An essential guide and Top Tips for Trekking in Dolpo Region of Nepal

An essential guide and Top Tips for Trekking in Dolpo Region of Nepal

Trekking in Dolpo is considered as one of the best trekking regions in Nepal where you will experience a different journey in the western Himalayas of Nepal. The sacred crystal mountain, mystical Shey Gompa, ancient villages, Tortoise Lake of Phoksundo, and old Bon Monasteries. Dolpo is the only district where you one can find elusive snow leopard to high value crop Yarsagumba (Chinese caterpillar fungus). Everything that you found in Dolpo is completely natural and not fiction. Dolpo is isolated from the rest of the world and unheard by foreigners until Peter Mathiessen wrote his masterpiece, The Snow Leopard in 1979. Later on French movie director Éric Valli filmed Himalaya so called Caravan in 1999 which help to introduce Dolpo to the westerners. 

Journey to Dolpo is an evocative account of a remote and tieless place and its people. Nepal is a land of such splendor and mysticism that we often use fictional terms to describe.  

Trekking in Dolpo is an adventure and a privilege to witness remote and beautiful area of Nepal. The scenery is incredible - it really is that you will feel like you are on top of the world! Great opportunities to visit local villages, meet local people, and experience local culture. All the treks that Himalayan Wander Walkers design are suitable for all trekkers with plenty of time to acclimatize and well-paced rest days.

Go through the following details of travel guide for trekking in Dolpo.

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Where is Dolpo located?

Dolpo lies in the western Nepal of Shey Phoksundo National Park, bordered in the north by China. Dolpo is one of the biggest districts of Nepal with the neighboring districts of Mustang on the south, Mugu and Jumla on the west, and Rukum on the North.  

What are the permits required for Dolpo Trek

This is considered a controlled area that requires a special permit which is very expensive as compared to Annapurna and Everest region. This is an ultimate trekking destination for those who adore culture and a less crowded trekking route or done with all trekking in Nepal and still looking for a more rewarding trip. Following permits are necessary for Dolpo Trek except TIMs Card which is not compulsory in all restricted trekking areas of Nepal.

Trekking in Upper Dolpo require following permits

  1. Upper Dolpo restricted permit that cost USD 500 for the first 10 days and for the additional days USD 50 per person per day.  
  2. Shey Phoksundo National Park Entry fee of USD 30 for Foreigners, NPR 1500 for SAARC nationality and NPR 100 for Nepali visitor. It is one time permits for unlimited 
  3. If your trekking itinerary start and finish at Dunai or Juphal then you also need two weeks permits of Lower Dolpo which cost USD 20 per person per week. 
  4. Monasteries entry fee differ from one monastery to other between NPR 200-400 per person. You will need to pay during your visit at monastery.

Upper Dolpo Trek - 26 Days 

Trekking in Lower Dolpo require following permits

  1. Shey Phoksundo National Park Entry fee of USD 30 for Foreigners, NPR 1500 for SAARC nationality and NPR 100 for Nepali visitor. 
  2. If your trekking itinerary start and finish at Dunai or Juphal then you also need two weeks permits of Lower Dolpo which cost USD 20 per person per week. 
  3. Monasteries entry fee differ from one monastery to other between NPR 200-400 per person. You will need to pay during your visit at monastery.

Lower Dolpo Trek - 17 Days

How to get Dolpo trekking Permits?

Permits are mandatory to enter Dolpo region for all purpose whether you are visiting by helicopter or trekking. To obtain both Dolpo permits for lower and upper part at least two travelers are required. Restricted permits are issue from Nepal Immigration Department through registered and authorized trekking agencies. If you are single and willing to visit Dolpo but not able to trek there. Please let us know we can help you to prepare your permits. 

Trekking in Dolpo is similar like taking a trip in Bhutan where you are not allow to visit the places individually. You must need local trekking agency to prepare your permits, guides, and even organizing camping trip. 

Shey-Phoksundo National Park entry ticket is issued by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation from Nepal Tourism Board office building at Brikutimandap in Kathmandu. It is also available during your visit at entry point. 

To obtain your Dolpo permits you needs to email us following documents at [email protected] or [email protected] 

  1. Clean copy of your valid passport (if you already got visa then send a copy of Nepal visa too)
  2. Copy of your visible passport sized photo (taken within last 6 months)
  3. International Flight Tickets of Nepal
  4. Copy of your travel Insurance 
  5. Covid-19 Vaccinated Certificate 
  6. Hotel Booking if you booked by yourself

Different Treks in Dolpo Region

Dolpo is the biggest district of Nepal where you can do many treks Lower Dolpo Trek

1. Inner Dolpo CircuitTrek 
Inner Dolpo trek is combination of both lower and Upper Dolpo trek. It takes 25 days from the Kathmandu to Dolpo and return to Kathmandu. Those trekkers who are fit and want to explore Dolpo at single time then this trek is recommended. This trek is possible only by camping style trek where you will cross high passes and experience the Holy Shey Gompa, Phoksundo lake, and old villages like Dho Tarap, Saldang, Tinje,etc.

2. Shey Gompa pilgrimage
Shey Gompa Pilgrimage tour is our spiritual trip in Dolpo. This trek is make for spiritual seeker where you will visit Both Bon and Buddhist Pilgrimage sites such as Monasteries, Shrines and Crystal Mountain. Explore the Tibetan culture that remain in the high altitude of Northern Nepal. This trek includes western parts of Dolpo. 

3. Helicopter Tour to Dolpo
Riding a helicopter to Dolpo is a luxury Tour in Nepal. This tour is suitable for those who are not fit enough to trek all the way to Dolpo or his/her time doesn’t permit. This tour is Customizable as per your interest. 

4. Phoksundo Trek 
This trek can be done in both ways camping and tea house style. This trek require 9 Days from Kathmandu. The main attraction of this trek is the lake itself, Phoksundo Tal. The beauty of this lake had lured heart of all visitors. From the morning till evening its color keep changing and looks amazing.
View Details of Phoksundo Tea house Trek

5. Phoksundo Festival Trek
The Phoksundo Festival trek is mainly focus to experience the local festive season. This Festival happens during the month of September. This trek is not really difficult as you are not trekking over any high passes. In this trek you will experience unique cultural shows and tradition that held next to beautiful lake, Shey Phoksundo. The trek starts from Juphal, where the only airstrip in Dolpo is located. The trail passes through wonderful Himalayan forests and picturesque traditional villages. The rivers and waterfalls on the trail are some of Nepal’s most magnificent. In addition to natural beauty, the trekking area also is rich in wildlife. 

 

Variations of Treks from Dolpo

There are many 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. 

  1. Upper Dolpo and Upper Mustang
    This trek will start from the Juphal of Lower Dolpo following lush valleys and steep river canyons typical to the south side of the Himalayas so-called Upper Dolpo, incomparable to Tibet plateau. To make this journey more colorful, Himalayan Wander Walkers extend the trek without limiting within the Upper Dolpo circuit and traversing to east on Mustang by Completing at Jomsom.
    View details of Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek 

2. Phoksundo to Rara via Kagmara Pass
The Dolpo to Rara Trek via Kagmara Pass is a long multiday trek in the western region of Nepal. This trek takes place in three different districts of Dolpo, Jumla, and Mugu, the most remote regions of Nepal. Trekking from Lower Dolpo to Rara National park is a lake to lake trek where the Phoksundo and Rara lakes are located, the deepest and largest lakes of Nepal respectively.   Crossing Kagmara Pass (5115m) is Challenging yet one of the best treks in Far West Nepal. This 25 days trek to Rara Lake from Dolpo is meant for experienced trekkers, who love to explore the least traveled trekking destination to experience the unspoiled culture, arid landscape, high passes, and the vistas of snow-capped mountains.
View Details of Dolpo to Jumla Trek via Kagmara Pass

3. Lower Dolpo to Dhorpatan Trek
Dhorpatan Trek is one of the favorite least traveled destinations for trekkers. This trek mostly lies within the valley of Dhorpatan, the only Hunting Reserve in Nepal that linked with three districts of Rukum, Baglun, and Myagdi in the Dhaulagiri region of western Nepal. Hunting is popular in this particular area and it required a special permit which is issued from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Kathmandu. Hunting is legally allowed under proper license but with limited operation per year. Trekking to this untouched valley will provide you an opportunity to views mighty western Mountains and witness rare wildlife such as Blue Sheep, Ghoral, Himalayan Thar, and different species of Pheasants including Nepal’s national bird Danphe (Lophophorus). 
View Details of Dhorpatan Trek

4. Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek
Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek lies between the Dolpo and Mustang Region of Nepal. This trek makes a clockwise round to Mount Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters), the seventh highest mountain in the world. Since 1950 AD this area was opened for trekking and first discovered by the team of French Expedition. During the discovery of Dhaulagiri in 1808 AD, the western explorer team thought it was the highest mountain in the world. After decades of years, Everest was discovered and officially became the highest mountain on earth. It is one of the most adventurous and challenging camping treks in Nepal. Thus, Himalayan Wander Walkers organized a full camping trek to the Dhaulagiri circuit with the support of our Sherpa team.
View Details of Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek

5. Dunai to Gurja Khani Trek
Gurja Khani Trek is recently discovered that lies in the Dhaulagiri region of central-western Nepal. The hidden village, Gurja Khani lies on the lap of Gurja Himal at the height of 2,650 meters from sea level between the south face of Gurja Himal and the Gurja Pass. In Nepali there is an old saying “Tuppi Mathi Thau Chaina, Gurja mathi Gauw Chaina” which literary means ‘there is no place above the cap; there is no village above the Gurja’. Thus it is considered the highest village in the Dhaulagiri Region. This trek offers you to explore the traditional villages, incredible scenery of Mighty Dhaulagiri, Gurja Himal, and Annapurna range.
View Details of Gurja Khani Trek

Why you must visit Dolpo?

Dolpo is one part of heaven to experience hidden Tibetan culture, tradition, religion, mountaineering and its incredible landscape where very least travelers had reached till date. That is the reason why people visit Dolpo. Major attractions of Dolpo are explain in short below. 

  1. Pre Buddhist Bon Religion
    Bon is known for Pre-Buddhist religion. Bon religion is classified into three; prehistoric Bon, Yungdrung Bon and New Bon. The main icon of the Bon is Tonpa Sherap Miwoche. The Bon practices are the key factors that differentiate the religion with Tibetan Buddhism. Circumambulating the shrine anti-clockwise unlike Buddhists undertake the process clockwise. Similarly, chanting mantra of the Bon is “Om Ma Tri Mu Ye Sa Le Du” but the Buddhists chant “Om Mani Padme Hum”. Many of the ancient bon monasteries and pilgrimage sites are located in the far west of Tibet and around Mount Kailash area such as Menri, Yungdrung Ling, Trading, Pelha Puk Monastery, Mount Bonri and Tsedug Monastery. Like for Bon Pilgrimage sites in Nepal, mostly are in Dolpo region of western Nepal. There are number of Monasteries and Chortens (Shrine) exist in Dolpo such as Samling Bon Monastery, Tshowa Bon monastery of Ringmo, Shipchok Gompa, etc.
  2. Sowa Rigpa - Traditional art of healing by Amchi
    Tibetan Herbal treatment is popularly known for Sowa Rigpa, the Amchi art of Healing rooted with Tibetan medicine. Tibetan Herbal medicine treatment has existed since the Bonpo civilisation. Dolpa used to be a part of the Bonpo kingdom of Shang Shung where there are more than sixty Amchis. The most experienced Amchis of Dolpo are lineage of Tibetan King Trisong Detsen from 8th century. 

  3. Holy Cristal Mountain
    Cristal Mountain is the holiest peak across Dolpo. Its surface is formed with the veins of vivid crystalline material. Every Year during the summer season between July and August, locals from different villages come to make Kora around Crystal Mountain. Local believe that making a Kora around it cleansed their sins. Sage (Drutop) Singhi Yeshe visited Shey thousand years ago and meditated there.

  4. Precious Shey Gompa
    Shey Gompa is originally known for Shelri Sumdho Gompa. Its name is came from the holy crystal mountain. The structure of Gompa is simple where old statues of Guru Rinpoche, Vajra Yogini, Dorjee chang, Guru Dragpo, Senge Dongma are preserved well. This 11 century old Shey Gompa is located at the elevation of 4200 meters from the sea level. Peter Mathiessen has spent his almost all winter there during his Dolpo expedition because of the heavy snow fall blocked their way. The landscape of Shey is incredible and many local hermits says that Shey area has great spiritual power to fulfill your all wishes. 

  5. Phoksundo Lake 
    Shey Phoksundo Lake, tortoise colored is the deepest lake of Nepal located at the height of 3611 meters. Many geologies say that Phoksundo Lake is formed when a massive landslide came from the surrounding dry Mountains and blocked the flowing water of Phoksundo Khola. The picture square landscape of lake and its surrounding are perfect frame for Photographers. Next to the lake there is a village called Ringmo where the people are engage in the tourism, yak herding and seasonal agriculture. Almost all visitor keep a spare day at Ringmo for acclimatization and to explore around the lake by taking a short walk to the camp on the shores of the beautiful Phoksundo Lake. There are chortens and mani walls at the entrance of the village. Bönpos circumambulate chortens anticlockwise rather than clockwise as done by Buddhists.

  6. Tibetan ancient villages
    The Fur-flung villages of Dolpo are beautiful and worth seeing when you are trekking in both upper and lower Dolpo. Upper Mustang was remote like Dolpo until motor road was introduce in 2012 for the first time. Some of the popular villages of Dolpo are Chharka (Tsharka Valley), Mukot, Dho Tarap, Tinje (Panzang Valley), Saldang (Nangkhong Valley), Bhijer and Ringmo. Villages are separated by high passes which require couple of days to reach from one village to another. Every village has its own fascinating culture, tradition and lifestyle. During your visit talk with local and walk within the village where culture is extremely worthwhile observing.

  7. Shey Phoksundo National Park
    Shey Phoksundo National Park is a piece of heaven where visitors can explore and experience unforgettable journey trekking through the national park. One of the most pristine tourists destinations of Nepal where you would not want to leave once you reach there. It is known for its spectacular landscape, breathtaking snowcapped mountains, High vantage passes, holy Bon and Buddhist pilgrimage sites, turquoise lake, and isolated human settlements.

  8. Mountaineering in Dolpo
    For many of the visitors all over the world think that trekking and planning their trip to Dolpo is hard and more complex to organize. There are very less people who see some interesting climbing opportunities in Dolpo Region. Did you know the easiest 7000 meters summit in Nepal? Putha Hiunchuli (7246m) is the easiest 7000 meters peak which is located in Dolpo Region. There are other peaks which are below 7000 meters such as Mukut Himal (6087m), Norbu Kang (6085m), Mariyong (6528m), Swaska Kang (6405m), Kade Hiuchuli (6627m), Kanjiroba North (6313m) and Kanjiroba South (6883m). Due to the very least visitors there are many peaks which are unnamed and virgin. 

 

How much does it cost for Dolpo trek Package?

The cost of trekking in Dolpo depend on many aspects like duration, facilities, means of transportation, crew members, number of trekkers in a group, etc. Trekking in Dolpo region are more expensive than other regions of Nepal because 80 percent of the area can be visited only with the camping trek and in addition to that restricted permit is expensive. Check below in the table of cost breakdown for Dolpo treks. 

S.No

Permits and Servies

Cost in USD

1

Flights from Kathamndu to Nepalgunj (Two ways)

250

2

Flights from Nepalgunj to Juphal (Two ways)

320

3

Upper Dolpo Trek permits 10 Days per person

500

4

Lower Dolpo Trek permits 2 Week per person (Up & Down)

20

5

Shey Phoksundo Neational Park fee per person

30

6

Camping cost with everything includes cost per person with minimum of two person in a group

110

7

Agency service fee for organizing per person

10% of Total cost per person

How is Camping trek in Dolpo?

In Nepal, all camping treks supplies - camping equipment, kitchen implements, food are all carried by pack animals like mules, Yaks, and horses. Even Porters are common in Nepal. All trekkers are accompanied by a guide, a cook, and usually at least one horseman or yak herder. With the surest footing; they lead trekking groups across the passes. The horseman and cook will usually run ahead during a trekking day. They will have prepared a packed lunch for hikers and will go on to the night’s resting place to set up camp. They set up tents, cook dinner, and ready the area for arriving trekkers. When trekkers reach the campsite they are greeted with a hot cup of tea and biscuits in the dining tent. After six hours in the mountains, no drink will ever taste sweeter. For dinner, the cook will usually prepare a buffet of dishes that are as welcome as they are delicious.

 

How is Tea house Trek in Dolpo?

Teahouse trekking means staying and eating in local lodges. We stay in single rooms where possible, but often you will have to share. Rooms are basic, normally just a bed with a pillow, blankets. A few have electric lights and all have a spacious dining room-lounge. We eat at teahouses and, although the food is usually plentiful and delicious, the menu is not extensive. They offer a variety of potatoes, rice and noodle dishes, as well as soup and seasonal vegetables. Beers and local spirits are often available, but that will be at your own cost. A variety of cereals, bread, and egg dishes are generally available for breakfast. There are also snacks available such as basic biscuits, chocolate, and soft drinks and in some areas, you will find fresh fruit in season. It is normal to meet your porter in the teahouse where you will stay overnight. So, pack your necessary things in your own day pack.

Phoksundo Lake trek is the only possible tea house based trek in whole Dolpo region. If you are experienced trekker and strong enough to carry your necessary gears and basic equipment only you can do Lower Dolpo trek where you need to eat and sleep in the available tented tea houses on the trail camped for local traders and travelers. Sometimes you even need to spend overnight in your own tent where you need to cook by yourself.  

 

Best time of season to visit Dolpo

Dolpo and Upper Mustang lies in the rain shadow behind the Mountains. Generally trekking in Nepal is popular in spring (Mid-March, April & May) and autumn (Mid-September, October, November) season. But trekking to Dolpo in different season has its own beauties. Whenever you are planning your trek in the Himalayas always check weather focus of the places that you are going to visit and take a printout copies with you.

Spring Season in Dolpo
Even though spring is a good time to trek in Dolpo but still sometime late snow fall may be problematic. So, planning your trek to Dolpo in mid of April is the perfect time. Even during the month of May is good where greenery start gradually and people return from the cities like Kathmandu, Nepal and Nepalgunj. 

Summer Season in Dolpo
Summer is consider as the best and favorite season in the Himalayan region of Nepal. Dolpo is one among them and it falls under the rain shadow area of Nepal where summer is perfect and right time to experience the Dolpo. During that time weather is not really cold neither too hot, suitable for trekking. But the challenge is that flight from Nepalgunj to Juphal may get cancelled due to weather issue in the low land of Nepal. If you are planning your trek during the summer time then we suggest you to keep 1- 2 days extra, in case the flight don’t takeoff as per itinerary date.  

Autumn Season in Dolpo 
Autumn season more popular as October season in Nepal. During this time Nepal receive Maximum trekkers and visitors. For Upper Dolpo trek starting your trek from late September is nice as the weather get colder from October and this trek is possible only with proper camping equipment and experienced crew members not like tea houses treks in Everest and Annapurna area. So, the autumn season for trekking in Dolpo is best from Late September to mid-November.   

Winter Season in Dolpo 
Winter is quite harsh and snowy where all the high passes of Dolpo are blocked by snow and no one cross them until the mid-spring season. So, planning your trek to Dolpo in the winter isn’t a good idea. By saying that it doesn’t meant it is impossible to do treks in whole Dolpo region winter. Some travelers had made their treks to Phoksundo Lake even in the winter but for that you need well experienced guide and good weather to have a successful trip. Winter last for few months starting from mid-November until mid-late of March. 

 

Top Tips for Dolpo Trekking

  1. The earlier you visit Dolpo, it will be more rewarding trip. Who knows whether the present tradition, lifestyle, culture and its natural beauties remain same as it or not.
  2. Trekking in Dolpo isn’t easy as other trekking destinations of Nepal. So, proper clothing and gear are essential. 
  3. Staying healthy during your trekking days is a key to success your trip. So, take more hot drinks and eat well. 
  4. Acclimatization is necessary for trekking in Dolpo as you are walking in the high altitude mostly 4000 meters. Always flexible with your itinerary and keep spare for rest. 
  5. Don’t forget to choose the best time to visit Dolpo as per your interest of field.
  6. Choose local trekking agency. Locals have the direct link with local people.
  7. You must have your own travel insurance which cover helicopter rescue because chartering a chopper is the best and quickest way to rescue in the mountain.  
  8. Don’t set off without your permits. If you are traveling without permits and the checkpoint officer noticed you. Then are force to pay the cost of permits and return to Kathmandu without entering the Dolpo. 
  9. Take your Passport and copy of your insurance.
  10. Hire an experienced guide who have good knowledge of Dolpo.
  11. Don’t forget to tips your crew members because they never ask for it directly. If you don’t have an idea how much to tip. Normally tips are 10 to 15 % of their wages. 

Final Words

By reading above all you might have known why it is worth to visit Dolpo. All trekking destinations of Nepal are in the Himalayas and sometimes there is ups and downs in your trip. Whatsoever the wonders of Dolpo never cease. The entire region of Dolpo is still remote that lies in the western part of Nepal where still you can witness yak herders, Bon practitioner, barely farmers, using traditional woolen clothes and congested built house. Dolpo is one of the few destinations in the world where trekking in remote and opportunities to discover are still possible. Join us!

 

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