Until recently, what little the outside world knew of Dolpo was gleaned from artistic and spiritual accounts from early visitors. Peter Matthiessen’s meditative book ‘The Snow Leopard’ and Eric Valli’s stunning movie ‘Himalaya (Caravan)’ only added to the allure of this unknown land. The region was only opened to foreigners in 1989, and receives a fraction of the visitors thronging other parts of Nepal. With more trekking agencies venturing into Inner Dolpo – allowing access beyond Phoksundo Lake to the 800-year-old Shey Gompa – a truly remarkable natural and cultural experience is there for the taking (even in the monsoon!). Look out for views of mighty Dhaulagiri (8167m), once thought to be the highest mountain in the world.
The greener, southern fringes of Dolpo, the largest district in Nepal, are distinctly Hindu. But venture north past the ring of high passes intoarid Inner Dolpo, and you will encounter not only Tibetan Buddhists, but also practitioners of the ancient Bön religion, extant in just two villages. The spirituality of Dolpo is visible everywhere – legend says Dolpo is a Beyul, one of the “hidden valleys” created by Guru Rinpoche as a refuge for those of exceptionally pure mind. Today, Rokpa farmers and Drokpa nomads from Tibet, who are cut off from the rest of Nepal by snow for most of the year, settle its northern reaches. They live in some of the highest inhabited villages on Earth, nestling amongst mountains of stark, ascetic beauty.
In such barren terrain, the spectacle of Nepal’s deepest lake, Phoksundo, is almost beyond describing. Locals believe Phoksundo was formed when a spiteful demonness flooded a village for revealing her whereabouts to the saint Padmasambhava. The surreal sight of the lake, which hosts no aquatic life and appears to fluctuate between a turquoise and ultramarine hue – appears to substantiate the legend. If you follow in the footsteps of generations of nomads,look out for the remains of the ill-fated village below the lake’s surface.
This is for the avid trekker who has time and seeking for real adventure. Starting from the lowlands of Lower Dolpo crossing over 9 high passes and through the lush valleys, steep river canyons and high plateaus. One of the main highlights of trekking in the Dolpo region is reaching the shores of Shey Phoksumdo Lake. It’s a great place for people with Tibetan culture. It’s only the place as Tibet as it can get. With the surrounding forests and snow-capped mountains reflecting in the crystal blue water it’s no surprise this region has been described as one of the world’s “Natural Hidden Wonders”.