This Dolpo trek is more than just an exploration of a stunning mountain landscapes, it is an exploration of a stunning mountain landscape, and it is an exploration of the fascinating ancient mountain culture of the Dolpo-pa. People who are Tibetan by language and culture, who practice the ancient Bon-Buddhist religion and are subsistence farmers, yak caravan traders. The trek leaders will guide you from the vibrant street, temples and holy sites of Kathmandu, onto two spectacular domestic flights to Dolpo, through the lower Hindu valleys and up to villages and high mountains of the Dolpo-pa. This journey provides a depth of insight into a remote mountain culture and landscapes unlike any other on offer in Nepal.
The Hidden Nepal Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu (D)
After arriving in Kathmandu you will be met at the airport and transferred to your luxury boutique hotel- a renovated historic building in a quiet square deep within Thamel, the liveliest part of Nepal.
Kathmandu is the ancient capital of Nepal and renowned for its vibrant streets with great restaurants, bars and shops. It is also the spiritual capital of the ancient Himalayan kingdom with world renowned temples and religious centres which provide oasis of peace and tranquility in the bustling city. Overnight: Thamel Heritage Villa, Kathmandu.
Day 2: An exploration of the spiritual hearts of Kathmandu (B,D)
While trekking permits are being organized by our partners, you will be taken on an expert led exploration of the UNESCO protected Patan Durbar square and palace and iconic concentration of ancient temples and royal dwellings that form one of the spiritual hearts of the Kathmandu Valley. In the afternoon we will ascend to Swayambhunath- the iconic mountaintop Buddhist Stupa also known as the Monkey Temple. It is a stunning location to watch the sun descend over the Kathmandu city and as the city light emerges, the temple is reclaimed by the hordes of resident monkeys while small intimate rituals and chanting echo from the candle lit shrines. Overnight: Thamel Heritage Villa Kathmandu.
Day 3: Domestic fight from Kathmandu to Dolpo
After packing luggage, we will visit the huge and famous Buddhanath Stupa, an area of deep religious significance in Buddhist religion and an area with vibrant shops and restaurants. After a leisurely lunch and absorbing the atmosphere we will head to the domestic airport to catch our first flight to the town of Nepalgunj on the Indian border. Overnight: Cygnet Inn Krishna, Nepalgunj.
Day 4: A spectacular mountain flight to the start of our trek in Dolpo (B,L,D)
We will make an early start to take a morning plane to Dolpo. This spectacular flight on a small 20-seater Twin Otter Plane will take us across the Terrai (flat, low lying area of Nepal), over the hill areas and into the high Himalaya where we will follow the deep valleys to our landing strip at Juphal. We will be met by our local support staff who will accompany us on our journey. After introductions, packing of our luggage onto our pack mules (which have been brought down from our partner mountain villages), we will explore Juphal town and trek down to the Thuli Bheri River (around 3 hour) where we will make our first camp. Overnight: Camping at the Thuli Bheri River.
Day 5: Ascend up the Suli Gad River Valley (B,L,D)
Our first full day trek takes us from the more populated Thuli Bheri Valley into Shey Phoksundo National Park and along the crashing emerald waters of the Suli Gad River. We will pass through small Hindu villages and the winter villages of the Dolpo-pa (dwellings that are only inhabited in winter by those who seasonally migrate from Upper Dolpo). We enter the forest zone where there are many Langur Monkeys and will arrive in the afternoon at the small village of Chhepka deep within the forested Suli Gad Valley (a 5-6 hour walk in total). Overnight: Camp in Chhepka Village.
Day 6: A trek up the spectacular Suli Gad River Valley to Rechi (B,L,D)
We continue our ascent up the Suli Gad River through beautiful Himalayan forest crossing numerous bridges over the emerald Suli Gad. The valley is now sparsely populated but we are likely to meet many traders and pilgrims on their way to and from Upper Dolpo and even Tibet. After a forest lunch we will continue to ascend and will reach the beautiful village of Rechi, the first of our partner village. We have now crossed the threshold from purely Hindu into more Buddhist areas. We will have the chance to meet and spend time with locals who will explain about the founding of this unique village and the way of life for locals (a 5-6 hour trek in total). Overnight: Camp at Rechi Village.
Day 7: Into the Land of the Dolpo-pa and the spectacular meduwa Kholi Valley (B,L,D)
Our journey continues for a short walk to the head of the Suli Gad Valley where we enter the spectacular high and open Meduwa Khola Valley. We pass the Tapriza School in area which is supported with Swiss and French funding. We follow a spectacular path with views to the huge Phoksundo waterfall and peaks above Lake Phoksundo passing with Bon-Buddhist prayer flags and shrines. We will begin to see the carved ‘mani stones’ (stones carved with Tibetan, Buddhist and bon mantras and prayers) which are common in the spiritual hearts of Dolpo. We gain our first sight of this stunning village. Expect to be asked to share tea and conversation within various households (facilitated by our local guides). We will camp outside the village but our local friends will be our evening hosts, explaining their culture, legends and history and often sharing song and dance. Snow leopards are common around this village and we will find out from the locals about recent sightings. At this altitude the night skies are clear and dry with stunning views into the Milky Way and constellations. Overnight: Camp in Rike Valley.
Day 8: Ascent to the iconic village of ringmo and the fabled Lake Phoksundo (B,L,D)
Our walk today is a short but sharp ascent to the Phoksundo Lake valley with spectacular views of the snow-capped and glaciated peaks of the Kanjirowa Himals and Dhaulagiri. We can visit the viewpoint over the Phoksundo waterfall- Nepal’s highest waterfall and we gain our first sight of Lake Phoksundo, fabled and cherished for its vibrant turquoise waters. This is Nepal’s deepest and most iconic lake with mountains soaring from its waters and with the Tshowa Bon Monastry superbly situated on its shores. As we enter Ringmo, our third partner village, we are welcomed by numerous chortens (Bon and Buddhist shrines and places of reflection and prayer, many of which are reputed to contain holy relics). The village of Ringmo itself is a beautiful traditional Tibetan stone village with a vibrant Bon culture. Ringmo will be our base for 3 nights. The afternoon will be spent exploring the village and the nearby monastery as the sun drops the lake colour changes and the spectacular night skies take over (around 3-4hrs walk in total)
Days 9 & 10: An exploration of the culture, landscapes and natural habitat of Ringmo (B,L,D)
Our itinerary now provides various options from guided trips varying from the more adventurous and energetic to more cultural experiences in and around Ringmo or more restful days for those who prefer time for self-reflection and contemplation within the stunning landscape and culture. A must is a full exploration of the stunning and serene Tshowa Bon Monastry. We will organize for the local religious leaders to explain their religion and provide us with a guided tour of the monastery. The local Amchis (traditional herbalists) will also offer a guided tour in the nearby forest and to the hill sides above Ringmo to explain the use if plants in traditional Tibetan medicine and the practices of traditional medicine in Dolpo.
A half day guided trip will be offered along the spectacular ‘Devils Path’, which is carved from the steep rock face on the western side of Lake Phoksundo. The path ascends to a spectacular viewpoint and is a trading route to Tibet. The path provides stunning views across the lake and to the glacier and glacial cave on Kanjirowa Himal. An even more energetic trip is a guided trek to the high Yak pastures of Palangathan high above Ringmo. This provides panoramic views across the layered Himalayan mountains and explores the rock pastures where Bharal (blue sheep) and snow leopards are frequently seen by locals. Our time in Ringmo will also include evening offer to taste Tibetan food and hospitality within the traditional houses of the village and potentially being invited by our friends and contacts to view, or even participate in, the Pujas (ceremonies) that are common in the village and Bon society. Overnight: Chortens in Ringmo.
Day 11: Descend from Ringmo above the phoksundo waterfall to the village of Rechi (B,L,D)
We will descend from Ringmo via a different route from our ascent taking us above the Phoksundo waterfall and through the highest winter village down to the Meduwa Khola Valley. We then descend the upper Suli Gad River to return to the village of Rechi (a 4-5hr walk in total) Overnight: Camp in Rechi Village.
Day 12: Descend through the Forested Valley of the Suli Gad River (B,L,D)
We retrace our footsteps down the Suli Gad River but we will find that we have renewed energy having come from higher altitudes. The views down the Suli Gad are particularly fine and we will spend time in the forest and for those brave (or foolish) enough, a dip into the clear and icy waters of the Suli Gad will reinvigorate. We descend to the Hindu Village of Kagni with its functioning water driven grain mill and warm hospitality (a 6-7hr walk in total). Overnight: Camp in Kagni Village.
Day 13: Through Hindu Villages to the town and airstrip of Juphal (B,L,D)
Our final trekking day takes us out of the Shey Phoksundo National Park and back into the Thuli Bheri River valley. We will ascend to Juphal town through various Hindu Villages. After Dolpo, Juphal will now appear a metropolis to us with its small shops and few small tea houses. We will camp with Juphal town ready for our flight to Kathmandu the following day. Overnight: Camp in Jupha Town.
Day 14: Flight to Kathmandu and a well-deserved rest in our guesthouse (B,D)
We wake up early to strike camp to be ready for the morning flight to Nepalgunja and connecting onto a flight to Kathmandu. We will be back in Kathmandu by the afternoon – a relatively short day’s journey, but a world away from Dolpo. The hustle of Kathmandu might be a shock, but the welcome soft beds and warm showers of our boutique hotel will be most welcome. Overnight at Thamel Heritage Villa, Kathmandu.
Day 15: Exploration of ancient Bhaktapur (B,D)
Not too early a start, but a day when people will have the option to visit Bhaktapur- the third city of the Kathmandu valley and an ancient seat of kings with it’s fabulous ancient Durbar Square and Palace and artisanal sector. A last evening in Nepal with sundowners on the rooftop bars of Bhaktapur and a final farewell and celebratory group dinner. Overnight at Thamel Heritage Villa, Kathmandu.
Day 16: Depart from Nepal (B)
Transfer to airport for return home. End of Expedition!
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