The hidden heaven

Shey Phoksundo National Park covers parts of Dolpa and Mugu Districts and is situated in the mountain region of Western Nepal. Gazetted in 1984, it is the largest national park in the country with an area of 3555 sq. km. The main objectives of the park are to preserve the unique trans-Himalayan ecosystem with its typical Tibetan type of flora and fauna and to protect endangered species such as the snow leopard and musk deer.

Much of the park lies north of the Great Himalayan Range. Kanjiroba Himal lies at the southern edge of the trans-Himalayan region of the Tibetan plateau. The high Dolpa plateau in the northeast of the park is drained by the Langu (Namlang) River. The southern catchment of the park is drained by the Jugdula and Suligad Rivers, which flow south and drain into the Bheri River. Nepal's deepest (650m) and second largest lake, Phoksundo, lies at 3660 m in the upper reaches of Suligad.

The lifestyle and culture of the approximate 2000 people living here are still strongly reminiscent of Tibet. Local inhabitants believe in the Buddhist religion but the community of Phoksundo area practices Bon, a pre-Buddhist sect. Almost all villages have their own communal gompas. The local economy is heavily based on agriculture, growing mainly potatoes, buckwheat, mustard, beans and some barley. Animal husbandry is a main source of food and wool for weaving clothes. Trading is done with Tibet, exchanging food grains for salt and wool.

The vegetation found in the park is diverse due to the influence of two different micro-climates. The southern river valleys along Suligad contain luxuriant forests mainly comprising blue pine, spruce, cypress, poplar, deodar, fir and birch. The Jugdula River valley consists mostly of Quercus species. The trans-Himalayan area has a near-desert type vegetation comprising mainly dwarf juniper and caragana shrubs.

The park provides prime habitat for snow leopard and blue sheep. The blue sheep are mainly concentrated around Shey Gomba and Dolpo. Other common animals found in the park are: goral, Himalayan tahr, serow, leopard, wolf, jackal, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan mouse hare, yellow-throated marten and langur and rhesus monkeys. The park is equally rich in birds. The commonly seen birds are Impeyan pheasant (danphe), blood pheasant, cheer pheasant, red and yellow-billed choughs, raven jungle crow, show partridge and many others.

Shey is interesting for religions and wildlife. Phoksundo Lake also known as Ringmo Lake, it is the most interesting site of the park. The lake is drained by a waterfall from a height of nearly 150 m making it the highest waterfall in the country. There are a few Buddhist monasteries near the lake in Ringmo and Pugmo villages.

Spring season (March-May) usually has fine weather although high passes still remain covered with the winter snow. Being located behind the main Himalayan range, the park is little affected by monsoon rain from June until September and weather usually remains clear. The alpine flowers are at their best color during this months. The winter temperatures drop below 0°C. Occasional heavy snowfall in mid-winter closes the trails for several days.

Local accommodations are available in Dunai, Sangta, Chhepka, and Ringmo. Campsites with rubbish pits, toilets and shelters are available throughout the park. Trekking lodges are located in Dunai, Chhepka and Ringmo and provide food and limited supplies. Park offices are located at Suligad, Chhepka, Palam Ringmo and Toijem. At the headquarters in Palam there is a small visitor center.

Getting there
The easiest and shortest route to reach the park is to fly to Juphal airstrip in Dolpa from Nepalgunj or Pokhara. From there, it is an easy one day walk to reach the park guardpost at Suligad and three days walk to reach park headquerter. at Sumduwa. Alternate routes are to fly to Jumla and trek about 10 days to the Phoksundo and Shey areas. An adventurous route begins in Dhorpatan crossing several high passes before reaching Dunai, the District headquerter of Dolpa.

Entry fees
All visitors must pay a park entry fee at Ankhe guard post of park HQ.
Natrional Park fees per person per entry:

  • For Nepali Nationals Free
  • For SAARC Nationals Rs 100
  • For Foreign Nationals Rs 1000
  • Children under 10 years Free

Be sure to keep your entry permit as it might be checked later by park personnel.

Klick on the map to enlarge.