Namtso is one Tibet's most sacred lakes, and is known by locals as a Holy Lake. With over 9 holy lakes in Tibet, Namtso is considered the most famous. This stunning, mountainous lake is located in Nagqu, a town in northern Tibet approximately 200 miles by road north-east of the capital Lhasa. The lake itself is situated at a height of over 15,000 feet, covering an area of 1180 square miles; this is one of the highest and largest salt lakes in the world. The Holy Lake is home to five uninhabited islands once used for pilgrimages although now banned by the government. Locals regarded this trek as a spiritual retreat, with pilgrims walking over the lake's frozen surface at the end of winter, carrying their food with them. They spent the summer there, unable to return to shore again until the water froze the following winter. Visitors here can enjoy the incredible surroundings with wild yaks, an endless variety of birds, hares and other local wildlife that are part of the ecosystem of this picturesque destination. Local people in their colorful traditional dress will happily pose for photos, and allow tourists to ride their yak for a small fee or enjoy a walk along the shore, climb the rocky landscape or visit the old monastery at the top of the hill cleverly built into the rocks.
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Crossing Namtso Lake to reach the Sera Monastery provides a memorable experience. A traditional Tibetan boat traverses the pristine blue waters to the foot of Tatipu Hill, where this impressive Monastery lies. Of great cultural significance to the Tibetan Buddhists, the building is one of only a few destinations where you can catch the famous debate session of the monks, a sight rarely witnessed by modern-day travelers.
Get in touch with abundant natural beauty and connect with ancient Tibetan traditions by camping in an authentic Tibetan yurt. Not only providing travelers with a unique experience, yurt camping also takes visitors back in time to how the nomads have lived for centuries. Constructed using indigenous materials, the yurt provides spacious-yet-cozy nights under the stars, where the gentle ripples of the lake can be heard.
Buddhist pilgrims come to this holy lake each year to pay homage and pray. You can also walk around the pilgrimage trail lined with authentic stone walls and inviting caves, boasting breathtaking scenery. Hiking next to the pure blue waters and breathing in crisp mountain air gives visitors a feeling of elevation, especially as the lake is said to be 'hanging in the air'.
A ride on a gentle and majestic yak around Namtso Lake offers a truly unforgettable experience of this rustic province. Tibetan Yaks can carry up to 300 pounds without struggle and are a way of life for everyone in rural Tibet. Snow-capped mountains, vibrant-open fields and effervescent wildlife make for stunning, natural scenery while trekking lakeside at a leisurely pace.
Like anywhere in China, there is always a market and hawkers to be found and Namtso Lake is no different. Selling the usual tourist-type items such as souvenirs and handmade wares, you are sure to find a trinket to take home with you. For a true market experience, visit Barkhor Street Market located in Lhasa with hundreds of stalls selling all types of crafts and gifts.
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