Exploring the immaculate and concealed beauty of North-Western Part of Nepal ‘Shey Phoksundo National Park’
Shey Phoksundo National Park, located in the northwest part of Nepal, is the largest national park in the country. It covers an area of 3555 square kilometers. Mugu and Dolpa are the two districts that house the park. The headquarters of the park is located in Palam, Dolpa. It has an elevation beginning with 2130m at Ankhe and 6883m at the top of Kanjiroba mountain. With its breath-taking view of mountains, lakes and Gumbas (monasteries), this national park is one of the most beautiful sanctuaries of Nepal. It is one and the only trans-Himalayan national park of Nepal and was established in 1984 with the purpose of preserving the unique trans-Himalayan flora and fauna (ecosystem) of the region. The national park provides explorers the sight that will steal their hearts and attract them with the spectacular view of lakes, glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife.
Mesmerizing water bodies
Shey Phoksundo National Park is named after a magnificent turquoise coloured lake called Shey Phoksundo. The lake is also known locally as ‘Rigmo’. Rigmo is the country's deepest lake with a depth of 167m and the second biggest lake with an area of 4.94 square kilometers. Shey Phoksundo lake is situated in the Dolpa district. Thousands of people visit the lake every year to see the magnificent colour of the lake. It is also one of the holy places for Buddhists. It is at an altitude of 3612m making it one of the highest lakes of Nepal. The outlet of the lake is located between two mountains, making a beautiful waterfall called Phoksundo Waterfall (Suligad Waterfall).
The mountains, glaciers and lakes situated in the area are important sources to rivers like Suligad, Langu and Jugdual. These rivers are important sources of water for plants, animals and even for the population living in the area.
Extreme diversity in flora can be found in the region. The park habitats about 250 species of ethnobotanical important plants. In the higher altitude, the trans-Himalayan ecosystem is located provides a range of unique habitat to a wide range of plants. The sloping land consists of flora like Pine, Juniper, White Himalayan Birch, Salix, Rhododendron. The northern part is covered with grassy alpine meadows and is almost devoid of trees. However, in the lower altitude where the vegetation is not so dry, flora such as Cedar, Spruce, Blue pine, poplar, Rhododendron, Walnut, Oak, Willow are prevalent. The park consists of less than 5% green vegetation, much of which is located in the southern part.
Wildlife at the Park
Shey Phoksundo National Park houses a good population of endangered animals namely Blue Sheep, Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Grey Wolf, Goral, and Himalayan Black Bear. Other animals like Tibetan Gazelle, Antelope, Wild Yak, Langur Monkey, Tibetan Sheep are also found in the region. The park provides habitat for six reptiles, more than 200 species of birds such as Wood Snipe, Rosefinch, Tibetan partridge, Pheasant, Raven, Tibetan Snow Cock and many more. Along with them, 29 species of Butterfly plus Paralasa nepalaica which is the highest flying butterfly in the world.
The lifestyle of the People
The people living in this area are mostly influenced by the Tibetan Culture. The place is indigenous for Tibetan descent. These people mainly follow the pre-Buddist bon religion. The ancient religion is rooted in Buddhism and Animism. There are about 9000 people currently inhabiting the park. The local farmers grow potatoes, beans, buckwheat and some barley along with livestock like Sheep, Yaks for food and wool. A village-like Rinfmo, Pungmi, Kugun and Salclang are some of the main hamlet where settlement is high.
The park is filled with monasteries, gompa, stupas and chortens. They are centuries old and have a lot of history with them. Shey Gompa believed to be made in the 11th century is one of the best attractions for the visitors. Other places like Yangsher Gompa, Samye Choling monastery are famous among the explorers. Along with this, more than 20 stupas are located around the lake and one gompa on the eastern side of the Shey Phosksundo lake.
Stairways to Heaven
The best time to visit Shey Phoksundo National Park is in Spring and Autumn. In this season, the sky is clear and different kinds of flowers can be seen blooming all around the park. Visitors can reach the park both by air and road. Air transportation takes a short time. However, the roadway is more adventurous but takes relatively more time. The distance between Kathmandu and Shey Phoksundo is about 320km. It can take up to 5-6 hours to reach the park by road. By airways, it takes 1 hour to reach Nepalgunj from Kathmandu airport followed by connecting flight to Juphal airport in Dolpa and it can take up to half a day walk to reach the park entrance.
Shey Phoksundo National Park provides a diversity of spectacular landscapes which can be the best place for the adventure junkie and nature lovers. The Park’s climatic differences, altitude variations, and different zoo-geographical regions support a diverse range of biotic systems. The people around there are quite humble and willing to help the traveller in every way possible.