The Tsomoriri Lake lies off the beaten track. Situated at an altitude of 15000 feet above sea level, the Tsomoriri Lake is about 250 kilometres away from Leh.
Why go to Tsomoriri Lake?
Most tourists visit Leh with about 5-6 days in hand. The more common destination is Pangongso lake made famous by the movie 3 Idiots. Tsomoriri Lake is a similar brackish lake formed when the Himalayas rose out of the ocean. Fed by springs and snow melt Tsomoriri Lake is an untouched and unblemished turquoise beauty nestled amidst towering mountains.
Topography around the Tsomoriri Lake
The Tsomoriri Lake is a part of the Changthang Plateau which in turn is a part of the Tibetan Plateau. It is generally a dry and arid region. Till the late 70s the brackish waters of the Tsomoriri Lake were used to produce salt which was later sold off in the Leh market. Even now you can find traders selling packets of Himalayan Sea salt. Some distance away from Tsomoriri Lake you will also come across the small Tso Kyogar lake. The area is a juxtaposition of tall mountains and large stretches of flat land.
How to get there
From Leh it takes about 8 hours of driving over rough terrain to reach Tsomoriri Lake. You have to ride towards Upshi and then take the road to Chumathang. From the fork ahead you chose the road towards Mahe which further takes you towards Korzok. On the way you will not find any milestone for Tsomoriri Lake. The signposts will guide you towards Korzok village which lies on the North-western shore of the lake.
Though the distance from Leh to Tsomoriri lake is only 240 kilometres it takes up to 8 hours to reach. The road conditions are not that good. So a one day trip is out of the question because you do not want to drive back on dark mountain roads. The Korzok village has a few homestays, small hotels and a PWD guesthouse. Remember the Tsomoriri Lake lies in a very inhospitable terrain and so do not expect any luxuries. The area around Tsomoriri Lake is a wetland reserve and a bird sanctuary. Unlike the Pangongso you will not be allowed to pitch tents on the banks of the lake. However there are a few resorts and camps that offer a clean and hygienic stay.
Things to do at Tsomoriri Lake
The Korzok Monastery is about 400 years old. It is worth a visit to see the statue of the Shakyamani Buddha and the beautiful Thangka paintings. The Korzok Gustor festival is held annually in the month of July/August depending on the Tibetan calendar and is a treat to watch. Roam the banks of the beautiful Tsomoriri Lake and look out for the Tibetan gazelle and the marmot. The area is also renowned for the Tibetan Wild Ass, Ladkahi Bharal (Blue Sheep) and the Himalayan Mountain Goat. The Tsomoriri Lake also attracts migratory birds in large droves.
Precautions to be taken
Every year the roads are damaged by the landslides. With extreme cold temperatures for most of the year the reconstruction work can be undertaken for only about three months. So generally the road conditions are pretty bad. Be ready for a bumpy ride as you go towards the Tsomoriri Lake. The last petrol station is at Upshi. So if you are riding on your own then be sure to stock up on the petrol or diesel. You do not want to be stranded in the middle of nothing. All along the way you will come across small hamlets where people survive on the very basics. They might be able to offer you a helping hand and a warm welcome but nothing more. So be ready for emergencies.
A smart traveler is always prepared
At 15000 feet above sea level the weather at Tsomoriri Lake is going to be cold, even in summer months. Wear protective clothing. Helmet, gloves, boots, caps, mufflers etc. are an important part of the attire. Be hydrated. Remember it is a cold desert. There is little or no moisture in the air. Carry lots of drinking water with you and keep sipping at regular intervals. Even though you may have acclamatized at Leh at 11000 feet keep a metal check on your health at Tsomoriri Lake. Do not expect your mobile phones to catch any signal out there. There will be no landlines also. No ATMs. So plan accordingly. The local people are very helpful and will be ready to help you out in your hour of need.
Important points to remember
Acclamatization is a point that cannot be stressed enough. At Tsomoriri Lake you are at an extraordinary elevation that your body is not used to. Take good care of your health. There are basic medical facilities available at Korzok village. There is no form of public transport at Tsomoriri Lake. You can contact any tour operator at Leh for travel arrangements. You can hire a car or a bike. A tour operator will help you with permits and other documents that you need to visit Tsomoriri Lake. Plan ahead and plan well for a most amazing journey.