Jomsom – The Windy Valley

Introduction:

Jomsom, situated at an altitude of 2710m, lies in the Trans -Himalayan rain shadow zone which causes a rather dry climate forming a desert-like landscape. It falls in the popular Annapurna Circuit Trek route. The name Jomsom originated from the Tibetan word Dzong Sampa, which translates as “New Fort”. The three-eyed king Thang Mig Chen of Thini village established the fort in order to monitor the movement of north-south trade. The fort and the town which grew up around it were both called Dzong Sampa. Jomsom has been district headquarters of Mustang since the early 1970s and all government offices are located here. This is a major town of Kali Gandaki Valley and at one point the ancient Tibet – India salt trade passed through the area. The inhabitants are mostly Thakali with Tibetan origins. The local economy is sustained by agriculture, livestock rearing, and tourism and labour migration to foreign countries.

Access:

  • From Besisahar, Lamjung via Thorong La Pass (5416 m): 10 to 14 days walk
  • From Beni or Nayapul – Birethanti: 5 to 7 days walk
  • Flight from Pokhara: 20 minutes

Key attractions:

  • Mustang Eco Museum:
    Established in 1992, the Mustang Eco Museum includes displays on the culture and natural history of Mustang, such as Buddhist monastery, herbarium, animal specimens, traditional dress, and artwork. One can enjoy good views of Jomsom and Thini village and Mt. Nilgiri from the museum, take a guided tour inside, visit the library and enjoy video shows on Mustang, Tibet and Nepal as well as activities of KMTNC-ACAP. The museum is a 5-minute walk south of the airport.
  • Jomsom Village:
    The village is a 10-minute walk from the airport. Visitors will get a glimpse of traditional village life and agriculture of Jomsom and the surrounding area. Jomsom Bon Monastery is situated northeast of the village. Bon religion or practice existed in Tibet prior to Buddhism. Tulku Tempa established the monastery which is affiliated to Lubra Gompa around 1938. One can observe idols of Bon deities such as Walsa and Trakpo. The wall paintings reflect Bon tradition.

Other attractions:

A jungle walk may offer sightings of local wildlife such as musk deer, blue sheep, rabbit and forest birds near Jomsom. Navigating local trails may be tricky, so it is better to hire local guides for walks. Jomsom provides breath-taking views of Mt. Nilgiri (7060m), Mt. Dhaulagiri (8167m), Tilicho Peak (7139m), Yak Kawa (6482m), Mesokanto La (the pass to Tilicho Lake, one of the highest lake in the world). This valley hosts a festival every year called Toren Lha (falls in February/March). During week-long celebrations, locals take part in archery contests, worship their ancestors, sing and dance and make merry.

Side Trips:

  • Thini Village:
    The village is a 30-minute walk from Jomsom. The name of this village originates from the Tibetan word Thin (base or root). It is the oldest village in Panch Gaun (five villages) region. Historically, Thini was an important village in the valley where the famous king Thang Mig Chen used to rule. Then, every village had to pay tribute to Thini (either produce or labour). The village still has a Kot Ghar (arsenal) where artilleries are preserved. It is also a gateway to Tilicho Lake, which is about two days walk. Other attractions include Thini Bonpo Gompa, Thini Bhadra Festival and Bhomo Ama Festival.  Thini Bonpo Gompa is affiliated with Lubra Gompa and is currently looked after by the monks of Kuchep Terenga Gompa, belonging to Nyingma-Pa sect of Buddhism. Idols of Bon deities are placed at the altar of the monastery. Thini Bhadra festival falling in August/September lasts for three days. The festival is celebrated with religious plays and is supposed to bring happiness to the village. Bhomo Ama is a major festival of Thini and falls in April, every 12 years. Celebrations last for 15 days.
  • Gharab Dzong:
    It is about a 45-minute walk from Jomsom via Thini village. Now a ruin, the ancient fort was built by King Thang Mig Chen. Surveys suggest the fort was built in the 16th century and was inhabited till the 19th century before the village of Thini was moved to its current location. Gharab Dzong offers panoramic views of Mt. Nilgiri, Tilicho Peak, Yak Kawa, Mesokanto La Pass, Mt. Dhaulagiri and a bird’s eye view of Dhumba Lake, Samle, Thini, Jomsom, Puthang and Syang villages.
  • Dhumba Lake:
    It takes about an hour’s walk from Jomsom or Syang to Dhumba Lake. This lake has historical and religious attachments with Kuchup Terenga Gompa. Fish in the lake are used for religious purposes and are not eaten. The holy water of the lake is used for offerings in the monastery before starting any ritual. Syangba Rimpoche II buried a bottle containing grains and valuable metals inside the lake for spiritual worship.
  • Kuchup Terenga Gompa:
    The monastery is located above Dhumba Lake and is 1.5 hours walk from Jomsom or Syang. It is a Nyingma-Pa sect monastery founded by Lama Lhungjing Urgen Palsang during the 17th century in order to spread Buddhism and to maintain peace and harmony in Dhumba Village. The monastery is considered extremely sacred among the monasteries of Mustang. The monastery depicts idols of Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava), Hopang Me (Amitabha), Chengresi and Phapa Jhempal along with wall paintings. Visitors might encounter Dhekep, a masked dance performed by monks in October/November. The monastery also provides a bird’s eye view of Marpha, Syang, Thini and Jomsom villages.
  • Syang Village:
    It is a 30 minute walk from Jomsom to Syang Village – one of the oldest villages in Panch Gaun region. The inhabitants are Thakalis of Tibetan origin. It has two monasteries, Syang Gompa (Tashi Lha Khang) and Ani Gompa (Dhi Che Ling)Syang Gompa is a Nyingma-Pa sect monastery. The monastery depicts three huge images of Chengresi, Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) and TomaDhekep celebrations can be observed here during October/November. The Ani Gompa is one of the famous nunneries in Mustang. Two Rinpoches of this monastery have been reincarnated. It is also a Nyingma-Pa sect monastery and depicts idols of Dolmo, Syang, Chyukchirol, Amitabha (Red Buddha), Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava), Chengresi, Mharme Jhe and Shakyamuni Buddha. Both monasteries depict beautiful wall paintings.