Many courageous trekkers, hikers, and mountain climbers rank scaling Mount Everest high on their bucket lists, but tourists with more modest ambitions will still find their fair share of adventure in Tibet. From the world’s longest canyon to countless bright blue lakes to the legendary Himalayas, few places on Earth contain as many dramatic natural landmarks as Tibet.
No saltwater lake in Tibet is larger and no saltwater lake on Earth stands at a higher altitude than Lake Namsto, whose name means “heavenly” in Tibetan. This lake’s multiple shades of blue often merge with the blue sky above. Monasteries containing naturally carved Buddhist artifacts stand at each of the lake’s four compass points.
Lake Namsto is considered the mother of the 7,111 m high Nyainq Ntanglha Peak, the highest point in its namesake mountain range between the Nu and Yarlung Zangbo rivers. It lies north of China’s biggest hydrothermal power plant and next to the numerous natural hot springs in Yambajan.
Tibet is also home to the world’s highest freshwater lake, where four of Asia’s most important rivers flow, near the sacred Mount Kailash. Lake Mansarovar stands more than 4,500 m above sea level and walking around its 60k m circumference takes at least four or five days.
Mount Nojin Kangsang may not be as famous as Mount Everest or welcome as many pilgrims as Mount Kailash, but it may be the Tibetan Plateau’s most accessible glacier. Mount Nojin Kangsang’s east side is considered the safest and easiest part of this 5,560 m high mountain to ascend. Glacier climbers who dare to look down will catch a glimpse of the sacred and fan-shaped Lake Yamdrok, which is surrounded by a dozen islands.
One of the world’s highest power stations stands at Lake Yamdrok’s west end, while Samding Monastery, the only one in Tibet currently headed by a female Lama, is perched on a mountain southwest of the “Lake of Swans.” Lake Yamdrok is also Tibet’s largest water bird sanctuary, which countless seagulls and swans flock to each summer.
Even visitors who never set foot on Mount Everest will never forget the 5,200 m trek to Base Camp or the unforgettable Himalayan panorama awaiting them at the end of their arduous physical and psychological journey. The world’s highest peak can also clearly be seen on a sunny day at Rongbuk Monastery.