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Namtso (also known as Lake Nam, Lake Namtso), Tibetan for ‘Heavenly Lake’, is often described as being next to heaven because of its lofty altitude, stunning beauty, pure blue water, and spiritual associations.
It is the highest saltwater lake in the world. Snow-capped mountains and open grassland, dotted with yak herds and local nomads, surround the crystal clear water of Lake Nam, making it one of the most beautiful places in Tibet.
In clear weather, the water is a stunning shade of turquoise and you will be surrounded by magnificent views of the nearby mountains. You may also walk alongside the lake or climb up the hill nearby to explore the area.
A day tour to Namtso is possible but if you’d like to enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery or to take some stunning photos, stay overnight by the lake to see the sunrise and sunset as well as the starry night sky.
In the quiet morning, beat the cold and get up early to the lakeside to appreciate the sunrise. You can see the ice blue water and gray mountains far behind the lake. As the sun rises, cloud lifts from the mountains and the scene is bathed in golden sunshine.
At dusk clouds are colored red and golden. You can sit beside the lake and see the sky change color.
Namtso also has one of the most magnificent starry skies in the world due to the high altitude and remote location. Look up at night and you can see more stars shining in the sky than anywhere else — and it’s also possible to see the Milky Way.
Lake Namtso is very peaceful and scenic and is a great place to wander around. Standing on the Tashi Peninsula, you may feel like you are standing in the center of the lake. You can spend a leisurely time there, listening to the wind and watching the sparkling ripples.
The water is crystal clear and, if you are lucky enough, you can see the fish in the water. You may also see goats and yaks on the grassland while you are hiking.
The best time to travel Lake Namtso is from June to September, with warmer weather and higher oxygen content.
Be aware that the weather at Namtso is colder than in Lhasa. Take a thick coat to keep warm and fill vacuum flasks with hot drinks, such as the local butter tea if you like it.
The road to Namtso is typically closed from December to March. April and November are cold and dry, and sometimes the road is still closed due to bad weather. October often brings heavy snowstorms and treacherous road conditions.
Namtso is more than 4 hours’ drive from Lhasa and the nearest hotel is located 2 hours’ drive away in a small town called Damxung. The weather at night can be harsh and cold, even in summertime, so most visitors go on a day trip there.
If you want to see the sunrise, sunset, and starry sky, stay overnight by the lake. Namtso only has a guesthouse and campsite with limited facilities (there are no single rooms, comfortable beds, or showers).
As it is hard to wash the bedding at Namtso (washing in the lake is not allowed), you are advised to take your own sleeping bag. Packing your own toiletries and a towel is also advised.
Namtso is 1,000 meters higher than Lhasa. The low oxygen content can easily cause altitude sickness, especially in the morning, so do not do any strenuous activities. For example, when you are taking photos, do not squat down and stand up too quickly.
The Chinese government forbids independent tourism and requires all foreign travelers to have a guide, tour company itinerary, and a Tibet Entry Permit, all of which we can arrange.
If you are interested in traveling to Namtso, see our most popular tours for inspiration and add one day for the lake (add two days if you want to stay overnight by the lake):