Dolpo, the Himalayan trekkers’ forbidden Shangri-La, has long been one of the most remote secretive and restricted areas of northwestern Nepal. This region includes extensive areas of high arid Tibetan type terrain, undisturbed Buddhist cultures and an extensive natural history quite different from that of the Himalayas to the east.
Within the last few years, the veil of secrecy has gradually been lifted. In the summer of 1989, the southern part of Dolpo was opened to foreigners. Since 1992, the government has opened the remaining parts of Inner Dolpo including Shey Gompa, the northern valleys, and the high passes from Tsharka over to the Kali Gandaki valley.
The best trip to inner Dolpo will be by early October when the summer monsoons would have subsided in western Nepal and the clear autumn skies offer spectacular views of the deep valleys and high snowcapped peaks. The weather should hold for about six weeks before the higher passes become snow-bound by the onset of cold winds and winter storms from the Tibetan plateau. This is our window of opportunity for exploration.
After landing at the airstrip at Juphal (6900ft / 2104m), start trek east to Dunai and then north toward Phoksundo Tal (11570ft / 3528m), a high mountain lake that was formed many years ago when a massive rockslide swept down and blocked the Suli Gad River. The autumn red berries and the deep azure waters of the lake from an incredibly beautiful setting against a backdrop of high arid peaks and clear blue Tibetan skies.
Spend a few days acclimatizing at Phoksundo and visiting the nearby Monasteries at Pungmo and Ringmo before continuing on across the Khang La Pass (17500ft / 3528m), the first of four high passes that is encountered on this trek. This will bring one to Shey Gompa, the spiritual center of Dolpo. Here one can find a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery where some of the most ancient rituals and traditions are still observed.
From Shey, we cross the Se La Pass (16,705ft / 5093m), and descend into northern valleys to Saldang Village. Start your back track via Tokyu village to Dho Tarap and further down to Tarakot and to Juphal.
Since inner Dolpo is still a restricted zone, we must obtain a special Restricted Area permit from Nepal’s government - Home Ministry. This fee is paid directly to the government of Nepal and will be used to manage the development of tourism in Dolpo. This trip is for experienced hikers or trekkers, but technical mountaineering skills are not required. The remoteness from medical and communication facilities is matched by few other locations on earth.
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