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Hiking, Natural Wonders Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.1

scorecard

  • 4.5Value
  • 2.5Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Tibet's mountain ranges get a lot of love, but the region's many alpine lakes are just as noteworthy. In fact, the Tibetan people consider these lakes to be holy and take pilgrimages to them. The most popular (and the most sacred) are Yamdrok Lake, Lake Namtso and Manasarovar Lake.

Yamdrok Lake is a freshwater lake that is lauded for its vibrant blue waters. The color of the water varies depending on the position and intensity of the sun. The lake, which is surrounded on either side by rolling hills and mountains, is known to be a very pretty landscape. The best way to take in Yamdrok is to climb one of its hills for panoramic views of its grandeur (the lake is a whopping 45 miles long). 

Lake Namtso is another top pick among travelers for its majesty. Namtso differs in that it is a saltwater lake and higher in elevation. Because of this, you should not visit this lake until after you've acclimated to the altitude. Namtso, which means "heavenly" or "sacred" lake in the Tibetan language, lives up to its name, according to recent visitors. Its surrounding glacial mountains and vast nature (the lake is 760 square miles) left many travelers in awe. Plus, the locals that live around the area like to take their yaks out to play, so bring some extra yuan to snap a picture with the furry creatures.

The most sacred of all lakes is Lake Manasarovar, the highest freshwater lake in the world. Taking a dip in or ingesting the waters of Manasarovar is supposed to have healing and cleansing powers. But it's best to just observe it, should you decide to visit. While here, make sure to look for the nearby Mount Kailash, which Buddhists believe to be the center of the universe.

If you want to go to any of these lakes, it will have to be included in your tour to Tibet. Under the terms of the Tibetan permit, foreigners are not allowed to travel outside Lhasa independently. Lake Namtso and Manasarovar are located hours from Lhasa, with the latter close to the border of India. Despite the long journeys to reach these lakes, many recent travelers said the natural beauty was worth the lengthy travel time. 

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#1 Jokhang Temple

Alongside Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple is one of the most important sites in Tibet. The Jokhang Temple was built in the seventh century to promote Buddhism in Tibet, and as such earned the distinction of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Jokhang translates to "house of Buddha," or more specifically "chapel of the Jowo." And it lives up to its name. The temple houses more than 3,000 images of Buddha, deities and other historical figures in the religion, including the Jowo Shakyamuni.

Jowo Shakyamuni, or also referred to as the Jowo Rinpoche, is considered to be the most sacred image of Buddha in Tibet. It is said that the statue was sculpted by Vishwakarma – the Indian god of architecture – between the fifth and sixth century B.C., when Buddha was still believed to be alive. This has led to the belief that the Jowo Sakyamuni, as one of the earliest accounts of Buddha, is the most accurate visual representation of Buddha. Research has shown that this story is factually inaccurate, but that hasn't stopped crowds of Tibetans from coming to the temple to pray. The statue depicts Buddha the moment he reached enlightenment – legs in lotus position, one hand gesturing meditation with the other gesturing the "earth to witness."

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