People of Dolpo live in the extremely remote villages of Nepal’s western highlands. Their lifestyle is not at all influenced by modernity and is close to the primitive one. Their life depends on seasonal farming and petty trades; the people of Dolpo have accepted poverty in a way. However, even in such tough circumstances, Dolponians have proved to be the most content people on earth. Though a restricted region for the tourists, Dolpo witnesses few passionate travellers seeking unique cultural and natural experiences who wholeheartedly pay a heavy permit fee to explore Dolpo.

Dolpo (standard Tibetan: དོལ་པོ) is a high-altitude Tibetan cultural region in the upper-western part of Nepal, bordering the Ngari region of Tibet to the north. This remote region preserves Tibetan culture in its relatively pure form and has an irresistible appeal to Westerners. Dolpo was also the location for the 1999 Oscar-nominated film The Himalayas.

The Dolpo is an area that is still inaccessible to travellers, and it is an adventure to enter this hidden land. The high mountains and valleys are so treacherous that it is still not accessible by road, and it takes days to walk from either Nepal or Tibet to reach it.

With Tibetan Buddhism predominating the area, there are also still distinct traces of Bön (བོན). Bön encompasses the various religious traditions that existed here before the arrival of Buddhism from northern India, which gradually incorporated various teachings from Buddhist texts.

It is like the end of the world, suspended between the sky and the earth at the heart of the Himalaya – a lost heaven protected by untouchable mountains. In these almost forgotten valleys, no trees can be seen growing and only a few fragile trees are attached to the hills.

Since the time of their ancestors, the people of Dolpo have lived in close exchange with neighbouring Tibet: they travelled to Tibet to collect salt from the high-altitude lakes and offered grain from their own crops in exchange.

The basis of the Dolpo economy is the salt trade between Nepal and Tibet. People rely on yak carts to transport grain to Tibet in the summer and then return to the mountains of Nepal with the salt for trade. In winter, salt can be exchanged for grain, and people use sheep, goats or horses to carry it to the south in exchange for rice and maize.

The women of Dolpo work on the land, they own it and they own the houses. When a family has a daughter and a son, the land belongs to the daughter, not to the son. The women work from dawn to dusk, but do not seem particularly tired, perhaps because they work together. The women sing, chat, and joke as they work.

After dusk, multiple waves of people enter family life, all sitting around a wooden floor covered with blankets and around a fire. Most families have no electricity supply and the energy they get from solar cells is only enough for a short time. As a result, they don’t usually stay up late, go to other rooms or sleep around the cooker shortly after eating.

The Dolpo women describe their lives like so:

“Every morning we collect goat and sheep milk.

When we have a lot of milk, we are happy.

We make butter, we make yoghurt.

In the evening we share it with our neighbours.

When there is a lot of farm work to do, we help each other.

It is a good time to share, it is a good time to have tea and talk.

We often get together and have a lot of fun.

At first glance people might think we are dirty.

But our hearts are clear, our souls are light and happy.

Some people are rich and have a lot of things, but I honestly would rather stay here.

Our land is very precious, and if you work hard, it will give you something in return.

If you have a small plot of land and take care of it, you will get all the food you want.

The land is passed down from generation to generation and you will always have it.”

Dolpo has a very beautiful culture, but many people here don’t realise it. They love life in Kathmandu and no longer understand the local culture. Some Dolpo people have left home since childhood to study and live in Kathmandu or India to experience the modernity of the outside world. Those people who have drifted away from Dolpo, but their souls still remain here.