Do you remember the climax scene of the movie “Three Idiots” ?
I am sure that more than the lead actors, their acting or Silencer’s face when he figures out that Rancho is Mr. Wangdu, the thing that you would remember the most would be the location where it was shot, which is Pangong Tso in Ladakh(Tso stands for lake). I remember my first reaction when i saw it, the set looked so mesmerising. I mean no way those blue and shades of blue water, surrounded by the perfect contrasting brown coloured mountains were real.. However, they were very real and extra ordinarily beautiful. Until Three Idiots, Ladakh was less known and even less explored. And when people saw it in the movie, everyone wanted to see it with their own eyes.
Well, Manali to Leh by bullet kinda adventure existed since a very long time, but no one thought beyond that. People thought Ladakh, a place where reaching itself was quite an adventure, was forbidden for families. But gradually the popularity grew and no matter rough or raw, people started visiting Ladakh in great numbers.
The unique thing about the Pangong Lake is that, it is situated at an altitude of 14000 ft and is spread across more than 100 kms between India and Tibet. It is a salt water lake and is land locked. Probably, this is the reason the lake that shows surreal colors like turquoise and green in summers, becomes white during winters as the entire lake gets frozen.
How to Reach
You can take your own car, if you have a 4X4 vehicle. Otherwise its absolutely necessary to carry snow-chains. And most importantly you should feel confident driving on a road with snow/ice knowing the necessary tricks and techniques. Or else, you can hire a taxi from Leh with the help of your hotel or any tour agency in the main market.
When you drive from Leh to Pangong, there are two different routes you can take. Both the routes have one high pass each. The old route is through Chang La, a notorious pass even in summers, so you can understand what it would be like in winters. The second route is through Kela Pass, a newer route where the roads are pretty good. However, in winters only Chang La route is open. To return on the same day, you need to start from Leh very early in the morning as it almost takes 6 hours to cover the distance of approx 150 KMs, which otherwise would take only 3-4 hours in summers.
Once you descend from Chang La, you reach Durbuk, which is also the last place where you will get mobile network and dhabas during winters. Post Durbuk, the road is good except an occasional frozen water stream passing through it. The Indian Army keeps clearing the path and then there are also local villagers working on the road, throwing mud on the ice/snow, which makes it easier to drive without slipping. The landscape in this stretch is absolutely stunning. You will also get to see the famous grasslands of Ladakh along-with abundant wildlife where you can spot Yaks, Dzo(hybrid of yak and cow), Ibex, Pashmina goats, Sheep, marmots.
From Durbuk, it takes one hour to reach the lake view point or the beginning of the lake, which is also called the Three Idiots point. Here you will find various props from the movie like the yellow scooter, three bums and the three barrels from the song ‘All izz well’. This spot is always super crowded during tourist season but in winters its just the opposite. So you can enjoy taking pictures without interruptions.
Pangong is famous for its sunrise and that is why during season almost everybody stays overnight in one of the many camps on the lake side. However, in winters a lot of these places remain closed due to the challenges that the harsh weather brings upon the area. So, it is advised that you come back the same day and avoid spending the night in -30 degree celsius. This is due to the slow and careful driving you must do on the snow-covered roads. However, if you can’t(like us)you can look for a homestay called Thangzing House in Man village. It is located on the main road and has a beautiful view of the lake.
In winters, when you travel to some place remote in Ladakh..be open to some basic and no luxurious way of living. For example, instead of flush toilets you will have to use the dry – compost toilets; there won’t be running water and hence you will have make use of buckets that are filled from the closest stream; there won’t be a centralised heating system and hence either a fire place/ Bukhari or electric heater will be available. However, electricity only comes for a few hours so keep that in mind too. It’s the basic and simple way of living in harmony with the nature.
Tourists usually explore the beginning of the lake, the ‘Three Idoits’ spot. However, I would highly recommend that you take a drive along the lake and explore all the three villages Spangmik, Man and Merak. The views of the lake from the Merak village are breathtaking.
What to Pack
- Wear layers of clothing : Top – Thermal, Fleece, sweater and a down jacket. Bottom – Thermals, Fleece lined trousers. Woollen cap and 2-3 layers of socks.
- Plan on coming back the same night, but for emergency do carry a spare pair of UGs and clothes.
- Some snacks for the way.
Check out the video for our beautiful experience at the Pangong Lake in Winters
I hope you find the information in this blog helpful. If there is anything else that you need to understand, please drop a comment below and We would love to help.
The Seeking Soul