Yamdrok Lake

yandrokyumtso lake Turqoise water of Lake Yamdrok

Nestled among the flanks of the dull gray and green mountains, sacred Lake Yamdrok glows with various colors, like turquoise, when the sun is shining. You'll see it if you take the S307 from Lhasa to Gyantse.

  • Tibetan: Yamdrok Yumtso
  • Chinese: 羊卓雍错 Yángzhuō Yōngcu /yang-jwor yong-tswor/
  • Location: Nangartse County, Shannan Prefecture
  • Distance from Lhasa: 170 km (110 mi) southwest
  • Adjoining pass from Lhasa: 4,800 m (16,000 ft) altitude
  • Maximum length: 72 km (45 mi)
  • Type: freshwater lake
  • Surface area: 638 km2 (246 mi2)
  • Surface elevation: 4,441 m (14,570 ft)
  • Maximum Depth: 60 meters (200 ft)
  • Activities: photography, bird watching, Samding Monastery, hiking
  • Best time: April to November

A Sacred Lake

yandrokyumtso lake Lake Yamdrok in winter

Lake Yamdrok, Lake Nam, and Lake Manasorova are the three sacred lakes of Tibet. Lake Yamdrok is said to be able to help Tibetans find the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama.

After a Dalai Lama passes away, the senior monks are responsible to find the boy in whom the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama has gone to abide. They come to Lake Yamdrok to chant and pray, and throw hada (a piece of silk used as a blessing object) and other holy articles into the lake to get the reflection of the specific location of the Dalai Lama's soul.

Lake Yamdrok or Lake Namtso

Some people say that if you have been to Lake Namtso (Namtso), you don't need to visit Lake Yamdrok. That's not true. The two lakes are different.

Lake Yamdrok is smaller and quieter than Lake Nam, with fresh water instead of salt water. Like Namtso it has attractive turquoise blue water. And during winter, migratory birds come back and make a beautiful natural picture.

Lake Yamdrok's elevation is lower than Lake Nam and the transportation is more convenient.

Lake Nam is vast and boundless which gives people a majestic view. By contrast, Lake Yamdrok seems prettier like a girl, its slender body bounded by mountain slopes.

Highlights

yandrokyumtso lake Goats at the lakeside

Stunning Scenery of the Lake

The lake has beautiful blue water and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

The scenery is best seen from a distance, up on a mountain. You can have a panoramic view of the lake from the S307 pass. Yamdrok is turquoise when the sun shines on it. With the changes in the angle of the sun's rays, the lake reflects different degrees of blue, light blue, and sapphire. Close to the lake shore it reflects different colors to those at a distance and higher up. 

Photos with Local Animals

The local Tibetans have Tibetan Mastiffs (an ancient domestic breed of dog), goats, and yaks. You need to pay 5–10 yuan to pose with and take photos of them.

China Highlights guides can tell you where the best locations are to take photos.

Bird Watching

yandrokyumtso lake You can see the beautiful lake along the highway.

There are many small islands in the lake, which support many migratory birds. Lake Yamdrok is the largest habitat for migratory birds in southern Tibet. During autumn and winter, the lake bank and the islands are a spectacular view of thousands of white birds flying above the lake and taking care of their offspring.

Freshwater Fish

The lake is also famous for its freshwater fish. The large fish stock makes the lake a "fish treasure of Tibet". Most Tibetans never eat the fish, because they think they are the embodiment of their ancestors' souls. However, there are some fish farms selling fish to restaurants in Tibet.

Samding Monastery

Samding Monastery, on the south shore of Lake Kongmu, a lake linked to the west end of Lake Yamdrok, is where the third highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism is said to have been reincarnated for hundreds of years. The current lama isn't accepted as such by many Tibetans. She is a woman, and monks live in residence there.

  • Ticket: 30 yuan
  • Open time: 9:00 am–5:00 pm

Hiking

yamdrok yumtso lake Lake Yamdrok in summer

Realize that you might suffer altitude sickness, unless you are well acclimatised. You can see the majestic scenery on foot and go off where you like.

If you hike around the lake, you might see prostrating Tibetans, some prostrating themselves every three steps. 

Nagarze

Nagarze (Langkaizi Zhen 浪卡子镇 /lung-kaa-zhuh jnn/) is a small town about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Yamdrok and 2 km south of Lake Kongmu, on the S307 . It is a place to get a bed and eat. There are basic guesthouses and local restaurants.

There is a small temple and a Tibetan life to see. You can use the town as a base as you hike around and explore the area. You can hike to Samding Monastery (7 km east) for example, or take a vehicle most of the way. Contact us to arrange a guided pony/horse tour.

Travel Essentials

Location: Lake Yamdrok is by the old road (S307) between Lhasa and Shigatse via Gyantse.

Altitude Sickness: Be careful about exerting yourself and staying overnight in the area. Even healthy people can get altitude sickness as low as 2,500 meters (8,000 feet).

Toilets: Avoid the car park and roadside toilets, due to their poor condition, that you have to pay a couple of yuan for. We suggest you to go to the bathroom in a hotel instead.

Rainy season: August is the rainy season in Tibet. Bring a waterproof jacket particularly in August and July. 

Tour Lake Yamdrok with China Highlights

If you want a Tibet tour including Lake Yamdrok, see our best-selling Lake Yamdrok tour for inspiration. You can contact us to create a Tibet tour according to your requirements.

We can help tailor a tour for you or your group, or you can go on one of our pre-packaged tours that include this special lake:

Nearby Attraction

Karola Glacier: There is a small glacier just north of the S307 highway between Lake Yamdrok and Shigatse, on the Gyantse/Nagarze border.

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