Leh to Pangong Tso and then back to Leh on the same day is possible.
However, I recommend you not to do that. Further in the article, I have expressed the moments and experiences that compelled me to say that.
Why Shouldn’t You Travel from Leh to Pangong to Leh in a Single Day?
From the Beginning
During the Initial planning, Leh to Pangong to Leh appeared like a straightforward task. However, the parameter for that decision was distance and time.
The Leh to Pangong Lake distance is approximately 150 km and the same vice-versa.
Note: On the online map, you might see roughly 220 – 225 km when you search Leh to Pangong Lake. But, the map directs you to the center of Pangong Lake.
However, you need to search Leh to Pangong Lake viewpoint. Ultimately, that’s the initial point where you can see the Pangong Tso.
Moreover, the 3 Idiots scene setting remains present there, and Yippee, your dream of seeing that “Yellow scooter” and “Jahapana Tussi Great Ho, Tohfa Kabul Karo” would get fulfilled at the Pangong Lake viewpoint.
My Experience of Travelling from Leh to Pangong to Leh on the Same Day
Inner Line Permit to Visit Pangong Lake
You can apply for the Leh Ladakh Inner Line Permit online. Honestly, the online system is easy to obtain a permit to visit your chosen destination within Ladakh.
At first, the Permit obtaining process might seem complicated to you as you don’t know the routes in Ladakh.
But there will be a known location that you will indeed identify and tick mark your visiting destination.
Below is the route I selected while filling the Inner Line Permit. However, during the initial planning stage, visiting Hanle remained my Top priority. But, I was required to modify the plan as my knowledge improved.
✓ Kharu, Changla, Durbuk, Tangtse, Lukhung. (Pangong Lake)—As you can quickly identify that this route goes towards Pangong Lake.
However, you can tick a mark on every route because the cost will be the same.
Interestingly, nobody checked our Inner Line Permit while going to Pangong Lake, but you make sure to have it. So possibility, maybe somebody not remained present there when we passed.
For Instance: Suppose you don’t have the Permit and went around 100kms from Leh to Pangong. A check post came, and you will be sent back if you don’t have the Permit.
Leaving from Leh
I hope you’re aware of the 2 days of Acclimatization before proceeding to higher altitude places. Here’s how you can effectively spend your first 48hrs in and around Leh.
Thus, after spending my first 2 days in Leh. On the 3rd day, I woke up at around 4:50 a.m. and was ready to leave for Pangong Tso by 5:50 a.m.
We rented a Bike a day before. Thus, it would be easy to leave early.
Must do Things:
- Ensure your Bike’s petrol tank is filled. You will undoubtedly spot a petrol pump when leaving Leh town.
- Also, you can share your destination and take advice on the Petrol at the filling station.
The first 30-35km route was smooth, similar to the previous day—I went to that route to see Thiksey & Hemis Monastery.
Moreover, the first 50 km were superb, and we covered that distance in approximately 1hr 45 mins.
On the Way to Chang La Pass
As we moved towards Chang La Pass, it began showering slightly. However, we kept driving, hoping the drizzle would stop soon.
Chang La Pass Road Conditions
The road to Chang La Pass is unsatisfactory. It’s not been appropriately made, but BRO is working in that direction for a smooth drive. Also, you must drive carefully as there are multiple sharp turns.
The Rainfall Made Us Wet
We gradually keep advancing. Simultaneously, the light shower slowly and steadily, making us wet.
In Addition, the wet worn clothes push us to shiver.
The clouds were the sole companion we could spot & be safe from the coming trucks. Because hardly, they stop and offer a side—narrow roads of Chang La.
Finally, after riding for quite a while, we reached the Chang La Pass. There’s a cafeteria where you can halt for some time.
Chang la Pass Cafeteria
Unfortunately, we reached the Cafeteria, nearly completely wet—I removed my jacket and helmet, put them on the table & sat on the chair.
Certainly, something hot will somewhat provide me relief. So, I stood and requested Kahwa, and it was incredible!!
Indeed, I instantly requested one more Kahwa (Rs. 40) and a Maggie (Rs.90). I knew the eatables would cost a little higher, with no options left to consume and warm myself.
A slight warmness provided me the strength to resume the journey because we had already planned from Leh to Pangong to Leh on the same day. Otherwise, we had to arrange to stay near Pangong Lake for the nighttime. Also, it was expensive.
Moreover, the rain was not getting stopped, so we decided to leave the Chang La Pass Cafeteria. Though as we came down from Chang La Pass, the raindrops halted.
- But, another situation was standing ahead—the river crossing. I was sitting behind on the Bike, so I needed to get down to cross that.
My Socks Got Wet
I kept wondering if there was any way I could keep my shoes from getting wet & eventually, can save the socks.
My socks has survived the Chang La Pass rainfall.
Regardless of wearing waterproof shoes, the water level is high that it can effortlessly enter my socks.
Worse luck! The water reached my socks, and they became wet.
I am sure you know that wearing wet socks can force you to get an illness. I can’t let that happen in the middle of nowhere.
Ditto, my cousin’s shoes & socks got utterly wet.
The next stop would be a clothing shop.
Durbuk Village – Bought new clothing.
The worn clothes have already dried. Still, the body feels cold when riding.
Finally, on reaching Durbuk, we started locating clothing shops to get new Shoes & Socks pairs.
We found a store, although it exclusively deals with military things and no clothing for civilians.
Regardless, we requested that we need a pair of Shoes & Socks—even a military item would work.
My cousin bought a pair of military shoes for Rs. 1600 with a couple of socks for Rs. 150 & I purchased only socks. But, honestly, the military socks are tight and challenging to position on the leg.
Durbuk to Pangong Lake
Durbuk bought some relief to the body & we straightforwardly headed to Pangong Tso Lake.
It was almost 10:45a.m, when we left from Durbuk to Pangong.
You will also spot the enthusiastic bikers who will give a thumbs up and raise hands when passing to show support.
The straight route was stunning. But, there came off-roading multiple times.
Also, it would help if you took regular intervals in-between to straighten your legs, especially the person sitting back on the Bike.
Moreover, I saw the gorgeous green fields in which the Yak was grazing. Everything looked picture perfect in the cold desert.
The wait is over!—at around 12:40p.m, we glimpsed the Pangong Lake, and within the next 15-20 mins, we reached the Pangong lake viewpoint.
Multiple vehicles stood there in the parking.
I could easily see the 3 Idiots’ Yellow Scooter and the stunning Pangong Lake.
It took us almost 7hrs to reach Leh to Pangong on a Bike. In another way, we started at around 6a.m from Leh & arrived at Pangong Lake at 1p.m approximately.
The journey from Leh to Pangong Lake was challenging, and rainfall has made it even more problematic.
Is there any Airtel Network Availability in Pangong Tso Lake?
Unfortunately, you don’t get Airtel Postpaid mobile network in Pangong Tso, but you will surely get a pleasing Airtel Postpaid network in Leh.
However, for the first-timer getting an Airtel Postpaid is a tricky part, especially since I faced and made some mistakes. Eventually, I don’t want you to make the exact error.
So, here you can read, How to get an Airtel Postpaid Connection for your Leh Ladakh Trip?
Composing the Scenes at Pangong Lake
I had envisioned ideas, and when I reached Pangong Lake, I enjoyed implementing them.
Therefore, I stayed happy in getting lost in my rhythm!
However, I noticed the patrolling boat in the Lake, but I remained puzzled to spot the finger area where the Indo-China dispute occurred.
Moreover, my visit to Pangong Lake lasted nearly 30-40 mins. So after that, we decided to consume something. Indeed, multiple eateries and staying places developed close to the Pangong lakeside. So, food will not be an issue.
Thus, I had my lunch, and it was almost 1:45p.m when we left from Pangong to Leh.
Pangong to Leh
The Pangong to Leh route happened quickly, and at around 4:40p.m, we reached the Chang La Pass top. Because while coming from Leh to Pangong, the primary barrier was rainfall.
At one point, while going to Leh, I noticed the dark clouds again and thought, surely, it would rain.
Furthermore, around 6p.m, we were on the Thiksey Monastery route.
Meanwhile, I sensed correct, and it again showered when approaching Leh. Simultaneously, the sunset was also happening.
Sickness on Reaching Leh
As we reached Leh at our homestay, I saw my body was shivering when I went to bed. I realized that getting wet in the rainfall and damp clothes made me fall unwell.
I could feel that I got a fever.
Ditto, the exact condition was with my cousin’s brother.
So, without further delay, I swallowed some biscuits foremost, ate crocin, and went to sleep.
Indeed, I woke up automatically after an hour—it was dinner time. However, I felt excellent health-wise, but I still required complete shuteye.
Things to note before deciding to travel from Leh to Pangong To Leh on the same day on Bike
1. Leh to Pangong to Leh Drive will be Approximately 300kms.
My motive is not to scare you. Indeed, to provide you complete knowledge and then you take the decision.
Leh to Pangong to Leh is almost 300kms, and unquestionably, that would not be a city drive. Instead, you will cross a high mountain Pass, challenging roads, and extreme weather conditions.
So, count this journey as your most tough till now—ultimately rewarding, beautiful with jaw-dropping topography!
2. You need to drive continuously with minimum stops.
If you plan to return to Leh on the same day, you must drive continuously, with a minimum halt period.
Otherwise, I don’t feel it would be safe to drive at the Chang La Pass at night—strictly avoid doing that.
It would be a long drive, and I understand that halts are required. So, it would help if you pushed yourself to convert two halts into 1.
I precisely can’t tell the number of breaks you require to take, but it entirely depends upon your endurance.
3. You need to start very early from Leh (which most of us are not used to).
If you are not a habitual early riser, but if you want to do Leh to Pangong to Leh on the same day. Undoubtedly you have to wake up anyhow by 5 a.m.
It would help if you remained strict with your schedule to meet your day’s objective.
4. You will get a shorter time to spend on Pangong Lake.
With all the efforts that you made:
- Waking up early
- Traveling for 7hrs
- Lesser halts in between
Eventually, you would spend less than an hour on Pangong Lake if you intend to return the same day.
5. It would be best if you took proper care of your health and carried medicines.
Taking proper care of yourself in Leh Ladakh is the most significant necessity.
Before leaving from Leh to Pangong, carry medicines like Diamox and Pain relief spray.
- Diamox would surely help you from headaches that arise when you reach and cross high mountain passes like Chang La Pass & Khardungla Pass.
- Pain relief sprays such as Volini would help you from body aches which are extremely common when riding bikes for a more extensive time.
- Carry a raincoat/poncho if you’re traveling, especially in Aug & Sept.
Though I went to Leh in August and carried Umbrella, it rained when going to Chang La Pass, so there was no option left to continue even in the tiny shower.
Hence, carrying & wearing a raincoat seems like a better-suited option. So, proceed consequently.
Ladakh was my dream place to visit, but I hadn’t imagined the list of issues I would face during the journey. Thus, I have shared my experience so you can become prepared beforehand.
If everything mentioned in the article doesn’t bother you much—you can surely do Leh to Pangong to Leh on the same day.