NO. 1 Yamdrok Tso - The Most Beautiful Water in the World
Situated 100 km southwest of Lhasa with an elevation of 4441 m (14570 ft), Yamdrok Tso (Yamdrok Lake, Tibetan: Yamdrok Yumtso; Chinese:羊卓雍措,羊卓雍错,羊卓雍湖) is one of the three most sacred lakes in Tibet (the other two are Namtso and Manasarovar).
On the old road between Gyantse and Lhasa, coiling Yamdrok-tso Lake can be seen from the summit of the Kamba-la pass (4700m). The lake lies several hundred meters below the road, and in clear weather is a fabulous shade of deep turquoise-blue. Far in the northwest distance is the huge massif of Mt. Nojin Kangtsang (7191m). Nangartse is a small town along the way that has some basic accommodation and a couple of restaurants. A 20-minute drive or a two-hour walk from Nangartse brings you to Samding Monastery, a charming place with scenic views of the surrounding area and the lake. Yamdrok-tso Lake is also the site of Tibet’s largest hydroelectric Power Station.
NO.2 Namtso – Heavenly Lake in Tibet
About 240km northwest of Lhasa, Nam-tso (Heavenly Lake in Tibetan, Chinese:纳木错,又称纳木措,那木措,那木错, 腾格里海, 腾格里湖) is the highest saltwater lake in the world at 4,720m (over 14,000 feet) and one of the most beautiful natural sights in Tibet. It is over 70km long, reaches a width of 30km and is 35m at its deepest point. When the ice melts in late April, the lake is a miraculous shade of turquoise and there are magnificent views of the nearby snowcapped mountains. The wide open spaces, dotted with the tents of local drokpas (nomads), are intoxicating.
Lake Namtso (Namco) is one of the three holiest lakes in Tibet (the other two are Lake Manasarovar and Yamdrok Tso) and an important centre for pilgrimage. The lake plays sanctuary to many species of migrating birds and other local birds. One attraction of a trip to Nam-tso is the opportunity to get a peek at the otherwise inaccessible life of Tibet’s drokpas (nomads), seminomadic herders who make their home in the Changtang, Tibet’s vast and remote northern plateau. Most travelers head for Tashi Dor Monastery (elevation 4718m) in the southeastern corner of the lake. There are some fine walks in the area, as well as a short but pilgrim-packed Kora.
The best season for trekking in Nam Tso Lake is late May to October, however you must be prepared at all times for wet weather, snow and cold winds.
NO. 3 Lake Manasarovar – The Most Sacred Lake in Tibet
Tucked away in the southwest corner of Tibet near Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar or Lake Manasa Sarovar (also spelled Mansarovar and Mansarowar, Tibetan: Mapam Yumco or Mapham Yutso; Chinese: 玛旁雍错; 4560m/14,957 ft) is the highest freshwater lake in the world and one of its most beautiful natural sights in Tibet. With its sapphire-blue waters, sandy shoreline and snowcapped-mountain backdrop, Manasarovar is immediatedly appealing, and a welcome change of venue from the often-forbidding terrain of Mt Kailash, Tibet’s holiest peak.
The most venerated of Tibet’s many lakes, Lake Manasa Sarovar is a place of pilgrimage, attracting religious people from India, Nepal, Tibet and the neighboring countries. Manasarovar has been circumambulated by Indian pilgrims since at least 1700 years ago when it was extolled in the sacred Sanskrit literature the Puranas. Legend has it that the mother of the Buddha, Queen Maya, was bathed at Manasarovar by the gods before giving birth to her son. Gandhi requested that his ashes be scattered beside this sacred lake. Just 20km from Mt. Kailash across the Barkha plain, Manasarovar can be circumambulated in four or five days. Five of the original eight monasteries have been partially rebuilt.
Manasarovar is linked to the smaller Rakshastal (known to Tibetans as Lhanagtso) by the channel called Gang-chu. The two bodies of water are associated with the conjoined sun and moon, a powerful symbol of Tantric Buddhism.
The best time to make a tour to Mt. Kailash & Lake Manasarovar region is between mid-May and mid-October. During this time the weather in Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar is generally stable and clear, with warm temperatures during the days and cool nights. July and August are usually warmer, but this is when the monsoon pushes beyond the Himalaya. Swelling the creeks and coating the valleys with greenery and wildflowers.
Mansarovar lake and Mt. Kailas can now be accessed by air as China inaugurated a high-altitude Ngari Gunsa Airport (Ali Kunsha Airport) in western Tibet’s Ngari Prefecture near the two holy places in July 1st, 2010. As Shiquanhe (Ali) is only a one-day bus drive (about 330 km) from the settlement of Darchen situated just north of Lake Mansarovar, facing Mount Kailash. It is expected to benefit pilgrims to these two sites.
NO. 4 Lhanag-tso Lake – The Ghost Lake
Despite its close proximity to Lake Manasarovar–over the road to Purang County, Lake Rakshastal (Lhanag Tso, Tibetan:ལག་ངར་མཚོ་ ; Chinese:拉昂错) does not share the lore of worship with its east neighbor. Named ‘lake of the demon’, Lake Rakshastal is considered to be the residence of Ravana, the ten-headed demon king of Ceylon in Hindu myth. In Buddhism, Lake Manasarovar, which is round like the sun, and Lake Rakshastal, shaped as a crescent, are respectively regarded as ‘brightness’ and ‘darkness’. Its salty water, a stark contrast to the fresh water of Lake Manasarovar, produces no waterweeds or fish and is considered poisonous by locals.
However, despite its notoriety, Lake Rakshastal bears no less beauty than other lakes in Tibet. Originally joined with Lake Manasarovar and later separated by geological movements, it is still connected with Lake Manasarovar by a natural channel, Ganga Chhu. It covers a total area of 70 sq km (27 sq miles), at an altitude of 4,752m (15,590 ft). Though absent of nearby grasslands, the white cobbles, the hills and the island colored with dark red, and the deep blue lake water present another distinctive picture absent from many of the places more frequented by visitors.
NO. 5 Pangong Tso – A Paradise For Migratory Birds
Situated at a height of 4,350 m (13,900 ft) in the Himalayas and spanning like a finger from India into China with two-third of its length in Tibet, Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake, Tso means lake in Ladakhi,Chinese:班公湖,班公错,班公措) is noted for its crystal clear blue-brackish water which keeps playing tricks on your eyes changing colors in seven distinct shades of blue, green, purple, truquoise and violet depending on the angle of your view.
Lake Pangong (Palgon) is home to a variety of migratory birds including brown-headed gulls, cygnets, yellow ducks, bar-headed geese and black-necked siberian cranes. The pangong lake can be reached from Leh, the capital city of Ladakh in India or from Shiquanhe (Ali), the capital of Ngari prefecture in western Tibet. The trip from Lhasa to Shiquanhe has been much easier with the opening of Ngari Gunsa Airport on July 1, 2010, the journey has been shortened from three or four days by car to only 100 minutes by air.
NO. 6 Draksum-tso – an alpine lake with a fairy-tale island monastery
The beautiful alphine lake Draksum-tso (Basum Tso,Pasum-tso, Chinese:巴松错,八松错) is located in Kongpo Gyamda County in eastern Tibet’s Nyingchi Prefecture, 400 kilometers away from Lhasa. It is the sacred lake of Nyingmapa (Red, tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, monks wear red hats) as well as the largest fresh water barrier lake in the eastern part of Tibet.
The holy lake, more Swiss Alps than Tibetan plateau,is beautified by its surrounding landscapes from forested mountains to snow capped peaks.The site has strong connections to Gesar of Ling, the semi-mythical ruler of the Kham region and Guru Rinpoche, the Indian sage, both of whom are said to have resided at the lake.
The highlight of the Basum lake is the Tsozong Gongba Monastery (Chinese:错宗工巴寺), a small sacred chapel of the Nyingma sited on a photogenic Tashi island just off the southern shore. The Zhaxi island is an organic fusion of dozens of types of flora and a springkle of holy sights.
NO.7 Rawok Tso Lake – The Little Swiss of Tibet
A perfect blend of the Swiss Alps snow peaks and the streams in Jiuzaigou (a photogenic town in central China), Rawok Tso (Ranwu, Ranwok tso, Chinese:然乌湖,然乌错) is the largest lake in southeast of Tibet’s Nyingchi Prefecture.
The Ranwu Lake is surrounded by the Gangrigabu Mountain in the southwest, the Azhagongla Glacier in the south and the Bosula Peak in the northeast, with the famous Lagu glacier extending to the lake from the north. The melted snow and ice supply the lake and rivers such as Yalu Tsangpo. Many of the peaks surrounding the lake are over 5, 000 meters high and thus permanently locked with glaciers. The foot of these peaks, however, is green with pines and cypresses. The browsing herds of cattle and sheep, the barley paddy, bean and cabbage field form an oil painting that can be seen no elsewhere.
NO.8 Tangra Yumco – The holy lake of the Bon believers
The holy lake of the Bon believers, Lake Tangra Yumco (Dangra Yumtso, Chinese:当惹雍错) is located in the Wenbu District in northern Tibet. It lies at the bottom of a deeply sunken basin, surrounded by mountains on three sides. On the eastern bank of the lake stand red cliffs and the seven peaks of the Darguo Mountains.Beside the lake there is a monastery, Yubon Monastery, built in the scarp cave. It is said that Yubon Monastery is the oldest one in Bon Religion.
NO.9 Lhamo La-tso – The Oracle (Vision) Lake in Tibet
Lhamo La-tso (Lhamo Latso, Lamu Lacuo, Lamuna Lake, Tibetan:ལྷ་མོའི་བླ་མཚོ།, Chinese:拉姆拉错,拉母那错), the small oval ‘Oracle Lake’ around 115km northeast of Tsetang in central Tibet, is where senior Tibetan monks go for visions to assist in the discovery of reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas. Other pilgrims also come to seek visions. It is considered to be the most holiest lake in Tibet. It is also known as “The Life-Spirit-Lake of the Goddess”, the goddess being Palden Lhamo, the principal Protectress of Tibet. The gateway to Lhamo Latso is the dramatic, but mostly ruined, Chokorgye Monastery, wedged between three mountains.
NO.10 Siling-tso – “Devil Lake” where the arch devil lives
Siling Tso (Siling co, Chinese:色林错) Lake is the second largest saltlake in Tibet, after the Namtso Lake.
Siling is an arch devil who used to live in Duilongdeqing County, west of Lhasa. He greedily devoured thousands of lives everyday including both human beings and animals.One day, the Padmasambhava found Siling and asked him to stay in the lake forever and confess. From then on, people called the lake “Siling-tso” which means the “Siling Devil Lake.”