Namtso Lake is located in Nagqu Prefecture, about 260km from Lhasa and 60km from Damxung County. Namtso Lake means 'the holy lake' in the Tibetan language. With over 30km from north to south and over 70km from east to west, Namtso Lake covers a total area of more than 1,900 square kilometers, being the second largest salt lake in China. At an elevation of 4,718 meters, it is also the highest altitude salt lake in the world, the furthest depth being more than 33m.
The water in Namtso Lake for the most part arises from rains, melted ice and snow of Mt. Nyenchen Tonglha and the inflow of crooks and streams, hence the lake is very clear and limpid. With the lake surface assuming sky blue, the lake and the sky seem to be one and undivided, which may make visitors feel themselves in a fairy land if they have a stroll by the lake.
It was said that in the late 12th century, Buddhist hierarchs including the founder of Tibetan Buddhism once practiced the essence of Esoteric Buddhism on Namtso Lake, which was believed to be the origin of worshipping the holy Namtso Lake in the Tibetan Year of the Sheep. According to the Buddhist followers, when the Tibetan Year of the Sheep comes, Buddha and Bodhisattva will hold Buddhist rites on Namtso Lake. If a follower of Buddhism comes to walk and patter around the lake only once in this year, he will be much more blessed than he does so for ten thousand times in other years. So in the Tibetan Year of the Sheep, numerous Buddhist monks and believers trudge all the way from other places to Namtso Lake, feeling satisfied, comfortable and happy after taking ritual walks around the lake only once. This activity, lasting for as long as several months, usually reaches its climax on April 15 in the Tibetan Year of the Sheep, when the Buddhist followers come and go in large numbers.
It is located at the southeastern part of the Namsto, extending north to the lake. It is a limestone peninsula, covering an area of about 10 square kilometers. In the middle, there is a dozens of meters high hill, and at the north end of the peninsula is lined with countless bizarre peristeles and stone peaks. There is a natural stone bridge connecting between the peaks. As the peninsula has been long-term water erosion for a long time, there are many quiet rock caves, which are full of stalactites and forming unique Karst landform. It is also one of the most important attractions at Namsto. Around Namsto, there are five different peninsulas extend to the lake at 5 different directions.
Namsto’s religious activities are most concentrated on Tashi Dor. There is a Tashi Temple (Tashi, in the Tibetan language means auspicious), which is still surrounded by incense smoke on the peninsula. There is a large cave, named Lianhuasheng Cave. It is said that there is a natural lotus pagoda in the cave.
【Yingbin Stone (Wellcoming Stone)】
Along the circle path to the lakeside, you will first see the Yingbin Stone. Countless long plat flags falling down from the top of the hill decorate the stone colorfully. Yingbin Stone consists of two Karst stones, and also called Husband and Wife Stone and is Namco's door-god. According to legend, Namsto is a goddess in charge of the wealth of grassland in northern Tibet, so, when traders go out to do business, they must come here to pray to the door-god, after the consent of the door-god, and then they can worship Namsto Lake, to make sure that the business is booming.
At the lakeside of the Namsto, there are a lot of stones piled Mani Dui. Looked up, the blue sky and clean water, connecting seamless. The grassland at the lakeside looks like a giant green blanket with boundless sight.
There are some activities for you to join or explore if you are travelling to Namtso in the right time. For example, you can take part in or watch Shoton Festival, do campfiring or horseback riding, or do Pilgrimages.
Each year at the end of June and early July is the Shoton Festival. In Tibetan language, Shoton means eating yogurt festival, so it is also called "Yogurt Festival." Because there are enthusiastic Tibetan opera performances and grand ceremony of Sunning the Buddha, it is also called "Tibetan Opera Festival", "Sunning of the Buddha Festival." During the Shoton Festival, Namsto will hold hiking meeting and Jiashan Ancient Road Hiking. Namsto hiking is very famous.
If you live here for one night, you can set campfire on the island.
【Riding Horse and Yak】
Traveling to Namsto, you can ride horse and yak here. Riding horse slowly along the sacred lake is a very enjoyable activity.
Believers say that, each goat year, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Dharma Protector set dharma assembly here, if people come here and circle the lake, it surpasses 100,000 times chant than usual. So each goat year, monks or believers will hiking here, and April 15th is the climax.