Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake (Tibetan: སྤང་གོང་མཚོ;[3] Chinese: 班公错; pinyin: Bān gōng cuò; Hindi: पैंगोंग झील) is an endorheic lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet situated at an elevation of 4,225 m (13,862 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and divided into five sublakes, called Pangong Tso, Tso Nyak, Rum Tso (twin lakes) and Nyak Tso. Approximately 50% of the length of the overall lake lies within Tibet in China, 40% in Ladakh, India and the remaining 10% is disputed and is a de facto buffer zone between India and China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers almost 700 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It has a land-locked basin separated from the Indus River basin by a small elevated ridge, but is believed to have been part of the latter in prehistoric times.[4]

Pangong Tso
Pangong Tso from space
A view of Pangong Tso from space
Location of Pangong Lake
Location of Pangong Lake
Pangong Tso
Location of Pangong Lake
Location of Pangong Lake
Location of Pangong Lake
Pangong Tso
Pangong Tso (Ladakh)
LocationLeh district (Ladakh, India),
Rutog County (Tibet, China)
Coordinates33°43′04.59″N 78°53′48.48″E / 33.7179417°N 78.8968000°E / 33.7179417; 78.8968000Coordinates: 33°43′04.59″N 78°53′48.48″E / 33.7179417°N 78.8968000°E / 33.7179417; 78.8968000
TypeSoda lake
dimictic lake (east basin)[1]
cold monomictic lake (west basin)[citation needed]
Basin countriesChina, India
Max. length134 km (83 mi)
Max. width5 km (3.1 mi)
Surface areaapprox. 700 km2 (270 sq mi)
Max. depth330 ft. (100 m)
Surface elevation4,225 metres (13,862 ft)[2]
Frozenduring winter
Pangong Tso
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese班公錯
Simplified Chinese班公错
Tibetan name
Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese錯木昂拉仁波
Simplified Chinese錯木昂拉仁波
Tibetan name


Historically, the lake is viewed as being made up five sublakes, which are connected through narrow water channels. The name Pangong Tso only applied to the westernmost lake that is mostly in Ladakh. The main lake on the Tibetan side is called Tso Nyak (the "middle lake"). It is followed by two small lakes called Rum Tso. The last lake near Rutog is called Nyak Tso again.[5][6] The whole lake group was and is still often referred to as Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo (Tibetan: མཚོ་མོ་ངང་ལྷ་རིང་པོ[3]) in Tibetan.

There are different interpretations of the meanings of both Pangong Tso and Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo. The Ladakh government website says "Pangong Tso" is Tibetan, meaning "high grassland lake",[7] however travel books say Pangong means "hollow".[8][9] Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo is Tibetan that is interpreted to mean various different but similar meanings -- "long, narrow, enchanted lake" by Chinese media sources,[10] "female narrow very long lake" by early European explorers,[11] and "long-necked swan lake" by other modern sources.[12]


Sino-Indian border disputeEdit

Contested LAC near the Pangong Lake[13][a]
with "fingers" – mountain spurs jutting into the lake[14]

Pangong Tso is disputed territory. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) passes through the lake. A section of the lake approximately 20 km east from the LAC is controlled by China but claimed by India. The eastern end of the lake is in Tibet. After the mid-19th century, Pangong Tso was at the southern end of Johnson Line, an early attempt at demarcation between India and China in the Aksai Chin region.

The Khurnak Fort lies on the northern bank of the lake, about halfway up Pangong Tso. The Chinese have controlled the Khurnak Fort area since 1958.[15] To the south is the smaller Spanggur Tso lake.

On 20 October 1962, Pangong Tso saw military action during the Sino-Indian War, successful for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).[16] The area remains a sensitive border point along the LAC.[17][18] Incursions from the Chinese side are common.[19]

In August 2017, Indian and Chinese forces near Pangong Tso engaged in a melee involving kicking, punching, rock throwing, and use of makeshift weapons such as sticks and rods.[20][21] On 11 September 2019, PLA troops confronted Indian troops on the northern bank.[22][23] On 5–6 May 2020, a face-off between about 250 Indian and Chinese troops near the lake resulted in casualties on both sides.[24][20][25][26]

On 29–30 August 2020, Indian troops occupied many heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso. The heights included Rezang La, Reqin La, Black Top, Hanan, Helmet, Gurung Hill, Gorkha Hill and Magar Hill.[27] Some of these heights are in the grey zone of the LAC and overlook Chinese camps.[28] India chose to pull back from these positions as leverage for larger disengagement.[29]

China is building a bridge across the lake.[30][31] Both the Chinese and Indian militaries have vessels stationed on the lake.[32][33][34]


On the Indian side, an Inner Line Permit is required to visit the lake, as it lies on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control. For security reasons, India does not permit boating. Groups are permitted, accompanied by an accredited guide.[35][36]

China National Highway 219 passes by the eastern end of Pangong Tso. The lake can be accessed by driving 12 km from Rutog or 130 km from Shiquanhe. Tourists can rent a boat on the lake, but landing on islands is not allowed, to protecting the avian breeding grounds. There are several restaurants along the shore.[37]

Flora and faunaEdit

The eastern part of the lake is fresh, with the content of total dissolved solids at 0.68 g/L, while the western part of the lake is saline, with the salinity at 11.02 g/L.[38] The brackish water[39] of the lake has very low micro-vegetation. Guides report that there are no fish or other aquatic life on the Indian side of the lake, except for some small crustaceans. On the other hand, visitors see numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface. There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake.

The lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks are commonly seen here.[40] The region around the lake supports a number of species of wildlife including the kiang and the marmot. The lake hosts large quantities of fish, especially Schizopygopsis stoliczkai[41] and Racoma labiata.[42] Freshwater snails of the genus Radix also live in the lake.[43]

Formerly, Pangong Tso had an outlet to the Shyok River, a tributary of the Indus River, but it was closed off by natural damming. Two streams feed the lake from the Indian side, forming marshes and wetlands at the edges.[44] Strand lines above current lake level reveal a 5 m (16 ft) thick layer of mud and laminated sand, suggesting the lake has shrunken recently on the geological scale.[39] On the Indian side, no fish have been observed, however in the stream coming from the south-eastern side (Cheshul nalla), three fish species (Schizopygopsis stoliczkae, Tibetan stone loach and Triplophysa gracilis) have been reported (Bhat et al., 2011). The low biodiversity has been reported as being due to high salinity and harsh environmental conditions (Bhat et al., 2011).

Bird Islet is a popular location for bird-watching for tourists in Ngari.[45]


Climate data for Pangong Tso
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −5.9
Daily mean °C (°F) −13.3
Average low °C (°F) −20.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 4


Pangong Tso


Edward Weller map of Ladakh and Garhwal, 1863
Map including Pangong Tso (AMS, 1954)[b]
Map including Pangong Tso / Bangong Co (DMA, 1992)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The LAC displayed is that marked by the OpenStreetMap editors, said to reflect the Chinese maps.
  1. ^ Wang, M., Hou, J. and Lei, Y., 2014. Classification of Tibetan lakes based on variations in seasonal lake water temperature. Chinese Science Bulletin, 59(34): 4847-4855.
  2. ^ Dortch et al., Catastrophic partial drainage of Pangong Tso (2011), p. 111.
  3. ^ a b "Ngari prefecture". Geographical names of Tibet AR (China). Institute of the Estonian Language. 3 June 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  4. ^ "River basins with Major and medium dams & barrages location map in India, WRIS" (Adobe Flash Player version 10.0.0 or greater). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  5. ^ Hedin, Sven Anders (1907). Scientific Results of a Journey in Central Asia 1899-1902: Central and West Tibet. Lithographic institute of the General staff of the Swedish army. p. 521. From Noh to Bal Rawling followed the same route that I did along the northern shore of the Tso-ngombo, which he calls the Tso Mo Gualari, dividing it into the sections: Tso Nyak, the twin lakes Rum Tso and Nyak Tso. He says that it consists of a string of five lakes 120 m. in length, the four most southern of which are fresh, and Pangong, the most northerly, salt. They are joined together by channels about 60 feet in width and 15 feet deep, the current running at nearly 1½ mile an hour.
  6. ^ Saward, M. H. (1878). Routes in Asia: Routes in the territories of the Maharaja of Jummoo and Kashmir, and adjacent countries. Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing. pp. 31–33. Only the lower lake (the Pangong Tso proper) lies in Ladak, the middle (Tso Nyak) and upper lakes being in Rudok territory. ... The waters of the western end are much more salt than those of the eastern end near Ot. in the stream connecting the Pangong Tso with Nyak Tso the water becomes drinkable, and rich grass is found on the banks.
  7. ^ "Pangong Lake". Union Territory of Ladakh. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2020. Pangong Lake, one of the most famous lakes in Leh Ladakh, derives its name from the Tibetan word, "Pangong Tso", which means "high grassland lake".
  8. ^ Michelle Coxall; Paul Greenway (1 September 1996). Indian Himalaya: a Lonely Planet travel survival kit. Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-0-86442-413-6. The salty Pangong Tso - Pangong means 'hollow' - is the highest lake in Ladakh at about 4300m, and is flanked by massive peaks over 6500m high.
  9. ^ Kirit Rindani (7 January 2016). Indian Himalaya: Story of a 100 Visits. Partridge Publishing India. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-4828-5886-0. The word Pangong means 'extensive concavity' which probably explains its size.
  10. ^ "Pangong Tso Lake in Tibet". China Daily. 17 July 2012. Pangong Tso Lake is a trans-border lake extending from the Ali prefecture of China's Tibet autonomous region to India. About 155 kilometers in length, the geographic features of the lake are indicated in the name which in Tibetan means "long, narrow, enchanted lake".
  11. ^ Trotter, H. (1877). "Account of the Pundit's Journey in Great Tibet from Leh in Ladakh to Lhasa, and of His Return to India Via Assam". Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. 47: 86–136. doi:10.2307/1798740. ISSN 0266-6235. JSTOR 1798740. the Pangong, but better known to the Tibetans as the Chomo Gna Laring Cho, which, being literally interpreted, means "Female narrow very long lake."
  12. ^ "Pangong Tso Lake in the Northern Tibet". Kangba TV. 6 March 2017. Pangong Tso Lake, at an altitude of 4,200 meters, is also called Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo Lake, which means "a swan with a long neck" in Tibetan.
  13. ^ India, Ministry of External Affairs, ed. (1962), Report of the Officials of the Governments of India and the People's Republic of China on the Boundary Question, Government of India Press, Chinese Report, Part 1 (PDF) (Report). pp. 4–5.
    The location and terrain features of this traditional customary boundary line are now described as follows in three sectors, western, middle and eastern. ... From Ane Pass southwards, the boundary line runs along the mountain ridge and passes through peak 6,127 (approximately 78° 46' E, 38° 50' N) [sic] and then southwards to the northern bank of the Pangong Lake' (approximately 78° 49' E, 33° 44' N). It crosses this lake and reaches its southern bank at approximately 78° 43' E, 33° 40' N. Then it goes in a south-easterly direction along the watershed dividing the Tongada River and the streams flowing into the Spanggur Lake until it reaches Mount Sajum.
  14. ^ Lt Gen HS Panag (Retd) (4 June 2020). "India's Fingers have come under Chinese boots. Denial won't help us". The Print.
  15. ^ Sali, M. L. (1998). India-China Border Dispute: A Case Study of the Eastern Sector. APH Publishing. p. 82. ISBN 978-81-7024-964-1.
  16. ^ Burkitt, Laurie; Scobell, Andrew; Wortzel, Larry M. (July 2003). The Lessons of History: The Chinese People's Liberation Army at 75 (PDF). Strategic Studies Institute. pp. 340–341. ISBN 1-58487-126-1.
  17. ^ Pubby, Manu (7 October 2008). "Pangong Lake is border flashpoint between India and China". The Indian Express.
  18. ^ Shahin, Sultan (1 August 2003). "Vajpayee claps with one hand on border dispute". Asia Times. Archived from the original on 1 August 2003.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  19. ^ Holslag, Jonathan (2008). "China, India and the Military Security Dilemma, Vol 3(5)" (PDF). BICCS Background Papers. Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies (BICCS). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  20. ^ a b 費風 (11 May 2020). 中印邊境再爆衝突 150士兵毆鬥釀12傷 [Another 150 soldiers in the Sino-Indian border conflict caused 12 injuries in a fight]. Hong Kong Economic Times (in Traditional Chinese). 消息指,第一起事件發生於5月5日至6日,在中印邊境的班公錯湖(Pangong Tso )地區,當時解放軍的「侵略性巡邏」(aggressive patrolling)被印度軍方阻攔。「結果發生了混亂,雙方都有一些士兵受傷。」{...}2017年8月,兩國軍隊曾於拉達克地區班公湖附近爆發衝突,當時雙方擲石攻擊對方,雙方均有人受傷,最終兩軍在半小時後退回各自據點。
  21. ^ Sushant Singh (20 May 2020). "India-China conflict in Ladakh: The importance of the Pangong Tso lake". The Indian Express.
  22. ^ "Indian, Chinese Troops Face-off in Ladakh Ahead of Modi-Xi Summit, Army Says Tension De-escalated". CNN-News18. 12 September 2019.
  23. ^ Chang Ya-Han 張雅涵, ed. (10 March 2020). 中國在西藏地區軍演頻繁 牽動中印未來危機應對 [China's military exercises in Tibet frequently affect China and India's future crisis response]. Radio Taiwan International (in Chinese (Taiwan)).
  24. ^ Dinakar Peri (10 May 2020). "Indian, Chinese troops face off in Eastern Ladakh, Sikkim". The Hindu.
  25. ^ "Chinese military bolsters troops in Aksai Chin region in Sino-India border: Report". The Economic Times. 19 May 2020. On May 5, around 250 Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed in Pangong Tso lake area in Eastern Ladakh.
  26. ^ Khalid, Saif (28 May 2020). "'All-out combat' feared as India, China engage in border standoff". Al Jazeera.
  27. ^ Dutta, Amrita Nayak (3 September 2020). "Army now holding 30 dominating heights, earlier unoccupied, on southern bank of Pangong Tso". ThePrint.
  28. ^ Sagar, Pradip R (2 September 2020). "India controls dominating heights in Chushul sector". The Week.
  29. ^ Dhoundial, Shreya (17 February 2021). "India's Move to Occupy Kailash Range Became Turning Point in Disengagement Talks: Lt Gen YK Joshi". News18.
  30. ^ Som, Vishnu (7 January 2022). "Chinese Bridge Over Pangong Lake In Illegally Held Territory: Government". NDTV.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ Laskar, Rezaul H (4 February 2022). "India says China's bridge on Pangong Lake located in areas under 'illegal occupation'". Hindustan Times.
  32. ^ Hooper, Craig (5 July 2020). "On Pangong Lake, Chinese And Indian Fleets Square Off At 14,000 Feet". Forbes.
  33. ^ P, Rajat (13 June 2021). "Army gets special boats for Pangong Tso". The Times of India.
  34. ^ Singh, Mayank (18 August 2021). "China raises firepower & mobility near Pangong Tso". The New Indian Express.
  35. ^ "A handy guide on how to visit the famous Pangong Lake in Ladakh". Times of India Travel. 3 December 2020.
  36. ^ Javaid, Azaan (13 January 2021). "Pangong Tso opens for tourists amid Ladakh stand-off. This is how you can visit it". ThePrint.
  37. ^ 黄慧英 (4 August 2018). 一措再措 邂逅高原湖泊的绝美 [Take measures to meet the beauty of plateau lakes] (in Chinese). Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  38. ^ "班公错" (in Chinese).
  39. ^ a b R. K. Pant; N. R. Phadtare; L. S. Chamyal; Navin Juyal (10 June 2005). "Quaternary deposits in Ladakh and Karakoram Himalaya: A treasure trove of the palaeoclimate records". Current Science. 88 (11).
  40. ^ Khan, Asif (2016). "Ladakh: The Land Beyond". Buceros. 21 (3): 6–15.
  41. ^ "Schizopygopsis stoliczkae". China Animal Scientific Database. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  42. ^ "Racoma labiata". China Animal Scientific Database. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  43. ^ Oheimb, Parm Viktor von; Albrecht, Christian; Riedel, Frank; Du, Lina; Yang, Junxing; Aldridge, David C.; Bößneck, Ulrich; Zhang, Hucai; Wilke, Thomas (2011). "Freshwater Biogeography and Limnological Evolution of the Tibetan Plateau - Insights from a Plateau-Wide Distributed Gastropod Taxon (Radix spp.)". PLOS One 6(10): e26307. PMID 22028853, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026307.
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  45. ^ Dreams of Snow Land. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. 2005. pp. 273-275. ISBN 7-119-03883-4 – via


Further readingEdit