Pangong Tso – a lake divided between India and Tibet.

Pangong Tso is one of the highest salt water lakes in the world, but although saline it still freezes in winter. Situated at a height of about 4,350 m, it covers 604 km2 and is 134 km long and 5 km at its widest point. Lake is sensitive disputed territory. The Line of Actual Control, between India and China, cuts through the lake near Khurnak Fort but neither county agrees as to where it should be. About a third of the lake lies within India, while the rest is in China-dominated Tibet. There are ongoing confrontations between the 2 countries.

Tourists require an Inner Line Permit to visit this area and are restricted to a couple of villages on the western shoreline. It is not possible to travel further than Merak. Therefore China remains an image on the horizon.

Pangong Lake gained more fame by being the site of the ending of the Three Idiots (2009), a Bollywood blockbuster. This has led it to become popular with Indian tourists.

Chang La Pass

The journey there itself is an adventure crossing the Chang La pass (5360m) which is claimed to be the 3rd highest motor – able road in the world. The pass itself has a temple, a restaurant (claiming to be the highest in the world) and an Indian Army medical post – with advice not to stay longer than 20 minutes. Given that Kilimanjaro is only 550 m higher this may be sensible advice.

The Lake

The mountains in the far background belong to China.

The Villages

Access to the villages are limited along the shoreline up to Merek, but most drivers will not take you that far. I think I got as far as Man on the western shore. These villages are remote, lacking facilities and one can only image how tough it is in winter. Nevertheless, the people are welcoming and friendly.

Date of Visit: August 2012

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