Tso Moriri also referred to as “Lake Moriri” or “Mountain Lake”, and is located in Changthang Plateau of Ladakh at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft). Pangong Tso is bigger in size than Tso Moriri but is divided between India and China, but Tso Moriri situated entirely within India and which is also largest in an area among high altitude lakes in India. (Source: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Atlas-High-Altitude-Lakes-of-India.pdf). The lake and encompassing area are protected as the Tso Moriri wetland Conservation Reserve.
It is regarding twenty six kilometer north to south in length and three to five kilometer wide. The lake has no outlet at present and the water is brackish though not very appreciable to taste. The lake is fed by springs and snow-melt from the neighboring mountains. Accessibility to the lake is essentially restricted to the summer season, although Karzok on the northwest shore and also the military facilities on the eastern shores have year-around habitation. The Korzok monastery, on the western bank of the lake, is 400 years old and attracts tourists and Buddhist pilgrims. Tourism throughout may – September attracts a large range of foreign and native tourists. Northeast of Tso Moriri is a small lake that is known regionally as Lake of Joy.
Pangong Lake to Tso moriri
We in our Ladakh tour visited Pangong Lake first and then went to Tso moriri and then came back Leh. Generally, visitors after completion of Pangong Lake tour come back Leh and start afresh tour for Tso moriri generally via Upasi and Chumathang. The direct route from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri runs through a district called Changthang. This entire area is extremely close to the border and will take you through places like Rezang La and Tsaga, sites where Indian Army battled with Chinese forces for control of Ladakh region. Due to the sensitivity of the region, solely Indian nationals are allowed to travel across. This is also a very remote region with no phone facilities, cell phone towers, mechanics, petrol pumps, accommodation facilities and for most of the journey, not even a road. Even though this route is becoming known now, the number of people traveling is still quite less.
We had to travel this way well prepared with spare tire, fuel, equipment etc. There are two good reasons to travel this way. First, we saved a day which we would have otherwise wasted for our return journey to Leh from Pangong. The second reason for traveling through Changthang Valley is that we got to explore more. We traveled through the beautiful Changthang valley which is one of the most scenic places in Ladakh. But before starting we had to prepare our Inner Line Permit.
How I arranged Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri Inner Line Permit
This entire route is considered a part of the inner line, areas closer to the border; hence an Inner line permit is required in order to visit here. For foreign nationals, a Protected Area permit has to be procured before they can travel from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri via Chushul. Inner line permit can either be applied for or obtained in person from DM office Leh or online. Protected area permit, however, needs to be obtained through a registered travel agent. Please browse through the article below for additional data on how to get these permits.
How we reached to Tso moriri from Pangong Lake.
We followed the below-mentioned route.
Spangmik (Pangong Tso) – Chushul (50 km)
Chusul –Mahe(125 km)
Mahe-Sumdo – Karzok (Tso Moriri) (60 km)
The first destination to reach from Pangong Tso is Chushul. Padma our driver started driving on the dirt track just beside the lake. It was an awesome and a very scenic drive. There was no road and Padma continued driving on a dirt track for the most part of this journey. We crossed the village of Man and continue towards Merak where we produced our permits. After registering ourselves, we continued towards Khaltse and from there to Chushul. There was no road here which made it highly probable to get lost but as long as we stayed on the dirt track and with the electricity wires, you would be OK, Padma, told. At an altitude of 4348 meters, (14268 ft), Chushul has an Advanced Landing Ground airstrip that was used in the Sino-Indian War. At Chushul, we took a quick break and visited the Rezang La War Memorial, dedicated to the heroes who lost their lives in battle with China. Rezang La is a pass on the south-eastern approach to Chushul valley in Ladakh. La means a mountain pass in the Tibetan language. This place is famous for the Indian Army who fought to the ‘last man, last round’ at Rezang La (Chushul) against China on November 18, 1962. Without this significant triumph, the territory might have been captured by China. This battle is listed within the eight stories of collective bravery published by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. Rezang La was the location of the last stand of the thirteen Kumaon, during the Sino-Indian War in 1962. The company was led by Major Shaitan Singh, who won a posthumous Param Vir Chakra for his actions. In this action on 18 Nov 1962, 114 Indian soldiers out of a total of 123 were killed. A memorial in Rewari, where most of the Ahir soldiers came from, claims that 1,300 Chinese soldiers were killed in the battle.
Once we have reached Chushul, our next destination would be Mahe village. From Chushul, we headed towards the high altitude pass of Tsaga La, also known as Chagga La. At the village of Tsaga, again we registered ourselves at the ITBP check post and this is also the first time we left Pangong. The road from here is pretty good till Loma and within a short time, we reached Loma. At Loma, we again registered ourselves at the Army check post. From the check post at Loma, Padma took the turn on right and continue towards Nyoma and Mahe. The road from here is a mix of good and bad, the drive is scenic and it should not take more than an hour and a half we reached Mahe. oFrom Mahe our next destination is Karzok.
Before reaching Sumdo we registered ourselves at ITBP check-post. Right next to that check-post, there is a bridge on our right. We crossed the bridge and reached Sumdo. The first lake we saw after crossing Namashang La is Kiagar Tso. Continued on the tracks and 10 km before Karzok we came across a bifurcation. The dirt track continued to go straight and we noticed a road going towards our left. Padma drove straight and reached Korzok. Korzok is a village in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir, located on the Shore of Tso Moriri Lake. It is among the 10th highest settlements in the world (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest_cities ). Situated approximately 14,995 feet (4,570 m) above sea level. The Drukpa Buddhist Korzok Monastery is located here.
The village has several houses and the nomadic population which established their tents (made of yak hair or skin) in summer. Pashmina is that the valuable product that the Changmas trade together with the salt that they extract from giant salt fields within the area. We reached Korzok very hungry and started searching restaurants. We found maximum hotels and restaurants were closed in the last week of October as winter approached. We also found few tourists and most of them came there having no plan of night stay. At last, we found one restaurant which owner opened its door on our request. But he clarified that they had only a few options like Maggie, egg, tea, and coffee. We ordered for Maggie, omelet, and coffee. We found the restaurant; village and people are very dirty and unhygienic. Moreover, the temperature is also lower than Pangong Lake and chilled air blowing outside changed our mind regarding staying at Tso moriri. We all were feeling breathing trouble here more than Pangong Tso also. Specifically, I felt breathing trouble in Ladakh for the first time at Tso moriri. We had no extra oxygen cylinder with us because whatever we had my wife finished it at Pangong Lake night stay. After a brief discussion with Padma, we left the plan to spent the night at Tso moriri and we decided to stay at Chumathang.
We spent 15 to 20 minutes near Tso moriri Lake and took some fast snaps and came back to our cab due to cold wind. From Korzok we came back to Namashang La then reached Sumdo and after crossing Mahe finally, we reached our staying destination Chumathang.
Chumathang is a village in Leh District, on the bank of the Indus River. It is 138 km from Leh. We have seen a small medical Centre run by the Indian army just after crossing the hot spring. There are a few small dhabas or restaurants here making it a good spot for lunch and visit the hot springs which are close to the main road. Near the hot springs are the Indus View Guest House and Restaurant which has few big and good rooms – with a hot bath and also with an exquisite scenic view. Travelers coming from the plain would find that Chumathang is significantly lower than the Tso moriri Lake, making it a good stop for people suffering from altitude sickness. For more details about Chumathang stay please click the below mentioned link-
Next day we visited Chumathang hot spring for what the place is famous for. Hot fumes were coming up due to this hot sulfur water(geothermal energy of India) which made it easy to recognize the spot. There was a separate enclosure for male and female to take bath. But both the places were found dirty. The water is really hot and the smell of sulfur was coming out. Then we have our heavy breakfast with
Things to remember
1. Carry adequate winter clothes and a medical aid ready in case of any emergencies.
2. Altitude sickness is a very common problem on your visit to Leh or anywhere around. Take adequate rest after landing Leh. Take adequate oxygen cylinder. To know more follow the link below
3. Avoid using plastic bags here.
4. Do not expect any phone signals at Tso moriri Lake or the nearby area. This, in fact, could be a smart issue since folks get to explore the attraction and create the foremost of their time in this stunning place.
5. Start early that you can reach Korzok before evening.
6. There is no fuel station at Karzok or on the way. Please make sure that you create proper fuel arrangements before you leave.
7. Check technical issues (mainly spare tires) before starting.
8. Keep adequate water and dry food with you.
I hope this information was helpful. If you’ve got any more queries, please feel free to request the comments section below and that I am going to be glad to answer. If you have any further updates on any information what I shared, please do suggest and I will update it in the main article.