Nepal’s Himalayas attract thousands of visitors each year since first opening up to outsiders in the fifties. Khumbu (Everest), Langtang, Annapurna Sanctuary, Mustang and the Lo (Upper Mustang also referred to as Lo Manthang) are popular destinations. While the areas have long developed as popular trekking routes, Nepal’s Western Himalaya is gradually emerging as an enchanting destination for adventure and ethnocultural tourism. Dolpa (Dolpo in Tibetan) is one such destination offering a diverse nature and rich culture and lifestyle of over 5000 years.
The district of Dolpa is situated in the midwestern region of Nepal. At an elevation range of 2700-7000 meters, Nepal’s Western Himalayas traverses Dolpa distinctly resulting in Upper/Inner Dolpo, a vast arid stretch resembling the topography of Tibetan plateau and Lower Dolpo, a semi-arid topography with deep gullies and narrow valleys. Mountains and rock formations cover over half of Dolpo’s topography leaving a sparse forest cover mainly of Pine, Oak, Birches, Cypress, Walnut, Bamboo, and Maple. Snow fed rivulets run down the high mountains but only larger torrents are perennial. Bheri, Suli, Pungmo are notable rivers that run through Dolpo’s narrow gullies.
In sharp contrast to its size, Dolpo’s economy is frail and dependent. Its absolute disconnection from the outside world has cost Dolpolis adversely. Till this day Dolpo is far off from road connection. The high mountainous terrain makes any form of navigation difficult and to a certain extent impossible. The lack of sufficient arable land affects annual food production thereby resulting in an incessant dependency on state-subsidized food distribution schemes. Modern industries, trade, and services are yet to implant a meaningful foothold in Dolpo. As grim a picture this may portray, Dolpo is actually quite rich. Besides omnipresent water resources, it is bestowed with bountiful precious herbs and mineral deposits. In only last decade, Yarshagumba -a semi worm, semi fungi abundantly found in the alpine altitude– emerged as a single dominant lucrative item of trade. Similarly, Silagit, a mineral with multi-therapeutic value extensively used in Tibetan medicine, is also widely harvested in the overhanging cliffs of Dolpo.
Dolpo’s attraction is its rich religious and cultural heritage, thousands of years history inherited from the ancestors. In Upper Dolpo’s vast arid land bordering China live some of Dolpo’s indigenous people with close cultural, linguistic, and racial resemblance to the people of Western Tibet. These people have lived in Dolpo for almost 4000 years preserving the early Tibetan Buddhist teachings and rituals to this day.
Buddhism is the main religion in Dolpo. The monasteries in Shey and Tsakang are two important sites of pilgrim in this part of the Himalayas. The Crystal Mountain in the same region is considered holy by the people of Dolpo who believe in acquiring divine merit if circumambulated once in a lifetime. The teachings and practices of Buddhism in Dolpo grew even further after the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1949. The fleeing Tibetans including venerable Lamas crossed through Dolpo taking refuge at its many monasteries and towns scattered over the vast arid landscape. Some contemporary Rinpoches of different sects of Tibetan Buddhism were actually born in Dolpo to fleeing Tibetans. Buddhism continues to be a way of life in upper Dolpo; and till today young boys sent to places as far as Mysore in South India to study Buddhism under the tutelage of venerable Lamas.
Interestingly, Upper Dolpo was once a part of the Kingdom of B’od in Western Tibet. B’on, the religion of the land with close semblance to Buddhism, is still practiced in certain pockets of Dolpo. B’on and Buddhism differ in fundamental ritual practice and inscription. In Ringmo, a B’on village nestled in the southern end of Shey Phoksundo Lake, the Chorten – typically a Stupa erected at the village entrance- is always kept at left while making an entry into the village in sharp contrast to reverse practice in Buddhism. Similarly, the inscription of the Swastika symbol is reversed in B’on tradition. The arcane difference apart from what is interesting is the co-existence of the two for thousands of years to this day.
Trekking in Dolpo is an enriching experience. The newer routes either originating or terminating in Dunai, the district headquarter, has helped raise the number of trekkers flocking in to experience Dolpo’s rich nature and ancient religious traditions. Like the Lo region in Mustang, foreigners are required to possess a separate entry permit to trek in Upper Dolpo. Recently, the permit fee is reduced to USD 500 per person for 10 days. Similarly, NRs. 1000 is charged for foreigners for an entry into the Shey Phoksundo National Park to visit Shey Phoksundo Lake and its surroundings.
Dolpo’s scattered habitation and strenuous terrain strictly demand camping treks. Teahouses, conveniently found in other trekking destinations, are either non-existent or are in a primitive stage of development in Dolpo. Trekking groups carry all food and necessary supplies to last for the entire trip. Caravan of ponies, yaks, and porters is a common sight along the narrow trails of Dolpo in early fall and late spring each year when most trekking related activities take place.
Today, the Upper Dolpo route originating or terminating in Jomsom, Dolpo Circuit, Dolpo-Mugu-Jumla trail, and Shey Phoksundo are the most popular trekking routes. Needless to mention that many of these trails remain unused during snowy winter and torrential monsoon resulting in often dilapidated state of the trail and logwood crossovers. The trekking duration ranges anywhere from 9-31 days. A lengthier and customized route beginning in Jomsom through Upper Dolpo, Mugu and Jumla can also be tailored for adventure seekers and Buddhism enthusiasts preferring to undertake an extra stretch to experience Dolpo.
|Duration:-||10 Nights / 11 Days|
|Trip Grading:||Easy to Moderate grade|
|Max Altitude:||3,460m / 11,349 ft|
|Trekking Hour:||4-6 Hrs everyday|
|Best Time:||May to October|
|Trip Mode:||Guest House|
|Meal on Trek:||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
- Hiking boots
- Warm Socks
- Trekking trousers and pants
- Under Garments
- Hiking shorts
- Fleece jacket or pullover
- waterproof jacket
- Sun hat or scarf
- Warm hat
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Thermal gloves
- Headlamp or head torch with spare bulbs and batteries
- Daypack (approximately 2500 to 3000 cubic inches)
- Trekking Poles
- Water bottles
- Toiletries (Small wash towel, Toilet papers, Toothbrush/paste, etc)
- Ear Plug (who know some people on group may snore)
- Face and body moisturizer
- Feminine hygiene products
- Tissue /toilet roll
- Anti-bacterial hands wash
- Reading book & notebook
- Extra clothes to wear in Kathmandu, when you come back from Trek
Kindly note cancellation policy as follows:
· Any guaranteed reservations with cancellation notice of less than 72 hours’ notice will be subject to a one-night charge. (Hotel booking & Trekking)
· Advance payment should be required for trekking to manage the necessary arrangements.
There is an old B’on monastery in Ringmo. The chortens at the entrance of the monastery is fascinating for it has large horns of either Blue Sheep or Himalayan Thar. There is also a small museum at the monastery. The Lama will kindly guide you through the monastery and briefly speak about B’on.
“Archives” are the traditional healers of Dolpo. Their practice is still largely prevalent in upper Dolpo. The Amchis use a variety of natural herbs and minerals to cure illnesses. Recognizing the utility of Amchis and to promote the understanding of traditional indigenous medicine an Amchi hospital is set up in Sunduwa. A tour of this facility and a chit chat with the practitioners is a unique experience! (6 hours).