Upper Dolpo Trekking

upper-dolpo-trekUpper Dolpo Trekking is situated between the high Tibetan plateau and the Dhaulagiri Himalayan range and it is the highest occupied land of the Dolpo Region. It commences from Kathmandu by flying to Nepalgunj and then flying from Nepalgunj to Juphal to start the trek. The trek also ends at Juphal and we take the same route back to Kathmandu. Since 1984, it has been the country’s largest national park and conservation area and the park sustains plenty of wild life including Musk Deer, Himalayan Blue Sheep, Snow Leopard and Yaks. The Upper Dolpo Trekking commences from Juphal and makes a wonderful adventure, encountering interesting places, people, villages, valleys and serene forests of pines, oaks and rhododendron flowers. The trek passes many gigantic mountain ranges and over the Num La pass at (5190m) until we reach the Phoksundo Lake at Ringmo village in the “Phoksundo National Park”.

Phoksundo Lake is a large beautiful area where we spend a couple of nights and explore the lake, people, village and culture. Ringmo village is isolated within the Kanjirowa Himalayan range and it makes you feel happier and cherish the atmosphere. Shey Gompa carries a lot of history and it is an attractive and one of the oldest monasteries in Nepal. They have very much their own culture and language, which is very similar with Tibet being close to the border and they import most items from Tibet. When they marry, the ceremony is performed according to their own society. It is a very different landscape where they are not able to grow many crops because of the cold and the terrain is of mainly desert and moraine. The trek will ensure you can enjoy and explore the Dolpo region with its peoples, cultures, its history, lake, monasteries, high passes, Tibetan cultures and moraine landscapes. After you have completed the Upper Dolpo trek, it will leave you with unforgettable memories for the rest of your life.

Trek Facts
Trek: Upper Dolpo
Trek starts: Juphal
Trek duration: 28 days
Grade: Strenuous & moderate
Maximum altitude: 5360m
Minimum altitude: 2140m
Mode: Full camping
Trek ends: Juphal

Trip Itinerary

Day 1:
Arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu and a representative of Unique Nepal Adventure Trek will welcome and transfer you to your selected hotel by private vehicle.

Day 2: Sightseeing in Kathmandu valley by private vehicle with an expert tour guide.

  • Kathmandu Durbar Square
  • Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
  • Boudhanath Stupa (Large white Buddhist Stupa)
  • Pashupatinath (Hindu Temple)
  • Patan Durbar Square (Ancient city)
  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square (55-window palace)

Day 3: Kathmandu to Nepalgunj by flight and stay overnight at hotel in Nepalgunj.
Unique Nepal Adventure Trek staff will meet you early in the morning at your hotel. We will then take a private vehicle to Kathmandu airport and then fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj. We will stay at a hotel in Nepalgunj and explore the town.

Day 4: Nepalgunj to Juphal (2320m) by flight then trek to Dunai (2140m)
After a pleasant overnight stay at Nepalgunj, early morning transfer to airport for the 45 minute flight to Juphal (2320m) over the Himalayan foothills, with views of Annapurna (8091m) ranges and Dhaulagiri (8167m) peaks to the north. Trek commences 2-3 hrs walk from the airstrip leads to our overnight camp at Dunai village (2140m). Our first day adventure begins with an hour downhill walk through the village below the airstrip, then leading through the terraced fields to the Bheri River and the narrow gorge taking 2-3 hours to camp at Dunai. This is a much larger village or small township, with a new hospital and it is the administrative headquarters of the Dolpo region. Here we have plenty of time for a leisurely walk around and explore Dunai village.

Day 5: Trek to Ankhe (2660m) walking (5-6 hrs)
From the camp of Dunai, the route diverts from the King Mahendra statue to cross the new suspension bridge and turning west, following the trail past the hospital. The path soon begins to climb up the side of the treeless Thulo Bheri valley, where it crests a ridge and then enters the Phoksundo river valley, finally reaching another ridge which is marked by cairns at (2499m). During the walk the excellent view of the Kagmara Peak can be seen up the valley. This wonderful walk leads to a large side canyon, then descending gently on the long downhill slope through the scattered houses and walnut groves to a stream at (2810m) the trail below the stream leads to Dhera, a winter settlement, where people from higher villages keep herds of cows and goats, however the route leads the upper trail climbing to Rahagaon, a Thakuri village at (2900m) where there is a Gompa dedicated to the local god, Mastha, guardians of this village. Trek from here passes through the lower part of Rahagaon and then descends to the village water supply at the Phoksundo Khola. Passing through another canyon, the path heads downhill through deep dark forests to a large stream, finally emerging at the entrance to the Shey Phoksundo National Park at Ankhe (2660m) where stay overnight at camp.

Day 6: Trek to Ryajik village (3500m) walking (5-6 hrs)
The path from this camp leads to small ups and downs along the forested riverbed, then ascending steeply to about (2900m). The ups and downs can begin to get a bit monotonous, but there are several streams along the way that offer a chance to cool off. The trail eventually leaves the forests and traverses a grassy slope high above the river. After a while the path once begin to descend steeply into forest until it reaches a cliff, whereby a dizzying drop on a wobbly stone staircase to the river bank has to be undertaken. You can almost look down between your toes to see the fast-flowing river below. After reaching the river at 2950m, the trail becomes a collection of rocks and sticks that form a dyke along the river bank. It’s hard to imagine how the local people bring their yaks and cows along this trail, but they do. Journey continues upstream to a bridge near Ryajik village for the overnight camp (3500m) after a good day’s walk.

Day 7: Trek to Phoksundo Lake Ringmo Village (3733m) walking (4-5 hrs)
The journey continues along the valley floor to the confluence of the Phoksundo and Pungmo Khola’s. After crossing to the western side of the Phoksundo Khola on a wooden bridge, then the path follows the west bank of the Pungmo Khola which leads all the way to Phoksundo Lake (3733m) near Ringmo village. The path passes through a cedar forest and finally to Palam, a winter settlement used by the people of Ringmo village. The houses here are almost buried in the sandy soil. From here our route heads up to open country, at an altitude of around (3733m). From the ridge one can see the distant views of Phoksundo Lake and a spectacular (300m) high waterfall, one of the highest in Nepal. After a brief stop here with the great views, finally the walk descent through birch forests to the upper reaches of the Phoksundo Khola, and then to the picturesque settlement of Ringmo with its mud plastered chortens and mani walls. From here it is a short walk to the shores of Phoksundo Lake for the overnight at camp.

Day 8: Rest Day at Phoksundo Lake in Ringmo village (3733m) and explore Phoksundo lake.
A well deserved rest day free from packing, at Phoksundo we can go for a short hike to the village of Ringmo and its Tibetan Buddhist Monastery is well worth a visit and explore the Phoksundo lake beautiful lake.

Day 9: Trek to Phoksundo Khola (3510m) walking (4-5 hrs)
From Phoksundo lake adventure continues skirting the shore of the lake as it contours on a rocky ledge along the western bank. This unsteady trail suspended on a gangway of wood supported on pegs driven into crevasse in the rocks, signals the remoteness of the area we are about to enter. At the westernmost edge of the lake the path leads through a lush meadow that opens up into the flood plain of the Phoksundo Khola. It is wonderful views of landscapes and sceneries. Then the walk leads through the valley, crossing the river and avoiding the occasional boggy marsh underfoot and then coming on the bank of the river to the overnight camp.

Day 10: Trek to Phoksundo Bhanjyang (4400m) walking (6-7 hrs) 
Today’s first hour walk leads along the level path through a glacial valley that now heads due north. At the confluence of the Phoksundo Khola and another mountain stream, there is an old wooden bridge. Here taking the barely distinct path to the north-east of the valley. There is no trail as such, so it is necessary to clamber over the rocks and boulders and to ford a stream that rushes down the steep valley. A long climb brings us to a sheep meadow where the trail veers up a steep ravine. A hard climb to the top brings to yet another valley where one can see the Kang La, the pass which will lead towards Shey Gompa. Overnight camp will be just before the pass in a place that Peter Matthiessen christened ‘Snowfields Camp.

Day 11: Trek to Shey Gompa (4500m) via Kang La pass (5360m) walking (5-6 hrs)
Morning walk leads up to a steep climb littered with slate towards the pass. The climb is quite strenuous, especially on the slate screed. From the top of Kang La (5360m) there are excellent views down upon a large valley which is bisected by a gushing river. On descending steeply to the valley floor, then the path leads a long meandering trek along the banks of the river, crossing and re-crossing it several times. There are mud caves lining the hills overlooking the river and we pass through meadows where hairy yaks, hundreds of sheep and domestic mountain goat (Chengra) can be found grazing as well near the odd nomadic hut of the herders. A red chorten heralds our arrival at Shey Gompa (4500m) where a quaint wooden, log bridge leads up to our destination at Shey Gompa compound for overnight camp.

Day 12: Rest day at Shey Gompa (4500m) the crystal monastery
Another well earned rest day for local hike around Shey meaning crystal, this monastery is also known as the Crystal Mountain (well described in Peter Matthissen classic novel Snow Leopard). The lama of Shey resides at a red hermitage known as Tsakang gompa which is north of Shey. It is rather a retreat than a monastery. Tsakang had been a meditation centre of many famous lamas from Tibet. Shey Gompa belong to the Chaiba community, followers of great saint Padmasambhava, known as Guru Ringpoche and Kagyu sects. It was the first Kagyupa monastery and its founder was the lama Tenzing Ra-Pa, built during 11th century. Shey is famous for its ancient pre-Buddhist culture the Bon Po. In Dolpo the ancient Tibetan way of life combines animism with the teaching of Buddha. Drutup Yeshe first introduced Buddhism in the Dolpo valley. Hundreds of years ago he came to Dolpo encountering a wild people whose supreme God was a ‘fierce mountain and nature spirit’. Crystal Mountain is to the east of Shey gompa it is one of the strangest mountain, as its contorted cliffs are laced with quartz and embedded with a rich variety of marine fossils. Shey Gompa stands above the confluence of Kangjunala and Yeju Nala River. Near the confluence there is a group of prayer mills turned by water wheels. Each year people from all over Dolpo region travel great distances to attend the festival at Shey and to complete the circuit of Crystal Mountain. This is an amazing trip to here that certainly makes this trek as special as only few Westerners have ever ventured up to Shey gompa.

Day 13: Trek to Namduna Gaun (4800m) via Saldang La (5200m) walking (6-7 hrs)
The day begins by following a pleasant trail amidst juniper which descends into a grey, stony canyon. Then the path begins to zig zag over bare rocks and coarse eroded soil until it eventually brings us to the top of Saldang La (5200m). The subsequent descent towards the north which is long and tiring but we finally come upon the welcome sight of pastures of grazing yaks and sheep, and nomadic tents made from yak hair. This signals our approach to Namduna Gaun (4800m) Like Shey, the Namgung monastery is of the Karma-pa sect. The monastery, a red stone structure, is built against the backdrop of a cliff on the north wall of a gorge. The red and white colours of the gimpy and its stupa’s are the only colour in this stark landscape. The village itself consists of only six stone houses and has terraced fields on both sides of the tributary, which flow down to the Nam Khong valley. The economy of the region is based on agriculture, animal husbandry and trading. In Dolpo only one crop a year can be grown and this is mainly barley. In some village buckwheat, oil seed, potato and radish are also cultivated. Recently the main cliff temple collapsed and the villagers have now built a beautiful new monastery in the village and stay overnight at camp.

Day 14: Trek to Saldang (3920m) walking (4-5 hrs)
On leaving the Namduna Gaun our route leads to a climb up slope. Further on it begins a long traverse along some dusty barren mountains. After 3-4 hours of hard climb, Saldang (3920m) appears below on a plateau high above the Nam Khongmala. It has a picturesque appearance. Saldang is the largest village of the inner Dolpo area. Though the village lies at about the same altitude as Ringmo it is totally different then Ringmo, a Himalayan village is situated below the tree line while Saldang belongs to the arid zone of the Trans-Himalayan Tibetan plateau. The village stretches for nearly two kilometres on an open slope. Saldang consists of five villages having about eighty well built houses with nearly six hundred people. Saldang is a prosperous village not only agriculturally but also for its strategic location on a trade route to Tibet. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, trade with Tibet was virtually stopped. It has been restored to some extent through the barter system by which Tibetan salt reaches mid-Nepal. The Drokpa people from the western plains of Tibet collect salt from the dried lakes north of Tsangpo stay overnight at camp.

Day 15: Trek to Yangze Gompa (4960m) walking (4-5 hrs)
Journey from here diverts further far north to the least unexplored area by westerners or by any other commercial adventure trekking companies. The trail follows the Nang Chu river most of the way on this wild barren windswept terrain. Walk begins along the fairly gradual path with few ups and downs slope and then passing through the small settlement of Tiling and Lurigaon till we reach to our overnight camp at Yangze also known as Yangtsher, just before Yangze near Lurigaon. Here we cross the tributary Panzang river, a short walk from here brings us to an unexplored region of Yangze (4960m) and its very old Bon-Po Monastery for the overnight halt with time for exploration around the villages and the Monastery stay overnight at camp.

Day 16: Trek to Sibu (4560m) walking (6-7 hrs)
From Yangze there are two trails that connect Sibu (4560m) the long way trail heads due west passing through the very remote villages of Nishalgaon and further past Shimengaon. To save time and energy we will retrace the path back towards Saldang village which will be much easier and shorter than the other north western route. From Saldang the trail following the river bed we pass through terraced fields, stupas, chortens, heaps of mani stones and a Chaiba monastery, then passing through the Namdo village which is also prosperous with about sixty houses having nearly 400 inhabitants. It stretches for more than 5kms on the high slopes to the left of Nam Khong Khola. The Namdo monastery is located near the river bed. Our journey continues further down the river for another two hours to camp near the small settlement of Sibu stay overnight at camp.

Day 17: Trek to Jeng La Phedi (4900m) walking (5-6 hrs)
The trail follows the Nam Khong Khola for a while on the morning walk coming across caravan of laden yaks that are on their way towards Tibet border. After days of following the same river, finally we part turning east till we arrive at the confluence of two small tributaries, from here our walk leads to a steep climb to the bottom of Jeng La Phedi (4900m) where stay overnight at camp.

Day 18: Trek to Tokyu Gaon (4200m) via Jeng La (5090m) walking (5-6 hrs)
Morning trek leads to two hours climb towards the top of the Jeng La (5090m). An excellent view of snow ranges emerges to the south. The north face of the Dhaulagiri (8167m) massif shines in the morning light. After a wonderful moment here at the pass, our walk leads to descend on the rough path towards Tarap valley. By afternoon we come to the green valley which leads us on the pleasant track down towards Tarap Chu. Tarap is a fascinating valley with vast plains in high mountains. It extends twenty kilometres along the river. Tarap Chu is having ten villages with its cultivated fields and many gompa’s, chortens of both sects. We stop for the night at Tokyu monastery (4200m). This monastery also belongs to the Chaiba sect stay overnight at camp.

Day 19: Trek to Dho Tarap (4040m) walking (4-5 hrs)
Today, the route leads eastward along the downhill course of Tarap Chu in a plain valley with patches of lush verdant grass on both sides of the river which is completely different from other parts of inner Dolpo. There is also a marsh which is a common feature in the desert mountains of Tibet and the Ladakh Himalaya. In this valley both Bon Po and Chaiba sects reside together in harmony. After a short trek on this beautiful valley we come to Dho Tarap (4040m) for the overnight camp with ample time to visit around the villages. This village is surrounded by an irregular stone wall. At Dho, about 40 houses are divided into three clusters and built in a haphazard way inhabited by few Tibetans and mostly Magars hill tribe of Nepal who have lived here for many generations stay overnight at camp.

Day 20: Rest Day at Dho Tarap (4040m) explore the village
Today, we have a full rest day or exploration of local areas. During the visit you will have an opportunity to make friends with the people from Dolpo. They wear home spun clothing that is sometimes dyed maroon and they prefer Tibetan style somba (boots with upturned toes) for footwear. Men and women often wear both religious amulets and strings of coral and turquoise. The villagers are both Bon Po and Buddhist of Nyingmapa sect. The Buddhist gompa is the nearest one to the campsite, the Bon Gompa is further 40 minutes walk. Stay overnight at same camp.

Day 21: Trek to Tarap Khola (Kamakharka) (3800m) walking (6-7 hrs)
Today can be quite a long day or moderate walk depending upon the choice of several different campsites so the itinerary can be as flexible as you like. From the quite bare country around Tarap, we descend towards a wide valley which eventually narrows into a gorge. We walk along the juniper bush and wild rose, typical of dry inner Himalayan valleys, to just above the tree line. On this route we might see herds of blue sheep. By the afternoon time we reach at the confluence of the Tarap Chu and the Lang Khola, a stream that joins with Tarap River from further east. We will make our camp on a nice meadow, this place is also known as Kamakharka (3800m) while our porters will perhaps take shelter in a nearby spacious cave. Stay overnight at camp.

Day 22: Trek to Khanigaon (3150m) walking (4-5 hrs)
This morning again continues down the gorge of the Tarap River, at times alongside it, rising high above on a trail built from the steep slopes might come across people from Dolpo taking their herds to lower pastures for the winter. There are many possible campsites by the river. This will be one of the exciting days of this trip walk, as the valley becomes so narrow in a deep gorge that in some places we can jump from one side to another. Sometimes there is no trace of any path and we have to walk across stone slabs fitted on logs in between the walls which act as a bridge. The gorge also provides unexpected adventure and thrills. At some places, the bridges are either damaged or washed away and we may be forced to cross the icy torrent on foot. Finally, reaching to the camping spot beside the Tarap Khola at Khanigaon (3150m) we stop for overnight stay. Stay overnight at camp.

Day 23: Trek to Tarakot (2530m) walking (4-5 hrs)
Today from this camp path follows an indistinct trail to the village of Lalberi. Then passing through an area of impressive forest, before descending into another gorge our walk continue following the river again downstream to reach Tarakot where colourful terraced fields greet us. Tarakot (2530m) is an old fortress town known by the local people as Dzong, meaning ‘fort’. Before the Gorkha dynasty Tarakot was the capital and had a Dzong. The famous Sandul gompa lies about 8 km east of Tarakot and at the junction of Barbung Khola and Tarap Chu. It stands on a knoll to the south of Bheri River and at one time supervised collections of tolls for the trading caravans traversing an area called Tichu Rong. It is possible to camp by the river about 150 meters below Tarakot, near the police post or we climb a steep hill for over an hour to the small village on a spur on the other side of a valley opposite Tarakot. There are chortens and a gompa here on the edge of a grassy plateau, with an interesting solitary tree. Stay overnight at camp.

Day 24: Trek to Dunai (2140m) walking (5-6 hrs)
The walk continues beside the Bheri River in a tremendous gorge with pine trees and an ingenious path built about seven meters above the river. On reaching Dunai (2140m) after completing the circuit with time for celebration, particularly as bottled beers is available in Dunai or else try the local brew. Stay overnight at camp.

Day 25: Trek to Juphal (2475m) walking (2-3 hrs)
We retrace the journey back to Juphal, which is a short distance walk along the Bheri River to the small airstrip for the last overnight camp of this great memorable adventure. Stay overnight at camp.

Day 26: Fly from Juphal to Nepalgunj to Kathmandu
Early morning, a short scenic flight for thirty five minutes to Nepalgunj, over the Himalayan foothills overlooking stunning views of the main peaks including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to the north. On arrival at Nepalgunj depending upon the connecting flight schedule to Kathmandu. If it is in the afternoon have time for few hours’ refreshment at a hotel in Nepalgunj. Then connect with the flight back to Kathmandu. Stay at your selected hotel in Kathmandu.

Day 27: Leisure time in Kathmandu
Souvenir and sightseeing in Kathmandu.

Day 28: Departure from Kathmandu
A representative of Unique Nepal Adventure Trek will drop you off at Tribhuvan International Airport by private vehicle.

Price Includes:

  • Airport pick-up and drop off by private vehicle.
  • Four nights in your selected hotel in Kathmandu with breakfast.
  • Welcome and farewell dinner in Kathmandu.
  • A full day’s sightseeing in Kathmandu by private vehicle.
  • All meals during the trek (lunch, dinner, breakfast and tea or coffee).
  • Return flight tickets from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj and Nepalgunj to Juphal.
  • One English speaking government trained license holder and well informed trekking guide.
  • Accommodation in simple lodges or camping in twin shared tents with mattress.
  • All necessary equipment for camping.
  • Dependent on group size, Sherpa, cook, kitchen boy and extra porters.
  • All expenses for all staff – meals, accommodation, salary, equipment, insurance, transportation etc.
  • First Aid kit bag.
  • Government and local area taxes where applicable.
  • TIMS card fees (Trekking Information Management System).
  • Upper Dolpo special trekking permit fees (See the ‘Trekking Permits’ link under ‘Trekking Info’ for current fees).

Price Excludes:

  • Nepalese entry visa fee. (See the ‘Visa Information’ link under ‘Trekking Info’ for current fees)
  • Travel insurance.
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks (mineral water, hot water, coke, fanta, beer, spirits, etc).
  • Snacks (Chocolate, biscuits etc).
  • Hot water, hot shower, heater charge, battery charge, phone calls and laundry service.
  • Donation, tips and personal expenses.
  • Emergency evacuation and medical equipment.
  • Hire equipment and other personal items (sleeping bag, down jacket, hiking boots camera, toilet rolls etc).
  • In case of natural calamities i.e. political unrest, cancellation of flight due to weather, landslides, etc, the extra charge will be borne by themselves.
  • Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu.