Namtso was born in the Paleogene age, as a result of Himalayan tectonic plate movements. The lake lies at an elevation of 4,718 m (15,479 ft), and has a surface area of 1,920 square kilometres. This salt lake is the largest lake in the Tibet Autonomous Region. However, it is not the largest lake in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. That title belongs to Qinghai Lake (more than twice the size of Namtso); which lies more than 1,000 km [650 miles] to the north-east, in China's Qinghai province.
Namtso has five uninhabited islands of reasonable size, in addition to one or two rocky outcrops. The islands have been used for spiritual retreat by pilgrims who walk over the lake's frozen surface at the end of winter, carrying their food with them. They spend the summer there, unable to return to shore again until the water freezes the following winter. This practice is no longer permitted by the Chinese Government.
The largest of the islands is in the north-west corner of the lake, and is about 2,100 m long and 800 m wide, rising to just over 100 m in the middle. Its closest point is about 3.1 km from the shore. The most remote island is, at its closest, 5.1 km from the shore. During summer time, birds like Ruddy shelduck Phalacrocorax migrate to the lake area, besides the fields of astragalus, roegneria nutans and marram grass. The weather at Namtso is subject to abrupt sudden change and snowstorms are very common across the Nyainqêntanglha range.
Day 1 Lhasa Arrival
Welcome to the roof of the world! Your Tibet journey starts with a warm Tibetan style greeting from your local tour guide who will present you with Hada (traditional Tibetan scarves). You will be picked up at the airport or train station, and then be escorted to your hotel in Lhasa city at the comfort of your own private vehicle. During the hour long drive to your hotel in the city, you can enjoy the breathtaking view along the Yarlong Tsangpo River. Tibetan features can be seen along the way, including Big Buddha engravings on the hill near the road, colorful prayer flags and friendly Tibetan people.Overnight at Lhasa
After you arrive at your hotel, the rest of the day is free for you to explore the local area and become acclimatized to this high altitude city at the top of the world.
Tips: The altitude in Lhasa is about 3,650m above sea level. Take time out to relax and acclimate to the high altitude after arrival at your hotel. We recommend that you avoid strenuous activity for the first few days. It is advisable that you do not take showers. For first time visitors, it is common to have different degrees of high altitude sickness symptoms. Drink more water, have fresh fruits and plenty of rest will help to prevent the sickness. Have a good rest tonight, and get ready for tomorrow’s journey.
Day 2 Lhasa (B)
Take the challenge of climbing up to Potala Palace (3,650m above sea level) and get a great view of Lhasa’s urban areas. Great photographic opportunities along the way will overwhelm you as great view of the traditional Tibetan architecture is nothing short of spectacular. Hear the story of Dalai Lamas and see chapels where Dalai Lama studied, rested and worked in. Pass former Lama graves which are decorated with beautiful treasures.
Continue your tour to Jokhang Temple, which is within walking distance from Potala Palace. It is considered the spiritual center of Tibet. You will see many pilgrims worshipping within or nearby the temple. Enter the first floor of the temple and absorb the religious atmosphere, you will see pilgrims donating butter oil to keep the lights burning for Lord Buddha. While learning about Buddha and Lamas, more than you can possibly remember, you will acquire a huge respect and knowledge of the vast history of Tibetan Buddhism. You might also hear red-robed Lamas praying. Walk up to the roof of the temple, take some pictures of the golden roof and enjoy the beautiful sunshine of Lhasa while observing pilgrims praying and chanting mantras in front of the temple.
Finally, join the locals in a traditional pilgrimage route by taking a relaxing walk in a large circular path around Jokhang Temple at Barkor Street. The street is filled with pilgrims taking part in religious activities and street vendors selling a wide variety of traditional Tibetan goods and religious items. If you like you can also ask your tour guide take you to visit a Thangka workshop to marvel the fabulous Thangka art work. There are cafes along the street as well where you can lay back and enjoy one lazy afternoon of Lhasa life.
Tips: As you climb up to the Potala Palace, you might experience slight shortness of breath due to the exertion. Take your time and rest whenever needed. Please try not to bother pilgrims; you can take pictures from a distance. In Barkor Street, you will have a chance to pick a few unique souvenirs for your friends and do remember to bargain and compare the price in different shops. If you still want to go out in the evening, you may go to the square on your own in front of the Potala Palace around 8:30 p.m. to enjoy the 2-hours music fountain for free. Or else, simple take pleasure by looking at all the beautiful pictures you took during the day and get good sleep! On this day, you will be mainly outside, therefore you are required to bring plenty of water, a hat, sun cream, and sun glasses.
Day 3 Lhasa (B)
After breakfast, you are driven to visit the Norbulingka Park, the former summer palace of Dalai Lama. Explore the beautiful gardens and experience one of the most holy sites in Tibetan Buddhism while soaking up the rich history. Next, come to Drepung Monastery, which were once the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery housing 10,000 monks in its heyday. Learn about the lives of Tibetan monks.
Your tour ends at Sera Monastery, where you will get the chance to experience “Buddhism Scriptures Debating”. These debates are unique to Sera and are quite famous. Enjoy the debates!
Tips: This day, you will be driven to the outskirts of Lhasa City and will spend less than an hour driving in total. The road condition is good. A little walking or climbing is involved. You are required to pack plenty of water with you along with your sun glasses and sun cream.
Day 4 Lhasa - Namtso (B)
This day, you’ll be driven to Namtso Lake, about 250 km northwest from Lhasa (paved road), the second-largest saltwater lake in China. It is over 70km long and reaches a width of 30km. In clear weather the water will have a stunning shade of turquoise and you will be surrounded by magnificent views of the mountains nearby. The wide open spaces, dotted with tents of local nomads, are spectacular. You may also walk along the lake or climb up the hill near the lake to explore the area.
Tips: While we recommend that you stay in a hotel back in Lhasa in the interest of comfort, you do have the option to stay at a guest house near Namtso Lake. The guest houses lack showers. There is only one public toilet in the area which has no light to offer at night. However, if you are able to put up with the discomfort, staying at the guesthouse will allow you to a great view of the sunset and sunrise, as well as a great view of the stars at night! A torch is a must if you choose to stay overnight near the lake.
Day 5 Lhasa Departure (B)
This day will be free until you are escorted to the airport or the train station.
Tips: Please pack your luggage carefully, especially for small things like camera charger, power adaptor, mobile phone, phone charger, wallet and towel. If your flight is arranged in the afternoon, please make sure you check out the hotel before 12pm.