• Apr 8, 2024
  • Rupak Parajuli

The Shey Festival, a significant cultural and religious event in Nepal, is celebrated in the remote Dolpo region. Scheduled for Sept 1-4, 2024, this festival takes place every 12 years, aligning with the Dragon Year of the Tibetan calendar, and marks a time of great spiritual importance and community gathering. The festival is celebrated at Shey Gompa, a monastery located in the Upper Dolpo region, an area known for its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.


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The Shey Festival is a testament to the resilience and dedication of the Dolpo people, who come together to celebrate in a region characterized by its rugged terrain and remote location. The festival features a wide range of activities, including religious ceremonies, traditional dances, archery, and other cultural performances. The opening ceremony on August 18, 2024, will feature pujas, blessing speeches by renowned Lamas and Rinpoches, as well as performances from different schools of Upper Dolpo.

One of the most auspicious activities during the festival is the Kora (circumambulation) to the Crystal Mountain on the full moon of Sept 2, 2024. This ritual involves making rounds around the sacred mountain, which is believed to wash away sins, with some participants choosing to do so barefoot as a sign of devotion and humility.

The festival not only attracts locals but also visitors from around the world, drawn by the unique opportunity to witness the rich cultural traditions of the Dolpo region. The Shey Festival offers a rare glimpse into the spiritual and communal life of the Dolpo people, set against the backdrop of the Himalayas and the ancient landscapes of the Upper Dolpo.

The significance of Shey Gompa extends beyond the festival itself, as it is a site of great spiritual importance, housing key religious artifacts and serving as a center for Buddhist practice in the region. The festival, thus, provides a unique opportunity for spiritual renewal and cultural exchange, embodying the victory of good over evil and the power of community and tradition in one of Nepal's most remote regions.

Monasteries in Shey

Chorten with barley fields; Tarap Valley in the southern part of Dolpa

Shey, located in the Dolpo region of Nepal, is home to several significant monasteries that are not only spiritual centers but also repositories of ancient art, culture, and religion. Among the notable monasteries in Shey is the Shey Gompa, often referred to as the Crystal Mountain Monastery due to its proximity to the unique geological formation that resembles a crystal. This monastery is a key site for the Shey Festival and is revered by Buddhists and followers of the Bon religion alike.

The Shey Gompa is associated with the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism and holds historical significance dating back to the 11th century. Its establishment marks a departure from Kalachakra Tantrism, introducing the practices of the Kagyu lineage to the region. Another important monastery in the area is Tsankang Gompa, known for its stunning location, traditional Tibetan Buddhist architecture, and the vibrant ceremonies and rituals it hosts, particularly during the Shey Festival.

These monasteries serve as centers of learning, meditation, and community gatherings. They are adorned with intricate murals, statues, and thangkas that depict various aspects of Buddhist teachings. The architecture and artworks reflect the rich heritage and spiritual depth of the Dolpo region, making these monasteries a must-visit for anyone interested in exploring the cultural and religious traditions of Nepal.

Shey Festival Trekking Itinerary

The Shey Festival Trek is a unique opportunity to experience the cultural richness and natural beauty of the Dolpo region. The trek itinerary typically includes visits to various landmarks, including the Shey Gompa, and participation in the festival activities.

Here’s a detailed itinerary for the Shey Festival Trek via Dho Tarap, as outlined for 2024, starting on August 23, 2024, and concluding on September 16, 2024:

Aug 23 / Day 1: Fly from Nepalgunj to Juphal 2475m and trek to Sulighat 2080m/3-4 hours
Aug 24 / Day 2: Trek from Sulighat to Chhepka 2720m/6-7 hours
Aug 25 / Day 3: Trek from Chhepka to Jharana Hotel 3130m/6-7 hours
Aug 26 / Day 4: Trek from Jharana Hotel to Ringmogaon/Phoksundo Lake 3640m/6-7 hours
Aug 27 / Day 5: Acclimatization day and explore around Phoksumdo Lake
Aug 28 / Day 6: Trek from Ringmogaon to Phoksundo Khola Camp 3630m/4-5 hours
Aug 29 / Day 7: Trek from Phoksundo Khola Camp to Pass Camp 4500m/6-7 hours
Aug 30 / Day 8: Trek from Pass Camp to Shey Gompa 4345m/7-8 hours traverse Kang-La/Nagdalo-La Pass 5350m
Sept 1 / Day 9: Explore Shey Festival
Sept 2 / Day 10: Explore Shey Festival  
Sept 3 / Day 11: Crystal Mountain Kora

Sept 4 / Day 12: Trek from Shey Gompa to Namgung 4360m/6-7 hours traverse Sela-La Pass 5095m
Sept 5 / Day 13: Trek from Namgung to Saldang 3770m/3-4 hours
Sept 6 / Day 14: Trek from Saldang to Sibu 4150m/6-7 hours
Sept 7 / Day 15: Trek from Sibu to Pass Camp 4700m/6-7 hours
Sept 8 / Day 16: Trek from Pass Camp to Tokyu 4240m/7-8 hours traverse Jeng-La Pass 5220m
Sept 9 / Day 17: Trek from Tokyu to Dho Tarap 3945m/3-4 hours
Sept 10 / Day 18: Contingency day for possible delays
Sept 11 / Day 19: Trek from Dho Tarap to Toltol 3523m/6-7 hours
Sept 12 / Day 20: Trek from Toltol to Khanigaon 2950m/6-7 hours
Sept 13 / Day 21: Trek from Khanigaon to Tarakot 2540m/4-5 hours
Sept 14 / Day 22: Trek from Tarakot to Dunai 2140m/5-6 hours
Sept 15 / Day 23: Trek from Dunai to Juphal 2475m/3-4 hours
Sept 16 / Day 24: Fly from Juphal to Nepalgunj and then later to Kathmandu

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This trek is not just a physical journey through the breathtaking landscapes of the Himalayas but also a spiritual and cultural immersion into the lives of the Dolpopa people. It offers trekkers a rare glimpse into the traditions and practices of one of Nepal’s most isolated regions, making it a truly unforgettable experience.

Shey Kora

Image Source: Ducoin David, tous droits rŽservŽs

The Shey Kora, or circumambulation of Crystal Mountain, is an integral and spiritually significant component of the Shey Festival, observed in the remote Dolpo region of Nepal. This act of walking around the sacred Crystal Mountain is deeply rooted in Tibetan Buddhist practices, embodying the physical expression of devotion and the pursuit of spiritual purification.

Spiritual Significance

The Shey Kora is performed as a ritual to wash away sins, with some devotees undertaking the journey barefoot as a sign of humility and devotion. This practice is reflective of the Buddhist belief in the power of circumambulation to accumulate merit, purify negative karma, and bring the practitioner closer to enlightenment. The full moon day of the festival, considered the most auspicious day, is specifically chosen for this ritual, enhancing its spiritual significance.

Cultural and Physical Experience

The Kora around Crystal Mountain is not just a spiritual journey but also a cultural immersion into the traditions of the Dolpo region. Participants get to experience the breathtaking natural beauty of the area, characterized by rugged landscapes, serene lakes, and the distinctive pebble-stone architecture of remote Himalayan villages. The journey provides a unique opportunity to connect with the local communities, understand their way of life, and witness the harmonious coexistence of nature and spirituality in this secluded part of the world.

Challenges and Rewards

The circumambulation involves trekking through challenging terrains at high altitudes, requiring physical stamina and mental determination. However, the rewards of completing the Kora are immense, offering a sense of spiritual accomplishment, peace, and a deeper connection with the natural and divine elements of the Dolpo region. The act of circumambulation is a profound expression of faith, reflecting the enduring human quest for meaning, purification, and a closer relationship with the sacred.

The Shey Kora (Crystal Mountain Circumambulation) is a testament to the enduring spiritual traditions of the Himalayan peoples. It embodies the convergence of physical endurance, spiritual devotion, and cultural heritage, offering a window into the soul of the Dolpo region and its inhabitants. This ritual highlights the significance of the Shey Festival as not just a local celebration but a spiritual journey that draws participants from around the globe, seeking to experience the profound and transformative power of this ancient practice.

In summary, the Shey Festival 2024 promises to be a profound celebration of spirituality, culture, and community, offering attendees an unparalleled experience of the Dolpo region's heritage and natural beauty. It stands as a vibrant testament to the enduring spirit and traditions of the Himalayan peoples.

Rupak Parajuli

Rupak Parajuli

He is a Travel Enthusiast and Writer, who mostly covers the guide to outdoor adventure in the Himalayas of Nepal. He can be your friendly trip planner. Feel free to reach out to him.

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