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Dolpo, situated in northern Nepal, comprises numerous isolated Himalayan valleys connected by high passes. It serves as the dwelling place for Tibetan-speaking communities adhering to Buddhism or the Bon religion.
Historically, Dolpo was part of Tibet until the late 18th century. The opening of Nepal for tourism in 1951 brought about changes in many regions, but Dolpo was closed again in 1974 due to the presence of Khampas from Tibet, leading to conflicts with the Nepalese army. In 1989, specific areas like Poksumdo, Tichurong, and Tarap were reopened for tourism.
The population of northern Dolpo was primarily the Bhotia ethnic group with Tibetan origins. However, after the occupation of Tibet and the Lhasa uprising in 1959/60, Tibetan refugees resettled in the region. The Dolpo-Bhotia and Tibetans predominantly live in villages, sustaining themselves through agriculture, trade, and animal husbandry.
One captivating aspect of the trek is Phoksundo Lake, situated at 3627m. This 145-meter-deep lake boasts an otherworldly turquoise blue color, encircled by rocky crags, forests, and snowcapped peaks. Formed by a massive landslide 30,000 to 40,000 years ago that blocked the river, Ringmogoan and Bon Monastery now stand on the old landslip dam. Beyond the village, the river descends 167 meters to the lower valley.
The Shey Gompa Festival, occurring every twelve years, holds significant importance for Buddhists. In 2012, during the Year of the Male Dragon, the festival marked 2556 years since Buddha attained Nirvana and celebrated the 66th anniversary of Holy Crystal Mountain. The festival, lasting a week, coincides with the full moon of the seventh month in the Tibetan Calendar.
During the festival, Bon and Buddhist followers from the region and beyond gather to partake in traditional dances, don traditional and antique attire and engage in various events such as horse riding, archery, and lama dances. The fifth reincarnation of Tuptup Singe Ishe and other respected high lamas deliver religious preachings. Numerous holy pujas and blessings are also performed. Variations can be incorporated into the trek, extending it by several days and concluding with a flight back to Kathmandu from Jomsom.
It’s essential to note that reaching the starting point of this trek requires two domestic flights and flight schedules may be impacted by adverse weather conditions.