Trek to Phoksundo Lake—the Deepest Lake in Nepal

dolpo trekNepal has a large number of lakes, some of which are located at really high altitudes—they are the mountain lakes of glacial origin. It is believed that Tilicho Lake, located at 4,949 m in the district of Manang in the Annapurna Range, is the highest lake in the world. Some of the most beautiful lakes are also to be found in Nepal, three examples, besides Tilicho, being: Rara Lake in Mugu district of western Nepal, Damodar Kund (4,890 m) in Mustang district, and Shey-Phoksundo (3,500 m) in Dolpo of far western Nepal.

Rara is the country’s largest lake, and perhaps the most beautiful, its deep blue waters tranquil and calm. Damodar Kund holds religious importance and is visited every year by Buddhists and Hindu pilgrims on the full moon day of August during which time, a big festival is held there, and the pilgrims take a dip in its icy waters to cleanse themselves of all sins committed so far. Shey-Phoksundo is claimed to be the deepest of all lakes in the country, but this is not the only reason for its claim to fame. Surrounded by rocky crags and deep forests, Phoksundo’s color is an exotic turquoise blue. The whole scenic set up is by framed by majestic snow-capped Himalayan peaks, and it is a sight that will remain in the memory for a long time to come.

dolpo-treksSo, what say, shall we go see this turquoise blue lake for ourselves? Well then, first you fly to Nepalgunj from Kathmandu, a one-hour flight. Spend the night at one of the comfortable hotels in this large town, and the next morning, take another flight to Juphal (2,400 m); should take you about 35 minutes to reach there. Take a break, rest a while, before starting the trek to Rupaghat (2,400 m) which is located along a river bank; should take you from four-and-a-half to five hours to reach this place.

The next two days’ hike, first to Ryalik (2,900 m; 6 h), then to Phoksundo Ringmo (3,500 m; 6 h), takes you through a deep forest full of pine and juniper trees high above the Phoksundo Khola (khola: river) and often going as much downhill as uphill. Sometimes, the ascents will take your breath away, they being pretty steep. By and by you’ll pass a small settlement, Palam, before coming out of the woods and gorge. On the way, you’ll find yourself atop a ridge located at a height of 3,660 m from where you will be able to have a real close-up view of a 330-meter high waterfall that originates from the Suli Gad River. It is said to be the country’s highest waterfall. Stirring sight, what?

From this ridge, you will also be able to have your first glimpse of the incredible turquoise blue lake, Phkosundo. At the far end of this lake is Ringmo, a charming village full of chortens, mani walls, and a number of small Buddhist and Bonpo monasteries. You’ll have noticed by now that the whole region is deeply influenced by Tibetan culture and lifestyle. It should perhaps be mentioned here that the valley of Dolpo is one of the most isolated places in the country due to its high mountains and snow-covered passes, and a valley that is a virtual preserve of ancient Tibetan culture. This aside, the sight of the Phoksundo Lake up close will surely make you thank your stars for your good fortune in being one of the select few to feast their eyes on this beautiful lake. Click away, you’ll not find a better scene anywhere else.

dolpo-treksSpend one of the most memorable nights of your life at Ringmo where you may even have the opportunity, the next morning, of joining the monks at one of the monasteries during their morning prayers. After earning your blessings,, start the return trek down the Phoksundo Khola, first to Arike (2,800 m; 7 h), and then, the following day, to Juphal, from where you take a plane back to Nepalgunj, and onwards to Kathmandu. You’ll probably find this a big letdown, this getting back to the hustle and bustle of urban life, after your week in the wilderness, a week in which you were one with nature at its most beautiful.

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