The land of the mythical snow leopard, Upper Dolpo in Dolpa has a lot to offer. Home to the pristine Phoksundo lake, the area is untouched, raw, rugged and extremely beautiful. It’s a place in Nepal that will take you back in time with its simplicity.
Over the past few years, a lot of people have been going to Dolpo to witness the grandeur of the Phoksundo lake. But, the lake is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more that you can experience in the region. From learning about the Bon religion to visiting one of the highest human settlements in the world, Dolpo will make you come back for more.
Today, we bring you a list of places you can visit when you are in the region.
1. Phoksundo lake
This pristine lake is the crown jewel of Dolpa. Situated at an elevation of 3,612 metres, the turquoise blue lake is mystical on its own. There is a belief among locals that the lake is so pure that no organism lives there. People are not allowed to swim or boat in the lake, but they do not have to. If you stare long enough at the lake from the multiple viewpoints on the trail, you will definitely be mesmerised.
2. Shey Gompa
Another gem in the region is the Shey Gompa or the Crystal Monastery that was built in the 11th century just below the holy Crystal Mountain. Many consider this monastery the spiritual heart of the region and was made famous by Peter Matthiessen in the book the Snow Leopard.
It is also known for its 12-metre tall-breezed golden statue of Shakyamuni (Gautam) Buddha which covers three floors of the monastery. It lies in the trekking route to cross Kanga La pass (5,151 m), which is among the highest passes in the Himalayas, from where one can see the mesmerising beauty of the mountains and panoramic landscapes.
3. Shey Phoksundo National Park
Dolpa is home to the Shey-Phoksundo National Park, arguably the prettiest national park in the country. The place is full of different species like the elusive snow leopard, blue sheep, grey wolf and musk deer among many others. Elevations in the park range from 2,130 m in Ankhe to 6,883 m at the summit of Kanjiroba Himal. Apart from Shey Gompa, the national park is home to multiple other monasteries along with different glaciers. Because this place is remote, many call this place a heaven on earth and a must-visit place if you love trekking.
4. Bon religion
Dolpa is one of few places where the Bon religion is practised. The Bon religion in Dolpo offers you its unique and primitive culture including monasteries and temples that are practising and preserving the culture of Bonpo (followers of Bon) in different parts of this region. These places seek the attention of the world to preserve and flourish this ancient religion before it disappears.
5. Dho Tarap valley
The village of Dho Tarap is one of the highest settlements on earth. This used to be the capital of Dolpo before Prithvi Narayan Shah annexed it in the 18th century. This village, like others in the region, follows the Bon culture, and there are eight monasteries including a Bon monastery. Dho Tarap is located in a very strategic centre and can be reached in a travel distance of one day from nine different villages of Dolpo.
Ringmo is another traditional village in Dolpo that preaches the Bon religion. The village is small and is by a lake. It sits on the landslide dam that formed the Phoksundo lake at about 3,660 m (12,000 ft) above sea level. A Bon temple also named Ringmo can be found just outside the town, and the river that drains from Phoksundo plunges over an impressive 167 m (548 ft) waterfall about half a kilometre south of the village.
7. Suligad waterfall
Near Ringmo is the Suligad waterfall, which is 167 metres long. The water comes straight from the Phoksundo lake and is a gem to look at. Not many people venture out to these places. The waterfall drops into the Bheri river forming Thulo Bheri and is quite a hike from Ringmo, but once there, you will surely feel that the hike is worth it.