Growing up and being a part of Indian curriculum the only lakes you will hear of are the Dal Lake, Nainital Lake, Sambar Lake, Pichola Lake, Chillika Lake or Bhopal which is called the city of lakes. As the years roll by, textbook geography gets blurry and only lakes you ever hear of is the one your mate checked in on Social Media. If you are the one with wanderer soul you come up with a bucket list of places to see high chances are there you have Lake Tso Moriri on that list.
[A calm and cool Tso Moriri]
Location of Tso Moriri
Located in Changthang plateau in Ladakh at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft), Tso Moriri is the largest of the high altitude lakes in India. While Pangong Lake, on the other hand, has most of its area in the Chinese territory. The word Tso Moriri translates to “Mountain Lake” in the Ladakhi it is around 26 km long and its width ranges from 4 to 6 km. The only source of water for Tso Moriri is the melting snow from surrounding peaks and is safeguarded as the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.
The village adjoining on its bank is Karzok providing for food and stay. At a distance of 220 km from Leh, it’s easily via motorways which remain open throughout the year. One can witness the beauty of frozen Tso Moriri by flying directly to Leh. The nomadic shepherd’s community called the “Changpas” is the main inhabitants of the area and has been thriving for centuries now in this icy-cold terrain.
One of the most remarkable features is the lake’s wondrous colour play with its water throughout the day. One can witness the shades ranging from azure to indigo to light blue to green and at times, even grey!
Getting there from Leh
There are 3 different routes that you can take to reach Tso Moriri from Leh. Depending on the time available and interests you can take either of the routes.
Leh – Shey – Karu – Upshi – Kumdok – Chumathang – Mahe – Namashang La – Karzok (Tso Moriri)
This is the shortest and most common route to reach Tso Moriri from Leh. The extremely picturesque, 240 km journey from Leh to Tso Moriri can be covered roughly within 7 to 8 hours.
Leh – Shey – Karu – Upshi – Rumtse – Tanglang La – Debring – Tso Kar – Puga – Karzok
This route is slightly longer than the 1st one and it takes around 8 to 9 hours to cover this route of around 260 Kms. Along the route, you will be crossing Taglang La (second highest motorable road) and Tso Kar Lake.
Leh – Sakti – Chang La – Tangtse – Spangmik (Pangong Tso) – Man – Merak – Chushul – Tsaga La – Tsaga Village – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Karzok (Tso Moriri)
This is the longest and remotest route to reach Tso Moriri. And this route is not for the faint hearted so if you are true adventure junkie and looking for roads less travelled then you can try this route. At the same time, this is not the direct route to Tso Moriri but you have to pass Pangong Lake to reach Moriri. Total distance to cover this whole route will be around 700-750 Kms depending on the places you want to cover.
[My Companion at Tso Moriri]
Permits for travelling to Tso Moriri
For travelling to Tso Moriri one has to get permits. Indian nationals have to get Inner line permit while foreign national have to get protected area permit for travelling to Tso Moriri.
The most preferred mode is hiring taxis, motorbikes or cars from Leh. Ensure to carry ample fuel since there are no petrol pumps along the routes to Tso Moriri. During summer months you can also hire public transport to reach Tso Moriri or can also check in on shared taxis.
Do keep a day in your itinerary to spend a night in Tso Moriri. The village Karzok has all the basic requirement for a night halt. The options are limited to campsites and homestay. We recommend the latter for an authentic Ladakhi experience which doesn't burn a hole in your pocket. Pitching tents on the banks of Tso Moriri is not allowed which should be kept in mind. So you can pitch your tent near to a campsite or dhaba.
Best Time to Travel to Tso Moriri
Best time to visit is the months of May to September. Since the region has pretty limited options to stay, remember to pre-book accommodation especially if you are travelling in the peak season.
Things to do
- Tso Moriri can rightly be described as a slice of heaven on Earth, so just sit back and let it cast its enchanting spell on you.
[A beautiful evening at Tso Moriri]
- There is no cellphone network reception in the area, so use this as an opportunity to seek some recluse.
- Watch the sunrise and the sunset. Even if you aren’t a morning person, make an effort and wake up to catch the sunrise.
- Stack some prayer stones and pray for some good fortune.
- Spot the migratory birds like black-necked cranes and seagulls. A few lucky people can also spot a Kiang (a wild ass) or a Marmot (a native Ladakhi rodent that can grow up to the size of a small dog).
- Take some time out at night to look up at the canopy of twinkling stars above and spot your favourite constellations (or make up a few, who cares?).
- For the photographers, this place is an absolute delight during the day and at night. Go bonkers capturing this sensational panorama in pictures, time lapses or videos. Once the night befalls, take extraordinary snapshots of the Milky Way! Even if you are no pro, don’t hold back. Tso Moriri is one of those rare places where even the randomly clicked shots will result in stunning photos.
Tso Moriri is wetland reserve littering is a severe offence! Please be mindful and dispose of your garbage sensibly. If you can't find a place for disposal, kindly keep the trash in your bag until you locate a dustbin.
Be a responsible traveller and do all in your capacity to keep all the places you visit clean.