Shey Phoksundo National Park is located in the mountain region of Western Nepal, covering parts of Dolpa and Mugu Districts of Nepal. It was established in the year 2040 B.S. (1984 AD.).
It is the largest national park in Nepal with an area of 3555 sq. km that represents the trans-Himalayan eco-system with its typical Tibetan type of flora and fauna.
Shey Phoksundo National Park of Nepal
Shey Phoksundo National Park was established to preserve a unique Trans-Himalayan ecosystem with a diversity of flora and fauna. Various kinds of vegetation and birds are found here. This park has spread towards both north and south sides of the Himalayans. It provides a diversity of spectacular landscapes. Much of the parts of this park lies north of the Himalayan crest.
Shey- Phoksundo national park is interesting and attractive for religions and wildlife. Phoksundo Lake is the most interesting site of the park which is also known as Ringmo Lake. Phoksundo Lake is famous for its magnificent turquoise color and its spectacular scenery.
The major rivers in this park are the Khung, Nmajung and Panjang, The Suligad and Jugdual Rivers (major tributaries of the Thuli Bheri River), and the Langu River.
The important trees of the park are blue pine, birch, and spruce. This park provides prime habitat for snow leopard and blue sheep. The blue sheep are mainly concentrated around Shey Gomba and Dolpo.
The wildlife of the park is blue sheep, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan mouse hare, snow leopard, wolf, jackal, Himalayan Thar, Ghoral, serow, Himalayan mouse, hare, Himalayan black bear, yellow-throated marten, langur, and rhesus monkeys.etc.
This is the main habitat of wild animals like Himalayan leopard, Tibetan rabbit, ‘Naur’ etc. similarly there are some glaciers and snow-capped mountain ranges also.
There is Phoksundo Lake, Nepal’s second-largest lake in the middle part of the park lies at 3660 m in the upper reaches of Suligad. There are Shey Gumba (Monastery) and other Buddhist monasteries also. These monasteries are taken as the center of religious education, cultural conduct, and discipline for Tibetan Buddhist followers.
The park is also rich in birds’ species. The major seen birds are Danfe (Impeyan pheasant), blood pheasant, cheer pheasant, red and yellow-billed choughs, raven jungle crow, show partridge, etc.
Shey-phoksundo National Park is located in the Dolpa and Mugu districts of western Nepal. It covers the area of 3,555 square km. It is the largest national park in Nepal.
It was started in 1984 to preserve a variety of unspoilt transhimalayan and himalayan habitats, along with protecting a number of endangered mammal species, such as the snow leopard, gray wolf, himalayan musk deer.
The national park is divided in two by the Kanjoroba himal that reaches its highest point at the southern peak Kanjoroba of 6,883 m. Approximately one third of the park is located south of Kanjiroba himal.
The national park encompasses typical Himalayan habitats with extensive high-altitude grasslands interspersed with forests and thickets of less than 4,000 m. Habitats include oak and coniferous forests, mixed deciduous forests, and rhododendron and cotoneaster shrubs.
The landscape changes dramatically in the north of Kanjiroba Himal. The steep slopes of the true Himalayas are replaced by the gentle rolling hills of the Tibetan plateau.
The northern part of the national park receives only scant rainfall because the Kanjiroba Himal acts as a rain barrier. This is reflected in the vegatation, which is typical of a Transhimalayan or Tibetan steppe and nearby desert vegetation, dominated by caragana and dwarf junipers.
The protected area is located at an elevation of 2200m. in Suligadh at 6883m. at the summit of Kanjiroba. The park also offers a wide climatic range.
Winters above 2500m. has frequent snowfalls and in more than 3000m., the temperature is below zero. Most of the rain is between July and September, less than 500 mm a year in the north and around 1500 mm in the southern areas.
Shey-Phoksundo National Park is the only protected area in Nepal representative of the trans-Himalaya region. The park is of great importance for nature conservation not only in Nepal, but also in the Indian subcontinent, mainly due to its large size and low level of human disturbance.
The extensive high-altitude grasslands within the park are home to a sizeable and viable population of snow leopard, along with a number of important herbivores, of which the Bharai is the most common.
Due to the high altitude of most of the park, temperatures remain cold throughout the year. During spring and summer temperatures are the most favorable. However, from July to September are also the monsoon months that cause heavy rains in some parts of the park.
Dhaulagiri and Kanjiroba Himals are in a rain shadow and don’t get as much rain as the other parts of the park. Annual precipitation ranges from 1,500 mm in the south to just 500 mm in the dry northern part of the park.
The park contains the transition from a monsoon-dominated climate with 1500 mm. annual precipitation in the south (Suligad) to an arid climate of less than 500 mm. A year on the northern slopes.
Winters are quite severe, with frequent snowfall above 2,500 m. and temperatures that remain below zero above 3,000 m. for much of the winter.
Best time to visit Shey Phoksundo National Park
The park’s climate varies between the prevailing monsoon and the arid climate, as it is a trans-Himalayan region. Although the precipitation in the southern part of the park is close to 1500 mm, it is less than 500 mm on the northern slopes.
Winters in the park are extreme, with snowfalls occurring over 2,500 meters in the regions. The temperature in the park above 3000 meters falls below freezing points. From April to November is the best time to visit Shey Phoksundo National Park in Nepal.
Within the park, the flora found is extremely diverse. The northern regions of the park comprise arid areas of the Upper Himalayas and Trans-Himalayan slopes which comprises of some rhododendrons, Caragana and Salix shrubs, juniper, Himalayan white birch, and occasionally silver fir dominates the high Himalayan grasslands.
Less than five percent of the park is covered in forests, and much of it is in the southern part. The flora of Suligad Valley consists of blue pine, fir, hemlock, cedar, silver fir, poplar, rhododendron, and bamboo.
There are 286 species of plants of ethnobotanical importance in the park. One hundred and seventy-four vascular plants have also been recorded: seven gymnosperms, 150 dicotyledons and 17 monocotyledons.
According to some reports, the National Park contains 286 species of floras of ethnobotanical importance. The northern region of the park consists of rhododendrons, Caragana bushes, Salix, juniper, Himalayan white birch, etc.
The park also contains barren areas of the upper Himalayas as the Trans-Himalaya hillside lands. Less than five percent of the park is covered in forests and the flora of the Suligad Valley consists of blue pine, fir, hemlock, cedar, silver fir, poplar, rhododendron, and bamboos.
The National Park is home to many endangered species, such as the snow leopard, gray wolf, musk deer and blue sheep, goral, great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan tahr, leopard and black bear of the Himalayas.
The park is also home to six species of reptiles, 29 species of butterflies which includes the tallest flying butterfly in the world which is Paralasa nepalacia and more than 200 species of birds, including the Tibetan Partridge, Wood Sniper, White-throated Tit, Wood Accent, and Finch crimson eared rose.
The park provides important habitat for endangered species such as snow leopard, gray wolf, musk deer and blue sheep, goral, great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan tahr, leopard, jackal and the Himalayan black bear. Thirty-two species of mammals, 200 species of birds and six species of reptiles / amphibians of the Park have been registered.
The current checklists include species of 35 mammals, 208 birds, and three reptile amphibians herpeto. Nineteen mammal species found in the park are protected by CITES. Ten species of mammals and two species of birds are classified as endangered and protected.
Various species of birds for which Nepal may have significant proportions of world populations, as its breeding distributions are limited to an area spanning the Himalayas, Northeast India, North Southeast Asia, and Southwest China.
Nepal may be especially important to 36 breeding bird species because they have particularly restricted ranges within the general area under consideration or have been described as rare in the Indian subcontinent.
Two of these have been registered within the park; Wood snipe whose reproduction status in the park is unknown and white-throated tit, which is common and breeds in the national park. Additionally, the wood sniper is listed as the reproductive species at risk in Nepal.
Local accommodation is available in Dunai, Sangta, Chhepka and Ringmo. Campgrounds with trash pits, restrooms, and shelters are available throughout the park.
Trekking lodges are located in Dunai, Chhepka and Ringmo and provide limited food and supplies. The park offices are located in Suligad, Chhepka, Palam Ringmo and Toijem. There is a small visitor center at the Palam headquarters.
These are basic hiker shelters where limited food and supplies are available. In Palam there is also a small visitor center. Due to the limited facilities, it is recommended to carry tents, food, fuel, first aid kits and all other necessary materials for a trekking trip.
How to get there:
The easiest way to get to the park is by air from Nepalgunj to the Juphal airstrip in Dolpa, followed by a half-day walk to the park entrance in Suligad. The only way to get inside the park is through a walk. Jumla is the base camp from where the trek begins.
To get to Jumla: Take a flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj and then a connecting flight to Jumla. There are no direct flights between Kathmandu and Jumla. The other simpler but more expensive way is to take a helicopter ride. The closest airstrip is at Juphal, which is located south of the park.
The park is home to more than 9,000 people and the area of their villages among the highest settlements on Earth. Most of the park’s inhabitants practice Bon Buddhism, an ancient religion with roots in animism and Buddhism.
The Bon-po religion, which forms the complete cultural base of Tibetan Buddhism, was founded 18,000 years ago, during the Zhang Zung Empire of present-day Western Tibet. The landscape is dotted with sacred monasteries, thangka paintings, and chortens.
The local community is highly dependent on trade with Tibet and agriculture. As, Upper Dolpo and Shey-Phoksundo Park are located in Nepal but the people in this areas are Tibetan in both lifestyle and culture.
Shey Phoksundo National Park has many religious sites, including the gompas. The most famous is the Shey Gompa, which was built during the 11th century. Near the Shey Phoksundo Lake, there is Thashung Gompa, which was built around 900 years ago.
As a result of encompassing the northern and southern aspects of the Himalayan ridge, the park experiences a wide climatic range. Most of the precipitation in the area occurs during the monsoon (July-September), although Dhaulagiri and Kanjiroba extend from a massive barrier that prevents most of the rain from reaching the Trans-Himalaya area.
Fascinating Shey Phoksundo
Shey Phoksundo National Park is named after a magnificent turquoise lake called Shey Phoksundo. The lake is also known locally as “Rigmo”. Rigmo is the deepest lake in the country with a depth of 167 m and the second largest lake with an area of 4.94 square kilometers.
Phoksundo lake is 494 ha in size and the lake has a water volume of 409,000,000 m³ and a discharge of 3,715 m³ / s. Thousands of people visit the lake every year to see the magnificent color of the lake.
It is also one of the holy places for Buddhists. It is at an altitude of 3612m (11,849 ft), making it one of the highest lakes in Nepal. The lake outlet is located between two mountains, forming a beautiful waterfall called the Phoksundo Waterfall (Suligad Waterfall).
The mountains, glaciers and lakes located in the area are important sources for rivers such as Suligad, Langu and Jugdual. These rivers are important sources of water for plants, animals and even for the population that leaves the area.
Individual trekkers is allowed to trek in Ringmo or Phoksundo Lake. The Tran-Himalaya region of the interior of Dolpa is restricted to group trekking only, a group trekking permit is required and can be arranged through any recognized Nepal trekking agency.
Phoksundo Lake Hike
By the time you reach the attractive lake in the lower Dolpo region, you will understand why people are attracted to this region. The blue-green aquamarine lake set against the enchanting backdrop of the mountains is a visual treat for the eyes.
The oligotrophic lake is considered sacred by Buddhist monks and visited by 2,000 people each year. The deepest lake in Nepal, you will even find endangered species like musk deer and blue sheep grazing on the lake. Even on the way to the lake, you will be greeted by waterfalls and spectacular scenery.
Number of days: It depends on the itinerary you follow. But, it takes at least 11 days to get to the lake.
Difficulty level: Since there are no mountain passes, this hike in the tea house is an easy level adventure for those who enjoy walking for long hours.
Shey Gompo trek
Shey Gompa Trek is a gateway to heaven which is located in the Alto Dolpo region. The hike takes you to desolate landscapes and authentic isolated mountain villages like Ringmo and Pungmi.
The main attraction of the trek is the Shey Monastery located at the base of the Crystal Mountain. The whole place seems heavenly as carved by the creators with the utmost patience.
You can learn about the culture and lifestyle of Nepalese villagers. Upper Gompa is a sacred area and has restricted access. You may have to pay an entrance fee.
Number of days: 20 days depending on the itinerary.
Difficulty level: The hike is strenuous and will pass several high mountain passes, making it a bit difficult for beginners. Also, the hike is long in terms of distance and duration. You can also combine the above two hikes to have a satisfying experience in Shey Phoksundo National Park in Nepal.
Helicopter ride over the park
You can take a helicopter ride over the park for an experience like never before. This will not only save you time and energy, but will also provide you with panoramic views of the mountains and the preserved region from above. There are a number of tour operators in Nepal who organize helicopter tours of the region.
Number of days: 1 day
Best time: all year.
Helicopter ride cost: on request
Areas of interest
The park’s main attraction is the stunning turquoise-colored Phoksundo Lake. The scenery around the lake is spectacular and supposedly one of the most picturesque high-altitude national parks in the world.
Around the lake there are several glaciers and local towns, built in Tibetan style 900 years ago. Ringmo is one of the small towns in this area. All the towns together house around 900 inhabitants. The inhabitants still mainly depend on agriculture and trade with Tibet. The ancient Salt Road links Shey-Phoksundo with Tibet.
Altitude sickness can affect you if elevation is reached too quickly and without proper acclimatization. Symptoms are headache, difficulty sleeping, dyspnea, loss of appetite, and general fatigue. If someone develops symptoms, stop ascending immediately. The only proven cure is to descend to a lower elevation if symptoms persist.
The entire Dolpa district is divided into two regions, that is, lower and upper. The upper limit of Lower Dolpa is up to Lake Phoksundo of the rural municipality of Phoksundo.
Individual trekking to Phoksundo Lake is allowed. The trans-Himalaya region, which is located at the top of Dolpa, is restricted to hiking. A group trekking permit can only be issued through the renowned Nepal trekking agency.
Shey Phoksundo’s main achievements
The National Park (SPNP) includes:
- Preparation of the park’s tourism plan.
- Preparation of a park management plan.
- Declaration of a buffer zone in the area.
- Snow Leopard Action Plan Development
- Snow Leopard Management Training
- Rangeland Committee and Management Committee
- SPNP was proposed as a World Heritage site for its unique flora, fauna and traditional culture.
- Second phase of the northern mountain
- The Conservation Project is currently under implementation
- Commitment to wildlife and park ethics: six people were arrested by park authorities between 1999 and 2000 to direct illegal activities within the park
- Successful completion of the WWF People Plant
- Initiative project
- Renovation of several gombas in the park
- Mobilization of 16 ecoclubs in the area.
- Formation of 17 forest park user committees
- Carrying out various investigations in both
- levels of institutional and individual capacity (DNPWC Annual Report 1999-2003):
- Three plant research initiatives were made between 1999 and 2000, one study focused on the management of medicinal plants in SPNP
- Two research initiatives were carried out. between 2001 and 2002: one related to Tripurakot buffer management zone, the other studied “Amchi” (traditional faith healers) knowledge of medicinal plants
- A research initiative carried out between 2002 and 2003 related to Dolpha’s Flora
- Noticeable increase in skill development, human resource and local capacity park communities (WWF 2003)
- Perceptible positive transformation in local attitudes towards education, basic health care, hygienic life and conservation (WWF 2003) in the park.