Tso Moriri Lake – Facts and Complete Travel Guide

The Tso Moriri Lake is located in the Changthang plateau in northern Ladakh. The lake is situated at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft) and is one of the highest saltwater lakes in India. The surrounding area of the lake is protected and is known as Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve. Being a part of the Wetland Conservation Reserve, no one can pitch any tent or construct on the banks of the lake. 

The sacred blue lake offers impeccable scenery, which gives this place an incredibly romantic feel. While the exotic migratory birds fly above the lake, giving a heavenly feel, the calming reflections of the mountains and hills will bring peace to your soul. The changing hues of the lake will make you fall in love with nature all over again. If you wish to explore the unsurpassed beauty of Ladakh, Tso Moriri is an ideal destination for you. Pack your backpacks, enjoy an adventurous trip to Leh, Ladakh and make sure you visit this enticing lake.

We have compiled a comprehensive travel guide in this blog post for exploring the Tso Moriri Lake in the best possible way. It will cover all the essential information, including transport, accommodation, and all the major places to see and things to do near Tso Moriri Lake.

Tso Moriri Lake view

Things to do and places to visit near Tso Moriri

Tso Moriri Lake View Point

The lake viewpoint at Tso Moriri is the most favorite spot of the tourists as it offers a breathtaking view of the blue lake. The barren mountains feature an extraordinary charm that any visitor cannot miss at any cost. The exquisiteness and beauty of the lake with the colossal mountains in the background and birds flying above will leave you mesmerized. 

Moreover, the remote location enhances its beauty with the arrival of many migratory birds and attracts a lot of tourists in search of thrill and adventure. You can enjoy the picturesque view of Tso Moriri, which is a sight to behold and to keep safe in your memory forever.

Camping

Camping at Tso Moriri Lake

Camping at Tso Moriri Lake is very famous, and it attracts a lot of tourists to visit this location. Many visitors prefer to sit around campfires at night and talk about what they have seen during their trip to Tso Moriri. You can enjoy the serene environment and natural beauty of the surrounding areas of the lake. Camping with your family or friends near the banks of Tso Moriri lake will be a picture-perfect and memorable experience for you. 

Bird watching

Bird watching at Tso Moriri Lake

Besides dry landscapes and high mountain peaks, Tso Moriri is an ideal birding destination for avid birders, nature lovers, photographers, and bird watchers. It is one of the best bird-watching spots in Ladakh. And is also known as a breeding spot for Bar-headed Geese and Black-necked Crane, one of the rare species of birds. The lake is home to several rare species of birds not found anywhere else in the country.

A variety of migratory birds can be seen in and near the banks of Tso Moriri lake. You can gather a lot of information by watching the activities of birds closely. A large number of birds are visible near the lake, and one can find birds flying from one mountain peak to another. You can spend as much time as possible on your much-loved bird-watching activity.

Explore Himalayan Wildlife

The surrounding areas of the Tso Moriri lake have plenty of wildlife, including Blue sheep, Ladakhi bharal, and Ibex. You will have a great time exploring the Himalayan wildlife in the high plateaus because it grabs the attention of nature and wildlife lovers. The desert region is rich in wildlife, and the population of the animals has been increasing annually due to improved breeding techniques.

There is a lot to explore in the surrounding areas of the lake during the summer months. Witnessing wildlife in the high-altitude regions of Tso Moriri will be an epic and fascinating experience overall. You will also get an opportunity to spot and click pictures of various animals in the Himalayas.

Trekking around Tso Moriri

Trekking is one of the most popular activities near Tso Moriri. You can trek from Rumtse to Tso Moriri and stay overnight in a camp. The campsites are Kyamar, Rachungkharu, and Tisaling. Every camping ground on this trekking route is fantastic. It offers remarkable scenic vistas with two incredible alpine lakes, which add to the beauty of this trek.

The trek consists of three campsites, more than twelve river crossings, and seven pass crossings higher than 16,000 ft. Passing the high altitude regions along with all the descents and ascents make this trek a challenging one. Among all the camping grounds, Rachungkharu is the only one where the Changpas inhabit during the summer season. You can also interact with the Changpa nomads and learn a lot from their distinct Tibetan culture. 

Visit the Korzok village near Tso Moriri

View of Karzok village from Tso Moriri lake bank

The Korzok village is about 3 km from Tso Moriri lake. It is one of the highest agricultural lands and permanent villages in India, situated at an elevation of 4572m. During your trip to Tso Moriri, you can visit this beautiful village and observe the nomadic lifestyle of the Changpas. The village is surrounded by hills with a fabulous backdrop of lofty mountains. The surrounding areas of the village are rich in wildlife. And you can spot several animals like Kyang (wild ass), Red Fox, and the highly endangered and rare Snow leopard. 

Visit the Korzok Monastery

The Korzok Monastery is a Buddhist monastery located in the Korzok village. It is situated on the northwestern bank of Tso Moriri and is home to more than 70 lamas (monks). The monastery was established 300 years ago, and since then, the monks have been living peacefully in those surroundings. 

You can also attend the Korzok Gustor festival, which is celebrated in the monastery and attracts many locals and tourists. The festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil and lasts for two days. In the festival, dancers wear masks that represent the guardian divinities and the patron divinities of the Drukpa sect. The nomadic tribes are so dedicated to their religion that they only participate in the rituals. And, also dedicate one son from their family to the monastery. 

Karzok Monastery near Tso Moriri

The Korzok Monastery is a must-visit place near Tso Moriri, as visiting the monastery will offer you a whole new perspective of Ladakh that you will not experience anywhere else.

Tso Kyagar

The Kyagar Tso is about 30 km from the Tso Moriri lake. It is one of the highest saltwater lakes in Ladakh and is located in Rupshu valley at an altitude of 4705 m. The Kyagar Tso is a popular spot among tourists as it offers captivating scenes of the lake with snowclad mountains and deep valleys with goats grazing over it.

The blue shades offered by the lake, along with the surreal landscape, give this place an awe-inspiring feel. So, even though you might feel desirous to include the wondrous Tso Moriri in your trip to Ladakh, but the Tso Kyagar lake is something that you must visit on the way to Tso Moriri.

Tso Kar

The Tso Lake is the smallest among the three high-altitude lakes of Ladakh. It is about 50 km from Tso Moriri and is situated at an elevation of 15,280 ft. The lake is bordered by lofty mountain peaks, and the surrounding regions are rich in flora and fauna. It is also a popular point for bird-watchers as several bird species migrate to this region to lay eggs during the summer months. Enjoy the outstanding beauty that welcomes you and take flawless photos as you relax on the banks of the lake.

Chumathang Hot Spring

The Chumathang hot spring is located near the banks of the Indus river. The spring is believed to have healing properties that can heal skin ailments and joint pains. The water has a high sulfur content, and you will be able to notice steam coming out of the river from a distance. Take a quick dip in the hot springs of Chumathang, as it will give you an unforgettable bathing experience in the freezing temperatures of Ladakh. You will enjoy a good steam bath in the warm waters merging with the frozen Indus river.

How to reach Tso Moriri Lake

The easiest way to reach Tso Moriri Lake is to arrive at Leh on a flight and then hire a taxi from Leh to Tsomoriri lake.

Tso Moriri Map

Tso Moriri on Google Map

But you should know that traveling to Tso Moriri on the day of arrival to Leh is not recommended, healthwise. As Tso Moriri is at a very high altitude of about 15k feet, you should acclimatize properly in Leh and then plan a trip to Tso Moriri Lake.

  • Reach Leh by air or by road from Manali/Srinagar route.
  • Obtain a permit from the DC office, Leh.
  • Stay for at least one night in Leh to Acclimatize.
  • Hire a Taxi or rent a bike from Leh to Tso Moriri Lake.

Read how to reach Tso Moriri for more details.

Best time to visit Tso Moriri Lake

Mid May to September is the best tourist preferred time to visit Zanskar valley. During this time, the weather remains pleasant. And the pristine natural beauty of the Tso Moriri Lake and its surrounding would be at its best.

  • Peak Season – June to September
  • Shoulder Season – April, May and October

Itinerary Guide – How to plan your Itinerary for Tso Moriri?

Planning an Itinerary for Tso Moriri without a guide is not an easy task. We planned an Itinerary with our experts and arranged a trip to Tso Moriri to share our genuine experience with you. It would be best if you read it to get all the information about Tso Moriri to plan your itinerary easily.

Preparing for Tso Moriri trip

After extensive research for our trip to Tso Moriri, we obtained our permits a day before our trip. We started our journey early morning when the rays of the sun had just begun to illuminate the distant mountain peaks on the far horizon. As we set off for Tso Moriri from the main town of Leh, we played the traditional Ladakhi music in the background. The endless rays of the sun bounced off the icy peaks of the Himalayas in the distance. In no time, we were pretty far away from the Leh town driving on the clear and broad highway. 

The journey from Leh to Mahe

Since we had eaten nothing in the morning, we decided to stop to have some breakfast and then continue our journey towards Tso Moriri. While having our breakfast, we talked to a group of men and asked them about the condition of the roads to Tso Moriri because of the harsh weather conditions. They informed us that there were no blockades, but the road might be a bit rough after the junction. After an hour, we reached the Mahe checkpost where the road divided into two, one leading to Tso Moriri Lake and another to Pangong Lake.

As we scrammed on the smooth roads once again, we admired the stunning landscapes and the alluring snow-clad mountains surrounding us. While our driver paid close attention to each and every bump on the road, we came across some patches of grassy fields where the flocks of sheep grazed calmly. We followed the Indus river throughout our journey and also along with that rough, barren patchwork landscape. The clear blue skies looked ravishing with tiny shreds of white clouds moving swiftly with the gentle breeze.

The bird watching and the Marmot

En route to Tso Moriri, we had frequently stopped at some places where we encountered several birds such as horned larks and a group of chukars. We could see traces of blue sheep, Tibetan sheep, and other Himalayan animals, including the marmots. The marmots were the cutest animals we had ever seen, and they seemed happy to pose while we clicked their pictures. They were so adorable and playful that we wished we could take them back with us. Every few kilometers, we passed small villages and encountered mesmerizing yellow mustard fields amid the sheer bliss of nature.

The Mahe Checkpost

There were only a few tourist vehicles on the way to Tso Moriri, and we hardly saw some two or three during our entire journey. After driving continuously for 3 hours, we reached the Mahe check-post, where the roadway split into two. The left road led towards Nyoma, Hanle, and other parts of Changthang. We took the right turn towards Tso Moriri, and hardly after a few kilometers, we noticed that no paved roads existed after this point. We were now in the land of the Changpa nomads. While driving on the plane lands, the clouds seemed to touch the ground, and suddenly, we could see the metalled roads reappearing at the far end of the road.

As we inched close to the Tso Moriri Lake, we gradually gained altitude with every curve of the road. In the last 4 hours, we had gained a height of approx. 6000 feet. The high regions of Ladakh may be tough and challenging for some visitors, but the places are absolutely worth a visit.

The Tso Kyagar on the way to Tso Moriri Lake

On the way, we also came across the Tso Kyagar, which looked really gorgeous. We decided to stop there for a while and clicked some amazing pictures. The magnificent lake was greenish and reflected the majestic mountains and the barren landscapes on its still waters clearly and beautifully. We could not spend much time there because we did not want to miss the Tso Moriri Lake due to bad weather conditions. So, we continued our journey towards Tso Moriri.

The arrival to Tso Moriri Lake

In an hour or so, we finally reached the Korzok village situated on the banks of Tso Moriri. As we climbed the Korzok village, the lake appeared to be more and more radiant from the top. The panoramic view of the landscape adorned with snowbound mountain peaks seemed even more pronounced from the village. The mud houses of the nomadic pastoral shepherds and the colorful prayer flags fluttering in the air made a spectacular contrast altogether in the high-altitude desert of Ladakh.

The atmosphere was immensely calm, and there were no tourists around, which made our visit to the splendid lake even more blissful. We wandered around the lake for a few hours and also met the Ladakhi people living near the Tso Moriri lake. They were happy to live in their tents, raising animals such as goats, sheep, horses, and yaks. In the evening, we watched the rural life of the nomadic migratory herders of the region, collecting their goats and sheep to pen them up for the night. We stayed overnight at Tso Moriri. It was not easy to stay with the rough and freezing wind blowing across the lake, but somehow, we could comfortably spend the time.

Tso Moriri Lake – Sightseeing

The next day we woke up early, took a hot shower, had some breakfast, and then headed towards the Korzok monastery. The monastery had a unique location as it was surrounded by towering mountains overlooking the charismatic Tso Moriri lake. Unlike other monasteries of Ladakh that are perched on hilltops, the monastery was built on a gentle slope. As we entered the monastery, we saw a number of chortens and the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. There were pictures of other deities and sophisticated, colorful paintings which had been recently restored. We took a stroll around the monastery for some time and returned to our hotel in the afternoon.

We had our lunch and rested for a while. After a couple of hours, we decided to go out for a walk along the banks of Tso Moriri. As we stepped out of our hotel, we saw colorful mountains surrounding the turquoise lake, making us feel like we had landed in a dreamland. We spent several hours watching birds near the lake. A group of Bar-headed geese walked along the edge of the lake, and one of them even laid eggs in their ground nests. The goslings walked by their mother’s side and, at times, stopped to pick up insects and bugs from the ground. We continued to watch them until the parents took their goslings to swim blissfully into the azure waters of the lake.

The enticing beauty of the surroundings of the Tso Moriri Lake
Tso Moriri Lake view

The changing hues of the Tso Moriri lake under the blue skies and the gentle wind gushing past our ears made us feel nature in its purest form. The enticing beauty of the scenery compelled us to stare at it endlessly until we had absorbed its stark beauty and pocketed a part of it within us. The sound of prayers and bells reverberated from the Korzok Monastery as we took a stroll around the lake. We also spotted some migratory birds in the nearby surroundings, including the brown-headed gulls, black-necked crane, great crested grebe, and black-necked grebe.

The water was so clear that we could see the stones and pebbles underneath. We took off our clothes and took a dip in the icy cold water. It was probably the coldest lake we had ever encountered in our entire lives. We swam across the lake for a while and captured some pictures while revealing the exquisite beauty of Tso Moriri lake.

In the distant corner of the lake, we noticed thick dark clouds accompanied by flashes of lightning on the horizon. It seemed like the triumphant clouds had dominated the snowcapped mountain peaks. We decided to pack our stuff and took some final clicks, and retraced our steps for Leh.

Conclusion

If you are planning a trip to Tso Moriri, our travel guide will help you plan a memorable and perfect trip to Zanskar. Our team of dedicated specialists from Ladakh offers customized tour packages at discounted rates to all our customers who wish to spend an incredible vacation in Ladakh. If you have any queries or doubts related to Tso Moriri, feel free to contact us.

Travel tips

There are a few vital tips you should follow to make your trip to Tsomoriri unforgettable:

  • You can make the permit to Tso Moriri online without visiting the DC office in Leh for the stamp and signature.
  • Don’t plan a trip from Sarchu to Tso Moriri. As permits can be obtained online now, traveling directly from Manali (Sarchu) to Tso Moriri is still not recommended. First of all, Taxis/bikes from Leh are only allowed to travel to Tso Moriri. And even in your own vehicle, you should first visit Leh to acclimatize appropriately for at least a night.
  • The Best Itinerary for Tso Moriri would be to stay in Leh for two nights and then visit Nubra and Pangong. After that, visit Tso Moriri directly from Pangong. Or you can return to Leh from Pangong and then travel to Tso Moriri from Leh.
  • If you are traveling in your own vehicle, plan the traveling route to Tso Moriri lake as per the routes given in the blog post. And fill your fuel tank to full in Leh and also carry some extra fuel before starting the journey from Leh.
  • Obtain the permit for Tso Moriri online before visiting Leh. If you want to get the permit in Leh, obtain it from the DC office Leh, a day ahead of the journey.
  • Tso Moriri lake is at a very high altitude area (14836 feet). There might be a chance of AMS. So, it is best to carry an oxygen cylinder in your vehicle from Leh.
  • It’s best to plan a two-day trip to Tso Moriri. But, if it’s a one-day trip, start the journey early in the morning.
  • It would be best to acclimatize in Leh for two nights (if you arrived Leh by flight) or at least one night (if you came to Leh by road) before visiting Tso Moriri lake.
  • Tsomoriri is located in a remote region where cell phone signals are weak. However, BSNL SIMs receive better signals than other SIMs, so carry a postpaid BSNL SIM from your hometown before visiting Ladakh.
  • Use ATMs in Leh to withdraw cash before traveling to Tso Moriri, as there aren’t many ATMs through this route.

Other useful information

Topography

The Tso Moriri Lake is the largest high-altitude lake in the Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. It is about 26 km in length and 5 km wide. The lake falls within the greater Rupshu Valley and is enclosed by mountains rising over 20,000 ft, including Lungser Kangri and Mentok Kangri.

The lake is fed by streams and glacial waters, which melt from the adjacent mountains during summers. Mostly, two major streams enter the lake, one entering from the southwest and the other from the north. The area where the streams enter the lake is abundantly marshy. Previously, the lake had an outlet to the southern region, but it became an endorheic lake due to blockage. The lake is accessible only during summers, although the nearby Korzok village and military facilities have inhabitancy round the year. 

On the basis of origin, the Himalayan Lakes are classified into four groups. The Tso Moriri Lake in the Changthang Plateau falls under the third group of remnant lakes, which represent the remnants of huge lakes such as Pangong Lake and Tso Kar. 

The nomadic migratory shepherds known as “Changpas” are the main inhabitants of the region. During summers, these tribal people work on caravans and are engaged in trade. The Changpa herders use the land of this valley for cultivation purposes and also bring their goats and horses for grazing in the grazing grounds.

Fauna and Avifauna

The Changthang Plateau represents a landscape that protects rare and unique species of fauna and avifauna. Below are enlisted some of the known mammals that can be spotted near the Tso Moriri Lake:

  • Eurasian Lynx
  • Tibetan Gazelle
  • Bharal
  • Great Tibetan Sheep
  • Nayan
  • Tibetan Ass
  • Himalayan Hare
  • Himalayan Marmot
  • Vole
  • Mouse Hare

Carnivores

  • Tibetan Wolf
  • Snow Leopard

Avifauna

  • Bar-headed geese 
  • Great crested grebe 
  • Black-necked grebe
  • Black-necked cranes
  • Brown-headed gulls
  • Ferruginous pochard

Flora

The deeper parts of Tso Moriri Lake have no vegetation, but the shallow areas of the lake consist of ample vegetation which comprises the following floral species:

  • Potamogeton
  • Astragalus
  • Caragana
  • Juncus
  • Pedicularis
  • Primula
  • Carex
  • Oocystis
  • Leontopodium
  • Grasslands for domestic livestock

References:

About the author

Sam K. Pandepa is a certified travel agent of Ladakh. He completed his MBA in 2012 and has worked as a tourist guide up to 2015. After that, he is working as a travel agent.