Nagqu in Northern Tibet is the area that is rarely visited by tourists. Probably the only one popular place in this region is Namtso lake, that sees many visitors. The hostile and harsh climate of the region makes it less attractive compared to all other areas in Tibet. However, due to a scarce population, it is the land where you can see pristine nature and a lot of wildlife. In this area, you can meet wild donkeys, Tibetan antelopes, foxes, bears, and wild yaks.
Northern Tibet is famous for its incredible landscapes. There are vast grasslands, where nomads travel to leave their animals to graze. Along the way, you will find many of the wonderful lakes. Most of them are not as famous and large as Namtso, but the colors are gorgeous, and so is the surrounding mountain landscape.
The Qinghai-Tibetan railway goes through the Northern areas of Tibet. If you take a train from one of the Chinese cities to Lhasa, you will travel through the mountain ranges going over 5,000 meters. You will enjoy the views from the height of Tanggula mountain.
THE MOST POPULAR PLACES TO VISIT IN NORTHERN TIBET
Namtso lake is the highlight of the region. This gorgeous lake is the highest salt lake in Tibet, at the elevation of 4,718 m/ 15,470 ft.
It is located a little over 100 km to the North from Lhasa.
Due to the high elevation and Northern location of the lake, it stays frozen from December until June. With the monsoon season in July and August, it is not uncommon to see snow there. Most of the year, Namtso is surrounded by snow-peaked mountains.
MORE ABOUT NAMTSO LAKE
The Yangpachen hot springs is a very popular stop on the way to or from Namtso lake. These natural hot springs are especially popular among people who come to the area for trekking. You can rest and recharge soaking in the hot water, swimming or simply enjoying a peaceful environment.
The water coming from under the ground is 70℃ warm. It is mixed with the water that already cooled down. The areas are equipped with swimming pools of different size, filled up with hot spring water. There is a hotel, where you can stay for a night to spend more time in the hot spring.
There is a Yangpachen monastery nearby that we visit during the trek from Tsurpu to Yangpachen.
DRIGUN TIL MONASTERY
Drigul Til monastery (also spelled Drigung Thil) was founded in 1179. The monastery belongs to the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, forming a suborder Drigung Kagyu. The monastery was an important meditation center. Buddhist practitioners are staying in surrounding caves. In the past years the monastery saw many tourists visiting because of its famous sky burial site. Nowadays, tourists can no longer visit any of the sky burials in Tibet. The large monastery complex is overlooking a scenic valley.
The Reting monastery is one of the most important monasteries of the Gelug Sect. The founder of Reting is the disciple of Atisha – Dromton. He founded the monastery in the 11th century, about 150 km to the North from Lhasa.
Originally, Reting monastery belonged to the Kadam school of Tibetan Buddhism. Later, Tsongkhapa reformed Kadam, which transformed into Gelug school. Reting monastery became an important monastic center. It had a very close connection with Dalai Lamas.
The monastery is the seat of Reting Rinpoche. The Rinpoche is responsible for the search of Dalai Lama, after his death. While the Dalai Lama is young, the Reting Rinpoche becomes a Regent and a tutor.
The Nunnery is located about 16 km away from Drigung Til Monastery and most people visit both on the same day. The nunnery history goes back to the 8th century and closely connected with King Trisong Detsen’s wife Yeshe Tsogyal and Padma Sambhava. They spend time meditating in the caves around the present-day nunnery complex. Many Tibetans visit the nunnery’s medicinal hotspring. You can also have a lovely day hike around the nunnery with a view on mountain streams and magnificent narrow gorge.
TOURS VISITING NORTHERN TIBET
6 DAYS LHASA SIGHTSEEING AND NAMTSO LAKE
This 6 days private tour starts in Lhasa. In the capital of Tibet, you will visit UNESCO World Heritage sites: Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, as well as the most impressive Buddhist Monasteries. After you spend time acclimatizing to the high altitude we will head North to Namtso Lake.
8 DAYS LHASA, NAMTSO LAKE, AND RETING MONASTERY
This 8 days tour starts in Lhasa, where we will spend the first 3 days sightseeing and acclimatizing to high altitude. After that, we will travel to some of the off-the-beaten-path places in Tibet. We will visit Ganden Monastery, the first monastery of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. After that, we will visit Tidrum Nunnery, Drigul Til monastery and Reting monastery. In the end, we will finally reach Namtso, the heavenly lake in Tibet.
9 DAYS LHASA, EVEREST, AND NAMTSO LAKE
This 9 days tour visits the most impressive destinations in Tibet. We start our tour in Lhasa visiting the highlights of the capital. After that, we will head to Everest driving by Yamdrok Lake, Karola glaciers, Gyantse town, Kumbum stupa, Pelkor Choede monastery, and Brahmaputra river. We will spend the night by the Rongbuk monastery with a view of Everest. At the end of the tour, we will drive to Namtso lake to enjoy its glorious beauty.