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At the edge of the Tibetan Plateau lies Dolpo, the legendary “Hidden Land” that for years has been off-limits to outsiders. The Upper Dolpo trek into this beautiful, wild, and crystalline landscape begins as we head north in the massive gorge of the Kali Gandaki. Crossing the Toudje La (18,250 feet) beyond Dhaulagiri we gain access to a world of rugged people and remote monasteries including Dho, Saldang, Shey (Crystal Mountain), and Ringmo on the shores of Phoksumdo Lake. All restricted-area fees and in-country flights are included. On the Tibetan Plateau — in the great Himalayan rain shadow — lies Dolpo, the legendary Ba-Yul or “Hidden Land”; geographically cut off from the rest of the world by a barrier of high mountains, deep gorges and thick forests. Our 30-day trek through true Himalayan wilderness will gain us access to this unique place, which is home to one of the few enclaves of un-oppressed traditional Tibetan culture. En route we pass many of the highest and most beautiful mountains in the world: Maachapuchhare, the Annapurnas, the Dhaulagiri massif, and the remote Kanjiroba Himal. It is not difficult walking, but there is a lot of it!
The Upper Dolpo trek is no tourist tea-house trek, and you will not find our route outlined in any of the Himalayan trekking guidebooks. It is rugged, unspoiled, and unforgettable – arguably the best trek in all of Nepal.
Crystal Mountain, the holiest mountain in Upper Dolpo, is the English name of a mountain near Shey Gompa, the most important monastery in Dolpa. Dinesh Gurung, Crystal Mountain Treks founder, named the company after a trek to the area in the early 80’s. After successfully running the trek to Upper Dolpo for several consecutive years, we have now adopted the Crystal Mountain Trek as our signature trek.
This trek does involve sleeping and hiking at high altitude. We will, as we do for all high-altitude treks, provide a GAMOW bag for this trip. A GAMOW bag is a portable hyperbaric chamber that looks like an inflatable extra-large sleeping bag. The effective altitude inside the inflated GAMOW bag is about 5000 feet lower than the altitude you are at; it has been very effective in the past in relieving headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness.
This trek is rated challenging and involves trekking at high altitude. Most of the hiking will be above 12,000 feet, with nine major pass crossings (the highest being 18,250 feet). Our highest camp will be at about 16,000 feet. There can be snow on the passes. No technical climbing experience is required.
This trip is non-technical and suitable for anyone in good physical condition who loves to hike and would enjoy camping out for an extended period (30 days). You should feel comfortable hiking about 10-12 miles per day at these altitudes while carrying a daypack of approximately 15 pounds. Our maximum altitude gain in one day will be about 4,300 feet, our maximum altitude loss in one day will be about 3,800 feet. Because of the altitudes involved, this is a serious trek. If you don’t have experience backpacking in remote areas for lengthy period, this trek can be more than what you asked for. This is not a backpacking trip; your gear will be carried by porters.
Upper Dolpa is not at all like lodge trekking in the Everest or Annapurna region; it is unforgiving and charmingly remote.
|Day 01||Arrival in Kathmandu||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 02||Exploring Kathmandu||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 03||Kathmandu – Pokhara||Pokhara||827m/2,700ft|
|Day 04||Pokhara to Kagbeni.||Kagbeni||2,800m/9,100ft|
|Day 05||Kagbeni to Muktinath.||Muktinath||3,710m/12,400ft|
|Day 06||Acclimatization day at Muktinath. Hike towards the Thorung pass.||Muktinath||3,710m/12,400ft|
|Day 07||Descend to Eklebhatti.||Eklebhatti||3,710m/12,400ft|
|Day 08||Eklebhatti to Dangorjung||Dangorjung||3,100m/10,300ft|
|Day 09||Dangorjung to Phalyak||Phalyak||3,200m/10,500ft|
|Day 10||Phalyak to Sangda||Sangda||3,750m/12,300ft|
|Day 11||Sangda to base camp||Base Camp||3,750m/12,300ft|
|Day 12||Acclimatization day||Base Camp||3,750m/12,300ft|
|Day 13||Cross Thuje La||Thuje La||4,877m/16,000ft|
|Day 14||River confluence|
|Day 15||Trek to Charkabot||Charkabot||4,365m/14,317ft|
|Day 16||Cross Charkala pass (16,600 ft.)||Base Camp||5,036m/16,518ft|
|Day 17||Trek to Dho||Dho Tarap||3,944m/12,936ft|
|Day 18||Rest day||Dho Tarap||3,944m/12,936ft|
|Day 19||Trek to Jangla river.||River camp||4,480m/14,694ft|
|Day 20||Trek to Nangkong chu||Nangkong chu|
|Day 21||Trek to Sibula||Sibula||4,000m/13,120ft|
|Day 22||Trek to Namdo||Namdo||4,400m/14,432ft|
|Day 23||Namdo to Saldang||Saldang||3,962m/13,000ft|
|Day 24||Trek to Namgung||Namgung||4,430m/14,530ft|
|Day 25||Trek to Shey Gompa||Shey||4,511m/13,900ft|
|Day 27||Cross Kangla pass (17,100ft.)||Base camp||4,632m/15,200ft|
|Day 28||Trek to forest camp||Forest camp||3,641m/11,943ft|
|Day 29||Trek to Ringmo||Ringmo||3,641m/11,943ft|
|Day 30||Exploration day||Ringmo||3,641m/11,943ft|
|Day 31||Descend to Chepka||Chekpa||2,710m/8,800ft|
|Day 32||Trek to Juphal||Juphal||2,404m/7,885ft|
|Day 33||Fly to Kathmandu||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 35||Depart for home|
Arrive Kathmandu. You will be met on arrival at the Tribhuwan International Airport. Transfer to Hotel. Day Free. Enjoy welcome dinner. Briefing during dinner. (Dinner)
Full day sightseeing in Kathmandu. You will be accompanied by our in-house city guide. In the morning, visit Bodhanath, the Stupa of a million dew drops, to watch monks and devotees circumambulate the largest stupa in Nepal. Then visit Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, with its two-tiered golden roof and silver door. Drive to Patan for lunch in the garden of the Patan Museum Café. After lunch, visit the well-maintained Patan Museum. Drive back to Kathmandu. (Breakfast and Lunch)
Morning flight to Pokhara. The day is free for you to explore Pokhara. You may choose to take a boat across the lake and hike 30 minutes to the Peace Stupa. You may also visit the International Mountaineering Museum which has displays and information of the world’s mountains and mountain communities. It is also possible to stroll along the lake and check out the bars/restaurants/souvenir shops.
Overnight Sampada Inn or similar. (Breakfast)
Fly to Jomsom and descend to Marpha. From hot, windy Jomsom (8,900 feet) where the landscape has become truly desert-like. Here, we turn away from the Kali Gandaki and begin to seriously gain altitude. We first go in the opposite direction to Muktinath at 12,400 ft., towards the Thorung Pass, to acclimate better. Then we descend to Kagbeni, the gateway to Mustang, the Kingdom of Lho.
Overnight camp. (All meals)
From Kagbeni, we turn away from the Kali Gandaki towards Dolpo. Our first night away from the river will be at the prosperous little village of Dangorjung (10,300 feet) with its small red-walled Buddhist temple and rows of ancient cottonwoods. Overnight camp. (All meals)
The following day, we cross our first pass of note (13,700 feet) – from there we can enjoy unmatched views of the Annapurna area, the Kali Gandaki gorge up to Kagbeni, and to the north-east the entire kingdom of Mustang. Dropping from the pass to a meadow at about 13,100 feet, we make camp and plan to spend two nights (for acclimatization).
Sangda is considered to be the ‘gateway to Dolpo’. Overnight camp. (All meals)
Leaving Sangda the next day, the trail floats over a small pass (13,500 feet) before descending into the Chalung gorge itself to cross the river on a bridge. Camp (at 13,700 feet) lies on a balcony below our first pass, in a beautiful juniper forest. We will stay here two nights to continue our acclimatization process
The following day is a ‘two pass day’, one of which is also notably the highest altitude of our Upper Dolpo trek. On the trail by six in the morning, swirling mists clear as we again see our way to the top of the Khog La. It is slight descent to a long basin beyond the pass, where we stop for an early lunch before continuing over the Touje La (18,250 feet). We should reach its wind-swept top after a few more hours, gaining magnificent views of Dhaulagiri and Tukuche Peak to the south. Overnight camp (All meals)
The next morning, after a rolling pass of about 16,500 feet, we descend into a network of canyons, continuing to work our way north. After two days, the emerald green fields of Charka come into view. We will want to visit the two gompas (temples) here before continuing north. The gompas represent the two religions of Dolpo, Buddhism and B’on.
We descend into the gentle wide valley of the Keheng Khola, and before camp that evening turn west up a small drainage, heading for Tarap. An extra day is planned to explore Dho. Overnight camp. (All meals)
Leaving Tarap the following day, our route continues north over another pass (Jeng La 16,700 feet). Prayer flags strung across the river and innumerable unbelievably massive mani walls (made of stones each carved with an offering prayer) welcome us to Saldang. Overnight Camp (All meals).
Turning southwest, another major pass (Se La at 16,800 feet) needs to be crossed in order to get over to Shey. This will take us about two days, so we can enjoy a high camp en route with an excellent view of Tibet. We set up camp (14,800 feet) and plan to spend two nights to explore the area. Shey is named after the ‘Crystal Mountain of Dolpo’, which rises to the southeast. Highly recommended is the 1,500-foot climb to Tsakang, the “Red Chalk” gompa. Overnight camp. (All meals)
Turning south the next day, we have our last pass (Kang La 16,800 feet) of the Dolpo Trek to negotiate. This is the continental divide, and snow is likely to cover the pass. Camp is near the village of Ringmo. The people here are B’on, and the amiable resident lama will delight in showing his gompa to us. A layover day is planned here to enjoy the surroundings. Coming from the barren north, the green of the pines and junipers, and the blue of the lake seem almost surrealistic.
Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Continuing south, we leave the lake along its effluent, the Suli Gad. You may begin to hear a roar in the distance, then coming around a corner – a massive 900-foot waterfall, the biggest in Nepal. The next day we walk along the south side of the Thulo Bheri for about an hour, then climb up for about three hours to the village of Jufal (8,700 feet). This is the location of the Dunai airfield, a steeply inclined STOL field carved out of the hillside. It is necessary to camp here one night, as our flight out on our charter plane will be in the early morning. This last evening of our Dolpo Trek, we will have a party with all our porters and staff who have been with us for 30 days. Overnight camp (All meals).
The next day, we will depart Jufal by chartered plane (Twin Otter) landing in Pokhara. From Pokhara we will fly to Kathmandu on a regularly scheduled flight, arriving by mid-day. Day free in Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel (Breakfast and Lunch).
Sightseeing in Kathmandu. Visit Swayambhunath, the monkey temple, and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (All meals).
Per person price (valid until December 31, 2020)
2 – 3 persons: US$ 6,500 per person
4 – 8 persons: US$ 5,850 per person
9 or more persons: US$ 5,525 per person
Single Supplement: US$300
US$ 150 per person discount available for alumni.
Expert pre-trip advice and detailed information, All airport transfers; two full days sightseeing in Kathmandu as indicated in the itinerary and entrance fees to monuments, 4 nights twin sharing hotel accommodation at Hotel Tibet in Kathmandu, Airfare: Kathmandu to Pokhara and Dunai to Kathmandu, Meals as indicated in the itinerary; Lodge/tent accommodations on the trek, Shey Phoksumdo National Park Fee and Annapurna Conservation Area fee, Upper Dolpo restricted area fee , Gamow Bag (High altitude pressure chamber) and Pulse Oximeter , Satellite Phone
Your international airfare, Nepal Visa, Meals not indicated in the itinerary, Tips and Gratuities, Personal equipment (a suggested list will be mailed to you), Your travel insurance (Required), And other expenses of a personal nature
The Upper Dolpo Trek is a long trip requiring a big investment of both time and money. Our signature 35 day trip goes from Jomsom to Dho, Saldang and Shey ending in Juphal (or vice-versa). However, there are many other variations that are possible. The longest we have organized is a 45 day version starting in Jumla (instead of Juphal). Shorter versions range from 18 to 25 days starting either in Juphal or Darbang and ending in Juphal. Also, the Lower Dolpo Trek which goes to Shey Phoksumdo lake does not require the expensive restricted area permit.
Here is a shorter 27 day Juphal to Jomsom trek through Upper Dolpo.
Contact us to learn about the possibilities!
Upper Dolpo lies in a rain shadow in the high Tibetan plateau. The best months to visit Upper Dolpo are May, June, July, August and September. Hence, unlike other parts of Nepal which are good to visit during the Spring and Autumn seasons, the monsoon (Summer) months are the best time to visit Upper Dolpo. This is because these are the warmest months and the high passes have no or minimal snow.
All cooking gear and food have to be carried in from Kathmandu. The cook will purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and rice/lentils from the villagers en route. You will be surprised as to what the cook can make on a small gas stove. In general, expect porridge (Oatmeal), toast, eggs (various style), muesli, hash browns, sausages etc for breakfast. And sandwich, pizzas, momos, noodles (dry and with soup), rolls, fried rice, Indian bread with vegetables or Daal Bhaat (Rice with lentils) etc for lunch and dinner.
We would recommend the Upper Dolpo trek to seasoned hikers/backpackers only. You must be able to hike up to 12 miles a day (mostly at high altitude). While this trek does not involve and require any technical climbing, you must have the mental and physical toughness. You will be in the wilderness with little or no modern amenities (no shower, fast food, wi-fi) for over 25 days.
It is advised that anyone with a pre-existing condition consult their doctor before signing up for a trek. We rate the Upper Dolpo Trek a 5 on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (challenging).
The more physically fit you are, the more you will enjoy the trip. There are three aspects to training for any trek. 1) Cardiovascular Training will make your body more efficient in using oxygen. Running, walking, swimming or biking, or any combination of these are great for cardiovascular conditioning. 2) Strength Training by either using free weights or machines at the gym will build hiking strength. Walking stairs, especially with a pack will simulate the hiking environment. We also recommend practicing squats. Trekkers will encounter low hanging obstacles to duck under, and many toilets are at ground level, which requires a low squat.
3) Endurance Training is where you build endurance in the months leading up to your trek, slowly increase your length of training sessions. By the time you are 2 weeks from the scheduled trek date you should be able to ascend 3,000 ft. in a 3-4 hour period.
In the end, the more your training simulates a trek, the better off you will be. So hiking 4-5 hours outdoors, uphill and downhill, about once or twice a week in addition to other cardio vascular training at the gym or at home will greatly benefit and prepare you for the trek.
On camping treks, toilets are a hole in the ground in a small tent to allow for privacy. “Showers” are available during rest days and involve a bucket of hot water. On most days you can clean yourself with wet wipes. We will provide a small bowl of warm water with which you can wipe yourself with a towel.
Layering is key. And it’s always recommended to trek with good branded gear. A good pair of hiking boots that’s been broken in is very important. Good top and bottom base layers, a mid layer (fleece or capilene), and an outer layer (Gore-tex or other material). If you tend to get cold quickly, bring a down parka especially for the evening at the lodge. On most days, you’d be hiking in a convertible hiking pant that can be converted into shorts and one or two top layers.
if you’re trekking with Crystal Mountain Treks, we provide a sleeping bag (rated to 0 degree F or -17 degree C), duffel bags, down jacket and Steripen for water purification to our clients for no charge.
It is possible to buy cheap and relatively functional gear in Kathmandu – convertible pants, down jackets, fleece, Gore-tex jackets. But remember, you get what you pay for. Wool gloves, hats, socks are available too.
There are quite a few branded stores too. North Face, Moutain Hardwear, Marmot and Sherpa. If you’re coming from Australia or Europe, items in these shops are probably cheaper than back home. But if you’re coming from the US, it’s better to buy branded gear at home.
The trek into the Dolpo region of Nepal is one of the highlights of my life up to this point. The beauty of the landscape, the people, the flora and fauna have me dreaming of a return visit. Each trek that I’ve taken in Nepal has been wonderful but the Dolpo area stands out as unique, remote, vast and ruggedly beautiful. I liked the fact that there were very few other tourists. In fact, once we passed Phoksundo Tal we were the only tourists. I was tired at the end of each day but it was a satisfying tiredness that had me looking forward to what was coming next. I looked forward to what was coming around each bend…the ups and downs and even the excitement of the river crossings! I cannot heap enough praise on your hard working staff!!! They made the trek possible. Buddhi was there with his big smile, patience, and extended hand. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience and is always ready to help. It was clear that the staff respects him and looks up to him! Dev Rai and Sun Gurung were amazing. They seemed to know the exact pace that was needed throughout the long day of walking. We were confident in them as they led us through the mountains. And, they smiled and sang beautiful Nepali folk songs as they walked which sure brightened our days on the trail! I will gladly recommend your company!
– Upper Dolpo Trek 2011
Dear Jwalant, Thank you for facilitating our trip to the remote Upper Dolpo region. Your skilled, professional and caring crew kept us safe, well-fed and comfortable. I often marveled at how they had camp all set up for us by the time we arrived, dog-tired after a long day on the trail. The hiking was strenuous and exhilarating, the terrain was spectacular, and the villages and the people that live there were absolutely enchanting. Your initiative to sustain the local economy and preserve the culture of these remote areas is greatly appreciated, and it is my hope that places like Shey, Saldang and Ringmo will remain as timeless and culturally intact as we found them. The combination of flora, fauna, architecture and culture was phenomenal, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to experience it.”
– Upper Dolpo Trek, 2011
We had a very special request and challenge for Jwalant earlier this year as we managed to get a 2 months\’ vacation and wanted to spend the major part of it on an extended trekking route through Upper and Lower Dolpo. Jwalant responded with a tailor made end to end proposal including a trekking itinerary which exactly met our expectations. Having made already best experiences with Crystal Mountains on the Manaslu circuit two years back it was an easy task also this time to close the deal with Jwalant for our Dolpo adventure. On September 4th our trek set off in Jomsom in company of the guide Rajbir, assistant guide Devraj, cook Chitra, three kitchen boys, a horseman and five horses. Soon we realized that Dolpo is very special indeed in particular in terms of the remoteness of the area, the many magic places, specific flora and fauna, number of high passes, lack of infrastructure and the splendid feeling of being far away from home and quickly leaving all the odd home problems behind. Our whole team was fantastic. Everybody knew what has to be done at any time. Everything worked smoothly with no tensions even after sticking together for several weeks. The equipment was excellent as well and the two of us could enjoy every single day. After 40 days of trekking at its best we arrived in Darbang with a rough road connection to Beni and further on to Pokhara. When we started our farewell party on the same evening it also started heavily to rain which didn\’t stop for the next 30 or so hours. It turned out that this became the famous blizzard which killed so many local and foreign trekkers in higher locations up in Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Mustang and Dolpo area. We were very lucky also in this respect. Our timing for the whole trip couldn\’t have been any better and the decision to walk from Jomsom to Darbang rather than vice versa was the right one. We\’ll keep this trip in our minds as probably the best trek which we ever did in our life. With kind thanks to Jwalant and Jordan for arranging this trip as well as to Rajbir and the whole team for making the trek to such an outstanding experience –
Alfred and Alexandra Ressenig, Munich, Germany.