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Upper Dolpo Trek

30 Days

The Upper Dolpo Trek is a popular trekking route in the Dolpa region of Nepal. It is considered one of the most remote and least developed areas in the country and offers a unique and authentic cultural and natural experience.

The Upper Dolpo region is famous for its unique culture and traditions. The region is also referred to as “Ba Yul” or the hidden valley. The local people are of Tibetan origin and have preserved their ancient way of life for centuries. You will have the opportunity to visit traditional Buddhist monasteries, interact with the friendly locals, and learn about their customs and rituals.

  • English and French
  • 3 Star Hotel in KTM in Nepalgunj and camping during the trek
  • Restricted Area Entry Permit Lower & Upper Dolpo, National Park Entry Fee and ACAP permit
  • Kathmandu to Kathmandu
  • August to October and May to June
  • Bus/Jeep and Plane
  • Moderate
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
  • 5550m
  • Adventure Trekking
  • 2-8
  • Well experienced guide

Upper Dolpo Trek Overview

The trek starts from Jhupal and takes you through rugged mountain terrains, deep valleys, ancient monasteries, and traditional Tibetan villages. The highlight of the trek is the stunning Phoksundo Lake, which is the deepest lake in Nepal and has crystal-clear turquoise waters, surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

Due to the remote location, the Upper Dolpo Trek requires a special permit from the Nepalese government, which adds to the exclusivity of the trek. It is recommended to trek with a guide or join a guided tour to ensure safety and obtain the necessary permits.

Respect for the local culture, customs, and religion is important during the trek, and the Bon Po religion has a strong presence in the area. “Bon Po” is an ancient pre-Buddhist religion practiced in the Dolpo region of Nepal. It is characterized by its shamanistic nature, with rituals such as sky burials, spirit mediumship and other esoteric beliefs. The Bon Po is also worships mountain gods, local mountain spirits and sky gods.

The History of Dolpa Trek:

The history of Dolpo dates back to the 15th century when it was a part of the Mustang kingdom. In the 19th century, the area was taken over by the Thakali rulers and later by the hereditary rulers of Jumla. In the late 19th century, Gyalpo Dorje, the son of Rinzin Dorje Lama, carried on the tradition of blending Tibetan and Nepalese culture while also initiating a period of modernization in the region.
The trekking industry in Dolpa started to flourish in the 1960s and gained popularity among western tourists in the 1970s. This surge in popularity led to the establishment of the Dolpa Trekking Association in 1977. The association’s responsibilities include managing trekking routes, regulating fees, and offering information and support to trekkers. The Dolpa Trekking Association remains a significant part of the local community and plays a crucial role in the region’s tourism industry.
The trek was opened to foreign tourists in 1989, but it has been a popular route for local people for centuries. The area has a rich history, with monasteries and fortresses scattered throughout the region.
The majority of people in the region follow Buddhism and Bon Po, an ancient religion that predates Buddhism and is still observed in the Dolpa region of Nepal. Bon Po is a polytheistic religion that centers around the worship of numerous gods and goddesses. Its rituals involve offering food and other items to these deities.

Upper Dolpo Trek Difficulty:

The Upper Dolpo Trek in Nepal is a challenging and remote adventure with unique cultural and landscape experiences. Challenges include high altitudes (over 5,000 meters), requiring acclimatization and proper gear. The region is remote, lacking facilities and services. Unpredictable weather demands preparation for extreme conditions. Physical fitness is crucial for steep terrains. Cultural awareness is vital due to the unique Dolpo culture. Obtaining permits and organizing logistics can be challenging. Accommodation and food options are limited, often involving camping and basic lodges. Despite the difficulties, the trek offers a rewarding experience for adventurous and prepared trekkers.

Upper Dolpo Trek Highlights:

  • Upper Dolpo is one of Nepal’s least-visited regions, making it a true wilderness haven.
  • As you traverse the trails of Upper Dolpo, you will encounter charming Tibetan-style villages and ancient monasteries, providing insight into the region’s rich cultural heritage.
  • One of the major highlights of the trek is the captivating Shey Phoksundo Lake. This sacred lake is deeply revered by the local inhabitants and adds a spiritual element to the journey.
  • The Upper Dolpo region is part of Shey Phoksundo National Park, home to diverse flora and fauna.
  • You will traverse through the highest pass 5550m Jungben La pass, and many more 5000m passes.
  • Along the trekking route, you'll encounter remote villages inhabited by friendly and hospitable locals.
  • These villages offer a glimpse into traditional rural life in the Himalayas, allowing trekkers to experience authentic Nepalese hospitality and culture firsthand.
  • Upper Dolpo is known for its ancient Bon Po tradition, a pre-Buddhist spiritual and cultural practice that dates back thousands of years.

Upper Dolpo Trek Itinerary

When you arrive at the Tribhuvan Internaational Airport, Kathmandu, our staff will receive you at the Airport. He/she will be displaying a placard with Himalayan Travelers Trek & Expedition written in it outside the airport terminal. He/she will meet, greet and welcome you with auspicious garland and escort you to your respective hotel by our private tourist vehicle. At the hotel, he will assist you to check in and do pre-trip meeting with you.

This day is preparation day. You will also be briefed about your overall program on this day, introduce your guide and clear your questions/inquiries if any. Overnight at hotel.

After breakfast, we will fly to Nepalhunj or take a bus and drive to Nepalgunj.

In case of unfavorable weather, we will explore Nepalgunj and its nearby villages. Otherwise, we will fly from Nepalgunj to Juphal (2470m) and hike to Rupgad (2060m). The trek offers stunning views of terraced fields, forests, and Thakuri villages, where animism and Hindu culture are still prevalent. The ladders carved into trunks lead to flat roofs where people dry their harvests and socialize. We will walk for 2:20 hours, with an elevation gain of +75m/-475m.

We will continue our journey from Rupgad to chepka (2680m), hiking along the river that originates from Lake Phoksundo. Two suspension bridges over the Thuli and Suli Khola provide us access to the clear turquoise waters, and the lush greenery of rice fields and conifers surround us. We will walk for 5-6 hours, with an elevation gain of +816m/-204m.

Today, we will walk from Chepka to Palang (3150m) and witness the play of light and shadows as we cross the torrent on wooden bridges. We will encounter animist sculptures, and the captivating turquoise waters of the river will lead us to the picturesque Palang. We will walk for 6 hours, with an elevation gain of +806m/-326m.

The trail from Palang to Ringmo, the shore of Phoksundo Lake (3670m), is a relatively easy climb, and we can enjoy the stunning views of Lake Phoksundo from the small pass en route. We will walk through the village of Ringmo, where the Bön religion coexists with Buddhism. The houses scattered in the fields and the stupas add to the charm of this beautiful village. We will walk for 4-5 hours, with an elevation gain of +704m/-176m.

We will spend the day acclimatizing around Lake Phoksundo.

On this day, we will walk from Ringmo to Phoksundo Lake Camp (3730m) and enjoy the mesmerizing colors of the lake. We will explore the village and the monastery of Ringmo, and marvel at the cliffs that surround the lake. We will walk for 5-6 hours, with an elevation gain of +752m/-688m.

Trek from Phoksundo Lake to Kang La Phedi (4650m) Today’s trek is relatively short but involves a steep elevation climb. You will make your way through a narrow gorge to reach the base camp of Kang La, which is the first pass of the Dolpo-Mustang crossing. During the trek, you will have to cross the torrent several times, and depending on the water level, some passages may require you to remove your shoes. The scenery behind you will feature the stunning east faces of Kanjiroba, a long ridge over 6000m. As you leave the vegetation behind, you will enter a mineral environment that you will only leave upon your arrival in the kali gandaki. Remember to walk slowly to acclimatize well, as this will affect the quality of the night you will spend. walking time: 5-6 hours, elevation gain: +958m/-42m

Trek from Kang La Phedi to Shey Gompa (4350m) Today, you will cross your first pass at more than 5000m in a good series, and the slow progress is all the more important due to the high elevation. Early in the morning, the sunrise will bring a pleasant surprise; Kanjiroba will be on fire, and the flutes descending to its glacier will ignite and quickly send back a dazzling light during your progression of the first steep slope. The Kang La peak culminates at about 5360m and marks the beginning of the Tibetan plateau. Crossing this pass is a highlight of the trek, as you switch from the Himalayan part to the Tibetan plateau. The tapering ridges of the Kanjiroba will be behind you, while a horizon of rounded Tibetan peaks will greet you ahead. This is one of the unique aspects of this Himalayan trek where you will alternate between Nepal and Tibet, the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau. The descent will be long through an open valley, and upon arrival at Shey Gompa, you will feel like you are at the end of the world. The mountain of crystal will be on your left, dominating a little higher. walking time: 5-6 hours, elevation gain: +741m/-1039m

Acclimatization day at Shey Gompa and Tsakang Monastery You will spend this day acclimatizing at Shey Gompa Monastery, which overlooks the confluence of two rivers. You will see a large number of mani walls, walls with carved stones of prayers surrounding the monastery. The softly colored mountains, the southern chorten of the monastery with the air of “Tintin in Tibet”, and the yaks grazing in opposite valleys will make you feel like you are in the heart of Upper Dolpo. The isolated Tsakang Monastery is quite close, and you can reach it with just an hour and a half of trekking. The monastery is clinging to the mountain, and its location and building will impress you. On the balcony in the cliff overlooking the gorge, you will see the peaks and the river which is lost in a deep gorge. The eagle’s nest monastery at this altitude will certainly give you the perspective necessary to reach a meditative state. You may also spot Bharals or Himalayan blue sheep in this region. walking time: 4 hours, elevation gain: +400m/-400m

Day 13: From Shey Gompa, we will take a winding path to a low pass, which is under 5000m. The pass is situated in the middle of pastoral hills, where yaks are commonly found. The trek will take about 4-5 hours, with a total elevation gain of 1347m and a loss of 1103m.

We will depart from Tora and climb up to a pass over 4400m. After crossing the pass, we will descend to the remote village of Bhijer, known for its unique architecture where houses resemble small fortresses with terraces. The trek will take about 4-5 hours, with an elevation gain of approximately 510m and a loss of 590m.

We will start our trek towards a new pass at 5000m, with a gradual climb which becomes steeper towards the end before reaching the 5380m Nengla La. The view will gradually emerge on the descent, showcasing cliffs that oscillate between grey, yellow, and slightly ocher. We will finally reach the large village of Saldang, spread over all the slopes that descend to the river. The trek will take about 6-7 hours, with an elevation gain of 1276m and a loss of 1624m.

From Saldang, we will undertake a long ascent of the valley, crossing villages on the left bank and arriving at Rakyo, where we may observe bharals coming to drink at nightfall. The males of this goat species have large horns similar to those of ibexes, while the females have smaller horns. We will trek for about 4-5 hours, with an elevation gain of 475m and a loss of 145m.

We will continue our trek through a desert at altitude, and may encounter one or two mountain pastures. The cold is starting to bite as the season draws to a close and the nomads’ tents are being folded up. Bearded vultures are present in this region and can be observed. We will walk for about 4-5 hours, with an elevation gain of 465m and a loss of 65m.

Our trek from Jeng La Phedi to Tokyu will take us through a wide valley that descends to Dho Tarap, the capital of Dolpo. We will cross the Jeng La pass, which is lower than the previous passes at only 5130m, and less steep. The horizon line will flatten then regain relief, revealing the distant peaks of the Himalayas, including the Dhaulagiri. We may observe an eagle’s nest in the cliffs halfway on our left, while bearded vultures are quite common in this valley. In the village of Tokyu, we will discover a culture that does not feel more Japanese (Tokyo) than Nepalese. The trek will take about 5 hours, with an elevation gain of 610m and a loss of 920m.

From Tokyu, start your day with a descent through the valley of Dho Tarap. Dho, the main village of Dolpo, is located at an altitude of over 4000m and is home to the most important Lama of the Dolpo. The Yarsa Gompa has changed the economy and lifestyle of the villagers. During the picking season, thousands of people come to harvest the famous mushroom, creating tensions between residents, outside pickers, and the police. The Dho school, established by Action Dolpo, is a bioclimatic building that uses greenhouses to improve winter living conditions. If it’s open during your visit, you can see the organization and infrastructure. Leaving Dho, take the east valley to Pang La Phedi (4490m). walking: 5-6 hours, +410m/-220m

After acclimatizing and crossing three passes, begin your ascent to Pang La, the highest point you have crossed so far, standing at 5450m. The view from the pass is breathtaking, with a softer relief towards the north and a completely barren Tibetan plateau. Look out for herds of yaks grazing on the slopes. Set up camp before the pass on a yak mountain pasture to enjoy the vast open spaces of the Himalayas. walk: 5-6 hours, +1050m/-610m

Charka Bhot (4500m) Wake up to the cool mountain air at almost 5000m, and spot the few yaks still grazing higher up. Today’s trek takes you to Mola La, just above 5000m, offering magnificent views of the entire Dhaulagiri massif, with Chakra Bhot valley in the foreground. The valley boasts generous terraces and an old village, protected from the wind by narrow streets, closed courtyards, and tall houses. Share the slopes with herds of Himalayan goats and yaks. Though Charka Both seems far from everything, it’s just two days from Jomsom for the villagers, but five for your caravan! walking: 5-6 hours, +465m/-900m

Wari Kharka (4680m) Follow the trail along the beautiful Charka Khola with its transparent waters, crossing it at a few prayer walls. Cross Thasan Khola to reach the camp on the right bank. Keep an eye out for tracks that could be those of the elusive snow leopard, which shares the region with wolves, although the rounded footprints suggest that it is more likely to be the snow leopard, which lives in these highlands with the bharals and yaks. walking: 4-5 hours, +400m/-220m

Golchan Khola (4440m) It’s a long day of trekking, but you are now perfectly acclimatized. Spot yaks seeking freshness as you approach Golchan La via the first pass, the Niwar La. The Golchan La, at 5550m, is the highest pass of your itinerary and offers views of the Hidden Valley to the south, descending from the Tukuche base camp. Crossing the Golchan La also marks your arrival in Mustang and the return to the rugged terrain of the Himalayas. Brace yourself for a very steep descent into shale, making this your big day of the trek and marking your exit from Dolpo, at least geographically. walking: 6-7 hours, +795m/-1285m

Golchan Khola to Sangda (4030m) Today’s trek takes you through the rugged and deeply indented Sangda valley, where you will need to navigate around numerous valleys to reach the windswept village. As you approach Sangda, you will be treated to breathtaking views of the Tashikang mountain, which towers over the village with its impressive glacier. The village itself is camouflaged by its rocky surroundings, blending seamlessly into the mineral universe around it. The villagers migrate to a neighboring village during the winter months to escape the harsh conditions. Try to arrive before they leave. walking time: 5-6 hours; Elevation change: +535m/-925m

Sangda to Phalyak (3430m) Today’s trek will be one of the longest yet, as you navigate through deep valleys that seem endless. However, your perseverance will be rewarded with one of the most stunning Himalayan panoramas you will ever see. As you ascend the ridge, the entire Mustang region and even Tibet will be revealed to you, including the Damodar massif and the Khatung Kang and Yakawa Kang peaks, which frame the famous Thorong La. On your right, the entire Annapurna range will be visible, including Tilicho peak and Annapurna I. This eagle’s-eye view of the region will also give you a glimpse of Mustang’s unique geological composition and the powerful landslide that created this landscape and the Kali Gandaki gorge. Keep an eye out for bearded vultures soaring overhead. The descent to Phalyak will be challenging, but well worth the effort. Phalyak is located outside the Annapurna Circuit but within the Annapurna Park. walking time: 6-7 hours; Elevation change: +1055m/-1645m

Phalyak to Jomsom (2880m) The final leg of the Dolpo Mustang crossing takes you through the village of Dhagarjung and up to the last pass of the trek, where you will be treated to another exceptional panorama of the Annapurna range. As you approach Jomsom, you will begin to notice signs of modernization, including a telephone relay and trucks traversing the bed of the Kali Gandaki. The trail descends steeply, so you may want to split into two groups for a more leisurely descent through the valley. walking time: 3-4 hours; Elevation change: +205m/-745m

Jomsom to Pokhara flight the trek has come to an end and Jomsom with its city life, is a stark contrast to the rugged mountain terrain of the past few weeks. The runway at Jomsom provides a backup plan that is drive to Pokhara in case of flight cancellations. Pokhara, one of the most famous tourist destination in Nepal, you can enjoy roaming around, go for boating, relax and so on.

Drive back to Kathmandu by private car which takes around 7 hours. Spend the night at a hotel in Kathmandu.

Free day in Kathmandu After days of trekking amidst the stunning natural scenery of the Himalayas, Kathmandu offers a starkly different experience. Despite being in the same country, the pace of life is markedly different. This day provides a chance to acclimatize to the more modern surroundings.

Departure from Kathmandu Airport The journey comes to an end as you depart from Kathmandu Airport. Memories of the trek, the yaks, and the colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind will remain vivid for a long time to come.

Upper Dolpo Trek Cost Includes:

  • Supervision by a Nepalese trekking guide, Assistant guide, Cook and Kitchen staff, porters.
  • Accommodation in Kathmandu, lodge and Camping during the trek.
  • All land transportations and flight tickets from Kathmandu- Nepalgunj-Juphal-Jomsom-Pokhara-Kathmandu
  • Full board during the trek.
  • The Special Lower and Upper Dolpo Trek permit, National park permit and ACAP.
  • Guide and porters salary, insurance, equipments, and all necessary facilities to staffs.

Upper Dolpo Trek Cost Excludes:

  • International airfare.
  • The Nepalese visa.
  • Insurance (compulsory on all trips – ensure you are adequately covered for emergency evacuation).
  • Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu.
  • Spending of a personal expenses, e.g. laundry, snacks and drinks, souvenirs, etc.
  • All bar bills and tips.

FAQs

What is the best time to trek in Upper Dolpo?

The best time to trek in Upper Dolpo is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons. During these times, the weather is relatively stable with clear skies and comfortable temperatures, making it ideal for trekking.

Do I need a special permit to trek in Upper Dolpo?

Yes, trekking in Upper Dolpo requires a special restricted area permit issued by the Nepalese government. Additionally, you’ll need to trek with a registered trekking agency and be accompanied by a licensed guide. It’s essential to obtain the necessary permits well in advance through your trekking agency.

What is the level of difficulty for the Upper Dolpo trek?

The Upper Dolpo trek is considered to be a challenging trek, suitable for experienced trekkers. The trail involves rugged terrain, high mountain passes, and remote areas with limited facilities. Trekkers should be physically fit and adequately prepared for high altitude trekking.

What is the accommodation like during the Upper Dolpo trek?

Accommodation along the Upper Dolpo trek varies from basic teahouses to camping in tents, especially in more remote areas where teahouses are scarce. Teahouses provide simple lodging with basic amenities such as beds and meals. In some areas, camping is necessary, and trekking agencies usually provide camping equipment.

Is altitude sickness a concern during the Upper Dolpo trek?

Yes, altitude sickness can be a concern during the Upper Dolpo trek as the trail reaches high elevations above 5,000 meters. It’s crucial to acclimatize properly by ascending gradually, staying hydrated, and recognizing the symptoms of altitude sickness. Trekking agencies and guides are trained to manage altitude-related issues and provide necessary assistance if needed.

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Upper Dolpo Trek
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