The bright turquoise Yamdrok Lake is sacred in Tibetan tradition and one of the three biggest lakes in the country. Its color and location amid dry snow-capped peaks add to its allure. Most visitors’ first glimpse of the high altitude lake is after crossing the Khamba La Pass at 15,731 feet (4,795 meters).
Visitors flock to Yamdrok Lake for its beauty, but it’s also the largest habitat for migratory birds (particularly geese and gulls) in southern Tibet, making it a hot spot for bird-watchers. Yamdrok Lake is 68 miles (110 kilometers) southwest of Lhasa, so it’s easy to reach on a day trip or on the way to Gyantse. All foreign visitors to Tibet must be accompanied by a guide, and Yamdrok Lake is a popular stop on tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Yamdrok Lake is at a very high altitude, so visitors should acclimatize properly in Lhasa before stopping at the lake.
- Dress warmly as the weather is normally cold and windy, even if the sun is shining. Swimming in the cold waters is not recommended.
- Visitors wanting to stay overnight near the lake can do so at Nangartse, the largest nearby town.
How to Get There
Most visitors to Yamdrok Lake visit via private transportation as part of a tour. The lake is accessible via a well-maintained highway that runs alongside Yamdrok Lake, and the journey from either Lhasa or Gyantse is a comfortable one.
When to Get There
Bird-watching enthusiasts should visit in the warmer months from May and September, when migratory birds come to Yamdrok Lake. By October the birds head south for the winter. Other visitors will also find these warmer months more comfortable for traveling in Tibet. Winters are cold and harsh, with access through some high passes cut off by snow.
Another of Tibet’s most beautiful and holy lakes is Namtso Lake. It’s the second-largest salt lake in China, and its reflective blue waters are surrounded by snow-capped peaks and the occasional nomad camp. Travelers can visit on a long day trip from Lhasa, or stay overnight at a basic tented camp.