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 is 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 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 early 1970s and all government offices are located here. This is a major town of Kali Gandaki valley (kind of extension of the lost importance) during times of ancient Tibet - India salt trade which led through this area. The inhabitants are mostly Thakali with Tibetan origins. The major economical factors are agriculture, livestock, tourism and labor in foreign countries.

Access:

  • From Besisahar via Thorung La (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 displays various aspects on culture and nature of Mustang area, such as Buddhist monastery, herbarium, animal specimen, traditional dress, and artwork. Other features of museum are: good view of Jomsom and Thini village and Mt. Nilgiri, guided tour inside museum, library and video shows on Mustang, Tibet and Nepal in general as well as activities of KMTNC-ACAP. It takes about five minutes walk south from the airport. 
  • Jomsom Village:
    It is ten minutes walk from the airport. Take a walk in this area just to see traditional village life of Jomsom or in fields surrounding it. Furthermore, there is Jomsom Bon Monastery at north - east part of the village. Bon is believed to be existed in Tibet prior to Buddhism. Tulku Tempa established monastery around 1938 and is affiliated to Lubra Gompa. Idols of Bon deities such as Walsa and Trakpo are placed in Bon tradition. Similarly wall paintings are also painted in Bon tradition.

Other attractions:

A jungle walk may offer sightings of the wildlife such as musk deer, blue sheep, rabbit and forest bird in the forest nearby Jomsom. As trail can be tricky, it is better to hire local guide for walk. Jomsom provides breath-taking views of Mt. Nilgiri (7060m), Mt. Dhaulagiri (8167m), Tilicho Peak (7139m), Yak Kawa (6482m), Mesokanto La (pass to reach Tilicho Lake, the highest lake in the world). This valley hosts a festival every year called Toren Lha (falls in February/March), which is celebrated for a week. Archery, worshiping of ancestors, and singing dancing take place during the festival.

Side trips:

  • Thini Village:
    It takes 30 minutes walk from Jomsom. The name of this village originates from Tibetan word Thin (lit. base or root). It is the oldest village in Panch Gaun (lit. five villages) region. Historically, Thini was an important village in the valley where famous king Thang Mig Chen used to rule over. As such every village had to pay tribute to Thini (either produce or labour). The village still has 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 having its affiliation with Lubra Gompa is currently looked after by the monks of Kuchep Terenga Gompa, belonging to Nyingma-Pa sect. Idols of Bon deities are placed at 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 major festival of Thini and falls in April in every 12 years time for about 15 days. The next festival will take place in 2017.
  • Gharab Dzong:
    It is about 45 minutes walk from Jomsom via Thini village. This is a ruined fort of ancient king Thang Mig Chen and present Thini was shifted from here. Preliminary survey suggests the fort to be dated from 16th century and was inhabited till 19th century. Gharab Dzong offers panoramic views of Mt. Nilgiri, Tilicho Peak, Yak Kawa, Mesokanto La, Mt. Dhaulagiri and bird's eye view of Dhumba lake, Samle, Thini, Jomsom, Puthang and Syang villages.
  • Dhumba Lake:
    It takes about an hour walk from Jomsom or Syang to reach Dhumba Lake. This lake has historical and religious attachments with Kuchup Terenga Gompa and as such fish from the lake are not eaten but raised for religious purposes. The holy water of lake is used for initial offering for the monastery before starting any ritual. Syangba Rimpoche II has buried a bottle containing grains and valuable metals inside lake with spiritual worshipping.
  • Kuchup Terenga Gompa: 
    The monastery is located above Dhumba lake and is one and half hours walk from Jomsom or Syang. It is a Nyingma-Pa sect monastery founded by Lama Lhungjing Urgen Palsang during 17th century in order to extend Buddhism and maintain peace and harmony in the Dhumba village. The monastery holds highly sacred and religious position among other monasteries of Mustang. The monastery depicts idols of Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava), Hopang Me (Amitabha), Chengresi and Phapa Jhempal along with wall paintings. Visitor might encounter Dhekep, a masked dance performed by monks in October/Nobember. The monastery also provides bird's eye view of Marpha, Syang, Thini and Jomsom villages.
  • Syang Village:
    It takes about 30 minutes walk to rach Syang village from Jomsom. It is one of the oldest picturesque 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 Toma. Dhekep can be observed here in October/November. Ani (Buddhist nun) Gompa is one of the famous nun monasteries in Mustang. Two Rimpoches of this monastery have been reincarnated. It is also 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.