Dolpo is an unexplored wonderland behind the Himalayas of Mid-Western Nepal. This isolated area hides behind the Dhaulagiri range in the Karnali region. It is the remoteness and vast territory that tells why Dolpo still remains unexplored.
A few years ago, the place was unknown to many. Matthiessen’s bestselling book “The Snow Leopard”, and a film “Himalaya” hugely drew the interests of the world to this remote area.
Dolpo covers nearly a 6% area of Nepal. Tibet borders Dolpo from the north and northeast, whereas Dhaulagiri massif stands at the eastern and southern border. Sisne mountains and Kanjirowa bound Dolpo from the west.
The altitude in Dolpa ranges from 1525 meters at Tribeni to 7625 meters at Churen Himal. Dolpo is popular as the highest human settlements in the earth. More than 90 percent of villages here lies above 3500 meters. The everyday lifestyle of Dolpo people in the highest sphere of the world interests thousands of travelers.
Highlights of Dolpo
- High passes above 5000 meters
- Highest human settlements in the world
- Shey-Phoksundo Lake and National Park
- Spectacular view of mountain peaks: Crystal, Kanjirowa, Dhaulagiri
- Nomadic lifestyle
- Tibetan Buddhism and Bon devotees
- Caravan of Yaks and Sheeps
People of Dolpo
Around 36,000 people reside in Dolpo. People of southern ends of Lower Dolpo follow Hinduism and Shamanism, and the northern part of Lower Dolpo has people of Magar ethnicity. People in Upper Dolpo are called Dolpo-pa and are Bon and Tibetan Buddhism devotees.
Getting there and away
Juphal Airport at Juphal connects Dolpo-Pa to rest of the world. You can travel to Nepalgunj – a city in Mid- Western Terai Region from Kathmandu by a bus or a flight. From there, you can travel to Juphal Airport.
If you want to travel by land, you have to travel to Musikot of Rukum district from Nepalgunj by bus. Then you drive through Rimna and, Chepare to Raadi via a jeep. Then another jeep drive from Raadi takes you to Tallu, then Karapgaar to Khadang. After around a 5-hour trek from there, you reach to Tripurakot.
Although Dolpo is the biggest district of Nepal, you find only a few miles of roadways. Khadang of Dolpa district was recently connected to the national road network in 2018. Still, the road is just an open track, and a lot of work is still to be done.
Dunai – the Headquarter of Dolpo
Dunai – the district headquarter is at an altitude of 2000 meters. Thuli Bheri River downsurges through the northern edge of Dunai. Dunai houses about 2700 locals. But, the number increases in winter. It’s because people of higher altitude descend to lower altitude villages like Dunai to fight off cold.
Dunai has Dolpa district Hospital, Dolpa Campus, Saraswati Higher Secondary School, a couple of banks’ branches as major infrastructures.
Explore Dolpo Trek
Dolpo trek lets you explore this hidden territory behind the Himalayas. As you walk through the heart of Dolpo, you will have a chance to delve into people’s culture and tradition. You will know about Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Buddhism too.
Dolpo is usually classified into two: Upper Dolpo and Lower Dolpo. Upper Dolpo lies above 3000 meters and most parts of Lower Dolpo lies below that. However, it’s not just altitude that classifies Dolpo into two. The culture and tradition of people between these regions also experience a vast contrast.
Dolpo is a restricted region in Nepal. You need permits to enter Lower Dolpo and Upper Dolpo. Moreover, you also need a permit to enter Shey-Phoksundo National parks. Click here to see the details about Dolpo trek permit fee. After all the preparation, you fly to Nepalgunj from Kathmandu. A next day flight to Juphal lands you to Dolpo region.
The trek starts trek from Juphal – a part of Lower Dolpo. You witness old villages and ancient traditions in your trek as you pass through the villages of Dolpo. Dunai, Ankhe, Sulighat, and Chhepka are some major settlements in this part.
The trail passes through Subalpine and Alpine forests that is a home to blue sheep, snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer, and more. You pass through high passes above 5000 meters of altitude and visit Shey-Phoksundo lake in your Lower Dolpo exploring trek.
As you spend your time in Shey-Phoksundo lake and trek further to the north, you gradually enter to the unexposed Upper Dolpo.
Explore Upper Dolpo
Upper Dolpo Trek lets you explore the upper part of Dolpo. As you walk through ancient villages, you realize nothing much has changed from the past. People still follow agro-pastoral lifestyle to lead their life. The region experiences no face of modernization yet.
You visit Shey-Phoksundo lake and then enter more remote Upper Dolpo region. You then pass through Kang-La pass and visit Shey-Gompa and trek further north. You also cross high passes and trek through some of the highest settlements in Upper Dolpo.
The upper Dolpo is also a place where Tibetan Buddhists and Bons have put an end to centuries-old rivalry to live harmoniously. They have monasteries that are centuries old and thousands of pilgrims go there every year. Yangze Gompa, Namgung Monastery, and Bon-Po monastery are some popular monasteries of the region.
Explore Lower Dolpo
As you explore the northern highland and come to Dho Tarap, you gradually descend to Lower Dolpo.
Lower Dolpo is diverse in multiple features. From Bon Buddhist, Tibetan Buddhist and Magar clans to Hindus, Lower Dolpo houses people of various cultures and traditions.
Many parts of Lower Dolpo has Tibetan Buddhist. Some villages in Lower Dolpo have Magar clans with their own local language. Likewise, Hindus prevail in the margins of Lower Dolpo.
Dho Tarap, Dunai, Juphal, and Tarakot are some major settlements in Lower Dolpo.
Dolpo Trek Itinerary
Upper Dolpo Trek usually lengthens for 27 days. Remember that the trip can be customized as per your need.
Below is a general outline of the Dolpo Trek Itinerary. For detailed Dolpo Itinerary, click here.
Explore Dolpo Trek brief Itinerary
Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu
Day 02: Kathmandu sightseeing and trek preparation
Day 03: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj
Day 04: Fly from Nepalgunj to Juphal (Dolpo) and trek to Dunai
Day 05: Trek from Dunai to Ankhe
Day 06: Trek from Ankhe to Sulighat
Day 07: Trek from Sulighat to Shey-Phoksundo Lake
Day 08: Acclimatization day
Day 09: Trek to Phoksundo Khola
Day 10: Trek from Phoksundo Khola to Phoksundo Bhanjyang
Day 11: Trek from Phoksundo Bhanjyang to Shey Gompa
Day 12: Acclimatization day
Day 13: Trek from Shey Gompa to Namduna Gaun
Day 14: Trek from Namduna Gaun to Saldang
Day 15: Trek from Saldang to Yangze Gompa
Day 16: Trek from Yangze Gompa to Sibu
Day 17: Trek from Sibu to Jeng-la Phedi
Day 18: Trek from Jeng-la Phedi to Tokyu Gaon
Day 19: Trek from Tokyu to Dho Tarap
Day 20: Rest Day at Dho Tarap
Day 21: Trek from Dho Tarap to Tarap Khola
Day 22: Trek from Tarap Khola to Khanigaon
Day 23: Trek from Khanigaon to Tarakot
Day 24: Trek from Tarakot to Dunai
Day 25: Trek from Dunai to Juphal
Day 26: Fly from Jhuphal to Nepalgunj, and to Kathmandu
Day 27: Final departure
General Info on Dolpo Trek
You stay in a sophisticated hotel/lodge in Kathmandu and Nepalgunj. As you start your trek from Juphal, you will stay in teahouses and sometimes tented camps especially as you ascend higher towards Upper Dolpo region.
If you are a person who enjoys living in grand suites during your trip, tea houses in Dolpo may disappoint you. But, if you are happy to stay in a small room with a minimal facility, the tea houses suit you.
Dolpo region is sparsely inhabited. So, not every place in your trek route has tea houses or human settlements. In the trek, there will also be places where you have to stay in a tented camp.
Trekking companies cover only breakfast in their trekking packages in Kathmandu. So, you will have to pay yourself for dinners and lunches in Kathmandu.
Once you begin your trip from Kathmandu, the company takes care of your full-board meals. You can enjoy fresh and hygienic meals on your trek. Tea houses usually have rice, potatoes, millet, boiled barley dough, noodles, and some seasonal vegetables for meals. Bread, cereals, eggs are usually in breakfast menus. You can also find biscuits, raw noodles, and sweets for snacks.
Physique & experience
Dolpo trek is a long and difficult trek. You walk for 5-6 hours a day through uphill and downhill trails on high altitudes. Sometimes, you even go above 5000 meters.
Dolpo is a remote area with extreme weather. So, if you encounter any health issue during the trek, it can take days to bring you to a medical practitioner. Therefore, you need to be physically and mentally strong. Besides, we recommend you to get an insurance to cover you in case you need medical facilities.
You should have some previous trekking experience to trek to Dolpo. But, you do not need technical skills here. We advise you to check your medical condition before heading for Dolpo.
Like other trekking areas of Nepal, the best season to trek Dolpo are Spring and Autumn. Nepal experiences Spring from March to May, whereas Autumn prevails from September to October.
Dolpo lies in the rain shadow of Dhaulagiri mastiff, Kanjirowa, and Tibetan plateau. So, the annual precipitation is so low. When the entire Nepal experiences rainfall in monsoon season(June- August), the region remains dry and trekkable.
Unlike these seasons, Dolpo remains quite unfavorable to trek during the winter. Most parts of Dolpo are above 3500 meters and sometimes you even reach above 5000 meters. So, the area is covered in snow and weather remains harsh.
Even locals of Dolpo climb down to Lower Dolpo during the winter. So, you should trek to Dolpo in seasons other than the winter.
The cost for 27 days Explore Dolpo Trek is around $4100. The cost includes your Upper Dolpo and Lower Dolpo trekking permit fees, transportation cost, accommodation cost,full-board accommodation and meals during the trek, guides and porters cost, first aid, guides and porters insurance, and so forth.
Remember, the trek can be customized as per your preference, and the cost varies accordingly.
Click here for the price breakdown of Dolpo Trek cost.
Dolpo – an immense but isolated corner of Mid-Western Nepal has so much for travelers to explore. The trail passing through alpine forests, grasslands, streams, lake and snow-covered passes makes your trek truly unforgettable. If you are lucky, you may also get a chance to behold Himalayan musk deer or blue sheep in the wilds.
If you enjoy the rawness of nature rather than sitting in a grand suite 5-star hotel, Dolpo is the ideal destination for you. You traverse old and remote villages and become friends with amazing locals and travelers.
If you want to travel to this amazing corner of Nepal, please let us know. We ensure you will have a priceless lifetime memory.