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Ultimate Travel Guide to Yamdrok Lake in Tibet

100 kilometers southwest of Lhasa lies a large body of water known locally as Yamdroktso, or Yamdrok Lake. The lake covers an area of around 638 square kilometers, with an average depth of around 30 meters. Spread out to the south, with more narrow parts in the northern end, the lake is surrounded by mountains and has hundreds of small bays and inlets around its shore. And there are numerous lake crossings of the Yamdrok Lake, like the corals. This widespread lake is one of the top three sacred lakes of Tibetan Buddhism, and is a popular place for tourists visiting Tibet Autonomous Region.

Legends on Yamdrok Yumtso Lake

The name, Yamdrok Yumtso, is ancient Tibetan which translates literally as “ jasper lake of the upper pasture” and compares the waters of the lake to jadeite. Yamdroktso has three sisters that sit in the landscape basin with her, Kongmucuo Lake, Chen Co Lake, and Bajiucuo Lake, and all the lakes are linked together by natural waterways. And Yamdroktso also has a huge history of legends surrounding it. According to Tibetan folklore, the lake was formed from a fairy maiden who left the heavens to come to earth. The legend says that originally it was a set of nine lakes, which the fairy, Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal, feared would dry up if left as individual lakes, and all the creatures of the lakes would die. In despair for the creatures, she threw seven Liang of gold into the air as wishes, reciting her holy mantras, and as the gold landed it joined all the lakes together in one.

Turquoise blue Yamdrok Tso in TibetTake a closer look at the turquoise blue water at holy Yamdrok Lake

Another myth surrounding the lake is one that surrounds a white bird. Long ago, in a small hamlet beside the lake known as Terre-Blanche, lived a young girl who loved to bathe in the cold waters of the lake every evening, to keep her skin fair. A rich man from the village wanted to take her as his concubine, though she had already fallen in love with another young man, so she refused to marry the man. Late one evening, the man hid in the water of the lake close to where she bathed, and when the girl came to the lake, he grabbed her to drag her to his home. The myth tells how a fairy appeared standing on a cloud above the surface of the lake and beat the man to death with her beads. Even in death, the man would not let go his hold on the girl, and he dragged her to the bottom of the lake with him, drowning her. When the villagers came to look for the girl in the early morning light, while shouting her name, a brilliant white bird emerged from the water and flew over the mountains and away from the village. Since the villagers never found her body, only that of the rich man, they believed that the girl had been transformed into a white bird by the fairy. Since then, the lake has always been home to large numbers of birds all year round.

Best Time to Visit Yamdrok Lake

Yamdroktso is one of the most popular tourist spots in Tibet, and thousands of foreign visitors come to the lake every year. For most tourists to the region, the best time to visit Lake Yamdrok is from May to July and September to mid-November, when the temperatures are relatively mild, and there is very little rain. Besides, various migrant birds will migrate to the Yamdrok Lake to spend winter there, which makes the holy lake more charming. However, it is still a good idea to have rain gear and a warm jacket, as it can still get cold in the early evenings and into the night. Every year from mid-Nov, the lake begins to freeze, and the temperature drops dramatically. Summer is the rainy season. The temperature is appropriate but the sky is gray, which is difficult for you to get ideal light.

Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake tourEnjoying a wonderful tour to Yamdrok Lake from Lhasa in July

What to See around Yamdrok Lake

Sitting on the high-altitude plateau of Tibet, Yamdrok Lake has nestled between the flanks of the mountains of the Himalayas, on the road from Lhasa to Gyantse, in Nangartse County of Shannan Prefecture. It is the largest inland lake in the northern Himalayas and is supplied with melting ice from the spring thaws, which give it a very low saline level. The scenery of Yamdrok Lake can be the best in southern Tibet, including snow-capped mountains, glacier, island, grassland, farm and other landscapes. The lakeshore of Yamdrok Lake is a good pasture with herds of cattle, wild animals, and plants. And there are many things for visitors to do and see while exploring the area of this sacred lake.

Just as there are many sacred mountains, the Tibetan people also believe that lakes are sacred too. For Tibetan Buddhists, they believe that lakes are the homes of protective gods, which are invested with special, spiritual powers. Many devout Buddhists travel to these sacrosanct lakes every year, to walk around the lake’s perimeter in what is known as a holy “kora”. At Yamdroktso, this kora can take a month or more when riding a horse, and around three months if walking and prostrating in prayer around the lakeshore. They do this instead of making a pilgrimage to Lhasa and believe that Buddha will bless them with good luck and happiness in the coming year. For those who love walking, the hike around the lake is one that should not be missed, if you have the time. You will also see many Tibetan pilgrims prostrating themselves at points around the lakeshore.

Samding MonasterySamding Monastery

The famous Samding Monastery, the only monastery to have a female head, sits on one of the peninsulas that jut out into the lake. The female abbot heads a monastic community of around thirty nuns and monks and is where the most important female in Tibetan Buddhism, Samding Dorje Phagmo, stayed, and eventually resided. Samding Monastery lies on the south shore of Lake Kongmu, a lake that links to the west end of Yamdroktso. The monastery is the site where the third-highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism was reincarnated for several centuries, although the current lama is not accepted as much by Tibetan Buddhist for being a woman.

Nearby is the Mindroling Monastery, which is one of the six most famous monasteries of the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Built in the late 10th century, the monastery consists of over 100,000 square meters of buildings, courtyards, and grounds, and is built over three floors. Unlike many other monasteries, the monks of Mindroling are allowed to marry and have families.

Tips for Shooting Yamdrok Lake

Photography at Yamdrok Lake is best done around sunrise and sunset, as the skies glow with the sun light, and the reflection in the turquoise waters of the lake is spectacular. There are several good shooting locations for lake photography. Khamba La pass observatory is the perfect spot for shooting Lake Yamdrok, and you can see the winding road in the distance adding to the backdrop of the lake. And if you stand at the turn of the pass, you can get a great wide-angled shot of the scenic view of snow mountain and the lake. There are many options for photographers on the lakeside, as well as the waterfowl and birds out on the lake, though you will need a good telephoto lens for that. Tibetan mastiffs can also be found at certain points on the lakeside, and for a small fee, you can have photographs taken with one of the world’s rarest dogs.

Photography with Tibetan Mastiffs at Yamdrok lakeshoreYou can take photo with Tibetan Mastiffs at Yamdrok lakeshore with small payment.

Note:
1. When taking photos at Khamba La pass, a use stones to steady a tripod as the wind through the pass can be strong.
2. The Yamdrok Lake is located approximately 120 km (75 mi) southwest of Lhasa. It is easy to drive from Lhasa to the Yamdrok Lake. If you are making a Tibet tour from Lhasa to EBC and Kathmandu, it is not necessary to drive to the lakeshore. You can get a full view of Yamdrok Lake at Khampa-la Pass. In this case, you do not need to pay the entrance ticket to the lake which is CNY40.

Packing List for Yamdrok Lake Tour

As with all tours in Tibet, warm clothing is a must. Although the weather can be warmer in the peak seasons, it can still get very cold at night, especially if you are camping by the lakeshore. Ensure you have plenty of warm clothes, as well as thick socks and strong, sturdy walking boots, as the terrain can be a little rough.

Medicines should be kept with you, especially if you have to take regular medication, and talk to your doctor about altitude sickness medication before you leave, to make sure you can take it if necessary. A small first aid kit is an advantage, and make sure you have a hat, sunglasses, sun cream, and lip balm. The sun can still burn, despite the colder climate, and the wind is strong enough to chap lips very quickly in the cold air.

Another good tip is to bring spare batteries for your cameras and cell phones, etc. There are not always places where you can get a charge, especially in the more remote areas of Tibet, and you do not want to miss that perfect photo.

Compare Difference Between Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake Tour and Lhasa to Namtso Lake Tour & Lhasa to Manasarovar Lake Tour

-- Different Tour Experience for Different Tourists in Top Three Holy Lakes in Tibet

Many people think that if you have visited one of the Great Three holy lakes, then there is no need to visit the other two. Those who think that would be missing out on some of the best landscapes and scenery in the region, as well as some great experiences.

While Yamdrok has its own unique charms and attractions, Namtso has still others. Namtso is larger than Yamdroktso, and is a saltwater lake. It also has fish, and fills with migratory birds in winter, though it is higher than Yamdroktso. Its vast, boundless surface also gives a much more majestic view, with a backdrop of high mountains reflected in the surface of this huge lake, while Yamdroktso seems more slender, like a slim, beautiful woman. - See more at Yamdrok Lake or Namtso Lake: which one is better for different travelers?

Lhasa to Lake Namtso tourLake Namtso, the largest lake in Tibet and second-largest saline lake in China

Lake Manasarovar has an altogether different charm. It is among the world’s highest freshwater lakes at an elevation of 4,583 meters, and has a massive religious significance. Manasarovar translates as “invincible lake”, and is one of the most sacred lakes in Tibetan Buddhism. Thousands of pilgrims come to the lake every year, often after a visit to Mt. Kailash, the holiest mountain for Tibetan Buddhists, and walk the holy kora around the lake.

The lake was regarded as being the sacred Yaochi Lake of Nirvana, and in the 11th century, the lake’s name was changed from the original Bon name of Machui Co, to the name it now carries. Locals believe that bathing in the lake can drive off avaricious desires, troubled thoughts, and past sins, while drinking the water will keep you free from illness and disease. Circling this lake on the kora is believed to bring boundless beneficence to the pilgrims who regard being able to walk the kora and drink the waters as their greatest fortune. The lake is filled with mystery and mysticism, and will leave you with a true sense of wonder after your visit.

Photogallery of Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake Tour with Tibet Vista

Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake tourRoaming along the lakeshoe of turquoise blue Yamdrok Lake

Tibet family tour to Yamdrok LakeA couple take their children to visit the holy Yamdrok Lake.

Animals grazing around Yamdrok LakeThe lakeshore of Yamdrok Lake is a good pasture with herds of cattle, wild animals, and plants.

Riding a horse at the Yamdrok LakeRiding a horse at the Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake hikingHiking around Yamdrok lake for the more stunning scenery

Yamdrok Lake photographyTook a funny photo with the help of our guide at Yamdrok Lake.

Master Kungga Dundruk

About the Author - Master Kungga Dundruk

The Lhasa-born prodigy used to study business overseas, and got his Bachelor of Business in Nepal and India before moving back to his homeland.With pure passion for life and unlimited love for Tibet, Kunga started his guide career as early as 1997.

Responsible, considerate and humorous, he devoted his entire life guiding and serving international tourists travelling in Tibet.As a legendary Tibetan travel guru with 20-year pro guide experience , he once had an exclusive interview with the US media. Currently he is working in Tibet Vista as the Tour Operating Director. Whenever our clients run into troubles, he is your first call and will offer prompt support.

Email me about your travel idea

https://plus.google.com/+Kunga-TibetVista

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