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Top 10 Himalayan Lakes

Top ten pristine Himalayan lakes

Tilicho lake
Tilicho lake16,138 ft.

Nepal is well known for its mountains.  Mt. Everest is, after all, the most popular mountain in the world, and the tallest.  However, Nepal is not well known for its lakes and water sports (I’m talking dynamite fishing, with real DYN-O-MIGHT!)  Nepal may not rival Minnesota in quantity of lakes but, by God, its lakes sure are beautiful.  Did you know that Nepal and south China have the highest lakes in the world? This is a list of the top 10 Himalayan lakes.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast who loves water, this blog post is for you.  In this article you will learn about 10 amazing lakes of The Himalayas.

Lake Gosainkunda

Coming in at number 1, is Lake Gosaikunda.  Yes, that’s right, I didn’t save the best for last.  Because I like you so much, I’m not going to make you wait for it.  Lake Gosaikunda is amazing!  I love everything about it.  I love the trek and how to get there, the surrounding landscape, its religious significance and its isolation.

The lake sits at an elevation of 14,370 ft in Langtang National Park.  It feeds the Trishuli River in late spring, summer, and early fall.  During the other months, the lake is frozen over.  Gosaikunda lake covers a surface area of 34 acres and is part of a larger lake complex that spans around 2,560 acres or 4 square miles.  The lake complex (108 lakes) was designated an area of international importance by UNESCO’s convention on wetlands in 2007.

There are actually a few other UNESCO conservation areas in this list of the top 10 lakes Himalayan lakes. Keep reading to find out more.

Lake Phewa

top 10 lakes of himalayas
Lake Phewa

If you have ever been to Phewa Lake, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, Lake Phewa is this guy’s number 2 pick!  That can have both positive and negative connotations.  Let me make the argument for why Lake Phewa is so great.  However, I must give a full disclosure first.  I love Pokhara. Pokhara is the city by the lake (it is actually surrounded by Sarangkot, Kaskikot, and Raniban “Queen Forest”).  It is comparable to the Carmel of Nepal.  And in my opinion, it is what makes Lake Phewa so great.

The lake sits at an elevation of 2,434 ft in stunning proximity to the Annapurna massif in Pokhara Valley.  It is the second largest lake in Nepal and the largest lake in the valley.  It has a square area of 1.71 sq mi.  It’s maximum water depth is about 62 feet, while its average is about 28 ft.  Its estimated maximum water holding potential is 12.15 billion gallons.  The lake is fed by the Harpan River, and feeds into the Pardi River.

Lake Phewa is the most visited lake in Nepal.  Apart from visitors coming for its natural beauty, adventure seekers visit it for world class paragliding, and as a resting point for their treks.  It also has a few water activities like boating, kayaking, and fishing.  There is a temple on an island in the center of the river that also attracts a lot of crowds.  I will discuss this in the religious significance section of the post.

Gokyo Lakes

Top 10 himalayan lakes
Gokyo Lake frozen, with Everest and Nuptse in the background

Gokyo Lakes is a set of 19 high mountain lakes in Sagarmatha National Park.  It is one of the destinations on the Gokyo Lakes Gokyo Ri Trek.  This lake complex is a must see to anyone on their way to Everest Base camp, as it is extremely close.  Gokyo Lakes is the worlds highest freshwater lake system at an elevation of 15,400 ft to 16,400 ft above sea level.  The lake complex covers a surface area of 30 sq miles. In 2007, it was designated an area of international importance by UNESCO’s convention on wetlands.

I could only find the sizes of 6 of the largest lakes in the system.  In order from largest to smallest the 6 Gokyo Lakes include, Thonak Cho (161 acres), Gokyo Cho (106 acres), Gyazumpa Cho (72 acres), Tanjung Cho (42 acres), and Ngojumba Cho (36 acres).  These lakes receive water from glacier ice melt such as Ngozumpa glacier, and others.  They also receive water from precipitation in the form of rain and snow.  Their water flows out forming the Dudh Kosi River

Lake Manasarovar

If a magical wizard named Tigran was flying around the world in his Buddy Lee Dungaree jeans and his buzz cut haircut and decided he would stop to rest on the highest plateau in the world when the wind was soft and the grass was green and to think to himself “gee it sure is pretty here, I wonder what it would look like if it was a lake”, he would turn that plateau into a lake and name in Lake Manasarovar.

Okay, that’s not really how Lake Manasarovar was formed.  But I thought it would be funny, especially if your name is Tigran or you know somebody named Tigran.  For the 99% of you who don’t, lets move on.

Lake Manasarovar is not the highest freshwater lake in the world.  Comfortably resting in the autonomous region of the Tibetan plateau, the lake has an elevation of 15,060 ft.  The maximum depth recorded in the lake was 300 ft.  The lake has a surface area of 123.6 sq mi and is completely frozen in the winter, which makes it the largest outdoor ice skating ring in the world (does it count if people don’t actually go ice skating on it?).

The lake receives water from glaciers on Mt. Kailash and from precipitation.  The lake drains into a neighboring lake, Lake Rakshastal, through the Ganga River.  Its water also flows to the Sutlej River, which is a tributary of the Sindhu River.

Lake Tilicho

top ten himalayan lakes
Tilicho Lake

Tilicho lake is one of my favorites on this list of the top 10 Himalayan lakes. It was hard not to put it at number 1, but its number 1 in my heart.

Lake Tilicho was formed from an ancestral glacier that carved a depression into a mountain in the Manang district of the Annapurna range.  When the glacier melted if filled the depression, forming a lake with a surface area of 1.9 sq mi at an elevation of 16,138 ft.  As an interesting side note, the lake is one of the highest lakes to be scuba dived in.

Lake Tilicho deserves the number 4 position or better.  The Annapurna massif is an amazing mountain range with gorgeous views.  From Tilico Lake you can see Annapurna II, III, IV, Gangapurna, Manaslu, Pisang Peak, and Culu West Peak.  The hike is a wonderful experience.  I love everything about this place, especially its proximity to Pokhara (34 linear miles).

Lake Namtso

Namso Lake is renowned as being on of the most beautiful lakes in Tibet.  It is a salt water lake with no known outflows.  It receives its water from snow melt and springs from the nearby Tangulla Mountains.  The lake rests at the base of the mountains at an elevation of 15,479 ft.  Because there are no drainage outlets for the lake, it has grown to be 740 sq mi.  Its size makes it the largest lake in the Tibet Autonomus Region of China, but not in the largest in China.

Lake Namtso has 5 large islands.  The largest island has an area of 6,900 sq ft.  The average depth of the lake is 108 ft while the maximum depth is 410 ft.  The lake is estimated to hold 623,000,000-acre ft of water.  The lake has been popularized by being the filming location for Shangri-La, The Touch, and Himalaya with Michael Palin.

Lake Rara

top ten lakes of the himalayas
Rara lake

Located in the far western region, in the Mugu district, this amazing lake is the biggest and deepest lake in Nepal.  It has a surface area of 4.2 sq mi and a maximum depth of 548 ft.  The lake’s altitude is 9,810 ft above sea level.  Due to the unique habitat this lake provides to many endemic species, it was designated an area of international importance by UNESCO’s conservation on wetlands.  Though the lake only covers 4.2 sq mi, the actual protected area is 6.11 sq mi because of the extending wet lands.

The lake receives water from snow melt and monsoon rains. However, in recent years, the monsoon rain volume has been less than normal.  This coupled with habitat destruction and pollution increases the vulnerability of aquatic species associated with the lake.  Some of the aquatic life also lives in the streams and rivers the lake drains into. The lake drains into the Mugu Karnali River through the Nijar River.

Phoksundo Lake

top ten lakes of the himalayas
Phoksundo Lake

Phoksundo Lake is a freshwater lake in Nepal.  The lake is located within the Shey Phoksundo National Park in the Dolpa region.  The lake rests at an elevation of 11,849 ft above sea level.  During the last surveillance of the lake, the lake was measured to have a surface area of 1.91 sq mi and a maximum depth of 476 ft.  The lake was formed when a land slide blocked the passage of the river below it and in the process also creating a 548 ft water fall on the other side of the natural dam.  The lake was designated an area of international importance by UNESCO’s conservation on wetlands in 2007.

There are so many gorgeous lakes, each with amazing qualities, on this list of top 10 Himalayan lakes. If the list was based on beauty alone, Phoksundo would be in the top 2.

Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake is another beautiful lake in Tibet.  It is delightfully located a short distance outside the peaceful towns of Gyantse and Lhasa.  It has a memorizing turquoise luster that shimmers under the small waves created by the wind.  It is also one of the largest lakes in Tibet, with a surface area measuring 246 sq mi.  The lake has an average depth of 98 ft but its maximum depth is 200 ft.

Although this lake is considered sacred, it is commercialized.  Fish are harvested from this lake and sold to resturants and grocers in Lhasa.  There is also a Hydroelectric power station.  It was built in 1996 in the north-west section of the lake by Baidixiang city.  The power station is the largest in Tibet and provides electricity throughout the region.  There are many small inlets to the lake, each deriving from glaciers and snowmelt.

Pangong Lake

Salt is known to collect on the shores of Pangong Lake, giving it the characteristic “white halo” common to salt lakes.  The lake is a beautiful deep blue and the surrounding grey and brown mountains buttress its natural beauty.  Just beyond the shores of the lake, are grassy meadows, where yak herders bring their ruminant animals (yaks) to graze.

Pangong Lake is Tibetan for “High Grassland Lake.”  It is a salt water lake in the autonomous region of Tibet and extends into the north-western region of India.  The elevation of lake Pangong is 14,270 ft.  The lake has a surface area of 233 sq mi.  The source of the lake comes from both sides of the border as glacial melt, and precipitation.  I am unaware of an outlet for the lake and its depth and volume.

Top 10 Himalayan lakes

Do you agree with my list of my top 10 Himalayan lakes? If not let me know, or apply to be a guest blogger by sending me an email. Thanks for reading!

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