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12 days Namtso -The Holy Lake Trek

Namtso -The Holy Lake Trek

Namtso known as the "Heavenly Lake” is the largest saltwater lake in Tibet. Located some 4,590 m above sea level, it is situated at the edge of the severely-weathered Chang Thang Plateau to the north of Lhasa. The loop walk across the Nyanchen Thang-la Mountains to the pebbled shores of Namtso takes 7-8 days. Our Trek starts at the Damshung valley and then to the mystical environs of Tash-Do hermitage and the vast Namtso. The final leg of the loop enters a remote region of the Nyanchen Thang-la range. We have to cross the Kong-la pass 5,240m above sea level, and wind through the deep glacial valley on the return to Damshung area. Namtso is also inhabited by large flocks of birds both resident and migratory. Then we drive to Reting Monastery, to Drigong Monastery and return to Lhasa. The trek is challenging, involves crossing of several rivers on foot and requires walking 6-7 hours through rocky and steep mountains. You should be healthy, physically fit, and well prepared to take up this challenge.

In November 14, 2005, Namtso Lake in the Tibet Autonomous Region was selected as one of the five most beautiful lakes in Tibet by Chinese National Geography magazine. Namtso Lake's touching beauty should not be missed by any traveler who visits Tibet. Its purity and solemnest are symbols of Qinghai-Tibet Platean. In Tibetan, Namtso means 'Heavenly Lake.' It is considered one of the three holy lakes in Tibet. Namtso is famous for its high altitude (4720 meters (about 3 miles)), vast area (1961 square kilometers (about 757 square miles) and beautiful scenery.

Being the second largest saltwater lake in Tibet only after Qinghai Lake, Namtso Lake is the biggest lake throughout Tibet. Meanwhile, it is the highest altitude saltwater lake in the world. The water here is a storybook crystal-clear blue. Clear skies join the surface of the lake in the distance, creating an integrated, scenic vista. Soul of every visitor who has ever been here seems to be cleansed by the pure lake water.

Namtso Lake maintains its levels from rainfall and melted snow flowing from high mountains. Five islands stand in the waters of the lake, among which the largest one is Liangduo Island. In addition another five by lands stretch into the lake from different directions. Zhaxi byland is the largest in area of these five. A great many bizarre stone peaks can be found on this by land. Some of them are like trunks; some look like human beings; some resemble trees. Various kinds of vivid shapes can easily arouse your imagination. At the same time there are many quiet grottos which are masterpieces of nature. Some grottos are narrow and long like subways; some are full of stalactites; still, others are like louvers. Queer rocks, steep peaks, natural stone ladders and other landform wonders on Zhaxi byland present visitors a picture filled with mystery and enchantment.

Summer is the best time for Namtso Lake. Wild yaks, hares and other wild animals leisurely look for food along the expansive lake shores; countless migratory birds fly here to lay eggs and feed their young; sometimes lovely fishes in the lake jump out of the lake water, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine; sheep and cows herds are like flowing white blanks on the green grassland which can stretch as far as your eyes can see; the dulcet songs of Gauchos resound through the valleys. This time of the year Namtso Lake is full of life and activity. Therefore it is no wonder Tibetans take Namtso Lake the symbol of goodliness and happiness. Really Namtso Lake is a blessing from nature. Besides the beautiful scenery in Namtso, it is also a famous sacred Buddhist place. There is a Zhaxi Temple in Zhaxi by land. In every Tibetan year of sheep, thousands of Buddhism adherents will come here to worship. As a rule, they will walk clockwise along the Namtso Lake in order to receive the blessing of the gods. Getting there: There are no direct buses to Namtso Lake. The best way is to hire a taxi or a mini bus from Lhasa. Note: The sea level is 1100 meters (about 1203 yards) higher than that of Lhasa, therefore please bring lots of water and don't over-exert you.

Trip Outline

Day1: Arrival/Acclimitization

Day2: Lhasa sightseeing

Day3: Lhasa sightseeing

Day4: Gaden Monastery Explore

Day5: Trekking

Day6: Trekking

Day7: Trekking

Day8: Cross Kongla

Day9: Trek to Tashido to Namtso

Day10: Tashido Explore

Day11: Trek Finished Drive back to Lhasa

Day12: Departure from Lhasa Airport/ Train Station


Detail Trekking Itinerary Day to Day 

Day1: Arrival in Lhasa 

You can fly to Lhasa airport from Beijing or Chengdu or Kathmandu. Flights from other cities are routed via Chengdu.

Day2: Lhasa Sightseeing visit Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Tibetan Medical Astrology institute, Bharkor street  

Explore the highlights of Lhasa such as Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute (Mentsekhang) and Barkhor Street. The Potala Palace in Lhasa was the primary residence of the Dalai Lama until 1959. Today the Potala Palace is a state museum, a popular tourist attraction, and a UNESC world heritage site. It was also recently named one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World" by the television show Good Morning America and the newspaper USA Today. This hilltop site above the city of Lhasa originally hosted the meditation retreat of King Songtsen Gampo, who built the first palace there in 637 in order to greet his bride Princess Wencheng of China. The Potala Palace is made of two main parts, easily distinguished by their color: the Red Palace and White Palace. The two are joined by a smaller, yellow-painted structure that houses the sacred banners hung on the exterior for the New Year festivals. The rooms inside the palace are identified by numbers as well as names. Jokhang Temple was founded in 647 by King Songtsen Gampo (r.617-49), the first ruler of a unified Tibet, and his two foreign wives who are credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet. The king's first wife, Princess Bhrikuti (married in the 630s), was the sister of the Nepalese king, while his second wife, Princess Wencheng (married 641), was the niece or daughter of the Chinese emperor. The temple was constructed to house a sacred image of the Buddha, the Jowo Rinpoche, which Queen Wencheng brought with her from China as a dowry. This statue is still enshrined within the temple and is the holiest object in Tibet. Mentsekhang contains special medical departments for brain blood vessels, orthopedics, pediatrics, internal medicine and surgery, etc. It also has two institutes of Tibetan traditional medicine and calendar calculations, and also one Tibetan medicine factory. The history of Tibetan medicine can be dated back to 2,300 years ago. It summed up the Tibetan people's experiences as they fought against diseases and assimilated their local treatments with traditional medicine of the Chinese, Indian, Nepalese and even Sri Lankan. Because of its efficacy on many diseases, Tibetan medicine has drawn wide attention from home and abroad since the 1980s. Doctors do use traditional methods to diagnose in the hospital. For example, doctors talk with patients; observe their appearances and tongues, and take their pulses. Most of the prescriptions are compounds because there are fewer side effects when a prescription is composed of two or more recipes of herbal medicines. What's more, Tibetan medicines also have special effects on such ailments as hypertension, heart disease, paralysis, gastric ulcers, falling sickness, etc.

Tibetan medicine: has a close relationship to the Tibetan calendar. Tibetan doctors believe that the body changes with the seasons. Therefore, they pay more attention to observing the changing of the stars, clouds, winds, lakes and even birds. According to Tibetan custom, Mentsekhang is also the place for astronomy and calendar calculations. Experts in Mentsekhang not only calculate and edit Tibetan calendars but also do research in astronomy. The Tibetan Medicine Factory was founded in 1964 and after an expansion in 1995, became the largest one in Tibet. With modern technology in manufacturing, the factory produces more than 350 kinds of medicines, most of which are famous both at home and abroad. Mentsekhang is also responsible for training Tibetan doctors. The Tibetan medical theory is portrayed on Thangkas as a teaching tool. Colorful Thangkas depicting cosmetology (the physiological and anatomical study of the body), blood circulation and even surgical procedures can be seen hanging on the walls. By observing the exhibition of special tools and appliances, one can gain a clear understanding of Tibetan medicine. Barkhor Street is also a marketplace in which visitors can buy many beautiful souvenirs. Varied shops stand on both sides of the street and thousands of floating stands are on every corner. Most of them offer the prayer wheels, long-sleeve 'Chuba' (the Tibetan people's traditional clothes), Tibetan knives and some religious articles for sale. Furthermore, some shops sell 'Thangka' (the Tibetan scroll painting), which is a unique art of Tibet with the themes of religion, history, literature, science and customs. Surprisingly, there are some articles from India and Nepal in this street as well.

Day3: Lhasa Sightseeing visit Drepung, Norbulingka Palace, Sera Monastery

Normally in the morning time we visit Drepung Monastery which is founded in 1416, Drepung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa was once Tibet's largest and most influential monastery, with over 10,000 monks. Today, Drepung houses about 700 monks and attracts pilgrims and visitors from around the world. Drepung is especially known as the site of the annual Shoton Festival, with its dramatic unfurling of a giant Thangka painting on the hillside. After Drepung visit Norbulinga Palace which is use to be the summer Palace of successive Dalai Lama. Norbulingka Palace, situated in the west side of Lhasa is just around a km southwest of Potala Palace. Norbulingka meaning 'Treasure Park' covers an area of around 360000 sq. m. and is considered to be the biggest man made garden in Tibet. You will be amazed to know that there are more than 370 rooms inside its premises. It is called summer palace because after the 7th Lama, Dalai Lamas used to visit here during summers to hold religious and government related activities. As a part of "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace", UNESCO added Norbulingka in its list of world heritage sites. Then after lunch we move to Sera Monastery in the afternoon time. The Sera Monastery at the foot of Tatipu Hill is located in the northern suburb of Lhasa City. It is one of three famous monasteries in Lhasa along with the Drepung monastery and The monastery is magnificent and covers an area of 114,946 square meters (28 acres). Its main buildings are the Coqen Hall, Zhacang (college) and Kamcun (dormitory). Scriptures written in gold powder, fine statues, scent cloth and unparalleled murals can be found in these halls. Colorful debates on Buddhist doctrines are held here and these employ a style distinctive from those at Lhasa's other famous monasteries. the Ganden monastery The Sera Monastery is dedicated to the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat Sect, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Tsong Khapa. Jamchen Chojey, one of Tsong Khapa's disciples built the monastery in 1419 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The monastery was named Sera which mean wild rose in the Tibetan language, because the hill behind it was covered with wild roses in bloom when the monastery was built.

Day4: Ganden Monastery Excursion

Whole day spend near by the Ganden Monastery for warm up around.

Ganden means "joyful" and is the Tibetan name for Tushita, the heaven where the bodhisattva Maitreya is said to reside. It was the original monastery of the Gelugpa order, founded by Je Tsongkhapa himself in 1409, and traditionally considered to be the seat of Gelugpa. It was the original monastery of the Gelugpa order, founded by Je Tsongkhapa himself in 1409, and traditionally considered to be the seat of Gelugpa administrative. The Ganden Tripa or 'throne-holder of Ganden' is the head of the Gelukpa School. Tsongkhapa’s preserved body was entombed there in a silver and gold encrusted tomb by his disciples in 1419. Being the farthest from Lhasa of the three university monasteries, Ganden traditionally had a smaller population with some 6,000 monks before 1959 (although Waddell reports an estimate of about 3,300 in the 1890s and there were, apparently only 2,000 in 1959.At this time there are about 300 monks. Ganden Monastery consisted of two principal original colleges, Jangtse and Shartse, meaning North Peak and East Peak respectively. The three main sights in the Ganden Monastery are the Serdung, which contains the tomb of Tsongkhapa, the Tsokchen Assembly Hall and the chapel where Tsongkhapa traditionally taught. The monastery houses artifacts which belonged to Tsongkhapa. It contained more than two dozen major chapels with large Buddha statues. The largest chapel was capable of seating 3,500 monks.

Day5: Begin Trekking  

Your Trekking begins from Today an it takes 3-4 hrs, trek 2 hr.

Day6: Acclimatization day.

Today, we will have an acclimatization hike of about 1,000 ft above our camp and enjoy the magnificent views of the grasslands. 3-4 hrs hiking.

Day7: Trek to the herder’s camp

This day will be little be harder because it will take 7-8 hours hiking to Herder’s Camp.

Day8: Cross Kong La (17,000ft)

You will trek for Herder’s camp to Kong La Pass. 6-7 hours trekking

Day9: Trek to  Tashi Do and Namtso Lake

Today you will visit most panoramic lake ini Tibet called Namtso Lake. 7-8 hours hiking

Day10: Rest and exploration day at Tashi Dhor

After the trek we will take rest. If you are interested you can explore around. 1-3 hrs trekking (optional)

Day11: Drive back to Lhasa, Trek finished

It will take 4-4½ hours driving for back to Lhasa

Day12: Departure from Lhasa

Fly to your destination. Your beautiful 12 days Namtso holy lake trek services end here and Tibet warm heartily welcome you back home forever. All the best wishes for your continue happy journey.


Book your Tibet trip to local travel agency in Lhasa.

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