We often hear the question which lake is best to visit in Tibet, Yamdrok lake or Namtso lake.
Both lakes are stunningly beautiful with incredible colors, clean water, and gorgeous surrounding landscape. They are popular among photographers and nature lovers. The two lakes are not very far from Lhasa and it is possible to visit them in one to two-day trips.
Should you visit Yamdrok lake or Namtrso lake?
We love both lakes and think they are worth visiting. However, if you have time to visit only one lake and you travel on a budget, we recommend visiting the Yamdrok lake. It is much closer to Lhasa, there are several other landmarks and activities along the way, and there are more tours going through Yamdrok lake to choose from.
Below is detailed information about Yamdrok and Namtso lakes that will help you to make a decision.
About Yamdrok and Namtso Lakes
Yamdrok and Namtso lakes, along with Lake Manasarovar in Western Tibet are the three most important sacred lakes in Tibet. All three lakes are incredibly beautiful. While Manasarovar lake is located in far Western Tibet and requires several days of driving to visit it, you can take one or two day trip to visit Yamdrok or Namtso lake from Lhasa.
Yamdrok is a freshwater lake, famous for its incredibly deep turquoise color. It is located at an altitude of 4,440 meters above sea level.
There are plenty of great photo opportunities by the lake. We first make a stop on the high pass with a view on the lake. After you take photos from the pass, we continue driving to the lakeshore. You can take photos with yaks and Tibetan mastiff dogs.
Namtso lake is a saltwater lake. It is the largest lake in Tibet. Namtso is a high altitude lake lying at an altitude of over 4700 meters above the sea level. Gorgeous Nyainqentanglha mountain range surrounds the lake.
The lakeshore is stunning. There is a small monastery in a mountain hill by the lake. There are giant rocks on the shore with prayer flags, rows of prayer wheels and mani stones with carved prayers.
Location and Surroundings
Yamdrok is located only 100 km from Lhasa. It is a short ride, and the road is incredibly beautiful. We will drive through zig-zagging mountain road with view on green valleys. Before reaching the lake we will make stops by Brahmaputra river and on the high mountain pass to take photos of the surrounding scenery.
Namtso lake is located about 250 km from Lhasa. Although it is possible to drive to the lake and back in one day, most travelers prefer a more relaxed 2 days trip. The road to the lake is very scenic. We pass beautiful green valleys, high mountain passes with sweeping views on the lake and surrounding mountain ranges. We also make a stop by the natural hotspring. Powerful water stream pushes near boiling temperature water from under the ground. The area is covered with steam from the hotspring.
What to visit nearby
On the way to the lake, we stop by the Brahmaputra river. The vast river is an important water source not only for Tibet but also for several Asian countries.
If we continue driving from the lake towards Shigatse, you will see Karola glaciers, thousands of years old mountain covered with ice. We will make a stop in the town of Gyantse to visit Pelcor Chode Monastery and Kumbum Stupa.
On the shore of the monastery, you can visit the monastery Tashi Dor. It is a small monastery adjacent to the mountain and there is a meditation cave inside.
Another great option is to climb the mountain in the morning to get an incredible view on Namtso and the mountain range around it.
Very often you can see nomads with horses by the lake and you can ride a horse along the shore.
Weather and best time to visit
Yamdrok Lake is beautiful any time of the year. Most of the year it doesn’t freeze and you can enjoy an amazing view of the lake. In winter, snow covers mountain ranges surrounding the lake. The scenery is always beautiful.
Lake freezes for a short period of time. The water of the lake is so clear, that you can still see its beautiful color even through the ice.
In addition, Yamdrok lake shore attracts migrating birds every winter. Bird watchers will be amazed by a view of hundreds of gold headed ducks, blacked-necked cranes and other birds.
The best time to visit Namtso lake is from late June until October. Due to Namtso lake high elevation, it is covered by ice until the end of May. When nor frozen, the lake is incredibly beautiful with deep blue color.
During summer months you can see sea birds hunting the fish in Namtso.
Where to stay
There are several accommodation options depending on how much time you have and what tour you are taking.
Most of the popular tours make a stop by the Yamdrok lake on the way to Shigatse. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet with several good hotels. You will visit Yamdrok lake when you take an 8 days Everest Base Camp tour, 15 days Mount Kailash tour, and many other tours.
The second option is to stay in the town of Gyantse. On the way to Gyantse, you will visit Karola Glaciers, and in Gyantse, you can also visit Pelkor Chode monastery with Kumbum stupa. Since Gyantse is much closer to Yamdrok than Shigatse you can spend more time by the lake.
We make a stop for the night in Gyantse on the way to Everest in an easy acclimatizing private tour.
The third option is to stay right on the shore of this gorgeous lake and spend a night there. In the summer of 2019, the new hotel opens right on the lake shore with a view on the lake from rooms. It is a great chance to spend more time by the lake, relax and meditate and see the night sky full of stars.
Another option to stay by the Yamdrok lake is to set up a tent on the lakeshore to enjoy incredible views of sunset and sunrise by the lake. In addition, we can visit the Samding monastery by the lake.
Prior to 2019, there were guesthouses near the lakeshore. In 2019, the guesthouses were closed. If you would like to spend more time by the lake, it is recommended to take 2 days tour from Lhasa and stay overnight in the closes to the lake town – Damxung.
Tibetan owned hotel in Damxung has all basic amenities.
The second option is to set a tent on the lakeshore and stay camp for the night. Nights at high altitude can get cold even in summer, and camping by Namtso requires better equipment and preparation.
A beautiful and exciting journey, starting in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and going to the Everest Base Camp. The tour visits Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera, Drepung and Tashilhunpo monasteries, Kumbum Stupa, Yamdrok Lake and Karola glaciers.
Both group and private tours are available
Don’t want to choose between visiting Yamdrok lake or Namtso Lake? Visit both! This 9 days tour starts in Lhasa, goes to the Everest and then to Namtso lake, the largest lake in Tibet.
We will make stops by the most beautiful natural spots: Yamdrok Lake, Karola glaciers and many of the high mountain passes and viewpoints. Finally, we will reach the Everest tent camp, where we stay for the night.
This tour starts in Lhasa. We will stay there for 2 days to explore the capital and acclimatize. After that, we will head to the center of attraction in Himalayas – Mount Everest. We will spend a night by the highest mountain on a planet and continue driving through majestic mountain ranges, alongside rivers and waterfalls to the border between Tibet and Nepal.