Dolpo is a high altitude, culturally Tibetan region secluded in the western Himalayas of Nepal, bordering Tibet. It consists of three rural municipalities, Chharka-Tangshong, Dolpo-Buddha and Shey-Phusumdo, and is situated in the upper part of Dolpa District of Karnali Zone in western Nepal.
The region is home to some of highest human settlements on earth, most villages lie around 4000 meters above sea level. The inhabitants, known as Dolpo-pa, earn their living from age old agropastoral lifestyle, cultivating highland barley crops and raising animals like yaks, goats and sheep. They further depend on trade with lower regions and neighboring Tibet for additional subsistence. Tibetan culture is preserved in relatively pure form and the population still speaks a local Tibetan dialect. Bon and Buddhism are the two dominant religions thrived in coexistence over the centuries and rooted deeply in culture and daily life of Dolpo-pas. Locals rely on traditional Amchi medicine for the healthcare.
The region is famous in trekking tourism for its unique and pristine mountainous landscape, living Tibetan culture and the ancient lifestyle which is not at all influenced by modernity. But the very harsh and high altitude terrain and mountain passes make the region extremely inaccessible, keeping it far away from the government’s area of influence and modern development. Until today, there is no road leading up to Dolpo. Literacy rate is extremely low and communities lack basic necessities. The arid and harsh climate often lead to adverse conditions including food crisis and poverty. However, in the last few decades, income made out of Yartsa-Gunbu has brought a significant economic improvement in the livelihood of the locals. At the same time, a few NGOs have started working in the field of education and healthcare. Recently, after the establishment of the federal government in Nepal, Dolpo got its first local governmental bodies, which are formed by local representatives. Its three Rural Municipalities share a close bond and work in cooperation.
Dolpo appears in historical records since the 8th century. From 6th century to the Saykay’s ruling period in Tibet (13 century), Dolpo remained a part of Tibet. For a short time around 14th to 15th century, it was an independent kingdom with its own king from Ra-nag dynasty. From around 16th to 17th century, Dolpo remained under the control of its neighboring kingdoms of Jumla and Lo (Mustang) at different times. It became part of present-day Nepal in 18th century when the Gorkha Kings annexed the kingdom of Lo and many other Himalayan borderland regions.
Chharka (Tsharka) Bhot
Constituted under Chharka-Tangshong Rural Municipality of Dolpa District in Karnali Zone, the village of Chharka Bhot lies at an altitude of 4300 meter in the eastern part of Dolpo region, bordering Tibet in the north and Mustang in the east. It is connected to the rest of the Dolpo through Dho-Tarap and Tinje in the west and Barong in the south-east.
Approximately 600 people live in this village in 75 households. Unlike other villages of Dolpo region, Chharka valley has limited farmland and the villagers live a nomadic life. They spend most of their time in pastures with their yaks and goats, moving seasonally from place to place.
Surrounded by barley fields and built in a close and defensive structure, the stone village of Chharka perches on the river banks like an old castle. Due to its unique scenery Chharka is displayed as the main film location in the Oscar-nominated film Himalaya. It is a popular destination on the trekking map of Dolpo as it is one of the entry and exit points on the route to the region.