Upper Dolpo Trekking in the West of Nepal

Upper Dolpo Trekking in the West of Nepal
A perfect way to see the real nature, the hidden Himalayas and cultures of Western Nepal

Treks in the west of Nepal is quite a different proposition to treks in other parts of the country. This part of Nepal is far less developed with fewer facilities available for visitors. Access is also far harder, especially to areas such as Humla, Jumla and Dolpa.

All of this makes trekking here much more of an exploration, and intending trekkers must prepare for some delays and other hardships. It is also considerably more expensive to trek in the remote parts of the west. The west of Nepal is impossible to describe in a few lines.

This part of Nepal is rich in the range of flora and fauna the most particular interest and value are the medicinal herbs and plants that are found in the higher regions, representing a valuable source of income for the locals. Western Nepal, especially Upper & Lower Dolpo region, is also known as medicine hills. In the summer many people from the surrounding villages and district and even from Kathmandu and Tibet arrive here to collect this strange insect known as even “Himalayan Viagra”.

This medicine is a combination of insect and plant remains inactive in winter and comes out as a plant in summer. In Nepal, it is known as “Yar-Cha Gun-Bu” which is an insect having high commercial demand as a tonic. It is found in subalpine pasturelands of Nepal including Jumla, Dolpa, Langtang, Manaslu, Kanchanjunga and Solukhumbu area. Yar-cha gun-bu, which means plant in summer and insect in winter is found mainly on the high hills of Dolpo and collected during the spring, and early summer when the snowmelt and sprout out on the hills.

The history and anthropology of western Nepal are complex and fascinating. Much of the geographic territory, now recognized as Nepal, formerly consisted of several small hill states and petty kingdoms (minimum 46). The Jumla was one of the powerful, petty Hill States of that time. Since centuries the western part of Nepal including Jumla has played a significant role in the political and cultural chapters of Nepal, notably while the Malla empires declined and split into numerous petty hill states. To develop their domain as a trading centre and to obtain Tibetan goods, the rulers of Jumla turned their attention eastward. They assumed control over Lo (Upper Mustang), from which they extracted as annual tribute. Soon after, when Jumla assumed control over Lo, the Army of Bahadur Shaha attacked Jumla and annexed both of the petty Hill State (Jumla & Lo) into Nepal in around 1800.

In our day, the entire Jumla and Dolpo region has become one of the major travel destinations. The cultural route of Jumla extends north into Tibet and west to Kumao in India. We get to cross four different atmospheres: the medium mountain with forests and pastures, the trans-Himalayan vertical desert with the oases of the villages, the high quota with tundra and cliffs and the microclimate of the Phokosundo. The entire upper Himalayan range of Dolpo, Jumla and Humla are dominated by Tibetan and keeps a significant influence on the areas by trading. Most of the villages are packed closely together, one atop another with flat roofs. The main ethnic groups of this area are Thakuris, Chhetris, Matwali Chhetris (many of them are Tibetan) and of course the Tibetans.

The most prominent group of people seen in the northernmost parts of the area, particularly in Dolpa and in Mugu, are of Tibetan origin. They pasture supplementing with the trade both to the north and the south. Their religion is a mixture of Tibetan Buddhism and the ancient, pre-Buddhist, Bon religion, a largely animistic faith. Their language is based on the Tibetan dialect spoken in Kham, a province of old Tibet located many hundreds of kilometres to the east. Lower down the people are a mixture of ethnic groups, such as the Magar, Gurung, and hill people of Hindu caste origin (although all Mongolian origin). Of particular interest are the Thakuri, the royal family’s caste. Again they are quite different in culture and language to their cousins further east and similar to Mongolian origin.

Western Nepal is remote and unknown because of its relative inaccessibility from the Capital, Kathmandu, or other major commercial cities of Nepal. The life here is complicated, and poverty is unforgettable in every way. These days various NGOs are currently working with the local people in the west to try to establish a certain level of tourism infrastructure. At present this is limited to community camping sites, porters and hotel training.

The west of Nepal also reserves two famous and beautiful National Parks. Those National Parks are SHEY PHOKSUNDO and RARA.

The Upper Dolpo border, the Phokdundo Lake, can be reached in 2 days by horse or three days Trekking from Juphal airport. The upper Dolpo region is historically divided into four valleys: Tsharka (good growing-place), Tarap (auspiciously excellent), Panzang (abode of monks), and Nangkhong (innermost place) and among which the Tarap valley falls into Lower Dolpo trekking region.

The Upper Dolpo parts are filled with numerous centuries-old monasteries many of them are Bon, a religion whose origins predate Buddhism but whose modern form is officially accepted as a fifth school of Tibetan Buddhism. The remote region has preserved its Tibetan culture relatively in pure form, making it attractive, not only to westerners but also to the modern generation of Tibetan family. Despite its high royalty for trekkers, as a try to restrictions to tourism, Upper Dolpa is a popular destination for Trekkers, and many of the trekkers take this area as a pilgrimage or spiritual trip.

Among the many monasteries in Dolpo, the Shey Gonpa is considered the musts to visit, and the mountain above it is known as the Crystal Mountain or their Mount Kailash.

The largest gathering, here, takes place in July when villagers from all over Dolpo come to Shey. They meet here for a pilgrimage around ‘their Mount Kailash’ - Crystal Mountain. The festival lasts for several days, and this is also time for sharing news and doing business, drinking, dancing and singing.

The mythology speaks the vastness of Shey Gonpa and Crystal Mountain, including where to find the milky lake in the interior of the Crystal Mountain kora. It describes; even the greatest of celestial feats cannot equal once rounding on foot this Crystal Mountain. The Crystal Mountain Kora allows the pilgrim to see Mount Kailash, the most sacred place for all religion, more than a dozen times from the passes, in the far distance.
After the parts of Saldang, the journey passes through the main villages Tarap Valley, one of the principal valleys of lower Dolpo. The area of Tarap can be reached by various means accordingly in a different number of days. The lower Dolpo part is bordered with Dorpatan hunting reserve, which can be accessed by few days trekking further southeast of Tarap valley. This itinerary, from Juphal to Upper Dolpo to Tarap Valley and then to Mustang, mostly follow the ancient lifeline and route, which enables us to experience classical cultural dots and undisturbed natural scenery while wandering through vast high elevation meadows. All the high passes are adorned with prayer flags and carved mani stones (Buddhist Pyayes: Om-mani-Padme-hum), and the cliff are sacred mountains to circumambulate in their routine religious and cultural dates, the centuries aged monasteries and stupas are still the refuge centres for all age group and faiths, and the lifestyle and cycle continues without giving way to pain and with full contentment. Once we enter the Kaligandaki valley, the atmosphere gets charged with a motor road that links to Pokhara and Kathmandu, an airport which provides 25 minutes flight to Pokhara and regular movement of tourist and numerous lodges in each small village. The Kaligandaki valley is the ancient trail to and from Tibet with histories dating back to 4th century or further. In our time it is the main entrance to Mustang and a major cultural and geographical part of classic Annapurna circui

Day 01 : Arrival in Kathmandu
Our personnel will be waiting at the Kathmandu international airport to receive you with a traditional welcome. After checking into the hotel and refreshment, your guide of the circuit will inform you about the necessary formalities and the upcoming program. Depending on arrival time, you will have the choice of visiting nearby shrines or resting.

Day 02 : Sightseeing and resting day in Kathmandu
Today we take a round of Kathmandu and Patan cities where one gets to see and experience fascinating aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism and many other charms. Those not willing on a rest while we finalize trekking area permits. O/N in Kathmandu.

Day 03 : Fly to Nepalgunj
We take the flight to Nepalgunj in the far west of Nepal. This one hour’s flight is quite remarkable since it traverses the entire length of the Nepal Himalayan west of Kathmandu, with superb views of Langtang, Manaslu, and Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri and finally to Nepalgunj. Nepalgunj is close to the Indian border and quite warm in comparison with Kathmandu. We check into the Hotel and the rest of the time is free.

Day 04 : Fly to Juphal  2475m. & trek to Roop Ghar  2,100m.
A 3 hours’ trek
After an early start we take the flight to Juphal, this takes about 45 minutes, and from the plane, there are superb mountain views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. At Juphal, we meet our trek crew, get introduced and stop for an early lunch. After lunch we continue the day, the trail descends to the Bheri River through terraced fields and then follows the gorge to Dunai. We camp at Roop Ghar, before Dunai, at the southern bank of Bheri River.

Day 05 : Trek to Chepka  2,720m.
A 5 to 6 hours’ trek
The usual start of the day is with bed tea at 6.00 am and away by 7 to 7.30 am. We cross the suspension bridge to the other side of the river until the confluence with the Suli Gaad that comes from Phoksundo Lake. The trail follows a steep valley with the raging river below with hillside covered with lush vegetation. Further up we reach the entrance to the Phoksundo National Park at the village of Hanke. Continuing another hour of walk, we cross the west bank past horse pastures to the village of Celas. We then trek upstream to another bridge and arrive at Ankhe Khola. Continue the trek, which climbs to a ridge at 2,700m and then descends to Chepka 2,670m where there are some shops.

Day 06 : Trek to Renje  2,840m.
A 4-hours’ trek
We trek by staying nearby river and arrive at a collection of stones at a riverside bank. In summer if the water is high, then this part can be treacherous. The trail makes several ups and down and arrive at a bridge which leads to Renje village 3,020m, a small village of around 11 houses, where we camp for the overnight rest.

Day 07 : Trek to Phoksundo Lake  3,640m.
A 5-hours’ trek
The Suli Gaad valley turns eastwards and becomes narrower. The trail continues with its ups and downs and reaches to its confluence of the Suli Gaad with Pungmo Khola. From here, the Suli Gaad is known as Phoksundo Khola. We cross a wooden bridge and arrive at Shey Phoksundo National Park Headquarter, at Sum-Dowa, now abandoned. We then follow the west bank and climb through big cedar trees and come to Palam, a winter settlement of people from Ringmo. The afternoon’s walk up to Ringmo is delightful. A sheer cliff wall guards the upper valley which hides the lake until we reach some prayer flags at 3800m. Equally impressive is the huge waterfall, 330m.-high, down from the Phuksumdo Lake. The village of Ringmo and camp is on the opposite side of the village at 3,700 metres with impressive views of the lake and entire surrounding.

Day 08 : Rest day
A rest day in Ringmo camped by the beautiful clear waters of Ringmo Lake. The nearby monastery is worth a visit. Visit the Pal Sentan Thasoon Chholing Gonpa; a Bon-Po Gonpa said to have d 60 generations ago. There are several various Gonpa owned by monastic communities and may be permitted to visit on request.

Day 09 : Trek to Phoksundo Khola  3,510m.
A 5 to 6 hours’ trek
The trail follows the western side of Phoksundo Lake and is rather precarious with several sections supported by wooden stakes and rocks. This path, along with views of the stunningly blue lake was featured in the film by Eric Valli. It is not possible to proceed north of Phoksumdo Lake without the special Inner Dolpo permit. Once we have walked around the lake, the trail descends into a wide valley, and we set up camp near the Phoksundo River.

Day 10 : Trek to Phoksundo La or Snowfields Camp  4,400m.
7 to 8 hours’ trekking
From Camp, we head northwards in a narrow valley crossing several streams, so it is a good idea to bring sandals for in case you have to wade through some of them. We are following the same route as taken by Peter Mathieson in his Snow Leopard book and tonight we camp at the place he called “Snowfields Camp” located below the pass heading to Inner Dolpo.

Day 11 : Cross Kang La  5,150m. and trek to Shey Gonpa  4,125m.
A 5 to 6 hours’ trek
The trail up to the Kang La pass is quite steep on a slope of loose slate scree. There is a steep descent to the valley floor, and they follow the banks of a river to Shey Gompa, the entrance has a red Chörten and mani-stones. The famous Buddhist monastery is located beneath Crystal mountain, as Shey means crystal in the local dialect.

Day 12 : Rest day at Shey Gompa
One may use the day as a chance to explore the area or have a total relaxing in the camp.

Day 13 : Cross Sela La  5,095m. and trek to Namgung  4,360m.
A 6 to 7 hours’ trek
Coming out of Sela, we start to head east up a narrow valley followed by a steep climb to Sela La (Saldang La). There are views from the pass north into Tibet and east towards Mustang. Turning northwards we make the long descent from the pass to and finally arrive at the pasture of Yaks and Sheep with nomad tents which is a signal that we are near to Namgung village. The Namgung monastery is of the Karma-pa sect. It is built against the backdrop of a cliff on the north wall of a gorge. The red and white colours of the Gonpa 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.

Day 14 : Trek to Saldang  3,770m.
A 3 hours’ trek
Today is a shorter day. The day starts with a traverse high above Namgung Khola, before descending to Saldang village. Looking down into the valley bottom you will see the fertile valley with a lot of terraced fields. This settlement is the largest in the inner Diplo and is situated on the salt trading route from Tibet to the southern lowlands. The village stretches for about two kilometres on an open slope.

Day 15 : Rest day
A 15 hours trek.
One may use the day as a chance to explore the area or have a total relaxing in the camp or extend a day excursion to Khoma village.

Day 16 : Trek to Sibu  3,940m.
A 6 hours’ trek
On leaving Saldang, we head south following the Namgung Khola passing through terraced fields, Chörtens and mani walls. Namdo is the next village, and we carry on to Sibu village where we camp for the night.

Day 17 : Trek to Jeng La BC  4,700m.
A 4 to 5 hours’ trek
Morning trail follows the Nam Khong river and passes by the caravans of laden yaks that are on the way towards Tibet. Continuing a long walk, we get to part turning east till we arrive at the confluence of two small tributaries. The trail from here steepens up to the Jeng La Phedi. We camp at near a yak grazing area known as Langmo Che.

Day 18 : Cross Jeng La  5,220m. and trek to Tok-Kyu  4,240m.
A 6 to 7 hours’ trek
It takes around 2 hours to reach the Jeng La pass at 4,845m where there are superb views of Dhaulagiri. Going down from the pass we enter the Tarap Valley and continue to the village of Tokyu Gaon. Tarap is a valley with vast plains in high mountains extending about 18kms along the river Tarap Chu. It is composed of ten villages and accordingly many monasteries and Chörtens of both sects.

Day 19 : Trek to Do  3,944m.
A 3 hours’ trek
Due to the opens of the Tarap, the sun hits the tent early, giving a spring feel to the morning. The mornings’ walk passes through the villages off Clumaga and Kagar, both extremely interesting with many Chörten, again both Bun-Po monasteries (the ancient pre-Buddhist religion) and Choba (orthodox Buddhist). There are six Gonpas in Dho, but we visit only the Kagar and Champa Gonpa.

Day 20 : Trek to base of Chharka La
A 6 to 7 hrs walking
This day is the beginning of the adventurous trek eastwards towards Jomsom with most other groups at this point heading south back to the airstrip Juphal. This section passes through a remote wilderness that very few people have the privilege of visiting. As we walk from Tokyu Gaon to Dho Tarap, we will see the typical village, as we approach the Chharka La the valley narrows where we camp for the night.

Day 21 : Trek to Keheng Khola Camp
A 6 to 7 hrs walking
Today we start walking along the Tarap Khola and then begin the approach to the Chharka La. The descent from the pass is on a gravel path, and soon the valley widens down to the Keheng Khola where we camp for the night. Stay overnight in a tented camp.

Day 22 : Trek to Norbulung  4,575m
A 6 to 7 hrs walking
The trail continues heading eastwards, and after a short time, we get to cross the Bharbung Khola on a small bridge then head north along the Chharka Tulsi Khola. After an hour or so we will get to the tiny hamlet of Chharka and we continue onto the Thansan Khola where we cross on a small bridge to our campsite at Norbulung. Stay overnight in a tented camp.

Day 23 : Trek to Sangda Phedi  5,100m.
A to 7 hrs walking
After Norbulung Camp we pass through high yak pastures of Molum Sumdo and then continue to a crest just over 5,000m. We keep on past several river junctions and then start the approach up to the Sangda La. We descend on a gravel trail to Sangda Phedi. Stay overnight in a tented camp.

Day 24 : Trek to Sangda  3,700m.
A 6 to 7 hrs walking
Today we cross another pass with a descent of loose shale before arriving at the settlement of Sangda at the intersection of Bheri Khola and Kyalunpa Khola. It is a further couple of hours to the village of Sangda. Stay overnight in a tented camp.

Day 25 : Trek to Dhagarjun  3,280m.
A 6 to 7 hrs walking
From Sangda we start climbing crossing several ridges until the final pass at around 4,200 metres where we have views of Thorong La, Nilgiri, Dhaulagiri and also the villages of Kali Gandaki below. Stay overnight in a tented camp.

Day 26 : Trek to Jomsom.
A 6 to 7 hrs walking
We climb up one further pass before heading to Jomsom located on the ever-popular Annapurna Circuit. Stay overnight in a tented camp.

Day 27 : Fly to Pokhara & Kathmandu.
A 20 minutes flight to Pokhara and 40 minutes flight to Kathmandu
A short panoramic flight of 20 minutes takes you to Pokhara. As the plane takes off, there are exceptional views of Dhaulagiri massif and Nilgiri and Annapurna until you reach Pokhara. The city of Pokhara is renowned for its setting rather than its historical or cultural endowments. It has many beautiful lakes and on the far horizon a panorama featuring Annapurna, Fishtail and Lamjung.

We take a short drive to Pokhara and enjoy strolling around the lake and take a hearty and relaxing lunch in its one of the best restaurants of our choice. At around 14:00 hour we drive back to the airport to board our flight Kathmandu. Arrive at Kathmandu and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the evening is free for rest and refreshments — dinner and overnight in the hotel.

Day 28 : Kathmandu
A free day or optionally take a guided city tour

Day 29 : Departure
Breakfast and free time till the time limit. In the indicated time, our office representative and vehicle arrive at your hotel to serve you till the airport. Drive to Kathmandu international airport to see off formalities and departure.


Number in Group                  Costs Per Person
                                                           3-Star Hotels          4-Star hotels

2-3 Persons                                     US $6300                US $6480
4-5 Persons                                     US $5576                US $5756
6-7 Persons                                     US $5232                US $5412
8-10 Persons                                   US $4900                US $5080
Single room/tent supplement       US $580                   US $760

  • Airport pick up and departure services as per itinerary
  • 4-nights of hotel accommodation in Kathmandu on twin sharing basis, breakfast included
  • 1 Full day guided tour of Kathmandu valley (transport, guide, and entrance included)
  • Hotel accommodation in Nepalgunj on full board basis
  • Kathmandu to Nepalgunj and Nepalgunj to Juphal airfare, all tax included
  • Kathmandu to Kathmandu full board service (all meals prepared by our cook) a fully tented camp service
  • Lower Dolpo and Upper Dolpo special permits
  • She-Phoksundo National park and Annapurna conservation area permits.
  • All trekking staff: 1 guide, one cook, three kitchen boys, mules, and mule drive and their expenses and insurance
  • All camping material such as two men dome tent, dining tent, kitchen tent, toilet tent, shower tent, dining table and chair and required kitchen equipment.
  • All necessary food and beverages for the trekking period
  • A good sleeping bag to each member
  • A pair of a trekking pole to each member
  • A trekking map and duffel bag
  • A satellite mobile phone for communication in an emergency (Personal usage available with 4$ per minute call)
  • Small medical kit box for first add medical purpose.
  • Insurance and expenses of all local staff

  • Travel insurance, International air tickets, Nepal entry visa
  • Lunch & dinner in Kathmandu and Pokhara
  • Alcoholic and mineral beverages during the trek
  • Tips and those, not mentioned in above price include section.

Cities    Hotels
                                         3-Star hotels              4-Star hotels                 5-Star hotels

Kathmandu                    Marshyangdi               Shanker / Malla              Del’ Annapurna
Nepalgunj                      Siddhartha                  Siddhartha                      Siddhartha
Treking                           Tented Camp             Tented Camp                  Tented Camp
Pokhara                          Lakeside Retreat      Temple Tree                    Temple Tree

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