Yamdrok Lake

Nestled amid snow-capped mountains, is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet, Yamdrok Lake. Located about 90km west of Gyantse in Tibet, the name translates to “turquoise” in English. Numerous small streams, with a large outlet stream situated on its western end, feed the stunning Yamdrok Lake. Also located on the western end of the lake, is Yamdrok Power Station, which is the highest hydroelectric station in the world. With its breathtaking vistas, Yamdrok Lake is definitely a must-see destination that cannot be missed.

Interesting Facts

- Yamdrok Lake is over 72 km (45 mi) long, and 638 square km (246 sq mi), with its deepest point measuring 60 m.

- The lake is situated at an elevation of 4,441 m (14,570 ft).

- There are dozens of islands in the lake, one of which contains an old fort called “Pede Dzong”.

- Yamdrok Lake contains shoals of fish that are caught by local inhabitants. From April to October, local people sell their catch from Yamdrok at markets in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet.

History Of Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Tibet. The lake is considered a “closed system”, meaning that only a little natural runoff through a small tributary of the Yarlung-Tsangpo River reaches it. The inflow of water is balanced mainly by evaporation.

Yamdrok Lake is considered one of the holiest lakes in all of Tibet. Tibetan people believe that mountains and lakes are the dwelling places of protective deities. Yamdrok and the surrounding area have been closely associated with Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinoche). He was an Indian Buddhist master who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century AD. Little is known of the historical Padmasambhava, but he is credited with helping the construction of the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, located at Samye. He is widely venerated as a “second Buddha” by Buddhists in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, amongst other locations.

The famous Samding Monastery was erected on a peninsula of the lake. This monastery is where Samding Dorje Phagmo stayed and presided. She is the highest female incarnation in Tibet, and the third highest-ranking individual in the hierarchy, next to the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Her first incarnation was in the 15th century AD, and Samding Monastery has been her seat thereafter. This monastery is the only Tibetan monastery to be headed by a female reincarnation. The female abbot leads a community of roughly 30 monks and nuns who reside together, as this is not a nunnery. This monastery is associated with the Bodong and Shangpa Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Culture Of Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake is considered one of the four largest sacred lakes in all of Tibet, including Lake Manasarovar, Lake Namtso, and  Lake Lhamo Latso. According to Tibetan belief, it is guarded by the goddess Dorje Gegkyi Tso and considered a life-spirit of the people. If the lake were ever to dry up, then Tibet would no longer be habitable. Everyone from the Dalai Lama, to local inhabitants perform pilgrimages here. The faithful wake the lake’s perimeter in seven days to cleanse themselves, and likewise, to assist them in finding the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama.

According to legend, Yamdrok Lake is a transformed fairy goddess. The English translation literally means “jasper lake of the upper pasture”. Many Tibetans also refer to it as “scattered turquoise earrings by a fairy”, because of the sensational colour of the water.

With its exquisite crystal clear water, Yamdrok Lake is home to numerous species of migratory birds. In fact, it is the largest habitat for migratory birds in all of southern Tibet. During the spring and summer months, the lake and its islands are dotted with large colonies of birds and their offspring. Also during the summer, shoals of freshwater fish called “Gymnocypris Przewalskii” swim into the shallow waters to spawn. Because there are no natural predators in the region, local inhabitants take their yaks, sheep, and goats to grave on the rich summer pastures surrounding the lake.

Yamdrok Lake is sometimes referred to as “Green Jade Lake” because its glorious colour and surface resembles exquisite jade in the reflected sunlight.


- The best times to visit Yamdrok Lake are between May and July, when the temperatures are mild. However, the weather changes throughout the day even during summer months, so it is advisable to bring warmer clothing and raingear.

- Ask permission before taking photographs of the local inhabitants. If you take pictures, expect that you will have to give some money in gratitude.

- There is an entry fee of 40 rmb charged at the Kambala Pass before reaching Yamdrok Lake.

- Always remember to have your take care of your passport and Tibet Travel Permit, as there are road checks at various points along the way to Yamdrok lake.

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