Tour to Namtso Lake vs Yamdrok Tso Lake
Brief introductions of Namtso Lake and Yamdrok tso Lake
Namtso Lake, Yamdrok Tso Lake, and Lake Manasarovar are regarded as the three sacred lakes in Tibet. It’s quite convenient to get to the first two lakes from Lhasa, and both of them are the top attractions that tourists will not miss when they make a tour in Tibet.
Namtso Lake is the highest saltwater lake in the world, the largest lake in Tibet, and a holy place in the minds of pilgrims. Yamdrok Tso Lake has the most beautiful water in the world as it will show extremely rich blue at different levels under different sunlight.
|Namtso Lake||Yamdrok Tso Lake|
|Location||Damxung County, Lhasa prefecture-level city, TRA||Location||Nagarzê County, Lhoka(a prefecture-level city in the southeastern Tibet), TRA|
|Driving from Lhasa||250km, 4-5 hours||Driving from Lhasa||110km, 2-2.5 hours|
|Deepest Depth||120m||Deepest Depth||60m|
|Ticket Price||CN¥120||Ticket Price||CN¥60|
|Operation Hours||06:00-18:00||Operation Hours||24/7|
|Recommended Duration||1 day||Recommended Duration||1-3 hours|
|Best Season||June to September||Best Season||September to November|
We often received questions from travelers about which lake is better to visit. For travelers who have enough time, it's definitely recommended to visit both sacred lakes. If the travelers have limited time, below are the pros and cons of Namtso and Yamdrok Tso lakes for your reference, and then we will propose the most suitable itinerary according to the travel time, preferences, route design, etc.
Tour Namtso Lake
1. Pros of choosing Namtso Lake
Top of the world: As the highest lake in the world, Namtso Lake is 4,718 meters above sea level, approximately rectangular in shape, with an area of about 1920km². Who wouldn't plan to take an adventurous trip to the world's highest lake? In addition, the Chinese Academy of Sciences set up a multi-layer comprehensive observation and research station to accumulate a large number of basic data for the Tibetan ecological environment change monitoring system.
Religious sacred place: Namtso Lake is the birthplace of the ancient Shangshung (Zhangzhung) civilization and the first sacred lake of the ancient Shangshung Buddha Yong Chung Bon religion. "Namtso'' means "Holy Lake" or "Heaven Lake" in both Tibetan and Mongolian. In the Year of the Goat, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Dharma gods set up altars in Namtso Lake to revitalize Dharma. The pilgrims will worship and circumambulate to the lake to chant one time (Kora). Therefore, on April 15th of the Year of Goat in the Tibetan calendar, pilgrims from various places traveled thousands of miles to make the Kora at Namtso Lake to seek the transcendence of the soul.
Spectacular scenery: This deep blue lake is fringed by prayer-flag-draped hills, framed by a horizon of 7000m peaks. The clear lake and the Nyainqentanglha Mountains complement each other, the pure and fragrant snow lotus blooms deep in the snow mountain, and the vast lake water ripples in the breeze. This is the closest place to heaven, as well as to your own soul.
2. Cons of choosing Namtso Lake
Accommodation: The one-way journey from Lhasa to Namtso Lake takes about 4-5 hours, basically, travelers cannot return to Lhasa that day. According to the environmental protection policy, the local authorities did not allow camping near the lake after May 2019 and demolished all lakeside guesthouses. The nearest place for overnight is Damxung County, but the facilities are relatively simple, with only a few budget hotels.
Travel time: The driving time cannot be predicted, as the monsoon season (July to September) will cause heavy rain and poor road conditions. Hence, sometimes it may take more than 5 hours or even more than 6 hours for a single way driving from Lhasa. Apart from that, the partly main road to Namtso is along Qinghai-Tibet highway, and it can be easily in a traffic jam to make the overland driving even longer.
3. Recommended itinerary
Generally, the most popular route is to make a 2-day route from Lhasa, with an overnight stay at Damxung as below:
Lhasa ➔ Northern Tibetan grassland ➔ distance view of the Nyenchen Thanglha snow mountain ranges ➔ Largen-la pass [5,190m] for the first view of Namtso lake in the distance ➔ Namtso Lake lakeshore visit & hike around Tashi Do peninsula ➔ Nomad family visit ➔ Damxung [4,200m] for the night ➔ Yampachen hot spring OR Tsurphu Monastery if not interested the hot-spring ➔ Lhasa
For travelers who plan to combine the visit with Mt. Everest, you could visit Namtso Lake on the return trip from Shigatse as below, so you don’t need to make a detour via Lhasa:
Shigatse ➔ Nyêmo County ➔ Yampachen hot spring ➔ Damxung [4,200m] for the night ➔ Largen-la pass[5,190m] for the first view of Namtso lake in the distance ➔ Namtso Lake lakeshore visit & hike around Tashi Do peninsula ➔ Nomad family visit ➔ Tsurphu Monastery ➔ Lhasa
Please kindly note that sometimes the road between Shigatse and Damxung can be inaccessible for big vehicles (17 seats or above) due to the heavy rainfalls or snowfalls.
Tour Yamdrok tso Lake
1. Pros of choosing Yamdrok Tso Lake
Excellent location: Travelers no matter plan to visit Gyantse, Shigatse, Mount Everest, or Saga and even further west areas like Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar will pass Yamdrok Tso Lake. It's pass-by site from Lhasa all the way to western Tibet, you don’t need to plan a trip to go here only, it can be one part of your central Tibet tour or western Tibet journey.
Winter getaway: Due to the harsh natural environment and climate in winter, the Namtso area and the Ngari Prefecture (Mount Kailash) will stop receiving tourists every winter, basically from mid-October or early November to next March. However, Yamdrok Tso Lake is still an excellent travel destination in winter. Even though it's surrounded by snowy mountains, the lake is still blue and will not freeze. The road from Lhasa to here is accessible and will not be covered by snowfalls, the road traffic is safe.
Family travel friendly: With a relatively lower altitude, Yamdrok Tso Lake is an ideal destination for family travel The water of Yamdrok Tso Lake is known as the most beautiful water in the world. Yamdrok Tso means "the jasper lake above the pasture" in Tibetan, which is regarded as "the turquoise earrings scattered by the goddess" in local Tibetans. The melting snow from the Nyainqentanglha Mountains flows into this lake, and it will show different levels of blue at the different moments of sunlight.
Abundant natural resources: The west bank of Yamdrok Tso Lake has the largest hydroelectric power station in Tibet and is the highest pumped storage power station in the world. There are 21 small islands around Yamdrok, where various migratory birds live, making this the largest waterbird habitat and wild bird paradise in Tibet. In addition, there are snow pigs on the surrounding mountains at an altitude of 5000 meters, the wild sheep and foxes are encountered on the grass fields occasionally.
2. Cons of choosing Yamdrok Tso Lake
Fewer viewing positions: The best location for photography is Kampala Pass [4794m], to have a bird view of the Yamdrok Tso lake and spectacular holy Mount Nyenchen Khangsar in distance. Other orientations or the lakeside can only partially appreciate the lake, and no more angle to overlook it.
Shorter sightseeing time: The lake area is much smaller than Namtso Lake, the regular sightseeing time is about 1-2 hours as this area is not well developed. Most travelers regard this lake as a pass-by attraction, during the trip to Shigatse/Mount Everest Base Camp/Mount Kailash.
3. Recommended itinerary
There are only 2 ways to visit Yamdrok Tso Lake from Lhasa, one of which is a day excursion, the other is to continue driving to Gyantse and further to Shigatse / Mt Everest instead of returning to Lhasa.
Day excursion: Lhasa ➔ Kampala pass [4,794m] for the first distance view of Yamdrok Tso lake and Mt Nyenchen Khangsar ➔ Yamdrok Tso lakeshore visit and short hike ➔ Samding monastery with an excellent view of Lake Dumo Tso ➔ Tibetan family visit ➔ Lhasa
Lhasa to Shigatse: Lhasa ➔ Kampala pass [4,794m] for the first distance view of Yamdrok Tso lake and Mt Nyenchen Khangsar ➔ Yamdrok Tso lakeshore visit ➔ Karola Glacier [5,200m] ➔ Gyantse Kumbum ➔ distance view of Gyantse Dzong ➔ Shigatse (travelers can make a further trip to Mt Everest or Mt Kailash, then to Kathmandu, Nepal)
It is really difficult to answer if you ask which of Namtso Lake and Yamdrok Tso Lake is more beautiful and more worth visiting. The beauty of Namtso Lake lies in its broadness and the harmonious relationship between humans and nature. The beauty of Yamdrok Tso Lake lies in its tranquility and atmosphere. The two sacred lakes give people endless fantasy, but also accept people's all kinds of emotions. For most people who come and go in a hurry, what they give to passers-by is not only the beauty in the photos but also the peace of mind. Can't wait to travel to tibet to see the holy lakes, please contact us directly!