Magnificent Karola glaciers are towering over the mountain road of Central Tibet. When we travel from Lhasa to the South-West towards Gyantse and then Shigatse, one of the must-sees on the way is the gorgeous range of ice-capped mountains. You will get the first glimpse of Karopla glacier when we visit Yamdrok Lake. The distant view of the glacier serves as a gorgeous backdrop to the view of the lake. As we drive further, we reach the glaciers stretching on both sides of the narrow road.

Go outside to stretch after a ride and walk towards the glacier to feel their freezing breath of fresh air. Melting glacier water feeds numerous streams that carry their waters to Yamdrok Lake and beyond. The glacier is a part of the mountain range with the highest peak Mount Nojin Kangsang standing 7191 meters / 23590 ft tall (also sometimes spelled Noijin Kangsang).

Karola glaciers altitude: 5,039 m / 16,530 ft

When we stop to visit Karola glaciers, you can walk towards the small stupa that is great for taking photos. During the warmer months, you can often see local Tibetans dressed in traditional clothes and you can take photos with them for a small fee. They sometimes sell small items, such as prayer flags. 


Visiting the glaciers is very easy, they are located right off the road connecting Lhasa and Shigatse. We include this stop in all our group tours. 

There are 2 roads connecting Lhasa and Shigatse: 

  • Friendship highway with a shorter distance. It takes about 6 hours to drive between these 2 cities. 
  • The mountain roads. It takes around 9-10 hours including numerous stops along the way. When we travel along this road, the highlights include Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glacier, Gyantse Monastery, and Kumbum Stupa. You will also see changing landscapes: from snow-capped mountains to lush valleys, streams, and colorful farmer fields. 
Karola Glacier with stupa and prayer flags in Tibet

When we make a stop at the glacier, please, be careful not to walk too fast or jump. The glacier is located at a very high altitude and you need to be careful to avoid altitude sickness. You should also be prepared for a sudden drop in temperature compared to the lower areas of Lhasa and Yamdrok Lake. 


Karola Glacier is a short drive from Yamdrok Lake (about a 1-2 hour drive) and about 1 hour away from Gyanste (about 70 km).

It stands to the south of Mount Nojin Kangsang 7191 meters / 23590 ft


Midui Glacier in Eastern Tibet
Midui Glacier in Eastern Tibet

Karola Glacier is the easiest glacier to access in Tibet. Of course, there are other beautiful glaciers on the highest plateau on the planet. It is said that there are over 40 thousand glaciers in Tibet of various sizes, with more glaciers only in the Arctic and Antarctic. Melting water from the glaciers feeds some of the most important rivers in Asia, including Brahmaputra, Sutlej, and Indus.

Read this article to find out which 4 large rivers originate by the Mount Kailash in Tibet.

Midui glacier located by the Ranwu Lake in the Eastern part of Tibet is in a more remote area. However, the stunning view with a crystal clear lake and ice-capped mountain in the background attracts many visitors.



Kumbum Stupa in Gyantse, Tibet


The Stupa (or Chorten as Tibetans call it) is located within the monastery walls and it is difficult to miss. The 32 meters/ 105 ft high structure is the highest stupa in Tibet. It contains 108 cells with various wall paintings and statues. From the higher levels of the Kumbum Stupa, you will get a fantastic view of the monastery, surrounding fort (Dzong), and Gyantse town.

Gyantse Dzong or Gyantse Fort is one the well preserved forts in Tibet


The old fort of Gyantse (called Dzong in Tibetan) surrounds Pelkor Choede monastery complex and Gyantse town. The original fort is from the 13th century, it was further renovated and reconstructed later.

Yamdrok lake surrounded by snowy mountains


The gorgeous turquoise-colored lake is located about 90 km away from Gyantse. The lake attracts thousands of tourists. It is a sacred lake for Tibetans, they don’t catch fish in the lake, and they don’t swim in it. And you can enjoy its beauty from the height of the mountain pass or come down to the lakeshore.

Copy of Potala Palace in Shigatse, Tibet


Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet. In Shigatse, you can visit Tashi Lhunpo monastery. It is one of the main monasteries of Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and the seat of Panchen Lama. If you are staying in Shigatse, you can spend more time exploring the monastery area, walking the kora around it, and enjoying the view of Shigatse Old Town and a fort overlooking the city.





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