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Exploring Nepal • Dolpo To Mustang
May 4 — 31, 2020
From Kathmandu, Nepal

Dolpo is located in Nepal's remote Himalaya, bordering the Tibetan Plateau — far from popular trails and climbing peaks as well as modern developments. Dolpo's mystery is embedded in age-old traditions seen in its alpine villages, ancient Bon and Buddhist monasteries perched on sharp and rocky hillsides, and historic trade routes to Tibet. A well–known Oscar–nominated cultural movie "Caravan" (later renamed "Himalaya") was filmed here. One of the most read books about Nepal, "The Snow Leopard," is based on the wondrous journey of late author, Peter Matthiessen. Nepal's borderlands with Tibet are a sensitive region to China — this remote area was only opened to foreigners, with restrictions, in 1989. Those who are looking for a strenuous, more remote trek with many breathtaking high–passes and settlements, will find Dolpo to Mustang an unmatched Himalayan adventure. Our itinerary highlights the best of several trekking options found in upper and lower Dolpo and further into Mustang.

Leadership: Marin Johannsson has led many Himalayan High Treks trips since 1990. She's trained in first-aid and holds a B.S. in Recreation with an emphasis on Outdoor Leadership. Marin enjoys Asian inspired art, Asian cuisine and shopping for bargains in local markets. When not traveling, she hikes, skis and leads local snowshoe hikes near her home in Truckee, California. With her skills and our dedicated staff, she will ensure you a great time. Note with an undersubscribed group of four or less, our experienced local staff will lead this trip.

Exploring Nepal • Day–To–Day Itinerary Detail:

Pre Trip Days: In transit from your home (those in the Americas lose a day crossing the international date line). Fly to Kathmandu, Nepal. Please note that you must arrive in Kathmandu.

Day 1: Kathmandu Arrival (4,423 feet). Our staff will meet you after your arrival at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport. Once outside the secured area, after completing customs and immigration formalities, look for a sign with your name. Our driver will transfer you to a delightful hotel in the Thamel neighborhood of Kathmandu. (Welcome Dinner)

Day 2: In Kathmandu. Today we obtain our permit for the Dolpo area. All foreigner nationals are required to obtain a special permit for this restricted area. While our staff acquires your permit, enjoy an introductory tour of Kathmandu. This ancient city was once an independent kingdom and has a legendry history with many temples, stupas and palaces. (Breakfast, Lunch)

Day 3: Fly to Nepalgunj. We will fly to Nepalgunj at about 1PM. The flight time is 45 minutes. Nepalgunj is located in southwest Nepal and is the gateway for flights into Dolpo. At 492 feet, Nepalgung is much lower than Kathmandu and can be quite hot. This is still mostly a Hindu city on a flat, dusty plain. Accommodation provided in a guest house. (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 4: Early morning flight to Juphal and trek to Kagani. There are limited flights by small aircraft to Dolpo's Juphal airport from Nepalgunj and they often depart before 10AM. Our 40–minute flight crosses over the spine of the mighty Himalayas. On arrival, our staff awaits and depending on our arrival time, we'll enjoy a snack or light lunch.

Reaching the trailhead, our trekking begins! Juphal, a much smaller mountain village, is a dramatic change from Nepalgung with the contrast of massive brown, rugged foothills and the deep gorge of the Thulo Bheri River. We drop down to river level from Juphal and hike along the Thulo Bheri until the confluence with the Suligad River where we come upon an army camp. From the camp, our trail follows Suligad River to the village of Kagani (8,000 feet). Along the way we pass wild marijuana, walnut trees, cactus, agave, and the occasional lizard zipping across the trail. You may be eating cactus for lunch! Flight time 40 minutes, trekking time five hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 5: Kagani to Reichi. The trail along the Suligad River is a verdant, semi-tropical forest. It offers beautiful canyon views and opportunities to view black and white Langaur monkeys, deer and Bharal (Himalayan Blue Sheep).

The tilted sandstone walls slanting into the translucent turquoise river torrent provide evidence of the Himalayan geological uplift. Slickrock potholes and solution pockets, tall pines are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon on a large scale. Vegetation now has bamboo next to pines, cedar, and walnut. Bon inscriptions appear to be freshly painted on rocks.

Sections of trail climb high then drop to river level again as we traverse deep drainages. We stop for lunch at Chhepka before arriving at Reichi (9,643 feet). Trekking time six–to–seven hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 6: Reichi to Ringmo. Continuing up the Suligad River through pine forests, we cross the river several times on traditional wooden bridges with carved "guardians" at either end. We arrive at a confluence of Suligad and Pungmo Khola known farther upstream as Phoksumdo Khola since it empties the famous turquoise lake we will see in the afternoon. Shortly after Reichi we find the amchi (local equivalent of our naturopaths) with pictures and Latin names of native medicinal herbs and herbs in burlap sacks. A government western medical clinic is farther on. At this altitude, people living in the old stone houses will move downriver to warmer locals for winter. From here, it's a short walk to Samduwa (a small settlement with a high school). Past the high school is the very old Jharana Hotel where we will enjoy lunch.

Our gradual trail grade changes for a strenuous uphill climb for several miles until we reach a gazebo perched on a narrow ridge providing a dramatic view of the long waterfall pouring from Lake Phoksumdo. Angling down the slope toward Ringmo, we pass ground juniper and begin to see large, mature paper birches.

We pass a Bon inscription on large rocks, one side painted over with the red hammer and sickle of the communist insurgency of early 2000s (history overlaying history). Soon the Ringmo valley unfolds with snow-covered Norbang Kang looming in the background.

The town of Ringmo (11,942 feet) has many traditional older two-story houses with animals (yak, dzo, horses) living underneath. This is mixed with newer construction where the people live on the ground floor. Buildings are stone showing visible wood beams with intricately painted windows and posts. Another half hour of walking brings us to our camping area on the shores of Lake Phoksumdo. Trekking time five hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 7: Rest at Ringmo. This rest day is important for your acclimatization to high altitude. It's also a joy to gently explore the village and monastery to rejuvenate from the rigors of the trail. Furi will guide you for a lakeside ramble to visit the 600 year old very sacred Bonpo monastery.

Ancient Ringmo village is a wonderful place to observe life in a traditional Dolpo village. Women here still weave using backboard looms and simple treadle looms for carpets. Here we no longer see many cattle, mostly yak and dzo, reflecting the more severe climate and altitude.

Ringmo was a major stop for the salt caravans from Tibet that ran along Lake Phoksumdo. Here you repeatedly see the Bon variation ("om matee maye sale du") of the Buddhist chant "om mane peme hum." The monastery demonstrates construction techniques at the time of construction: beams shaped by chipping since planning tools were not available. The altar statue represents the mythic, god-like Buddha of 10,000 years ago while a black statue represents the Buddha who traveled to spread Bon/Buddhism throughout this part of Asia. Only four lamas currently reside year-long in Ringmo (which has a cold, snowy winter) but Bon monks come here from China, Tibet, and India for special puja (ceremonies). Overnight in tent. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 8: Ringmo to a riverside camp (12,257 feet). This morning we trek along this exciting section of our trail — with rugged hiking along a high cliffside trail dropping steeply into the lake. This section was the source for the most amazing mountain scenes filmed for the movie, "Himalaya." As you climb the steep, airy ridge from the lake, the entire brilliant blue lake view unfolds from above, as the backdrop of Mount Nurbu Khang stands prominent to the southeast. Few trees are on the ridge, mostly low- lying juniper loaded with large berries in fall. Succulents and lichen are everywhere. The quartzite rock still shows the original layers laid down by ancient seas.

About two hours of uphill trekking, the trail veers down to reach the northern lakeside in the glaciated valley of the upper Phoksumdo Khola where we pause and enjoy our lunch next to many paper birch – golden in fall. We continue up Phoksumdo Khola passing through stands of tamerisk along the braided river. We'll see no further villages until reaching Shey Gompa so we will camp near a seasonal yak pasture. This area feels like the wildest part of the trip with massive, glacier-covered Kanjirowa Himal looming above to our left behind the towering tilted sandstone walls.

The river driftwood provides the rare opportunity for a campfire. We have passed a couple of burned areas with dead trees. Since the upper Dolpo has almost no wood, the people come down to this last elevation with trees to burn a small area one year then return the following to cut the now dried timber, shape rough lumber and load onto yak trains to carry up to the higher elevations. With no lights anywhere, the skies are cluttered with stars and the Milky Way seems three times bigger than in other northern latitudes. Trekking time seven hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 9: From Phoksumdo Khole to Nangdala Base Camp. Today's trek turns from Phoksumdo Khola (12,290 feet) uphill into the side canyon of steep and hard running Tuk Kyalsa Khola following a stream that originates near Nangdala Pass. Steeply gaining elevation, trees disappear and we lose the view of Kanjirowa. The rock formations are dramatic – changing in 100 yards from vertical sandstone walls folding into horizontal. Canyon walls rise 1,000 feet vertically. This sheltered canyon is filled with paper birch. We cross and re-cross the stream on rocks (trekking poles advised!) in the narrow, shaded canyon, beside waterfalls and pools. Wild roses with small thorns but huge autumn rose hips line the stream. The canyon opens into rocky summer pastures of yak herders with giant alluvial fans flowing down from side streams. A high pasture will be our campsite for tonight (15,045 feet). Trekking time six–to–seven hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 10: Nangdala to Shey Gompa (14,107 feet). Nepal's high passes become more windy as the sun climbs higher in the sky — so we will start our trekking in the early morning today. We face about three-hours of steep uphill trail to reach the summit of Nangdala (17,548 feet) — marked, like many hillocks and mountain passes, with colorful Buddhist prayer flags.

Leaving the pass, our trail steeply descends until we reach a broad drying lakebed and stream. This stunning valley with its braided stream leads us to Shey Gompa, below Crystal Mountain.

Along the way, we start passing many mani walls. In summer and early fall, people come to camp in the valley to gather the Chordyceps mushroom and caterpillar symbiosis. Known as the "Chinese caterpillar," Chordyceps is a medicinal that brings hard cash into the upper Dolpo.

With no wood growing at this altitude, the houses and monastery are of stone with very decorated wood windows. We camp near the ancient monastery of Shey Gompa (13,644 feet). This monastery is, along with Mount Kailash in Tibet, one of the most sacred pilgrimages for Buddhists. The monastery is about 580 years old, the wood for the ceiling and fixtures brought up from Ringmo valley.Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 11: Rest day at Shey Gompa. An enjoyable rest day to recover, visit Shey Monastery and relish the fine views of Crystal Mountain. The caretaker can open the monastery. Lamas from Soldang and Namgaon come to the monastery to perform ceremonies. The monastery sits high above the valley river so instead of water in the altar bowls, this monastery uses rice. (The water is also considered too polluted by animals and people to use at the alter.) Also the water pipe freezes in fall, winter, and early spring.

Winter lasts long here and only barley, hot radishes, buckwheat, potatos can grow here. Unlike the lower elevations such as Ringo, we see no goats or chickens. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 12: From Shey Gompa to Namgaon. Shey Gompa marks the junction of several trails once used by the old salt trading caravans and today by trekkers. We begin our day hiking to Sela (or Gela) — another pass found at 16,700 feet which presents a fine panorama of the Dolpo landscape.

From Gela, our trek descends to Namgung (15,088 feet). Namgung is a magical village with a continuous structure of buildings in a triangle of land at the junction of a deep cut canyon with the wider stream valley, but with a spectacular east-west aligned valley setting. Namgung is an especially important settlement as the home to the historic Namgung Monastery — one of upper Dolpo's oldest Buddhist monasteries.

Along the trail you may spot wild animals, particularly blue sheep. The Himalayan Khok, a chicken-sized ground bird, appear in flocks. The Dolpa people have a traditional horse-riding culture using yaks as haul and plow animals. In the not too distant past, one's personal wealth was calculated in livestock. Depending on the availability of its caretaker, we may visit the old monastery either tonight or tomorrow morning. Trekking time six–to–seven hours today. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 13: To Saldang. Today we have a shorter trek. If we were unable to visit the Namgung village monastery yesterday, we can do that today before returning to the trail. We leave Namgung on an easy trail with a gradual climb to a hilltop and then continue on a gentle downhill slope to arrive at Saldang at 12,365 feet. After lunch, explore a school and a monastery and observe village life. Trek time about four-to-five hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 14: Nisal Gaon. Saldang, one of the largest upper Dolpo villages, is located at a junction of several trails from different regions. Our path leads north, following the Nagaon Khola River to Gungar Khola which flows from the northwest. From the confluence of Gungar and Nagon kholas, we turn east to reach Nisal Gaon (12,700 feet). Trekking time six hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 15: To Shimen Gaon. This morning, we'll first visit Yangjer Gompa, one of the most important religious sites of the area. Departing the monastery, we continue following the Parjyan Khola to Shimen Gaon (12,628 feet). Trekking time seven–to–eight hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 16: Optional rest day. From Simen Gaon, we reach no larger settlements until we arrive at Chharka Bhot. This is a possible rest day before continuing this trail adventure. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 17: To Tinje Gaon. Today we trek along the Panjyan Khola riverside trail, passing several ancient meditation caves in the distance. Tinje Gaon (13,480 feet) has a basic lodge and local restaurant. Trekking time five–to–six hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 18 & 19: To Chharka Bhot. From Tenje Gaon until we reach Chharka Bhot, we'll encounter only seasonal yak pastures. We'll pass no villages nor hike a wide trail; but consider that this trail has been in use from the ancient times. Today the trail is used mostly for animal husbandry and travel between Dolpo and Mustang. Both days involve about seven–to–eight trekking hours. Chharka Bhot (14,100 feet) is a small developed place in upper Dolpo where we can find supplies and a small lodge. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 20: To Nulungsumde Kharka. Once we depart on the trail from Chharka, we pass through no villages for another two days. We continue our trek, passing several kharkas (pastures). We camp at Nulungsumde Kharka (16,400 feet), before ascending the twin passes of Niewar and Juben (the goal for tomorrow). Trekking time eight hours. Overnight in tent. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 21: Niwar and Jungben Pass. We start our trail early this morning as we face a rigorous day reaching Jungben Pass. After about three hours uphill, we reach the summit of Niwar. After crossing the first pass of Niwar (16,800 feet), we have about two more hours before we reach the second — Jungben La (18,000 feet). From Jungben Pass, it's a two–hour decent to reach tonight's camp. Trekking time seven–to–eight hours. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 22: To Shangta. Having ascended the twin passes of Niwar and Jungben, we enter the highlands of Mustang. We continue our trek down the arid mountainside which offers many excellent views of the Mustang landscape as well as several prominent peaks of the Annapurna mountain range. Coming from Dolpo, Shangta (12,400 feet) is the first Mustang village we encounter. We camp above the village. Overnight in tents. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 23: To Kagbeni. Today we begin downhill along the ancient trail that once connected traders between Mustang, Dolpo and Tibet. We arrive at Kagbeni for lunch. Here we don't camp but instead have a cozy lodge room. Celebrate this afternoon with a hot shower and a slice of the famous Annapurna apple pie (or perhaps a sip of apple brandy). Trekking time four hours. Overnight in a teahouse. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 24: Jomsom via Lupra. Today we hike one of the most famous and busy trails in the Himalaya. Each season, thousands pass along this route. On the way to Jomsom, we'll stop and visit Lupra village — a rare site of one of the few surviving Bon monasteries. Though Dolpo is dominated by the Bon religion and history, Lupra in Mustang has a more distinctive Bon center. After lunch at Lupra, we continue on a three–hour trek to Jomsom. Overnight in a teahouse with great amenities. Trekking time six hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 25: Fly Jomsom to Pokhara. Our flight usually departs before 9AM. It's a short, 20-minute flight to reach Pokhara. Pokhara (3,100 feet) has become Nepal's second–largest tourist destination. Here you will find a beautiful reflecting lake and an array of tourist facilities. Overnight in hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 26: Fly or drive to Kathmandu. If we keep to our itinerary, today we should fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu — about a 25–minute flight. At this point in the schedule, we have several opportunities to consider for additional (and different) activities such as a river rafting/camping excursion or a lodge–based safari in the lowland jungles of Chitwan National Park (elephants, rhinos, crocodiles and an array of birds and wildlife not found in the mountain regions). Overnight in hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 27: Kathmandu. Free time, shopping or activities. Overnight in hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 28: Depart Kathmandu. Free time will depend on your departure flight time. We'll provide an airport transfer for your flight home/onward today. (Breakfast)

Post Trip: Same day return date to the Americas, recrossing the international dateline — to arrive home about midday. This is a day filled with wonderful memories of new faces, places and friends you have encountered on this amazing Nepal adventure!

Important Note: This is meant only as a guide to what our days will be like. Changes may be made as we go along. These depend upon local conditions, our acclimatization and health. It should be noted that this is adventure travel! Good health, a reasonable level of fitness, and a positive outlook make it enjoyable. Sturdy vehicles will be provided, but remember that adventurous travel is not for those who are prone to car sickness. Some of the areas to be visited are remote and facilities can be limited outside of Kathmandu.

Travel Details: If you are making your own flight arrangements, note that you must arrive in Kathmandu no later than Day 1 and you may not depart earlier than the afternoon of Day 28. Ask us about booking a room should you have an overnight stopover, wish to arrive early or depart late. You are welcome to travel early or stay late — we can arrange additional journeys, accommodations or transfers on request.

Payment for any added services may be required at the time the service is received. Please refer to the "Our Policies" section of this website for more information.

Dolpo To Mustang • Administrative Details:

(+) Land Cost (land cost as itinerary has described):

$4570 USD

(+) In-Trip Airfare Estimate (air during itinerary program):

+  $500 USD

(=) Total Program Cost (Land & In-Trip Air costs combined):

$5070 USD

Trip Deposit (submit with application):


Single Supplement (optional single accommodation):

$TBA USD (optional)

Maximum Group Size:

Eight Participants

Other Cost & Need Considerations:

Passport, Visa, Physicians Visit, Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance, Travel to/from Kathmandu, Meals Beyond Above Itinerary, Beverages, Spending/Personal Money.

Trip Activity–Level:

Strenuous: Usually involves high-altitude hiking along rugged trails and crossing passes as high as 18,200 feet. Weather can be variable and snowfields may be encountered. Daily hiking is extensive — sometimes for as much as eight or nine hours. This trip is long in overall duration and are designed for experienced hikers who want to be challenged. No technical climbing skills are needed and days for rest are appropriately included, but overall this trip is arduous and meant for hearty hikers.

Registration Deadline:

Feb. 4, 2020 ($100USD late fee thereafter)

Dolpo to Mustang Printable Itinerary:

Dolpo to Mustang

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