Upper Dolpo Shey Festival Trek in 2024
Explore the Shey Festival in Upper Dolpo of Nepal!

Shey Festival Trek in 2024

With every dragon year, comes the glorious Shey Festival that commemorates the victory of good over evil.

Deepak Raj Bhatta
Author | Deepak Raj Bhatta Date Published:
Shey Festival Trek in 2024

Ever heard of the Shey Festival in Upper Dolpo? This cultural event is a celebration of the Tibetan Dragon Year and it takes place every 12 years in August. There are different traditions observed during this festival in Upper Dolpo. The Shey Festival Trek in 2024 is aimed to bring out the real fortunes of what the Shey festival in the crystal mountain has to offer to the visitors. 

Shey Festival is an incredibly important Dolpo festival in the higher elevations of Dolpa in Nepal. It is mostly celebrated by the locals of Shey Gompa and venerated by the Buddhists. It is held every 12 years during the dragon year of the Tibetan calendar. The festival is associated with the religious significance of crystal mountain. 

During the festival time, the followers circumambulate the crystal mountain and pray for a good being and happy life in the vicinity. Mostly this festival falls in the month of August. Many visitors, who have knowledge of this remote mountain valley and its significance participate in this glorious festivity and enjoy the unheard and unseen culture of Dolpo. 

The larger chunk of the community follows the Bon religion, an indigenous religious tradition of Tibet, in the Dolpo area. The Bon attributes are similar to the Tibetan Buddhist practices. Since most of the inhabitants in the higher Dolpo elevations migrated from Tibet or have resided there with a heavy influence of Tibetan cultural practices. So, mostly, the Dolpo area’s culture remains unadulterated from the outer influence due to its proximity to Tibet and isolation from the rest of the world. 

The Shey Festival is also an important historical and cultural heritage of the Dolpo region. According to legend, an ascetic from Tibet named Dhuptop Singhe Hyese who rode a snow lion to victory over the evil spirits and demons of Crystal Mountain (or Shey-Rivo Drukta) founded a monastery (Shey) and began the practice of circumambulating the Holy Crystal Mountain.  

Since the 12th century, a festival honouring his triumph over evil has been held every 12 years during the Year of the Dragon, drawing visitors from near and far to the Shey. The Shey Gompa lies in the Shey Phoksundo National Park. 

The Shey festival is a rare cultural privilege. It occurs every 12 years with the arrival of the dragon year as per the Chinese calendar. Each year represents a different animal with pilgrimage importance in different places around the world. With every turning year, comes a year dedicated to a different animal and a pilgrimage to a different shrine. Finally, in the 12 years, taking the turn of Dragon, with a festival celebrated on the Shey Gompa of Dolpo. 

Table Of Content

Table Of Content

    Where is Shey Gompa?

    Shey Gompa is situated in the Shey Phoksundo Rural Municipality of Upper Dolpo of Nepal at an elevation of 4200 M above sea level. The Shey Gompa is an important pilgrimage site in the Dolpo region and is venerated by Buddhists and Bonpo followers. 

    "I flew through the sky on a snow lion
    And there among the clouds, I performed miracles.  
    But not even the greatest of celestial feats
    Can equal once rounding by foot this Crystal Mountain?"
    -Drotob Senge Yeshe (the lama)

    Drotob Senge Yeshe, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, founded Shey Gompa in the eleventh century after taming a strong mountain spirit in the area. Colourful paintings, historical Thangkas, statues, and manuscripts from the time of the building of Shey Gompa describe the significance of Crystal Mountain and the location of a milky lake there. The peak of the mountain above the Shey Gompa is known as Crystal Mountain. Buddhist travellers who arrive here perform a kora (circumambulation) of the hill and spend a long, tiring day believing to obtain religious benefits. The holiest mountain on earth for all faiths, Mount Kailash in Tibet, is seen during the Kora of the crystal mountain. 

    Red Gompa

    During the full moons of July–August, the inhabitants of Dolpo and other nearby areas congregate here to circle their Crystal Mountain. The Dolpopas (People of Dolpo) begin harvesting after the circumambulation. Anyone wishing to visit during the full moon days in July and August is advised to visit there for three days and arrive one day earlier than usual, much like the local people. 

    About half a dozen houses around Shey Gompa are stained red, resembling the fact that Shey is a monastery and not a village. This sacred place has a history that dates back to the old centuries and still the practice of worshipping the crystal mountain is preserved in its finest form. The celebrations in this remote land are very mind-blowing and many people who have an idea of the festivities visit the Shey Gompa during the month of August to witness the glorious festival. 

    What is the Shey Festival?

    It is believed that during 1220 BS, after the arrival of the Kagyu tribe, this festival started symbolizing the victory of good over evil spirits. The Shey Festival is observed by thousands of pilgrims and visitors every 12 years and carries a great religious significance. Each dragon year observes the Shey festival which is often carried out by worshipping the venerated crystal mountain, which is sometimes referred to as a sister mountain of the greatest Mount Kailash. 

    Shey Gompa means the Crystal Monastery. Shey mountain is known as the crystal mountain and this place is sacred to Tibetan Buddhists. Many people, every year, visit this site to circumambulate and worship the crystal mountain. The festival associated with Shey Gompa is also known as ‘Shey Ribo Druk Dra’, in which Shey means Crystal and Ribo Druk Dra means Mountain of Thunder Dragon. In that sense, crystal mountain is regarded as the holiest and heavenly abode of gods. 

    Shey Festival

    The festival only happens once in twelve years. So, it's one of the rarest privileges to witness this festival. The festival is observed by the entire population of Dolpo. The locals participate in the festival in the Shey Gompa to witness the religious ceremonies. The crystal mountain is considered the greatest pilgrimage in the Dolpo region. The power of the mountain is considered enormous, such that people inside and beyond Dolpo embark on observing the festivities in Shey. The religious attitude and zest to worship the crystal mountain are remarkable among the visitors. 

    Shey festival in dolpo

    At the present time, observing the festival in the isolated settlement is not only an important part to explore the unique culture, but it is also an important account of how the celebration has emerged and the will to participate in such an arid landscape without much attention to natural barriers. It is a testament to the cultural conglomeration that the people of Dolpo still preserve and the harmony it scatters among the diverse groups of observers. There are many tales about the Shey Gompa, also known by the name of Crystal Mountain and many literary people have tried to put it into their Dolpo account that provides enormously important insights into the festival. 


    Below the Kang la Pass, at an elevation of about 4200 m, lies the Gompa of Shey. It is also referred to as the crystal mountain in Tibetan. The Gompa comprises a two-story building coloured in red. There are various Buddhist paintings in the interior of the Gompa. This beautiful location is found in Nepal's most remote and challengingly located region, the Karnali, in the northwest. It requires walking for several days through rough and rugged terrain, mostly off the beaten path in the Upper Dolpo area. 


    The Shey festival is observed in the month of August every 12 years. It is celebrated by the major Buddhist monks and observes a remarkable presence of the people of Upper Dolpo. We are planning to organize the Shey festival trek in 2024 to facilitate the visitors with a jaw-dropping celebration that is amazingly accompanied by the impeccable adventure of the remote mountain land. 


    The Dolpo region has remained isolated for quite a long time. It is one of the important festivals of the Dolpo people and is celebrated by Bon Po followers. The festival is celebrated preferably during the full moon time of August during the Dragon Year according to the Tibetan Calendar. The festival is celebrated for five days. 

    History of Shey Festival

    Shey Gompa is a monastery of the Kagyu Sect, established in the eleventh century as a departure from the Kalachakra Tantrism of Nyingma. Nyingma is the oldest sect to arrive in the Shey Gompa area before the Kagyu Sect. It is said that Kalachakra presided in Tibet in the same century. The concept of Kalachakra derives from Tantrik traditions as a way to adept how to surpass mortal time and is assumed to be a way of wisdom that also emerged in the portraits of Bodhisattva called Manjusri. 

    In the Kalachakra, the Buddha aspects are also integrated as a peaceful and wrathful form of the same deity, hence, Avalokita, the deity of compassion is perceived as Mahakala. The reformed sects of the Kagyu-pas, the Sakya-pas, and Gelug-pas led by Dalai Lamas during the sixteenth century established a great dominance in Tibetan Buddhism. Consequently, the Kagyu Sect founded by great Lama Marpa, after obtaining education from Naropa of India, transmitted the Dharma to Milarepa. 

    The ascetic disciplines of Gelung-pa and their influence varied as far away as Crystal Mountain. The fusion of Karma-pa practice is identical to that of Zen,  which emphasizes intuitive experience over priestly ritual and doctrine. Some literature on this incredible legend also suggests that the Crystal Monastery, also known as Shey Gompa, belong to Zen Sect and that the Lama of Shey is revered throughout Dolpo as the present reincarnation of the Lama Marpa. 

    As the hand held before the eye conceals the greatest mountain, so the little earthly life hides from the glance the enormous lights and mysteries of which the world is full, and he who can draw it away before his eyes, as one draws away a hand, beholds the great shining of the inner worlds. 
    - Rabbi Nachmann of Bratzlav (THE SNOW LEOPARD)

    The Shey Festival began to commemorate the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated every 12 years and observed by Buddhists with huge enthusiasm. It was celebrated recently in 2012, following the year 2000. And now, the Shey festival will be celebrated in the year 2024 for the 65th time. It is one of the important festivals that manifests the destruction of evil power, and the good energies are beautifully radiated by the crystal mountain.  

    Why is the Shey Festival Organized?

    The festival marks the victory of positivity over negativity, compassion over destruction and conscience over foolishness. It is celebrated every 12 years and is observed by the Dolpo people. Many people from around the world also trek to this place to explore the celebration. The way people celebrate this festival is unique to this place and is observed as an occasion that marks the Dragon year. 

    Shey Festival in Dolpo

    Every twelve years, in the ‘Dragon year’ of the Tibetan calendar, the Shey festival is held in the Dolpo region during the month of August. It is a major event that includes all Tibetan Buddhists as well as Upper Dolpo residents. 

    Major Attractions of Shey Festival

    There are many attractions associated with the festival celebration in Upper Dolpo. Unique exposure to understanding the cultural dimension of locals and arid mountain valleys, along with the natural landscapes makes the trip overwhelmingly beautiful. The Shey festival trek is a wonderful trek to the Upper Dolpo of Nepal that facilitates you to explore the unexplored part of the rural mountain. 

    Upper Dolpo: Upper Dolpo is a high-altitude valley in the Himalayan range in Nepal. The valley is at an elevation of 5,000m (16,400ft) above sea level and was home to some of the earliest human settlements on Earth. Upper Dolpo's remarkable pebble-stone houses prove that people have inhabited this region for more than thousands of years making it a trove of cultural treasures.

    Cultural Attraction: The Upper Dolpo area is remote and relatively untouched by modern development. Its population is mainly Tibetan, with some communities speaking their native Tibetan Bon language. The natural beauty of the region has been greatly affected by the arrival of tourists, who have begun to flock there in the past two decades. The locals are now suffering from a cultural shock as they try to adapt to changing values and lifestyles. However, the cultural values are still intact and are fondly followed by the Dolpo people. 

    The culture of the locals is greatly influenced by traditional Tibetan Buddhism, which is deeply intertwined with their day-to-day life and most aspects of agriculture. Locals have a unique way of celebrating festivals, making music, designing and constructing houses and even practising the trade of pottery.

    Geography:  Dolpo, west of the Annapurna mountain range, is a district in Nepal. It is located on the banks of the Karnali river and has an elevation ranging from 2800 to 5500 meters. The Dolpo region is one of the most remote areas in Nepal. Dolpo has been used as a place for refuge by Tibetan exiles when they fled their homeland during China's military crackdowns in the 20th century. The Tibetan culture there consequently became more closely tied to Tibet in exile than to Nepal. The geography of Dolpo is somewhat arid due to its trans-Himalayan properties. 

    Shey Phoksundo National  Park: Shey Phoksundo National Park is a park in eastern Nepal on the border with China. It was created to provide a sanctuary for animals that are being hunted so often by humans. The majority of the 3,555 square kilometres is covered in a lush forest, and some regions have over 286 species of plants! What makes this park even more remarkable, though, is the amount of biodiversity it contains. Shey Phoksundo National Park houses over 200 species of birds, more than 29 species of butterflies and various endangered species of animals such as snow leopard, grey wolf, musk deer, blue sheep, goral, great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan tahr, leopard, jackal, and Himalayan black bear. 

    Phoksundo Lake: One of Nepal's most exquisite azure blue lakes is Phoksundo Lake. It is located in Nepal's Dolpa district, 3,589 meters above sea level. Hikers that travel to this lake frequently cite this little pocket of paradise as the most beautiful location on earth. Shey Phoksundo Lake has a surface area of 1.91 square miles and a maximum depth of 145 meters. It is both one of Nepal's deepest lakes and the world's deepest high-altitude lake.

    Monsoon vegetation: The monsoon vegetation is another major part to explore during the trek. The lush greenery and atmosphere are astonishing and Shey Phoksundo National Park comes alive as ever. Since the festival is during the monsoon time, you will get to explore a wide range of greenery and floral attractions throughout the way. However, in the higher elevations, the arid landscapes dominate the geography, so, there may not be as diverse flora as in the lower parts of Phoksundo. 

    Spot Snow Leopard: As the Lamas dish out salt offerings to the Blue Sheep, the Leopard's primary food, who draw nearer to lick the salt, there may be an increase in Snow Leopard sightings during this period.

    Yak Caravan: During this time of year, Yak caravans travel into Tibet to trade in salt. It is a nice chance to spend some time with them during this time.

    Exhibition of Local Medicine: The only source of healthcare is Amchi, the community's traditional physician. During this festival, there will be a display of the procedures for making medicine and providing medical care.

    The Shey festival also features horse racing, archery contests, and local cuisine festivals.

    How long does the Shey festival run?

    The festival lasts for about 5 days. Various festivities are organized. The ritual performances by the priests and cultural performances by the local followers are important attractions of the festival. The kora of Crystal  Mountain is also performed by interested participants. The five days are crucial and major rituals are performed by worshipping the deity inside the gompa. 

    Shey Festival in 2024

    Shey Festival Trek in 2024

    Shey Festival Trek in 2024 takes you to explore the unexplored cultural celebration in the Shey Gompa of Dolpo. This trek mostly takes you to the beautiful Dolpo region, allowing you to fulfill the thirst for exploring the ultimate adventure of Dolpo and the festival itself. The festival is organized every 12 years by the renowned Buddhist Lamas and many people from the Dolpo gather at Shey to witness the festival's grandeur. The festivities are accompanied by various cultural celebrations, folk dances and ritualistic performances. 

    Shey festival in dolpo

    The Shey festival trek will be organized in 2024. The dates of the festival are not yet fixed. It is finalized by the Buddhist gurus and they decide the ritual conducted. If you are planning to make a tour of the incredible Shey festival, you can contact us to register your name and we shall contact you after obtaining the information on the operation of the festival in 2024. 

    Shey Festival Trek Itinerary

    The Shey festival trek is a journey to Upper Dolpo’s Shey Gompa. The crystal mountain and its exploration and ritualistic performances are the main themes of the trip. However, in due process, you will be exploring a wide range of attractions around the Dolpo area. The proposed itineraries below suggest the best ways to explore the Shey festival and the corresponding Dolpo area. 

    Itinerary - I

    Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu. (1350m)

    Day 2: Kathmandu Sightseeing. 

    Day 3: Fly to Juphal and Trek to Kagni. (2270m)

    Day 4: Trek to Rechi. (3100m)

    Day 5: Trek to Ringmo. (3640m)

    Day 6: Ringmo Exploration.

    Day 7: Trek to Forest Camp. (3670m)

    Day 8: Trek to High Camp. (4600m)

    Day 9: Trek to Shey Gompa. (4340m)

    Day 10 - 13: Shey Gompa Exploration. 

    Day 14: Trek to Namgung. (4360m)

    Day 15: Trek to Saldang. (3770m)

    Day 16: Trek to Chore Gaun. (3900m)

    Day 17: Trek to Zangla BC. (4700m)

    Day 18: Trek to Dho Tarap. (3945m)

    Day 19: Fly to Kathmandu via Helicopter. 

    Day 20: Departure


    Itinerary - II

    Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu.

    Day 2: Kathmandu Sightseeing. 

    Day 3: Fly to Juphal and Trek to Kagani.

    Day 4: Trek to Rechi.

    Day 5: Trek to Ringmo.

    Day 6: Ringmo Exploration.

    Day 7: Trek to Forest Camp.

    Day 8: Trek to High Camp.

    Day 9: Trek to Shey Gompa.

    Day 10 - 13: Shey Gompa Exploration. 

    Day 14: Fly back to Kathmandu by Helicopter.

    Day 15: Departure

    Would you like to book an activity or a trip with us?

    Get in touch with our experts right away and finalize an experience!

    About Us

    Shey Festival Trek Cost

    The Shey Festival Trek is designed to provide trekkers with the experience of a rare festival that only happens once in twelve years. Since it’s in a remote region, the cost of the trek is high. But it quenches the thirst for visiting this incredible festival for niche travellers. The cost of the trip is at the higher end due to the involvement of helicopter flights and other costly arrangements in a remote isolated place. 

    The cost of the Shey festival trek might seem to be high. There are several factors that make the trip costly. The restricted area permit, helicopter flight, arrangements of camps and other plannings make the trip cost high. On this trip, you will have to trek, however, after visiting Shey Gompa, you will return back to the Kathmandu valley via Helicopter. This makes the trip shorter and more purposeful. 

    Itinerary - I

    Group Joining (5 Pax): 

    USD 5500 Per Person (Subject to Group Availability)

    Private Basis (Instant Confirmation)

    2 Pax

    USD 8500 Per Person

    3 Pax

    USD 7000 Per Person

    4 Pax

    USD 6000 Per Person

    5 Pax

    USD 5500 Per Person


    Itinerary - II

    Group Joining (5 Pax): 

    USD 5200 Per Person (Subject to Group Availability)

    Private Basis (Instant Confirmation)

    2 Pax

    USD 8200 Per Person

    3 Pax

    USD 6700 Per Person

    4 Pax

    USD 5700 Per Person

    5 Pax

    USD 5200 Per Person

    Package Cost Includes:

    • All mentioned airport transfers and sightseeing transportation on a private basis.
    • Helicopter transfer from Kathmandu to Juphal and Shey Gompa or Dho Tarap to Kathmandu as per the itinerary chosen above. 
    • Daily breakfast throughout the trip. 
    • Lunch and Dinner will be provided from trek start day to trek end day.
    • All (3 nights) hotel accommodation in Kathmandu at 4 star deluxe hotel. 
    • Tea house, local lodge or camping tent accommodation during the trek. 
    • An experienced trekking guide with a well equipped first aid kit. 
    • A porter or mule to carry your baggage while trekking. 
    • All required government and national park permits to visit Upper Dolpo. 
    • All local taxes and fees.
    • Guide’s and Porter’s salary and allowances. 
    • A cultural farewell Nepali dinner in Kathmandu. 

    Package Cost Excludes:

    • Personal expenses.
    • Sightseeing entrance fees in Kathmandu. (Approx. USD 40 Per Person)
    • Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu.
    • Nepal visa cost. (You will require 2 passport-size photos and 30 USD)
    • International flight ticket.
    • Travel health insurance. (Highly Recommended)
    • Tips for the guide, porter, cook, and driver. (Not compulsory but recommended)
    • All alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
    • Services that aren't mentioned above. 

    Shey Festival Trek Booking

    If you want to book a trip for Shey Festival Trek in 2024, let us know your details. Our well-informed correspondents will help you swiftly to book your desired plan. Meanwhile, we encourage you to obtain travel insurance to avoid the financial burden in case of emergencies. 

    Group Departure

    The group departures are subject to be organized if the number of participants is fulfilling and meets the criteria. If you are alone and planning to join the departure, then you’ll be joining our group departure. However, if there is a limited number of people joining the trip, that is less than 5 per group, then the total number of people will be taken on the trip. However, the cost of the total PAX available at the time of operation will be applicable regardless of the number of participants. If there are not sufficient travellers joining the trip, then your trip will be organized, but the rise in cost in such cases will be divisible by the number of travellers. Failing to oblige, the company holds control to deter the operation of the trip. 

    Private Trip

    The private trips will be organized based on your demand. The people from your group alone will be joining the trip. Private trips can be elongated by extending the trip to Upper Dolpo Circuit and other trekking areas. 

    • The private trips are fully customizable and serve the participating group on the individual's interest only. If you have requested this trip, people from other groups will not be joining and you will be travelling with your own sort of available transportation and accommodation facilities. 

    • In case of extended trips, extra charges may apply. If you want to extend your trip to other trekking areas, you shall let us know your requirements and we shall customize the plan to meet your interest. 

    Similar Treks that you might want to join: Lower Dolpo Circuit Trek, Upper Dolpo Trek, Upper Dolpo Trek From Mustang, Extended Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek to Kagbeni, Phoksundo Lake Trek

    Trekking Difficulty

    If you’re looking for a fabulous trek in Nepal that offers breathtaking views, abundant wildlife, and plenty of cultural sites along the way, then be sure to plan a trek to Upper Dolpo for the Shey Festival trek. This festival trek is organized by an efficient team of members overlooking the entire process to be arranged. In some places, camping is required, so, we’ll arrange that to make your accommodation comfortable. In most of the places, teahouse accommodation is available, so, there won’t be any problem.

    Another major reason for the difficulty is altitude sickness. Due to the rapid ascent of high elevation, you may experience altitude sickness. But with proper precautions, the risk can be mitigated and you will be briefed on Dos to reduce the chances of altitude mountain sickness. 

    Trip Preparation and Packing List

    Every trekking trip has a checklist full of items you need to bring, but it might not be your backpack's size that matters. You should worry more about the weight of the items you are packing and just how much weight your shoulders can handle. A backpacking checklist for trekking is usually arranged as a list of items you must take with you in your backpack, but what we tend to forget is that weight is more important than size when it comes to hiking. We have compiled our list of what we think are the essential equipment and items you need to bring with you on your backpacking trip. Please visit Nepal Trekking Gear Checklist for detailed information. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Is Shey Festival important?

      Yes, Shey festival is an important festival in the Dolpo region. What makes it more significant is it happens once in twelve years. So, the people of Dolpo and other areas come to witness this magnificent festival celebration in Shey Gompa of Upper Dolpo. 

    • When is the Shey festival celebrated?

      The Shey festival lies somewhere between August and September. It is celebrated once every twelve years in the dragon year as per the Tibetan Calendar. 

    • How long does the celebration of the Shey festival last?

      The Shey festival is celebrated for five days. Every dragon year, the festival is celebrated by the Buddhism followers of Dolpo and Lama priests organize the ritual performances. 

    • When can I book Shey Festival Trek Trip in 2024?

      We’ll immediately start taking bookings for the trip once we receive the final dates of the festival. It is mostly decided by the priests after looking for auspicious dates as per the Tibetan calendar. For details, please stay in touch with us. 


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