Lake Lhamo La-tso
When we talk about holy lakes in Tibet, which lakes come into your mind first? There is no doubt that it’s the 3 holy lakes: Namtso Lake, Yamdrok Lake, and Manasarovar Lake. However, the most sacred and legendary lake in Tibet is Lhamo Latso Lake. It is said that it has the magic power to present one’s past and afterlife, in this way, it also significantly assists in the discovery of reincarnations of the two highest leaders in Tibetan Buddhism - Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. Other pilgrims also come here to seek visions of their past and future destiny from the magic lake.
Lhamo Latso means 'auspicious heavenly mother lake' or 'numinous mother lake' in Tibetan and another name for it is Qiongguoje Lake. It is a small oval oracle lake located 65km northeast of Gyatsa County in the Shannan Prefecture (Lhoka), approximately 185km away from Tsetang Town, 350km away from Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region. Normally, it requires 2 days to reach the lake from Lhasa.
Standing on the mountain top as high as 5,300 meters and looking down, the holy lake is surrounded by mountains and with an altitude of 5,000 meters. And it takes a head bones skeleton shape like a mirror at the foot of the mountains and the scenery is elegant. It is a high mountain freshwater lake only occupying an area of about 2 square kilometers.
Lhamo Lhatso and the Reincarnation System
Though the lake is not large, it stands in a special position in the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism and it is revered by Buddhists. Every year those who are looking for the successors of Dalai Lama and Panchen Lamas after they passed away must go there, because their reincarnation could be found after being seen in the lake. In the 4th year of ZhengDe, Ming Dynasty (1509AD), Qukejiesi was built nearby by Gedun Gyatso, the Second Dalai Lama, which added more views to the unique views of the plateau.
Best time to visit Lhamo Lhatso
The lake surface keeps on freezing for about 7 months, and the best time to visit this lake is from June to August. When in summer, after it is thawing, the lake sometimes is as still and clear as a mirror; sometimes red clouds are gathering in the sky and there are waves without wind. Strange sounds are heard now and then and various fantastic scenes are appearing.
Every April to June of the Tibetan calendar, numerous Buddhist devotees make a pilgrimage here and observe the wonderful sights. It is said different people who see the same sight may get different views. It is also said that people can see their future life from the reflections of the lake. To get the most efficacious revelation, they spend three days to stay at the lake for meditation and pay homage to the lake with proper devoutness. Some of them would love to walk the kora around Lhamo La-Tso to show their piety. They even can’t talk during this ceremony.
How to get to Lhamo Lhatso
To get to Lhamo Latso, people need to reach Gyatsa County which is about 120km away from Tsedang first, then drive another 50km to Qiongguoje Temple, the only place to Lhamo Latso and where to buy the entrance ticket to Lhamo Latso, due to the extremely poor road conditions, a 2 hour’s drive is required in such a short distance. After Qiongguoje Temple, followed is a 15km’s challenging hike to this holy lake, requiring about 5 hours’ hiking, while it only takes about 2 hours to get there if you choose to ride a horse.
Useful Travel Tips
- Lhamo Latso Lake is open for pilgrims and Chinese travelers ONLY currently.
- The entrance ticket to Lhamo Latso is 50RMB per person, including the admission fee to Qiongguoje Temple.
- Due to the high altitude and extreme weather of Lhamo Latso, you should prepare well before you head there and it is not recommended to camp at the lakeshore for its supreme cold at night.
- Local guest houses are available in Gyatsa County, but with poor condition and bad cleanliness.