Bordering Tibet and connected to Nepal by the remote Jufal, the Dolpo region is divided into four valleys. This spanning district lies relatively untouched by tourism, and the western section is reserved for the Shey Poksundo National Park. The park is the largest protected area in Nepal and is consistently ranked as one of the most scenic mountain parks in the world.
Traditional Tibetan Villages are secluded, and farmers watch over fields of buckwheat, barley, potatoes and mustard. Monasteries built in the 11th Century hold chanting monks, and Bon, a mystic combination of Buddhism and black magic is practiced. The country’s highest waterfall pours over glistening rock, and a diverse animal and plant life calls this area home. Observant visitors may catch a glimpse of the world’s highest living butterfly or one of the endangered snow leopards, grey wolf or blue sheep.
Mustang offers a glimpse into life largely untouched by commercialism and development. Upper Mustang has been closed to foreigners until fairly recently. Considered a “lost city of Tibet,” the area retains many cultural beliefs and practices that have been abolished by China. Homes are decorated with Tibetan flags and women wear traditional clothes. Though permits for this area are expensive, visitors are rewarded with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Guides are recommended, as accommodations need to be arranged in advance and priorities are often given to locals.
Kagbeni, a walled fortress serves as gateway into the restricted area. Many visitors start their adventure from the Jomsom Airport, while others make their way up through the Annapurna Circuit. Windswept cliffs and surprising tufts of colored patches of agriculture pave the way leading to Mustang. The desert-like valley of Thak Khola leads visitors to Lo Manthang, an ancient village built around a castle. Here, local brews made from rice and barley keep residents warm through cold winters, and Marpha brandy is served alongside heaping plates of rice and vegetables. Muktinath is another a central religious cite for Hindus and Buddhists who make annual visits to take part in cleansing rituals.
Kanchenjunga Base Camp