With an area of 7,889 sq. kilometers, Dolpa is the largest district of Nepal, and yet it is most thinly populated. Dolpa contains the deepest lake of Nepal, Lake Phoksundo, which is also the deepest lake of high altitude in the world. Dolpa is one of the few Nepalese districts that is behind the Himalayan mountains, due to which it gets very little attention from the center.
Due to absence of proper rain in the Dolpa region, its most of the hills are bare with little vegetation. Despite having barren landscapes, Dolpa’s majestic hills provide it a rare beauty that is absolutely mesmerizing. Because of the harsh living conditions, few people live or travel in these areas. As a result, Dolpa has a very isolated culture where life still revolves around horses, mules, and yaks. People still wear traditional attire and jewelry even today in the region.
The travelers who are thinking to trek in these beyond Himalayan mountains encounter Dho Tarap, a human settlement at the highest altitude in the world, Shey Gumba, religiously the most important Gumba in the region, and Lake Phoksundo, the deepest lake of high altitude in the world.
The trek starts to Dolpa region from Ranjha airport, a small airport on top of the town of Juphal which can be reached from Nepalgunj. From Juphal, the steep road connects you to Suligad. Suligad is the entrance to Shey Phoksundo National Park. On the way to Shey Phoksundo National Park, travelers come across sparsely populated Khalaripi, Kageni and Sangta villages.
The road furthermore traverses through several small settlements like Dhane, Kiptarung and Rechi and follows the Phoksundo River upstream through dense forests. The road offers a bird’s eye view of the unique beauty of surrounding hills. These hills are made almost entirely of gray stone with little vegetation. While hiking up, there comes Ringmo – a village of mainly Buddhist people on the banks of Phoksundo Lake. This days long trek at last comes to Phoksundo Lake which offers a spectacular view of Numala Bagala passes which are on the way to Dho Tarap.
From Phoksundo Lake onwards the trek enters into Upper Dolpa. The journey to Dho Tarap moves ahead resting and relaxing, and viewing wonderful sights of Phoksundo Lake and surrounding mountains. While on the trek, travelers first cross the highest pass in the region and get to Shey Gumba. From a religious point of view, Shey Gumba is considered the most important of all Gumbas in Nepal.
In crossing the second pass of the journey though the hills are barren without greenery, visitors in the area see all kinds of wildflowers in red, yellow, pink, and blue sprouting from rocky surfaces and a panoramic view of light green colored mountains far in the distance.
While trekking onwards from the second pass, trekkers reach to the village of Saldang. Saldang is a beautiful valley, its green fields in stark contrast to the bare hills around. Saldang is densely populated compared to the surrounding hillsides. It is a fertile valley which grows potatoes, rice, wheat, and barley. From Saldang travelers have to pass several villages and little chhortens on the way.
The next part of the trek traverses through a trade route to China. Trekkers can experience many caravans of yaks, horses, and mules heading to China. On the way to Dho Tarap, there comes the third pass which will be the last pass of this trek.
Upon crossing the third pass, there comes the ultimate destination of the trek that is Dho Tarap. Dho Tarap is the world’s highest human settlement 4,090 meters. The people of Dho still follow traditional culture, and the houses are built according to traditional craftsmanship where most of the living space is underground, and a small part of the house juts above ground. Dho Tarap is a junction from where roads diverge to Jomsom, Mustang, and Tibet. Therefore, travelers can see a lot of horse, mule, and yak traffic around Dho Tarap.
After enjoying couple of days into the culture and environment of Dho Tarap travelers generally descend towards Dunai, the headquarters of Dolpa. The track led the adventurers through dense vegetation and lots of villages on the way. From Dunai, the journey moves to Juphal airport which connects either Nepalgunj or Surkhet towards home destination.