The land of high-altitude mountains, monasteries, and cold desert, Ladakh is breathtaking and high on every traveller’s bucket list. But do you know that apart from the regular tourist attractions, the region is also home to many scenic lakes that absolutely deserve to be explored?
From the ever-famous Pangong Tso to the heart-shaped Yaye Tso, these lakes in Leh Ladakh are rich in biodiversity, and often have stories attached to them, making them much more than just stunning destinations. When the temperatures drop in the winter, many of these also freeze, making the snowy landscape simply breathtaking. When exploring places to visit in Leh-Ladakh, make sure you add these Ladakh lakes to the list.
Here are some lakes in Leh Ladakh that you must visit
1. Pangong Tso
One of the most famous attractions in Leh, Lake Pangong, or Pangong Tso as it is locally called is vast, and at a length of 150 km, it is shared between India and China. Visiting this lake requires an inline permit, and since it is at a very high altitude, the chances of AMS go up, making acclimatisation mandatory. The road to this Ladakh lake from the city of Leh can be rocky in some stretches as well, and hence it is a better idea to take a high-ground clearance vehicle, preferably a 4-wheel drive.
If you’re looking for the Ladakh lake where 3 Idiots’ iconic last scene was shot, Pangong Tso is the place. Post the rise in popularity thanks to the film, this Ladakh lake has seen significantly more footfall. While this is great for the travel and tourism industry in Ladakh, it also poses the problem of tourists littering the lake, and it is advised that when you visit, bring back your trash with you.
2. Tso Moriri
A glacier-fed lake in Leh Ladakh, the Tso Moriri lake is pristine and stunning. Close to the Korzok village, this Ladakh lake requires a permit that you can easily acquire from the DC office in Leh. You can also obtain this permit online however keep in mind that after obtaining the permit you shouldn’t drive straight to the lake. As it is one of the highest lakes in Leh Ladakh, at least a day’s acclimatization is imperative to avoid AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness.
While visiting this Ladakh lake, you can also visit the nearby Korzok Monastery or if you’re into bird watching, you can enjoy the biodiversity around this beautiful turquoise lake.
3. Mirpal Tso
Located in the Chumthang valley, this Ladakh lake is 205 km away from the city of Leh and has sandy shores. The route to this lake also requires an inline permit, and while you can drive up close to the lake via Kaksang La, it also requires a bit of trekking for the last stretch as the road doesn’t reach the banks of the lake.
The road however is treacherous with its sharp hairpin bends and steep drop-offs, making it a tough drive but the view more than makes up for it.
4. Kyager Tso
Beautiful turquoise in colour, this small saline Ladakh lake is an hour’s drive from Leh and merely 30 km from Tso Moriri. While relatively much smaller, this Ladakh lake is absolutely stunning, and because it's not as famous as other lakes in the region, visiting it is a serene experience that lets you seamlessly soak in all that Ladakh has to offer. You can also experience the local wildlife here.
5. Chagar Tso
On the way to Pangong Tso lies this beautiful, idyllic and often overlooked Ladakh lake. This is one of the lakes in Leh Ladakh that do not require a special inline permit and at 140 km from Leh, can be easily visited. Since it is not as swarmed by tourists, this Ladakh lake is host to many varieties of birds, and if you’re into bird watching, make sure you take out time to visit this.
6. Kyun Tso and Ryul Tso
These twin lakes are pristine, very little explored, and a must-visit if serenity is what you are looking for. Towards the east of Korzok village lie these two high-altitude Ladakh lakes, reachable via the road to Mahe, parallel to the river Indus, till Nyoma bridge, from where the journey to these remote lakes is sure to blow your mind. May it be the scenic drive and local wildlife, or the sheer scale of the Himalayas, this is an experience like no other.
7. Yaye Tso
Said to be the nesting place for a lot of bird species, this Ladakh lake is all set to be a biodiversity heritage spot. While isolated and not as touristy, this Ladakh lake can be accessed via the Leh-Mahe route. Fed by the melting glacial waters, it's a sight to behold in the summers with its aquamarine waters. In winter, however, this Ladakh lake, which can easily be seen from the Hor La on the Mahe-Chushul route.
8. Tso Kar
While all lakes in Leh Ladakh come with astonishingly beautiful views, Tso Kar offers a feature like no other as it has salt deposits on the banks, making this Ladakh lake a must visit when in the region. Not as famous as the Leh’s Lake Pangong or Tso Moriri Lake, Tso Kar is a fluctuating lake not very far from Leh. At a mere 110 km from Leh, this Ladakh lake is perfect for soaking in the views as grand as its more popular cousins without the crowds.