Himalayan VOICES High Himalaya FORUM Himalayan Heritage  
View more Factsheets

River Systems of the Himalayas

Notable passes of the Himalayan range

Glaciers and Lakes of the Himalayas

Notable peaks of the Himalayan range

Origin of the Himalayas

Geology of the Himalayas

Title:Glaciers and Lakes of the Himalayas
Credit:Compiled from multiple sources by Pragya
The Himalayan region is covered by hundreds of lakes that can be classified according to the altitude they are found at. Most of the lakes are located at altitudes of less than 5,000 m, with their sizes decreasing with an increase in altitude. Some of the important lower and middle altitudinal lakes are found in Kumaon (Nainital, Bhimtal) and Sikkim (Khecheoplari and Karthok lakes). High altitudinal lakes can be found in Ladakh (Tsomoriri, Pangong Tso), Himachal Pradesh (Suraj Taal), Uttarakhnad (Doditaal), Sikkim (Gurudogmar Lake), Arunachal Pradesh (Sela lake), Nepal (Gokyo Lake) and Bhutan (Yutsho lake). Also present in the upper reaches of the Himalayas are lakes caused by past glacial activity, which are known as tarns. The highest tarn is Lhagba Pool in Tibet at an altitude of 6,368 m. Some of the major lakes are mentioned below:
  • Pangong Tso is the largest Himalayan lake spanning the Indo-Tibetan border and is situated at an altitude of 4,600 m in Ladakh. It is approximately 8 km wide and 134 km long.
  • Chandra Taal is a picturesque lake in Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. It is aptly called the lake of the moon because of its crescent shape.
  • Suraj Tal at Baralacha pass in Himachal Pradesh lies in a glacial depression and draws its waters from the snow that melts on the surrounding ridges.
  • The Gurudogmar Lake is situated in Sikkim at an altitude of approximately 5,148 m and is named after the Sikh Guru Nanak (also known as Guru Dongmar). It is revered as a religious site for Sikhs as well as people following other religions.
  • Tsongmo is near the Indo-Tiber border in Sikkim at a height of 3780 m and considered sacred by Buddhists and Hindus.
  • Tilicho in Nepal is present in the Annapurna mountains at a height of 4949 m.


Environmental issues:

Many of the Himalayan lakes are considered sacred and have religious importance in the social lifestyle of communities living near them. This has resulted in the development of traditional conservation practices like fining people who pollute the lake or allotment of fishing rights etc. 

However, nowadays, most of the lakes at middle and lower altitudes are facing problems of deteriorating water quality, eutrophication and diminishing aquatic flora and fauna. This is a direct result of increasing pressure on the water bodies by the residing population, large scale tourist activities etc.



A glacier can be defined as a huge body of ice and snow moving over a landmass at a very low rate. It is formed by the accumulation of snow and may be 100-1000 m thick. Glaciers play an important role in influencing atmospheric circulation, global sea levels, water availability and ecosystem stability. These glaciers play a crucial role in draining the high altitude regions and feeding the Himalayan regions as well.

70% of the world’s non-polar glaciers are present in the Himalayan glaciers. Approximately 10-20 per cent of the total Himalayan region is under glacial ice, with an additional 30-40 per cent area being covered by seasonal snow cover. The Himalayan glaciers (around 15,500) cover a huge area of around 100,000 square km, offering an enormous storage of around 12,000 cubic km of fresh water.

Himalayan glaciers fall under the category of valley glaciers (where the snow accumulated at the top of a mountain becomes so heavy that the entire body of snow and ice moves downwards under the force of gravity). Most of the Himalayan glaciers are found in the region of the world’s highest peaks (Mt. Everest, Kanchanjunga, Kinner Kailash, nanga Parvat, Annapurna) and vary greatly in size. The Siachen Glacier (around 70 km) of the Karakoram Range is the world’s second longest glacier outside the polar region. The other prominent glaciers of this region are:

  • Nubra, Biafo, Hispar and Baltoro in Karakoram region
  • Chota Sigri in Himachal Pradesh
  • Gangotri, Yamnotri, Bandarpunch, Dokriani, Chorbari Bamak, Khatling, Doonagiri and Tiprabamak in Uttarakhand
  • Zemu in Sikkim
  • Khumbu in Nepal


Environmental issues:
Glaciers are dynamic bodies and tend to reflect the climatic conditions through their size. Presently, the Himalayan glaciers are retreating at a faster rate than usual due to climate change. This glacial retreat is having immense repercussions in terms of increased flood activity, shift in habitats for some species and changes in water availability.
Environmental Issues
Environmental Issues