There are thousands of lakes across the Tibetan Plateau. Most geologists believe that the plateau was covered by the ocean in the past. When the ocean retreated, it left innumerable lakes behind. Many of the lakes are salt water lakes. Most of the lakes, especially on the northern Tibetan Plateau, are frozen for many months of the year. Qinghai Lake (known also as Tso Ngonpo in Tibetan and as Kokonor in Mongolian) is the largest lake in China. There are numerous lakes that are considered to be holy to Tibetan people such as Yamdrok Lake, Yilhun Lha Lake and Lake Manasarovar (Mapham Yum Tso). It is common to see pilgrims walking around these holy lakes prostrating every 6 steps.
This first picture is of Ngoring Tso (lake) in remote western Amdo. It is one of the main sources of the Ma Chu (Yellow River) which extends across China. Ngoring sits at 4350m / 14,270 feet above sea level.
Nam Tso is one of the most popular lakes that travelers to Tibet visit. It is located 3.5 hours north of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet . Nam Tso sits at 4718m / 15,479 feet above sea level. A sign near the lake entrance states that the lake is the "highest in the world", but that is untrue. There are many lakes in Tibet that are higher than Nam Tso. The snow-capped mountains surrounding Nam Tso make it one of the most beautiful lakes in Tibet.
This picture of Nam Tso was taken in early May with most of the ice being melted.
Ku Tso is a small lake in northern Amdo, Tibet. It lies off of Highway 214 which goes through eastern Tibet. There are no towns near Ku Tso and only a handful of nomad Tibetans in the area. The lake is 4000m / 13,120 feet above sea level. The mountains around the lake are usually snow-capped.
This picture was taken in early October just after the mountains received fresh snow.
Yilhun Lha Lake is one of the most famous and beautiful lakes in the Kham region. It sits just west of the small town of Manigango. The lake sits next to the Chola mountains which rise to over 6100m / 20,000 feet. The lake itself sits at about 4100m / 13,450 feet. Yilhun Lha Tso is an excellent place to go hiking and camping. Unlike most lakes on the plateau, there are actually a few trees around Yilhun Lha Tso.
This picture was taken in early September.
Qinghai Lake (Tso Ngonbo in Tibetan and Kokonor in Mongolian) is the largest lake on the Tibetan Plateau and the largest in China. It is in the far northeast corner of the Amdo region of Tibet. It sits at 3200m / 10,500 feet. Numerous nomads live around the lake. Qinghai Lake is a salt lake and is covered in thick ice during the brutally cold winters. This lake is one of the largest tourist attractions in all of the Tibetan Plateau.
Yamdrok Lake lies at 4450m / 14,600 feet above sea level. The lake is in southern Tibet between the cities of Lhasa and Gyantse. Mt. Nojin Kangtsang at 7191m / 23,600 feet lies near Yamdrok Lake. Yamdrok is a large lake that is shaped somewhat like a scorpion. Most people visit Yamdrok enroute to Mt. Everest or Nepal, but it is possible to stay the night in the town of Nangartse, the closest town to the lake.
Kyaring Lake is found less than 10kms from Ngoring Lake (pictured at the top) in western Amdo. These two lakes supply most of the water to the Yellow River. Kyaring Lake, 4350m / 14,270 feet above sea level, is difficult to get to since there are only dirt paths leading to it. It is frozen for the entire winter and even into the spring. This picture was taken in early May and there are large portions covered in ice.
Peiku Tso is a beautiful alpine lake located near Shishapangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world. This remote lake sees very few tourists, but is a great place to go if you are wanting to see some of the off-the-beaten-path areas of Tibet. The lake sits at an elevation of 4600m/15,100 feet and is a bright turquoise color all year round. The drive to the lake is amazing with excellent views of Himalaya Mountains. There is also usually a lot of wildlife in this area including wild horses, wolves, foxes, deer, gazelle, black-necked cranes as well as yaks and sheep.
Ngamring Tso is a remote lake found along the way to Mt. Kailash near the small town of Ngamring in west Tibet. The lake sits at 4300m and is frozen all winter long. In the spring and summer it is a bright blue color and is small enough to hike around in 1 day.
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