Nepal is a land of paradise for nature and culture lovers. Several places in Nepal remind me of a sense of tranquility, beauty, and a mystical aura. Being in a world untouched by time adds to its mystical allure. Exploring the Dolpo region provides an opportunity to experience a sense of tranquility, discover ancient traditions, and immerse oneself in the awe-inspiring landscapes of Nepal. This is the reason Upper Dolpo Trek is in demand among Travelers. So in this blog, we will walk you through the hidden facts about Upper Dolpo that are bound to surprise you.
Shey Phoksundo Lake of Dolpo region offers a tranquil and picturesque setting that feels like a hidden paradise. The pristine landscapes, Himalayan air, and isolated villages represent Dolpo as a hidden sanctuary. This creates an otherworldly atmosphere that can feel like stepping into a hidden realm.
01: About Upper Dolpo Nepal.
02: What is the History of Dolpo?
03: Nomadic Lifestyle in Upper Dolpo Nepal.
04: Shey Phoksundo National Park.
05: Centuries-Old Shey Gompa Buddhist Monastery.
06: The Holy Crystal Mountain.
07: The Traditional Local village Saldang.
08: Centuries-old Bon Monasteries.
Nestled within the majestic Himalayan range lies Dolpo, a region shrouded in mystery and steeped in ancient history. The history of Dolpo traces back thousands of years, revealing a tapestry of civilizations that have left their indelible mark on this enchanting land. In this blog, we embark on a journey through time, unearthing the captivating history of Dolpo and its cultural heritage.
The origins of human settlements in Dolpo can be traced back to prehistoric times. Archaeological excavations have unearthed evidence of early human habitation, such as stone tools and pottery fragments, indicating that the region has been inhabited since the Neolithic era. These early settlers, skilled in Caravan, gathering, and agriculture, established the foundations of the unique culture that thrives in Dolpo to this day.
Over the centuries, Dolpo became a melting pot of diverse ethnic groups and cultures. Tibetan influence played a significant role in shaping the region's history, as traders and pilgrims from Tibet ventured into Dolpo, establishing trade routes and cultural exchanges. This interaction with Tibet fostered a strong Tibetan cultural identity in Dolpo, which can still be observed in the customs, language, and religious practices of the local inhabitants.
Dolpo's isolation and rugged terrain contributed to the preservation of its distinct cultural heritage. The region was known for its strategic location along ancient trade routes that connected Tibet, Nepal, and India. Caravans laden with goods traversed the treacherous mountain passes of Dolpo, facilitating cultural exchanges and bringing prosperity to the region.
The advent of Buddhism in Dolpo marked a significant turning point in its history. Monasteries and Stupas (Buddhist religious sites) were established, becoming centers of spiritual and intellectual learning. The influence of Bon Buddhism, an ancient shamanistic tradition, can also be observed in Dolpo, intertwining with Buddhist practices and adding a unique dimension to the region's religious fabric.
Dolpo used to be divided into small independent kingdoms such as Shey, Saldang, and Tarap. These kingdoms had their unique cultural traditions and customs. Dolpo’s remote location and rugged topography have been the reason for its isolation from the outside world for much of its history. Ancient traditions, Cultural Practices, and natural landscapes are in their pristine and pure forms. The Government of Nepal opened Trekking in Dolpo in 1989. To protect the cultural diversity of this area government took this step as the site is probably the only place in the world where the Bon Po religion is still practiced.
In recent times, Dolpo gained global recognition with the publication of Peter Matthiessen's book "The Snow Leopard" and the subsequent film adaptation. The story chronicled Matthiessen's spiritual journey through Dolpo, bringing international attention to the region's untouched beauty and its people's way of life. The “Caravan” or “Himalaya” movie was entirely shot in Dolpo, and directed by French filmmaker Eric Valli.
The movie showcases its stunning landscapes, trading between Nepal and Tibet, unique culture, and the challenging lives of the local people. The movie successfully presents the authenticity and beauty of Dolpo. Since the movie's broadcast, Dolpo's popularity has increased as a trekking and cultural destination among travelers and cinema enthusiasts.
Today, Dolpo stands as a testament to its rich history, with its ancient settlements, monastic treasures, and cultural practices still deeply ingrained in the lives of its inhabitants. The preservation of its cultural heritage and the breathtaking landscapes continue to draw travelers seeking an authentic and immersive experience.
A visit to Dolpa offers the opportunity to witness the Nomadic lifestyle that has been maintained for generations. You’ll see Dolpo people practicing nomadic life just like the one you’ve seen in some movies. They set up temporary shelters for their families and their livestock. During summer, they move to higher-elevation pastures where the vegetation is abundant. In winter, they descend to lower elevations where they see suitable grazing grounds. You’ll be amused by their resilience, adaptability, sustainable practices, wide knowledge, and cultural devotion.
The nomadic lifestyle of the people of Upper Dolpo revolves around herding yaks, sheep, and goats, which provides them with sustenance and trade opportunities. They migrate seasonally, traversing mountain passes and crossing vast expanses to reach fresh pastures and water sources. Witnessing these migratory journeys is an extraordinary experience that immerses visitors in the raw beauty and rhythm of nature.
As you traverse the rugged trails of Upper Dolpo, encounters with friendly locals eager to share their stories and wisdom are common. Their warmth and hospitality create lasting memories, leaving visitors with a profound appreciation for the simplicity and resilience of nomadic life.
Deepest Lake in Nepal is Phoksundo Lake Dolpo Nepal.
Spanning most areas of the Dolpo region, Shey Phoksundo National Park uncovers a total of 3,555 square kilometers of landmass. This national park has been one of the prominent attractions of Dolpo being a treasure trove of natural beauty, biodiversity, and cultural heritage. Numerous trekking trails pierce through this national park bestowing an authentic taste of trekking alongside diverse wildlife.
Occasional sightings of Snow Leopard, Blue Sheep, Himalayan Tahr, Musk Deer, Himalayan Marmots, Himalayan Griffon, Golden Eagle, and Yellow-billed Chough among others make the trek to Upper Dolpo simply magical. There have been several finds of rare flora across the national park boundary. You can find forests of fir, pine, and juniper. Some parts of the trails are even rich grounds of Marijuana and medicinal herbs. You’ll see how wildflowers act as charmers in the alpine meadows. The natural habitat of flora and fauna inside this national park has been preserved strictly. And remains undisturbed by any human activities.
Shey Phoksundo National Park elevates from mere 2130 meters to 6,883 meters above sea level. This variation in elevation of the national park provides for diversified flora and fauna alongside dense vegetation. The lower region of the national park is abundant with dense tropical forests and evergreen deciduous vegetation. The vegetation shifts as you elevate higher on the trek with Juniper forests being common in the elevation above 3000 meters mark. The highland beyond 4000 meters is characterized by desert-like semi-arid vegetation which is filled with small bushy shrubs growing across.
The national park is home to the stunning Shey Phoksundo Lake renowned for its turquoise water and breathtaking scenery. It's the deepest lake in Nepal with Christal clear blue water. All travelers believe in the presence of the mystical aura in the surroundings of Shey Phoksundo Lake.
Renowned for its breathtaking architecture, Shey Gompa, a Buddhist monastery situated at an elevation of 4343 meters, is truly awe-inspiring. It's a Buddhist monastery located in the Shey Phoksundo rural municipality of the Dolpo district in Nepal at an elevation of 4343 meters. Shey Gompa, known as the Crystal Monastery in the Tibetan language, was founded in the 11th century.
This monastery holds great significance as the spiritual core of Upper Dolpo in Nepal. Perched atop a hill, it is a prominent Buddhist monastery that provides breathtaking panoramic vistas of the majestic Himalayas, valleys, and captivating landscapes. Shey Gompa hosts vibrant masked dances, religious rituals, and cultural showcases during every Tibetan New Year celebration. The tranquil ambiance of Shey Gompa offers an opportunity to experience a spiritual aura and receive teachings from esteemed Buddhist masters.
It is a world-renowned monastery of the Dolpo region which is nestled at an elevation of 4343 meters above sea level. It sits amidst towering snow-capped peaks of Kanjirowa, deep-trodden lakes, and semi-arid landscapes all across. The locals have done an excellent job of preserving this sacred monument. This divine landmark of Upper Dolpo has been a hub for spiritual practitioners and general travelers for a long period.
The exterior decoration of Shey Gompa is unparalleled, surpassing that of any other architectural wonder in the world. The inside of the monastery is full of ancient scripture, historical artifacts, and statues of Buddhist deities, each holding deep significance of their own. Shey Gompa is also a pilgrimage site for devout Buddhists, who make the challenging journey to seek blessings and engage in spiritual retreats. The Gompa holds special reverence due to its close association with the crystal mountain. Known as "Riwo Potala," believed to be a manifestation of the mythical Mount Kailash.
The traverse to Shey Gompa isn't easy either. From Juphal Airport in Dolpo, it's a total of 40 kilometers trek through some of the treacherous Himalayan terrains. It takes a maximum of 7-8 days. Fast-paced trekkers make it within 7 days from the Juphal airstrip including a day of acclimatization at Phoksundo Lake. The journey despite being strenuous, rewards with astounding mountain views, high mountain passes, semi-arid valleys, and the Tibetan look-alike settlement of the Dolpali people and their unique culture.
For those who have not yet visited Dolpo, it is important to know that its beauty extends far beyond Shey-Poksundo Lake. But the place looks more vibrant with the sacred mountain called Crystal Mountain-Shey Phoksundo Peak. And it is believed to have quartz crystals on its slopes. Not as tall as Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Crystal Mountain stands tall at 6,443 meters with its neighboring peaks such as Kanjirowa Peak (6,883 m), Churen Himal (7,385 m), and Snow Leopard Peaks.
Saldang village, exceptionally beautiful, is one of the oldest villages located in the upper Dolpo region of Nepal. Nestled amidst the rugged and picturesque landscapes of the Himalayas, the village offers breathtaking views and a serene atmosphere. Located in the Nangaon Khola Valley, Shey Gompa rests at an elevation of 3,770 meters. It's a lovely and scenic village surrounded by snow-capped peaks, deep gorges, and dramatic cliffs.
You cannot overlook the beauty of mud and stone houses that look charming in their traditional appearances. Saldang is appealing to those who enjoy Old Buddhist Monastery and stupa views and who love to experience traditional cultures. Thinle Lhondup, also known as Thinley, hails from this village. He gained recognition for portraying an elderly community leader named Thinley in the adventure film "Himalaya Caravan" (1999), directed by Eric Valli, which was filmed in Dolpo, Nepal.
Last, but not the least, the hidden facts about Upper Dolpo Trek is you must know that you’re stepping into the land of Buddhism as Dolpo comes with lots of ancient monasteries and gompas. The matter of fact that each of them reflects the region’s strong influence on Tibetan Buddhism. They serve as centers for Buddhist learning, meditation, and enlightenment. Travelers show a positive and relieving impact visiting them.
Other notable and wonderful monasteries include Thashung Gompa, Saldang Monastery, Namjung Monastery, and Yanjer Gompa. The interesting thing is each of them has attractive things. As you pass those monasteries one by one, you’ll witness how adorable Namjung Monastery is with its traditional Tibetan-style murals and sculptures.
Traveling with an experienced guide and reputable organizer you will learn their historical and cultural significance. You may get to witness various religious ceremonies hosted in one of them. Saldang Monastery is one of the central spots for the religious ceremonies of the community. You’ll observe natives’ devotion to spirits along with the profound beauties of the architecture.
Dolpo continues to attract adventurers, trekkers, and those seeking an authentic cultural experience. Its historical legacy, remote landscapes, and spiritual ambiance make it a captivating destination that offers a glimpse into Nepal’s ancient past and cultural heritage. These mentioned eight hidden facts about Upper Dolpo are the reason behind the increasing demand for Upper Dolpo Trek.
As you delve into these hidden facts about Upper Dolpo, the excitement builds, but imagine the incredible experience you would have trekking through this region. The Visit Himalaya Treks team, with our extensive experience guiding travelers since 2008, will ensure that your journey becomes even more memorable.
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