The Upper Dolpo Trek courses through a mystical land of Buddhist monasteries and a Tibetan culture largely untouched by the world outside the region's borders. A hike to the area presents a considerable logistical exercise in light of the almost non-existent infrastructure for dealing with trekking parties, but the benefits of such splendid isolation are many for the intrepid visitor willing to deal with the route's numerous challenges.
The austere landscapes and villages strike a unique chord of rustic authenticity that speak to a timelessness enveloping Dolpo like a protective blanket, with ancient Buddhist and Bon Po traditions delicately interwoven with shamanistic influences to create a local culture unlike any other in Nepal. To journey through the region is to be touched by experiences and sights that will live long in the memory of the few who are fortunate enough to pass through the area.
The trek to Shey Gompa encompasses an extraordinary journey to one of the most rugged and remote parts of the country, with landscapes that hark to the sparse Tibetan plateau to the north. Built in 1655 and situated at the base of the sacred Crystal Mountain (also known as Ribo Drugta), the monastery of Shey Gompa constitutes a pilgrimage site of some significance to the people of western Nepal. En route the trail leads through some of the most consistently high trekking territory to be found, with three passes stretching up over 5000 meters in height — Nagdalo La (5350m), Shey La (5010m) and Jeng La (5220m) — together with long stretches lingering at altitudes over 4000 meters, guaranteeing many a cold night during the trek. Such challenges of environment and terrain are made for the hardy trekker willing to meet them head on in the full knowledge that the ultimate and highly unique rewards on offer far outweigh the considerable effort.
If that isn't enough the trek also offers another of Nepal's crown jewels, Shey Phoksundo National Park and the spectacularly beautiful Phoksundo Lake, a serene body of water ringed by precipitous mountains and forests that are home to some of the Himalaya's rarest animal species, including the fabled snow leopard.
Upper Dolpo is a restricted area with a fee of US$500 for the first 10 days and an additional US$50 per day thereafter. The relatively high permit fee limits the number of trekkers to the area and thus contributes to Upper Dolpo's preeminence as one of Nepal's most exclusive and memorable experiences.
Day 01: Welcome at airport and transfer to the Hotel
Day 02: Free day for final trekking preparation
Day 03: Fly Kathmandu to Juphal via Nepalgunj then drive to Dunai (2140m)
Day 04: Dunai to Chhepka (2678m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 05: Chhepka to Chunuwar (3130m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 06: Chunuwar to Phoksundo (Ringmo 3641m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 07: Explore an amazing Phoksundo Lake and back to Phoksundo for overnight.
Day 08: Phoksundo to Phoksundo khola camp (3750m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 09: Phoksundo Khola Camp to Nagdalo high camp (4700m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 10: High camp to shey Gumpa via Nagdalo La pass (5350m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 11: Acclimatization day
Day 12: Shey Gumpa to Namgung Gumpa 4360m via Shey La pass (5094m, 6-7 hrs)
Day 13: Namgung Gumpa to Saldang (3770m, 4-5 hrs)
Day 14: Hike to Yangtsher Gumpa 4559m and back to Saldang
Day 15: Saldang to Khomagaun (4210m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 16: Khomagaun to Shimengaun (3885m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 17: Shimengaun to Tinjegaun (4110m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 18: Tinjegaun to Yak kharka
Day 19: Yak kharka to Tokyu (4240m)
Day 20: Tokyu to Dho Tarap 3944m
Day 21: Dho Tarap to Ghyangmar (3755m, 5-6 hrs)
Day 22: Ghyangmar to Chhyugar (3440m, 4-5 hrs)
Day 23: Chhyugar to Tarakot (2540m, 6 hrs)
Day 24: Tarakot to Dunai (6-7 hrs)
Day 25: Dunai to Juphal (2475m, 4-5 hrs)
Day 26: Fly Juphal to Nepalgunj then Nepalgunj to Kathmandu via connected flight
Day 27: Departure
Note:- Above itinerary is just a guideline. If you are not satisfied then please feel free customize according your own taste and duration of holidays.
Welcome at the airport and transfer to your hotel. An introduction to your trekking program then the rest of the day at your leisure to enjoy the sights, sounds and culture of Kathmandu.
Free day for preparation and sightseeing.
After a flight to Nepalgunj we use local transport to make the drive to Juphal, and then start our trek in the region with a short hike to Dunai along the Thuli Bheri River. If time permits there is plenty to interest within the town including a stupa and monastery.
The day begins with a leisurely hike to Sulighat, the checkpoint for entering Shey Phoksundo National Park. From Sulighat the trail leads towards the village of Kageni and on through a temperate region of dense forest, passing through numerous small hamlets en route until we reach Shangta, where we cross over the confluence of Phoksundo Khola (river) and Maiaba Khola and head upstream to Chhepka, our rest stop for the night.
A day of gradual climbing along the tree-lined trail, with occasional glimpses of the visual smorgasbord to come of the Himalayan ranges. Our day finally concludes with the arrival at Chunuwar.
The trek leads away on a steady climb to the alpine regions of the trail and the densely forested slopes and mountains that make up the stunning amphitheater enclosing the turquoise waters of Phoksundo Lake (3600m). The setting is so impossibly beautiful that it looks as if it sprang from the canvas of an over-imaginative artist — yet it's as real as the mountain air you breathe in while looking down on the sublime scene. Our day finishes at the village of Ringmogaun, where we spend the night close by the lake.
A full day to explore the surroundings of the glorious lake waters. The medieval Bon monastery of Tshowa, built over 900 years ago, stands by the shoreline and offers up further opportunities to explore.
The day starts off with a steady climb along the path carved into the Cliffside overlooking the lake, looking to all intents and purposes like some precipitous trail straight from the fertile imagination of Tolkien, winding ever onward and up to an amazing eagle's eye view of Phoksundo down below. After pausing at a rocky overlook to farewell the glorious view we head away through a forest trail to Phoksundo Khola Camp, our rest stop for the night.
We climb steadily on a trail hugging the meandering path of the Tuk Kyaksa River, alternating sides as we hike along to the steady accompaniment of the turbid waters rushing by. A gorge opens up before us as we keep ascending, ushering us gradually to our high altitude eerie, Nagdalo High camp.
Our eighth day on the trail is one of the trip's highlights as we make our way to legendary Shey Gompa. The region is barren and semi-arid, yet no less scenic for its uninterrupted views and broad landscapes. The path leads on and upwards to the pass of Nagdalo La, an achievement in itself as we pause to celebrate the moment amidst the streaming prayer flags and gorgeous outlook towards the sacred mountain of Mt. Kailash lying on the border between India and Tibet. A steep descent leads to a sweeping valley where the mystical monastery of 800-year-old Shey Gompa sits atop a gentle grass-green slope overlooking an alluvial plain, the vivid red paint of its structures standing out as clearly as the numerous pairs of eyes painted in white on the sides. Here we stay for the night.
A day to relax, explore, and indulge in the peaceful scenery and harmonious surroundings of the remote monastery.
A two-hour hike leads us away from Shey Gompa and over the pass of Shey La, a further achievement to chalk up during our Dolpo adventure, with incredible vistas towards Mustang, Tibet, and Mt. Kailash as an added bonus. From there the trail drops markedly until it reaches the day's destination of Namgung Gumpa, yet another scenically sited monastery that welcomes us with the same warmth and grace as Shey Gompa.
The trail descends even further as we follow the Namga Khola downstream through Yak pastures and serene mountain views until we reach the picturesque village of Saldang and its monasteries.
The feature of the day's effort is a memorable day hike to 1000-year-old Yangjer Gumpa, the region's most elaborate monastery, with numerous chortens of various sizes adding to its striking appearance. After exploring the monastery and pausing to pay our respects we return to Saldang.
The trail leads out towards Saldang Lek along the banks of the Rapyha Khola and through the undulating and arid hills leading to Khoma La pass. From there it's a fairly steady descent to the village of Khomagaun.
The trail heads out over Simen La, then heads steadily downhill through a broad valley dotted sporadically with trees and isolated hamlets, with small rock walls carving out the arid region here and there for sporadic agricultural use. Our day comes to an end upon arrival at Shimengaun, where we set up camp for the evening.
Another day following the natural path of a waterway, trailing along by the banks of the Panjyang Khola. The journey is a scenically and culturally rewarding one with numerous small villages and monasteries dotting a peaceful landscape set amidst the local hills and mountains.
The trail heads out again by following Panjyang Khola once more towards Chhamdang, then on through arid shrublands to Thalum Khola and the village of Yak Kharka.
A bridge over Sulun Khola leads us away to the morning's march upstream to Choila La (5040m), the last of the 5000-meter passes on our itinerary and one that's arguably the toughest of the trek due to the steep ascent. We pause at the top to regain our breath and take in the scenery before dropping down markedly to Tokyu.
The trail from Tokyu leads gently downhill through terraced fields and green pastures to Dho Tarap, with plenty of time left over in the afternoon to explore its many charms, as well as to observe the traditional Tibetan lifestyles of its friendly inhabitants, who still trade with their ancient homeland to the north via their Yak caravans. Throw in a visit to the Gompa, the maze of fascinating laneways, and the breathtaking views of the Himalayas, and Dho Tarap is the kind of place you could easily spend the better part of a week exploring.
A series of small villages greet us on our journey through the Tarap Valley, with numerous chortens and the occasional Gompa marking the trail through the scenic landscape. The Tarap Khola guides our passage for much of the way as the trail passes backwards and forwards across the river, leading us onward into a narrow gorge and our campsite at Ghyamgar.
The precipitous trail continues on through the looming walls of the gorge while alternating from one side of the river to the other, eventually belling out into a wide expanse that takes us to Chhyugar for our next camp.
Today we begin our day by crossing a bridge and following the Tarap Khola as it merges with the larger Thuli Bheri, flowing away into the unsurpassed white waters that many kayaking aficionados consider among the best and most beautiful stretches in the world — with any luck we might even see some kayakers braving the powerful and relentless rapids. At the end of an exhilarating day we call into the stunning village of Tarakot and its multilayered construction and external ladders connecting each floor.
The penultimate day on the trail takes us further along the banks of the Thuli Bheri River through woodlands and terraced fields to the familiar village of Dunai.
A short day of trekking takes us back to Juphal on an easy and relaxed stretch that lets us ease out the kinks before pulling in to celebrate the end of the journey and toast the achievement of completing one of Nepal's most demanding and rewarding treks.
Local transport returns us to Nepalgunj, where we catch a flight back to Kathmandu.
Farewell and drop-off at the airport, or the opportunity to join another of our programs.