In Ladakhi language Tso means Lake. Tso Moriri is located in the very picturesque Changthang area of Ladakh with village Korzok on its banks. Korzok is about 210KM south-east of Leh. This lake is situated at an altitude in excess of 15,000ft and waters are brackish. Salinity depends upon the season and when there is plenty of inflow the lake has different salinity levels at different locations. Though smaller and less famous than Lake Pangong due to the distance from Leh Tso Moriri is an equally beautiful lake.
Driving to Tso Moriri
Flying into Leh and driving to Tso Moriri is the easiest way to reach the lake. Or you can drive from Manali via Sarchu, Pang and Mahe. Since this is a high altitude lake it is very important to acclimatize yourself properly before going there. Most of the road is paved and easy to drive on. There are patches of unpaved roads after Namshang La and you have to be careful to avoid getting stuck in the snow or sand. Do keep enough fuel and emergency rations with you for such an eventuality.
There is a new route that has opened which connects Lake Pangong directly to Tso Moriri without the need to backtrack via Tangtse or Karu. This road goes via Lukung, Spangmik, Merak, Chushul, Nyoma and Mahe. The drive is very beautiful as it goes along Pangong for about 30KM before turning away at Chushul. Plan to drive along Pangong with the rising sun. Special permits are needed because this road passes close to the India-China Flag Meeting Post.
On the way stop for a while at Chushul Memorial to pay homage to Indian Army martyrs of 1961 Indo China war.
Sightseeing on the way
The drive from Leh to Tso Moriri has many points of interest along the way. Thikse is a village not far from Leh. Thikse monastery dominates the view. It is certainly worth a visit.
Stakna monastery is not far from Thiksey. It is beautifully located on the Indus river.
Karu and Upshi are junctions where roads to Pangong and Manali bifurcate. There are a few good roadside restaurants which serve hot food and gur-gur tea.
Chumathang is a beautiful village on the banks of River Indus and famous for its hot springs. These are situated right within the river and you can see steam gushing out from the waters. There are facilities to stay overnight if you wish to. You can also have a bath in the sulphurous hot waters which are supposed to be good for health. It is a sheer delight to be there in winter and bathe in the piping hot waters with snow around you but be prepared to bear the extreme cold while you dry and dress yourself.
The road from Mahe onwards is very scenic. Namshang La pass is at about 17,000ft. You can get a beautiful view of Lake Kiagar from here.
Lake Kiagar also called Tso Kiagar or Thatsangkaru at about 16,500ft is amongst the highest and most beautiful. It is frozen in winters and sometimes even in early May it is not fully melted. The lake sparkles brightly in different colours when sun rays fall on the half-melted ice and the lake becomes strikingly beautiful. This lake is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and low clouds are often seen floating around. The lake itself and the surroundings appear very different at different times of the day and in different seasons.
Where to stay at Tso Moriri
Korzok village is situated right on the lake and offers several options to stay. There are nice temporary and semi-permanent tents or homestays available in Korzok. If you choose a homestay try to get a room which has direct view of Tso Moriri and which is facing east. That way you can enjoy the sunrise sitting in your room without the need to venture out in the cold morning.
Even though temperatures between May to September remain around +25C to -5C Korzok can be unexpectedly very cold especially if there is unseasonal snowfall. This is not infrequent so be prepared with enough warm clothes. Winter temperatures may go down to -30C.
Things to do at Tso Moriri
This lake is a trekker’s paradise and a great photo opportunity. You can see stunning views of Korzok village and beautiful reflections in the calm waters of the lake.
Take time to explore the surrounding hills. Start early after breakfast and carry packed lunch so you don’t have to return to base early.
A couple of kilometres south of Korzok is the Lama’s residence. Rise early before sunrise and walk down to this location from Korzok as the sun rises from behind the Lake. In summer months there might be water and mud due to melting snow so watch your step.
Beyond this the land protrudes inside the lake somewhat and this spot is a vantage point to experience beautiful sunsets.
For serious trekkers there is a direct route to walk to Tso Kar. This is a very picturesque route offering breathtaking views of the lake. Donkeys are available for hire to carry the load.
The lake freezes solid in winters. It is a fantastic experience to walk on the lake to the opposite shore and back.
Most importantly this beautiful lake is absolutely clean with sparkling transparent waters. Keep it that way. Do not litter and spoil it.