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Upper Dolpo is one of the hidden gems of Nepal. It lies in a remote region and is one of the most isolated destinations for travel. Upper Dolpo lies North of the Dhaulagiri mountain range in Mid-western Nepal. You pass through some of the world’s highest villages on your climb to Upper Dolpo. You can also have a spectacular view of other snow-capped mountains with an altitude of 5000m or above.
This region reaches over 4000m above sea level; hence this isolated region is inclined towards Tibet in terms of ethnicity, language, culture and religion. In the peak winter season, people migrate towards the lower region due to extreme climatic conditions. Traveling to this region will let you experience the far Western culture and the tradition that the people here follow.
Since 1989, this region is only accessible to tourists. If tourists are willing to visit this restricted region, they need to take a special permit that costs USD 500 per person for the first 10 days, and if they want to extend their stay, they must pay USD 50 per person per day. Another hurdle along the way is the lack of accommodation and transportation issues. Travelers must carry all the essentials; this is quite expensive.
Apart from these challenges, Upper Dolpo has a lot more to offer. Get a chance to witness the rich and diverse Tibetan culture up close and fascinating desert-like, mostly barren landscapes. You will not be able to find any forests around this region, but the interesting fact is that many people still reside in this barren land.
On traveling to the Upper Dolpo region, you will witness human settlement wherever enough water source is available. People residing in this region make their livelihood by cultivating crops, engaging in Yak, Horse, Sheep herding and businesses. Due to the lack of proper transportation facilities, Yaks, mules and horses are the only transportation sources here. People in this region mostly follow Tibetan Buddhism. This will give you a chance to witness thousand-year-old monasteries as well. As appealing as it may sound for travelers, the people here face several challenges daily. They still look happy and satisfied as they have mastered coping with these challenges.
Now, let’s delve into this region’s geographical abundance. Upper Dolpo is a part of the Shey-Phoksundo national park. This region is rich in diverse flora and fauna. It is home to rare species, including the snow leopard, blue sheep, Himalayan marmot, vultures and many more. Big trees are not available in this region. However, the space is filled with bushy junipers, sea buckthorn bushes, etc.
Trekking the Dolpo region provides a mesmerizing view and a variety of vegetation, like lush green meadows and subalpine and alpine forests.
The trail travels through the villages, heading out of a little airfield at Juphal. At 3600 meters above sea level, Shey Phoksundo Lake, the deepest lake in the world, offers views of the forest and tall, snow-capped mountains. The Kang-La Pass connects Shey Gompa and the Phoksundo Valley. After exploring Shey Phoksundo Lake, participants on the Upper Dolpo trek also go to the Shey Gompa.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to travel to this hidden treasure surrounded by the majestic mountains in the far western part of Nepal.
The best time to do Upper Dolpo Trek is during the time of autumn and spring. Many visitors from around the world can be seen trekking during this time. The weather is favorable and predictable during these seasons. A short description of the different seasons is listed below:
Spring (March to May)
This is the time of year when flowers and lush vegetation are in blossom. The temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. The weather is fair and consistent. There are many different landscapes and distant mountain ranges visible on a clear day. It is also the peak season for trekking.
Monsoon (June to August)
Monsoon is the worst time of the year to go on a trek. The weather is unpredictable and filled with clouds and fog all the time. Throughout the entire season, there is a lot of rain. As the day goes on, the trail gets muddy and treacherous. This makes the trek very hard. Similarly, due to the fog, high mountain ranges are also not clearly visible.
Autumn (September to November)
Another best time of the year to visit Upper Dolpo is Autumn. There is lots of sunshine and fresh air, and the weather is calm, clear, and dry. Due to the clear vision, you can have a glorious view of the mountain range. However, the absence of blossoming greenery and blossoms is the main aspect of autumn that you will miss.
Winter (December to February)
Winter is also not the best time to visit Upper Dolpo Trek. The season brings with it severely cold temperatures at higher altitudes. This might make many travelers very difficult to ascend to higher places. Furthermore, it becomes tough to walk due to the strong cold breeze and snowy paths. Only the local people can withstand this extreme climatic condition.
When a person ascends to a high altitude without gradually acclimatizing, they may get altitude sickness. It is caused by a lack of oxygen and is most common at elevations of 8,000 feet or more. It is also known as acute mountain sickness, puna, altitude illness, hypobaropathy, Acosta disease, and soroche.
The most vulnerable group to altitude sickness is those who are not accustomed to high altitudes. Therefore, it is important not to treat the illness lightly because it can result in major problems.
Some of the common symptoms of Altitude Sickness are:
Treatment to cure altitude sickness
Acclimatization is the method through which a particular organism adapts to a change in its environment. Therefore, it is very important for us to rest or get acquainted with the high elevation. It is also one of the preventative methods of avoiding altitude sickness.
During our Upper Dolpo Trek, we also separated our acclimatization day at Shey Phoksundo Lake and Saldang. During this day, we just rest and dwell around the places. We do not ascend to a higher altitude. These days make us more comfortable with the place, elevation, air, and environment. Thus we get immune and more energetic the next day. So we need to take a rest and acclimate ourselves.
During your journey to the Upper Dolpo Trek, you must stay in various housing and rooms. For instance, after you arrive in Kathmandu, you are accommodated in a quality room in a hotel. But as the journey begins and you ascend to the higher altitude, you may not get the quality and luxurious room you wish.
Tea houses are the common places that you will settle in the rural area of Nepal. Similarly, you may also need to sleep under a tent or even go camping. Depending upon the site and destination, camping and tea house could be the option. However, as you move higher, finding a proper house where you can rest isn’t easy. In that case, you should make your own camp and spend the night.
Thus you should be prepared to sleep in a tea house and a camp if you are trekking to Upper Dolpo. Rather than always experiencing a cozy five-star hotel, you get to experience a typical Nepali home.
Due to their long-standing connection to Tibet, Upper Dolpo practices both Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. However, due to its old religious customs and sacred sites, Dolpo is considered to practice the purest kind of Buddhism. It is also the most wealthy region for Tibetan Buddhism.
The three primary branches of Buddhism practiced in Dolpo are Sakya, Kakyu, and Nyingma. The major sect is Nyingma or “red hat,” centered on Guru Rinpoche’s legends. In order to view the footprints of Guru Rinpoche, pilgrims travel great distances.
Buddhist pilgrims also revere the sacred rock formations and caves where Guru Rinpoche and numerous other Lamas meditated while they were in Dolpo. In addition, numerous monasteries can be found in Dolpo, some of which are the oldest in their sect and date back more than 700 years.
The culture and tradition are similar to the Tibetan, and they speak ‘Khaam’, very similar to the Tibetan language but not the same. Some of the festivals celebrated in this region are:
Upper Dolpo Trek provides distinctive opportunities you cannot experience anywhere else. Upper Dolpo is the destination for you if you’ve always wanted to go somewhere where you can only get around on foot, and all you see are snow-capped mountains and wild, beautiful flowers.
The upper Dolpo trek is a fantastic experience that you will never forget. You can enjoy the breathtaking scenery and inhale the clean air. However, the Upper Dolpo trek demands a lot of forethought, preparation, and stamina.
Some of the major highlights of the trek are:
Trip safety is a big deal. It’s not just about you; it’s about your friends and family. That’s why we have a team of experts who are trained to help you get the most out of your trekking experience by keeping everyone safe. Our trained guides will ensure that you have the best time possible on your trip, whether that means making sure everyone is comfortable or providing first aid services if someone gets hurt.
We want you to get the most out of your trip while feeling safe at all times, so we’ve made sure that our guides are well-trained and experienced in everything from dealing with medical emergencies to handling difficult situations on the trail.
Travel insurance for trekking is a really good idea to make sure you’re covered in case of an emergency. Most trekking companies offer travel insurance, but it’s not always enough to protect you from everything that might go wrong on your trip.
If you’re going on a trek and don’t have comprehensive travel insurance from a reputable provider, you might not be covered if something goes wrong. For example, if you need medical treatment for an injury or illness when you’re in the middle of nowhere, then it’s unlikely that your local hospital will be able to help.
The best way to protect yourself is by purchasing travel insurance from a company. They specialize in providing affordable coverage for international trips, and they can provide peace of mind when things go wrong while traveling abroad.
Only individuals with substantial trekking experience and a high degree of fitness should attempt the arduous trip to Upper Dolpo. The trek continues to be an area of high-altitude desert-like scenery. You can see why this is a trek that should not be taken lightly. Given that there are two passes to be climbed that are over 5,000 meters, numerous nights will be spent at over 4,000 meters.
Likewise, you have to withstand extreme climatic conditions. Those who are not well-habituated to the cold find it a lot more difficult. The temperature varies greatly over the typical three-week walk. This is because the elevations range from 2,500 meters in Jhupal to 5,000 meters or higher passes.
We can indicate what to expect by mentioning that the temperatures will range from about minus 10 degrees Celsius on the high passes to about 14 degrees Celsius at lower elevations during the best hiking seasons (late spring and early autumn).
Upper Dolpo is under a rain shadow and has a desert climate during the monsoon season (June to August); there is no rain. However, there may be flight cancellations because of the poor weather in Nepalgunj during this time of year. Therefore, if you plan to go on a trek during winter, you are advised not to.
Similarly, another frequent difficulty that you may face is altitude sickness. You are ascending and staying at altitudes higher than 4000m. There are even a few passes that are above 5000m. So there is a high possibility for you to have altitude sickness. Without rushing your trekking days, you should rest properly and acclimate yourself.
Dolpo does not have any tea houses or lodges, in contrast to the bulk of other trekking routes in Nepal. Consequently, this trek involves camping. Camping brings out a new experience apart from staying in a luxury hotel. Sitting around a campfire and looking up at the starry skies has a certain allure.
After you arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport, our airport representative will pick you up, and you will travel in a private vehicle to your hotel. On your way, the representative will briefly explain your visit to the Upper Dolpo region and all the things you may need throughout the journey.
You will meet our guide early in the morning. They will guide you through Kathmandu’s most famous and renowned world heritage sites, most of which are enlisted in UNESCO. First, you will visit Pashupatinath temple, which is a Hindu temple. A lot of Hindu devotees visit the place. Next, you will visit Boudhanath Stupa, the largest spherical stupa in Nepal.
Our next destination is Swayambhunath Stupa. It is also one of the Buddhist pilgrimage sites. You will even approach Kathmandu Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square if time allows.
You will pack your bags and luggage in the evening and prepare for the trek. You can visit Thamel or any other place if you have anything left to buy. Our guide will escort you and recommend you to buy the finest products.
Nepalgunj lies in the Terai Plain near the southern border. It is a steaming hot city that has a culture similar to India. If you have visited India, you will not find much difference if you dwell around the market of Nepalgunj.
You will take an early flight from Kathmandu Airport to Nepalgunj, which takes about 45-50 minutes. There, our representative will be waiting for you. They will pick you up and escort you to the hotel. After that, you will freshen up and prepare for the next day.
You will fly to Juphal Airport from Nepalgunj early in the morning. It takes about 35 minutes to reach Juphal. On your way, you will observe mesmerizing views of the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges. It is a scene that you will cherish for life long.
After landing at Juphal, you will begin the trek. Our first destination is to reach Kalagauda, which is a 45-50 minute walk. After that, it takes about 2 hours to reach Dunai from Kalagauda. Throughout your way, you will descend along the Thuli Bheri River. After reaching Dunai, you will rest at a tea house.
The trail from Dunai to Chhepka is comfortable. You will walk along the Phoksundo River throughout the journey. At the entrance to Shey Phoksundo National Park, which is at the Silughar check-post, you will submit an entry form and necessary documents and continue the trek. On your way, you will pass Kageni, Jutung, and Shangta.
The path travels through small bamboo and walnut tree forests and is bordered by pine trees like spruce, fir, juniper, and cypress. On the river’s opposite bank, a high, rocky slope rises sharply and is also dotted with pine trees. At the end of the day, you will arrive in Chhepka. You will search for a suitable location and set up the camp.
Today, you will walk along the Lower Dolpa trek. Along the walk, you will observe beautiful pine forests with shrubs, birches, and other broadleaf trees. After traveling for around four hours, you will pass the settlement of Rechi, where there is a camping area. There, you can rest and have something to eat and then you will continue the trek.
There is also a little tea shop on the opposite side of the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, the path continues. Chunuwar is two more hours away. Amchi Hospital is just before you reach Chunuwar.
You will put the camps for the night around the Amchi Hospital area. This hospital serves as a medical facility for Dolpo residents. Amchi refers to traditional healers who treat illnesses and infections in the Dolpo region with herbal remedies.
At 3,611.5 m in the Dolpa District, Phoksundo Lake is an alpine freshwater oligotrophic lake located in Nepal’s Shey Phoksundo National Park. It is the deepest lake in Nepal. It has a maximum depth of 136m. To reach the lake, you must pass through the Palam settlement. The trail to Palam is covered with cedar forest.
The Phoksundo Waterfall (also called Suli Gad Waterfall), Nepal’s tallest waterfall at 167 meters high, is visible just before the summit. You get your first glimpse of Phoksundo Lake from the pass. After that, the path descends until it approaches the river, which you then follow until you arrive in Ringmo.
People living in this village follow the Bonpo religion, which is related to Buddhism. From the village’s settlement, it is a short walk to the shores of the lake. There, you will set up your camps and rest for the night.
On this day, you spend a day acclimatizing. To acclimatize to the altitude, it is advised that you stay active and go for a quick walk. You can hike and observe the area’s breathtaking sights the entire day.
You can go to the nearby Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and the settlement of Ringmo village. You can learn about people’s cultures and traditions. There is also a Bon monastery at the lake shore. It was believed to be constructed around 900 years ago. You will visit the monastery and worship the god. At the end of the day, you will return to the camp and rest.
The path following Sallaghari is the most beautiful trail you will walk through. The alluring path cures all the exhaustion and fatigue you are feeling. Next, you will ascend the steep routes that run along the cliffs above Phoksundo Lake.
After that, it takes about 1 and a half hours to descend the forest. Finally, you will reach Phoksundo Khola camp on the other side of the lake. Then, you will climb for a while and reach Sallaghari. Sallaghari means Pine forest in the Nepali language. Finally, you will set your camp among the pine trees and rest.
Today you will walk along the narrow path of the Tuk Kyaksa River. While walking, you will switch to the riverside several times. Finally, the river’s gentler rapids are where you will cross a bridge. You will arrive in a broad valley after traveling from the bridge for around 30 minutes.
You will continue along the canyon for another two and a half hours. Then, you will stay in a tented camp at the enormous granite slab known as Kang La/Nangdala Base Camp.
To reach Shey Gompa, you have to pass through Nangda or Kang La pass. You need to climb the graveled trail uphill for around three hours to go over this pass. At the top of the pass, you will observe a beautiful view of Crystal Mountain, the Tibetan territory mountain, and the alluring landscape of the Dolpo region.
As you get closer, you will pass through mani walls and red and white Chortens. Then after you will reach Shey Gompa village. Shey Gompa lies in the Dolpo region. A few residences, the Gompa, and a tiny community make up Shey Gompa (monastery).
The 11th-century Gompa is situated at the confluence of two rivers on a tiny grassy plain beneath Crystal Peak. A Tibetan Buddhist who arrived here riding a flying snow lion is claimed to have built it. However, you can see from their appearance and clothing that the locals are directly descended from Tibetans.
You will visit the village early in the morning, and after breakfast, you will continue the journey.
You will be amazed by the landscape of Dolpo as you walk along the Sepho Khola. You will follow the trail for about 2-3 hours and reach the top of the Shey La Pass.
You will have a magnificent view of the dry Tibetan Plateau, which appears to stretch forever in front of you to the north of the pass. You can see Mustang in the east. From the top of the pass, you will descend for about 2 hours before you reach Namgung.
You will visit the monasteries and dwell around the Gompa in the morning. Afterward, you will continue the trek to Saldang. Today’s hike will not last very long. The route ascends above the Namgung Khola (River) before descending sharply to the Saldang hamlet.
The main settlement in Inner Dolpo is Saldang Village. It is a traditional farming village spread out and encircled by fields. In this village, Dolpo’s ancient Buddhist and Amchi traditions prevailed. Salt butter tea or Chyang (Barley beer) is the most famous foodstuffs in the region. Most people are engaged in yak farming and trading cheese, meat, and butter.
While traveling at a higher altitude, our body may not be able to cope with the elevation. Therefore, to prevent ourselves from altitude sickness, we need to learn to adjust to new surroundings.
So you will hang out around the Saldang village on this day. You can interact with the locals and learn about this area’s unique culture and norms. Then, you will go on a short hike to the Yangjer Gumba. You can click photos and worship. Afterward, you will return to your camp and prepare for the next day.
Early in the morning, after breakfast, you will start walking along Raphya Khola. This trail is commonly known as the Saldang Trek. You will climb to a height of 4400 meters before descending to the Komash settlement. You will reach the village in about 6 hours.
Tibet highly influences the people inhabiting this place. They dress like them and have a culture similar to theirs. You will either search for a suitable place to camp or rest in the tea house.
Today’s trek to Shimen takes about 4-5 hours. The trail is not very difficult to walk, so you can easily carry your backpack. You may encounter some endangered animals on this journey, including blue sheep and snow leopards.
The highland deserts with shrub-like plants make up most of the part of the journey. On your way, you will pass through several tiny settlements. After reaching Shimen, you will search for a suitable site and build the camp.
The walk to Tinje village will take about five hours. You will be traveling the Panjyang Khola pathways. On your way, you will come across many villages and settlements. You may also encounter many monasteries and stupas which are dated back a few hundred years.
Tinje is a small settlement consisting of very few people. Therefore, you will stay at the camp at Tinje village and rest for the remaining day.
After breakfast, you will start your journey to Yak Kharka. Following the paths alongside the Panjyan River, you will pass the little town of Chhamdang. After Chhamdang, you will continue walking along the river’s edge until you reach the meeting point of the Panjyan and Chholtam rivers.
You will eventually arrive at a wide grazing area for yaks and sheep after crossing a bridge over the Thalum Khola. The name Yak Kharka is given to this open area. Nepali for “kharka” is “alpine pasture.” So the villagers began referring to this area as the yak grazing area since yaks used to graze on these fields.
Tokyu is reputed to be the world’s highest permanent settlement. It is the first human settlement after Raka. In order to get to Tokyu, you need to pass through Choila North Pass, which is at an altitude of 5040 m.
First, a bridge over Sulun Khola will be crossed, leading to Choila North Pass. It will take about 2-3 hours to reach the top of the pass. After you come down the pass, you will reach Tokyu camp. The camp consists of Gompa, which is noteworthy for its lovely Maitreya statue and is open for visitors.
After breakfast, you will hike to Dho Tarap. It takes about 1 and a half hours to reach Dho Tarap. And for the rest of the day, you will visit and explore the village of Dho Tarap.
On your way, you will pass through the Crystal Mountain School, which educates kids from Dho and the surrounding area. An NGO in France is funding it. It takes roughly 30 minutes to go to Dho from the school.
Dho Tarap is exquisitely adorned with vibrant Buddhist prayer flags. You could observe numerous chortens, mani walls, and monasteries. Most of the people of Dho are direct descendants of Tibetans. So they look similar to Tibetans and have a similar culture and tradition. Most of them are Buddhist.
There are a lot of monasteries in this region. Some monasteries are Dhoro Monastery, Ribo Bumpa Monastery, Mekhyim Monastery, and Drakmar Dewa Monastery.
Today, you will hike along the level trail till you reach the meeting point of the Tarap and Mirubabane rivers. After that, you will cross the Klang Khola Bridge. The trekking will be long and hectic as you have to cover a large distance.
You will continuously walk along the trail of Tarap Khola. After that, you will pass several wonderful towns like Sisaul, Gyamghar, and Toltol. After that, you will reach Naworrpani, where you can set up your camp.
Like yesterday, you will continue following the trail along the Tarap Khola. Then you will climb to Lamchaur High. Next, you will pass Lahini Odar and then descend to Chhedhul Gompa. On your way, you could see the landscape changing to more greenery than barren land.
After following the Tarap Khola, you will reach Lashicap. Then, you will search for a suitable place and set up a camp.
After having breakfast, you will start your trek along the green lands above the Thuli Bheri River. You will cross a short bridge across a river once you get to Tarakot. You will also pass through Lawan and Byasgad.
After walking for around 6 hours, you will reach Dunai. Dunai is the headquarters of the Dolpa district. The Dolpa Kendriya Gompa, a Buddhist monastery up the hill, is situated in this region. It is located on a slope overlooking Dunai on the other bank of the river.
About 2700 people live here. You can also discover campuses, bank offices, and other development infrastructure. You can rest in the tea house or set up a camp in Dunai.
Today is the last day of the trek. You will walk for about 3 hours before you reach Juphal. Till you reach Kalagawda, you will continue following the Bheri River’s trail. After that, you will ascend for some time until you reach Juphal.
You will head to Juphal airport after your breakfast and fly to Nepalgunj. Depending upon the flight schedule, you will explore Nepalgunj. For example, if you have a late afternoon flight, you have plenty of time to roam around Nepalgunj.
And after that, you will fly to Kathmandu. Our representative will pick you up and transfer you to the hotel. You can freshen up and visit the nightlife of Kathmandu city. Today will be your last day in Nepal.
This day depends upon your flight schedule. If you have your flight in the afternoon or evening, you still have time to explore Kathmandu. You can visit Thamel and buy unique Nepali products. You can visit places like Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square. Then our representative will drop you off at the Tribhuvan International Airport for your final departure.
Thus, trekkers adore exploring the hidden wonderland of Upper Dolpo. The beautiful landscape, high mountain range, Tibetan culture, and food makes the visit to Dolpo one of the most memorable journeys of your life.
Although Upper Dolpo was previously unknown to most people, the number of explorers visiting Upper Dolpo has recently increased. The journey to Upper Dolpo does not end in a day or two. It takes a whopping 26 days to end the journey. Perhaps travel agencies can assist you in making your walk easier.