Dolpo Trek is situated between the Tibetan plateau and the Dhaulagiri ranges. The entire district was closed to trekkers until 1989 when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organized trekking groups.
Dolpo region appears in historical records since the 8th century. The region lies in Shey Phoksundo National Park in the western part of Nepal, between the Tibet plateau and the Dhaulagiri range. The Dolpa is divided into two parts Upper Dolpa and Lower Dolpa but the entire district was closed to all trekkers until 1989. The region is normally adherents of "Bon" and has preserved its Tibetan culture in fairly pure form. Our trekking to Dolpa is connected by the place named 'Jufal' after taking a short flight from Nepalgunj airport. Juphal is a starting and ending point of Upper Dolpa Trek.
Dolpa was the location for the Oscar-nominated movies "The Himalaya" and “The Caravan” and for the German documentary Dolpo Tulku. The trek to the Upper Dolpa consists of passes through many mountain ranges of Annapurna, Kanjiroba, and Dhaulagiri and also passes through beautiful villages, trail route and meet fantastic people. The beauty of the vast Phoksundo Lake during the trek gives lifetime memory. Despite less accessibility in this region and tourism restrictions for the more remote parts, Dolpa is still a popular destination for trekking tourism.
Exploring villages of ancient Bon and Buddhist cultural villages as the journey continues over a high Kang-la pass to reach our destination at Crystal monastery of Shey Gompa, here with fascinating time then heading back to Jhupal through more lovely villages of Saldang-Tokyu-Dho Tarap and Tarakot with a short drive from Dunai the major town of Dolpo region.
A sweeping scenic flight to Kathmandu through Nepalgunj concludes this fabulous Upper Dolpo trek & Crystal Monastery trekking with excellent guidance and service of Sherpa Expedition and Trekking.
(Note our company guide will carry the medicines and first aid kits during the trek. However, we recommend better to bring your personal first-aid kit as well)
Western Nepal is remote, making access more difficult than other parts of Nepal. First, you have to get to Nepalgunj, on the plains, and then to Juphal in Dolpo district.
Most people fly to Nepalgunj from either Kathmandu or Pokhara. From Nepalgunj, you then fly to Juphal. (It isn’t possible to fly directly to Juphal from Kathmandu, although expensive charter flights can be arranged from Pokhara.) Most organized tours will fly from Kathmandu. Keep in mind that the airport at Juphal is no more than a tiny mountain airstrip, where bad weather can often delay flights.
Nepalgunj is also accessible by road, but it is a long trip from Kathmandu or Pokhara. Roads are improving throughout Western Nepal, but Juphal is currently several days’ walk from the nearest road-head.
Permits for Upper Dolpo are expensive and strictly enforced. You also need to purchase a permit for Lower Dolpo, which you pass through on your way to Upper Dolpo. On top of that, only 250 foreigners are permitted to enter Upper Dolpo each year.
Lower Dolpo: $10 USD per week
Upper Dolpo: $50 USD per day (10-day minimum)
There is also an Rs. 1000 entry fee to the Shey-Phoksundo National Park. As it’s mandatory to trek with a guide on an organized tour in Upper Dolpo, your tour operator will arrange all permits and these fees are generally included in the total cost of your trip.
Like much of Nepal, the best time to visit Upper Dolpo is the spring (April to May) and the fall (October to November) when temperatures are pleasant, skies are the clearest, and there is minimal chance of snow at high altitudes. Late/early snow can affect this trek in April and November, making some passes impossible to cross. Phoksundo Lake, Shey Phoksundo National Park
Trekking in Upper Dolpo is considered strenuous. There are steep ascents, three passes above 5000 m., several nights spent above 3500 m. and some long trekking days of six hours or more. The fact that this is a camping trek adds to the physical challenge and discomfort of trekking in Upper Dolpo, and rest days are recommended.
This is not a beginner’s trek or one to attempt if it’s your first time in Nepal. But it will be a worthwhile challenge for experienced trekkers and repeat visitors to Nepal alike!
Most treks in Upper Dolpo are fully-catered camping treks given accommodation and food supplies are hard to come by along the trail. (Upper Dolpo is known to have food shortages.) Some basic teahouse/lodge accommodation is available in some villages, but shouldn’t be relied upon.
It is advised to take as many food provisions when trekking in Upper Dolpo (and anywhere in Western Nepal, in general). If participating in an organized trek (essential in Upper Dolpo), your food needs will be taken care of. It is still important to be mindful of the fact that restocking provisions can be challenging for guides and porters in this region, and that resources are scarce.
Juphal to Lake Phoksundo
There are also shorter variations of the Upper Dolpo trek that you can take. One shorter variation is to trek from Juphal to Lake Phoksundo and back, which takes around eight days. Other variations connect Dolpo to Mustang and/or the Annapurna region, to the east.
The Upper Dolpo to Annapurna Traverse, via Dhorpatan Wildlife Reserve, would add about a week onto the Upper Dolpo trek. There is a three-day stretch during which you pass no settlements at all.
The Upper Dolpo to Jomsom trek is another variation. Jomsom is in the Lower Mustang region of Nepal, and also has a strong Tibetan-influenced culture. It is in the rain-shadow of Mount Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, offering a different view of the Annapurna Himal.
Yet another variation is the Dolpo to Rara Traverse via Shey Gompa. It is around the same length as the regular Upper Dolpo trek, but diverges at Shey Gompa and ends at Rara Lake, in Jumla and Mugu districts. This is the largest lake in Nepal, and renowned for its abundant birdlife.
Looking out from one of the passes in Dolpo
As with other treks in Nepal, it is essential to have sturdy hiking boots, a waterproof outer layer and other clothing that can be layered and put on/off as the weather requires. Because trekking in Upper Dolpo can only be done with a guide, you will not need to bring your own tents or other specialist equipment. However, you should check whether your tour operator provides sleeping bags.
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