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Namtso Lake

Namtso Lake in Lhasa is one of the famous holy lakes in Tibet for Tibetan pilgrims.

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Namtso Lake  is the largest lake in Tibet, the 2nd largest salt water lake in China(the 1st largest is Qinghai Lake), and the world’s highest lake. It is located between the Damxung County of Lhasa and the Bango County of Nagqu region.

In the Tibetan language, “Namtso Lake” means “Heavenly Lake”. The lake surface is at 4,740 meters above sea level, measuring about 70 kilometers long and 30 kilometers broad, with a surface area of 1,920 square kilometers. Because of the high altitude, you’ll need to acclimatise in and around Lhasa for a few days before heading this way. It is not unusual for visitors to ge altitude sickness on an overnight stay ou at the lake.

The melted snow and ice of the Nyenchen Tangula Mountains from the main water supply of Namtso Lake. It was these mountains that Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter crossed on their incredible journey to Lhasa. With lush grass growing on the vast land near the lake, the place is the best pasture land of northern Tibet. Wildlife creatures, especially precious birds, find the place to be an ideal habitat. Besides the 5 islands in the lake, there are 5 peninsulas reaching into the lake. The Zaxi Peninsula is the largest among the 5. On the peninsula of 10 square kilometers are the Zaxi Monastery, karst caves, stone forest, naturally formed bridges and other special scenery.

When the ice melts in late April, the lake is a miraculous shade of turquoise and there are magnificent views of the nearby mountains. The wide open spaces, dotted with the tents of local drokpas, are intoxicating.

Every year, many pilgrims from Tibet and nearby regions will come here. The pilgrimage, which takes about 20 to 30 days to circle the whole lake, peaks in the Year of Goat on the Tibetan Calendar.

Around the area's natural elements, historical and anthropological background, a 2010 romantic drama Shangri-La, starring China's popular actor Hu Ge, was broadcast at CCTV1 and received positive reviews. Some scenes in the 2002 Hong Kong film The Touch were filmed at the lake. Namtso Lake was featured in the BBC TV series: Himalaya with Michael Palin.

Ideal photography time

The prime photography time is before and after sunrise or sunset within half an hour. Shoot south bay of Tashi peninsula and golden snow mountains of Nyainqentanglha Range at sunrise and north lakeshore of Tashi peninsula at sunset.

Restaurant and Accommodation

There are many tent eateries in Tashi peninsula in peak season, and most accommodations can provide Sichuan cuisine and Tibetan meal. The price is higher than that in Damxung and Lhasa. There are more eateries along the state road 190, and they have more kinds of dishes than that in Tashi peninsula.

The hotels in Tashi peninsula can provide simple tent guesthouses, and costs you CNY30 each bed. The power failure often occurs at midnight. Or you can choose to stay overnight at the lake shore by camping.

Shoot Location

1.Yingbin stone

Yinbin stone is also called as Gods of Gate or couple stone of Namtso. The two huge rocks are hung with pentachromic prayer flags all year round, and surrounded by Marnyi Stones and Yak skulls, which is the perfect foreground for your photography.

2.Gassho stone

It is also called parents stone. Gassho stone is the incarnation of Nyainqentanglha Range and Namtso Lake according to a legend, which symbolizes their faithful love.

3.Good and evil hole Tibetan Buddhism deems that god will know whatever you do, good or evil. It is just a warning bell by Buddha. This place is very close to Gassho stone and the only way to circumambulate Tashi peninsula in clockwise direction. 4.Hilltop on Tashi peninsula

The way to the hilltop is paved road. It is the commanding height to shoot Nyainqentanglha Range and Namtso Lake. Sunrise and sunset is the perfect time that you should not miss. In addition, the altitude of hilltop is at 5,000m above sea level and the wind is very strong. So it will be a strenuous climb. (Photo shows the beautiful sunrise of Namtso Lake. The sun is rising from the horizon and the sunlight sprinkled on the surface of the lake.)

Photography Plan

The main attractions of Namtso are concentrated in Tashi peninsula, which is 220 kilometers away from Lhasa.

Plan A: Photographers need at least two days to visit Namtso Lake.

Day 01: Drive from Lhasa to Namtso. You can shoot Nyainqentanglha Range, hot springs in Yangpachen, and Nagenla Pass along the way. Don't miss the beautiful sunset of Namtso Lake. Stay overnight in Tashi peninsula.

Day 02: Shoot the sunrise of Namtso Lake in the morning and circumambulate the peninsula along the lake shore or climb up to the mountaintop to shoot. Then go back to Lhasa.

Plan B: If you go to Tibet by renting a car or driving along Qinghai-Tibet highway, you can visit Namtso Lake when passing through Damxung, which is 61 kilometers away from Tashi peninsula. In addition, you have to cross Nagenla Pass on the way to Namtso and the Pass will be inaccessible in winter.

Tips of Namtso Lake

The follwing are some helpful tips for your Namtso tour.

1. The sea level is 1100 meters higher than that of Lhasa, therefore please bring lots of water and don't over-exert yourself.

2. Weather here is changeable. Bring your thickest clothes just in case there may be rains or hail stones.

3. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen and sunglasses with you.

4. Staying at Namucuo overnight is extremely worthwhile. The sunrise and sunset are breathtakingly beautiful. You would find the night sky filled with stars, and even see the nebula of the Milky Way.

5. Some local people will lead a yak to charge if you want to take a photo with the yak. You’d better keep away from it to avoid unnecessary trouble.

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