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Upper Dolpo Trekking Nepal

Dolpo is a Tibetan-like region lying to the north, and in the rain-shadow of the main Himalayan
peaks. Like nearby Mustang, it has a unique culture. Its people wear traditional Tibetan-style
clothes and jewellery and practise the pre-Buddhist animistic religion of Bon Po. Its remoteness and the fact that only until recently it was strictly off-limits, has meant that the traditions and way of life have remained intact.

In the autumn of 1990 we were the first British tour operator to organise a trek from east to west, from Pokhara to Jumla through Lower Dolpo. This route, newly opened by the Nepalese authorities, hiked into the western end of Nepal where few Europeans have travelled. It passed many gigantic mountain ranges - Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Kanjiroba, to name but a few - and passed through Lower Dolpo, at one time a small kingdom in its own right.
More recently we have repeated the route, with variations and our groups see very few other
Europeans and enthused greatly about the wild remoteness, the stunning mountain scenery and the fact that the local people had that innocent friendliness peculiar to people who live in excessively remote mountainous regions.

In the past few years, building on our knowledge, we have explored some of the most isolated villages of Upper Dolpo, and we will re-visit them again this year. In 1997 we were, to our knowledge, the first British company to cross the Kang La to visit Shey Gompa and Saldang. Most villages in Dolpo are removed from the rest of the world to the south by one or more difficult passes. The people that live here number only a few hundred and are among the world's highest dwellers. The villages in Upper Dolpo are 14,000ft/4,300m and above. It is here specifically that people still practise the pre-Buddhist Bon Po religion. This early sect was almost entirely replaced after Buddhist doctrine began to spread across Tibet in the 9th century. Dolpo remained unknown to the rest of the world until David Snelgrove discovered the region in 1956. His account of his seven-month journey in the inner mountain areas of west and central Nepal, titled 'Himalayan Pilgrimage' is the most authoritative work describing this region. The best known book though, is the evocative and romantic novel by Peter Matthiessen - 'The Snow Leopard'.

Fact Box  
Starting from: Kathmandu. Nepalgunj by bus.
Ending at: Flight/Juphal/Nepalgunj/Kathmandu.
Grade: Moderate-Difficult
Highest access of the trek: Kangla pass ( 5400m)
Culture encounter Gurung, Tamang
Trekking type Camping
Himalayan sights: Dhaulagiri, Fishtail, Annapurna range, Manaslu, Nilgiri etc
Most Attraction of the trek: Landscape, phokshendu lake, water fall, monestary, blue sheep
Best Seasion: February, March, April, May, October, November
Meal: breakfast, lunch, & Dinner)
Activities: Trekking
Transportation: Car / Van
Accommodation: Camping
Minimum Group Size: 1
Per day Walking: 5 to 7 hours
Itinerary type Fixed / Customized


Day to Day Itinerary
Day 01 Arrive in Kathmandu Airport & Transfer to Hotel
Welcome dinner in the evening.
Day 02 Full day Sightseeing in Kathmandu Valley.
We will be visiting three of the famous heritage sites in Kathmandu. You will visit first the Swayambunath Stupa (Monkey Temple). It is said that Swayambunath Stupa is more than 2,000 years old, and it symbolizes knowledge. The painted eyes on all four sides symbolize the all-seeing power of Buddha. It is an important Buddhist place where pilgrims from all over the world come.
It is a 30 minutes drive to Boudhanath Stupa, another important Buddhist pilgrims site. This ancient Stupa is considered one of the biggest in the World. Every morning and evening, many Buddhist devotees come here to pray and circumambulate enabling the visitors to observe local religious practices.
One of the holiest hindu shrines in the world, The fabulous pagoda houses the linga of Lord Shiva and people bathe in the Bagmati River with a faith of cleansing themselves spiritually. Many Sadhus or Hindu Ascetics live here. During religious festivals, Hindus come to make offerings, and it is sometimes very crowded.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square: This former royal palace complex offers the elegant 15th century Palace of 55 win-dows, artistic courtyards, the Golden gat.
Patan Durbar Square : Durbar Square an enchanting melage of palace buildings, courtyards and pagoda temples, is the center of Patan's religious and social life.
Day 03 FLY TO NEPALGANJ. 1 hour flight.
The morning will be free to carry on souvenir hunting or sightseeing, and in the afternoon you will take the flight to Nepalganj. The flight will give good views of the Himalaya to the north. Transfer to the your hotel. There will be time in the evening to have a look around the town which is situated 3 kms from the southern Nepalese border with India. Here it is quite hot and tropical. Overnight Hotel
Day 04 FLY TO JUPHAL, (7,872ft/2,400m) THEN TREK TO DUNAI
(7,052ft/2,150m). 2-3 hours. It is an beautiful walk through ridge of hill and passing many villages along the way.

A wonderful early morning, 45-minute flight over the Himalayan foothills, with the major peaks including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to the north east. After an exciting landing at the mountain airstrip at Jophal you meet your trek crew and Sherpa sirdar. It takes about an hour to descend through the village below the airstrip. You then walk through terraced fields to the Bheri River and the narrow gorge leading, in 2 hours, to Dunai. This is a much larger village or small township and is the administrative headquarters of the Dolpo region. Camp overnight.
Day 05 TREK TO ANKHE. (8,724ft/2,660m). 6-7 hrs.

From the King Mahendra statue in Dunai you cross the new suspension bridge and turn west, following the trail past the new hospital. At the confluence of the Thuri Bheri and Suli Gad rivers you turn to the north and follow the Suli Gad. The trail is fairly undulating but mostly up and the going is firm underfoot. You are never far from the river and can always hear its roar. You pass through an area which is overgrown with marihuana plants but also has crops for the villagers and animals including millet, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet corn and chillies. Many of the villages in this area are involved in the production of a lotus-like plant called 'chuk' that is used to make vinegar and medicines. It is dried and flown from Dolpo to Nepalganj and exported to India. You continue to track the river and eventually reach the settlement of Hanke, which is also the entrance to the Phoksundo National Park. The three villages you pass through have a strange name connection: Parela, meaning eyelash, Rahagaon meaning eyebrow, and Ankhe meaning eye. Camp overnight.
Day 06 TREK TO RENJE. (10,184ft/3,104m). 7 hrs.
The trail undulates to start with but once you have crossed the river twice on well made bridges, you then make a steep ascent on a very narrow path hugging the cliff face. Having descended to the river again the trail takes another steep ascent necessitating frequent stops to admire the scenery, for water and for breathers. Your night stop is located on the opposite side of the Suli Gad River from the village of Renje. Camp overnight.
Day 07 TREK TO PHOKSUNDO LAKE. (Approx. 11,808ft/3,600m). 6-7 hrs.
You continue to track the river and the going is fairly easy initially. A stop at the National Park Office near Sumdo is well worth a visit. From Sumdo the trail is very severely up. Here you leave the river and follow the path high above the water. You ascend to a ridge, about 12,710ft/3,875m, from where you will have the most staggering views of a 1,000ft/300m waterfall, the highest in Nepal, and your first view of Phoksundo Lake, a study in turquoise. You then descend through birch
forests to the upper reaches of the Phoksundo Khola and on to the picturesque settlement of Ringmo with its mud plastered chortens and mani walls. The village now has solar panels helping to improve the quality of life of the villagers. From the settlement it is a short walk to the shores of Phoksundo Lake where you set up camp.
Day 08 REST DAY.
The nearby Tibetan Buddhist monastery is well worth a visit, as is the village of Ringmo. A walk part way round the lake is also very relaxing. Time also to catch up with domestic chores. Camp
Day 09 TREK TO PHOKSUNDO KHOLA. (11,575ft/3,507m). 5-6 hrs.
From the lakeside you follow the trail that skirts the edge of the lake itself. This precarious trail is suspended on a gangway of wood supported on pegs driven into crevices in the rocks and signals the remoteness of the area you are about to enter. You go very steeply up, to 13,251ft/4,040m, and then plunge down again to the valley bottom to enter the flood plain of the Phoksundo Khola and trek to your night stop alongside the river, but within the confines of the forest to avoid the worst of the wind which is prevalent in the valley bottom. Camp overnight.
Day 10 TREK TO PHOKSUNDO BHANJYANG. (14,528ft/4,402m) 7-8 hrs.
There are quite a few stream crossings today, so you should take sandals or footwear suitable for knee deep crossings.

This morning you continue along the level path through a glacial valley that now heads due north. As this becomes narrower and narrower there are impressive vertical cliffs and contorted rock formations. At the confluence of the Phoksundo Khola and another, unnamed, mountain stream there is an old wooden bridge. Here you take the barely discernible path to the north east up a side valley which has a cavernous look. There is no trail as such, so it is necessary to clamber over rocks and boulders and to ford a stream that rushes down the steep valley. A long climb brings you to a sheep meadow where the trail veers up a steep ravine. A hard climb to the top brings you to
yet another valley where you can see the Kang La, the pass will lead you to Shey Gompa. You camp just before the pass in a place that Peter Matthiessen christened 'Snowfields Camp'.
Day 11 CROSS THE KANG LA, (17,000ft/5,151m) THEN TREK TO SHEY
GOMPA, (13,619ft/4,126m). 6-7 hrs.

After an initial easy stretch going up the flood plain, the trail goes up very steeply. The somewhat indistinct track is physically demanding especially on the loose slate scree. It will take about two and a half to three hours to reach the top of the Kang La. The views from the top however are magnificent and well worth all the hard work. The height of the Kang La is variously given between 5,200 and 5,500 metres depending on the map one uses. On descending steeply to the valley floor,
not more than 45 minutes, you make a long meandering trek along the banks of the river, crossin it once. A red chorten heralds your arrival at Shey Gompa where a quaint wooden log bridge leads up to the Shey compound. Camp overnight.
As Shey means crystal, this monastery is also known as the Crystal Mountain. The lama of Shey resides at a red hermitage known as Tsakang gompa which is west of Shey. It is not really a monastery but a retreat. Tsakang had been a meditation centre of many famous lamas from Tibet. Shey Gompa belongs to the Chaiba community, followers of the Padmasambhava and Kagyu sects. It was the first Kagyupa monastery and its founder was the lama Ten-szin-Ra-Pa. The monastery was built during the 11th century. Shey is famous for its ancient Buddhist culture. In Dolpo the ancient Tibetan way of life combines animism with the teachings of Buddha. Drutup Yeshe introduced Buddhism in the Dolpo valley. Many years ago he came to Dolpo and came across a wild people whose supreme God was a 'fierce mountain spirit'. Crystal mountain is to the west of Shey
monastery. It is a very strange mountain indeed. Its contorted cliffs are laced with quartz and embedded with a rich variety of marine fossils. Shey Gompa stands above the confluence of Kangju nala and Yeju nala. Near the confluence there is a group of prayer mills turned by water wheels.
Camp overnight.
Day 13 CROSS THE SALDANG LA, (15,790ft/4,785m), THEN TREK TO
NAMDUNA GAON (14,432ft/4,400m). 7 hrs.

You start by following a pleasant track amidst juniper, which ascends to a grey, stony canyon. This then begins to zig-zag over bare rocks and coarse eroded soil until it eventually brings you to a flat spot suitable for a brew or lunch if the weather is fine. You then continue very steeply up for 20 minutes before traversing to the top of the Saldang La. Here you can enjoy great views towards the arid landscapes of Mustang and the distant snow peaks of Tibet. The subsequent descent towards the north is long and tiring but you finally come upon the welcome sight of pastures of grazing yaks and sheep and nomadic tents made from yak hair.

This signals your approach to Namduna Gaon. 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 gompa and its stupas 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 villages buckwheat, oilseed, 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 itself. Camp overnight.
Day 14 TREK TO SALDANG. (12,881ft/3,903m). 3 hrs.
In the morning after packing up the loads you leave the Namgung monastery and start climbing a scree slope. Further on it begins a long thrilling traverse along some dusty barren mountains. Looking down into the valley bottom it is very evident that the people have made best use of the fertile valley as one sees the neat terraced fields showing bright patches of green and ripening crops. You ascend to 15,432ft/4,705m before going down steep slopes to the picturesque village of
Salding, situated on a plateau high above the Nam Khong nala and the biggest village of the inner Dolpo area. Though the village lies at about the same altitude as Ringmo it is totally different.
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 two kilometres on an open slope and consists of five villages having eighty well-built houses with nearly six hundred villagers. It is prosperous, not only agriculturally, but also for its strategic location on a trade route to Tibet. After the Chinese occupation 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.
Day 15 REST DAY.
Today is free for relaxation and mixing with the villagers in Saldang. It may be possible to visit the aid post and speak with the Tibetan doctors about their treatments and medicinal herbs which are traded back and forth between Saldang and Kathmandu. You can also visit the new gompa which was painted by Tiley, the gentleman who played one of the leads in the film ‘Himalaya’. Camp
Day 16 TREK TO SIBU. (13,009ft/3,942m). 6 hrs.
You bid farewell to Saldang and on the way down to the river bed you pass through terraced fields, stupas, chortens, heaps of mani stones and a Chaiba monastery. Namdo, the next village is also prosperous with sixty houses having nearly four hundred inhabitants. It stretches for more than 5km on the high slopes to the left of Nam Khong Khola. The Namdo monastery is located near the river bed. There is also another monastery on top of a high cliff. You camp near the small settlement of Sibu, right on the river bank.
Day 17 TREK TO FOOT OF THE JENG LA. (14,420ft/4,369m). 4-5 hrs.
Following the line of the river valley the trail is fairly easy going initially. After about two hours it is necessary to wade another stream before turning into a side valley and the rise becomes very sharp. After only four hours walking you reach your lunch and night stop. This is a pleasant meadow, but bestrewn with rocks, yak and other animal droppings. Camp overnight.
Day 18 CROSS THE JENG LA, (15,990ft/4,845m), TREK TO TOKYU GAON
(13,907ft/4,240m). 6-7 hrs.
It is only a 2 hour climb to reach the top of the Jeng La. The trail is generally well compacted making the going underfoot easy, much easier than loose shale, but it is steep. From the top of the pass there are good views of the Dhaulagiri massif, glittering in the morning light. A rough track descends towards the Tarap valley. By the afternoon you find a green valley which leads you by a pleasant track down towards the Tarap Chu. Tarap is a dream valley with vast plains in high mountains extending 20kms along the river Tarap Chu. It has ten villages with cultivated fields, many gompas and chortens of both sects. You halt for the night at Tokyu monastery. This monastery also belongs to the Chaiba sect. Camp overnight.
Day 19 TREK TO DHO TARAP. (13,418ft/4,090m). 2 hrs.
verdant grass on both sides of the river - completely different from other parts of inner Dolpo. Before leaving Tokyu a short visit can be made to the Chaiba Gompa. The trail is broad and well travelled, making the going easy and there is much evidence of work in the fields where the women
will be bringing in the harvest – the men are away bringing down the herds of animals for the forthcoming winter. There are many mani walls but some of the chortens are in a bad state of repair. The ‘French School’ is just outside the village of Dho Tarap where you have your night stop.
Dho is surrounded by an irregular stone wall and consists of thirty-four houses, divided into three clusters and built in a haphazard way.
A chance to make friends with the people from Dolpo. Tarap is inhabited mostly by Magars who have lived here for generations but also by a few Tibetans. They wear home-spun clothing that is sometimes dyed maroon and they favour Tibetan style somba (boots with upturned toes) for footgear. Men and women often wear both religious amulets and strings of coral and turquoise.
The inhabitants of this village are both Bon Po and Buddhist (Nyingmapa). In the afternoon a walk up to the Buddhist Gompa is very worthwhile. There is a resident lama who is very happy to show off his monastery and might even let you see his private Gompa and the tankas he has made himself. The Bon Gompa is about half an hour's walk. Camp overnight by the riverside.
Day 20 TREK TO SERKAM (11,906ft/3,630ft). 7 hrs.
The next two days are longish with a choice of several different campsites so the itinerary can be flexible. Your route follows the course of the Tarap Khola, generally downhill. You go through narrow gorges with the river rushing through. One may see blue sheep, marmots, yaks, sheep and goats and perhaps meet people from Dolpo taking their flocks of sheep and goats to lower pastures for the winter. The afternoon brings more undulations in the path when it leaves the immediate course of the river. There is evidence of improvements to the trail where parts of the rock have
been blasted out. You will also see the first of the modern steel suspension bridges which have been built to facilitate movement of people and animals. The track is very narrow in places. You reach your overnight camp on a grassy strip by the river.
Day 21 TREK TO KHANIGAON. (8,415ft/2,550m). 6-7 hrs.
You continue to walk down the gorge of the Tarap river, at times alongside it and at others high above, on a narrow trail built out from the steep slopes. The quality of the path varies from broad, smooth and firm to very narrow and crumbly. There are also flights of man made stone staircases which need to be tackled with care – some of the constituent rocks wobble when stepped upon! An exciting day in deep and awe-inspiring gorges. Your camp site is a pleasant meadow in the shade of a stand of trees.
Day 22 REST DAY.
A chance to do some washing in the river, to look around and to visit the local Gompa. Inside it appears dirty and dingy but behind a screen at the back of the Gompa are three magnificent double life sized figures. Camp overnight.
Day 21 MONDAY: TREK TO TARAKOT. (7,530ft/2,281m). 4 hours.
You leave Khanigoan by the new suspension bridge and then walk alongside the river, sometimes going very high before reaching down to the water again. Some of the going is quite demanding and one bridge, said to have been out for six years, necessitates crossing on wet stepping-stones. Coming into the broad fertile valley of the Barbung Chu, you walk amongst the various crops of millet, sweet corn, barley, buckwheat, green beans, chillies and marijuana. Your lunch and night
stop is high above the river but there is a standpipe for water. Tarakot 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, which lies 8km east of Tarakot and at the junction of Barbung Khola and Tarap Chu, 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. As
an alternative to camping at Tarakot, you may camp down by the river as there are good cooking facilities there and a clean, locked toilet for trekkers’ use. Camp overnight.
Day 22 TREK TO DUNAI. (6,772ft/2,052m). 5 hours. 16kms.
The trail is mostly down and fairly firm underfoot. Walking beside the Bheri river you use th ingenious path built twenty feet above the river. All too soon you have reached the village of Dunai 2005UpperDolpo.doc Date Prepared 08/10/04 Date Revised: 26/07/05 and the camp site you used before. You will now have completed the circuit and a celebration party is sure to happen. Camp overnight.
Day 23 TREK TO JUPHAL. (7,936ft/2,404m). 3 hours.
You now retrace your steps to Juphal. Initially the way is flat but the final hour up to your destination seems steeper than you remember on Day One! Camp overnight in the grounds of one of the lodges.
Early morning flight to Nepalganj. This is a wonderful 35-minute flight over the Himalayan foothills, with fine views of the main peaks including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to the north. You then connect with the flight back to Kathmandu. Transfer to the Dwarika's Hotel.
Free Day in Kathmandu
Day 26 Depart Kathmandu
You will be transferred to the airport for your final departure from Kathmandu.
Breakfast included.

Trek Price as per above program

Group Size
2 - 3 
4 - 5
6 - 7
8 - 9
10 - 11
12 + Above 
Price in US$ 
2800 2700 2600 2550 2500 2450 2400

Package Price Includes

  • Airport Pickup and Drop
  • All the ground Transportation by bus
  • 3 night hotel in Kathmandu ( 4 star )
  • 16 night 17days trekking in Tent
  • All the meal during the trek (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • National Park fee (Annapurna Conservation Area)
  • Tour leader for entire tour (All camping equipment like tent, Sleeping Bag, Kitchen Equipment, Jacket etc.)
  • An experience guide (trained by Ministry of tourism), necessary trekking staff and their meal/accommodation/transportation/salary/insurance/equipments.
  • Trekking equipment (two men tent, dining tent, kitchen tent, toilet tent, table with chairs, all kitchen gears, and other necessary equipments during the trek).
  • Special Trekking permit for 10 days in upperdolpo US$ 700 per person
  • Demostic Airfare ( Kathmandu. - Nepalgunj, Juphal - Nepalgunj, Nepaljung- Kathmandu and domestic airport tax)

Package Price Excludes

  • Personal bar bill, travel insurance/International airfare.
  • Items of personal expenses such as alcoholic drinks, cold drinks, laundry, tips etc.
  • Nepal entry visa fee US$ 30 (duration 60 days from date of issue)- Available at Royal Nepalese Embassies and Royal Nepalese Consulates abroad or on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
  • All the entrance fee of temple in Kathmandu and Pokhara
  • All the meal while you are in Kathmandu

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Widerness Encounter
Cultural Encounter
The most prominent ethnic groups in the annapurna region are the Gurung, Braman, chetri, Thakali and the Manangba.

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