Surrounded by unbelievable views of Mount Donang Sangwari and the snowy peaks of Nojin Gangzang, Yamdrok Lake is a vast freshwater expanse which clashes pleasantly with the arid grasslands of Tibet. As one of three sacred lakes in Tibet, Yamdrok Lake is widely regarded as a dwelling spot for protective deities and holds considerable significance for the region’s inhabitants, as well as the thousands of religious pilgrims to make their way to the lake each year. The lake is closely associated with the Second Buddha, Padmasambhava, who brought Buddhism to Tibet in 8th century AD, and houses the famous Samding Monastery which sits on a small peninsula jutting into the lake and is the only Tibetan monastery to be headed by a female re-incarnation. According to tradition, the lake also serves as a conduit between religious adherents and the Dalai Lama’s newly reincarnated soul. After a Dalai Lama passes away, the assembly of senior monks responsible for finding the newborn boy who houses the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama makes its way to Lake Yamdrok to chant, pray, and leave blessings in the lake in order to witness a rippled reflection which will tell them where the Dalai Lama’s soul resides.
Yamdrok Lake’s pincer-shaped expanse is also revered as the life-spirit of the region, allowing for the establishment of lakeside settlements and playing host to a vibrant multitude of migratory birds each year. Splayed out across the landscape, the lake’s turquoise expanse is home to a variety of fish, which local fishermen catch and then sell to local villages and market settlements. Yamdrok Lake also boasts the title of the largest habitat for migratory birds in southern Tibet, and during the autumn and winter months, the entire region is covered in a swirling mass of fluttering bodies as thousands of birds skim across the waters or circle the skies above. Sitting within a stunning backdrop of snow-covered peaks and rolling grasslands and brightened with eye-catching streaks of colorful prayer flags, Yamdrok Lake is an oasis of life and a mainstay of the Tibetan world.