The three great lakes of the Ladakh region─ Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Tso Kar─ lie southeast of Leh within Ladakh’s Changthang Cold Desert Sanctuary, which stretches over some 4,000 sq km, at altitudes between 14,000 to 19,000 ft. Ladakh’s Changthang is the western fringe of the Great Changthang Plateau of Tibet marked by deep gorges and vast plateaus, sparsely populated by nomads. Panoramic and colorful, remote and mystical, these three great high-altitude lakes of Ladakh are an unmatched experience of beauty, geography, ecology, and culture.
Pangong Tso, located at a distance of 170 km from Leh (a five-hour drive) is 134 km long and 5 km wide. Situated at a height of about 4000 m its stretches through India and into the Tibet Autonomous Region (China). Known for its rich history and stunning landscape, the Pangong Tso is clear, blue, a saline lake that changes its color (hues of green and blue) throughout the day, depending on the sunlight.
To reach Pangong from Leh, one passes the famous Chang-la (third highest motor-able road in the world) to reach Spangmink, where most of the hotels/accommodation for tourists is situated, after which a wide expanse of electric blue water greets their hungry eyes. The region boasts of a wide variety of flora and fauna, clearly distinctive and exclusive. On the way, one can spot the tiny, squirrel Marmots bathing in the sun and burrow. On several occasions, they readily pose for the camera, unless they see their predators, miniature versions of foxes, lurking about. Kiangs i.e. the Tibetan/Asiatic ass are also easy to spot, given their horse-like appearance and big heads. They weigh somewhere between 250 and 380 kg and move around in huge herds. The strays who venture away from the crowd are often bold and willing to approach people. The brackish water of the lake has very low micro-vegetation with no fish or other aquatic life in the lake, except for some small crustaceans. On the other hand, however, visitors see numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface. These include the Brahminy ducks, brown-headed gulls and the black-necked crane (a tall grey bird with a black neck, head, and tail) whose crown turns red when it becomes excited! There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake, however, this vegetation is largely sparse, even non-existent.
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