The Upper Dolpo Trek is a beautiful off-the-beaten-paths trekking adventure that takes you to the very heart of the Dolpo region of secluded Nepal. A highly saturated culturally Tibetan region- Upper Dolpo lies in western Nepal bordered in the north by the Shey Phoksundo National Park. The sparse agro-pastoral region of Upper Dolpo is perfect for an isolated trekking experience because of its beautiful trekking terrain and its alienated location. Generally adherent to the Bön religion, Upper Dolpo trek is a trekking journey that presents exotic cultural diversity that makes for a wonderfully splendid trekking experience. The remoteness of the region of Upper Dolpo has resulted in the culture being preserved in its finest form. Start off the Upper Dolpo Trek with a tour of the famous World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. Once the trekking commences, you would be exploring the mystical hidden caves of Inner Dolpo while observing the culture and customs of the people in close proximity. The untouched and artistically fine culture of the people is quite fascinating to look at. Because of the religious purity and its relatively undisturbed culture, the traditional practices of the people of Upper Dolpo have been the same for centuries. Trekking in the far-reaches of Upper Dolpo is like being transported back in time.
While undergoing the Upper Dolpo Trek, you will also explore and behold the beauty of the Phoksundo Lake and of the beautiful Phoksundo Waterfall. Visit the famous Shey Gompa where the religious ambiance of the place is heightened. Crossing three major High Passes, the trekking trails of the Upper Dolpo Trek goes through wide open pastoral lands and isolated acreages of sparse woods and secluded villages. The views of the spectacular high mountains also make an appearance while trekking and their views are magnificent. The features of Upper Dolpo make the Trek one of the most exquisite journeys in Nepal. Because of its difficult topography, not many people visit Upper Dolpo, thus making it an ideal off-the-beaten-path trekking experience; but despite its isolation, it is one of the best places to cherish the natural beauty comprising of snow-capped mountains in the north and river basins of Bheri, Suligad and Rupagad with their small and large cascades going through rocky gorges and between huge boulders. The coruscating forests and woodlands of the Dolpo region are a home to varieties of wild birds and animals that make up around 197 species of birds and 32 species of mammals. During your travel, you can also come across beautiful Himalayan animals like the Musk Deer, the Himalayan Blue Sheep and the rare and elusive Snow Leopard.
Upper Dolpo was also the location setting of the Oscar winning movie “Himalaya”. The Upper Dolpo Trek presents an opportunity to explore mystical places of the region. The relatively mysterious and unexplored lands of the region have also been responsible for Upper Dolpo to be termed as “the forbidden land”. The kingdom of Dolpo was closed to foreigners in the beginning, but you can enter this region after obtaining a restricted and expensive permit. The Upper Dolpo Trek begins from Juphal and passes through various beautiful landscapes to sights of gigantic mountain ranges. You will be crossing the Numa La pass at 5,190m from where the spectacular view of the Phoksundo Lake at the Ringmo village that lies inside the Phoksundo National Park can be seen. Upper Dolpo Trek is not just beautiful for its natural splendor and bio diversity but also for its unique cultural and social aspects. The people living in this region are of Tibetan origin who still have the perseverance of their primitive lifestyle and tradition. The Shay Gompa, also regarded as a spiritual centre of Upper Dolpo, is a beautiful monastery that lies on the base of the Crystal Mountain. It is visited by many pilgrims each year where the ritual of Kora is performed.
Join us in this exotic adventure where you will be exploring the beautifully secluded land of Upper Dolpo and will be going through villages that offer a rich and opulent cultural diversity!
- All ground transportation by private vehicle including airport transfers
- Four nights accommodation with breakfast at a 3-star category hotel in Kathmandu
- Kathmandu valley sightseeing tours including tour guide, entry fees and private vehicle
- Meals on full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea & coffee) prepared by our expert cook
- Twin sharing tented accommodation during the trek
- An highly experienced guide, Sherpa, required number of porters, their food, accommodation, salary, insurance, equipment
- Trekking equipment (two men tent, dining tent, kitchen tent, table with chairs, kitchen utensils, and other necessary equipment during the trek)
- Flights from Kathmandu – Nepalgunj – Juphal – Nepalgunj – Kathmandu including departure taxes
- One nights’ accommodation with breakfast in Nepalgunj
- Safe drinking boiled water will be provided during the trek
- A comprehensive first aid kid bag
- All necessary permits and paper works including Upper Dolpo special permits
- All government and local taxes
- Office service charge
- Meals not specified in the 'Meal Inclusions' in the itinerary'.
- Travel insurance – Compulsory.
- International airfare.
- Nepal entry visa.
- All cold drinks such as: alcoholic beverages, mineral water, Coke, Fanta, juice, etc.
- Personal shopping and laundry, phone, internet bill etc.
- Personal trekking equipment.
- Tips for trekking crews.
Day 01 Arrive at Tribhuwan International Airport, Kathmandu.
You may arrive at the Tribhuwan International Airport at any time. Once you do, you will be welcomed by our representative who will help you get transferred to your hotel. Further programs will also be explained to you. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 02 Kathmandu Valley Sightseeing Tour
Today, the sightseeing tour will start of Kathmandu valley, and the tour will mainly maunder around the cultural heritage sites Kathmandu valley has to offer, all listed under the World Heritage List by UNESCO. The highlight of the tour includes the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Swayambhunath Temple, the Bouddhanath Stupa and the Pashupatinath Temple. The Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most religiously reverent temples dedicated to Lord Shiva; and we can sometimes observe the cremation ritual of the Hindu people by the bank of the holy river Bagmati at the temple as well. The Bouddhanath is one of the largest Buddhist Mandala in the country. The Swayambhunath is a beautiful stupa situated atop a hill and is also known as “the Monkey Temple”. The Kathmandu Durbar Square holds old monarchial palaces of the Malla kings who ruled over the city in ancient times, along with many architecturally intricate buildings and temples. Many of the buildings in the Kathmandu Durbar Square were heavily damaged during the 2015 earthquake. Reconstruction work is underway. After the tour, we will be heading back to the hotel. Overnight at Hotel, breakfast included.
Day 03 Kathmandu – Nepalgunj Flight
To get to Dolpa, generally you have to fly to Nepalgunj first. Nepalgunj is a steaming hot city in South Western Nepal, situated in the lowlands of Terai, close to the Indian border that just 8 kilometers away. Culturally, the areas resemble more India than upland Nepal. You can take a cycle rickshaw for a ride in around the town as well. Passing the hustle and bustle of the bazaar, you can see horse carts full of colorful people going to or coming from the Indian border. The Bageshowri Temple is one of Nepal’s most important Hindu temples and is worth a visit as well. Overnight at hotel, breakfast included.
Day 04 Nepalgunj - Juphal Flight (2475 m), walk to Chhepka (2838 m), Duration: 6 hours
It’s just a 35 minutes flight to Juphal over steep mountain ridges with beautiful views of snowcapped mountains. The Juphal airport is just a gravel airstrip amidst the mountains, which guarantees a spectacular landing. Stepping out of the plane, you will be entering a completely different world. From a hot city in the plains, you will now have arrived in a small mountain village, situated in the midst of the Himalaya, breathing in the crispy cold air. From Juphal, you will walk down over a small path among fields with wheat and vegetables to the Thuli Bheri River, which you’ll follow further on. A big iron suspension bridge, the Dhim Bridge (99 m long) forms the entrance to the Shey Phoksundo National Park (SPNP). SPNP is Nepal’s largest National Park, established in 1984, with an area of 3,555 km². It aims to conserve the Trans-Himalayan ecosystem and the Tibetan type flora and fauna of the region. In 1998, and area of 1,349 km² surrounding the park was declared as the buffer zone, which is jointly managed by the park and local communities. (You have to pay 1000 NPR entrance fee, except people from SAARC countries, who pay 100 NPR). Next to the entrance is the small village of Suligad, where you could stop for a tea. The path then follows the Suli Khola River. Behind you, you can see a part of the Dhaulagiri Range. You will be passing small villages along the way, like Kageni (2413 m) and Sangta (2520 m), where you could stop for tea, lunch or stay for the night. The village of Sangta is famous for its cultivation of honey. It’s a great place for the delicacy of honeyed tea! While sipping your tea, you can see the bees flying in and out the beehives made from tree trunks. Just before Sangta, you will enter the forest. It’s a beautiful walk, alongside the wild flowing river, which at some parts is beautiful emerald green. The path is surrounded by pine trees, like spruce, fir, juniper and cypress and passes through small bamboo forests and walnut trees. At the other side of the river, the high rocky slopes go up steeply and are dotted with pine trees as well. At the end of the day, you will reach Chhepka, a small village surrounded by fields of millet and wheat. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 05 Chhepka to Chunuwar/Amchi Hospital (3110 m), Duration: 6 hours
The path today goes through beautiful pine forests, with some bushes, birches and other broadleaf trees mixed in as well. It follows the river all the time and most of it consists of flatlands that sometimes go up and sometimes go down, with a couple of steeper climbs and descents. At some parts, the valley gets very narrow and the impressive steep rocks tend to tower high above you on both sides. On the way, you will encounter local people with their mules or dzopas (crossbreed between yak and cow) loaded with things to sell. After about four hours, you will pass the village of Rechi, where there is a camping spot. At the other side of the bridge, there is a small teashop as well. The path continues at the other side of the bridge. It’s a two hour more to Chunuwar. Close to Chunuwar, you can find the Amchi Hospital. This is a very interesting place and worth a visit. In fact, it is more of a clinic, which is well frequented by the local people. An Amchi is a doctor who is educated in traditional Tibetan medicine, and always is a Lama (monk) as well. The tradition of using Tibetan medicine goes back thousands of years and uses techniques as pulse analysis and urine analysis for diagnosis. For treatment, medicines made of herbs and minerals are used, together with physical therapies, like Tibetan acupuncture. In the Amchi Hospital, you can see a collection of herbs and minerals used to cure people. Most Dolpa people prefer to visit the Amchi over a regular doctor when they are ill. A donation is highly welcomed to keep this tradition living. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 06 Trek to Ringmo/Phoksundo Lake (3733 m), Duration: 3 hours
It’s a short hike today to Ringmo and the Phoksundo Lake. It includes a long and sometimes steep climb of about 2 hours. Just before the top, you can see Nepal’s highest waterfall, a spectacular waterfall of 167 meters high- the Phoksundo Waterfall (also called Suligad Waterfall). From the pass, you will have your first view of the Phoksundo Lake. The path goes down till it gets close to the river, which you will then follow until you reach Ringmo. Ringmo is a charming village. People practice the Bonpo religion here. Bonpo is related to Buddhism, but it is a lot older than Buddhism and goes back thousands of years. The religion was founded more than 18,000 years ago by Buddha Tonpa Shenrab Miwo. It is believed that Dolpa used to be the centre of the Bon kingdom; called Zhang Zhung, a big and powerful kingdom in present Western and Northwestern Tibet and surroundings. In Dolpo, you can still find a big concentration of Bonpo practioners. In the 7th Century, Zhang Zhung was defeated by the Buddhist kingdom of Tibet, and Bonpo disappeared almost completely. However many Bon traditions were absorbed into the Tibetan culture. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 07 Ringmo/Phoksundo Lake (3733 m), Free day
It is essential to have an extra day in Ringmo, as your body needs time to acclimatize to the higher altitude. As the Phoksundo Lake is such a beautiful place, it’s a perfect place for a free day. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 08 Ringmo/Phoksundo Lake to Chunemba (3639 m), Duration: 5 hours
Today, you will enter the restricted area of Inner Dolpo. Following the famous Demons Trail from the movie Himalaya (Caravan) of Eric Valli, a beautiful movie about the life of people in Dolpa who bring their yaks over difficult passes bearing salt from Tibet to trade with grain from the lowlands, you will be going to the village of Chunemba. In the movie, this trail is used during the salt caravan and one of the yaks fall in the lake here. It’s a spectacular trail, going high above the lake. At some parts, it gets very narrow due to landslides. The trail climbs to a ridge, from where you have a spectacular view on the lake, the village of Ringmo, the dark green pine forests and the snowcapped mountain Norbung Kang (6085 m) to the south. The trail then becomes a gradual descend to the lake’s northern shore, which is a good place for lunch. After this, the trail climbs through a wide valley, crossing some streams. You will have a splendid and nearby view to the flanks and tops of the snowcapped Kanjirowa Himal (6612 m). Arriving at an alpine area with junipers, called Chuneba or Lakeside camp, which is a good place to camp, you can halt for the day. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 09 Chunemba to Snowfields Camp (4400 m), Duration: 7 hours
The Phoksundo Valley gets quite narrow now, with high rock walls on both sides. You will have to cross a couple of streams. After about half an hour, you will be leaving the main valley and entering a narrow gorge. It’s a long and steep climb through the steep sided valley. The campsite is at Snowfields Camp, a name given by Peter Mathiesson in his famous book “The Snow Leopard”. It’s at the foot of the pass that will bring you into the heart of Inner Dolpo tomorrow. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 10 Trek to Shey Gompa (4310 m) via Kang La (5375 m), Duration: 6 hours
It’s a long and strenuous climb of about 2½ hours over a dusty path to Kang La (5350 m), locally also called Ngadra La. Prayer flags and cairns mark the pass. At the north side of the pass, there is snow most of the times, which makes the descend a bit difficult. The descend is pretty steep the first 45 minutes, but after this, it continues gradually for about 3 hours, till you reach the Shey Gompa. Getting nearer, you will pass red and white Chortens and Mani walls. Shey Gompa is a very small village, with a couple of houses, and the gompa (monastery). The 11th century Gompa is located beneath the Crystal Peak on a small grassy plain, at the confluence of two rivers. It is said to be constructed by a Tibetan Buddhist, who arrived here on the back of a flying snow lion. It’s a magical place, and Shey Gompa is often called the spiritual heart of Dolpa. Every year, hundreds of pilgrims come to visit the gompa and to perform kora (clockwise circuit) of the Crystal Peak. People living here are direct descendents of Tibetans, which you can notice easily by their faces and their dress. The women wear dark dresses with colorful aprons made from yak wool. Men wear a long coat, from which they let one sleeve hanging down. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 11 Rest day at Shey Gompa (4310 m)
During this day, you can go to the Tsakang Gompa (4575 m), a monastery from the Buddhist Kagyupa sect. This gompa appears in the movie Himalaya as well. It is spectacularly located high on a red rocky slope. The trail to Tsakang Gompa partly follows the same trail as the pilgrims follow to perform the Kora of the Crystal Peak. You will probably see flocks of blue sheep in these areas. Many blue sheep live here, as the abbot of Shey Gompa imposed a ban on hunting them. Besides, in these regions you have the best chances of seeing snow leopards. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 12 Shey Gompa to Namgung (4430 m) via Shey La (5000 m), Duration: 6 hours
Another pass to cross today, the Shey La, also called the Gelu La, of 5000 meters. The climb to the pass goes through a narrow valley. From the pass, you have a good view to the north of the arid Tibetan Plateau, which is stretching out seemingly endlessly before you. To the east, you can see Mustang. After the pass, it’s a long descend to the pastures of Namgung. Scattered in the landscape, you will see some fields with a big Tibetan tents. The people in Namgung are very friendly and open. A friendly Tashi Delek (Tibetan greeting) will always be welcomed with a big smile. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 13 Namgung to Saldang (4060 m), Duration: 3 hours
It’s a short hiking day today. The path goes high above the Namgung Khola (River) and then descends steeply to the village of Saldang. Saldang is the largest settlement of Inner-Dolpo. It’s a spread out, traditional agricultural village, surrounded by fields. Barley, buckwheat and potatoes are among the few crops that can grow in this barren landscape. Besides, people live from what the yak gives them (cheese, meat, wool) and from trade. Saldang is close to the Tibetan border and some of the salt trade caravans pass through Saldang. The trading of salt for grain and rice is a century old tradition that still prevails in Inner-Dolpo. The people from Saldang are semi-nomadic. In the warm months, they trek in the highlands with their herds of yaks and sheep. The ones who are better off let the pure nomadic people of Dolpa, the Drokpa, do this work. Sometimes you can see a camp of the Drokpa people in these areas. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 14 Saldang to Sibu (4200 m), Duration: 5 hours
It’s a fairly easy walk to Sibu today, following the Namgung Khola southwards and passing little villages, like Namdo, along the way. The villages are surrounded by terraced fields of barley. The path goes alongside many Mani walls, chortens and some Gompas, which makes you realize how important Buddhism is for the people of Inner Dolpo. Buddhism is interwoven in each and every aspect of the people’s life here. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 15 Sibu to Lagmo Che (4570 m), Duration: 4 hours
The trail starts with an easy stretch following the river. The last village you will pass is the Raka. After this, you will enter a large, inhabited valley. Look out for blue sheep here. Besides, you may even come across a snow leopard. After 2 hours of trekking, the path turns away from the river and climbs steeply to a meadow of about 4570 meters, which is often used by yaks to graze. This is Lagmo Che, the base camp for climbing to the Jeng La. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 16 Lagmo Che to Tokyu (4209 m) via Jeng La (5110 m), Duration: 7 hours
It’s a steep climb of about 2 hours to reach the next pass: the Jeng La at 5110 meters. From the pass, you have a spectacular view of the Dhaulagiri (8167 m) and many other snowcapped mountains. After the pass, you will be descending into the Tarap Valley. You will arrive at the village Tokyu (4209), a spread out village, which is the first human settlement after Raka. Tokyu is said to be the highest permanent settlement in the world. The Gompa is worth a visit and has a beautiful statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 17 Tokyo to Dho Tarap (4080 m), Duration: 2 hours
It’s not far to Dho Tarap. On the way, you will be passing the Cristal Mountain School, which is educating children from Dho and surroundings. It is sponsored by a French NGO. If you want, you can visit the school, the teachers are very pleased to show you around. From the school, it’s about half an hour to Dho. At the entrance, you will pass a beautiful gate Chorten. Also- the people of Dho are direct descendents of Tibetans. Besides the typical dark dresses with colorful aprons, most Dho women wear bracelets of big shells and some have beautiful silver and turquoise headgear. Most men also have long hair, with a red ribbon in their hair, in the style of Tibetan Khampas. They also wear long coats, from which one sleeve hangs down. The people in Dho are very friendly and it is easy to make contact and communicate. With the Cristal Mountain School so close by, especially younger ones do speak a bit of English. Dho Tarap is a traditional agricultural village, surrounded by fields. Yaks are used to plough the land. As other villages you came across, barley, buckwheat and potatoes are among the few crops that can grow here. But nowadays, small greenhouses enable the people to grow some green vegetables as well. The people live from what the yak gives them and from trade. The houses are made of stones found in the river valley and are built in the typical Tibetan style, with small windows and the flat roofs stocked with firewood. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 18 Dho Tarap to Sisaul (3750 m), Duration: 4 hours
A short day today again, so you have all the time to explore Dho in the morning. Leaving Dho Tarap, you will come along many Mani walls and small Chortens. The path goes down, following the Tarap Khola. Gradually, you can see the landscape changing. Just before arriving at Sisaul, you have to climb to a small pass. After the pass, the valley gets narrow. It’s a short descend to Sisaul, which has a good campsite next to a tent-hotel. You can choose to camp here, or on one of the spots a bit further down. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 19 Sisaul to Laina Odar (3370 m), Duration: 7-8 hours
Soon after leaving Sisaul, you climb to a small pass with a nice Chorten. After the pass, you will see the first trees again. You mostly walk in the river valley with high rocks towering above you on both sides. The landscape is still pretty barren and this is your last chance to see the blue sheep or the snow leopard. It’s a fairly easy walk of about 3 to 3½ hours from Sisaul to Nawarpani. The path gradually goes down. At some parts the path is beautifully carved out of the rock, so that you find yourself walking in a kind of three sided tunnel. After Nawarpani, the landscape gets greener and the path is sometimes goes through pine forests, with a wonderful smell. It’s a fairly easy walk over a pretty large path, which sometimes goes very high above the river. You will reach Laina Odar where there is tent-hotel, located at the riverside. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 20 Laina Odar to Lingdo (2391 m), Duration: 5 hours
From Laina Odar, the trail goes down pretty steep to Laisicap (2772 m). The path goes partly through forests and you will find yourself surrounded by steep cliffs full of pine trees, mostly spruce, fir, juniper and cypress, some of which are huge. Sometimes the river is far below you. The walk to Laisicap takes about 3 hours. At Laisicap, you will cross the Thuli Bheri River over a large suspension bridge of 120 meter, high above the river. The trail goes down pretty steep for about 45 minutes. After this, it’s a fairly easy walk, gradually going down, with some flat parts as well. The landscape is impressive and sometimes very green. The sharp rocks are dotted with junipers and other pine trees. If you are lucky, you can see groups of large grey monkeys here. Behind you, you can see the beautiful snowcapped Kang Tokal (6294 m). Getting closer to Lingdo, you can see some other villages in the distance, like Sarakot, which is situated high on a cliff. These are the first villages you see after Dho Tarap. Passing some Mani walls and Chortens, you will be coming across Lingdo- a small village with one guesthouse with a camping site. The people who live in this region are Trail’s, a Magar group (who are Buddhist as well). Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 21 Lingdo to Dunai (2140 m), Duration: 5 hours
It’s an easy walk today. The first part goes through rough landscape. The path is sometimes carved out of the rocks, and at a few points very narrow. There are plans to make a motor able road all the way to Dho Tarap. After about 2 ½ hours, you will reach the small village of Bazaar (2427 m). After Bazaar, the landscape gets greener and sometimes resembles the European Alps. Rocky slopes are dotted with pine trees, mostly blue pine. At the horizon, you can see the snowcapped Kang Tokal (6294 m). The path goes slightly up and down, following the Thuli Bheri River once. Dunai is the headquarters of Dolpa District. It’s a large village, of about 2.500 people, more or less half Hindu and half Buddhist. Up the hill, there is a Buddhist monastery, the Dolpa Kendriya Gompa, which is worth a visit. It is situated at the slope at the other site of the river, overlooking Dunai. The monastery belongs to the Nyingmapa lineage, the oldest Buddhism lineage and was built in 1998. There is only one monk/lama here. If he is there, he will be happy to open the monastery for you and show you around. Inside the Gompa you can observe a beautiful statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha (Gautama Buddha), the Kengyur (the holy scriptures of Buddhism) and big Thankas (Buddhist paintings on cotton). There is a small daily Puja (prayer ceremony) from 6-7 am and from 6-7 pm. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 22 Dunai to Juphal (2475 m), Duration: 4 hours
It’s a short walk to Juphal. After about 45 minutes, you will reach a beautiful gate Chorten (stupa), which is the entrance to the VDC (Village Development Committee) of Dunai. Inside the Chorten, you can observe some beautiful Buddhist paintings of Mandalas and important Buddhist figures. You will pass the big iron suspension bridge, which you crossed on the first day to get into the Shey Phoksundo National Park. From the bridge, it’s about 2½ – 3 hours to Juphal. The first part goes over a large path, passing through the small village of Kalagaonda. Then you will be leaving the main road and walking over a small path, through fields of barley and wheat, with walnut, peach and apricot trees. It’s a pretty steep climb to reach Juphal. Just before arriving, you will likely pass the Hindu village of Dangiwada. Juphal is a large village with a small bazaar where it is nice to spend some time looking around. Overnight at tented camp, full board meals included.
Day 23 Juphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu Flight
Early in the morning, you will fly to Nepalgunj. Especially the first part of the flight through the mountain valleys is spectacular. Later in the day, you will fly back to Kathmandu. Overnight at the hotel, breakfast included.
Day 24 Leisure Day in Kathmandu
Today, you have a leisure day in Kathmandu that you can spend doing leisure things around the city. Overnight at hotel, breakfast included.
Day 25 Farewell
Approximately three hours before your scheduled flight, one of Escape Himalaya’s representatives will take you to the airport for your departure.