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13 Most Stunning Alpine Ladakh Lake to Visit

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Written by Aarshi Rai
07 Jun, 2024

The terrains of Ladakh are cold, barren, and rugged and with all the dry wind and dust-laden jackets and shoes, it sometimes gets exhausting for people. The otherwise adventurous ride to Ladakh’s innermost and offbeat regions can also leave you craving some fresh clean air. Your body needs some time to rest and your skin needs some hydration. Worry not, here’s a simple solution for you, a plausible break to your journey in the land of high passes. And that is stopping by the pristine alpine Ladakh lake. Yes, these beautiful ranges don’t just hold dusty adventures but also some peaceful moments around gurgling waters. 

What is not to love about these lakes? The azure waters starkly contradict the parched rocky mountains. What looks smoother than fluttering silk gives life to a plethora of fauna that inhabit on their shores. Migratory birds and many unique animals to look for in Ladakh can be found at the lakes.

Get to see the best Ladakh lakes with our Ladakh tour packages

Exploring Ladakh Lake

While any waterbody in Leh Ladakh can be described as a slice of heaven, something about the lakes tells you to stop and relax. It challenges all your well-thought-out reasons for living a hurried life and calms your appetite for more, whether in ‘life’ or on your ‘Ladakh trip’. 

Now, I know you are aware of the renowned Pangong Lake, how wouldn’t you? Nobody forgets to include this lake in their Ladakh itinerary, but here you go, we bring you a list of the best Ladakh Lakes but only after giving the due credit to Pangong

Pangong Lake Ladakh

Pangong Lake Ladakh or the “high grassland lake” is known for its stunning blue waters that change hues with the sun’s position. The saltwater lake stretches across the India-China border, with very little portion on our side, yet offering breathtaking views of the rugged landscape and serene surroundings, This otherwise offbeat spot in Ladakh got major tourist traction after the release of 2009, Aamir Khan starrer blockbuster movie 3 Idiots. Even today families and friends click pictures at the shore where the shoot took place and also pose with the iconic props from the movie. The location is a top spot on the list of finest tourist spots for Instagrammable pictures in Ladakh. 

Pangong Lake Ladakh
Prayer Flags at Pangong Lake.
  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 14,270 feet  
  • How to Reach: Drive from Leh via Chang La pass (approximately 5-6 hours)

Tso Moriri

This is another famous Ladakh lake, while also being the largest alpine lake which is entirely in Indian Territory. Tso Moriri is a peaceful haven where yellow-beaked ducks paddle in the brackish, crystal-clear waters and the calming ambience, mirrored clouds, and huge mountains make it a perfect retreat for nature lovers. It seems endless yet its shores bring you to a jolting halt. The bank of Tso Moriri is also home to the people of the Karzok village, one of the highest towns in the world and the highest settlement in India. Don’t miss out on the 400-year-old Karzok Monastery and the electrifying Karzok Gustor Festival, where the Changpa nomads flock in droves, infusing the celebration with their unique charm in July. 

Lake in Ladakh
Wishing stones stacked at Tso Moriri.
  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 14,836 feet 
  • How to Reach: Drive from Leh via Chumathang (approximately 7-8 hours).

Tso Kar

Situated on the Rupshu plateau, this is a desolate lake surrounded by mountains, creating stunning reflections on its surface. The name translates to ‘Lake White’ in Ladakhi, and as it suggests the white in the tso comes from the thick layer of salt surrounding it. Tso Kar is known for its dramatic beauty and offers a unique chance at solitude under nature’s raw elegance, unlike the bustling Pangong Lake Leh Ladakh. This saltwater lake along with its connected twin freshwater lake, Startsapuk Tso form a wetland complex rich in biodiversity. Earlier, Tso Kar used to serve as a salt source for the residents of Ladakh and Tibet. Despite the water’s high salinity, the lake witnesses numerous bird species, including the rare black-necked crane.

Tso Kar Lake in Ladakh
The pristine Ladakh lake of Tso Kar.
  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 14,859 feet  
  • How to Reach: Drive from Leh via Tanglang La pass (approximately 6-7 hours)

Finding this blog fun? Get to know 10 interesting facts about Ladakh you didn’t know.

Startsapuk Tso 

Famous Ladakh lake Startsapuk
The cloudy blue skies reflecting in the waters of the Startsapuk Lake.

Often tourists confuse this small freshwater lake in Ladakh with Tso Kar but Startsapuk Tso is another high-altitude lake located close to Tso Kar. The two lakes are very close to each other and are connected by a stream. Though Startsapuk might be smaller in comparison to Tso Kar, it is equally beautiful and serene. You can easily walk up to the lake and spend some time in silence here if you wish to stop by and have enough time.

  • Best Time to Visit: May to September
  • Altitude: 14,859 feet   
  • How to Reach: Beside Tso Kar Lake. 

Kyagar Tso 

Kyagar Tso falls on the way to Tso Moriri. This small yet serene lake with turquoise waters and abundant wildlife is still a popular lake in Ladakh when compared to the lakes that will further follow in this list. Kyagar’s picturesque setting almost resembles an oil painting but with a lot more sheen making this spot magical and unearthly. The winter leaves this ethereal lake frosted while the paved pathways are the only amenity to ease a trip to Kyagar. Here, in this remote expanse, solitude is your only company, so you might find yourself in the process but with no shelter and fuel.

Kyagar Tso, Ladakh
The emerald green waters with snow-capped peaks in the backdrop of Kyagar Lake.
  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 15,436 feet 
  • How to Reach: Drive from Tso Moriri (approximately 1 hour)

Suggested reads: Offbeat Locations to Visit in Leh-Ladakh

Now, if you have scrolled through and were well-versed with most of the Ladakh lakes mentioned until now, comment and let us know which of these lakes are on your bucket lists. And while the next set of lakes might be a little off-beat but a true adventurer will surely find the will to find a way into the winding valleys of Ladakh. 

Mirpal Tso

Mirpal Tso, a famous lake in Ladakh
The shimmering lake of Mirpal Tso at the foothills of the barren Chumathang Valley.

Nestled below Kaksang La Pass in Changthang, Mirpal Tso is an emerald-green alpine lake tucked in the covers of brown-black mountains. Its striking colours against the mountains’ serene setting make it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. While it is nothing different than other Ladakh lake, the banks of Mirpal are zen and untouched making it a great spot for soul-searching travellers. You can also experience several migratory birds flocking its shores. Camp here and head to Yaye Tso next.

  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 15,100 feet  
  • How to Reach: Drive from Leh via Changthang region (approximately 6-7 hours)

Yaye Tso

Beautiful Ladakh lake
The lush vegetation on the lands around the pristine Yaye Tso.

Yaye, a heart-shaped volcanic lake in Changthang, is located 20 km from Mahe Village, on the Chushul – Mahe road in Ladakh. Its unique shape and stunning scenery make it a fascinating destination for the handful of visitors who choose to explore. This beautiful underrated lake of Ladakh is fed by the melting waters of the surrounding glaciers and shelters a variety of waterfowls like bar-headed geese, black-necked cranes and brahminy ducks. 

  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 15,035 feet  
  • How to Reach: Drive from Mahe Village (approximately 1 hour)

Ordong Tso

En route from Mirpal to Yaye Lake, you can trek to the lovely Ordong Tso (Yusup Tso), shimmering under clear blue skies with minimal human impact. The windy conditions and sparse vegetation create a unique landscape perfect for contemplative visits to the lake which runs for a length of 6.59 km. in total. However, reaching here could be a tedious task as one has to trek towards the Chakula peak to reach Ordong.  A connected lake named Yashu Tso is just a brisk walk away from Ordong and is an equally mesmerising sight for travellers.  

Offbeat Ladakh lake
The beautiful lake of Ordong along with Yusup Tso in Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 15,000 feet  
  • How to Reach: On the Chushul–Mahe stretch

Kyun Tso & Ryul Tso

The breathtaking sunsets from the twin lakes are unforgettable landscapes. Although they are not one of the popular lakes in Ladakh, they still draw travellers seeking moments of tranquillity. The turquoise waters glitter under the starry night sky, offering a mesmerizing sight. These Ladakh lakes don’t offer you an adrenaline rush, nor cater to your adventure needs but visiting here feels like a stroke of luck, a delightful surprise. The peaceful ambience, combined with the picturesque views, is a feast for the senses. The high altitude and remote location may pose challenges, but obstacles in reaching here are worth overcoming.

Twin lakes in Ladakh
Yaks grazing at the quiet twin lakes of Kyun and Ryul Tso.
  • Best Time to Visit: June-September
  • Altitude: 16,500 feet
  • How to Reach: Drive from Hanle, Changthang Region (approximately 4 hours)

Chilling Tso 

Got some more time to chill? Visit Chilling Tso. Tucked away even further from Ryul Tso, in the Chumatang Valley; Chilling is a small freshwater Ladakh lake but it shelters nomad tribes around its mesmerising shores and invites travellers to rejoice in its tranquillity. Several towering peaks hover over this lake. Moreover, Chilling is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, further enhancing its appeal as a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. You can enjoy the sight of flocks of goats grazing on its lush green carpets. 

Chilling Tso, Ladakh lake
The verdant scenes from Chilling Tso in Chasngthang Region.
  • Best Time to Visit: June-September
  • Altitude: 16,076 feet
  • How to Reach: Drive from Hanle, Changthang Region (approximately 4.5 hours)

Yarab Tso

Known as the Wish Pond, the lake lies in the Nubra Valley near Panamik/Sumur. Reaching here needs a bit of off-roading along with a 20-minute light hike to uncover the crystal clear freshwater tso. The surrounding landscape and zero light pollution create a tranquil atmosphere at the Yarab Tso during the day while also serving a starlit sky. Yarab is also a sacred lake revered for its serene and spiritual ambience by both Buddhists and Muslims. Visitors are encouraged to respect its sanctity by maintaining cleanliness and avoiding disruptions.  

Yarab Tso, Ladakh
Cattle grazing at the green shores of the Yarab Tso.
  • Best Time to Visit: June to September    
  • Altitude: 12,000 feet  
  • How to Reach: Drive from Sumur, Nubra Valley (approximately 30 minutes)

Stat Tso and Lang Tso

Situated just before the Pensi La pass, at an elevation of 14,000 feet, this spot marks the highest point along the Kargil – Zanskar road. The twin tso are crystal-clear freshwater lakes, sourced from the glacial melts in the surrounding areas. Stat Tso is ideal for camping if well-acclimatized. Lang Tso, with its majestic reflections of peaks, provides a picturesque setting. The stunning snow-capped mountains form a breathtaking backdrop, inviting you to plunge into the icy lakes. The nearest village here is Rangdum offering you accommodation and an immersive experience of the culture. 

Stat Tso and Lang Tso Lakes
A person at the banks of the twin lakes of Stat and Lang Tso.
  • Best Time to Visit: June to September  
  • Altitude: 14,435 feet  
  • How to Reach: Drive from Kargil via Pensi La pass (approximately 7-8 hours)

Tso Marpo

Tso Marpo, also known as the Red Lake, is isolated from mainstream tourist sites, making it a hidden gem. It was first observed by space-based remote sensing data by ISRO, a research paper also states, “The lake has not changed in colour and size over the years.” Tso Marpo gets its colours from when the iron-rich sediments of the mountains interact with snow and glacial meltwaters creating a mystical and unique brick-red lake water. As much as this is a wonderful phenomenon that one would want to experience, its outlying presence makes it desolate. One must respect its isolation and avoid disturbing its natural state.  

The hidden Ladakh lake of Marpo
You can trek to Tso Marpo from the village of Photoksar.
  • Best Time to Visit: May to September  
  • Altitude: 14,000 feet  
  • How to Reach: Drive from Khalsi (approximately 5-6 hours)

Now, Ladakh lakes are not the kind where you can have snacks by the shore, feed the aquatic life or do boat rides in; enjoy these lakes responsibly, indulge in eco-friendly activities like capturing stunning landscapes, exploring the serene surroundings on foot, and letting the peaceful atmosphere inspire creativity and mindfulness. With the right accommodation in place, you can also stargaze under Ladakh’s clear skies or find a quiet spot for meditation by the water. Also, always refrain from littering, minimise noise as much as possible, and ensure you leave no trace of your visit. Remember, you share these spots with the beautiful migratory birds and other creatures that call these shores home. By embracing these practices, you help preserve the pristine beauty of the lakes in Leh Ladakh for other travellers, ensuring these natural havens remain enchanting and untouched.

Skim through the Best 10-day Itinerary for Leh Ladakh to plan a great and memorable trip 

FAQs

What are some of the famous lakes in Ladakh?

The famous lakes in Ladakh include Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Tso Kar, Yarab Tso, and Kyagar Tso. Each of these lakes offers unique natural beauty and serene landscapes, while Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Tso Kar are more accessible to tourists.

Which is the white salt lake in Ladakh?

The white salt lake in Ladakh is Tso Kar. It is also known as the “White Lake” due to its high salt deposits surrounding the lake. Though the smallest of the three famous Ladakh lakes; it is one of the most serene lakes to visit  

Which is the largest lake in Ladakh?

The largest lake in Ladakh is Pangong Tso. This expansive lake stretches from India into China, offering breathtaking views and a vibrant blue hue. However, only a fraction of the Pangong Lake Leh Ladakh is in India. So, we consider Tso Moriri as the largest lake in Ladakh within Indian territory.

How many lakes are there in Ladakh?

Ladakh has around 15-20 significant lakes. These Ladakh lakes vary in size and characteristics, each contributing to the region’s diversity. The one thing assured is the scenic landscapes and striking natural beauty of the lakes and mountains. 

Where is the largest freshwater lake in Leh Ladakh?

The largest freshwater lake in Leh Ladakh is Tso Moriri. Located in the Changthang region, it’s known for its clear waters and tranquil environment.

How is Pangong Lake Ladakh weather right now?

Pangong Lake Ladakh’s weather is typically cold and windy. Current conditions likely include low temperatures, especially at night, with possible freezing conditions. Summer is the best time to visit Ladakh with warm temperatures while autumn brings a temperature drop with gold scenic landscapes.

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