Upper Dolpo Trek is a challenging adventure trek in the Dolpo region. The Upper Dolpo is one of the most remote and least developed regions of Nepal. Lying at the higher elevations of the Dolpa District, it is located between the Tibetan Plateau and the Dhaulagiri Himalayan range. Tibetan influences define the pervading culture since most of the inhabitants of this region are originally from Tibet. Blue sheep, serow (goat-antelopes), and snow leopards are just a few of the remarkable wildlife found in the region, the same fauna typically found in the Himalayan mountain range.
Not surprisingly, the district’s mystique has not escaped the eye of filmmakers and the literary world. It was featured in the 1999 Oscar-nominated film “The Himalaya”, and in books such as Peter Matthiesen’s “The Snow Leopard”, David Snellgrove’s “Himalayan Pilgrimage” and George Schaller’s “Stones of Silence”.
Featuring a uniquely Tibetan culture and lifestyle as well as incredible landscape and geography, the area has high potential for wilderness and ecotourism. Once closed to foreigners, the region is now open to trekking only for organized groups with permits.
The Upper Dolpo trek begins at Juphal, traversing the towering Himalayan mountains of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanjiroba to name a few – then continues over the Numala Pass, reaching the Ringmo village by the Phoksundo Lake of Phoksundo National Park. The trek summits several passes before reaching the final destination of Jumla.
Highlights of the Upper Dolpo trek include:
- Sightseeing in Kathmandu
- Experiencing one of the most remote regions in Nepal
- Trekking on an ancient trade route
- A chance to glimpse rare wildlife
- A unique look into Tibetan culture
- Stunning views of the mountains of the Upper Dolpo region
Detailed itinerary for Upper Dolpo trek:
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu (1,300 m/4,264 ft)
Welcome to the capital of Nepal. Upon arrival at the Tribhuvan Intl Airport, our representative will meet and assist you in the transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay in Kathmandu. In the evening, our representative will invite you to a welcome dinner in one of the typical Nepalese restaurants in the heart of the city, where you will be briefed about what to expect on the trek.
Day 2: Kathmandu Valley sightseeing and trek preparation
After breakfast, you will be taken for a guided trip to the UNESCO-designated world heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley. Some of these include the historical Kathmandu Durbar Square surrounded by temples and the old royal palace, the Hindu shrine Pashupatinath Temple, which is also one of the greatest Shiva sites, the Bouddhanath Stupa, one of the world’s largest Stupa, and the Swayambhunath Stupa or “Monkey Temple” as it is also known. In the evening, more pre-trek discussion follows including introductions to the trekking staff that will be supporting the trip. If you have any questions regarding Upper Dolpo trek, feel free to ask trekking staff.
Day 3: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj & overnight in a Hotel
The flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj takes 1.5 hours. Nepalgunj is the centre of mid-western Nepal and the gateway city to some of the most beautiful sites of the region such as Mt Kailash, Holy lake Mansarovar and Shey-Poksundo Lake, as well as adventurous trekking routes. The state of Uttar Pradesh, India lies on the southern border. In the late afternoon or early evening, we will have some time to explore the town. The climate in this region is hot and more tropical than the rest of the country. We will stay overnight at one of the hotels.
Day 4: Fly from Nepalgunj to Juphal (2,320 m/7,610 ft), trek to Dunai
The day begins with an early morning airport transfer for the approximately 45-minute flight to Juphal over the Himalayan foothills, with views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri peaks to the north. Our trekking staff, who walked 5-6 hours from Nepalgunj to transport the camping gear and food supplies, will meet us upon arrival at the airport. This marks the first day of the adventure, commencing with a 2-3 hour walk downhill past the village just below the airstrip, through the terraced fields to the Bheri River, and beyond the narrow gorge until we reach the campsite at Dunai village where we stay overnight. The village is relatively large, and has its own hospital as well as houses the administrative headquarters for the Dolpo region. There will be ample time for a leisurely stroll around the village.
Day 5: Trek to Tarakot (2,850 m/9,348 ft)
The trek wanders across numerous small streams and follows the Bheri and Barbung rivers through a majestic gorge filled with pine trees over a path built seven meters above the river, finally reaching the hillock-situated town of Tarakot. Tarakot’s local name is Dzong or ‘fort’, in reference to the commanding ancient fortress that once existed in the village. Once the capital before the Gorkha dynasty, Tarakot, in the old days, supervised the collection of tolls for the trading caravans. An overnight camp will be set up either by the river 150m at the bottom of the village, near a police outpost or where there are chortens a gompa on the edge of a grassy plateau after climbing a steep ridge one hour from the village.
Day 6: Trek to Khani Gaon (2,543 m/8,341 ft)
The route follows the Tarap Chu river upstream, crossing the same river twice. The trail wanders through farm terraces and the rural village of Sahartera, curving steadily towards the small settlement of Kola after a good 3-4 hours of walking. Another 2-hour walk brings us to Khani Gaon where we set up camp.
Day 7: Trek to Tarap Khola (3,450 m/11,316 ft)
The trek resumes with a walk up the gorge of the Tarap River, at times next to it, at others climbing up an elevated trail formed from steep slopes. Along the way, we may encounter sheep and goat herders from Dolpo. This walk promises to be exhilarating due to the topographical features of the route – the valley becomes a gorge so narrow that it is possible to jump from one side to the other, sometimes the path disappears, forcing us make our own path using stone slabs, the bridges may either be damaged or washed away by monsoon floods so we brave the cold waters on foot. The riverbank provides many possible campsites so we camp overnight at one such spot near the Kamattarka village.
Day 8: Trek to Yak Kharka (3,800 m/12,464 ft)
Today’s walk can be described as very pleasant, with many scenic landscapes. Mid-way, we will break for lunch. Camp is set up at Yak Kharka.
Day 9: Trek to Dho Tarap (4,090 m/13,415 ft)
The walk gradually slopes up in the direction of Kamattarka peak, which sits at the confluence of the Tarap Chu and Lang Khola rivers flowing from the east. After several hours of walking the narrow gorge, the path shifts above the tree line to juniper and wild rosebushes. Three hours of walking brings us to the village of Dho Tarap. The village consists of thirty-four houses divided into three groups surrounded by irregular stonewalls. Both Bon Po and Chaiba believers as well as a handful of Tibetans and Magars reside together, many families having lived in this small village for generations. Overnight camp is laid out next to the village yard.
Day 10: Rest day at Dho Tarap
This rest day provides a chance to become acquainted with the local villagers who have had very minimal exposure to foreigners, especially westerners. People in the Dolpo region wear homespun clothing that is often dyed maroon or styled after the Tibetan somba coupled with dhocha (boots with upturned toes). Religious amulets and strings made of coral, amber and turquoise are typical adornments. The religion is mainly Bon Po (pre-Buddhist) and Nyingmapa (Buddhist). The Buddhist Gompa is close to the camp while the Bon Gompa is about a half hour’s walk.
Day 11: Trek to Tokyu Gaun (4,200 m/13,776 ft)
The journey resumes towards the upper Tarap valley. Unlike other parts of the inner Dolpo region, thick green grass covers the banks on both sides of the river, continuing pleasantly upstream. Tarap is a magical valley characterized by vast plains, tall mountains stretching up to 20km along the Tarap Chu river, and fields of barley, buckwheat, wheat and potato. After several hours of walking in this picturesque setting, we reach the village of Tokyu, known for the monastery belonging to the Chiba sect. We break here before climbing a rough track leading further into the valley for about three hours. By then, we should reach the overnight camp at the foot of Numala Pass.
Day 12: Trek below Numala Pass (4,665 m/15,301 ft)
The trek becomes more scenic as we ascend to higher altitudes and you may feel shortness of breath. In this case, we will have a shorter day of walking but enough to reach our next overnight campsite at the foot of the pass.
Day 13: Cross Numala Pass (5,190 m/17,023 ft) and camp at Phedi
Today’s journey is more arduous as we cross the Numala Pass, the highest pass on this trek. The pass is straightforward although long and high and becomes more challenging if there is snow. The crossing will take 6-7 hours to complete but the incredible views that surround the area more than compensate for the effort. From the top of Numala, we descend towards Phedi to camp overnight.
Day 14: Trek and cross Baga La Pass (5,070 m/16,630 ft)
The next destination is the second highest pass, Baga La. We steadily climb to the ridge of Numala Pass, which offers glorious views of the surrounding landscape, valleys and mountains including the Dhaulagiri massif and distant snow-capped peaks. We walk steadily downhill for about three hours, and depending on the duration of the journey and the group condition, camp may be set up at Palungtang, just before the Baga-la or Basi-la Pass, or even on the other side of the pass.
Day 15: Trek to Ringmo (3,600 m/11,808 ft)
Today begins with a steep climb to reach the ridge-top of Baga La where majestic views of the landscape and the distant peaks of the Kanjirowa Himal range draw our gaze. What follows is a descent for two hours through a pine forest and then through pasture fields and alpine shrubs on gradual slopes. We reach Ringmo village and the crystal serene waters of Lake of Phoksundo where we will camp for two nights.
Day 16: Rest day at Ringmo & explore Phoksundo Lake (3,730 m/12,234 ft)
The people of Ringmo are primarily Tibetan in origin and are practitioners of the Bonpo faith. It is worth visiting the village as well as the Tibetan Bon monastery at the town outskirts. Phoksundo Lake’s deep blue and emerald colours entice the traveller to explore the surrounding lake area. Follow the lake half a kilometer south of the village to discover a stunning waterfall.
Day 17: Trek to Pungmo village (3,170 m/10,397 ft)
We retrace our steps back down the valley to Sumlo, through sparse meadows, brushwood and low trees. The trail climbs northwest toward Pungmo Nala to the small Bon village of Pungmo where we set up camp. Today’s walk is only half a day, leaving adequate time to explore the attractive settlement, or even the Bon monastery, which is 2 hours away.
Day 18: Trek below Kagmara-La
From Pungmo, we take the trail up the valley on the left bank for two hours before crossing. At various points of the crossing, the Kangchunne and Kanjeilarwa peaks are visible. Juniper and birch abundantly cover the valley, while fauna such as musk deer wander in the lower altitude and blue sheep scale the mountain slopes. We continue to climb and turn westward, high above the river and the tree line. Camp is set up on level ground near Kangmara Pass.
Day 19: Cross the Kagmara-la (5,115 m/16,777 ft)
From an altitude of 16,100 ft, we continue our ascent to the pass. From this elevation, the vista is breathtaking. The summits of Kagwara I and many other icebound peaks of the mountain range are visible to the south, while more magnificent views draw the eye towards the Sisne and Patrasi Himal and northwards to the Kanjiroba. The trail descends steeply westward after the pass and the long walk down ends at a small campsite just beneath the peak of Kagmara Valley near the Garpung River.
Day 20: Trek to Hurikot village (3,600 m/11,808 ft)
Hours after leaving the camp, we reach Tolijem where an army checkpoint stands at a meeting of valleys. Below the outpost, we cross the Jagdula Khola and proceed high above the right bank of the Garpung Khola. The trail follows a heavily forested valley to the village of Huyrikot where we will camp overnight.
Day 21: Trek to Chaurikot (3,060 m/10,036 ft)
After crossing a bridge, we head for Jagdull Lekh where the trail stretches up along the ridge northwest to climb Barbarey Lekh Pass at an elevation of about 3,810 m/12,500 ft. The lengthy, steady climb follow a ridgeline not typical of most passes. Towards the north are stunning views of Kanjiroba Himal. The trail then descends into thick forest of pine, spruce, fir and oak. Camp is prepared in a forest clearing next to the river.
Day 22: Trek to Chorte Gompa (3,200 m/10,496 ft)
From the campsite, we continue downstream next to oak and pine forests to the village of Chorte, a relatively new settlement. We make camp on a meadow just behind the village.
Day 23: Trek to Gothi Chaur (2,700 m/8,856 ft)
The Tila stream sets our trail today, passing the Munigaun and Kurigaun villages, climbing a side stream from the left just before Guthigaun. We continue climbing until we reach a sheep farm at Guthichaur, which is where our camp will be.
Day 24: Trek to Jumla (2,370 m/7,773 ft)
Our last day of trekking is a gradual descent from elevated alpine pastures, through magnificent forests before entering a fertile valley. The not-too-steep trek passes pretty little villages, such as the Padmara, that dot the valley along the river all the way to Jumla for the overnight stay. The rest of the afternoon can be spent exploring Jumla’s busy market.
Day 25: Fly from Jumla to Nepalgunj to Kathmandu
The 30-minute flight to Nepalgunj sweeps over the Himalayan foothills, overlooking breathtaking views of the peaks. From Nepalgunj, we take our respective connecting flights to Kathmandu. For those flying in the afternoon, refreshments are available at the hotel in Nepalgunj. Upon arrival at Kathmandu, you will be transferred to your hotel.
Day 26: Day of leisure in Kathmandu
This day is alternatively used as a spare day in Jumla in the event of poor weather. However, if things go as planned, this serves as a full day of personal leisure in Kathmandu. In the evening, our company will meet for a farewell dinner. You can, of course, extend your trip further with us at an additional cost.
Day 27: Departure from Kathmandu
Last minute shopping can still be done prior to your departure flight/drive, or before you embark on additional trips or activities you have booked. If departing, you will be transferred to the International Airport.
*Note: This itinerary serves as a general guide and is meant to be final. Itineraries must accommodate changes due to weather, condition of camp facilities, clean water and trail access, and other unforeseen circumstances. The Group Leader or Sherpa Guide will have the final decision in cases where trek itinerary revisions or re-routing is necessary.
Please contact us for cost information.
The price includes the following services:
- Airports pick up and transfer by private vehicle as per the itinerary
- Accommodation in Kathmandu on twin/triple sharing basis
- Guided Kathmandu city tours inclusive of vehicle transfer
- World Heritage sites entrance fees during sightseeing tour in Kathmandu
- Local transportation (when applicable)
- Accommodation during the trek at guest houses/lodges on twin sharing basis
- Meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) with a cup of tea or coffee during the expedition
- A highly experienced and licensed guide approved by the government of Nepal and porters during the trek and their transportation, food, accommodation, salary, equipment and insurance coverage
- Trekker’s Information Management System (TIMS)
- All Upper Dolpo trek permit fees
- Government taxes
- Service charge
The price does not include the following:
- Any meals in Kathmandu
- Rescue & travel insurance, trip cancellation costs, accident or health emergency, evacuation, loss, theft or damage to baggage and personal effects. We strongly advise buy a travel insurance policy
- Extra night accommodation in Kathmandu because of early arrival, late departure, and early return from the mountain(due to any reason) than the scheduled itinerary
- Personal expenses (phone calls, internet, laundry, bar bills, battery recharge, extra porters, cold drinks, bottle or boiled water, hot shower etc)
- Tips for guides and porters