Lake Manasarovar - Holy Lake in Tibet
As one of three holy lakes in Tibet together with Namtso Lake, Yamdrok Lake, Lake Manasarovar is a world highest freshwater. Located at the southern foot of Mount Kailash in Ngari, it has an elevation of 4590 meters. With the meaning of eternal and invincible jade lake in Tibetan, it is the sources of four great rivers of Asia, namely the Brahmaputra, Ghaghara, Sindhu and Sutlej, and one of the sacred pilgrimage destinations. In the shape of pear for the widest part of 26km long, the lake water is crystal clean and glimmering blue under the sunshine. As the divine place together with Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar embraces thousands of visitors from Tibet regions, India, Nepal and neighboring countries to worship. For religious believers, like Hindus and Buddhists, bathing in Manasarovar and drinking its water is believed to cleanse all sins and taking a Kailash-Manasarovar kora is a lifetime journey.
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Lake Manasarovar Facts
- Holy Lake, Natural Site
- 4,590 meters
- South side of Mt. Kailash, Purang County
Manasarovar Lake's Myth and Mystery
In Hindu tradition, Manasarovar Lake was created by Brahma (god of creation), to provide an appropriate bathing place for his sons after trekking the holy land. Therefore, bathing in the lake on the way of kora is a tradition among Hindus to get cleansed. While according to Buddhists legend, the Buddha’s mother was transported here by the gods, and she bathed in the sacred waters of Lake Manasarovar until her body was purified. She then saw a white elephant running to her from Mount Kailash, as the Buddha entered her womb, then she gave birth to the Buddha.
What to See at Lake Manasarovar
Every summer, pilgrims from Tibet, India and Nepal will make a circumambulation and take a bath in this holy lake to fulfill their pilgrimage. By dipping in the water, the Hindus express a sense of celestial ecstasy overwhelmed all. For ordinary tourists, the nature view along the lakeshore with some historical temples standing by is also a sublime experience.
The views from the Lake Manasarovar are spectacular. In the daytime, facing the holy Mount Kailash in the northside, you can sit along the lakeshore to enjoy the minimal waves and view the different colors of water with blue, bluish green, green, etc. What’s more, the rainbow and swans can be seen if you are blessed. Besides, camping over the lake to stay overnight is pleasant with a tranquil night sky.
Monasteries at Manasarovar Lake
On the lakeshore, there were a lot of Buddhism monasteries and only eight of them existed for today spreading in the eight directions around the lake. With a small scale, some of them were blessed by padmasambhava, now they are in different functions for tourists to view the lake and stay with.
The most notable one is the ancient Chiu Gompa, which has been built right onto a steep hill, and looks as if it has been carved right out of the rock. Standing on the top in sunny days, you can easily view the blue lake and white holy Kailash. The Jiwu Gompa as the tourist site to stay overnight has a village nearby for tourist to shoot scenery of sunrise and sunset in the background of Mt. Kailash.
Every year during the late-spring to summer time, there are trooping groups of pilgrims from neighboring countries for Kailash-Manasarovar kora and take bath in the lake and drink the water of Manasarovar. Due to the historical influence, Hindus make up a large proportion among them with a regular organization. They believe that the water from the holy lake can remove one’s physical and spiritual discomfort. Even plants and fish that are somehow related to the lake are deemed as magical medicines. For Buddhists of local Tibetans, they prefer to take a kora on foot or take kowtow to move forward to get blessed, especially in the year of horse in Tibetan calendar, which is said one round is equal to 13 thirteen rounds. Influenced by devoted pilgrims, some tourists would like to join them to take a dip or trek around to cleanse heart and purify the soul.
>> Read more about Kailash Manasarovar Yatra (Kora)
How to Get to Manasarovar Lake
Manasarovar Lake and Mt. Kailash are usually travelled together for its religious significance and short distance. As a holy lake for different nationalities, there are different land routes for visitors to reach Manasarovar Lake and Mount Kailash. And the most popular way to choose is via Tibet.
Travel from Tibet: the most popular way for most foreign tourists to arrive at Manasarovar Lake is to travel via Lhasa or Shigatse, so that you can have enough time to adjust the high altitude by sightseeing along the way (Lhasa – Shigatse – Lhatse – Saga – Paryang - Darchen). For experienced plateau-travelers who are free from High Altitude Sickness, it is available to take a flight to Ngari Gunsha Airport from Lhasa and Urumqi. After that, it takes about 3.5 hours to drive to Darchen from the airport and the distance from the airport to the lake is about 240 km.
Travel from the Border: For Indians and Nepalese pilgrims, you may cross the border via Yadong and Purang respectively to enter Tibet of China. Then transfer to Manasarovar Lake. A tour to Mount Kailash and Manasarovar Lake through border to Yadong or Purang can only organized by several authorized travel agencies.
Mt Kailash to Manasarovar Lake: It is only about 47 km from Manasarovar Lake to Darchen, the starting & ending point of Mount Kailash kora, and the only transportation way is to take a car and the duration is about 1 hour.
● 47 km away from Mt Kailash
● 240 km away from Ngari Airport
● 1,200 km away from Lhasa
● 290 km away from Guge Kingdom
● 110 km away from Purang
Learn more about Get to/around Ngari
Nearby Attractions Around Manasarovar Lake
Mount Kailash: In the far southwestern Tibet, near Lake Manasarovar, Mount Kailash means mountain of God, and it is a holy mountain worshiped by four religions, including Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Like a tradition, every single year, a large number of Buddhist believers from all over the world traveling far here to kora around Kailash, especially in the Tibet horse year. Apart from its religious influence, the nature of the snow-capped mountain is also worth seeing. Reaching to 6,656 meters, its peak shows a peculiar brilliance under the sunshine.
Guge Kingdom: Founded by the descendants of the Tobo Dynasty during the 10th century, the Guge Kingdom has a long history for over 700 years. It created a spectacular and advanced civilization and then disappeared mysteriously. The Site of Guge Kingdom is located in western Ngari Prefecture, about several hours’ driving distance to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. The architectures of the ancient Guge Kingdom were piled up on the mountain slope at a height of 300 meters. On the mountain, there are golden relics of palaces, caves, monasteries, and houses, which witness the prosperity and decay of an ancient kingdom.
Lake Rakshastal: Lake Rakshastal is close to the holy lake Manasarovar, to the west of it, a beautiful crescent blue lake. Meanwhile, the shape of Manasarovar is like the sun. The area between the two lakes is the only way to get in and out of Purang county. Compared with the freshwater holy lake Manasarovar, Rakshastal, which is so close to it, is a lifeless saltwater lake. It's quiet and barren, and some people called it “ghost lake”. The holy lake and the ghost lake are not far away from each other, with waterways connected. Standing on the lakeside, you can see some small reddish islands in the blue water and the Holy Mountain Kailash not afar off.
Useful Travel Tips for Visiting Manasarovar Lake
● Necessary Permits
Apart from Tibet Travel Permit which is a must to Tibet, you need Alien’s Travel Permit, Border Pass and Military Permit as well, which are issued by local Public Security Bureau (PSB) of Tibet. All these permits can only be applied by travel agency on behalf of tourists(☛ contact us now). There are several check stations set on the road, and the staff will check all your permits, and sometimes you passport also. For Indians, the formalities may vary from other nationalities, so if you are Indians, please inform us in advance.>>More about Tibet Permits for Foreign Travelers
● High Altitude Sickness
The average altitude of Mt Kailash and Manasarovar Lake area is about 3,900 meters, but if you want to have a Kailash Manasarovar kora, you need to conquer the Dolma La, which has the highest altitude of 5630 meters. This means that people who already have been sick, had heart / lung diseases, or terrible altitude sickness in Lhasa and lower altitude area shall not carry out this challenging hike. To travel in the high altitude area, you should arrange your Kailash Manasarovar trip in the later part of your Tibet tour and adjust your physical conditions to do outdoor activities ahead of time as you ascend to a higher altitude.>>How to Avoid High Altitude Sickness in Tibet
● Best Time to Visit
The best time to go to Ngari is from July to October, especially in September and October, with more sunny days, since there is a rainy period from June to August. Even though, you should keep an eye on the weather condition before you go and during your visit time. Remember do not let your skin exposed outside or you'll easily get burnt by intensive solar irradiation. The Kailash Manasarovar kora usually starts from late April to early May, while it is still very cold and parts of the road are still covered with snow. Please note the temperatures at daytime and night also vary a lot, and it is advisable to bring an extra layer to keep warm at night and comfortable shoes to hike.
● Food and Accommodation
Travel this particular place with basic accommodation and limited food supply, there is much more you should take, including warm clothes (even in summertime), tent, sleeping bag, a waterproof mattress, some high-calorie food, like chocolate, water, common medicines, etc. If you are not going to bring the camping items, you can only stay at towns and temples around Mt Kailash, such as Seng-ge Kambab, Purang, Zanda, Darchen, Jiwu. Except for the hotels of Seng-ge Kambab area, you can not find any other places to take a bath.
● Photography Site
Jiwu Gompa as a tourist base is also an ideal site to take photos. Standing on the hillside nearby, you can have a panorama view of Lake Manasarovar, even Mt. Kailash and Namnani Peak in the sunny days.
● Taking Bath in Lake
As a tradition for some religious pilgrims, the bathe needs courage to overcome the freezing water. If you are just a tourist, please think twice to take a holy dip and check your health condition.
There are Yaks and Horses available to transfer your stuff for a high cost in one-time or you can hire a porter with a maximum to carry paid per day.
How to Plan A Tibet Tour
Tibet is too vast to be visited in one single trip, but planning ahead of time can make most of your holiday. A classic Tibet tour always takes about 4 ~ 8 days. Apart from 2 days for arrival and departure, it usually needs 2 other days to explore majestic Potala Palace and other landmarks in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. With a day trip’s distance from Lhasa, Namtso Lake is another perfect tour extension if you visit Tibet from May to October.
To explore further, it’s strongly recommended to travel from Lhasa to Mount Everest via Gyantse and Shigatse, which usually needs 4 more days. It is an unforgettable sightseeing trip with lots of attractions to visit, such as Yamdrok Lake, Karola Glacier, Kumbum Stupa of Palcho Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, etc. Of course, the biggest draw must be gazing upon the unparalleled north face of the world’s highest peak – Mount Everest.
For Buddhist followers and hiking lovers, you are suggested to travel to Ngari to join the kora around the holy Mt. Kailash and sacred Lake Manasarovar, which usually takes about 5 ~ 8 more days from Lhasa. The wild nature of Ngari is spectacular as well.
If you are looking for a longer Himalaya adventure, you can travel Tibet with two other charming Himalayan Kingdoms – Nepal and Bhutan by overland driving or flight. If you have your own needs or interest, just feel free to contact us to customize a trip of your own!
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