Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek
Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek is remote and vast region of Karnali is naturally and culturally rich.Nature rewards this isolated western part of Nepal with exceedingly amazing landscapes and serene beauty that resemble the ones of Roof of the world- Tibet .Dolpo region is situated between the Tibetan plateau and the Dhaulagiri ranges. The entire district was closed to trekkers until 1989 when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organized trekking groups.
Our trekking adventure begins with tours of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. We then fly to Nepalgunj and then to Juphal from where we begin our trek in the Dolpo region .
Highlights of the Upper Dolpo Trek The Tibetan Buddhist culture of the Dolpo people Trek around the beautiful, glacial Shey Phoksundo Lake Visit 800-year-old Shey Gomba, one of the most famous monasteries in Nepal Have a true wilderness experience in one of the least-visited areas of Nepal There’s no denying that the Upper Dolpo Circuit trek is one of the harder and longer treks in Nepal, with several camps situated above 4500 meters and some high passes. But, this makes it ideal for experienced trekkers on a return trip to Nepal who is looking for a new challenge and fresh sights. A high level of fitness is required, and an organized tour is essential as there is little-to-no tourism infrastructure here. The trek passes many incredible and unforgettable sights: turquoise Shey Phoksundo Lake, snowy high passes, hidden valleys, the Shey Gomba monastery, and numerous fortified villages (dzongs).
Dolpo is within the rain-shadow of the Himalayas, meaning that the landscape is dry and harsh. The locals used to have to rely on trade with Tibetans for their livelihoods. The people themselves are descendants of those who migrated from Tibet. The Upper dolpo Circuit trek passes through many villages that bear evidence of the ancient trade route. While most inhabitants practice Tibetan Buddhism, there are also traces of the pre-Buddhist, shamanistic Bon religion in Dolpo. Upper Dolpo’s main international claim to fame is being featured in Peter Matthiessen’s classic travel memoir, The Snow Leopard. It is well worth reading if heading to Dolpo.
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu (1300m/4264ft)
Upon our arrival in Kathmandu, a representative from Himalayan Glacier will pick us up from the airport and take us to our hotel. In the afternoon, we may take a rest or visit Himalayan Glacier’s office. In the evening, there will be a welcome dinner hosted by Himalayan Glacier. For dinner, you will be served excellent authentic Nepalese cuisine. Overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 2: Kathmandu: sightseeing and trek preparation
Today after breakfast we start a guided tour to several of the most historical and spiritual attractions in Kathmandu. Some of these landmarks are considered World Heritage Sites including the historic Durbar Square, the sacred Hindu temple of Pashupatinath, the famous 'Monkey Temple' (Swayambhunath) and Buddhist shrine (Bouddhanath), which is one of the largest stupas in the world. At noon, there will be a pre-trip discussion where we can meet our trek leader and other team members. Himalayan Glacier will brief us regarding our trek as well as provide us with an opportunity to ask any questions we may have regarding our upcoming adventure. Overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 3: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj: 1 hour
After our short excursion in Kathmandu, we take an hour-long flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, located in Western Nepal. Nepalgunj, a town near the Nepal-India border, is also the gateway to Simikot, Humla. The town itself is an interesting Terai town that showcases the diverse culture of Nepal. In Nepalgunj, we visit the local market, mini-zoo and nearby villages. Overnight in Nepalgunj.
Day 4: Fly from Nepalgunj to Jhuphal (Dolpo) and trek to Dunai (2,850m/9,348ft): 45 mins flight, 2-3 hours trek
We fly to Jhupal after breakfast. The town is beautifully located over the Himalayan foothills, with views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri peaks to its north. Here, we meet our trekking staff and begin the adventure. We walk through terraced fields to the Bheri River and its narrow gorge. We continue walking to Dunai, which is the administrative headquarter of the Dolpo region. We explore the small town in the evening and camp there for the night.
Day 5: Dunai to Ankhe (2,896m/9,499ft): 5-6 hours
We leave Dunai and cross a suspension bridge and turn to the west following a trail past a hospital. The trail ascends up the side of the treeless, Thulo Bheri valley before entering Phoksundo river valley. During the walk we get to the view of Kagmara Peak up the valley. We pass through walnut groves, Dhera and Rahagaun villages, walk down dense jungles and finally reach Ankhe. Overnight in Ankhe.
Day 6: Ankhe to Sulighat: 5-6 hours
Our trail ascends and descends along a wooded riverbank and climbs on a steep trail. The ups and downs can be 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 passes through a grassy slope high above the river. We trek downhill on a trail surrounded by lush forests before reaching a cliff followed by a dizzying drop on a wobbly stone staircase to the river bank. We continue trekking until we reach Sulighat where we spend the night.
Day 7: Sulighat to Phoksundo Lake (3,611m/11,849 ft) 4-5 hours
We continue our journey along the valley floor to the confluence of the Phoksundo and Pungmo rivers. After crossing a bridge, we walk on the western bank of the Pungmo Khola. The trail passes through a cedar forest before reaching Palam village. From here we trek up to a ridge and enjoy distant views of Phoksundo Lake and a spectacular waterfall, one of the highest in Nepal. Next, our trail descends through birch forests to the upper reaches of the Phoksundo Khola, and then to the picturesque Ringmo village with its mud-plastered chortens and mani walls. From here it is a short walk to the shores of the Phoksundo Lake. Overnight at Phoksundo Lake.
Day 8: Acclimatization and rest at Phoksundo Lake
Today will be a well deserved rest day for acclimatization at Phoksundo Lake. During the day we can embark on a short hike to the village of Ringmo and it’s Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. During our short walks, we also get a chance to get acquainted with the local culture. The Dolpo people wear homespun clothing that is sometimes dyed a maroon color and they favor Tibetan-style somba or dhocha (boots with upturned toes) for foot wear. Both men and women often wear religious amulets and strings of coral, amber and turquoise. Overnight at Phoksundo Lake.
Day 9: Today will be a well deserved rest day for acclimatization at Phoksundo Lake. During the day we can embark on a short hike to the village of Ringmo and it’s Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. During our short walks, we also get a chance to get acquainted with the local culture. The Dolpo people wear homespun clothing that is sometimes dyed a maroon color and they favor Tibetan-style somba or dhocha (boots with upturned toes) for foot wear. Both men and women often wear religious amulets and strings of coral, amber and turquoise. Overnight at Phoksundo Lake.
Our trail moves around the top western end of the Phoksundo Lake as it contours on a rocky ledge along the lake’s 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. Then we walk 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: Phoksunds Khola to Phoksundo Bhanjyang: 6-7 hours
For an hour or so we walk on a trail that leads us along the level path through a glacial valley which heads due north. At the confluence of the Phoksundo Khola and another mountain stream, there is an old wooden bridge. From here, we walk towards the north-east. A long climb brings us to a sheep meadow where our trail veers up a steep ravine. A hard climb to the top brings us to yet another valley where we can see the Kang-La pass. We set up our camp near the pass in a place that Peter Matthiessen christened 'Snowfields Camp'. During our trek today we also get to admire the views of Chhamlang peak 6 (6739m) and peak 7 (6105m).
Day 11: Phoksundo Bhanjyang to Shey Gompa (4,500m/14,760ft) via Kang-La pass (5,360m/17,581ft): 5-6 hours
In the morning, we ascend on a steep trail littered with slate towards the pass. The climb to the top of the pass is quite strenuous. From the top of Kang-la pass we get excellent views of the large valley dissected by a gushing river. We descend to the valley floor on a steep trail. Next, we walk on a meandering trail along the banks of a river, crossing and re-crossing it several times. There are mud caves lining the hills overlooking the river. We also pass through meadows where we see grazing yaks, hundreds of sheep and domestic mountain goat (Chyangra). After crossing a quaint log bridge we reach the Shey Gompa compound where we will be spending the night.
Day 12: Acclimatization and rest at Shey Gompa
Shey Gompa was built in 1655 and the monastery is noted for its giant copper with gilded gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha. To the east of the gompa is Crystal Mountain which is one of the strangest mountains, as its contorted cliffs are laced with quartz and embedded with a rich variety of marine fossils. Today is another well-earned rest day for acclimatization. We spend the day hiking around Shey village which 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. Overnight in Shey Gompa.
Day 13: Shey Gompa to Namduna Gaun (4,800m/15,744ft) via Saldang La (5,200m/17,056ft): 6-7 hours
We begin the day by following a pleasant trail amidst juniper trees which descends into a grey, stony canyon. Then the path begins to zigzag over bare rocks and coarse eroded soil until it eventually brings us to the top of Saldang-la pass. The subsequent descent towards the north is long and tiring but grazing yaks and sheep, and nomadic tents made from yak hair is a comforting sight. In Namduna Gaun we visit Namgung monastery. The red stone monstery is built against the backdrop of a cliff on the north wall of a gorge. Overnight in Namuda Gaun.
Day 14: Namduna Gaun to Saldang (3,620m/ 11,874ft): 4-5 hours
We leave the village and climb up a slope and begin a long walk along dusty barren mountains. After 3-4 hours of hard climb, we begin to see Saldang Village below us on a plateau high above the Namga Khola stream. It has a picturesque appearance. Saldang is the largest village of the inner Dolpo area. The village stretches for nearly two kilometers on an open slope and consists of five villages having about eighty well-built houses with nearly six hundred people. It is a prosperous village not only agriculturally but also for its strategic location on a trade route to Tibet. Overnight in Saldang.
Day 15: Saldang to Yangze Gompa (4,960m/16,267ft): 4-5 hours
From Saldang, we walk further north along the Nagon Khola (river) on a wild and barren terrain. We begin our walk on a fairly gradual path with few ups and downs. On the way, we pass through Marang and Ki villages. Next, we cross a tributary of Panzang River and walk towards the east and cross the river again before reaching Yangze gompa which houses an old Bon-Po Monastery. Overnight in Yangze Gompa.
Day 16: Yangze Gompa to Sibu (4,560m/14,957ft): 6-7 hours
From Yangze, there are two trails that connect to Sibu. To save time we will retrace the path back towards Saldang village, which will be much easier and shorter than the other route. From Saldang we walk along a river and pass through terraced fields, stupas, chortens, heaps of mani stones and a Chaiba monastery, then pass through the Namdo village, which is also prosperous, with about sixty houses having nearly 400 inhabitants. It stretches for more than 5 km 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 a small settlement of Sibu.
Day 17: Sibu to Jeng-la Phedi (4,900m/16,072ft): 5-6 hours
We walk along the Nam Khong Khola for a while and pass by caravans with yaks that are moving towards the Tibetan border. After turning east and walking for a while, we arrive at a confluence of two small streams. Next, the steep trail ascends to a grazing area below the Jeng La pass (4,900m/16,072ft). Our camp will be set up in this beautiful meadow. Overngiht in Jeng la Phedi.
Day 18: Jeng-la Phedi to Tokyu Gaon (4209m/13809ft) via Jeng La pass (5,090m/16,695ft): 5-6 hours
We get up early in the morning and set forth on today’s trek. It will take us two long hours to reach the top of the Jeng La pass from where we get remarkable views of the north face of the Dhaualgiri massif. From here we descend on a rough trail to the Tarap Valley, a fascinating valley with vast plains in high mountains that extends twenty kilometers along Tarap Chu river. We camp close to the monastery at Tokyu.
Day 19: Tokyu to Dho Tarap(4,040m/13,251ft): 4-5 hours
We trek downhill on a plain valley with patches of lush 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. Both the Bon Po and Buddhist sects are practiced in the valley. After a short trek, we reach Dho Tarap). Overnight in Dho Tarap.
Day 20: Rest Day at Dho Tarap
We spend today resting and strolling in the village of Dho Tarap which is surrounded by an irregular stone wall. Our walks will help us get acquainted with the local culture of the area. At Dho, about 40 houses are divided into three clusters and built in a haphazard way inhabited by few Tibetans and mostly Magars who are a hill tribe of Nepal. While here, we can visit a Buddhist Gompa which is closest to our campsite or we could embark upon a 40-minute walk and visit a Bon Po Gompa.Overnight in Dho Tarap.
Day 21: Dho Tarap to Tarap Khola (Kamakharka) (3,800m/12,464ft): 6-7 hours
From Tarap we descend towards a wide valley which eventually narrows into a gorge. We walk along juniper and wild rose bushes just above the tree line. On our trek we see herds of blue sheep and by the afternoon, we reach 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 also known as Kamakharka and spend the night.
Day 22: Tarap Khola to Khanigaon(3,150m/10,332ft): 4-5 hours
We continue walking down the gorge of the Tarap River, at times alongside it. During our walk we pass by the local people who will be taking their herds to lower pastures for the winter. This will be one of the most exciting days of this trip 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 a path and we may 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, we reach our camping spot beside the Tarap Khola at Khanigaon where we spend the night.
Day 23: Khanigaon to Tarakot (2,537m/8,321ft): 4-5 hours
From the camp we follow a trail that takes us to the village of Lalberi. Our trail then passes through a lush forest, descends into another gorge and continues to follow the river again. After reaching Tarakot, we can visit Sandul Gompa which lies about 8 km east of the village at a juncture of Barbung Khola and Tarap Chu. The monastery stands on a hill to the south of Bheri River. Today we camp by the Tarap Chu river about 150 meters below Tarakot, near the police post. Overnight in Tarakot
Day 24: Tarakot to Dunai (2,140m/7,019ft): 5-6 hours
We begin our trek on a trail behind the Bheri River before crossing a bridge near the Lawan village. Our trail will continue alongside the big Bheri Rriver ascending until the Byas Gadi. From here the trail moves towards the west on a relatively easy trail. We cross the river again near the Lochakhola Gaon and ascend to Dunai for an overnight stay. Today’s trek will mostly be on a wonderful gorge with pine trees. Overnight in Dunai.
Day 25: Dunai to Jhuphal: 2-3 hours
Fron Dunai, we trek along the Bheri River enjoying the beautiful landscape. On the way, we pass through Dhupichaur and Rupgad villages as well as a temple. We continue trekking via Kalagaonda village and Motipur village before reaching the small airstrip. Overnight in Jhuphal.
Day 26: Fly from Jhuphal to Nepalgunj and then to Kathmandu
We take the earliest flight from Jhupal to Nepalgunj. Upon reaching Nepalgunj, we return to Kathmandu on the next available flight. After arriving in Kathmandu, we will be transferred to our hotel. There is nothing to do but trade emails with travel companions and organize the photos. To celebrate the successful completion of our journey, we will have a farewell dinner hosted by Himalayan Glacier. Overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 27: Rest day in Kathmandu
This is an extra day set aside for you to explore Kathmandu on your own. You can spend the day getting ready for your next day’s flight, do some souvenir shopping, or if there is a place is Kathmandu that you really want to visit, then Himalayan Glacier can arrange that too. In the evening, there will be a farewell dinner hosted by Himalayan Glacier to celebrate the successful completion of your journey in the Dolpo region of western Nepal. Overnight in Kathmandu.
Day 28: Final departure
Our adventure in Nepal comes to an end today will take us to the airport approximately 3 hours before the scheduled flight.
- Airport pickups and drops in a private vehicle
- 3-star hotel accommodation in Kathmandu with breakfast
- Teahouse accommodation during the trek
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) during the trek
- Welcome and farewell dinners
- All ground transportation on a comfortable private vehicle as per the itinerary
- Domestic flights (Kathmandu- Nepalgunj -Jhupal round trip)
- Guided city tour in Kathmandu by private vehicle
- Entrance fees for sightseeing/monument visits as per the itinerary
- An experienced, English-speaking and government-licensed trek leader and assistant trek leader (4 trekkers: 1 assistant guide)
- Porter service (2 trekkers: 1 porter)
- Staff costs including their salary, insurance, equipment, domestic airfare, food and accommodation
- Down jacket and sleeping bag (to be returned after trip completion)
- Himalayan Glacier’s trekking bag/duffel bag, t-shirt and trekking map are yours to take
- All necessary paperwork and trekking permits (National Park Permit, TIMS)
- Medical kit (carried by your trek leader)
- All government and local taxes
- Nepalese visa fee
- Excess baggage charge(s)
- Extra night accommodation in Kathmandu because of early arrival, late departure, early return from mountain (due to any reason) than the scheduled itinerary
- Lunch and evening meals in Kathmandu
- International flights
- Travel and rescue insurance
- Personal expenses (phone calls, laundry, bar bills, battery recharge, extra porters, bottle or boiled water, shower, etc.)
- Tips for guide(s), porter(s) and driver(s)