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Yamdroktso Lake Facts

  • CHINESE : 羊卓雍措 or 羊湖
  • ALTITUDE : 4,441 m (14,570 ft)
  • LOCATION : Nagarzê County in the Shannan Prefecture of Tibet
  • TYPE : Holy Lake, Natural
  • BEST SEASON TO VISIT : Summer / Autumn / Spring
  • OPENING HOURS : Full day, 60CNY/Person(all year round)

Yamdrok Lake(also known as Yamdrok tso) is located on the south bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River, in Nagarzê County of Shannan. Yamdrok means "jasper lake" and "swan pond" in Tibetan. There are many branches, like coral branches, so Yamdrok is also called "the upper coral lake" in Tibetan. It's one of the three sacred lakes in Tibet and is regarded as the most beautiful lake in Tibet.

The color of the lake is very charming.

The lake surface is 4441 meters above sea level, 130 kilometers long from east to west, 70 kilometers wide from north to south, with a total length of 250 kilometers and a total area of 638Km². The lakes are 20-40 meters deep, with the deepest position of 60 meters and a volume of 14.6 billion cubic meters. It is a freshwater lake and the largest inland lake at the northern foot of the Himalayas.

Some people say that Yamdrok is the turquoise earrings of a fairy, which is a vivid metaphor. The lake is fan-shaped, spreading to the south but narrowing up to the north. The mountainous lakeshore is highly crenelated, with numerous bays and inlets. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake has an outlet stream at its far western end. Lake Yamdrok freezes in winter.

Religious Significance

Like mountains, lakes are considered sacred by Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers. Yamdrok Lake is one of three particularly holy lakes, thought to be divinatory; everyone from the Dalai Lama to local villagers makes pilgrimages there. It is considered sacred as one of the four "Great Wrathful Lakes" guarded by the goddess Dorje Gegkyi Tso. The other such lakes are Namtso and Manasarovar. The lake is revered as a talisman and is said to be part of the life-spirit of Tibet. The largest lake in southern Tibet, it is said that if its waters dry, Tibet will no longer be habitable.

In the depths of Yamdrok Lake, there is a secret realm that can only be reached by boat. It is the Yumbuduo Temple closely associated with Padmasambhava, the Second Buddha, who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century AD.

Yongbuduo temple is almost surrounded by the lake on all sides.

The lake is home to the famous Samding Monastery which is on a peninsula jutting into the lake. This monastery is the only Tibetan monastery to be headed by a female re-incarnation. Since it is not a nunnery, its female abbot heads a community of about thirty monks and nuns. Samding Monastery is where Samding Dorje Phagmo, the most important female incarnate Lama in Tibet, stayed and presided, and stands to the south of Lake Yamdrok Yumtso.

Highlights

Yamdrok is the largest waterfowl habitat in southern Tibet. Every winter, flocks of birds migrate south here. Swans, water pigeons, yellow ducks, ospreys and bar-headed geese are abundant on the lakeshore and the island in the lake.

Located on the central island of Yamdrok Lake, there is a Nyingma temple built in the 16th century, Yongbuduo Temple. There is also a shallow beach in front of the island, which is rumored to be a handprint left by Guru Padmasambhava. The sacred relics have now emerged for a long time due to the drop in the water level.

The Samding Temple on the west bank of Yamdrok Lake has a history of more than three hundred years, and lives the living Buddha Dorje Phagmo, the incarnation of the dakinis (literally means “sky dweller” or “sky dancer,” ).

How to Get to?

From Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake, about 150km, it's a 2-hour journey. After crossing the 4790-meter Kampala Pass, the beautiful, jasper-like Yamdrok Lake unfolds in front of you. When reaching Kampala Pass, you may have a panoramic view of the lake then ride 30 min to the lakeside. After that, you can enjoy the scenery of Yamdrok Lake all the way along the road by the lake.

Travel Tips

A yak at Yamdrok tso lakeside.

1. It is recommended to ask the price in advance for a photo with a yak or Tibetan mastiff. Usually, CNY10 is enough to take photos.

2. There are toilets in the Yamdrok Scenic Area, but all are charged.

3. The altitude of Yamdrok Lake is higher than that of Lhasa, and the altitude sickness might be stronger if you have any. So walking slowly is recommended.

4. There're only very simple small shops on the viewing platform or around the scenic area. You are suggested to have a meal before you depart to Yamdrok Lake and take some snacks with you.

5. At Yamdrok Lake, the sun is dazzling and the ultraviolet rays are strong. So you'd better wear sunglasses, hats and masks, and remember to apply sunscreen.

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