Tso Kar Lake (Tsokar lake) is a lake in Rupshu valley of Ladakh, close to More (Morre) Plains, east of the Manali-Leh highway just before Taglang-la. It is 150km from Leh and 360km from Manali. Tso Kar is saltwater lake which is about 7 km in length and little more than 2 km in width. The lake is at an elevation of about 14,850 ft.
Tso Kar Lake is surrounded by two towering peaks – 6,370 m high Gursan peak and 6,050 m high Thugie peak. Tsokar lake, according to historians, was far larger than the existing lake and it is regularly receding and shrinking. Until recently the Tsokar lake used to be an important source of edible salt for the people of Ladakh who used to export it to Tibet.
Startsapuk Tso (Lake) which is small in size compared to Tso Kar lake is next to it in the south. A small village Thukje (Thugje) is just 3 km from the lake. One can visit Tso Kar lake after taking a right turn just at the end of More Plains and before Debring if going from Manali towards Leh. The road connects Thukje village, Tsokar, Puga hot water springs and then the highway meets Leh-Mahe Bridge- Tso Moriri lake road at Sumdo village.
The area being situated at a high altitude, it witnesses extreme weather conditions. While the temperature of Tso Kar and Thukje may rise up to 30 degrees Celsius, it dips below minus 40 degrees Celsius in winter months. Many visitors come to Tso Kar lake for bird watching and for wildlife sighting. A large number of migratory birds come to the lake. Grebes, grown-headed gulls, strip geese, rust geese, terns, black-necked cranes, Tibetan grouse, kiang, Tibetan wolves, foxes, yaks, Tibetan gazelles, and marmots are can be sighted in the area.
Tso Kar (Thukje) has now a few hotels and guesthouses along with seasonal camping sites for tourists. The village also has small restaurant/eateries. The lake, which is close to extinction due to its drying water, is visited by very few tourists.
How to reach Tso Kar lake
Tso Kar lake is 150km from Leh via Taglangla pass and 360km from Manali via Manali-Leh national highway. The lake is on Pang/Debring-Thukje-Puga-Tso Moriri road. Tso Kar can also be visited while coming/going from/to TsoMoriri lake if the Sumdo-Debring route is taken.
Best time to visit Tso Kar lake
The lake can be visited from May to October. The road to the Tsokar lake remains blocked in the winter months.
Hotels at Tso Kar Lake
A few hotels and guesthouses and tents are available at Thukje village by the bank of the Tsokar lake. The accommodation is available only from May and mid-October. Other option is rented beds in the shops and dhabas at Pang, about 60km from Tso Kar on the Leh-Manali highway.
Permit to visit Tso Kar Lake
Permit is not required to visit Tso Kar lake for both Indian and foreigner tourists.
Also Read: Things to do in Ladakh in winters