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Tso Moriri: The Ice-Age lake tucked away in a valley

Tso Moriri, the largest high-altitude lake in India, was formed by water from ice masses left behind by retreating glaciers during the Ice Age. It is emerging as a popular destination for mountain and lake tourism in Ladakh

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Tso Moriri Lake in Ladakh.  It is 4,522 meters above sea level. Pic: Tanay Kibe

Tso Moriri Lake in Ladakh. It is 4,522 meters above sea level. Pic: Tanay Kibe

Nestled within the breathtakingly beautiful Rupshu Valley, the Tso Moriri Lake resembles a vast expanse of emerald, with the hues of its water changing from indigo blue to sea green. Less than 250 km southeast of Leh in Ladakh, it is surrounded by towering mountains with peaks adorned with layers of snow in winter.

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Tso Moriri (or Tsomoriri) Lake formed during the Ice Age, which began 2.4 million years ago and lasted until 11,500 years ago. It was formed by the meltwaters of ice masses left behind by retreating glaciers. 

Today, water from surrounding mountain streams drains into the lake even though the lake has no outflow. It is 4,522 meters above sea level and stretches about 29 km in length and 7 km in width. Situated in the Changthang region of Ladakh, the lake is revered by the locals and stands as one of India's most beautiful, peaceful, and sacred high-altitude lakes. 

Also Read: The floating islands of Loktak Lake in Manipur

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Mountain and Lake Tourism

Tso Moriri is an emerging destination for mountain and lake tourism. It is among the most popular places for tourists visiting Ladakh. Tso Moriri freezes due to extreme cold between December and early March. In April, the snow begins to thaw, revealing the lake's transformation into a stunning display of multi-shades of blue along its shores. The peak tourist season is from May to August.

frozen tso moriri
Frozen Tso Moriri. Pic: Vinay Goyal / Wikipedia

Camping, bird-watching, and trekking are popular among tourists. The sunrise and sunset are the best times of the day to visit Tso Moriri. 

Visitors can carry vehicles only up to Korzok, the area’s only village that lies on the western shore of Tso Moriri. Since the area around Tso Moriri is a wetland sanctuary, tourists are not allowed to carry vehicles closer to the lake.

Tso Moriri's serene waters draw a diverse array of wildlife, including migratory birds, marmots, and occasionally, Tibetan wolves. Designated as the Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve under the Ramsar Convention, it is also the highest Ramsar site globally. The region boasts a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Due to its proximity to the Line of Actual Control (LoAC), visitors must obtain an Inner Line Permit to access Tso Moriri.

Also Read: How 1,000 women around Sambhar Salt Lake are conserving water & practising organic farming

The fresh to brackish water lake has a maximum depth of 40 m. Tso Moriri's northern and southern parts are an important breeding ground for Bar-headed Geese and many other key species of water birds. 

camping at tso moriri
Camping at Tso Moriri. Pic: Ladakh Tourism

Originally the lake had outlets to the Sutlej river system but now it forms a huge enclosed basin fed by two main streams -- one from the north and the other from the south-west. This creates extensive areas of wetlands and sheltered bays with small islands. 

These wetlands constitute a prime habitat for breeding waterfowl, including the globally threatened, Black-necked Crane and Bar-headed Geese. 

Also Read: Honnavar: The hidden paradise with backwaters and beaches

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