Top 10 Lakes in Tibet

Tibet has the largest number of lakes in China, with a total area of about 23,800 square kilometers, accounting for more than 30% of the total lake area in China. 1500 lakes in different sizes and different views scatter  between mountains and wilderness. The most famous lakes in Tibet are Namtso Lake, Yamdrok Lake, Manasarovar Lake, Pangong Lake, Basum Lake, Siling Lake, Ranwu Lake and so on. To many tourists, Lakes are must-see attractions in their Tibet tour. In this article, we will introduce the top 10 lakes in Tibet. 

Namtso Lake

The altitude of Namtso Lake is 4718 meters above sea level, and is considered as one of the three holy lakes in Tibet. Namtso Lake is about a 4 hours drive from Lhasa. The lake, which literally means “heavenly or sacred lake”, holds a special place in the hearts of Tibetans. Every year, a large number of pilgrims make a Kora around Namtso Lake.

Namtso lake nourishes lush water grass, is a natural pasture which can graze. In early summer, flocks of wild ducks come to roost and breed. Wild yaks and many other wild animals are also often seen here. Note that Namtso lake is frozen in winter and not available to visit until May every year, because the road is closed by snow. 

Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok lake is the largest inland river lake in the northern Himalayas and is known as one of the sacred lakes in Tibet. Yamdrok lake is the nearest lake to Lhasa, only 2-3 hours’ drive from Lhasa. Unlike Namtso Lake, Yamdrok can be visited all year round. The lake is partly frozen in winter. It gets its water from the surrounding snow mountains, and there is no outlet for the lake. Visitors can see a panoramic view of the lake from the Gambala Mountain pass. With the arrival of winter every year, a large number of migratory birds, such as swans and spotted eagles, will fly to this largest bird habitat in Tibet. In addition, Yamdrok is Tibet’s largest freshwater lake and home to the world’s highest hydroelectric power plant at sea level. Although the plant’s construction is controversial, it has played a huge role as the region’s main source of electricity. Usually, when travelling from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp via Shigatse, you will pass through Yamdrok Lake and stay there for a while. 

Lake Manasarovar

Manasarova Lake is a must-see scenic spot in western Tibet. It is also the holy lake of Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. Among the three sacred lakes in Tibet, Lake Manasarova has its special position because it is the closest lake to Mount Kailash and is the cosmic center revered by Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu. Pilgrims believe that Lake Manasarova is the holy water given by Buddha, which can not only remove the filth of human beings, but also purify the soul and prolong life. For the ordinary visitors, Lake Manasarova is a lake not to be missed. The lake is said to be the most transparent, and the clear water, stunning clouds and sacred prayer flags are sure to blow you away. In addition, visitors can ride horses along the lake, see the wildlife and witness devout pilgrims circling the lake. There are some monasteries around the lake, Chiu Monastery is one of them. The best time to visit Lake Manasarova is from early May to mid-October.

Pangong Tso

Pangong Tso is located in a remote part of western Tibet, is a narrow and winding lake that stretches from Ngari in Tibet to Kashmir in India. The unique about this lake is that the water on the Chinese side is fresh water while on the Indian side is salt water. Because of its zigzag shape, the Tibet people called it “long-necked swan”. Pangong Tso is not very popular with tourists, but if you go from Lhasa to Kashgar in Xinjiang, it is a must-see attraction on the way. Known for its crystal-clear water, the lake changes color as the sun changes, and is surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The lake is dotted with islands of all sizes and is home to up to 20 species of birds. Visitors arrive by boat to the islands, where they can get up close with Bar-headed Geese, Brown-headed Gulls and more. May to September is the best season for birding.

Basum Lake

Basum Lake literally means green water in the Tibetan language. It is located in the valley of the upper reach of Bajiang river, 50 kilometers away from Gongbujiada County of Nyingchi. With an altitude of 3,538 meters and an area of 15 square kilometers, it is the holy land and sacred lake of the Nyingchi sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Its spectacular scenery is often proudly compared to Switzerland. Although Basum Lake is small, it is sacred in Nyingchi in the east of Tibet. With picturesque environment, Basum lake is known as a hiker’s paradise, and surrounded by forests and snowy mountains. Visitors can enjoy snowy mountains, green lakes, primeval forests, spectacular waterfalls, lush pastures and ancient monasteries. There are regular bus from Nyingchi Bus Terminal to Basum Lake, about 120 kilometers, 60 yuan, 2-2.5 hours drive.

Tangra Yumco

Away from popular tourist attractions, Tangra Yumco in Nagqu is the dream of photographers and wildlife lovers. Located at the bottom of a deep lake basin formed three million years ago, Tangra Yumco stretches more than 80 kilometers from south to north. It is revered as a holy lake by the followers of the Bon religion in Tibet, and is also the fourth largest alpine lake in Tibet. The lake is shaped like the shoe sole, surrounded by snowy mountains. Visitors can visit the oldest Bon monastery by the lake. Dried mutton sold by locals is a popular delicacy with tourists. The best season to visit is from July to September, when the weather is mild and lush pastures dotted with yaks and other livestock are picturesque.

The ancient Zhang-Zhung has bred a very high civilization, which has not only formed its own unique Zhang Zhung language, but also is the birthplace of the ancient traditional Tibetan religion “Yongzhong Bon Religion”. As the sacred mountain and lake of Bon religion, Daguo snow mountain and Tangra Yumco raised the people by the lake and were the cradle of the ancient Zhang-Zhung civilization.

Lhamo La-tso

Lhamo La-tso, located in Shannan of Tibet, is a very small lake, but known as one of the most sacred lakes in Tibet. As one of the most important pilgrimage destinations, Lhamo La-tso has been revered for centuries as a oracle lake. With an altitude of more than 4,000 meters above sea level, Lhamo La-tso like a bright blue gem embedded in the mountains. Lhamo La-tso means “the soul lake of heavenly daughter” in the Tibetan language. Although the lake is small, it has a special status in the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism, so it is highly respected by believers. Every year, before looking for the reincarnated soul boys of the Dalai Lama, Panchen and other living buddhas, they will visit the lake first. From the April to June inthe Tibetan calendar, many worshippers come here for pilgrimage.

Siling Lake

Siling Lake is the second largest lake in Tibet. Located in the remote northern part of Tibet and the southern part of the Qiangtang plateau, it is a 3 days drive from Lhasa. According to legend, Siling was a great demon who lived in Duilongdeqing County, west of Lhasa. He devours thousands of lives every day, both human and animal. One day, Padma Sambhava discovered Siling and asked him to stay in the lake forever to repent. From then on, people called the lake “Siling Lake”, which means “Siling Devil Lake”. Siling Lake is 4530 meters above sea level, covering an area of 1640 square kilometers. There are many rivers and lakes interflowed with each other, forming a enclosed group of inland lakes. The major lakes, in addition to Siling Lake, include Gyaring Co, Ringco Kongma and other Satellite lakes. Every summer, the lakeside scenery is unique, and lake islets are home to a variety of migratory birds.

Ranwu Lake

Ranwu lake in eastern Tibet, at the foot of the Lhegu Glacier, is one of the best photographic scenic spots in Tibet. Surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains and forests, Ranwu lake is just off the Sichuan-Tibet highway. The lake covers an area of 22,000 square kilometers and is 3,850 meters above sea level. The famous Lhegu glacier lies to the north of Ranwu lake. When the ice melts, the water flows into the lake, ensuring the source of the lake water. In addition, thawed snow causes the water to glow different colors in different seasons.

It is said that Ranwok Lake, together with Lhegu Glacier, is a perfect combination of Alps of Swiss and Jiuzaigou. After the arrival, the picturesque view will definitely ease your tiredness with the towering peaks, white glaciers, blue lake, green grassland, floating clouds and lush forests. 

Peikutso Lake

Not far away from Tibet-Nepal border, Peikutso Lake is an ideal place for tourists to enjoy the stunning scenery of Mount Shishapangma and listen to the faint whisper of Yarlung Tsangpo River, which is 60 kilometers away from Peikutso Lake. It is these two features that truly make Peiku Tso different from other lakes in Tibet. Peikutso Lake is located between Nyalam and Gyirong Counties in Shigatse, at the foot of Shishapangma in the core reserve of Mount Everest, 200 kilometers away from Mount Everest. The largest inland lake in Shigatse is said to have been formed from the alpine weir, with fresh water in the south and salt water in the north.