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Upper Dolpo & The Shey Gompa

Trip Route: Ktm-Nepalgunj-Dunai-Sulighat-Phoksumdo Bhanjyang-Namduna Gaon-Tarakot- Jhuphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu
Max Altitude: Kang-La 5,360m
Trip Duration: 28 days
Trip Grade: 4
Transportation: Car / Van / Flight
Best Season: Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Oct, Nov
Upper Dolpo & The Shey Gompa

"on the far wild north western region of Nepal, in absolute wilderness view of array of peaks in the hidden valleys under the clear crystal blue sky journey into the remote cultural destination"

Dolpo, located in the midway between the Tibetan Plateau and the Dhaulagiri Himal range is one of the highest inhabited land of Dolpo. Geographically a southern extension of Tibet, it lies within the borders of the kingdom of Nepal, since 1984 has been the country’s largest national park and conservation, the park sustains an abundance of wild life including Musk Deer, Himalayan Blue Sheep and the elusive Snow Leopard, as well as being home to a fascinating race of Tibetan speaking people. The hardy highlanders of Dolpo are traders, exchanging barley for Tibetan rock salt and they take their yaks onto the Tibetan plateau during the summer for grazing, and the most remote, least developed district in Nepal. From Jhupal village, we begin this wonderful adventure, encountering interesting places, people, villages, valleys and serene forest of pines, oaks and rhododendron, the trek passes many gigantic mountain ranges and over the Numala pass at 5,400m till we reach the Phoksundo lake at Ringmo village in the "Phoksundo National Park". At Ringmo, the highlight of our trip we will have two nights here to enjoy the beauty of the deep blue waters of the Phoksundo lake and the surrounding snow peaks of Kanjibro Himal, with time to visit the nearby isolated village of Ringmo and its Monastery. Our classic journey continues to the amazing country of Crystal Mountain at Shey Gomba, following the ancient Trans Himalayan Trade route and back to Jhuphal for the flight backby an alternative route, giving you more opportunity to explore this fascinating wild west of Nepal.
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Outline Itinerary Day 01: Arrive  Kathmandu. 1,300m and transfer to Hotel.
Day 02: In Kathmandu.
Day 03: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj & transfer to Hotel.
Day 04: Fly from Nepalgunj to Jhuphal (Dolpo) 2,320m. Trek to Dunai 2,850m. 2-3 hrs walks.
Day 05: Trek to Ankhe  2,896m. 5-6 hrs.
Day 06: Trek to Sulighat. 3,500m. 5-6 hrs.
Day 07: Trek to Phoksumdo Lake. 3,500m. 4-5 hours.
Day 08: Rest Day at Phoksumdo Lake.
Day 09: Trek to  Phuksumdo Khola. 4-5 hrs.
Day 10: Trek to  Phoksumdo Bhanjyang.  6-7 hrs.
Day 11: Trek to Shey  Gompa 4,500m via Kang-La 5,360m. 5-6 hrs.
Day 12: Rest day at  Shey Gompa the Crystal Monastery.
Day 13: Trek to  Namduna Gaon 4,800m via Saldang La 5,200m.
Day 14: Trek to  Saldang. 3,620m. 4-5 hours.
Day 15: Trek to  Yangze Gompa. approx. 4,960m. 4-5 hrs.
Day 16: Trek to Sibu.  approx. 4,560m. 6-7 hrs.
Day 17: Trek to  Jeng-la Phedi 4,900m. 5-6 hrs.
Day 18: Trek to Tokyu  Gaon 4,200m via Jeng la 5,090m. 5-6 hrs.
Day 19: Trek to Dho Tarap. 4,040m. 4-5 hrs.
Day 20: Rest Day at  Dho Tarap.
Day 21: Trek to Tarap  Khola.( Kamakharka) 3,800m. 6-7 hrs.
Day 22: Trek to  Kharigaon. approx.3,150m. 5 hours.
Day 23: Trek to Tarakot. 2,850m. 5 hrs.
Day 24: Trek to Dunai. 2,850m. 16 kms. 6 hrs.
Day 25: Trek to  Jhuphal.approx. 2-3 hrs.
Day 26: Fly  Jhuphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu.
Day 27: In Kathmandu.
Day 28: Transfer to  Airport for the International departure.
Service includes
  • Trekking Area permits and fees,
  • Trekking Map
  • Camping Equipments,
  • Full Board Plan (breakfast, lunch, dinner, accommodation, tea or coffee) during trek,
  • Join Nepali Cultural Program with dinner,
  • Hotel in Kathmandu as your requirements,.
  • An experienced licensed holder Guide and required porters
  • Food, drinks, salary, insurance, equipment, transportation, accommodation, and local tax for guide and porters,
  • Transportation by bus, car or by flight,
  • Medical kit box
  • TIMS (Trekkers' Information Management Systems)
  • Trekking Equipments
  • All government tax
  • All guided sightseeing tour in Kathmandu and entry fees
  • All necessary transportation while sightseeing
  • Airport pick up and drop with an escort
Service does not include
  • All meals in Kathmandu except farewell dinner and breakfast.
  • Hard and soft table drinks such as coke, fanta, mineral water, beer.
  • Personal Travel insurance.
  • Rescue operation.
  • International airfare and tax.
  • Nepal tourist visa fee
  • Tips for guide and porter.( They highly expect but not compulsory).
Detail Itinerary

Day 01: Arrive at  Kathmandu.1,300m and transfer to Hotel.
On arrival at  Kathmandu International Airport you will be received by our staff and will  escort you to the Hotel, where one of our AD staff and guide will give you a  brief orientation of the Hotel, Kathmandu, Trekking and Camping, do's and don't  and other related information that you might require while in Nepal.

Day 02: In Kathmandu.
After your first night in Kathmandu,  you will be well informed on arrival about the time for your half day guided  sightseeing tour in Kathmandu at places of  interest. Sometimes, depending upon your flight arrival if it's late in the  night we will do this tour in the afternoon instead of morning to give you a  good rest before you set out of the Hotel in our interesting tour.

Day 03: Fly from KathmandutoNepalgunj & transfer to Hotel.
As per the flight schedule for Nepalgunj, transfer to the  domestic airport for an hour scenic flight to Nepalgunj. At Nepalgunj, time in  the late afternoon or evening to have a look around the town which is situated  on the southern Nepal  border close to India.

Day 04: Fly from Nepalgunj to Jhuphal (Dolpo) 2,320m.
Trek to Dunai 2,850m. From Nepalgunj, early morning transfer to airport for  the 40 minute flight to Jhuphal over the Himalayan foothills, with views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri  peaks to the north. On arriving at Jhuphal our trekking staffs will receive  you, who have walked all the way from Nepalgunj with the camping gear and food  supply taking 5-6 days. Here at Jhuphal a short walk from the airstrip leads to  the overnight camp towards the main village   of Dolpo at Dunai.

First day walk begins with an hour downhill walk through the  village below the airstrip, then leading through the terraced fields to the  Bheri River and the narrow gorge taking 2-3 hours to camp at Dunai. This is a  much larger village or a small township, with a new hospital and it is the  administrate headquarter of the Dolpo region.

Day 05: Trek to Ankhe  2,896m. 5-6 hrs.
From the camp at Dunai, route diverts to cross the new  suspension bridge and turning west, following the trail past the hospital. The  path soon begins to climb up the side of the treeless Thulo Bheri   Valley, where it leads to  a ridge and then entering the Phoksumdo river valley, finally reaching another  ridge which is marked by cairns  at 2,499m which offers grand view of the Kagmara Peak  up the valley. Walk leads to a large side canyon, then descending gently on the  long downhill slope through the scattered houses and walnut groves to a stream  at 2,810m.

The trail below the stream leads to Dhera, a winter  settlement where people from higher villages keep herds of cows and goats,  however we take the upper trail climbing to Rahagaon, a Thakuri village at  2,900m. Where there is a Gompa dedicated to the local god, Mastha, guardians of  this village. Journey from here passes through the lower part of Rahagaon and  then descending to the village water supply at the Phuksumdo khola. Passing  through another canyon and then heading downhill through deep dark forests to a  large stream, finally emerging at the entrance to the Shey Phoksumdo   National Park at Ankhe.

Day 06: Trek to  Sulighat. 3,500m. 5-6 hrs.
The path from this camp leads to small ups and downs along  the forested riverbed, then ascending steeply to about 2,900m. The ups and  downs can begin to get a bit monotonous, but there are several streams along  the way that offer a chance to cool off. The trail eventually leaves the forests  and traverses a grassy slope high above the river. After a while the path once  begin to descend steeply into forest until it reaches a cliff, whereby a  dizzying drop on a wobbly stone staircase to the river bank has to be  undertaken. You can almost look down between your toes to see the fast-flowing  river below. After reaching the river at 2,950m, the trail becomes a collection  of rocks and sticks that form a dyke along the river bank. It's hard to imagine  how the local people bring yaks and cows along this trail, but they do. Journey continues upstream to a bridge near Ryajik village for the overnight  camp after a good day's walk.

Day 07: Trek to Phoksumdo Lake. 3,500m. 4-5 hours.
The trail continues along the valley floor to the confluence  of the Phoksumdo and Pungmo  Kholas. After crossing to the western side of the Phuksumdo Khola on  a wooden bridge, then following the west bank of the Pungmo Khola which takes  us all the way to Phuksumdo   Lake near Ringmo village.  The path passes through a cedar forest and finally to Palam, a winter  settlement used by the people of Ringmo village. The houses here are almost  buried in the sandy soil. Then head up to open country, at an altitude of  around 3,350m. From the ridge we can see the distant views of Phuksumdo Lake  and a spectacular 300m high waterfall, one of the highest in Nepal. After a brief stop here with the great views we finally  descent through birch forests to the upper reaches of the Phuksumdo Khola, and  then to the picturesque settlement of Ringmo with its mud plastered chorten and  mani walls. From here it is a short walk to the shores of Phoksumdo Lake  for our overnight camp.

Day 08: Rest Day at Phoksumdo Lake.
A rest day free from packing, at Phuksumdo one can go for a  short hike to the village of Ringmo and its Tibetan  Buddhist Monastery is well worth a visit.

Day 09: Trek to  Phuksumdo Khola. 4-5 hrs.
From Phuksumdo, adventure continues skirting the shore of  the lake as it contours on a rocky ledge along the western bank. This unsteady  trail suspended on a gangway of wood supported on pegs driven into crevices in  the rocks, signals the remoteness of the area we are about to enter. At the  westernmost edge of the lake the path leads through a lush meadow that opens up  into the flood plain of the Phoksumdo Khola. Walk leads through the valley, criss-crossing the river and  avoiding the occasional boggy marsh underfoot and then coming on the bank of  the river to our  overnight camping.

Day 10: Trek to  Phoksumdo Bhanjyang.  6-7 hrs.
Today's first hour walk leads along the level path through a  glacial valley that now heads due north. At the confluence of the Phoksumdo  Khola and another mountain stream, there is an old wooden bridge. Here we take  the barely discernible path to the north-east of the valley. There is no trail  as such, so it is necessary to clamber over the rocks and boulders and to ford  a stream that rushes down the steep valley. A long climb brings us to a sheep  meadow where the trail veers up a steep ravine. A hard climb to the top brings  us to yet another valley where you can see the Kang-La, the pass which will  lead us to Shey Gompa. We make our camp just before the pass in a place that  Peter Matthiessen christened 'Snowfields Camp'.

Day 11: Trek to Shey  Gompa 4,500m via Kang-La 5,360m. 5-6 hrs.
Morning walk leads up to a steep climb littered with slate  towards the pass.The climb is quite strenuous, especially on the slate scree.  From the top of Kang-la there are excellent views down upon a large valley  which is bisected by a gushing river. On descending steeply to the valley  floor, we make a long meandering trek along the banks of the river, crossing  and re-crossing it several times. There are mud caves lining the hills  overlooking the river and we pass through meadows where hairy yaks, hundreds of  sheep and domestic mountain goat (Chengra) can be found grazing as well near  the odd nomadic hut of the herders. A red chorten heralds our arrival at Shey  Gompa where a quaint wooden, log bridge leads up to our destination at Shey  Gompa compound for our overnight camp.

Day 12: Rest day at  Shey Gompa the Crystal Monastery.
Another rest day for local hike around Shey meaning crystal,  this monastery is also known as the Crystal Monastery (well described in Peter  Matthissen Classic novel The Snow Leopard) the lama of Shey resides at  a red hermitage known as Tsakang gompa which is north of Shey. It is rather a  retreat than a monastery.Tsakang had been a meditation centre of many famous lamas  from Tibet.

Shey Gompa belong to the Chaiba community, followers of  great saint Padmasambhava, known as Guru Ringpcohe and Kagyu sects. It was the  first Kagyupa monastery and its founder was the lama Tenzing Ra-Pa, built  during 11th century. Shey is famous for its ancient pre-Buddhist  culture the Bon Po. In Dolpo the ancient Tibetan way of life combines animism with the  teaching of Buddha.  Drutup Yeshe first introduced Buddhism in the Dolpo Valley.  Hundreds of years ago he came to Dolpo encountering a wild people whose supreme  God was a 'fierce mountain and nature spirit'. Crystal Mountain  is to the east of Shey gompa it is one of the strangest mountain, as its  contorted cliffs are laced with quartz and embedded with a rich variety of  marine fossils. Shey Gompa stands above the confluence of Kangjunala and Yeju Nala   River. Near the  confluence there is a group of prayer mills turned by water wheels.

Day 13: Trek to  Namduna Gaon 4,800m via Saldang La 5,200m.
Start the day by following a pleasant trail amidst juniper  the descending into a grey, stony canyon. Then the path begins to zig zag over  bare rocks and coarse eroded soil until it eventually brings us to the top of  Saldang-la. The subsequent  descent  towards the north which is long and tiring but we finally come upon the welcome  sight of pastures of grazing yaks and sheep, and nomadic tents made from yak  hair. This signals our approach to Namduna Gaon. Like Shey, the Namgung  monastery is of the Karma-pa sect. The monastery, a red stone structure, is  built against the backdrop of a cliff on the north wall of a gorge. The red and  white colors of the Gompa and its stupas are the only colour in this stark  landscape. The village itself consists of only six stone houses and has  terraced fields on both sides of the tributary, which flow down to the Nam  Khong valley. The economy of the region is based on agriculture, animal  husbandry and trading. In Dolpo only one crop a year can be grown and this is  mainly barley. In some village's buckwheat, oil seed, potato and radish are  also cultivated. Recently the main cliff temple collapsed and the villagers  have now built a beautiful new monastery in the village itself.

Day 14: Trek to  Saldang. 3,620m. 4-5 hours.
On leaving the Namduna gaon, the route climbs up a scree  slope. Further on it begins a long traverse along some dusty barren mountains.  After 3-4 hours of hard climb, Saldang appears below on a plateau high above  the Nam Khong nala. It has a picturesque appearance. Saldang is the largest  village of the inner Dolpo area. Though the village lies at about the same  altitude as Ringmo it is totally different. Ringmo, a Himalayan village is  situated below the tree line while Saldang belongs to the arid zone of the  Trans-Himalayan Tibetan plateau. The village stretches for nearly two  kilometers on an open slope. Saldang consists of five villages having about 80  well built houses with nearly six hundred people. Saldang is a prosperous  village not only agriculturally but also for its strategic location on a trade  route to Tibet.  After the Chinese invasion of Tibet  in 1959, trade with Tibet  was virtually stopped. It has been restored to some extent through the barter  system by which Tibetan salt reaches mid-Nepal. The Drokpa people from the  western plains of Tibet  collect salt from the dried lakes north of Tsangpo.

Day 15: Trek to Yangze  Gompa. 4,960m. 4-5 hrs.
This great adventure diverts further far north to the least  unexplored area by westerners or by any other commercial adventure trekking  companies. The trail follows the Nang chu river most of the way on this wild  barren windswept terrain.
Walk begins along the fairly gradual path with few ups and  downs slope and then passing through the small settlement of Tiling  and Lurigaon till we reach to our overnight  camp at Yangze also known as Yangtsher, just before Yangze near Lurigaon. Here  we cross the tributary Panzang river, a short walk from here brings us to an  unexplored region of Yangze and its very old Bon-Po Monastery for the overnight  halt with time for exploration around the villages and the Monastery.

Day 16: Trek to Sibu.  approx. 4,560m. 6-7 hrs.
From Yangze there are two trails that connect Sibu, the long  way trail heads due west passing through the very remote villages of Nishalgaon and  further past Shimengaon. To save time and energy we will retrace the path back  towards Saldang village which will be much easier and shorter than the other  north western route. From Saldang the trail following the river bed we pass  through terraced fields, stupas, chortens, heaps of mani stones and a Chaiba  monastery, then passing through the Namdo village which is also prosperous with  about sixty houses having nearly 400 inhabitants. It stretches for more than 5  km on the high slopes to the left of Nam Khong Khola. The Namdo monastery is  located near the river bed. Our journey continues further down the river for  another two hours to camp near the small settlement of Sibu.

Day 17: Trek to  Jeng-la Phedi 4,900m. 5-6 hrs.
The trail follows the Nam Khong Khola for a while on the  morning walk coming across caravan of laden yaks that are on their way towards Tibet border.  After days of following the same river, finally we part turning east till we  arrive at the confluence of two small tributaries, from here our walk leads to  a steep climb to the bottom of Jeng la, where we stay for the overnight on a  nice meadow.

Day 18: Trek to Tokyu  Gaon 4,200m via Jeng la 5,090m. 5-6 hrs.
Morning trek leads to two hours climb towards the top of the Jeng La. An  excellent view of snow ranges emerges to the south. The north face of the Dhaulagiri massif shines in the morning light. After a  wonderful moment here at the pass walk leads downhill on the rough path towards  Tarap valley. On the afternoon reaching at the green valley which leads us on  the pleasant track down towards Tarap Chu.  Tarap is a fascinating valley with vast plains in high mountains. It extends  twenty
kilo meters along the river. Tarap Chu having ten villages with cultivated  fields, many gompas and chortens of both sects. Stoping here for the night at  Tokyu monastery.                                  This monastery also belongs to the Chaiba sect.

Day 19: Trek to Dho  Tarap. 4,040m. 4-5 hrs.
Today the walk leads eastwards along the downhill course of  Tarap Chu in a plain valley with patches of lush verdant grass on both sides of  the river which is completely different from other parts of inner Dolpo. There  is also a marsh which is a common feature in the Desert Mountains  of Tibet  and the Ladakh Himalaya. In this valley both Bon Po and Chaiba sects reside  together in harmony. After a short trek on this beautiful valley we come to Dho  Tarap for the overnight camp with ample time to visit around the villages. This  village is surrounded by an irregular stone wall. At Dho, about 34 houses are  divided into three clusters and built in a haphazard way inhabited by few  Tibetans and mostly Magars hill tribe of Nepal who have lived here for many  generations.

Day 20: Rest Day at  Dho Tarap.
Here we will have an opportunity again to make friends with  the people from Dolpo.They wear home spun clothing that is sometimes dyed maroon  and they prefer Tibetan style somba (boots with upturned toes) for footwear.  Men and women often wear both religious amultes and strings of coral and  turquoise. The villagers are both Bon Po and Buddhist of Nyingmapa sect. The  Buddhist gompa is the nearest one to the campsite, the Bon Gompa is further 40  minutes walk.

Day 21: Trek to Tarap  Khola.( Kamekharka) 3,800m. 6-7 hrs.
Today can be quite a long day's or moderate walk depending  upon the choice of several different campsites so the itinerary can be as  flexible as you like. From the quite bare country around Tarap, we descend  towards a wide valley which eventually
narrows into a gorge. We walk along the juniper bush and  wild rose, typical of dry inner Himalayan valleys, to just above the tree line.  On this route we might see herds of blue sheep. By the afternoon time we reach  at the confluence of the Tarap Chu and the Lang Khola, a stream that joins with  Tarap River from further east. We will make  our camp on a nice meadow, this place is also known as Kamakharka, while our  porters will perhaps take shelter in a nearby spacious cave.

Day 22: Trek to  Kharigaon. approx.3,150m. 5 hours.
ourney continues down the gorge of the Tarap River,  might come across people from Dolpo taking their herds to lower pastures for  the winter.Here there are many possible campsites by the river. In fact  if one get delayed as per our itinerary days by some unforeseen reason days  22-24 can be done in 2 days rather than three. This will be one of the exciting  days of this trip, as the valley becomes so narrow in a deep gorge that in some  places one can jump from one side to another. Sometimes there is no trace of  any path and have to walk across stone slabs fitted on logs in between the  walls which act as a bridge. At some places, the bridges are either damaged or  washed away and may be forced to cross the icy torrent on foot, then eventually  coming to the overnight camping spot beside the Tarapkhola at Kharigaon.

Day 23: Trek to  Tarakot. 2,850m. 5 hrs.
From this camp, following an indistinct trail to the village of Lalberi,  and then passing through an area of impressive forest before descending into  another gorge. Following the river again downstream to reach Tarakot where  colorful terraced fields greet. Tarakot is an old fortress town known by the  local people as Dzong, meaning 'fort'. Before the Gorkha dynasty Tarakot was  the capital and had a Dzong. The famous Sandul gompa lies about 8 km east of  Tarakot and at the junction of Barbung Khola and Tarap Chu. It stands on a  knoll to the south of Bheri   River and at one time  supervised collections of tolls for the trading caravans traversing an area  called Tichu Rong. It is possible to camp by the river about 150m below  Tarakot, near the police post or climb a steep hill for over an hour to the small  village on a spur on the other side of a valley opposite Tarakot. There are  chorten and a Gompa here on the edge of a grassy plateau, with an interesting  solitary tree.

Day 24: Trek to  Dunai. 2,850m. 16 kms. 6 hrs.
Continue the walk beside the Bheri River  in a tremendous gorge with pine trees and an ingenious path built about seven  meters above the river. On reaching Dunaicompleting the circuit and time for celebration.

Day 25: Trek to  Jhuphal.approx. 2-3 hrs.
Retrace the journey back to Jhuphal, which is a short  distance walk along the Bheri   River to the small  airstrip for the last camp of this memorable adventure.

Day 26: Fly  Jhuphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu.
From here a morning 35 minute of sweeping flight to Nepalgunj over the  Himalayan foothills, overlooking stunning views of the main peaks including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri  to the north. On arrival at Nepalgunj depending upon the connecting flight  schedule to Kathmandu.

Day 27: In Kathmandu.
A free day in Kathmandu,  please inform our staff if you would like to go on another short tour in and  around Kathmandu Valley.

Day 28: Transfer to  Airport for the International departure.
Today as per your international flight time, keep your  confirmed air ticket, and your passport handy. Our Office staff will take you  to the airport for your final departure from this amazing country, Nepal.

Useful Information

AREA  (3,555 SQ.KMS)

LOCATION:Shey-Phuksundo National Park  is situated in the mountain region of western Nepal, covering parts of Dolpo  and Mugu Districts. It is the largest national park in the country.

FEATURES:The park contains luxuriant  forests, mainly comprised of blue pine, spruce, cypress, poplar, deodar, fir  and birch. The Jugdula River valley consists mostly of Quercus species. The  trans-Himalayan area has a near-desert type vegetation of mainly dwarf juniper  and caragana shrubs.

The  park provides prime habitat for the snow leopard and the blue sheep. Other  common animals found in the park are goral, Himalayan Thar, serow, leopard,  wolf, jackal, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan mouse hare,  yellow-throated marten, languor and rhesus monkeys.

The  park is equally rich in many species of birds, such as Impeyan pheasant  (Danphe), blood pheasant, cheer pheasants, red and yellow billed cough, raven,  jungle crow, snow partridge and many others.

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