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Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Aug. 2, 2023

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.

Where is Lake Yamdrok

Seats on an altitude of 4,800 meters (16,000 ft), Yamdrok is located in Nangartse County, Shannan Prefecture, about 170 km (110 mi) from southwest of Lhasa, capital of Tibet. 

Lake Yamdrok is by the old road (S307) between Lhasa and Shigatse via Gyantse. It is one of the biggest freshwater lakes in China with a surface area of 638 sq km (246 mi2)and a maximum length of 72 km (45 mi)

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A Sacred Lake

Lake Yamdrok, also known as Yamdrok Yumtso or Yamzho Yumco, is one of the three sacred lakes of Tibet, along with Lake Namtso and Lake Manasarovar.

Lake Yamdrok is said to be able to help Tibetans find the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama-a title given to the chief monk of Tibetan Buddhism.

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.

Lake Yamdrok in winterLake Yamdrok in winter

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 Namtso, with freshwater instead of saltwater. Like Namtso it has attractive turquoise blue water. And during winter, migratory birds come back and make a beautifully natural picture.

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

Lake Namtso 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.

>>Read more on 10 Most Sacred Lakes in Tibet

Lake NamtsoLake Namtso

What to see at Yamdrok Lake

Realize that you might suffer altitude sickness unless you are well acclimatized. 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. 

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, upon 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 lakeshore, 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

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.

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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.

You can hike to Samding Monastery (7 km east) for example, or take a vehicle most of the way.

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

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Where to Stay in Yamdrok Lake

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. If you wish to visit more of Yamdrok Lake, you can use the town as a base as you hike around and explore the area.

Travel Essentials

  • April to November is the best time to visit Yamdrok Lake. August is the rainy season in Tibet. Bring a waterproof jacket particularly in August and July.>>Read more on the Best time to visit Tibet
  • Tibetans don't fish, bathe or swim in the holy lake. Remember to respect the local customs when you visit the lake.
  • 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). >> Read more on How to deal with altitude in Tibet
  • 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 go to the bathroom in a hotel instead.

Tour Lake Yamdrok with China Highlights

If you want a Tibet tour including Lake Yamdrok, see our best-selling Lake Yamdrok tours below:

See the following popular Tibet tours for inspiration, or you can contact us to create a Tibet tour according to your requirements.

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