Plan your Lhasa tour? If time permits, you are highly recommended to have a one day round trip excursion to Namtso Lake from Lhasa. Lying between Baingoin County of Nagqu Prefecture and Damxung (Damshung) County of Lhasa Prefenture, Namtso Lake is located about 240km to the northwest of Lhasa city.
Namtso Lake literally means “the heavenly lake”, a mountain lake perched on the north of the Nyainqêntanglha range with a sea-level of 4,718m and a surface area of 1,920 square kilometres.
It is often quoted as the second largest salt lake (after Qinghai Lake) in China and the highest salt lake of the size in the world. Accompanied by the massive Nyainqêntanglha range, Namtso Lake appears like a charming lady, the most stunning body of water in Tibet.
The best season to visit Namtso Lake is between June and September. Normally starting from October and November, Namtso Lake will be closed to tourists due to heavy snow. You may hire a SUV car with the help of the staffers from your hotel or inn. The cheapest way is to join in a shared coach organized by the local travel agencies.
You will find the coach tours of visiting Namatso Lake from most of the youth hostels or hotels in Lhasa. In addition, each morning, the seat-in coach will start from the area by the White Pagoda on the east gate of the Potala Palace around 7:00am.
Natmaso Lake is mostly connected to Lhasa City by the National Highway No.109. The National Highway No.109 is totally 3,901km long, connecting Beijing and Lhasa. The highway within the western Qinghai and Tibet from Golmud to Lhasa, is locally called “Qinghai-Tibet highway”, which is paralled by the “Qinghai-Tibet Railway”.
The Lhasa Namtso Lake 240km road trip takes about 5 hours. When you are driving from Lhasa (Elevation 3650m), the altitude is getting higher and higher. At the driving distance of 87km northwest of Lhasa, you will get to Yangbajing (Yangbajain) with an elevation of 3800m.
Yangbajing is famous for the Yangbajain hot springs, which have been used to produce much of the electricity for the city of Lhasa. If you have spared time back from Namtso Lake, and want to recharge your body and refresh brain, soak yourself in the magic and rewinding hot springs in Yangbajing.
At Yangbajing, you will drive to the northeast direction paralleled by both the active Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the snow-capped Nyainqêntanglha range. You will pass by the west section of Nyenchen Tanglha with the highest peak in the range – Mount Nyenchen Tanglha (Nyainqêntanglha) (7162m).
Your National Highway 109 drive will end at Damxung (Damshung) County at the driving distance of 160km from Lhasa. So at the Damxung (Damshung) County, you will get off the National Highway and start to cross the Nyainqêntanglha range through a surface road completed in 2005 connecting Damxung County and Namtso Lake, a 25km some mountain road leading to the Elevation stone at Lakenla （Laken Pass）5190m, the highest point from Lhasa to Namtso Lake.
At the Elevation stone at Lakenla （Laken Pass）5190m, usually travelers would be arranged to take a break before darting to the sapphire lake – Namtso Lake ( approx.another 30km). The entrance fee for the Namtso Lake is RMB 120.
Namtso Lake has five uninhabited islands. On the four sides of the lake stand four monasteries. There are also five peninsula protruding into the lake. On the north bank of the lake is the Zhaxi Peninsula, which is the best spot for your glimpse at the amazing view of the blue holy lake nestled under the white-capped Nyainqêntanglha range.
If you’d like to stay the night around Namtso Lake, the Zhaxi Peninsula is the only spot for overnight travelers staying in the tents provided by the local Tibetans.
The weather at Namtso is subject to abrupt sudden change and strong winds and snowstorms are very common across the Nyainqêntanglha range.
Last year in late October, we rented a SUV car driving from Lhasa to the Elevation stone at Lakenla （Laken Pass）5190m, where we had a distant view of the white and blue Namtso Lake. Though we were unable to approach the lake due to the heavy snow, we were still luckier than those tourists on a shared coach who had to cancel their road trip on that day.
We were driving along the National Highway No.109 (popularly known as Qinghai-Tibet Highway) paralleled both by the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the Nyainqêntanglha range.