Dolpo Trek is best known of the many isolated high Himalayan valleys across northern Nepal, Dolpo preserves one of the last remnants of traditional Tibetan culture. Legend says it is one of the “hidden valleys” created by Guru Rinpoche as a refuge for devout Buddhists in troubled times. Surrounded by high mountains including the Dhaulagiri massif to the south-east and cut off by high passes closed by snow half the year, Dolpo’s easiest access is from Tibet, where its people emigrated from perhaps 1.000 years ago.
Upper Dolpo shelters about 5.000 people, whose lives revolve around Buddhism, barley, and yaks; their villages (over 4.260 meters) are among the highest settlements on earth. A large portion of Dolpo has been set aside as Shey – Phoksumdo National Park, at 3.555 square km Nepal’s largest. Meant to preserve a complete example of the trans-Himalayan ecosystem, the park shelters blue sheep, Himalayan black bear, leopards, wolves, and the exclusive snow leopard.
At the lake’s eastern end is the village of Ringmo, also called Tso. The town’s entrance chorten has nine complex Buddhist and Bönpo mandalas painted on its wooden ceiling.
The people are Bhotia and only very distantly related to Tibetans. The Bönpo monastery, Tso Gompa, is two km from the village, set above the lake on forested cliffs with views across to Kanjiroba. The best part of Dolpo lies beyond the lake, along a difficult trail that crosses a high pass into the real Dolpo. Shey Gompa, named after nearby Crystal Mountain, is several days’ walk north of the lake.