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Upper Dolpo: Exploring Nepal’s Remote and Enigmatic Region

25 Days

The Dolpo Trek is a popular trekking route in the Dolpa region of Nepal. Dolpo is a remote and culturally rich area in the northwestern part of Nepal, known for its stunning landscapes, ancient Tibetan culture, and traditional villages. This trek offers a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience for trekkers. The trek can vary in length and elevation depending on the specific route you choose and the starting and ending points of your trek.

Typically, the Dolpa trek may involve altitudes ranging from approximately 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) to over 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level. Some of the key highlights and passes on the Dolpa trek include:

  1. Dunai: The starting point for many Dolpa treks is Dunai, which is situated at an elevation of around 2,150 meters (7,050 feet) above sea level.
  2. Phoksundo Lake: One of the main attractions of the Dolpa region is Phoksundo Lake, located at an altitude of about 3,600 meters (11,800 feet).
  3. Shey Gompa: The famous Shey Gompa, a monastery, is situated at an altitude of approximately 4,500 meters (14,800 feet).
  4. High Passes: The Dolpa trek may involve crossing high passes like the Kang La Pass (5,360 meters or 17,585 feet) and the Sela La Pass (5,094 meters or 16,709 feet).
  5. Upper Dolpo: The Upper Dolpo region, known for its remote and high-altitude villages, can reach elevations of over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).

It’s important to note that trekking at high altitudes can pose risks of altitude sickness, so it’s crucial to acclimatize properly and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Trekkers should also consult with experienced guides and consider their own physical fitness and experience level when planning a Dolpa trek. The duration and altitude of your trek can vary depending on the specific itinerary you choose.

Overview

Upper Dolpo and Lower Dolpo are remote regions located in the Dolpa District of Nepal. These areas are known for their rugged landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique Tibetan-influenced traditions.

Both Upper and Lower Dolpo remain relatively untouched by modernization, and trekking in these areas offers a unique adventure for those seeking remote and culturally rich experiences in the Himalayas. Travelers should be aware that these regions require special permits, and trekking conditions can be challenging due to high altitudes and harsh weather.

Travelers interested in exploring Upper and Lower Dolpo should be prepared for a challenging yet rewarding adventure. The region’s isolation has helped preserve its unique cultural heritage and natural beauty, making it a destination of interest for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience in Nepal.

Here are some key points about the Dolpo Trek:

  • Location: Dolpo is located in the northwestern part of Nepal, bordering Tibet (China) to the north. It is one of the most remote and least developed regions in Nepal.
  • Scenery: The Dolpo region is renowned for its diverse and breathtaking landscapes, including high mountain ranges, deep valleys, pristine lakes, and barren plateaus. Trekkers can witness the beauty of the Shey Phoksundo Lake, one of the deepest lakes in Nepal.
  • Cultural Diversity: Dolpo is home to several ethnic groups, including the Dolpo-pa, who have a distinct Tibetan culture and language. The region is dotted with ancient monasteries, chortens (Buddhist shrines), and traditional villages.
  • Remote and Challenging: The Dolpo Trek is considered a challenging trek due to its remote location and high altitudes. Trekkers should be prepared for high passes, rugged terrain, and the possibility of altitude sickness. Proper acclimatization is crucial.
  • Permits: To trek in the Dolpo region, trekkers need to obtain several permits, including the Restricted Area Permit and the Shey-Phoksundo National Park Permit. It’s advisable to check the latest permit requirements and regulations before embarking on the trek.
  • Duration: The duration of the Dolpo Trek can vary depending on the specific route you choose. It typically takes around 2 to 4 weeks to complete the trek, depending on your starting and ending points.
  • Teahouses and Camping: While trekking in the Dolpo region, you have the option to stay in teahouses (basic lodges) in some villages or camp in the wilderness. Camping provides a more immersive experience but requires more logistics.
  • Best Time to Trek: The best time to trek in Dolpo is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is relatively stable, and the skies are clear.
  • Guides and Porters: It’s recommended to hire a local guide and, if needed, porters for the Dolpo Trek, especially if you’re not experienced in high-altitude trekking or navigating remote areas.
  • Altitude Considerations: As you trek in Dolpo, you’ll encounter high altitudes, with some passes exceeding 5,000 meters (16,404 feet). Proper acclimatization and awareness of altitude-related illnesses, such as acute mountain sickness (AMS), are crucial for a safe and enjoyable trek.
  • Logistics and Supplies: Given the remote nature of Dolpo, it’s essential to plan your logistics carefully. You may need to carry essential supplies such as food and fuel, as well as camping equipment if you choose to camp.
  • Local Culture: Dolpo is a region deeply rooted in Tibetan culture. Take the time to interact with local communities, experience their traditional lifestyles, and learn about their customs and beliefs. Respect local traditions and ask for permission before taking photos of people or their property.
  • Weather Conditions: Weather in the Dolpo region can be unpredictable, especially at high altitudes. It’s essential to be prepared for sudden changes in weather and pack accordingly with warm clothing, rain gear, and proper trekking equipment.
  • Access: The Dolpo region can be accessed by flight or road. The most common starting point for treks in Dolpo is the Juphal Airport, which is served by regular flights from Nepalgunj. From there, trekkers can begin their journey into the Dolpo region.

Before embarking on the Dolpo Trek, it’s essential to do thorough research, plan your itinerary, and ensure you have the necessary permits and equipment. Additionally, always prioritize safety and proper acclimatization when trekking in high-altitude regions like Dolpo.

CONSIDERATIONS

In addition to the essential equipment and gear, there are several important considerations and preparations you should make for a trek in the Dolpo region:

  • Physical Fitness: The Dolpo Trek involves challenging terrain and high altitudes. Ensure you are in good physical condition by engaging in regular cardiovascular and strength training exercises in the months leading up to the trek. It’s also beneficial to go on some practice hikes or treks to get used to carrying a backpack.
  • Acclimatization: Proper acclimatization is crucial to prevent altitude sickness. Plan your itinerary to include rest days at higher altitudes to allow your body to adjust. Listen to your body, and if you experience symptoms of altitude sickness (headache, nausea, dizziness), descend to a lower altitude immediately.
  • Permits and Documentation: Obtain all the necessary permits for the Dolpo Trek well in advance. Check the latest permit requirements and regulations with the Department of Immigration and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Office in Kathmandu. Also, carry multiple photocopies of your passport, permits, and important documents.
  • Travel Insurance: Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers trekking at high altitudes, medical emergencies, evacuations, and trip cancellations. Ensure your insurance includes helicopter evacuation coverage.
  • Local Currency: Carry enough local currency (Nepali Rupees) for your trek, as ATM and banking services are limited in remote areas. It’s advisable to exchange currency in Kathmandu or Nepalgunj before starting your trek.
  • Communication: Mobile phone networks may not be available throughout the trek, so consider carrying a satellite phone or a satellite communication device for emergencies. Local SIM cards are also an option, but coverage is limited in some areas.
  • Food and Water: While trekking, you’ll primarily rely on teahouses for meals. Carry some extra snacks and energy bars to supplement your diet. Ensure you have a reliable water purification method (such as water purification tablets or a portable water filter) to treat water from natural sources.
  • Local Culture and Etiquette: Learn about and respect the local customs, traditions, and etiquette of the people in the Dolpo region. Always ask for permission before taking photos of people or their property, and dress modestly.
  • Environmental Responsibility: Practice Leave No Trace principles by disposing of trash properly, avoiding single-use plastic, and respecting the natural environment. Carry a reusable water bottle and eco-friendly toiletries.
  • Group or Guide: Consider whether you want to trek independently or with a guided group. While experienced trekkers may choose to go independently, having a local guide can enhance your experience by providing cultural insights and ensuring safety.
  • Emergency Contacts: Share your trekking itinerary, including estimated arrival and departure dates at various points, with a trusted friend or family member. Provide them with your guide’s or trekking agency’s contact information.
  • Weather Preparedness: Be prepared for variable weather conditions. Even during the best trekking seasons, unexpected weather changes can occur. Pack layers of clothing to adapt to temperature fluctuations.
  • Flexibility: Be flexible with your schedule. Delays due to weather, landslides, or other factors can occur in remote areas. Have extra days in your itinerary as a buffer for unexpected delays.
  • Responsible Trekking: Practice responsible and ethical trekking. Avoid disturbing wildlife, follow established trails, and contribute to the local economy by staying in teahouses and buying local products.

By considering these additional factors and making thorough preparations, you can have a safe, enjoyable, and culturally enriching trek in the Dolpo region of Nepal. It’s always a good idea to consult with experienced trekkers or a local trekking agency for specific advice and up-to-date information on the region.

EQUIPMENT AND GEARS

When preparing for a trek in the Dolpo region or any high-altitude trek in Nepal, it’s essential to have the right equipment and gear to ensure your safety and comfort. Here’s a list of essential equipment and gear you should consider bringing:

Clothing:

  • Trekking Boots: Sturdy, waterproof, and comfortable boots with good ankle support are crucial.
  • Moisture-Wicking Base Layers: Synthetic or merino wool base layers to regulate body temperature and moisture.
  • Insulating Layers: Fleece or down jackets to provide warmth during cold evenings.
  • Trekking Pants: Lightweight, quick-drying pants that can be converted into shorts are ideal.
  • Waterproof Shell Jacket and Pants: Ensure they are breathable and waterproof for protection against rain and wind.
  • Trekking Socks: Several pairs of moisture-wicking socks to prevent blisters.
  • Gloves: Lightweight and warm gloves for trekking, and a pair of waterproof gloves for cold and wet conditions.
  • Headwear: A warm beanie or hat, a sun hat with a wide brim, and a buff or neck gaiter for protection from the sun and cold.
  • Underwear: Moisture-wicking, comfortable underwear.

Trekking Gear:

  • Backpack: A comfortable and spacious trekking backpack with adjustable straps.
  • Sleeping Bag: A good-quality sleeping bag rated for cold temperatures.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable trekking poles can help with balance and reduce strain on your knees.
  • Headlamp/Flashlight: With extra batteries for use in teahouses and campsites.
  • Sunglasses: High-quality sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Water Bottles/Hydration System: At least two water bottles or a hydration system to stay hydrated.

Camping Gear:

  • Tent: If you plan to camp, a lightweight and weather-resistant tent.
  • Sleeping Pad: An insulated sleeping pad for comfort and insulation from the ground.
  • Cooking Gear: A lightweight stove, cookware, and utensils if you plan to prepare your meals.
  • Eating Utensils: A plate, bowl, fork, knife, and spoon.

Personal Items:

  • First Aid Kit: Including basic medications, blister treatment, and any personal medications.
  • Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper.
  • Trekking Towel: Quick-drying and compact.
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm: High SPF sunscreen and lip balm with sunblock.
  • Insect Repellent: Effective insect repellent for protection against mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Personal Identification and Travel Documents: Passport, permits, travel insurance, and photocopies of important documents.

Optional Items:

  • Camera: If you enjoy photography, bring a camera and extra batteries.
  • Books and Entertainment: A book, journal, or playing cards for downtime.
  • Trekking Map and Compass/GPS: For navigation and route planning.
  • Portable Charger and Power Bank: To charge electronic devices in teahouses where electricity may be limited.

Remember that the Dolpo region is remote, and it’s essential to pack efficiently and keep your gear as lightweight as possible. Hiring a porter can help with carrying heavier items. Additionally, check the weather conditions and temperature variations for the specific time of year you’ll be trekking, as this can influence your gear choices. It’s also a good idea to consult with experienced trekkers or a local trekking agency for personalized gear recommendations based on your trekking route and duration.

Itinerary

• Arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal.
• Check-in to your hotel, rest.

• Explore Kathmandu's cultural heritage with visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) and Pashupatinath Temple.
• Gather necessary trekking permits and gear.

• Take a domestic flight to Nepalgunj, a city in western Nepal.
• Overnight stay in Nepalgunj.

• Take an early morning flight to Juphal, the starting point of the trek.
• Trek to Dunai, the district headquarters of Dolpa.

• Trek through lush forests and along the banks of the Bheri River.
• Camp at Chepka.

• Continue following the Bheri River and pass through several remote villages.
• Camp at Renje.

• Reach the beautiful Phoksundo Lake.
• Explore Ringmo village and the surroundings.
• Camp near Phoksundo Lake.

• Acclimatize to the high altitude.
• Explore the scenic beauty of Phoksundo Lake and its surroundings.

• Trek along the western shore of Phoksundo Lake.
• Camp by the Phoksundo Khola (river).

• Ascend gradually while enjoying panoramic views of the lake.
• Camp at Phoksundo Bhanjyang.

• Trek to Shey Gompa, an ancient monastery.
• Explore the monastery and its religious significance.
• Camp near Shey Gompa.

• Trek to Namduna Gaun, a traditional village.
• Experience the local culture and lifestyle.
• Camp at Namduna Gaun.

• Trek to Saldang, one of the largest villages in the region.
• Interact with the local people and explore the village.
• Camp at Saldang.

• Continue trekking to Yangze Gompa.
• Visit Yangze Gompa and learn about its history.
• Camp at Yangze Gompa.

• Trek to Sibu, a village known for its Tibetan culture.
• Camp at Sibu.

• Begin ascending towards Jeng La Pass.
• Camp at Jeng La Phedi.

• Cross Jeng La Pass (5,090 meters) and descend into Tokyu Gaon.
• Camp at Tokyu Gaon.

• Trek to Dho Tarap, a village known for its Tibetan culture.
• Explore the village and its monasteries.
• Camp at Dho Tarap.

• Take a rest day to acclimatize and explore Dho Tarap further.

• Trek along the Tarap Khola (river).
• Camp by the river.

• Trek to Khanigaon, a small settlement in the Tarap Valley.
• Camp at Khanigaon.

• Continue trekking to Tarakot, a village on the way back to Juphal.
• Camp at Tarakot.

• Trek back to Dunai, retracing your steps.
• Camp at Dunai.

• Trek from Dunai to Juphal.
• End the trek in Juphal.

• Take a flight from Juphal to Nepalgunj and then to Kathmandu.
• Arrive in Kathmandu, and spend the night at your hotel.

What is included in this trek package:

  • Three-nights’ accommodation at 3-Star Hotel in Kathmandu
  • Guided sightseeing tour in Kathmandu in private transport and entry fees to venues
  • All Private ground transportation including airport transfer
  • Domestic flights
  • Kitchen and camping equipment during the trek
  • Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners during the trek
  • Government licensed, experienced trek guide, assistant trekking guide (for a group of 10 or more trekkers), and porters to help trekkers' luggage (1 porter for 2 trekkers, combined porter weight limit -18kg.)
  • First Aids Kit.
  • Duffel Bags for porters to carry your main luggage
  • Guides' and porters' expenses - meals, insurance, salary, lodging, transportation, and other necessary equipment.
  • Special Dolpo Permits
  • All government, local taxes, and official expenses.
  • Rescue operations arrangement in case of complicated health conditions (funded by your travel insurance).
  • Farewell dinner at the end of the trek in Kathmandu.

What is excluded in this trek package:

  • All accommodation and meals in Kathmandu, before and after the journey
  • Extra night accommodations, meals in Kathmandu due to early arrival or late departure, or early return from the trek.
  • Personal expenses - shopping, snacks, hot (tea, coffee) and cold drinks, bar bills, bottle or boiled water, shower, Wi-Fi, laundry, telephone call, battery recharge costs, extra porters, etc.
  • Personal clothing and gear
  • Travel insurance which has to cover emergency high-altitude rescue and evacuation compulsory
  • Additional costs or delays caused by circumstances beyond our control like landslides, bad weather conditions, itinerary modification due to safety concerns, illness, change of government policy, strikes, mass movements, etc.

You can send your enquiry via the form below.

Upper Dolpo: Exploring Nepal’s Remote and Enigmatic Region
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