Lakes in Tibet

There are various plateau lakes in Tibet, but only three can become holy lakes for the Tibetans, just as Yamdrok, Namtso, and Manasarovar. The lakes have beautiful blue water and are surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The best views are from a distance, especially from the hills. The Tibetans come to these lakes to chant, pray, and offer Hada (a piece of silk used as a blessing object) every day. Because of the Tibetan beliefs, they do not fish, swim or bathe in the lakes.

Yamdrok Lake

Located at 4500m above sea level and 72km long, Yamdrok Lake is about halfway between Lhasa and Gyantse.

According to the Tibetan culture, it can help people find the incarnated lama. After the Dalai Lama passes away, the senior monks are responsible to find the reincarnated boy. They go to the Yamdrok Lake to chant sutra and throw Hada, medicine material, etc., into the lake. Then, the monks will find some instructions about the reincarnated boy on the lake.

There are many small islands in this lake that cover an area of 638 square kilometers, so Yamdrok Lake has become the largest habitat for migratory birds in southern Tibet. If you hike around it, you might see thousands of white birds flying above and prostrating Tibetans, some prostrating themselves every three steps.

Namtso Lake

Namtso Lake, in Tibetan, means “the Heaven Lake”. It is honored as the holy lake both for Tibetan Buddhism and Bon (a primitive religion that existed before Buddhism was introduced to Tibet).

After being accessed by a 5,100 meters mountain pass, the Namtso is in front of you with his pure blue water. At 4,718 meters, it is the highest saltwater lake in the world. Snow-capped mountains and open grassland, dotted with yak herds and local nomads, surround the crystal clear water, making it one of the most beautiful places in Tibet.

It is a tradition for Buddhists to make the Kora around Namtso Lake. Pilgrims walk or prostrate along the lakeside, and pray to it. They believe that if they walk around the lake once during the year of the goat, they and their family will be blessed with good health, safety, knowledge, and other virtues.

Manasarovar Lake

Manasarovar in Sanskrit or Mapham Yum Tso in Tibetan means “invincible green lake”. At an elevation of 4,583 meters, the lake covers 412 square kilometers.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that if people bathe in the water of Manasarovar, they can drive away avaricious desires, worries, and past sins; that if they take a sip from the lake, they can stay healthy and free from disease; and that if they walk around the lake, it will bring endless boons to the pilgrims.

Throughout the year, numerous pilgrims and visitors are attracted to Lake Manasarovar and the holy Mt. Kailash. So do the Hindus from India. 3 kilometers away from Manasarovar lies the “Ghost Lake” La’ang, which is a saltwater lake. With high winds and rapid currents, it is difficult for fish or weeds to grow.

Useful Information

SiteYamdrok LakeNamtso LakeManasarovar Lake
Chinese name羊卓雍措纳木错玛旁雍措
Altitude4,500 meters4,718 meters4,583 meters
Opening hoursAll-day longAll-day longAll-day long
Entrance ticket120 RMB110 RMB150 RMB
Duration of visit1 hour2-3 hours2-3 hours

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