Yamdrok Lake or Namtso Lake: which lake to visit in Tibet

Yamdrok lake or Namtso lake in Tibet

We often hear the question of 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.

Both lakes are famous for their scenic beauty. 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 Yamdrok Lake. It is much closer to Lhasa, there are several other landmarks and activities along the way, and more tours are going through Yamdrok Lake to choose from.

THE KEY CONSIDERATIONS:

  • Scenic beauty: both lakes score 100 out of 100. Amazing views and incredible colors of the water.
  • Accessibility: both lakes are located not very far from Lhasa and can be visited on a 1-2 day tour depending on how much time you want to spend by the lake and what else you would like to visit.
  • Altitude: both lakes are located at high altitudes, it is highly recommended to acclimatize in Lhasa before traveling to these lakes.
  • Weather: you can visit Yamdrok Lake all year round, it can freeze for a short time in winter. It is recommended to visit Namtso Lake between June and October when it is not frozen.
  • Cultural significance: both lakes are sacred lakes for Tibetans.
  • Available activities: during warmer months, local Tibetans bring mastiff dogs and yaks to the lake shores allowing you to take photos for a small fee. When you visit Namtso Lake, you are more likely to see white yaks.
  • Accommodation options: if you decide to spend more time by the lakes, you can stay in a nice hotel by the Yamdrok lake or in the small town of Damshung about 62 km from the Namtso lake.
  • Road conditions: nice roads connect Lhasa with both lakes. The roads are going through the mountain ranges. Bring motion sickness medication if you need it.
  • Photography opportunities: both lakes are amazing for photographers. For better light conditions, stay in the area to catch the sunrise and sunset views.
  • Bird watching: both lakes attract numerous bird species, some of which are nesting by the lake or on small islands.
  • Available tours: most of the group tours make a stop by Yamdrok Lake, making it an easier lake to visit. If you are traveling on the Mount Kailash group tour, in addition to Yamdrok Lake, you will see Manasarovar Lake – also a gorgeous lake located in Western Tibet. You can travel to Namtso lake with a private tour from Lhasa.

Below is detailed information about Yamdrok and Namtso lakes that will help you decide which lake to visit. Read along or click on the links below to navigate the page.

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 a one or two-day trip to visit Yamdrok or Namtso Lake from Lhasa.

YAMDROK LAKE

Yamdrok lake and snow mountains in Tibet

Yamdrok is a freshwater lake, famous for its vibrant turquoise color. It is located at an altitude of 4,440 meters / 14, 560 ft above sea level.

There are plenty of great photo opportunities by the lake. We first stop on the high pass with a view of 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

Namtso lake and white yak on the shore, Tibet

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 / 15,420 ft above sea level. The gorgeous Nyainqentanglha mountain range surrounds the lake.

The lakeshore is stunning. There is a small monastery in the 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 views are stunning. We will drive through a zig-zagging mountain road with a view of green valleys. Before reaching the lake we will stop by the Brahmaputra river and on the high mountain pass to take photos of the surrounding scenery.

Prayer wheels by the Namtso lake in Tibet
Prayer wheels by the Namtso lake in Tibet

Namtso Lake is located about 250 km from Lhasa. Although it is possible to drive to the lake and back in one day, many travelers prefer a more relaxed 2-day trip. The road to the lake is very scenic. We pass beautiful green valleys, and high mountain passes with sweeping views of the lake and surrounding mountain ranges. We can also make a stop by the natural hot spring. A powerful water stream pushes near-boiling temperature water from under the ground. The area is covered with steam from the hot spring.

PLACES TO SEE AND VISIT NEARBY

White yak on the Yamdrok lake shore in Tibet
White yak on the Yamdrok Lakeshore in Tibet

YAMDROK LAKE

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, we will see Karola glaciers, thousands of years old mountains covered with ice. We will make a stop in the town of Gyantse to visit Pelcor Chode Monastery and Kumbum Stupa. On most of the tours we complete this drive in one day and it is packed with activities and sightseeing stops. You will enjoy the road views along the way.

NAMTSO LAKE

Visiting Namtso Lake is all about soaking in the beauty of nature and enjoying the serenity of the lake. The lake changes its colors depending on the light with a stunning backdrop of snowy mountains. Local Tibetans often bring yaks allowing you to take photos with them for a snamm fee. There is a small monastery Tashi Dor near the lake shore. If time permits, you can visit this monastery. It is a small monastery adjacent to the mountain with a meditation cave inside.

Another great option is to climb the mountain in the morning to get an incredible view of 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.

Yaks by the Namtso lake in Tibet

WEATHER AND BEST TIME TO VISIT

Your choice of the tour might depend on the time of your planned tour. Both lakes are located at high altitudes affecting the climate of the area.

YAMDROK LAKE

Namtso lake scenery on the shore
Sunrise on the Namtso Lakeshore

You can visit Yamdrok Lake all year round. 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.
The lake freezes for a short period. Even when it is frozen, the lake waters are so clear, that you can still see its beautiful color even through the ice.
In addition, Yamdrok Lakeshore 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.

NAMTSO LAKE

Frozen Namtso lake surrounded by snow mountain range
Frozen Namtso lake

The best time to visit Namtso Lake is from June until October. Due to Namtso Lake’s high elevation, it is covered by ice until the end of May. When not frozen, the lake is incredibly beautiful with a deep blue color of water.
During summer months you can see sea birds hunting the fish in Namtso.

WHERE TO STAY

You can visit both lakes on a day trip from Lhasa. However, if you would like to enjoy more time exploring the areas and simply enjoying the landscapes, there are several available options.

YAMDROK LAKE

Group tour visits the Yamdrok Lake in Tibet
Group Tour visiting Yamdrok Lake

There are several accommodation options depending on how much time you have and what tour you are taking.
Most popular tours stop by the Yamdrok lake on the way to Shigatse. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet with many good hotels. You will visit Yamdrok Lake when you take an 8-day Everest Base Camp tour, a 15-day 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 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 opened right on the lake shore with a view of the lake from rooms. It is a great chance to spend more time by the lake, relax, 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.

NAMTSO LAKE

The area around Nmatso Lake is a protected National Park territory. Visitors are not allowed to drive any vehicles in this area. When visiting the lake, we leave our tourist car in the parking lot and take an eco-green bus to travel to the lake’s shore. To protect the fragile environment, there are no hotels or guesthouses, and camping on the shore, as well as bonfires, are not allowed.

Namtso lake in Tibet
Namtso Lake

Before 2019, there were guesthouses near the lakeshore. In 2019, the guesthouses were closed. If you would like to spend more time by the lake, you can take a 2-day tour from Lhasa and stay overnight in the closest to the lake town – Damxung.

Tibetan-owned hotels in Damxung have all the necessary basic amenities and you will find a few recently renovated hotels with comfortable rooms.

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