Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek

Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek

Key Infomation

  • Duration:26 Days
  • Trip GradeVery Strenuous
  • DestinationTIA Kathmandu
  • ActivityTrekking, City Tour, Hiking & Flights
  • Group Size2-15
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Nestled between Lower Dolpo and the Tibetan borderland, the Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek stands out as a classic option, featuring culture and charm that one could envision existing just in the dreams of movie producers.

Dolpo, believed by many as one of the most alluring and enigmatic places in the Himalayas, is remote and wild. This region has been linked to Tibet for centuries, amidst towering peaks, atop the world's roof. With a mixed landscape and extraordinary biodiversity, Dolpo forms a connection between the Tibetan plateau and the hills of Nepal. Along the Thakchu Khola, at an elevation of 4100m, it hosts some of the highest constantly inhabited settlements on the planet.

Historically, the conventional route to Dolpo led from the south, navigating through the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve along a trail utilized for centuries as a salt trade route. Today, the primary entry and exit point for most trekkers is the dirt airstrip at Juphal in Lower Dolpo. Multiple trekking alternatives traverse Dolpo, each offering spectacular scenery and presenting outstanding options for the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT).

The Upper Dolpo Trek forms a circular route, encapsulating all the expected elements of Dolpo, including its jaw-dropping cliffs, demanding trails, ice-cool lakes, and stunning mountain panoramas. Also acknowledged as the Trans-Himalayan Nepal Trek, this trekking adventure extends into the mid-western region of Nepal. Notably, the center of Dolpo hosts Phoksundo Lake considered one of the most picturesque spots in Nepal. This lake is a starting point for trails leading to Crystal Mountain, providing access to Bhijer, Saldang, and the northern villages, or to Dho Tarap and the valleys in the southeast.

The Shey Phoksundo National Park, along with its expansive Buffer Zone, fends the majority of Dolpo and eastern Mugu, encompassing a vast area of 3555 sq. km, making it Nepal's largest national park. Designated as the Trans-Himalayan Ecosystem, this region is culturally and environmentally delicate, necessitating the highest level of respect and preservation.

Dolpo shares a weather pattern similar to the Mustang region, resulting in the primary trekking season extending from May to October. Even though the high passes close only during winter, venturing out of season requires facing intense cold conditions. Unpredictable large storms, bringing significant snowfall, can occur before or after the monsoon, highlighting the importance of maintaining flexibility in your Upper Dolpo trek itinerary. While the day-to-day world may offer little motivation, the vast stretch up here creates a sense of endless possibilities. Gazing beyond the stars into the infinite ceiling helps rejuvenate a tired mind and resets the internal yearning clock. Perhaps, trekking across Dolpo is like peering through a delicate-looking glass into the deepness of the soul.

Trekking in Upper Dolpo became allowable in 1992. Still, the considerable permit fee of USD 500 per person for a 10-day duration has prevented numerous trekkers from embarking into this exquisite region of Nepal. Those who have boldly embraced the cost enthusiastically proclaim that the experience was worthwhile!

Highlights of Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek

  • Admire the enchanting azure shades of the alpine Phoksundo Lake.
  • Indulge in the breathtaking vistas of the Trans-Himalayan mountains and deserts in Nepal.
  • Experience a close encounter with Upper Dolpo's holiest summit, Crystal Mountain.
  • Diverse flora and fauna abound in the Shey Phoksundo National Park, serving as the habitat for animals like snow leopards, blue sheep, mountain musk deer, and many more.
  • Explore Shey Gompa, Yangze Gompa, and Bon Gompa.
  • The challenging trek through the isolated highest mountains
  • Witness the springtime hunt for Yarcha Gumba, a peculiar fungus that resembles a caterpillar and is highly prized for its purported therapeutic properties.

Best time for Upper Dolpo Trek

Like much of all trekking routes in Nepal, the ideal periods to explore Upper Dolpo are spring (April to May) and fall (October to November). During these times, the weather remains mild, the skies are clear, and the likelihood of snowfall at higher elevations is minimal. Late or early snowfall is more probable in April and November, potentially causing some passes impossible to cross.

Upper Dolpo Trek Difficulty

If you are in perfect physical condition and have seriously prepared for this adventure through regular cardiovascular exercise, undertaking the Upper Dolpo trek doesn't require any distinctive skills or prior mountaineering experience.

However, be aware that this is a burdensome trek spanning approximately three weeks, set in isolated terrains with limited access to modern amenities. The journey involves traversing multiple mountain passes exceeding 5,000 meters in elevation, where the air is thin, and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness may occur.

To minimize the risk of having to abandon the trek, we've meticulously devised an itinerary that allows abundant time for acclimatization as we ascend into the western Himalayas. Your experienced guide from Footprint Adventure will closely monitor the well-being of each trekker in your group, prioritizing your safety throughout the journey.

Major Attractions of Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek

Shey Phoksundo National Park

Established in 1984, many believe this national park is one of the most stunning in the world. Spanning altitudes from 2130m in the southeast to 6883m at the peak of Kanjiroba, the majority of its expanse is situated north of the primary Himalayan crest. The park's broad goals include overseeing activities within the designated regions and fostering conservation efforts. Collaborating with local community development initiatives, the projects strive to implement environmentally sustainable methods for enhancing the ecosystem.

Crystal Mountain

Having a commanding presence above Shey is the sacred Crystal Mountain, revered as the holiest peak in Dolpo. Marked by veins of clear crystalline material, it draws people from all corners of Dolpo every July for the formal kora walks around its summit, a cleansing of sins. Some even partake in drinking rock dust from the peak. The journey involves crossing a pass adorned with yak horns, culminating in the celebrations at the cave of enlightenment belonging to Drutob Senge Yeshe.

Shey Gompa

Renowned locally as Shelri Sumdho Gompa, the monastery's enchanting charm captivates its visitors. Taking its name from the neighboring Crystal Mountain in the western valley, the monastery was founded by Tendzin Raspa, and his reincarnate family remains in charge of activities at Shey. The monastery hosts a summer festival yearly, drawing attendees from various territories of Dolpo. Surrounding the monastery are several chortens, while inside, the main icons include Dorje Chang, the earthly Buddha Sakyamuni, Tara, a skeletal Buddha, Milarepa, and the Karmapa positioned behind the Torma butter images.

You'll See

Itinerary

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This is the standard itinerary for Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek If you are looking for a customized itinerary and requirements, please contact us for the details.

Embark on the exciting start of your Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek with a joyful arrival in the bustling city of Kathmandu. Upon touchdown at Tribhuvan International Airport, our representative will extend a warm welcome, guiding you through a smooth transfer to your hotel. Once checked in, feel free to leisurely explore the colorful corners of Kathmandu or, if necessary, take the opportunity to rent any trekking gear you might require.

    Today marks the start of your Kathmandu city tour, an immersive experience delving into the UNESCO-listed sites that showcase the prosperous culture and heritage of this bustling city. As the day unfolds, you'll have the privilege of meeting your trekking guide for a detailed briefing on the Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek. This comprehensive session will cover crucial aspects, including the trek itinerary, safety measures, and insights into what to expect throughout the journey. Feel free to pose any queries you may have, ensuring you are thoroughly prepared for the upcoming adventure.

    Later in the evening, a welcome dinner awaits you at a local restaurant, celebrating the beginning of your trek. This gathering provides an ideal opportunity to indulge in mouthwatering Nepali cuisine, engage with fellow trekkers, and bask in the genuine warmth of Nepalese hospitality. The connection developed during this evening sets the tone for the exciting trekking days that lie ahead.

      Embark on the start of your journey into the captivating landscapes of Upper Dolpo today. Due to the flight schedule, with the flight from Nepalgunj (150m) to Juphal departing before any flights from Kathmandu, an overnight stay in Nepalgunj is necessary. Use this opportunity to explore the beauty of Nepalgunj city, savor local street food, and visit renowned temples. The next morning, our adventure continues as we catch our flight to Juphal, the gateway to the mesmerizing Upper Dolpo region.

        Following a quick 35-minute flight from Nepalgunj, your plane will touch down at Juphal (2475m). Once introduced to our porters and trekking team, we'll begin our initial day on the trail. The journey starts with a gradual ascent above a scenic valley, eventually descending to the Thuli Bheri River (2080m), which we'll follow for approximately 2 hours. Along the river, our route aligns with a broad dirt track, initially constructed as a service road connecting the airport to the district headquarters at Dunai (2140m). Here, you'll find modest teahouses, providing a restful setting for our overnight stay.

          Starting with a good breakfast in Dunai, our trek extends towards Laina Odar (3375m) today. The day's trail progresses gradually upward, and once again, we ascend over the Thulo Bheri River, crossing a suspension bridge along the way. A pleasant encounter with a scenic waterfall adds to the beauty of the journey. Our midday break awaits in Lingdo (2390m), where we refuel with lunch before continuing the ascent to Laina Odar, our selected camping site for the night. Expect strenuous ascents today, providing a challenging yet rewarding trekking adventure.

            Commencing the day with an enjoyable breakfast at our tent, we embark on the next leg of our journey. Within the first 2 hours of departure from Laina Odar and heading north, the trail unfolds in an exposed terrain. Our route leads us to Chhyugar (3440m), offering a potential camping spot albeit overshadowed by precarious cliffs, creating a weird atmosphere. The path appears obstructed by the narrow river defile, flanked by towering walls and mysterious rocks. Upon crossing the west bank, we reach the old settlement of Nawarpani (3475m), also known as Pibuk, where we'll spend the night in our tented camp.

              Embarking from Nawarpani, our journey today leads us to Langa Camp. The trail rotates between the east and west banks, strategically preferring the most stable slopes. Progressing on the northwest bank, we reach Ghyamghar (3755m), and from there, the trail shifts to the east bank. As we approach the settlement of Sisaul, the path crosses back to the west bank, easily avoiding the less inviting cliffs. A pleasant lunch during the day adds to our energy as we eventually stop at Langa (4010m) for our overnight stay.

                Our journey today leads us upward to a small pass, marking our entry into the stunning valley of Dho Tarap (3945m). This is the initial settlement on our journey that proudly showcases all the defining features of the authentic Dolpo region. Dho Tarap, a prominent settlement, is perched above an expansive valley and has served as a trading hub for centuries. Our stay in this scenic village extends to two nights, allowing abundant time to soak in the cultural richness and natural beauty this place has to offer.

                  Considering the high altitudes we'll be trekking through, it is vital to give our bodies adequate rest for acclimatization. Today provides ample free time for you to explore the allures of Dho Tarap and indulge in well-deserved relaxation. This unique place boasts a collection of distinctive chortens and a splendidly situated monastery overlooking the houses. Take advantage of the settlement's comforts to charge your electronic devices.

                  Engage yourself in the exploration of Ribo Bumpa Monastery, represented by a building style reminiscent of the renowned Samye Monastery southeast of Lhasa. After a day filled with discoveries and a delightful dinner, embrace a restful night's sleep, gearing up for the journey awaiting us tomorrow.

                    Today, we head towards Chhoila Khola Camp (4800m), strategically placing ourselves for the crossing of Chhoila Pass (5051m) tomorrow. In the morning, we include a visit to the Crystal Mountain School en route to Tokyu (4209m). Along the way, we take the opportunity to explore Champa Gompa. After a few hours of trekking, we'll establish our camp at Chhoila Khola Camp for the night, preparing ourselves for the upcoming high pass trek tomorrow.

                      Early this morning, we rise with the sun to beat the tough 5051m Chhoila Bhanjyang. The climb is taken at a slow pace, focusing on controlled breathing and mutual trust among the trekking squad. Once we successfully traverse the challenging Chhoila Pass, we continue our trek for a few more hours, reaching Sulung Khola Camp where we'll spend the night. A fulfilling dinner at the tented camp awaits, offering a well-deserved rest after the day's exhilarating journey.

                        As the morning unfolds, our trek resumes, aiming to reach Tinjegaon (4150m) by the end of the day. Following the Panjyan Khola, we make our way to the settlement of Tinjegaon, provided with essential facilities such as a health post and a post office for any emergencies that may arise. Our overnight stay in this beautiful village provides an opportunity to enjoy a peaceful night's rest.

                          As the sun rises, we venture on the next leg of our journey, passing through Sonma village and tracing the trail of Panjyan Khola to arrive at Mendo (4210m). Here, we take the time to explore the Pu Gomba and indulge in a comforting lunch. Continuing our trek for a few more hours, we conclude our day's journey at Shimengaon (3870m).

                            As of today, our adventure takes a thrilling turn as we venture into the higher routes of the Great Himalayan Trail. The morning begins with a visit to the ancient Shimen Gumba in Shimengaon. We then start our trek towards Nisalgaon (3700m), often referred to as the final village of the Dolpo circuit. Establishing our tent, we eagerly expect the rest day awaiting us tomorrow.

                              Today marks a well-deserved rest day, offering the perfect opportunity to pamper your body with much-needed relaxation and attend to personal hygiene. This break allows us to reflect on the journey thus far, sharing our adventures as a team. We'll come together for a lovely team lunch, taking in the spectacular vistas of the Tibetan highlands and fostering a positive mindset for the upcoming leg of our adventure. 

                                We start early in the morning for today's trek. After a few hours of walking, we will reach Dora Sumda (3670m). After crossing a bridge from there we will head south to reach the exquisite territory of Saldang (3770m) for our overnight stay. 

                                  Our day begins with a morning visit to Saldang Gompa, followed by a descent to Namgung via Kirathang (3960m). Traversing the path alongside Namgung Khola, we eventually reach Namgung Gumba, where we'll pitch our camp for a relaxing overnight stay.

                                    Today unfolds as another day committed to conquering high passes. In the afternoon, we embark on the challenging journey over Sela Bhanjyang (5010m). Following a satisfying lunch, we continue our trek, reaching Sheygaon (4160m) we will stop for the night, soaking in the beauty of the surroundings.

                                      Day 19 is dedicated to rest and revival in the stunning village of Sheygaon (4343m). This picturesque village boasts an overload of attractions. Shey Gompa, guarded by eight chortens of different sizes and a substantial collection of mani-stones, stands as a central highlight. The largest chorten, adorned with images of the peacock, horse, elephant, and flying dragon, can be entered when open, representing the four directions.

                                      Shey comprises only four or five houses, with an additional three located up the hill. The serene surroundings and cultural richness make this rest day at Sheygaon an absolute delight, promising a memorable experience.

                                        Today promises to be a vast journey as we set our path to the southwest, making our way to Phoksundo River Camp via Ngangda La Pass (5360m). Following the demanding ascent and descent of the high pass, our trail aligns with the Tuk Kyaksa Khola, leading us to the peaceful Phoksundo River Camp (3750m) where we'll rest for the night.

                                          Our destination today draws us nearer to the deepest lake in Nepal, Shey Phoksundo Lake. We'll set our tents close to the lake, immersing ourselves in the peacefulness of the surroundings. The night promises a serene experience, gazing at the stars and relishing a satisfying dinner in this peaceful environment.

                                            Today marks one of the most exciting episodes of our trek as we stroll along the shores of Shey Phoksundo Lake, marveling at its expansive palette of colors and enormous beauty. Our journey leads us to Ringmo village (3733m), where we will spend the next two nights, immersing ourselves in the magic of this captivating place.

                                              Today is dedicated to well-deserved rest, providing enough time for reflection on the amazing adventure we've undertaken. In the afternoon, our exploration takes us to Tsova Bon Gumba, offering an understanding of various elements of the Bon religion. Throughout the day, we'll be treated to the breathtaking scenery of the majestic Kanjirowa Himal (6612m). The evening will be delighted with a pleasant dinner, making this day in Ringmo Village a perfect combination of relaxation and cultural exploration.

                                                As we near the climax of our remarkable Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek, today marks the initiation of our descent back to the starting point of this epic adventure. Our morning travel involves crossing Amchi Hospital, eventually leading us to Chhepka via Rechi (2940m), where we'll settle for our overnight stay.

                                                  Today signifies the conclusion of this fascinating trekking journey as we make our way back to Juphal (2475m) from Chhepka. The day begins early, tracing the route alongside Suli Khola. Progressing through Sulighat, we cross Thuli Bheri River, ultimately reaching Juphal where we'll spend our final night, reflecting about the incredible experiences of this adventure.

                                                    Our journey concludes as we make our way to Juphal airport, preparing to board the flight back to Nepalgunj. This marks the moment to bid farewell to our dedicated local crew from Dolpo. After a picturesque 35-minute flight from Juphal, we touch down in the southern plains of Nepalgunj, wrapping up this memorable adventure.

                                                    Note: If our flight from Dolpo to Nepalgunj proceeds without delay, we aim to arrange our return flight to Kathmandu from Nepalgunj on the same day. Yet, should any unexpected disruptions occur, necessitating an overnight stay in Nepalgunj, we will embark on the journey back to Kathmandu the following morning.

                                                      What's Included

                                                      • Airport Transfers (Hotel to airport and vice versa)
                                                      • All required trekking permits
                                                      • Per 2 people one porter with Duffle Bags
                                                      • Experienced trekking leader with a friendly crew
                                                      • All domestic flights required for the trek
                                                      • Tented camp during your trek
                                                      • Cook and kitchen helper
                                                      • Kitchen tent with required utensils
                                                      • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner during your trek
                                                      • Kathmandu city tour and welcome dinner
                                                      • Wages, lodgings, meals, gear, and insurance for all trekking staff
                                                      • Carry Me Bag for responsible waste collection throughout the trek
                                                      • Tourist service charges and VAT
                                                      • Hotel in Kathmandu for 3 nights with breakfast 
                                                      • Certificate of achievement after the successful trek
                                                      • Trekking route map and printed company T-shirt
                                                      •  First aid box (Guide will carry it throughout the trek)
                                                      • Nepal tourist visa
                                                      • Travel health insurance (that covers rescue & evacuation above 4,000 m)
                                                      • Extra accommodation and meals behind the itinerary
                                                      • Extra drinks as alcoholic & non-alcoholic
                                                      • Personal costs like snacks, laundry, telephone, wife, hot shower, etc. 
                                                      • Tips for your guide and porter (expected)
                                                      • Extra luggage charges for domestic airport
                                                      • All other expenses that are not mentioned on 'what's included'

                                                      Additional Info

                                                      Accommodation

                                                      In Kathmandu, you will be accommodated in a well-appointed hotel, typically of 3-star quality, based on twin-sharing arrangements. However, during the trek, the accommodations are relaxing and specific, providing a comfortable stay. You will have your tented camp to sleep and your chef will take care of your food needs and other things.

                                                      Drinking Water

                                                      In the isolated trekking region of Dolpo, unlike other parts of Nepal, daily access to mineral water facilities is inaccessible. It is strongly recommended to bring water purification tablets from Kathmandu. Our team is committed to ensuring a supply of fresh, pure water sourced from local natural springs. Additionally, you can easily get enough boiled water within the confines of your kitchen tent.

                                                      Cultural Respect

                                                      Show respect for the local culture and traditions of the Dolpo region. Dress modestly, seek permission before capturing photographs or portraits, and observe local customs. Courteously interacting with the local community greatly enriches the overall trekking experience.

                                                      Packing Essentials

                                                      Pack according to the season, with warm clothing, waterproof gear, comfortable trekking boots, and a reliable backpack. Other essentials include a first aid kit, water purification tablets, sunscreen, and a hat. Check the weather prediction before leaving to pack accordingly.

                                                      Upper Dolpo Trek Permits

                                                      Trekking in Upper Dolpo requires special permits. Assure you have the necessary permits, including the Dolpo Restricted Area Permit and Shey Phoksundo National Park Permit. These permits are obtainable through authorized agencies and for you, we will handle all the procedures for the required permits. 

                                                      Acclimatization and Altitude concerns

                                                      The Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek includes diverse altitudes, traversing several high mountain passes. Prioritizing acclimatization time is crucial to mitigate potential altitude-related problems. Our itinerary strategically incorporates plenty of rest days and a gradual ascent, ensuring a comfortable acclimatization process. This approach guarantees you sufficient time to acclimate during the trek, enhancing your overall enjoyment of the adventure.

                                                      Responsible Trekking

                                                      Practice responsible trekking by reducing your environmental impact. Carry reusable water bottles, dispose of waste responsibly, and avoid disturbing wildlife. Contribute positively to the local economy by buying locally made products.

                                                      FAQs

                                                      Q1. What is the best time for the Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek?

                                                      The prime trekking seasons are spring (April to May) and fall (October to November) when weather conditions are promising and the skies are clear.

                                                      The trek is regarded as strenuous due to changing altitudes and high passes. Good fitness preparation is advised, and acclimatization days are built into the itinerary.

                                                      Weather conditions can be unexpected, especially at higher altitudes. Flexibility in the itinerary is maintained to account for unpredictable changes, ensuring a safe and enjoyable trek.

                                                      In remote areas, phone and internet facilities may be limited. It's advisable to inform family and friends beforehand about possible communication challenges.

                                                      Mineral water might not be always available, so bringing water purification tablets from Kathmandu is advisable. Our team will provide fresh water from natural sources, and boiling water is accessible in the kitchen tent every day.

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