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Eventhough, Ladakh has a barren land, one can find many scenic locations, lakes, vast meadows adorned with multicolored flowers, valleys etc. Visit to Ladakh can be memorable and cherished for a lifetime. Pangong also known as Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ladakh. It is one of the most beautiful places in India. It is also a geologist’s domain.
One of the most spectacular lakes, this 135km-long lake is situated at an altitude of about 4,250 m (13,900 ft) above sea level. Pangong Tso Lake is about five hours (160 km ) drive from Leh. The last scene of the famous Aamir Khan starrer Bollywood movie '3 Idiots' was shot here.
One of the largest brackish lakes in Asia and the longest Lake in Ladakh, Pangong Tso is is a saltwater Lake situated in the upper reaches of Himalayan Mountain range in Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. The name Pangong gets its name from Tibetan word Banggong Co meaning 'long, narrow, enchanted lake'. Nestled between India and China, it's one third is in India while the remaining two thirds lies in Tibet, which is controlled by China. Most of the streams which fill the lake are located on the Tibetan side.
Earlier, this lake had a channel to Shyok River, a tributary of Indus River, but it was closed off for natural damming purpose. Two streams feed the lake from the Indian side, forming marshes and wetlands at the edges. Lines above the current lake level reveal a 16 ft thick layer of mud and laminated sand, suggesting the theory that the lake has shrunken recently in geological scale.
The Pangong is a delight to the eye and a drive to this lake is such a wonderful and memorable experience. During winters the lake freezes completely, which is a great experience to witness and it is paint the landscape blue colour in the summer months. With its almost 2,000 square kilometers of turquoise water and a depth of 100 meters, the crystal clear water shines in many shades of blue depending upon its depth.
Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh. Most of the journey is through a rough and dramatically scenic mountain road.
The journey begins at Thiksey village, which is famous for its huge monasteries covering an entire mountain range. And beyond this remote village there is nothing but the vast expanse of extreme mountain ranges for company. An interesting observation of the topography throughout this journey is that they throw off all calculations of distance somewhat like a mirage-effect, what looked to be a ten-minute crossing easily requires an hour or more!
The road crosses the villages of Shey and Gya and traverses the Changla pass. Road down from Changla Pass leads through Tangste and other smaller villages, crossing river called Pagal Naala also known as The Crazy Stream.
Since, the water is salty, there is very less micro-vegetation. There are no fish or other aquatic life in the lake, except for some small crustaceans. However, numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface can be spotted . There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake.
The lake serves as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks are commonly spotted around this region. A number of species of wildlife including the kiang and the Marmot can also be seen here.