Lakes in Tibet are sacred to the Tibetans. Tibetan people believe that lakes have spirits just like the holy mountains of Tibet. So, it is not unusual to find many ardent devotees who make their “kora” around these sacred lakes. Kora is a meditative practice, done by devotees, by circumambulating around a sacred site like a lake, mountain, or temple. So, now let’s get to know some of these famous sacred lakes:
1. Namtso (Lake Nam) or the Heavenly Lake
Namtso or Lake Nam is the largest saltwater lake in Tibet. Perched at an elevation of 4,718 meters (15,479 ft), it holds the distinction of being the world's highest saltwater lake. To the Tibetans, Namtso is one of the three sacred lakes of their land, the other two being those of Lake Manasarovar and Lake Yamdroktso.
2. Lake Manasarovar—The Mother of the Holy Lakes
Lake Manasarovar is considered one of the world's most sacred lakes and the “Mother of the Holy Lakes.” It is situated in western Ngari Prefecture, 1500km away from the Tibetan capital—Lhasa. It is near Mount Kailash, considered the most sacred mountain in the world. Lake Manasarovar is 4,590 meters (15,060 feet) above sea level and is slightly lower in elevation than that of Namtso.
3. Yamdrok Lake — The Most Beautiful Lake in the World
Lake Yamdroktso is considered the most beautiful water in Tibet. Its name literally means "Green Jade Lake on Pasture.” According to tradition, this lake was formed from the turquoise jewels of a goddess’ earring. This goddess hurled the jewels toward earth for the Tibetans.
4. Lake Rakshastal—The Blue Devil Lake
Lake Rakshastal is the twin lake of Lake Manasarovar. Shaped like a crescent moon, it is radically different from Lake Manasarovar. Lake Rakshastal's water is saline while that of Lake Manasarovar is freshwater. For Tibetan Buddhism, this apparent polarity between these two lakes represents the ever-present balancing act in the universe as seen in the Yin and Yang and the good and evil.
5. Tangra Yumco
Tangra Yumco is Tibet's third-largest lake! To Bon religion, Lake Tangra Yumco is the largest most sacred lake covering an area of 835.8 square kilometers. It is situated in Nyima County's southwest region with an elevation of 4,528 meters. Its water is salty, making it a hot topic for legends.
During your travel in Tibet, you may inadvertently pass by different amazing lakes without knowing their names. Tibetan lakes like Yamdrok, Manasarovar, Namtso are the top three holy lakes and itineraries with either of the three lakes are popular among travelers. Other abovementioned lakes are still very famous, not only because they are astonishingly beautiful, but because they are also sacred lakes. Those who visit these sacred lakes are not only tourists but pilgrims who devotedly renew their faith.