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The Yolmo Valley

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The Yolmo Valley

After a busy week of mid-term exams, it was great breathing the air of the mountains in Yolmo. Yolmo is about six hours from Kathmandu, and although the bus ride can be very challenging, the views on the way are fantastic! Once you arrive you’ve got to walk up the mountains, but this sacred valley is really worth the walking effort. Not being of very high altitude, few tourists go there, but its beauty and special sites make it a great place for hiking and visiting.


As it’s explained in The Guide to the Hidden Land of Yolmo by Khenpo Nyima Dondrup, this valley was visited by Guru Rinpoche. One cave where he practiced is not hard to reach, in the lovely village of Melamchi, and close by is a place where he gave teachings. The most renowned cave, Yangdak Chok, is quite high up and difficult to reach, as there aren’t any lodges on the way, hopefully another time I’ll be prepared enough to reach it. Marpa, on knowing of Guru Rinpoche’s visit, and also of the prophecy about this land in the Avatamsakasutra, instructed Milarepa to go to Yolmo, and so Milarepa meditated there for three years, in the Lion fort tiger cave. This cave is easy to reach, today it is surrounded by a small gompa, next to which is a retreat center from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso, where nuns stay in secluded retreat. There aren’t any lodges nearby but it is possible to find a place to sleep in a family’s house, as I did, which is a very special way to get in contact with the way people live in this valley.


Actually, only a few centuries ago, the valley was settled by people coming from Tibet, so most of the inhabitants today (especially in the higher areas) have a very similar language and culture to the Tibetans. One can often find old stupas made of stones along the way, as well as prayer flags tied on narrow bridges, making the visit even more special. As Khenpo Nyima Dondrup records, great contemporary masters have also visited the valley, and among them, Chatral Rinpoche meditated there for a long time and highly praised the qualities of this valley.


I think it’s a great visit, especially in spring or fall. Anyone wishing to go would do well to get the guide I mentioned above, which can be found in the big bookstores in Thamel, for the history and for knowing about the sites. Still, be prepared to get lost, and for the uncertainty of where to sleep, which are also interesting experiences!.. but ask people along the way and you’ll be safe.

~ Julio from Spain

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