Why You Need to go to Dolpo

Text by Sasha Holmgrens / Photo: Kim Bannister


Its diverse terrain and rich culture makes Dolpo an ideal and interesting location to spend the monsoon. Shrouded in the great Himalayas, it’s what we call a ‘rain shadow’ area (where the land experiences little to no rain). While the rain can be very beneficial for farmers in the lower regions, bringing a flourish to their agriculture, it is not the same higher up. If indeed it does begin rain, you can look forward to clear blue skies and the smell of the crisp outdoors by the end of it. The recommended months to visit would be between June and August; during this time, there are fewer chances of getting altitude sickness, as the temperature is warmer. The low accommodation rates make it easier to find a place to stay if you are trekking, or simply just relaxing. You might ask yourself, ‘why go to a rain shadowed area?’ Well, the answer is simple, to escape being cooped up inside, while the rain falls in torrents around you. There are loads to do in Dolpo, and so much to see, one of the activities being trekking. It has become an increasingly popular pass-time for those who wish to experience things from a wider and different perspective. 
Some of Dolpo’s population is nomadic, so they move from place to place depending on where they can find new and greener pastures for their livestock to graze on, thus creating a very humble way of life. Upper Mustang, also known as ‘fertile land’ in Tibetan, is home to ancient ruins and picturesque mountains towards the south. It is one of the most well-conserved regions in the world. The unique culture and historical monuments make it seem as though it has come straight out of a storybook. For those looking for a more varied route, Jomsom-Muktinath is just the right trek. Covering a diverse trail, from high altitude arid and dry zones to sub-tropical heat and terraced rice paddies, there is no doubt that you could never be bored. A few places to stop by along the way would have to be the Tatopani natural hot springs and Muktinath Temple, which is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.

Upper Dolpo is also recognized as a region where many Tibetans reside. One of its main attractions is Shey Phoksundo Park, where there is a wide array of flora and fauna. Though these regions are located in Nepal, they are very Tibetan in both their culture and lifestyle. The remote and isolated area is a dream for thrill-seekers and adventurers who wish to explore the routes that lead to the mid-western parts of Nepal. Its most popular, and most frequently seen, animal is the blue sheep; this herbivorous mammal can be seen bouncing off rocks, and peacefully grazing away at the grass. As very few foreigners and tourists are allowed access to Upper Dolpo, the culture has been left untouched by the spread of tourism. Twice a year, the Himalayan pilgrimage takes place at the Shey Gompa, where pilgrims make a kora of the crystal mountain known as Mt. Kailash. 

The treks in Upper Dolpo are particularly challenging. As you trek, you will walk between high mountain passes surrounded by dry, arid land, and small tufts of vegetation. Ideal places to stay during your visit would be in

teahouses, not only does this help the local community earn money; it also allows you to see what life is like for them. For those who don’t wish to stay in small teahouses, there are three-star hotels and hostels, too. You’re not limited to only trekking; for those looking for a less challenging trip, walks and strolls in rhododendron forests might be also to your liking. 

Finally, breaking down the top places to visit, you need to definitely go to Shey Gompa in Upper Dolpo, and witness the Himalayan pilgrimage; Tatopani in Jomsom, and the Muktinath Temple; a stroll through the forests while admiring the beautiful mountains in the south of Upper Mustang; and exploration of ancient kingdoms and historical monuments. Dolpo is an adventure everyone should go on. I can assure you that there will be many unforgettable memories to be made, and you might even decide to come back again and rediscover new things that you didn’t 
know existed.