Advance,
    Kannan.R.

    ReplyDelete
  32. That is a great account of the less known route. Thanks for the details.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Pangong and Tso Moriri are so old news Neelima !!

    May I suggest some virgin and undiscovered areas ?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi, can this rote be taken now, any permits needed?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Hi Neelima,

    Thanks for this fantastic blog....I am really thrilled to see those amazing pics and vivid colors of our mother nature. Its truly heaven, and untouched and marvelous....

    My query would be here, when u have traveled through this route, photographs taken during what time of the year.......

    Cheers,
    Atanu Das!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for captured the unimaginable and untold story of my birth place pangong lake.You took it and turns into reality.A Big Big thanks again.

      Delete

Find me on Twitter

Subscribe