Most regular hikers who go hiking around the various mountain ranges of the world are aware that glacial lakes are part and parcel of the ecosystem. The experienced trekkers are aware that there are some of the most beautiful lakes in the highest mountain chain in the World - The Himalayas. There is a significant percentage of those trekkers who feel their trips have been incomplete when they miss the journey to a Himalayan lake. Here is a list of twelve of the highest, most extensive and stunning mountain lakes in the Himalayas.
1. Rara Lake, Nepal
Rara lake at 3060 m is located in the Mugu District of Far Western Nepal. Rara is the largest and deepest Lake in Nepal. It sits in a valley that is surrounded by lush forests and stunning mountain vistas. It is so beautiful that being around this surround is hypnotizing. The temperate forests along with the alpine pastures that enclose the valley covers the whole area. Trekking around the Rara Lake region is an excellent combination of a pristine lake, mountain vistas along with Himalayan flora and fauna.
2. Gurudongmar Lake, India
Gurudongmar Lake at the height of 5430 m, is amongst the highest lakes in the world while it is the second highest lake in Sikkim and India. The second highest lake in India is a sight to behold with the picturesque beauty of the surrounding. The views of Mount Siniolchu and Kanchenjunga are icing on the cake. The surrounding snow clad mountains and the clear icy water is considered to be a sacred lake.
Gurudongmar lake is about eight to nine hours drive from Gangtok. One has to go through Lachen, a small town in North Sikkim. Most travelers stop for the night at Lachen to help with acclimatization and to break the journey. The closest village to the Lake is Thangu at 4270 m. One needs to attain an inner line permit to visit this lake because of it's proximity to the Indo-Tibet border.
Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava touched and blessed the lake and it is widely believed due to this, a small part of the lake never freezes even during the extreme winter temperatures at such an altitude. This lake is one of the primary sources of the Teesta river which flows from Sikkim, West Bengal, and Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal. It is widely believed that the water of this lake has healing properties; many visitors bring water from this lake back to their home.
3. Gosainkunda Lake, Nepal
Gosaikunda Lake at 4,380m is located in Rasuwa district and is one of the famous pilgrimage sites for Hindus. This freshwater lake is part of a popular trekking route in the Langtang region, north of Kathmandu. It is believed that there are 108 lakes of various sizes in this region. I once met an elderly local who told me that he could only count 18 despite having spent a few weeks wandering around the area.
Hindu mythology considers Gosainkunda area as the abode of Hindu Deities, Lord Shiva, and Goddess Gauri. Gosainkunda is referred to as Samudramanthan on the Hindu scriptures and epics such as Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Puran, Ramayana along with Mahabharata. Janai Purnima is one Hindu festival when thousands of pilgrims from India and Nepal throng to this lake.
4. Shey Pokshundo Lake, Nepal
Situated at an altitude of 3,611 m, SheyPhoksundo Lake is the second deepest lake in Nepal. This glacial lake is located in Lower Dolpo which is one of the most remote and isolated high valleys in the Trans Himalaya. This lake is considered sacred by the residents. Although some say swimming is prohibited, the locals do bath in this lake. The village of Ringmo sits on the southern edge of the "dam caused by a landslide some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.
There are about 20 Chortens (Stupas) on the south side of the lake leading the way to an ancient Bon (religion preceding Buddhism) monastery. Just a short distance on the southern exit of the lake is the impressive Siligad Waterfall at 167 m. Shey Phoksundo lake and Dolpo was introduced to the world through Eric Valli's movie named "Caravan or "Himalaya."
5. Tilicho Lake, Nepal
Tilicho Lake (4,949m) is one of the highest lakes in Nepal. It is situated on the north side of the Annapurna range bordering with Manang and Mustang district. It is considered a sacred lake and is featured in one of the Hindu epics - Ramayana. A visit to Tilicho lake can be combined with the Annapurna Circuit Trek. The panorama from the edge of the valley can be second to none on clear days. Views of Annapurna II, III, IV, Ganga Purna, Himalchuli, Manaslu, Himlung, Chulu West can be breathtaking.
6. Gokyo Lakes, Nepal
The Gokyo lakes are a group of six Lakes at the foothills of the Mahalangur range in the Everest Region. Dudh Pokhari also called Gokyo Lake is the one frequented by trekkers the most. It is on the less frequented trail away from the main path to Everest Base Camp trek. These lakes are situated between 4700 to 5000 meters above sea level.
These lakes are the world’s highest freshwater lake system comprising six main lakes, of which Thonak Tsho is the largest. The Gokyo and associated wetlands were designated a Ramsar Site.
7. Namtso Lake, Tibet
Namtso Lake is one of the most beautiful natural sites in Tibet.
Namtso is one of the most beautiful natural sights in Tibet. It is said that it is the largest high altitude brackish lake in Tibet with an elevation of 4718 m. Namtso is one of the three sacred lakes of Tibet. The crystal clear water, the surrounding snow-capped peaks, and yak herds with locals make it a spellbinding picture perfect spot. The sunrise and sunsets at the lake can be breathtakingly gorgeous. Witness the magic when the sky turns golden and red at dusk. If you can take the cold at night, stare away at the millions of stars in the sky.
8. Mansarovar Lake, Tibet
Lake Manasarovar, situated approximately 30km away from Mt. Kailash, is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world. The sacred lake is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus. It is believed that bathing in the holy water of Manasarovar cleanses one’s sins. This vast lake with the mirror-like image of snow-capped mountains in its crystal clear waters is just fabulous. Mansarovar has an exceptional color combination that varies from crystal clear blue water near the shores and a deep emerald green color at the center. There are a few monasteries on the shore of the lake as well.
This stunning lake of one of the most important pilgrimages for Bons, Hindus, Buddhist and Jains alike. The turquoise color of the lake is the reflection of the blue sky. The reflection of the sky, cloud, and Himalayan peaks can be mesmerizing. Lake Manasarovar lies at 4,590 m above sea level. It is a relatively high elevation for a large freshwater lake on the mostly brackish lake-studded Tibetan Plateau.
This lake is relatively round with a circumference of 88 km. The maximum depth reaches about 90 m, and the surface is 320 km@. The natural Ganga chu channel connects the nearby Rakshastal. Manasarovar is close to the source of the Sutlej River. It is the easternmost large tributary of the Indus. The origins of the Brahmaputra and The Karnali rivers are close. All of these are important tributaries of the Ganges.
9. Pangong Tso, India & Tibet
This gorgeous body of water spreads from India to Tibet in the Himalayas. It is 134 km long at 4350 m in altitude and spreads from India to China.
Roughly 60 % of the lake lies in China. This lake is 5 km wide at its broadest and covers a total of 604 km2. Despite being a brackish lake, it freezes completely during winter.
10. Yamdrok Tso, Tibet
Yamdrok Lake lies between the town of Gyantse and the Tibetan capital Lhasa. It stretches for 72 km is surrounded by the breathtaking terrain. The Dalai Lama, as well as the locals, make the pilgrimage to Yamdrok due to its spiritual powers. The lake's religious importance is associated with the
Lying between Tibetan capital Lhasa and town Gyantse, the freshwater lake is one of the sacred lakes. It stretches for 72 km (45 mi). It is one of the three holy lakes of Tibet, Yamdrok looks stunning amidst the Himalayan peaks surrounding it.
It is the most wide-ranging habitat for migratory birds in Southern Tibet. It looks spectacular when thousands of birds fly above the lake!
11 Tsomoriri Lake
Situated in Changthang plateau in south-east Ladakh, Tso Moriri or Lake Moriri is known for its scenic splendor. It is a high altitude lake officially name Tso-Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve area at an altitude of 4595 m. The lake is about 28km in length from north to south and between 4-6 km in width with an average depth of 30 meters. The deepest part of the lake os 75 meters. It is surrounded by barren hills and a backdrop of snow-clad mountains. The lake is mind-boggling, calm and sacred for the Ladakhis. It is slightly higher than Pangong Tse, and the water is a lot less brackish which helps support more birdlife. The turquoise lake has no outlet which makes its water brackish although it is not very detectable. Tso moriri was once a favorite source of salt. Tso-Moriri is located on the continuous Tibetan plateau's Changtang region which is also known as Rupshu. The Rupshu valley lies south-east of Ladakh on the Manali to Leh highway at an average altitude of 5000 meters. The Changpa nomads inhabit this beautiful valley. The Rupshu area is rich in wildlife which includes Kiang - Will Ass, black-necked cranes, bar-headed geese. The wetlands are an excellent breeding grounds for migratory birds during the summer season.
The nomads' herd goats, sheep, and yaks near the lakeside.Leh.
12 Tsokar Lake
Tsokar means 'White Lake' because of the salt deposits that can be seen all over the fringes of the lake. Tso-Kar is the smallest of the three crucial lakes in Ladakh. This lake is also situated on the Rupshu Valley about 250 km away from Leh, the central town in Ladakh. The altitude of Tsokar is 4660 meters and about 50 km from Tso-Moriri lake in southeast Ladakh.
The Rupshu / Changtang region is popular with bird watchers. The area surrounding this lake is abundant in bid and wildlife. The lake is surrounded with marshland that is home to fantastic birdlife during summer. Some of the beautiful birdlife that is seen here are Brahmini ducks, bar-headed geese, great crested grebe, terns, and black-necked cranes to name a few. The critically endangered black-necked cranes are one of the main attraction amongst the birdlife in the Changtang region. It is majestic when on the ground and in flight.
The Tsokar area is also famous for wildlife enthusiasts. The easiest to spot wildlife are the Kiangs, and they are the largest wild asses. The surrounding mountains are home to the Ibex, red fox, blue sheep, marmots, and snow leopards.
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