Yamdrok Lake

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Yamdrok Lake
Photographed from the Gampa pass (on the road between Lhasa and Gyantse)
Yamdrok Lake is located in Tibet
Yamdrok Lake
Yamdrok Lake
Coordinates28°56′N 90°41′E / 28.933°N 90.683°E / 28.933; 90.683Coordinates: 28°56′N 90°41′E / 28.933°N 90.683°E / 28.933; 90.683
Basin countriesChina
Max. length72 km (45 mi)
Surface area638 km2 (246 sq mi)
Surface elevation4,441 m (14,570 ft)
Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake (also known as Yamdrok Yumtso or Yamzho Yumco; Tibetan: ཡར་འབྲོག་གཡུ་མཚོ་, Wylie: yar-'drog. G’yu-mtsho, ZYPY: Yamzhog Yumco; Chinese: 羊卓雍錯; pinyin: Yángzhuó Yōngcuò, Yángzhuō Yōngcuò) is a freshwater lake in Tibet, it is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is over 72 km (45 mi) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake has an outlet stream at its far western end and means turquoise in English due to its color.[1]

Around 90 km to the west of the lake lies the Tibetan town of Gyantse and Lhasa is a hundred km to the northeast. According to local mythology, Yamdok Yumtso lake is the transformation of a goddess.

The Yamdrok Hydropower Station was completed and dedicated in 1996 near the small village of Baidi at the lake’s western end. This power station is the largest in Tibet.[2]

Physical data[edit]

Yamdrok Lake (at the top) and Lake Puma Yumco from space, November 1997

The lake (638 km² in area, 30 meters average depth and 60 meters at its deepest) is fan-shaped, spreading to the south but narrowing up to the north. The mountainous lakeshore is highly crenellated, with numerous bays and inlets. Lake Yamdrok freezes in winter.


Yamdrok Lake has a cold steppe climate (BSk) with long, cold, very dry winters and short, cool, wet summers. It is also bordering on an alpine tundra climate (ET) and on a subarctic climate (Dwc). The differences between day and night are great.

Cultural significance[edit]

Yamdrok Lake in summer
Yamdrok Lake
A view of the serene Yamdrok Lake with a yak in the foreground[3]

Like mountains, lakes are considered sacred by Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers. Yamdrok Lake is one of four particularly holy lakes, thought to be divinatory; everyone from the Dalai Lama to local villagers makes pilgrimages there. It is considered sacred as one of the four "Great Wrathful Lakes" guarded by the goddess Dorje Gegkyi Tso.[2] The others such lakes are Lhamo La-tso, Namtso and Manasarovar. The lake is revered as a talisman and is said to be part of the life-spirit of Tibet. The largest lake in southern Tibet, it is said that if its waters dry, Tibet will no longer be habitable.

The lake, its islands, and the surrounding area are closely associated with Padmasambhava, the Second Buddha, who brought Buddhism to Tibet in 8th century AD.[2] The lake is home to the famous Samding Monastery which is on a peninsula jutting into the lake. This monastery is the only Tibetan monastery to be headed by a female re-incarnation. Since it is not a nunnery, its female abbot heads a community of about thirty monks and nuns. Samding Monastery is where Samding Dorje Phagmo, the most important female incarnate Lama in Tibet, stayed and presided, and stands to the south of Lake Yamdrok Yumtso.[4]

Today, both pilgrims and tourists can be seen walking along the lake's perimeter. One of the lake's islands contains an old fort or castle called Pede Dzong.

Economic significance[edit]

There are shoals of fish living in Yamdrok Lake, which are commercially exploited by local population. From April to October, fish caught from this lake are sold at markets in Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

Additionally, the lake's islands serve as rich pasture land to local herdsmen.


  1. ^ "Guide to Tibet - Things to do, Places to visit and Practicalities".
  2. ^ a b c Petra Seibert and Lorne Stockman. "The Yamdrok Tso Hydropower Plant in Tibet: A Multi-facetted and Highly Controversial Project". Archived from the original on 2007-08-05. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  3. ^ "Guide to Tibet - Things to do, Place to visit, Practicalities".
  4. ^ [1]

External links[edit]