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Ladakh’s southern lakes
The ever-changing colours of Pangong Tso entrance visitors, and its beautiful scenery has provided the backdrop to many a Bollywood movie © Chris Piason, Shutterstock
This is a landscape guaranteed to make you feel small, where wolves streak over the horizon and nomads set up yak-hair tents among barren plains.
Running up towards the Chinese border, the vast open plateau of southeastern Ladakh is sprayed with lakes that glint in multi-hued blues. This is a landscape guaranteed to make you feel small, where wolves streak over the horizon and nomads set up yak-hair tents among barren plains. If you’ve had your fill of monasteries, retreating into this grand wilderness and dipping your toes in icy waters or staring up into a seemingly endless star-filled sky is the perfect remedy.
Unless you have a lot of time available, you’ll probably need to choose either to visit Pangong Tso or to go to Tso Moriri and Tso Kar lakes. Both require a long and uncomfortable car journey, and as getting there and back from Leh is expensive, your decision may well be shaped by whom you can share a car with. The road south from Leh to the lakes is the main Leh–Manali road, National Highway 3 (NH3). It splits at Upshi, an army base that also hosts a small line of shops and cafés. From here it is 110km to Pangong Tso, 115km to Tso Kar and 175km to Tso Moriri.
Due to the proximity of the lakes to the Indo-Chinese border, you are required to have an Inner Line Permit to travel there. If you do not have a permit (and the requisite number of photocopies), you will not be allowed to travel past the police checkpoints.