Home Shannan Attractions Yamdrok Lake

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.

When you travel from Lhasa, the largest city in Tibet, to Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet, the lake is next to the road.

  • Tibetan: Yamdrok Yumtso
  • Chinese: 羊卓雍错 Yángzhuō Yōngcu /yang-jwor yong-tswor/
  • Location: Nangartse County, Shannan Prefecture
  • 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.

The Top Things to Do by Yamdrok Lake

1. Admire the Stunning Scenery

The lake has beautiful blue water and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains.

The lake reflects different colors depending on where you are: standing at a distance from it, on a mountain, or close to the lakeshore. As the angle of the sun's rays changes, the lake reflects different degrees of blue, such as light blue and sapphire.

2. Take Photos with Locals’ Animals

Tibetan MastiffsTourists can pay to pose with and take photos of Tibetan Mastiffs.

The local Tibetans have Tibetan Mastiffs (a huge lion-like dog), goats, and yaks. You can pose with and take photos of them by paying some money to their owners.

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

3. Enjoy 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.

4. Hiking by the Lake

Lakeside scenery of YamdrokLakeside scenery of Yamdrok

You can see the majestic scenery on foot and wander where you like. Please remember that you are not allowed to get too close to the lakeside so as to protect the environment.

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

5. Rest in Nagarze Town

Nagarze (浪卡子镇 /lung-kaa-zhuh jnn/) is a small town about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Yamdrok scenic area. 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.

6. Visit 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.

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

Yamdrok Lake or Lake Nam

Lake NamLake Nam

Yamdrok Lake and Lake Nam are both sacred lakes with stunning scenery that are worth a visit. If you don’t have enough time to visit both lakes, read on for more information and pick the one you prefer.

Yamdrok Lake is smaller and located at a lower altitude than Lake Nam. The lake is included in most itineraries when traveling in Tibet. If you are going on a tour that starts from Lhasa and is heading to Mount Everest, the remote western Tibet, or Kathmandu, you can visit the lake on your way.

Lake Nam is located in the opposite direction from Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake and there are no other attractions on the way. It takes more than 4 hours to get from Lhasa to Namtso. If you don’t want to stay overnight by the lake, you can enjoy a short visit of half an hour.

Our suggestion is: Visit Yamdrok Lake for your first Tibet tour and save Lake Nam for your second visit.

Travel Essentials

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

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: There are toilets in car parks and on the roadside but they are in poor condition. We suggest you go to the bathroom in a hotel instead or accept the “wild” toilets with an open mind. Take your own tissues.

Fishing and sailing: Neither activity is allowed at Yamdrok Lake. There was a plan to build a holiday resort by the lake but it was canceled and it is now forbidden to do so in order to protect the fragile natural environment.

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 tours below for inspiration:

Or you can contact us to create a Tibet tour according to your requirements.

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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