Dolpo located in western Nepal is considered to be one of the most remote places and known for its many isolated high Himalayan valleys. Deep in the Himalayan mountains, this hidden Trans- Himalayan region is quite peaceful. The landscape here is dry and arid, filled with ancient caves and nomadic lifestyle with big herds of yak, sheep and mountain goats. Even in the monsoon season, this region has blue sky and splendid mountain views as it lies in the rain shadow area. Surrounded by snowy peaks including that of Dhaulagiri (8167mt.), Kanjiroba (6883m) and Annapurnas, this region has one of the deepest lake in the world. Phoksundo lake, spread over an area of 200 sq.km, is surrounded by rocky cliffs and its turquoise fresh water, which is a complete wilderness setting. The region is sub divided into two parts ‘Upper Dolpo’ and ‘ Lower Dolpo’. Trekking to both the areas undoubtedly gives you a lifetime experience as this trek is very daring and challenging.
Photo Credit: Daniel Jenth
Climate, Flora & Fauna
Temperate to Alpine vegetation are found changing with elevation in this region. Usually the weather remains fine during spring season (March-May) although high passes still remains covered with winter snow. This region lies in rain shadow with desert-like barren tundra, barely getting 250 mm of annual rainfall. Monsoon rainfalls from June till September and the weather usually remain clear as it receive much less rain being generally high, dry, windy and cold even in summer. The dolpo area in particular, has rich variety of flora as it is filled with ground orchids, edelweiss, corydalis, campanulas, anemones, forget-me-nots, impatiens and roses. At the higher part of the regions, larkspurs, geraniums, poppies, sedums and saxifrages proliferate are found.Common vegetation in this region is primarily from the legume family, such as the spiny caragana and astragalus, and lonicera from the honeysuckle family.The region is the habitat of Himalayan black bear, Blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, spotted leopards, Jackal, wolves, exclusive snow leopard, rare cats and huge birds’ Himalayan griffon and other migratory birds. Yaks, horses, mountain goats, zos and asses are commonly found.
Situated in the remote Dolpo region, west of Nepal, Kanjiroba massif is another major attraction of the region to the visitor. The Kanjiroba Himal provides you a panoramic backdrop to complete your experience. It truly provides a lifetime experience to those who are longing for a challenging and adventurous trek in the remote Himalaya. It offers a spectacular view of neighboring peaks such asTripura Hiunchuli (Hanging Glacier Peak) – 6,553m ,Tso Karpo – 6,518m Palta Thumba (Milchberg) – 6,126m ,Kangmara -5960m,Kanjeralwa – 6612m,Kanjiroba (main) – 6883m.
People & Places
Dolpo consists of an ethnic group called Bhotias with Tibetan origins, who are either adherents of Buddhist or the Bon religion (a Shamanistic religion that pre-dates Buddhism). The Dolpo-pa (people of Dolpo) are unique in their cultural and social tradition. The people living around the region are Bhotia and they have close ties with the people of Tibet. They are gradually becoming Hindus and Buddhist, adding Chhetri, Gurung, Sherpa etc surnames to their Tibetan names. They speak kaike language which is believed to exist only in Dolpo, as the Dolpo-pa are from Tibetan origins they speak Tibetan language too. Normally, people are farmers, traders and shepherds, often all in one because this is the only way to survive. Agriculture on a large scale is impossible because fertile land is scarce and most of them are depended on animal husbandry and trade. ‘Losar’ a Tibetan new year is their main festival which is celebrated on 18th of February and lasts till 14th to 16th of February. Another ceremony they generally celebrate is ‘Yul-lha’ ceremony which is a ritual to appease Gods.
It is situated in the western region, which is famous for the adventurous treks to Dolpo, Jumla and Mount Kailash. Nepalgunj is a district headquarters of Banke District in the Bheri region of Mid Western Nepal. It is the industrial and transport hub for western, mid-western and far-western regions of Nepal. Nepalgunj has a diverse culture as there are many ethnic groups living around. The region consists of highest percentage of Muslim religion.
Located in west Nepal, Jumla is the zonal headquarter of the Karnali zone. Compared with other areas, the development process in the region is slow and tourism is yet to pick up. This zone is regarded as one of the world’s highest rice growing area. The people in the region are Thakuris, a Chhetri sect that has the highest social, political and religious standing. The origin of Nepali language is Sinja of Jumla. Therefore, the Nepali dialect “Khas Bhasa” is still spoken among the people in this region.
Shey-Phoksundo Lake is one of Nepal’s most spectacular and second largest lake. This lake is considered sacrosanct by the locals of Dolpo. The lake is 4.8km long, 1.8km wide and said to be 650m deep. It spreads in an area of 3627m. Ringed by snow-capped mountains and fresh turquoise water, this lake is purely a jewel of Dolpo. There is no aquatic life in the lake, which makes the water brilliantly clear. View of this lake truly gives you a satisfying lifetime experience.
Shey-Phoksundo National Park
The largest National Park of Nepal ‘Shey-Phoksundo’ is situated in Dolpo district, near Phoksundo lake which spreads in an area of 3555Sq Km. It was established in the year 1984 with an objective to preserve the unique Himalayan ecosystem with its typical Tibetan type of flora and fauna, and to protect endangered species such as the snow leopard and musk deer. Much of the park lies north of the Great Himalayan Range, locally represented by Kanjiroba Himal, at the southern edge of the trans-Himalayan region of the Tibetan Plateau. The park has 20 mammals, 176 species of birds, a total of 28 species of butterflies and various varieties one of wild flower.
Crystal Mountain ‘
Crystal Mountain’, one of the sacred mountains and the major attraction of Dolpo lies beyond the Tso Kava Le lake which is several days’ walk north of this lake. This mountain is known as She-Re Drugda translated to Crystal Mountain. Locally, it is known as “Shey”. According to the local people, there is a legend of this mountain which gives the origin of being sacredness. There are lots of marvelous sites around this sacred mountain as there are pilgrims at each place, ‘Dorjee cave’ where Senge Yeshi retreated for nine years and gained the highest attainment of enlightenment. ‘Chod Ten’ stupa where ‘Chod’ means ‘to offer’ and ‘Ten’ means an ‘offer to depend on’ is one of the most precious objects in the Gomoche Monastery which is located around the sacred crystal mountain, yet there are lots of interesting places to visit.
Photo Credit: Daniel Jenth
The Major Treks
It offers an exploration to the Western Himalayan terrain, the people, their culture and their rugged yet beautiful surroundings. Trekking in this remote region is certainly challenging with high mountain passes and difficult terrain which leaves a fruitful experience worth taking the adventure. Link
Dolpo to Jomsom (Lower Dolpo)
This trek truly provides an opportunity to experience the life in the remote highland. Lying in the western Himalayan region, battered by the high winds, arid and dry landscape, unbearable cold in the winter months and almost cut off from the development of the outside world, this region is a living example of a tough struggle against the harsh force of nature. The trail passes through some high mountain passes and scarcely spread local villages, with beautiful mountains towering above in the background. Link
Lower Dolpo (Dolpo-Tarap- Shey-Phoksundo)
Lying north to the Himalayan mountain range is a high altitude arid land known as Dolpo to the rest of the world. Battered by the high speed gale of the mountains this arid land is true Himalayan wilderness. Blessed by the unprecedented natural beauty this region provides an opportunity to witness the nomadic lifestyle of the few men who dared to live in this harsh land.
Caravan Trek to Dolpo
This trek offers you to experience the whole surrounding of dolpo region. Those who are seeking for a challenging and adventurous trek in a remote area are highly recommended to visit this part of the country. The trek starts from Juphal and ends in Juphal. The trial passes through ethnic Thakuri villages in a high and remote alpine area, where you will witness and experience the lifestyle of people who are battling against the harsh force of nature. The route goes through high passes like Numala and Bagala and very remote area of the country, and finally ends to gorgeous Shey Phoksundo Lake (3627m). Eventually, we head back to Juphal.
Best time to visit
The appropriate time to visit this region is between March-May and June-September.