The three holy lakes of Tibet Namtso, Manasarovar and Yamdrok


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When you read the three names in the title: Namtso, Manasarovar and Yamdrok, what springs to mind? Any ideas? Here’s a hint: They are not the names of Arab countries, nor are they names of mountains. They are in fact, the three Holy lakes of Tibet.

Beautiful Sunset At Lake Namtso, Tibet
Lake Namtso, with an elevation of 4,718m (15,479 ft.), lies about 250 km (155 miles) northwest of Lhasa. Namtso Lake is regarded by Tibetans as having the purest water quality of the Three Holy Lakes. Lake Titicaca, in South America, is commonly considered to be the highest lake in the world. In fact, Namtso Lake is 906m (2972.4 ft.) higher than Lake Titicaca. Namtso Lake is a mountain lake. It lies on the border between Damxung County and Bangoin County. Namtso Lake has the second highest amount of saline content among lakes in China. (The highest is Qinghai Lake). 

Standing on the shores of Lake Namtso , it appears to be a sea because it extends to the horizon. The lake and the blue sky seem to merge together, and waves surge high into the sky. The water beats stones along the shore. In Tibetan, “Namtso” means “Heavenly Lake," and in Mongolian, “Namtso” means “Tengri Nor" which also means “Heavenly Lake." Being 70km (43.5 miles) in length and 30km (18.6 miles) in width, Namtso Lake is the largest and highest lake in Tibet. 

Mother Of Holy Lakes - Lake Mapham Yutso, Tibet

Lake Mapham Yutso, also called Lake Manasarovar, is 4,500m (14,763.6 ft.) above sea level. It is considered the “mother of holy lakes" by Tibetans for this lake is the source of 4 rivers. In Tibetan, “Mapham” means “invincible”. The deepest part of Lake Manasarovar Yutso is 70m (229.7 ft.). Its perimeter has been assessed at about 90km (55.9 miles).

Jade Lake - Yamdrok Lake, Tibet

The third Tibet Holy Lake –Lake Yamdrok, is considered to own the most beautiful water in the world. “Yamdrok” means “Jade Lake on the pasture” in Tibetan. Lake Yamdrok is also called Turquoise Lake. Just like its name, the water is like a big piece of jade. The water source of Yamdrok is unique, with water from snow melt coming from the Nyenchhen Tanglha Mountain Range. Another feature of this lake is that the water has no outlet in spite of its continuous evaporation; still,  Yamdrok Lake enjoys a natural equilibrium between the inflow of snow water and its natural evaporation.

Tourists are recommended to take the Chengdu to Tibet train or the Qinghai to Tibet train to Lhasa, then take a car to the three lakes.  Reference:

  1. How can I get into Tibet?
  2. Get to Tibet by Air
  3. Train Travel From Chengdu To Lhasa
  4. Qinghai-Tibet Railway

It is necessary for tourists to pack appropriately when visiting Tibet's Three Holy Lakes. Clothing-wise, I recomend bringing down garments; a warm hat, woolden sweaters, warm gloves and shoes. I also recommend wearing many layers of clothes, so you can add or remove articles as the weather changes. It often rains in Tibet during July and August, so you might have to walk through swamps to reach the lakesides, so you'd better bring waterproof boots, too. For more packing information, refer to: What to Pack or Tibet Travel Essentials. Finally, to lessen the effects of high altitude sickness, remember to drink plenty of water in order to keep your body hydrated and snack on carbohydrates for energy. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, or overexerting yourself before your body has a chance to acclimate.

The natural beauty and mythical power of Lake Namtso, Lake Mapham Yutso and Lake Yamdrok are etched forever in Tibetans’ hearts and minds. If you know of other holy lakes in the world, I am looking forward to reading about yours in the comments section. My son suggested “Blue Lake” in New Zealand, which just goes to show that he has inherited his father’s natural flair for geography.

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