Few, if any, have come back untouched by the mesmerizing appeal of Pangong Lake. The stark beauty and serenity of the lake has been known to touch a tender chord in even the most hardened traveler. After getting used to the parched landscape of Ladakh, Pangong comes as a breathtaking relief. Often, the haunting play of light and shadow on the hills around the lake greets visitors. And when the clouds clear, sun rays play magic with the crystal clear water imparting colors from aqua to shades of orange. The effect is surreal.
At an altitude of around 14300 feet, Pangong is tucked between the low, rolling ranges of the Changtang plateau in eastern Ladakh. The 134 kilometers (83 miles) long lake spans across India and China, with the bigger chunk being in China.
A 5 hour (150-odd kilometers) drive from Leh to Pangong takes travelers past the summer residence of the Dalai Lama, the Sindhu Ghat by the river Indus, Shey Palace and the Thiksey Gompa. En route one crosses the third highest pass in the India – Chang La – at 17,350 feet. Visitors to the lake need an Inner Line permit. Being on a sensitive border, boating is not allowed on the Indian side.
Pangong is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. Although it is a saltwater lake and has virtually no aquatic life, it draws migratory birds and mammals. The black-necked Siberian crane, bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks are commonly seen here. It also supports wildlife species such as the Kiang (wild ass) and the Marmot (rodent family).
In late October of 1962, Pangong saw military action during the Indo-Chinese War. Pangong is still a delicate border point along the Line of Actual Control. Visitors need an Inner Line permit to visit this beautiful lake.
Pangong forms one of the distinct border demarcating points on the Indo-China Line of Actual Control. Pangong is at the southern end of the Johnson’s Line. It forms a critical area between the Himalayan neighbors in the disputed Ladakh-Aksai Chin region.