TIBET – A day trip to the holy Namtso lake from Lhasa

Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China

Tibet has been on my bucket list a long time but finally I made it to the rooftop of the world. I was based in Lhasa for a week at the Intercontinental Lhasa Paradise Resort. My son accompanied me during his three week annual may school holiday. We spend 7 days in Lhasa and explored Tibet from there. In Tibet you cannot travel alone due to restrictions therefore we asked Tibet Ctrip Travel Service to help us out with driving and permits. One of the (rainy) days we went to Namtso lake. I will share with you all about Namtso lake in this first article about Tibet.

Some facts about the Namtso Lake

The Namtso lake is situated just over 100 KM north of Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It was formed between 20 and 65 million years ago in the Paleogene era. It is the largest salt lake in Tibet with a surface area close to 2000 square meters. Climate can change suddenly which we experienced too. This did give pretty cool pictures! The lake is a holy place for pilgrims and it has a monastery on the shores. In earlier times pilgrims would go to one of the islands in the lake over ice just after winter. The ice would then melt, and only at the time it would freeze again before winter would they go back. Living in seclusion the whole summer on the island.

 
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China

Getting to the lake

The drive from Lhasa to Namtso Lake is a 5 hour drive. Both ways! The distance is only 250 kilometers but due to security checks for speeding it takes a long time. The driver needs to check in at checkpoints and must take a certain time to reach the next. This is to prevent speeding but the time to get to the next is too long so the driving is very slow. During the drive you pass through beautiful landscapes so you will not get bored at all. On the way back we encountered some bad weather and ash grey clouds. They gave beautiful views.

Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China

Touring the Namtso Lake

Just before the lake you will go over a 5190 meter high pass (higher than the highest mountain in Europe!) after which you decent to the lake which is at 4770 meters. You have a beautiful view over the lake from the pass. Once arrived at the lake it was time to take lunch first before exploring the area. There are various places to do this. We went for lunch at a guesthouse and had some great Tibetan dishes. You could stay overnight there but we preferred to go back as beside the lake there is not much more to do unless you would drive further into Tibet. If you however have plenty of time it’s not a bad idea to stay there, maybe.

 

After lunch we climbed the hill next to the lake for a bird’s eye view of it. At this altitude that took a bit of time due to the thin air and lack of oxygen. From there we descended to the shore and walked a few hundreds of meters up and down the shore. We visited in May so there was still some snow on the shores with beautiful snow white mountains in the back and in our case dark grey clouds above the lake.

Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China

We underestimated the cold wind at the lake shore and got pretty cold. All Chinese tourists had double jackets but we were only dressed in a polo with a vest. Not the best choice but we survived. To explore the area and take in all the views you will need an hour or two. To walk around the lake is not possible as it’s too big. If you want you can go on the photo with a yak or a horse but be prepared to pay. Even if you make a photo only of the yak or horse they might ask you to pay. A telelens comes in handy then 😉 If you think about swimming in the cold I have to disappoint you as it’s not allowed because the lake is holy. We headed back to Lhasa around 4 PM arriving back to our hotel around 9 PM. It was the longest drive of the 7 days in Tibet with my son but well worth it.

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Did you visit Tibet too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China

Gallery Namtso Lake

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China
Tibet - Namtso Lake day trip - China
Tibet – Namtso Lake day trip – China

GPS Track Namtso Lake from Lhasa

During my trips I make GPS tracks (sometimes they do not show, click download to open in Google maps). Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips.

2 Comments

  1. Dat ziet er echt heel bijzonder uit Chris!
    Tibet staat hoog op mijn lijstje.
    Hoe hebben jullie het met permits gedaan? Ik dacht dat je altijd in een groepje moest reizen?

    • Hoi Yvon,
      zeker speciaal!
      permits, makkelijk. Het moet wel via een agency want zelf doen is onbegonnen werk. je stuurt kopie paspoort per email en je visum kopie. dan sturen ze de permit op naar je hotel in China want je moet die permit meenemen voor boarding. groepje hoeft zeker niet!!! wel met een gids buiten Lhasa. in Lhasa kan je ook wel zelf rondlopen. naar buiten heb je meer controle.

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