Dolpo, which is primarily known as Dolpa, is actually a district in the mid-western part of Nepal. It covers both the hilly and mountainous regions of Nepal, and districts such as Jumla, Mugu and Mustang surround it. It has a rich and fascinating history. Till the early 18th century, the region existed either as a kingdom ruled by the Tibetan rulers or as an independent one. After the mid 18th century, the region became a part of Nepal. Because of the region sharing its border with Tibet, close similarities in cultures and traditions can be noticed between the two. Dolpo also has quite a history with Mustang.
It is believed that the workers from here would travel all the way up to Lo Manthang for work. For a very long time, Dolpo existed as a restricted area. Dolpo Trek and Upper Mustang trek are the territories of highland Nepal. It was controlled by the Nepalese Army and Dolpo trek wasn’t really allowed. It has been less than two decades that the route opened for foreign travelers to explore, and even today, the solo trek is not allowed in the region. During your visit to Nepal, Dolpo trek is an activity that you should definitely try. The Dolpo region is sure to fascinate you with all its attractions.
Upper Dolpo Trek
Upper Dolpo is a part of the Dolpa district that is located mainly towards the north. Its borders are connected to Tibet. If you’re someone who likes to take a close look at the lifestyle of the people, you will notice that there are many similarities between the people living in Tibet and that in Dolpo. From religion to traditions and many others. The fact that the geography of the two regions is also quite the same plays a vital role in this one.
This trek also amuses the individuals who are deeply interested in the natural aspects of trekking. As you make your way through Shey Phoksundo National Park which is the largest national park compared to Chitwan National Park safari, you will spot some of the rare and interesting flora and fauna during the journey. Despite all these amazing things to see, this trek is considered to be quite a challenging one. The journey is recommended mainly to individuals who have years of experience trekking on terrains as such.
Attractions Of Upper Dolpo Trek
Trekking in the Dolpo region, mainly the upper part, has its perks. On the journey, you get to explore so many amazing things both natural and cultural in nature.
- One of the main attractions of the trek is Phoksundo Lake. It is a Himalayan Lake situated at an altitude of 3612 m.
- You will make your way through Shey Phoksundo National Park – one of the richest protected areas in Nepal.
- You will get amazing views of mountains in the Annapurna region, especially the Dhaulagiri mountain range.
- One of the main religions followed here is Bon Po. The religion originated in Tibet. Another main religion followed here is Buddhism.
- You will get to explore the crystal mountains closely. It is known for fossils of marine and quarts found on its cliffs.
- Among the numerous monasteries and other places to worship, one of the main ones is Shey Gompa.
Lower Dolpo Trek
In comparison to Upper Dolpo Trek, the Lower Dolpo trek is more accessible and less difficult. The level of the journey is still moderate, and anyone with decent hiking and trekking experience can go for this one. The journey is also shorter. Anyone who is willing to explore Phoksundo Lake and Shey Phoksundo National Park, but lacks the required time and energy can go for this trip.
Lower Dolpo Trek doesn’t let you cover all those villages that you do on the Upper Dolpo trek, but still, you can explore its religious and cultural aspects. The area lies towards the south of Dolpa district and doesn’t cover as many mountainous terrains. Trekking on this part of the district is comparatively easier than that on the other one. It is a must-try trip for trek lovers.
Attractions Of Lower Dolpo Trek
Trekking in the Dolpo region, especially in the lower parts, is quite a great experience. You will find similarities and differences between the upper and lower regions.
- Phoksundo Lake and Shey Phoksundo National Park are the attractions that you will get to experience on this trek as well.
- You will get to explore the trade culture followed in the region, i.e. the use of yak and yak caravans to import and export goods.
- You will spot numerous rare animals on the trek, like Himalayan Blue Sheep, Rhesus Monkey, Himalayan Black Bear, and even Snow Leopard if you’re lucky enough.
- You will have to cross Num La on the trek. It is a high altitude mountain pass situated at an elevation of 34440 m.
- You will get to enjoy the views of numerous snow-capped mountains on the trek. One of the most important ones is Kanjirowa Peak.
- In the numerous villages, you’ll visit on the journey, you’ll get to explore Buddhism and Bon-Po religions being followed by the locals.
Dolpo Trek Route
Though the Upper Dolpo trek route and Lower Dolpo trek route are connected, like journeys, there are lots of differences between the two. Upper Dolpo Trek is a 24 days long journey, and during this time, the trekkers walk for a duration of around 17 days. The trekkers cover some of the most spectacular places in the region. They are Dunai, Ankhe, Sulighat, Saldang, Sibu, and so on. The journey starts and ends at Juphal which is accessible from Nepalgunj on a flight. On the trek, the travelers also visit Shey Gompa, a significant religious site in the region.
In the same way, the Lower Dolpo trek route takes you through places such as Tarakot, Nawar Pani, Laini, Ringmo, Shyanta, and so on. Quite like the Upper Dolpo Trek, Lower Dolpo trek route starts and ends at Juphal. It is connected with Jomsom Muktinath trek, the adventurous one. Altogether, it’s a 15 days long journey, and during this time, the trekkers walk for a duration of around 12 days. A significant amount of time is spent acclimatizing on the route since the journey takes you to a few extremely high altitude places. The trekkers also tend to spend a few days exploring the Phoksundo Lake.
Best Season For Trekking In Dolpo
Quite like in case of other trekking routes of Nepal, the best season for trekking in Dolpo happens to be between the months of September and November. The weather is pleasant during this time – neither too hot nor too cold. In the same way, the skies are clear allowing the trekkers to have the most amazing views of mountains towards the north. It is for these reasons that this time is the busiest time of the year, with tourists lining up to explore the Dolpo region.
The second best season for trekking in Dolpo is between the months of March and May. The weather during this time is quite similar to the other season. At this time of the year, the forests that you would walk through look more beautiful with the new leaves on the trees and colorful flowers blooming. The only downside is that the skies could get a little cloudy preventing you from enjoying the views of the mountains towards the north.
You can go trekking in this region during other months as well, but always remember the rule of thumb, i.e., no trekking during rainfall and when there’s extreme cold. Trekking during this time can have serious negative impacts on your health.
Level Of Difficulty For Dolpo Trek
Before going on any trekking journey as not just Dolpo trekking, it is important to do various fact checks like the level of difficulty for Dolpo trek. Checking the level of difficulty of Dolpo trekking allows you to make the decision whether the journey is meant for you or not. So, shedding some light on the level of difficulty for Dolpo trek, well, it’s a strenuous journey. One of the best things about this trek is the fact that it takes you through the wilderness of the western hills of Nepal, however, this is the very factor that makes the trek difficult and not suitable for everyone.
During Dolpo trekking, you will have to adjust with nature, especially when it comes to food and accommodation, as there aren’t many hotels and eateries on the route. You will need to camp and prepare your own food. In the same way, the trek is quite long. A lot of trekkers seem to break down in the middle of the journey. The trip isn’t an impossible one to complete, but it is recommended for the trekker to have a former trekking experience before going for this journey.
Dolpo Trek Permit
To go on any trekking journey in Nepal, you’re required to have 2 to 3 different types of passes or permits. In the case of Dolpo Trek, you will have to acquire three kinds of Dolpo Trek Permit. These passes are a way for the Nepal Government to keep track of the tourists who have entered a certain region. This will make the rescue operation easier in case of an emergency.
The first type is called General Trekking Permit. You need to acquire this one no matter what part of Nepal you’re trekking on. You can acquire this one from the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) office in Kathmandu. It costs $10 per person. It is valid for unlimited amounts of time or you can have Kathmandu Tour for a short period of time.
the second kind is called Shey Phoksundo National Park Entry Permit. This permit will allow you to enter the national park with ease. You can acquire this pass either from the Nepal Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu or at the entry gate of the park. It costs $30 per person. This one is also valid for unlimited amounts of time.
The third type is called Dolpo Region Restricted Area permit in Nepal. This pass will allow you to enter the numerous restricted areas inside the region. You can acquire this pass from Nepal Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu. Lower Dolpo Entry Permit Costs $20 per person for a week, and Upper Dolpo Entry Permit Costs $50 per day. Make sure to acquire the permit for enough days. Overstaying can subject you to additional fines.
Dolpo Trek Packing List
Quite like the packing list that you prepare while going on other trips, this one also needs to be short. A short Dolpo Packing List reflects on the size of your luggage, and it’s a well-known fact of how significant it is to have small-sized luggage. A light bag won’t just allow you to travel freely but also it helps you save on all the extra money that you pay on the heavy ones. When you go on a trek, it’s crucial that you absolutely don’t miss out on the necessary items.
Carrying a light bag doesn’t really mean that you totally ignore the items that are important during a trekking trip. A good Dolpo trek packing list allows you to stay organized, and so, it is essential that you list the items by organizing them in categories. You can have 4 to 5 different categories in your packing list. The following are the different categories with the items you can include.in them.
Category No. 1: Clothes and Wears
Make sure to carry clothes for all occasions, from your stay inside your hotel rooms to hang out in cafes to walking on the trekking route.
- Multiple pairs of thin and thick socks.
- Sweaters or Turtle Necks
- Shoes and Sandals
Category No. 2: Toiletries and Medicines
It is important that you carry your toiletries and sanitary items with you, especially if you’re used to a certain brand or quality. In the same way, if you’re under medication, don’t forget to carry enough of it to help you keep going throughout the journey. Also, try your best to carry your own first aid kit. You never know when it might come in handy.
- Toilet Papers
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Soap or Shampoo
- Sunscreen Lotion
- Other Cosmetic Items
- Prescribed Medicines
- Regular Pills for fever, headache, and so on.
- Diamox to prevent altitude sickness
- Antiseptic Lotion
Category No. 3: Food and Beverage
If you’re trekking through a travel agency, all your food-related needs would be taken care of. However, it is suggested that you carry additional snacks that you can munch on should you feel hungry in between meals. Also, make sure to carry your own water. Drinking haphazardly can make you feel sick easily.
- Protein Bars
- Oatmeal Bars
- Juice or Energy Drink
- Water Purification Tablets
Category No. 4: Electronics
These days, it is necessary for any travel to carry certain pieces of electronic equipment as everyone wants to record their journey, either in the form of pictures or videos. Make sure to store these items safely throughout the trip.
- Mobile Phone
- Extra Set of Batteries
- Power Bank
- A Mini Computer (if need be)
Category No. 5: Official Documents
Keeping your documents in a careless manner can make you go through a lot of unnecessary trouble. Also, you can’t afford to either lose them or forget to carry them. Makes a separate section on your packing list for these documents.
- Entry Passes
- License Cards
- Other Documents
Now, a lot of trekkers also tend to make a separate category for trekking equipment. You can do so too and carry your own equipment all the way from home. However, keep in mind that carrying them these days is not necessary. There are lots of trekking companies in Nepal that allow you to rent them for the trek. Renting them doesn’t just save you a lot of money but also from a lot of trouble. Make sure to contact your travel partner to get more information.
The attractions mentioned above are only the tip of an iceberg when it comes to the reasons why you should explore the Dolpo region. It is one of those areas in Nepal that is rich not just natural but culturally as well. You’re sure to be astounded by the different religious heritages that you will come across during the journey. It’s a pleasure to witness the people practicing their traditions and getting to know about them. Provided that you’re an expert level trekker, you should definitely go for Dolpo trek at the next opportunity that you get.
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