A destination of stunning landscape and incredible beauty, Dolpo Region is located in western Nepal. It lies in the Inner Himalayan region of Nepal, very close to Tibet.
With the Dhaulagiri Massif protecting its southern borders and Tibetan peaks rising in the north, Dolpo remained isolated from outside influence. Commercial trekking in Dolpo was introduced in 1989.
The region receives only a small number of visitors each year, making it one of the least crowded trekking regions in Nepal.
The pride of Dolpo is the Shey Phoksundo National Park, Phoksundo Lake, and the many ancient Buddhist monasteries and Bon shrines that dots its arid landscape. It is one of the only places in the world where Bon, a religion that predates Tibetan Buddhism, is still practiced.
Pristine, remote and far removed from the trappings of modern civilization, a journey to this region introduces you to a culture and way of life that is about to disappear.
The region of Dolpo got recognition from the outside world when Peter Matthiessen wrote about his wonderful journey to this fabled land in his book ‘The Snow Leopard’, published in 1978. ‘Caravan’, a movie based on the struggles of the people living in Upper Dolpo directed by Eric Valli, also highlighted this region. The movie, which was shot entirely in Upper Dolpo showcased the region’s rugged beauty and isolation. It received an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Film category.
Divided into Upper Dolpo and Lower Dolpo, the region has a rich history. It was ruled by the Tibetan kings till the 14th century when the kingdom of Lho annexed it. In 1789 it became part of the territory of Shah rulers who unified Nepal.
Human settlements in this region are found in the four valleys of Tarap, Saldang, Tinje and Tsarkha. Dho Tarap situated at an elevation of 4,080 meters, is the highest permanent human settlement in the Nepal Himalaya. The people in this region practice Tibetan customs and traditions. It won’t be wrong to say that Tibetan culture in its purest form is preserved in this region.
Shey Phoksundo National Park covering an area of 3,555 sq.km protects the region’s fragile ecosystem. The park is home to natural wonders like the Phoksundo Lake (the deepest lake in Nepal) and Crystal Mountain, as well as many species of endangered Himalayan wildlife and vegetation.
Many ancient Buddhist monasteries like the Shey Gompa (established in the 11th century) and Bon religious sites lie within the park’s perimeter. Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche is said to have visited this region to suppress a demoness.
One of the major festival celebrated in this region is the Buddha Ribo Festival. Celebrated once in 12 years the festival lasts for several days. People from Dolpo and other neighboring areas congregate at Dho Tarap to observe this festival. Several learned lamas visit Dolpo to give religious sermons at monasteries. Horse racing competitions are held and people perform traditional songs and dances dressed in their traditional attire.
Though a destination of breathtaking natural beauty and unique culture, Dolpo Region receives very less visitors. The chief reason is its remoteness and limited or basic amenities on the trail. But for those wishing to avoid the usual horde of trekkers, the secluded trails of Dolpo offers a safe haven.
The most popular treks in this region takes you to Phoksundo Lake and the ancient Tibetan Bon Po settlements in Upper Dolpo.
A trekking adventure in this region also lets you experience the nomadic lifestyle of the yak and sheep herders and Yarshagumba harvesters (during Yarshagumba season).
Yarshagumba (caterpillar fungus), the world’s most expensive medical fungus, grows in the high-altitude hills of this region.
If you want a classic walk in the ‘Hidden Himalayas’ complete with yak caravans and nomadic tents, then you should head to Dolpo.