Dolpo is a culturally Tibetan high-altitude region in the upper part of Nepal's Dolpa District, bordered by China in the north. Shey Phoksundo National Park shares 1-3 parts of the region. It is a mystical land of centuries-old Buddhist traditions that are still practiced daily. The remoteness of the region combined with the splendid beauty of the landscape makes for an unforgettable experience.
Adventure Club Trek's Upper Dolpo Trek-25 days brings you the very best of off-beaten path trekking, Upper Dolpo is one of the very few regions in the world to have a civilization so detached from modern world advances. Upper Dolpo runs in Shamanistic beliefs and centuries-old Bonpo and Buddhist traditions. You will meet the most authentic Tibetan culture, traditions and the most innocent of people in the villages and gompas you pass by in this 25-day-long trekking expedition.
We start the trek with a flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj. We take another flight tomorrow to Juphal, the only airstrip that connects Dolpa with the rest of the country. Our trail passes several villages, pristine Phoksundo lake and high passes in the course of leading us to Shey Gompa, it is popularly known as the spiritual heart of Upper Dolpo, and rightly so! We spent the day acclimatizing at Shey Gompa, meanwhile also exploring the magical land. It sits at the base of Krystal Mountain, a pilgrimage site frequented by hundreds of visitors each year who make a circuit (called Kora or Parikrama) around the mountain.
Trekking in Upper Dolpo is strenuous, it requires at the very least average level of physical fitness. One has to cross three high passes-Nagdalo La (5350 m), the Shey La (5010 m) and Jeng La (5220 m). Crossing these passes involve long ascents and descents. We spend most of the trekking period above 4000m, this results in cold temperatures, especially at night. The unsurpassable landscapes and exclusive views into the preserved culture of the Duplo people make it all worth it. You come out of this trek with experience only a few have had-not everybody can say they have a first-hand observed centuries-old civilization in the most remote part of the Himalayan country Nepal by trekking there on foot.
Besides trekking in the celebrated regions like Annapurna, Everest, Langtang and such, trekkers can choose to trek in other regions like Upper Mustang, Tsum Valley, Kanchenjunga Circuit, Dhaulagiri Circuit and Manaslu circuit among others. Adventure Club Trek has reasonably priced and well-customized packages to trek in these regions.
Upon your arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM), you will be welcomed by a representative from Adventure Club Trek. After sorting out your custom formalities (visa and so on), you will be then transferred to your respective hotel in Adventure Club Trek’s private vehicle and give you some time to freshen up. After this, you will attend an orientation about your trek led by the trekking leader over a welcome dinner
After breakfast, we set off to a sightseeing tour of some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kathmandu, historic places like the three Durbar squares in the valley, Asia’s largest stupa, Boudhanath, another Buddhist Stupa, Swayambhunath famous as ‘Monkey Temple’ and the holy Hindu temple, Pashupatinath. We will also discuss on the vitalities of the trek that starts tomorrow. Your trekking leader will introduce you with the team and, inform you on all necessary requirements.
Today, we get one step closer to Dolpa! After a short tour in kathmandu, we set off an hour-long flight to Nepalgunj- a city in western Nepal which lies near the Nepal-India border. The city lies in the south plains of Nepal (Terai) and hosts diverse culture. In Nepalgunj, we visit the local market and nearby villages.
We will enter the Dolpo region today. After breakfast, we fly to Juphal, a town situated on the Himalayan foothills with views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna in the north. We begin the walking today. After re-grouping we start our trek through terraced fields which lead us to Bheri River and a narrow gorge created by the River ultimately leading us to Dunai. Dunai is Dolpo's administrative headquarter. We camp for the night in Dunai.
We start the day with views of Himalaya and a filling breakfast. Crossing the new suspension bridge from Dunai we turn west and follow the trail alongside the new hospital. We take north and follow the Suli Gad river from where it meets with the Thuli Bheri river. Passing through fields of marijuana plants and crops like millet, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet corn, and chillies, and animal pastures, we reach the village of Hanke. Hanke is popular as an entrance to the Phoksundo National Park. We pass through the village of Parela (meaning eyelash), Rahagaon ( meaning eyebrow) before reaching Ankhe ( meaning eye).
Starting from Ankhe the route is quite wild. We cross the river on bridges twice before making a steep ascent through a narrow path that requires us to cling on to a cliff. Once we descend to the river, the trail takes a steep ascent again. We make frequent stops during the climb, both for rest and admiring the stunning landscape. We camp on the side of Suligad River in Renje for overnight stay.
We start on an easy trail from Renje, however, once we get to Sumdo, the trail is quite steep. We leave the river behind and make a trail through the ridge above the river.
On the way, we will climb up a 3,875m ridge which spreads a fantastic views of Nepal’s highest waterfall, Hyatung Falls which is 365m high along with your first view of Phoksundo lake. Then, we descend through beautiful birch woods to arrive at the upper reaches of the Phoksundo Khola ( not to be confused with Phoksundo lake). Next, we come across the serene Himalayan village of Ringo. With its mani walls and mud plaster chortens, Ringmo is one of a kind village. After short walk from the village, we will arrive at the Phoksundo lake.
It is a beautiful trek today. We follow the edge of the lake that encircles the Phoksundo lake. The trail ahead is delicate- it is a suspended passageway of woods supported by pegs and is spread on crevices on the rocks. Up till 4,040m, we climb up a steep trail, and then we descend down to the valley foothills. Our trek to the plain terrains of the Phoksundo Khola brings us to our campsite. We stay overnight in tented camps alongside the river surrounded by forests. The woods will prevent you from the wild winds of the valley bottom.
Get your gumboots out! Today, we have some streams to cross on foot before we sleep! Today’s trek starts on a flat path and goes into a glacial valley to the north. As the valley gets narrower, you can see some unbelievable vertical cliffs and disfigured rock formations.
We cross an old wooden bridge over the confluence of the phoksundo Khola and local mountain stream. And, it brings us to an almost amorphous path that leads us to a cavernous side valley to the north east. We clamber over boulders and cross a stream that goes down the steep valley. Then, we make a long climb to arrive at a meadow, here onwards our trail goes up an inclined gorge. One more difficult climb and we land on a different valley from where you can enjoy close views of Kang La. Kang La is the pass we pass through to get to Shey Gompa. Overnight in a camp before the pass in ‘Snowfields Camp.
Last night, we camped not far from Kang La. Today, we are climbing to the top of the pass through a trail is somewhat missing and quite challenging. Once we reach the top of Kang La which takes about about 2.5 to 3 hours, the hard work becomes all worth it; the views from top are simply magnificent. Forty-five minutes’ descent on a steep path brings us to the valley floor. We trek along the banks of the river for over 3 hours, even crossing it once to arrive at Shey Gompa. Follow a quaint wooden log bridge to Shey Gompa where we camp for the night.
Today, we rest, explore and acclimatize at Shey Gompa. First, we visit the Tsakang Gompa, more than a monastery it is a retreat where the lama of Shey resides. Tsakang lies to the west of Shey Gompa, and is a popular meditation center to many Tibetan lamas The Chaiba community take Shey Gompa as their heritage, the community consists of followers of the Padmasambhava and Kagyu sects. Founded by lama Ten-szin Ra-Pa during the 11th century, Shey Gompa was the first Kagyupa monastery. It is now famous for its ancient Buddhist culture which consists of ancient Tibetan way of life; teachings of Buddha in combination with animism. Hundreds of years ago, Drutup Yeshe came to Dolpo and brought Buddhism with him. The people then were wild and worshipped a ‘’fierce mountain spirit.’To the west of Shey monastery is Crystal Mountain with its strange features. The mountain has a rich variety of marine fossils on its surface, and the disfigured cliffs are laced with quartz. Below Shey Gompa lies the thundering confluence of Kangjunala and Yeju nala. A group of prayer mills powered by water force near the confluence make for music in the beautiful scenery.
The trail that leads to the top of the Saldang La (pass) starts with a pleasant walk through juniper forests. The trail then climbs up to a grey stony canyon. Trekking up over a dwindling trail of bare rocks, we eventually come to a flat spot. After 20-30 minutes of a steep, we make our way to the top of Saldang La. Enjoy the exclusive and magnificent views of arid landscapes of Upper Mustang and distant snow-capped peaks of Tibet. We make a long and tiring descent to the north and eventually arrive at the Namduna Gaon. The sight of grazing sheep and yaks and nomadic tents crafted from yak hair welcome you to the holy land of the Namgung monastery. The monastery, a striking structure built from red stones against the backdrop of a cliff, belongs to the Karma-pa sect as well.
Today, we lose a few hundred meters in altitude, but not without an ascend first. The climb brings us to a long thrilling route through arid mountains. But, the view below is of a fertile and cultivated green valley. One more climb up the rocky terrain brings us to steep slopes that lead to the beautiful village of Saldang. Saldang is a part of the Nankhang Valley, the most populous valley in Dolpo’s culturally Tibetan region, and resides on a plateau high above the Nam Khong Nala (local stream).
We trek on a comparatively easy trail today. We head down to the river bed through terraced fields, stupa, chortens, piles of mani stones and a Chaiba monastery. We also come across the village of Namdo on the way. It lies on the high slopes of Nam Khong Khola, 5 kms to the left. Nearby the riverbed lies the Namdo monastery. A while further from the monastery and we arrive at the settlement of Sibu.
We start today’s trek on an easy trail alongside the river valley. Two hours into our picturesque hike, we wade a stream to come across a side valley from where the uphill climb is quite a difficult one. On the top is a pleasant meadow which is the foot of the Jeng La.
It is a well compacted trail that leads to the top of the Jeng La, so the underfoot is firm and not as risky, however, it is a steep climb. A two-hour-long climb takes us to the top of the pass from where we can enjoy views of Dhaulagiri massif glistening in the morning light and the beautiful landscape of valleys on the foothills. We spend some quality time at the top before heading down on a rough path towards the Tarap valley. We arrive at the green valley only in the afternoon. From Tarap we head down on the trail to Tarap Chu (river/stream). The valley has a beautiful setting of vast plains against the high mountains and extends 22 kilometers alongside the river with many chortens and gompas of both Kang-pa
Today, we are headed to Dho Tarap, the land of monasteries in Upper Dolpo. After a short visit to the Chaiba Gompa, we take on a well routed trail that passes through buckwheat fields, Mani Walls and Chortens. We will also pass through the ‘French School’ which lies just before Dho Tarap. Overnight stay in tents at the Tarap village which is inhabited mostly by Magars and a few Tibetans. Both Bon Po and Buddhist (Nyingmapa) people live in the village.
At the beginning of today’s trek, we trek mostly downhill and through narrow gorges alongside the rushing waters of Tarap Khola. We might encounter blue sheep and marmots, and local Dolpo people herding their flocks of sheep, yaks, and goats to lower pastures to survive the winter. Once we leave the course alongside the river, the trail becomes undulated. The trail has improved much as there are suspension bridges and clear paths, without rocks blocking the way. However, the trail is still narrow in places.Hiking alongside a grassy strip by the river, we arrive at Serkam for overnight stay.
Today, we resume walking down the narrow gorges of the Tarap Chu. While the trail has a series of well-engineered stone steps, it also gets narrow and crumbly at points. After climbing down for almost 4 hours, sometimes alongside the river and other times high above the river, we stop for lunch. We climb down for 2-3 hours more after lunch. A police check post marks our arrival in Khani Gaon, we stop just outside the village cluster in the shade of Juniper trees to make camps for overnight stay.
Upon leaving Khani Gaon, we arrive at the confluence of Tarap Chu and Barbung Khola. Shortly after, we cross a suspension bridge over Barbung Khola and the trail goes high above the river. Passing through the usual ups and downs, we reach Tarakot after one final descend. Our trek remains relatively short today. We camp at Tarakot after 3-4 hours of trek. We have the option to climb up to Gumba Tara, a village which hosts a beautiful monastery. We have to climb up 400 meter for an hour to the reach the settlement. In the lower valley of Tarakot, there are 13 settlements altogether and they are known as Tichurong.
The trail leading to Dunai is mostly downhill. We follow the Bheri River on a path built twenty feet above it. It takes us only a few hours of trekking to reach Dunai. We set up our camp site at the same spot we used when starting the Dolpo Trek. Evenings are now more relaxed, celebratory and fun-filled as we have completed the strenuous part of Upper Dolpo trek.
We are back on our Day One trail. Our trail is mostly flat, but there are steep upward climbs as well. It is a short trek today, so we take it slow and easy.
Two mountain flights in a row! We take 35-minute-long early morning flight from Juphal to Nepalgunj. During the flight, we can witness fine views of giant Himalayan peaks like Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. Then, we take an hour-long flight from Nepalgunj to Kathmandu.
It is also a contingency day in case your flight from Nepalgunj gets delayed, as it is a usual scenario. In case there is no delay, we can spend the day shopping or touring the Kathmandu valley. Farewell dinner from the company.
Adventure Club Trek will manage a farewell drive to the international airport for your final flight departure. Meeting you and serving you was a wonderful experience over the weeks. We are sure you enjoyed a wonderful holiday in beautiful Nepal. We hope you will remember us in the years ahead.
Flight delays in Nepaljunge
Our primary modes of transports from the airstrip at Jomsom are the Twin Otter planes. Even though the flights are fairly dependable, they can be cancelled or delayed due to unpredictable weather conditions in the Himalaya and/or other technical issues.In cases of such delays, Adventure Club Trek will arrange road transportation to ensure you are on schedule for your international flight. The expenses for the road transport will be managed from the compensation received from the flight ticket after deducting charges for cancelation. Therefore, there will be no refund of the Jomsom to Pokhara flight in case we take the road back to Pokhara.
Note: Your safety is of the utmost concern whilst you are traveling with Adventure Club Trek. We will make every effort possible to follow the original itinerary but we reserve the right to change that itinerary if a segment of it becomes a safety issue. Certain mountain regions are remote, natural disasters can happen, weather conditions can decline and there can be illness or an injury. To avoid dangerous situations we may occasionally have to make changes to the itinerary to ensure everyone’s safety. That having been said, Adventure Club Trek will strive to provide you with the best possible trekking experience and to keep your safety our number one priority. We thank you for your understanding.
Prior to all the treks and expeditions, Adventure Club Trek hosts a pre-trip meeting in Kathmandu. The primary purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for individuals to ask questions about the forthcoming trek and to introduce other team members. The meeting covers topics as diverse as personal equipment and acclimatization and usually involves a hike and some skills training. Pre-trip meeting is very important in order to have a better preparation of the trekking.