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West Himalaya Treks

Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek

Trip Length: 27 Days
Highest Point: 5,360m (Nangdo La Pass)
Trek Grade: Moderate to Strenuous
Accommodation: Tent
Starting Point: Juphal (Dolpa)
Ending Point: Juphal (Dolpa)
Walking Time: Approx 6 hrs per day
Region: Dolpo

Trip Highlights

  • The magnificent Phoksundo Lake, high Himalayan flora and fauna
  • Rugged and barren High Himalayan landscape
  • High passes, deep valleys, high altitude meadows
  • Bon and Tibetan Buddhism in their purest form
  • Ancient monasteries like Shey, Tokyu and Ringmo
  • Trans-himalayan caravans
  • Unique culture, tradition and lifestyle

Overview

Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek, the mystical Upper Dolpo region is situated between the Tibetan plateau and the Dhaulagiri ranges in western Nepal. The area was opened to visitors only in the 1990s. It is a restricted area and only a certain numbers of foreign trekkers are allowed here. Only trekkers traveling in groups and handled by government-licensed trekking companies are allowed in the area. The adventure begins with a flight to a mountainous airfield of Juphal via Nepalgunj. It then passes through the magnificent Phoksundo Lake and reach the beautiful Shey monastery, Saldang village, Dho Tarap Valley crossing several high passes. From Shey monastery, the trail is on a ancient trade route between Nepal and Tibet. If you are lucky, you can come across caravans of yaks bringing supplies to and from Tibet. You are into complete wilderness as the landscape is rugged and barren. Bon and Tibetan Buddhism, far-flung settlements, high Himalayan meadows, icy glacier fed rivulets, high passes, unique, culture, tradition and lifestyle of the local people are the major attractions of this trail. Interestingly, you can find Tibetan Buddhism in its purest form in this part of Nepal compared to Tibet itself.
Trip Inquiry

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival in Kathmandu (1360m)

Welcome to Nepal. After completing immigration formalities, you will find our representatives outside the arrival lounge. You will be accorded traditional Nepali welcome by offering garland or khadas. Our representative will transfer you to your hotel. Rest of the day is free for independent activities. In the evening, meet your guide and attend trek briefing session at your hotel.

O/N: Hotel
Day 2
Sightseeing of Kathmandu Valley

Today, you will be taken for a sightseeing of different attractions in Kathmandu Valley while we look after your permits and other technicalities. Begin your day with a sightseeing trip to Swoyambhunath Temple. Popular among tourists as Monkey Temple, thanks to abundance of Rhesus macaque monkeys, the main attraction here is the magnificent white stupa topped by a golden spire. The stupa is believed to be as old as the Kathmandu Valley, hence it has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage site. Then, we move on to Kathmandu Durbar Square – a palace complex of Malla kings -- which dates back to 16th century. The area is a repository of ancient wooden, metal and stone crafts. After lunch, move on to Pashupatinath Temple – the largest temple complex in Nepal. The main attraction here is the pagoda temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The present temple is believed to have been built in the 5th century. However, the main shrine is believed to have existed since as early as 400 BC. There is an open air crematorium on the banks of Bagmati River near the temple complex. You can observe last rites performed on the dead body as per Hindu tradition before it is consigned to flames.

Then you will be transferred back to your hotel.

O/N: Hotel
Day 3
Fly to Nepalgunj (150m)

After breakfast, our guide will escort you to the Kathmandu airport for your flight to Nepalgunj. Nepalgunj is the commercial hub of the mid and far western Nepal. The flight takes about an hour. Upon arrival at Nepalgunj, check into your hotel. It’s a free day for you as flights to the airstrips in the Himalayas are possible only in the morning. In the evening, you can take a stroll in downtown Nepalgunj or visit Bageshwari temple – a major attraction in this Tarai town which is located near Nepal’s border with India.

O/N: Hotel
Day 4
Fly to Juphal (2475m) and trek to Dunai (2,000m) – Approx 35 mins flight, 3 hrs trek

Juphal is the airstrip in Dolpa district. The flight takes about 35 minutes. The flight provides you with the opportunity to enjoy bird’s eye view of Himalayas, terraced land, forests and beautiful settlements. It is unofficially the gateway to the Dolpo Region as Dolpa district is yet to be connected to the road network. Juphal is a small mountain village with some shops and lodges. Meet your support staff here and start walking toward Dunai. From Juphal, the trail climbs south east above the Thulo Bheri valley. The trail then passes through the beautiful terraced fields to Kalagauda village. From here, follow the southern bank of Bheri River to Dunai – the district headquarters of Dolpa. It’s a bustling marketplace seated on the banks of Bheri River.

O/N: Tent
Day 5
Trek to Chhepka (2838m) - 6 hrs Walk

Continue walking after having breakfast at your camp. Descend through the streets of Dunai and cross the Bheri River. Then, walk on the northern bank of the river toward Suligad. After a short walk, you will come across the check post of Shey Phoksundo National Park. Show your permits here. Then continue walking upstream of Suligad River. Suligad River drains Phoksundo Lake. The trail is on rocky surface and passes through hemp bushes to the settlement of Kageni. From there, the trail passes through maple and walnut forests. Continue walking toward Shyanta village. Fluttering player flags and chhortens hint that you are entering the Buddhist area. A final push of about one and half hours through a narrow trail will take you to Chhepka. Chhepka is a small settlement seated in the middle of millet and wheat field. Your camp will be set up near the village.

O/N: Tent
Day 6
Trek to Jharana Waterfall (3370m) – Approx 5-6 hrs

Today, you will take to a beautiful place called Jharana. Jharana means waterfall in Nepali. As the name of the place suggests, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of a beautiful 1080-feet waterfall. The trail passes through a forest of cedar trees and soon reaches winter settlement for people of Ringmo village. From here, the trail climbs to an open countryside to an elevation of 3,300 meters. You get breathtaking view of the waterfall and Phoksundo Lake in the horizon faraway. The waterfall drains the Phoksundo Lake.

O/N: Tent
Day 7
Trek to Ringmo Village (3450m) – Approx 5-6 hrs

As usual, start early in the morning from your camp. You trek through birch forests upstream of the Phoksundo River. After a short walk, cross a bridge and follow the trail to the north toward Phoksundo Lake. A final push from here through the Phoksundo River channel will take you to a vast meadow of Ringmo. It is a grazing ground for cattle owned by the people of Ringmo. Ringmo is a beautiful settlement overlooking the Phoksundo Lake. Ringmo is one of the significant Bon villages in the Dolpo region. Bon used to be the religion of people living in the northern reaches of Nepal before the advent of Buddhism. Many scholars believe that Dolpa used to be the center of the ancient Bon kingdom known as Zhang. Your camp will be set up near this beautiful village. Tomorrow, you will trek to the lake.

O/N: Tent
Day 8
Rest day. Explore Phoksundo Lake and Tshowa Monastery

Today, you will take a rest day. The rest day can be utilized by exploring Phoksundo Lake and Tshowa Monastery. Thshowa Monastery – a 900-year-old Bon monastery – sits on a ridge above the lake. You can even interact with monks there. Then, carefully descend to the shores of the magnificent lake. Local people believe that the lake containers a tantric mandala of spirits. The turquoise waters of the lake add to the spectacular scenery of the area. After that, explore the Ringmo village, observe culture, tradition and lifestyle of the local people and return to your camp.

O/N: Tent
Day 9
Trek to Phoksundo Khola – Approx 4-5 hrs

Leave the Ringmo village early in the morning. The trail moves around the western end of the lake as it climbs on a rocky ledge. In some places, the trail sits vertically above the lake giving you the much-needed thrills. In some places, the unsteady trail is on suspended wooden planks supported by pegs nailed into rock crevasses. The trail is pictured in French filmmaker Eric Valli’s popular movie Himalaya. Once you reach the top, the path descends and opens up to a lush meadow into the flood plains ot Phoksundo Khola. After walking through the valley, cross the Phoksundo Khola river and reach your campsite on the riverbank.

O/N: Tent
Day 10
Trek to Phoksundo Bhanjyang

Today, you will cross the first high pass of the trek. Start early after having breakfast at your camp. You will get to enjoy the views of Chamlang VI and VII peaks from the trail today.The trail will lead you through a glacier valley toward north. Cross Phoksundo Khola on a wooden bridge at a place where a small mountain stream joins it, wand walk toward north east. After a long climb, the trail opens up into a meadow where you can see sheep and mountain goats grazing. From here, the trail climbs further up to a ravine. A hard climb from here will take you to the top from where you will be able to see the Kang La Pass. Your camp will be set up near the pass.

O/N: Tent
Day 11
Phoksundo Bhanjyang to Shey Gompa (4,500m) via Kang La pass (5,360m) Approx -- 5-6 hours

We start early in the morning as strong winds later in the day will make it difficult for us to cross the pass. As the trail is full of loose rocks, walk slowly and follow your guide. The climb to the top of the pass is physically demanding. However, you will be rewarded with excellent views of valley divided by small rivulets below. After spending sometime at the pass, start descending. The trail to the valley floor is very steep. From the valley floor, the trail is leveled but crisscrossed by a river. The trail passes through beautiful meadows where you can see grazing yaks, sheep and mountain goats. Leave the meadows after crossing the river on a log bridge. A small climb will take you to the magnificent Shey Gompa where you will stay for the night.

O/N: Tent
Day 12
Rest day for acclimatization

Today, you will take the much-needed rest day for acclimatization. You can spend the day exploring the Shey Gompa which was built in 1965. The main attraction at this monastery is the giant statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in a seated posture. The copper statue has gold coating. You can catch breathtaking view of the Crystal Mountain from the monastery premises. The mountain is considered sacred by the local people and its cliffs are laced with quartz. After visiting the monastery, explore the Shey village. Like Ringmo, it is also a Bon village. Interact with locals and observe their culture, tradition and lifestyle.

O/N: Tent
Day 13
Trek to Namduna Gaun (4,800m) via Saldang La Pass (5,200m) – Approx 6-7 hrs

Leave the village and walk along the barren mountains. A walk of about 3-4 hours will take you to Saldang La Pass. Form the pass, you can get views of Saldang Village seated on a huge plateau above the Nagon Khola stream. Saldang is the largest village in the Upper Dolpo region. It is a prosperous village as it is strategically located on the trade route with Tibet. We make a slow descent through a difficult path to Saldang village. The descent takes around three hours. There are five small settlements in Saldang village. The village is home to some 80 houses with popular of more than 500. Apart from trade, agriculture and animal husbandry are the other occupations of the local people. Explore the village after your camp is set up.

O/N: Tent
Day 14
Saldang to Yangze Gompa (4,960m) -- Approx 4-5 hours

Leave Saldang village early in the morning and walk further north along the Nagon Khola river. As you are in the trans-Himalayan area, the landscape is wild and barren terrain. The trail gains altitude gradually with few ups and downs. Today, you will pass through small settlements of Marang and Ki villages. After passing through the villages, cross a small rivulet which is a tributary of Panzang River and walk toward the east. Cross the river once again before you reach Yangze Gompa – an ancient Bon monastery. Your camp will be set up on the monastery premises. After lunch, you can explore the monastery to know more about the Bon religion.

O/N: Tent
Day 15
Trek to Sibu (4,560m) – Approx 6-7 hours

Today, you will make a descent to Sibu village. There are two trails Sibu village. The shorter and one is through Saldang village. We retrace back to Sladang village and walk along the river beneath it. From here, the trail passes through terraced fields, chortens, heaps of mani stones and the magnificent Chaiba monastery. We pass by Namdo village with about 400 inhabitants. The village is seated on a high slope to the left of Nam Khong Khola River. The Namdo monastery is near the river bank. From the river, we walk for another two hours to reach Sibu – a small settlement in Upper Dolpo.

O/N: Tent
Day 16
Trek to Jeng-la Phedi (4,900m) – Approx 5-6 hours

Start early after having breakfast at your camp. Today, we will be trekking to the foot of Jeng La Pass. Walk along the Nam Khong Khola River initially. You can see caravans of yaks moving toward or coming from Tibetan border. Turn toward east and continue walking till you reach the confluence of two streams. From here, the trail climbs up to a beautiful pastureland below Jeng La Pass. Your camp will be set up in this beautiful meadow. Retire to your tent early as you will have to start early next morning to cross the Jeng La Pass.

O/N: Tent
Day 17
Trek to Tokyu Gaon (4209m) via Jeng La pass (5,090m) – Approx 5-6 hrs

After early breakfast, make a gradual ascent to the pass. It will take you two hours to teach the top. Jeng La top provides you mesmerizing view of the Dhaulagiri massif. Savor the beauty, take photographs and take a brief rest until you are ready for a descent. The trail is steep hence you are advised to walk slowly. Today, you will make a descent to the lively Tarap valley. Tarap is a beautiful valley with vast plains that stretches up to 20 kilometers along Tarap Chu River. You camp will be set up at Tokyo monastery.

O/N: Tent
Day 18
Trek to Dho Tarap (4,040m) – Approx 4-5 hours

After breakfast, we walk on a plain valley with patches of lush grass on both sides of the river. There is also a wetland which is a common feature in the high altitude deserts of Tibet and the Ladakh Himalaya. You can find followers of both Buddhist and Bon religions in this valley. It takes a walk of 4-5 hours to reach this lively village form Tokyu monastery. You will have plenty of time to explore this village as we will be taking a rest day tomorrow.

O/N: Tent
Day 19
Rest Day at Dho Tarap

It will be a leisurely day. After late breakfast, explore the village of Dho Tarap which is surrounded by a stone wall. Interact with locals to know about their culture, tradition and lifestyle. Trade, agriculture and animal husbandry are the main occupation of people of this beautiful valley. You can visit both Buddhist and Bon gompas and study the features and differences between the two religions from the Lamas.

O/N: Tent
Day 20
Trek to Kamakharka (3,800m) – Approx 6-7 hours

As we are done with high altitude, you will make a gradual descent to lower areas. Start walking after having breakfast at your camp. Walk along the wide valley which eventually narrows into a gorge. The trail is through juniper and wild rose bushes just above the tree line. You can see herds of blue sheep grazing in nearby cliff. A walk of about four hours will take you to the confluence of Tarap Chu and Lang Khola before it meets Tarap River further down. Your camp will be set up in the beautiful meadow known as Kamakharka near the Tarap River.

O/N: Tent
Day 21
Tarap Khola to Khanigaon(3,150m/10,332ft) -- Approx 4-5 hours

Continue walking down the gorge of the Tarap River. You can see local people herding their cattle to lower pastures for the winter. The gorge becomes so narrow at times that it will be difficult to find trails. But there is nothing to worry about as our experienced guides know the trail like the palm of their hands. You might have to cross the icy river at times as these glacier-fed river are known to wash away bridges and trails. A walk of some five hours will take you to your campsite at Khanigaon.

O/N: Tent
Day 22
Trek to Tarakot (2,537m) – Approx 4-5 hours

From the camp, follow a trail that takes passes through the settlement of Lalberi. From here, the trail passes through a lush forest and descends into another gorge before passing along the river again. After reaching Tarakot, you can visit Sandul Gompa which lies at a juncture of Barbung Khola and Tarap Chu River. Your camp will be set up on the banks of Tarap Chu River -- some 150 meters below Tarakot village. Tarakot is a small village with police station and good amenities.

O/N: Tent
Day 23
Tarakot to Dunai (2,140m) – Approx 5-6 hours

A short climb and you will reach the banks of Bheri River. Cross the river at Lawan village, and walk alongside the river until you reach to a place called Byas Gadei. From here, walk westward on an easy trail along the river. Cross the river again and make a climb to Dunai – the district headquarters of Dolpa.

O/N: Tent
Day 24
Trek to Juphal: 2-3 hours

Last trekking day of the trek! You can start late in the morning as Juphal is nearby. Walk along the Bheri River enjoying the magnificent landscape around you. Today, you will pass through the Dhupichaur and Rupgad villages. Continuing further, you will pass through Kalagaonda and Motipur village before reaching to your destination by lunchtime. Your camp will be set up near the village. Today, you bid adieu to your magnificent crew members who left no stone unturned to make your trek pleasing and memorable.

O/N: Tent
Day 25
Fly to Nepalgunj and further to Kathmandu

Take the early morning flight to Nepalgunj. From Nepalgunj, catch the next available flight to Kathmandu. Upon arrival in Kathmandu, get transferred to your hotel. Remaining time is free for independent activities.

O/N: Hotel
Day 26
Contingency Day

Today, we take the contingency day. You can spend the lazing around in your hotel or do some shopping. Sightseeing can be arranged on request. In the evening, we will host a farewell dinner for you at a typical Nepali restaurant to celebrate success of your trek.

O/N: Hotel
Day 27
Departure

Your final day in Nepal! Our representative will take you to the airport some three hours before your flight so that you don’t have to rush through customs and immigration formalities. While returning back home, you will have plenty of time to reflect on the amazing time you had in the mountains and plan your next trip.

Trip Map

Need Assistance?

If you want to customize your trips, need any logistics or permits for filming, guidance for climbing and rafting then feel free to contact us directly and start planning your trip to Nepal.

Bhoj Raj Bhat
+977 9851087675
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Bishnu Bhattarai
+977 9851230792
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Upper Dolpo Circuit Trek

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West Himalaya Treks & Expeditions
7 th Floor Shankhamul Tower
Shankhamul Marga
Shankhamul, Kathmandu , Nepal
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+977 1 4782122
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