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 small crescent waves. It is also one of the largest lakes in Tibet, with a surface area measuring 246 square miles. The lake has an average depth of 98 feet 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 restaurants 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 snow melt.
How to get there
There are 4 tour packages, offered by Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure, that lead to Yamdrok Lake. Each package offers varying experiences, including Everest base camp and Namtso Lake tours. Specialized tour packages are also available upon request. Please contact Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure to personalize your vacation to Yamdrok Lake.
The distance from Lhasa to the center most interior of the lake is about 130 miles. It takes about 5 hours to reach it. If you are like me, you did the math and came up with 26 miles per hour. I know it seems slow, but there are a lot of twists and turns in the lower stretch of the highway. In general, you want to take the 318 out of Lhasa to the 101. The 101 will merge onto the 305 then into the 301. You can then take exit 122 to reach the lake.
Lhasa and Everest Base Camp Tour itinerary
Day 01: Arrive in Lhasa
Day 02: Visit Potala Palace, Norbulingka Palace and a traditional hospital. -06 hrs, 3,650 m / 11,972 ft
Day 03: Visit Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery, Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Bazaar. -06 hrs, 3,650 m / 11,972 ft
Day 04: Travel to Gyantse and visit Yamdrok Lake. -06 hrs, 3,950 m / 12,956 ft
Day 05: Travel to Shigatse. -02 hrs, 3,900 m / 12,795 ft
Day 06: Travel to Rongbuk. -09 hrs, 5,000 m / 16,400 ft
Day 07: Visit Everest Base Camp and return to Lhasa. -10 hrs, 5,200 m / 17,060 ft
Day 08: Conclude trip
What to bring and where to stay
This lake is warm for Tibetan standards. However, you should still pack warm cloths. You will also want some comfortable shoes. You do not need boots for the Lhasa and Everest Base Camp Tour, because it is accessible by car. You will still want to bring a hat, UV protected sunglasses, sleeping bag (recommended, not needed), water filter and chap stick. You can substitute a a SteriPEN or sanitizing tablets for a water filter if you prefer. Sun screen is also always a good item to have on hand.
As far as clothing, you will want to layer in light to medium weight cloths. Depending on the season you are traveling in, you may also want some water proof gear. The area is in a rain shadow and even during the monsoon season you will not likely experience soaking rains or precipitation. A weather chart is provided in the section below. Sherpa Adventure Gear has a lot of good quality cloths that were designed to be layer-able and warm.
There are a lot of hotels and guest houses available to visitors in China. They are included in most tour packages offered by travel agencies. Unless specifically stated in the tour package you will not need camping gear. You can however request to camp out. This can save money and can be a rewarding experience. If you need camping equipment you can buy it from Eastern Mountain Sports. .
When to go
I recommend visiting Yamdrok Lake in the summer months from May through September. The summer months still receive freezing temperatures; However they are not nearly as cold as in the winter, where the daily average temperatures are freezing. If you prefer cold temperatures, the winter may be your preferred time to visit the area. The winter does not see any precipitation, so your chances of building snow men and making snow angles are low.
There are a few advantages of visiting in the winter. The advantages include fewer tourists, clear skies, great views, less expensive, and faster paperwork processing. Though these advantages are nice, I prefer green pastures, thawed lakes and warmer temperatures. Below is a chart of the weather in the Yamdrok Lake area for 2016.
the blue line represents the average monthly high temperature in ˚F. the lower orange line represents the average low monthly temperature ˚F. The summer months of June July August, and September offers pleasant temperatures.
The Average Monthly Precipitation at Yamdrok Lake graph may seem a tad extreme. It is a little deceptive without looking at the scale on the y axis. In my opinion 3 inches is extremely reasonable for a monsoon.
The cost of an 8-day tour that visits Everest Base Camp, cultural heritage sites, and Yamdrok Lake will cost $2130 through Upper-Himalayan Treks and Adventure. A more budget minded trip to Yamdrok lake can be arranged to include fewer days in Tibet and at a reduced cost. The entire trip can be done in 3-days for $800. A short 3-day visit can be just as rewarding as an 8-day trip. There are time limitations in the 3-day visit that limits the amount of experiences that can be had.
You may be upset to find that China does not allow unsupervised visits into Tibet. Yes, that means you must book your trip through a tour company and have a guide with you. This also means you must have a Chinese visa as well as a Tibet entry permit. The following is a detailed list of charges you will most likely acquire while in China.
- $50/day guide
- $20/day food
- $30/day room board (some locations have tent style rooms for $5/ night)
- $140 Chinese Visa
- $20 Tibet Entry Permit
- $100 transportation
- $200 government tax
Lake Yamdrok has a lot of spiritual and religious significance. I am unsure as to weather a goddess was transformed into the lake or she transformed herself into the lake. But in any case, the lake is believed to be the transformation of the goddess Dorje Geg Kyi Tso. Maybe manifestation or embodiment might be a better word than transformation. As such, the lake is considered sacred and is believed to contain spiritual powers. The lake is one of the 4 most religiously significant lakes in Tibet.