Yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is over 72 km (45 miles) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake does have an outlet stream at its far western end.
Around 90 km to the west of the lake lies the Tibetan town of Gyantse and Lhasa is a hundred km to the northwest. According to local mythology, Yamdok Yumtso lake is the transformation of a goddess.
Yamdrok Lake, also known as Yam?ok Yumtso, has a power station that was completed and dedicated in 1996 near the small village of Pai-Ti at the lake’s western end. This power station is the largest in Tibet.
The lake (621 km2 in area, of depth unknown) is fan-shaped, spreading to the South but narrowing up to the North. The mountainous lakeshore is highly crenellated, with numerous bays and inlets. The lake has a dozen of islands, the largest of which is about 3000 km2. Lakes Yamdok Yumtso freezes up in winter.Like mountains, lakes are considered sacrosanct by the Tibetan people, the principle being that they are the dwelling places of protective deities and therefore invested with special spiritual powers. For instance, Lhamo La-tso (Oracle) Lake is thought to be divinatory; everyone from the Dalai Lama to the local villagers makes pilgrimages there. Yamdrok Lake is one of four such holy lakes, the others being Lhamo La-tso (mentioned above), Namtso and Manasarovar. It is revered as a talisman and is said to be part of the life-spirit of the Tibetan nation. The largest lake in southern Tibet, it is said that if its waters dry, Tibet will no longer be habitable. The lake has nine islands, of which one houses the famous Samding Monastery. This monastery is interesting, as it is the only Tibetan monastery to be headed by a female re- incarnation. Since it is not a nunnery, its female abbot heads a community of about thirty monks. Today, both pilgrims and tourists can be seen walking along the lake's perimeter, enjoying the diversified fauna and flora, admiring the snow-capped mountains in the distance and visiting the villages scattered along its shores. One of the most newly popular pastimes for Tibetans is fishing, new because Tibetans are traditionally not allowed to eat fish.
One of the lake's islands contains an old fort or castle called Pede Dzong.
There are shoals of fish living in Yamdok Yumtso lake, which are commercially exploited by local population. From April to October, fish caught from this lake are sold at markets in Lhasa, the provincial capital.
Additionally, the lake's islands serve as rich pasture land to local herdmen.