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Major Attractions of Dolpo

Abhishek Subedi June 25, 2020

Dolpo is one of the largest districts of Nepal covering 5.36% of the total landmass. The region lies in the Far western part of Nepal. The Dolpo region is bordered by the Dhaulagiri Massif having Dhaulagiri I (8,167m) the highest peak in the south and north. Similarly, Mt. Sisne and Mt. Kanjirowa border in the west and the Tibetan plateau in the north surround Dolpo Region. Dolpa (Dolpo) is named after an 11th-century Shey Gompa (monastery) and Shey Phoksundo Lake (the deepest in Nepal).  Trekking to Inner Dolpo gives a real experience of immaculate natural beauty and flawless Bhotia people with pristine culture and tradition. The natural aspect of the region is unspoiled by human intervention and culture tradition untouched by modernity. You can find a truly rustic lifestyle with the Tibetan Buddhist, Bon and Hindu culture and tradition. 

Major Attractions of Dolpo

Trek to Dolpo Region to find natural scenery blended with culture and tradition of different castes, creeds and religions. The natural exquisiteness and snowy mountains view of Dolpo Region is unsurpassed with any other pastoral landscape in the world. The natural loveliness and culture, lifestyle and economic activities of the people attract the trekkers here. The Oscar nominated movie “Himalaya Caravan” directed by the French Eric Valli in 1999 shed a light on the major attractions of Dolpo Region.  The rough, steep and sloppy trails lead you through the Magar and Bhotia settlement areas following different religions and festivals. Lying in the rain shadow area, the Dolpo Region has attracted thousands of travelers every year despite the restricted Upper Dolpo Region. 

The landscape and culture of the Upper Dolpo resembles with Tibetan plateau and they have the ‘bread and bride’ relationship with each other. The Magar dialect ‘Magar Kaike” is spoken in Shahartara, Tupatara, Tarakot and Belawa villages of Sahartara VDC of Dolpo. On the way there, you can see forests with oak, pine, bamboo, walnut and rhododendron trees. Mustang Upper Dolpo Trekking starts from Kagbeni and goes past Dhulungpadanda Pass, then follows Upper Dolpo Great Himalayan Trail. Major attractions of inner Dolpo region are Shey Gompa, Shey Phoksundo Lake, Shey Phoksundo National Park and the highest altitude villages. It is obviously the enchanting beauty of this place which has lured overseas directors to come and shoot here. Well, there are a lot more than one expects in Dolpo and here are some major attractions of Dolpo.

1. Bon Religion

Dolpo is the dominant Bon religion which is a Tibetan Buddhism religion. Bon followers consider Bon as a separate religion than Buddhism. As per the traditional Bon belief and legends, the religion predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet, but in reality, it was introduced in the 11th century alongside the revival of Buddhism. As Dolpo is bordered with Tibet, the religion and lifestyle are very much influenced by it. Dolpo is a remote area very far from a touch of city life, and it has helped to preserve Tibetan culture in indigenous form making it more attractive to tourists.

2. Shey Gompa

Shey Gompa at 4,200m is an 11th century Tibetan Buddhist monastery located in the heart of divine Inner Dolpo valley. Trekking to Inner Dolpo Shey Gompa, you must cross Kanga La (5,151m), one of the highest passes in the trans-Himalayan region. From the gompa, you can get a majestic view of the snow-white mountains and tantalizing landscapes far and wide. 

Major Attractions of Dolpo

3. Shey Phoksundo Lake

An alpine freshwater Shey Phoksundo Lake, at an altitude of 3,611.5m (11,849ft) is one of the major attractions of Dolpo Region. Shey Phoksundo Lake trekking confers you to see the blue and green water of the lake which is a sacred lake for the Bonpo religion followers. Bonpo followers believe that there is a palace and the gang of witchdoctors deep down the water for helping them in hard times. As Shey Phoksundo Lake is situated in the alpine climatic region and the water is very cold, it supports no organisms. There is a historically important 900-year old Bonpo monastery named Tshowa Gompa on the ridge of the lake. On the holy occasions, the devotees of Bonpo religion visit for worshipping their deity every year.

Major Attractions of Dolpo

4. Wildlife and Vegetation

Some part of Upper Dolpo trekking lies within the Shey Phoksundo National Park; there are many flora and fauna you can pass by. The park consists of hundreds of different species of flora including rhododendron, white Himalayan birch, blue pine, cedar, hemlock, juniper, and spruce. Now, about the wildlife, there are many endangered species in the park which includes blue sheep, snow leopard, grey wolf, and musk deer. Other wildlife is yellow-throated marten, Himalayan tahr, leopard, jackal, and Himalayan black bear. Also, there are over 200 species of birds, 29 species of butterfly and six species of reptile.

5. Dho Tarap Village

Dho Tarap village is one of the highest settlements on earth. Dho village and its neighboring village Lang and Tokyou are collectively known as Dho-Tarap. Situated at an elevation from 3,900 meters to 4,200 meters above sea level, it used to be the capital of Dolpo before Gorkhali king Prithivi Narayan Shah annexed it in the 17th century. This remote valley follows Bon culture, and there are eight different monasteries including a Bon monastery. 

Dho Tarap is located in a very strategic center and can be reached in a travel distance of one day from nine different villages of Dolpo.  Also, this remote valley has a school established by Action Dolpo France which provides free education. The people of Dho Tarap are subsistence farmers growing potatoes, mustard, beans, barley, and buckwheat. They also keep livestock for food as well as wool. For trade, they bargain with Tibetans for salt and wool.

6. Suli Gad Waterfall

Suli Gad Waterfall is another thing to look for during the Upper Dolpo. In the southern end of Phoksundo Lake lies a village named Ringmo on a 30,000 to 40,000-year-old landslide dam because of which the lake was formed and past the dam, you will witness the spectacular view of Suli Gad waterfall. The waterfall is the highest waterfall in Nepal with over a 167-meter height.

7. Shey Phoksundo National Park

The largest national park and only one located in the trans-Himalayan region, Shey Phoksundo National Park covers the majority of land of Dolpo Region. Located in Lower Dolpo Region, the park is a haven for varieties of flora and fauna befitting in the high altitude. The park inhabits the animals like blue sheep, marmot, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, etc. and six species of reptiles. Similarly, you can find about 29 species of butterflies and over 200 species of birds in Shey Phoksundo National Park. Trekking to Shey Phoksundo National Park bestows you a rare opportunity for birds and butterflies watching as well.

Major Attractions of Dolpo

As the park lies in the trans-Himalayan region, hardly 5% of land is occupied by forests with a variety of plants. In the upper part of the park, rhododendron, caragana shrubs, salix, juniper, white Himalayan birch are found. Likewise, in Suligad Valley, the plant species like silver fir, blue pine, hemlock, cedar, bamboo and poplar are found. The park is a home for Yarsagumba (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), a medicinal herb harvested in spring and found in trans-Himalayan belt.

The socio-cultural practice of a place and a community of people differs from the other as per their religion or ethnicity. Polyandry, a system in which a woman has more than one husband is a typical culture in the Dolpo Region. This unique culture is gradually being changed along with the passage of time and knowledge of concerned people. Similarly, another typical culture of the Dolpo Region is the funeral practice that is quite distinct from other parts. Here, when someone dies, the Lama (priest) goes through the horoscope of the dead and determines the funeral rituals. Some of the dead bodies are cremated while others are burnt into ashes. And to your wonder, others are cut into pieces and scattered in an open ground for the vultures and other animals’ feed.

Dolpo region has many things to offer and it is the must visit place once in your lifetime if you are in Nepal for vacation.

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