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9 Beautiful Lakes in Leh that you Don’t Know About !

Lakes in Leh need no introduction. Popularized by the Bollywood movie 3 Idiots, Pangong Tso came to the attention of travellers from across the country and the world. After that, there was no looking back. Every year thousands of travellers visit Leh-Ladakh to witness the beauty of the barren cold desert and see for themselves the blue crystal clear waters of the Pangong Tso lake. However, Pangong Tso is not the only lake in Leh-Ladakh. There are many other lesser known lakes in Leh, each very different and more beautiful than the other.

Set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayas and golden plains, the lakes in Leh are simply stunning and awe-inspiring. There are a number of lakes in Leh, some well-known amongst travelers and others, only locals know about. While it may not be possible to include all the Lakes in Leh in your travel itinerary, try to include more than just the famous ones like Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso.

Ladakh is blessed with nature’s bounty and the breathtakingly beautiful lakes add vibrancy to its landscape.  From freshwater lakes to saline ones, every lake has something unique to it and each one deserves a visit for one reason or another. You can visit the lakes in Leh individually or plan an exclusive trip to these lakes. Whatever the case, these lakes must find a way in your Leh travel plan.

Lakes in Leh: An Overview

Total Number of Lakes in Leh More than 10
Mode of Travel Cabs, shared taxis, Private Vehicles
Weather Winters: October-April

-25 degree Celsius to 5 degree celsius

Summers: June-September

5 degree Celsius to 23 degree Celsius

Altitude 3500 m to 5000 m above sea level
Phone Connectivity Little or no network connectivity.
Lakes that can be visited together Pangong Tso and Chagar Tso

Tso Moriri and Kiagar Tso

Mirpal Tso And Yaye Tso

Tso Moriri, Tso Kar and Startsapuk Tso

Since most of the lakes in Leh are located in restricted or protected areas, you would need a permit to visit these. Citizens of India are required to obtain an Inner Line Permit or ILP while foreign nationals must obtain a Protected area Permit or PAP.

1.      CHAGAR TSO

On the way to the famous Pangong Lake lies this beautiful and not so famous lake called Chagar Tso. It is one of the many lesser known lakes in Leh and is fed by the waters of the glaciers. People in a hurry to reach the Pangong Tso often ignore this serene lake.

Although the Chagar Tso is a small lake, its vibe speaks for itself. The lake is also a treat to bird lovers as a vast variety of migratory birds can be spotted near the lake.

Make sure you can take a stopover here on your way to Pangong Lake. Spend some time on the banks of the lake and soak in its positivity and tranquillity.

Distance from Leh 200 Kms approx.
How to Reach ? You can get a private taxi or a shared cab from Leh.

The lake lies on the right side en route the Pangong Lake. Ask the driver to make a stopover.

Best time to visit  June to September
Permit Needed No
Things to Do Watch Migratory Bird

Photography

Relaxation

Nearby Places Pangong Tso
Ideal Visiting Time 2-3 hours

2.      KIAGAR or KYAGAR TSO

The Kiagar or Kyagar Tso lake is situated in the Rupshu Valley of Changthang Plateau, on the road from Sumdo to Korzok. This saline Lake is also among the many lesser known lakes in Leh.

Just like Chagar Tso, Kiagar Tso also lies ahead of a famous lake and is often ignored by travellers. It is only 30 km before Tso Moriri Lake. So, while the Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso lakes in Leh are flooded with tourists, here you can experience the serene beauty of the landscape in the true sense with little or no people around.

On a clear sunny day, you can witness the blue skies being reflected in the pristine waters.  You can spot goats, sheep, Kinags (largest of the wild ass), Yak, etc.  grazing around the lake.  The lake is held sacred by the local nomadic tribe and you can see the Buddhist prayers inscribed on stone plates around the lake.

Off late, the water in the lake has been receding due to shrinking glaciers surrounding the mountains.

You should definitely make a stopover at this lake. Spend a few hours or pitch a tent overnight but DO NOT miss this mesmerizing Lake.

Distance from Leh ? 270 Kilometres approx.
How to Reach ? If you are travelling to Leh via Manali, just take the road which leads to Tso Moriri. If you are travelling from Leh, you can include it in your visit to Tso Moriri Lake.
Best time to visit  April to October
Permit Needed No
Things to Do Spotting wild animals

Camping

Meeting local nomads

Photography

Nearby Places Tso Moriri

Rupshu Valley

Rupshu Lake

Tso Kar

Ideal Visiting Time 2-3 hours or Overnight



3.      KYUN TSO & RYUL TSO

Located at a height of 5000 m near Hanle and Nyoma, Kyun Tso and Ryul Tso are twin lakes. These are one of the least visited and lesser known lakes in Leh because of accessibility and permission issues. These marvellous lakes lie close to each other. While one lake is brackish, the other is sweet or fresh water.

The lakes offer a unique experience to those travellers who are seeking some quiet time. You can just sit here and see the reflections of the landscape on the blue surface. This view is beyond stunning.

However, you must visit the region in a group since it is very secluded. Also, you need to take permits from the Indian Armed Forces based in Leh for visiting these lakes. When getting your ILP or PAP at Leh, you can confirm with the local authorities regarding the permit for these twin lakes in Leh.

Distance from Leh 255 kilometres approx.
How to Reach? Hire a cab or take your private vehicle

Follow the route Mahe – Nyoma – Nidar – Thit Zarbo La.

Best time to visit June to September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Photography

Relaxation

Nearby Places Nyoma

Hanle

Important Tip Travel in groups

Do not take your vehicle too close to the lake as there may be marshes.

Ideal Visiting Time 1-2 hours

 

Lakes in Leh

The Twin lakes, Kyun Tso and Ryul Tso are located at a height of 5000 m. Picture by Neeraj Mahar

4.       MIRPAL TSO

Mirpal Tso is also one of the lesser known lakes in Leh. It is an isolated lake situated in Chushul. This freshwater lake has a sandy bed and turquoise blue waters that offer awe-inspiring views. Since not many people visit the place, it is a perfect spot to enjoy some quiet time. The lake is a must visit especially if you wish to venture out to something adventurous.

Distance from Leh 202 kilometres approx.
How to Reach You can rent a car or bike in Leh and drive to the lake
Best time to visit May- September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Photography

Enjoy the peace

Nearby Places Chushul

5.      STAT TSO & LANG TSO

Although Stat Tso and Lang Tso cannot exactly be termed as lakes in Leh (since they lie in the Zanskar region of Ladakh), they need special mention. The twin lakes are situated in Zanskar Valley close to its highest point-the Pensi La.

Set in the shadow of snow-capped mountains, the lakes offer a stunning view to the travellers. These lakes are not very explored so you can spend some quiet time here. The setting of the lakes is such that the pictures turn out to be extraordinary.

You can also pitch a tent near the lake to experience beautiful sunrises and star-studded skies at night.

Distance from Leh 369 kilometres approx.
How to Reach? You can opt for a shared jeep safari to this lake or drive there in your own (rented) vehicle.

You can also reach the twin lakes from Kargil.

Best time to visit June to September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Photography

Camping

Nearby Places Pensi La
Important Tip If you wish to camp at the lake make sure you are acclimatized to sleeping at around 4400 m above sea level.
Ideal visiting time 3-4 hours or Overnight

 

Lakes in Leh

Set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, Stat Tso & Lang Tso offer a stunning view to the travellers. Picture by Dipesh Shah

6.      STARTSAPUK TSO

Approximately 5kms south-west end of Tso Kar lies a freshwater lake called Starsapuk Tso. The lake is connected to Tso Kar through an inlet stream and is home to varied flora and fauna.

This is among the lakes in Leh that is a treat for bird watchers. A number of bird species have been known to visit the water body. The lake is also the breeding ground for large colonies of Grebes, Strip geese, terns, etc.

Apart from the birds, the lake is also a spotting ground for wild animals including Tibetan Wild Ass, Tibetan gazelles, Tibetan wolves and foxes, wild horses, yaks, marmots, etc.

The Lake can be covered on your way to Tso Moriri and Tso Kar Lake.

Distance from Leh 160 kilometres approx.
How to Reach ? Rent a car or bike in Leh and drive over to this lake.
Best time to visit   June to September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Bird watching

Animal Sightings

Photography

Nearby Places Tso Kar
Important Tip Carry Binoculars for Birdwatching
Ideal Visiting Time 2-3 Hours

7.      TSO KAR

Located at about 50 kms from the Tso Moriri Lake, Tso Kar in Rhupshu Valley is one of the relatively well-known Lakes in Leh. Tso Kar is basically a twin lake and is attached to Startsapuk Tso through an inlet stream. The lake has a high concentration of salt which is visible all over the lake shores. The lake is sometimes called the ‘White Lake’ because of these salt deposits

The lake is popular among birdwatchers and wildlife lovers. Although the marshlands of the lake are home to a number of species including bar-headed geese, great crested grebe, Brahmin ducks, etc the star attraction is the black-necked cranes or Tibetan Cranes. These beautiful creatures with a wingspan of around 8ft lay eggs near the Tso Kar Lake.

Wildlife lovers should also visit this place for spotting animals like Kiangs (wild asses), Tibetan foxes and wolves, horses and yaks.

If you wish to stay a night you can either stay at the tented camps on the western side of the lake or stay at one of the homestays at Thugje.

If you do stay the night, don’t forget to star gaze the vast skies.

Distance from Leh 160 kilometres approx.
How to Reach? You can rent a car or bike in Leh and drive over to this lake.
Best time to visit   June to September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Bird watching

Animal Sightings

Photography

Camping

Nearby Places Startsapuk Lake

Tso Moriri Lake

Important Tip Carry Binoculars for Birdwatching
Ideal visiting time 3-4 hours or Overnight



8.  YARAB TSO

One of the many lakes in Leh, the Yarab Tso Lake is located near the Panamik village of Nubra valley. You can reach this freshwater lake after a 20-minute uphill trek from the Panamaik Village. Once you reach there you will be awestruck with the view.

Yarab Tso is also referred to as the hidden Lake and is situated some 15 kms from Diskit Region of Nubra Valley

Just like the many lakes in Leh, Yarab Tso has crystal clear waters. It is one of the most sacred lakes in Nubra valley and is highly revered by the locals. Swimming/bathing or washing in the lake is not allowed. You can also see the colourful flags fluttering around the shores of the lake.

If you are visiting Nubra valley in Leh, it is best to cover it on your way there. The whole detour will take approximately an hour, so don’t miss it.

Distance from Leh 180 kilometres approx.
How to Reach Rent  a car or bike in Leh and drive over to this lake
Best time to visit  June to September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Relaxation

Photography

Nearby Places Hot Springs at Panamik Village

Sumur Village

Dikshit

Ideal visiting Time 1-2 hours

9.  YAYE TSO

What makes Yaye Tso special amongst the lakes in Leh is that it is a Volcanic Lake. Located at around 12 kms from Mahe Gompa in Mahe Village, Yaye Tso is a freshwater Lake.

This place is relatively untouched and unknown to most travellers. A few nomads set up camps near the lake during summers. You can find a number of sheep and horse grazing around the lake. Interacting with people is a great experience.

Distance from Leh 240 kilometres approx.
How to Reach ? Rent  a car or bike in Leh and drive over to this lake
Best time to visit  June to September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Enjoy the view

Interact with the nomads

Camping

Nearby Places Yaye Village
Important Tip The lake is surrounded by quicksand so be careful
Ideal visiting Time 2-3 hours or overnight

 

Lakes in Leh

The Yaye Tso is a volcano Lake in Leh, not many people know about. Picture by Rohit Malik

The Most Popular and Highly Visited Lakes in Leh

The two most popular lakes in Leh that are visited by most travellers are Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. Let us find out more about these two beautiful lakes.

1.  PANGONG TSO

Pangong Tso Lake is one of the most famous lakes in Leh. Shot to fame by Bollywood movie 3 idiots, the lake is set against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains, bright blue skies and rugged plains.

Stretching to about 160 kms, one-third of Pangong Tso lies in India and the rest of it is a part of China. The waters of the lake change colour several times a day and that is the sight you don’t want to miss. 

If you visit Pangong make sure you witness the magic and beauty of the lake by staying overnight. If you wish to stay in homestays you can go to the Spangmik village nearby otherwise you can stay at the different camps set up near the shore of the lake.

While during the day the lake changes its colours, at night, you can enjoy star gazing near the lake. It is truly a unique experience. As a traveller, this is something that you cannot miss

Distance from Leh 250 kilometres approx.
How to Reach? There are several jeep safaris that take you to the Pangong Lake and you can also rent a bike or car for yourself in Leh.
Best time to visit  All year round

Summers for Spectacular views

Winters for a  Frozen Pangong Tso

Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Witness the Changing colours of the lake

Photography

Camping

Stargazing at night

Nearby Places Spangmik Village

Khardungla

Ideal visiting time Stay overnight

2.      TSO MORIRI

Tso Moriri or Mountain is one of those lakes in Leh which every traveller has heard of. The lake is situated the Changthang Plateau and is the largest in the Ladakh region. The lake is situated at a height of over 14000 ft and is therefore inaccessible during winters.

Tso Moriri was declared as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 2003 and has a large flora and fauna. This serene and sacred lake attracts a large range of wildlife, migratory birds, marmots, wild asses, Tibetan wolves, etc.  Keep it on the priority list if you are a bird lover.

The triangle shaped lake is splendid with clear blue water and is a must visit. You can also choose to stay overnight but unlike Pangong, there are no camps close to the shore of the lake. You have to stay at the homestays in Korzok Village.

Distance from Leh 240 kilometres approx.
How to Reach ? There are several jeep safaris that take you to Tso Moriri and you can also rent a bike or car for yourself in Leh.
Best time to visit  May  to  Early September
Permit Needed Yes
Things to Do Birdwatching

Animal Sightings

Photography

Nearby Places Startsapuk Lake

Korzok Village

Tso Kar Lake

Important Tip Carry Binoculars for Birdwatching
Ideal visiting time 3-4   hours or Overnight

Now that I have discussed the lakes in Leh in detail, it is very important that you know certain travel tips that will help you in visiting all of these lakes. Read them carefully and make sure you follow them while visiting some or all of these lakes in Leh.

lakes in leh

Tso Moriri is a perfect place to spot some birds. Picture by Sumedha Bhattacharya

 

Tips for Visiting Lakes in Leh

Altitude Sickness

Some of the lakes in Leh at located at a very high altitude. Altitude sickness can be a problem. Make sure you get acclimatized before venturing out. You should get some over the counter Altitude Sickness Medicines like Diamox or  Dexamethasone from the Chemist. 

Also, carry a portable oxygen cylinder (as a precaution)  if you plan to camp overnight at one of the high altitude lakes in Leh.

Carry Warm Clothes

Always carry an extra pair of warm clothes with you. It can get very chilly at night.

Camping Equipment

If you are planning to set up your own camp at one of the lesser known lakes in Leh, carry all the camping essentials like 

Tent

Sleeping Bag

Pillow

Sleeping Mat

Flashlight

Swiss Knife

Food

Bottled Water

Lighter/Matchbox

Fire starter

Utensils

Carry a Medical Kit

Carry a medical aid kit. It is very important, especially if you are travelling on a motorbike or planning to camp at one of the lesser known lakes in Leh.

Carry Some food/ snacks with you

Some unknown lakes in Leh are very remotely located, there may be no shops nearby. Make sure you carry some eatables with you.

Travel in groups

If you plan to venture to a remote or not so well-known lake, make sure you do it in a group. This way you can ensure that help is close if needed.

Carry Cash

There are no ATMs on the way, so make sure you carry enough cash.

Sufficient Fuel

Ensure you have sufficient fuel in your car or bike as fuel may not be easily available.

Other Things to Carry

Don’t forget to carry moisturizers, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion when visiting the lakes in Leh

Spare Batteries and Memory Cards

All the lakes in Leh provide a stunning view. The shutterbug in you would want to just keep clicking the pictures. Make sure you carry extra storage device and battery so as not to miss capturing the moment.

If you click pictures with your phone, do carry a power bank.

So, if you are planning a trip to Leh, make sure you visit most of these lakes, especially the ones that are relatively unheard of. Visiting the lesser known lakes in Leh will be a different experience in itself. The roads may be rougher than usual in certain spots, but the discomfort is totally worth it. 

Happy Wayfaring.

Divya Sarjolta

Divya Sarjolta

Divya Sarjolta is a P.hD in Economics and a Gold Medalist in her Majors. She hails from the beautiful town of Shimla and is a Himachali by birth. She enjoys exploring life to the fullest and has pursued quite a lot of backpacking trips around the country. Two things Divya craves more than anything else is good food and travel. She leads her life on the lines of Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones, “It is a big and beautiful world. Most of us live and die in the same corner where we were born and never get to see any of it. I don’t want to be most of us.” So, explore while you can

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