07 Jan 2023

Luxury Upper Dolpo and Phoksundo Lake TreK

Behind the Himalayan Mountains, shrouded by mystery and allure, lies Dolpo, one of the most remote and isolated places in Nepal.

Behind the Himalayan Mountains, shrouded by mystery and allure, lies Dolpo, one of the most remote and isolated places in Nepal. Sandwiched between the Tibetan Plateau and the Dhaulagiri Ranges (8,167 meters; 7th highest mountain in the world), Dolpo was opened to trekkers only in 1989, still maintaining its pristine trekking routes as only a limited number of people are allowed into the region annually. This is in part due to the high ‘restricted area’ fee levied on trekkers to this area. It resembles the mysterious and spiritual aura in the hidden valleys of Western Nepal; remoteness of which adds to the sense of adventure among its visitors. The area is, however, quite well known through the writings of David Snellgrove in his book ‘Himalayan Pilgrimage’ (1956), and David Matthiessen’s book ‘The Snow Leopard’ (1973). Moreover, Eric Valli’s visually stunning French-Nepalese Oscar-nominated film ‘Himalaya’ or ‘Caravan’ (1999) was set in Dolpo which brought the region to the world’s attention. Historically it is divided into 4 valleys: Tsharka (good growing place), Tarap (auspicious excellence), Panzang (adobe of mountains) and Nangkhong (innermost place).

Till 8th century, Dolpo was a Tibetan province, later a Kingdom of Purang until 18th century when King of Gorkha Prithivi Narayan Shah started the unification of Nepal and Dolpo also became a unified part of the country. Being inaccessible for a long time has preserved the Tibetan Culture in a relatively pure form and therefore it is one of the few places on earth that practices both Buddhism and Bon (similar to Buddhism). The Tibetan speaking people from this region are traditionally traders and yak herdsmen. Here also lies the country’s largest national park and conservation area, the Shey Phoksundo National Park, at 3,500 km. sq. It is home to the glory of the Himalayan regions, the endangered snow leopard and other creatures like blue sheep, musk deer, wild yak, wild goat, marmot and several other animals’ species. Babbler Bhykur, a bird that is not found anywhere else in the world except Nepal is found here, alongside Golden Eagles, Partridges like Lophophorus and many more species of birds along with different verities of butterflies. It is also rich in valuable herbs like Yarsha Gompa/Jeevan Buti in local term (Cordyceps sinensis), Sea buckthorn (Daley chuck in local language); besides many more medicinal and aromatic herbs that are found here. While touring the area, you will pass across trees like pine, juniper, silver birch, wall nuts, apples, plums, etc.

In the lower Dolpa lies the deepest high altitude lake of Nepal: Phoksundo. It is an alpine fresh water oligotrophic lake in Shey Phoksundo National Park, located at an elevation of 3611.5 meters (11,849 ft) above sea level in the Dopla district. Phoksundo Lake is 494 hectares (1.91 sq mi) in size with a water volume of 409,000,000 m3 and a discharge of 3.715 m3/s. In 2004, a survey by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology measured the maximum depth of the lake at 145 m (476 ft). It was designated as a Ramsar site on September 2007 which is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. There are 2,231 Ramsar sites as of 2016 protecting 214,936,005 hectares (531,118,440 acres), and 169 national governments are currently participating. There are more than 20 stupas in the southern belt of the lake. On the eastern side, there is a gompa, where annual prayers are carried out. On the lake’ southern end, the village of Ringmo sits on the 30,000-40,000 year old landslide dam that formed the lake. Past the dam, the waters of the lake plunge over a 167 meter tall waterfall, called Phoksundo Waterfall. Shey Phoksundo is considered as a holy place by the Buddhists living in Dolpa region and around. Hence, one is not allowed to soak in the aquamarine water of the lake. Even then, the lake is worth a watch for its calmness, its aura and the clear deep blue water.

Hidden away from the mainstream civilization, the upper Dolpo and Phoksundo Lake trek is a serene and exceptionally beautiful area that boasts a rich mixture of culture, religion, flora, fauna, history and mesmerizing natural beauty. Join us to step into this majestic part of Nepal which will quench your thirst for adventure but still leave you wanting for more.