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Inner Dolpo Circuit Trek

Abhishek Subedi June 21, 2020

Inner Dolpo Circuit Trek is one of Nepal’s classic mountain treks. The route is most demanding as you will traverse heights in excess of 5350 m and some of the most remote territory in Nepal. As you  trek through the heart of Dolpo you are presented with a variety of both scenery and people. From Magar villages with lush green paddy fields surrounded by dense jungles in the south of Dhaulagiri to Bhotia fortress hamlets and gompas (monasteries) amid barren ,windswept hills, this trek shows how much more Nepal has to offer than the popular trails to Annapurna, Everest and Langtang. The hills along the way are sparsely populated and the trails through them peaceful and quiet. Crossing a series of high passes, the journey takes in Shey Gompa and the exotic villages set amidst the arid, remote highlands of Dolpo, making this a classic trek. Inner Dolpo Trek is one of the best treks that extends to the far-flung wilderness of western Nepal.

Inner Dolpo Circuit Trek

Inner Dolpo has a magical, mythical appeal. The landscapes here are even more desolate than on the Dolpa Circuit and the villages even more isolated and pure. In Inner Dolpo century old Buddhist traditions, interwoven with shamanistic influences, are still an important part of daily life. The villages, gompa’s and people you meet during this trek will leave an unforgettable impression on you.Inner Dolpo is a restricted area, for which a fee is charged of US$ 500 for the first 10 days, and US$ 50 for each additional day. Besides, there is a maximum of the number of foreigners that can enter Inner Dolpo each year. Currently this maximum is put at 250 people. This makes Inner Dolpo a very special and exclusive place. It is a very strenuous hike. You have to cross three passes, Kang La/ Ngadra La of 5350 m, the Shey La of 5000 m and Jeng La of 5110 m.

Day 1 Kathmandu to Nepalgunj

From Kathmandu, you will take a flight to Nepalgunj. It is the town in the Western Terai and is very close to the Indian Border and the Bardia National Park. The town is a major transport hub for western, mid- western and far- western regions of Nepal.

Day 2 Nepalgunj to Juphal and Trek to Dunai

You will have a 35 minute long flight to Juphal. The trail from Juphal to Dunai is comfortable and easy as the trail on this part of trek also has few jeeps running to and fro. The first forty five minutes of the trek descends down to Kalagauda followed by two hours of hike along the trail above Thuli Bheri River.You will trek by the riverside and pass Roop Ghar with the water mill and finally reach the Dunai (2150m) a small town, the headquarter of the district. Dunai has some schools government and private, college, police check post and some government offices.You can also visit the Bon Stupa and school, Central Buddhist monastery and the very first English medium school across the river, From the Stupa you can have the view of whole town and another village, upper Dunai too.

Day 3 Dunai to Chhepka

The real adventure of Dolpo Mustang Trek begins today. As the trek begins you will initially trek along classic trekking route of Dolpo via Sulighar, which is pretty much comfortable walk along the levelled trail.You shall take the trekking permit to Dolpo and the Shey Phoksundo National Park Permit at the Sulighat Check-post. Beyond Sulighat your trek follows the trail beside Phoksundo River till Kageni. As the trek goes further, the landscapes in the vicinity begin to change. You will trek through the lush tropical forest frequently emerging at isolated mid-hill villages like Jutung and arrive to Shangta.

At Shangta you will cross the bridge twice over Phoksundo River and once over the confluence of Phoksundo Khola and Maiaba Khola and begin to head north towards Chhepka.Trekking upstream along the trail beside Phoksundo Khola for a while until you  arrive to Chhepka.

Day 4 Chhepka to Chunuwar

You will walk beside Phoksundo Khola  and trek in the opposite direction of the river flow to Amchi Hospital. The route crosses the bridge over Phoksundo Khola twice. As you approach closer to Kharka trekking along the amazingly peaceful region the trail goes high above Phoksundo Khola to Rechi 3011m, where you will stop for the lunch.Beyond Rechi you will again have to  hike along the river side trail to Sulligad Dovan where you will cross the bridge over the confluence of Phoksundo Khola and Yulung Khola and arrive to Amchi Hospital. Amchi refers to traditional doctors who heal infections and diseases using the herbal medicine found in Dolpo.

Inner Dolpo Circuit Trek

Day 5 Chunuwar to Phoksundo Lake

You will join the direct trail to Phoksundo Lake today climbing through forests of big cedars on to Palam (3710m), a winter settlement used by the people of the Ringmo village.The entrance station for the Shey Phoksundo National Park is at the south end of the village. The route then descends on switchbacks through open country to an elevation of 3300 meter, and then starts up another set of dusty switchbacks to a ridge at 3780 meter to the highest waterfall in Nepal (200 meter high). Our route then continues on to Ringmo village, a picturesque settlement of flat-roofed stone houses with lots of mani walls. Just below Ringmo you will cross a bridge and follow the trail to Phoksundo Lake.

Day 6 Rest day at Phoksundo Lake

Today you will explore the area around Ringmo Village and the magnificent Phoksundo Lake. First, you will visit Ringmo Village and head to Tshowa (the lake-shore Bon Monastery). The Gompa nestling a ridge top above Phoksundo Lake was built about 900 years ago. Exploring this culturally rich Bon Monastery is a fascinating experience. Then you will walk down to Phoksundo Lake along steep-sided cliffs. The lake is famous for its magnificent turquoise colour and spectacular scenery. Ringmo village, a typical Tibetan village, is scenic from Phoksundo Lake. There are several monasteries (Gompas ) and Bon-po religious sites at the park and you will spend time visiting some of these. You will also explore the wonderful natural sites and enjoy  nature tours.

Inner Dolpo Circuit Trek
Phoksundo Lake in Dolpo Nepal. Phoksundo Lake is an alpine fresh water oligotrophic lake in Shey Phoksundo National Park located in the Dolpa District.

Day 7 Phoksundo to Sallaghari

Today’s trek is probably one of the best trekking days of Dolpo to Mustang Trek. It climbs along the narrow trail cut on a cliff standing vertically straight above Phoksundo Lake. This treacherously fascinating trail brings you to another side of Phoksundo Lake. This particular part of the trek is like a fantasy walk portrayed by a writer in their fiction novels.To get to the Phoksundo Khola camp on the other side of the lake, you will slide down for ninety minutes along the beautiful forests. The final part of today’s trek slides up to the beautiful campsite at Sallaghari.

Day 8 Sallaghari to Nangdala  High Camp

 This trek is relatively short; you will trek for almost three hours to reach Kangla/Nangdala Base Camp 4100m. As the trek begins you will have to ascend up the narrow defile of Tuk Kyaksa River. The trail switches to the opposite side of the river several times. Soon you will arrive at a place where the rapids of the river are calmer. You will cross the bridge over the river at that point. Thirty minutes of walk after the bridge, you will come across the wide valley followed by two hours of walk along the canyon brings  the potential campsite. A walk for a while further reaches to the massive rock slab, which is Kang La/Nangdala.

Day 9 Nangdala High Camp to Shey Gompa via Crossing Nangdala Pass

The travelers will trek to the fabled Shey Gompa and the nearby ‘Crystal Mountain’, the most sacred peak in Dolpo which Dolpo pilgrims circumambulate each summer before the harvest. You are now entering the real Dolpo, and to enter into this mystical land you have to cross the Kangla/Nangdala pass. The trek to the top of Kang La/Nangdala Pass is along the graveled trail uphill for three continuous hours. However, all the efforts put to come up to the top of the pass rewards you with wonderful views.

Inner Dolpo Circuit Trek

The eye feast views from the Kang La Pass includes Cyrstal Mountain, the mountains in Tibetan territory and the mesmerizing landscapes of Dolpo. You will also have views of the peaks Shey Shikkar and Kang Chunne, both just over 6000 meters, before descending steeply down to the valley floor and along the river.A red chorten marks the entrance to Shey. Every Dragon year according to the Tibetan calendar that comes in every 12 years there occurs a grand festival. People from different places and countries come to join this festival.

Day 10 Shey Gompa to Namgung Gompa via Shey La Pass

This day you will explore Shey Gompa. It is said to be about 800 years old monastery, with murals inside and an ancient scroll describing the mythology behind the Crystal Mountain. The monastery is locally known as Shelri Sumdho Gompa.Shey Festival, the summer festival observed by the people of Dolpo with huge enthusiasm is hosted at Shey Gompa. Peter Mattheissen wrote quite a lot about his stay in Shey in ‘The Snow Leopard’, and it was shown in Eric Valli’s movie ‘Caravan’ as Thinley’s son’s gompa. After the exploration of Shey Gompa as the trek begins, it follows the trail beside Sephu Khola for almost a couple of hours.

The landscapes during this part of the trek are typical Dolpo landscapes- barren and enchanting. Then you will begin to climb up towards the top of Shey La Pass, which is almost two hours of hike. The acme of Shey La Pass west of Shey, rewards  with the magnificent views of Mustang to the East, Tibet to the North and Kanjiroba, Kagmara and Riu Dhukta, or the Crystal Mountain, to the West. The final push downhill from the pass, which is almost 2 hours of hike, brings us to Namgung. 

Day 11 Namgong Gompa to Saldang

Before setting out towards Saldang, you will explore the monastery of Namgung set on the flanking cliff. As the trek from Namgong Gompa begins you will follow Namga Khola cross pass more summer herding spots and emerge out of spur for a short hike down to Saldang. Saldang is a beautiful village with lots of dry land surrounded by hills. Amchi tradition and Buddhism in Dolpo thrives here at Saldang. We’ll get a chance to visit some local houses, drink some salt butter tea or chhyang (Tibetan barley beer) and sample the local fare at Saldang.

Day 12 Saldangto Komash Village

Today you will trek for six hours and reach the village of Komash. Initially, the trail follows the Saldang Lek along the Rapyha Khola to the barren hillside. Exiting out to the elevated ridge of almost 4500m, the trail descends down steeply to Komash Village a village which bears similarity to a Tibetan village.

Day 13 Komash Village to Shimen

As you trek from Komash village you may sight some endangered animals like snow leopard or Blue sheep. On the way you will pass small villages. The landscape in the vicinity is full of highland desserts with few shrubs like vegetation. After almost five hours of comfortable hiking you will arrive in Shimen.

Day 14 Shimen to Tinje

Today the trail goes by the side of Panjyang Khola. There are some villages and gompas on the way to Tinje. Tinje is a very beautiful valley. There is a natural air strip where once a British aircraft had landed and taken off.

Day 15 Tinje Village to Yak Kharka

From the village of Tinje you will trek to Yak Kharka. Initially the trail to Yak Kharka chases the trail beside Panjyan River to the small settlement of Chhamdang. Beyond Chhamdang the trek along the river bank continues to the confluence of Chholtam Khola and Panjyan Khola. Trekking further we cross the bridge over Thalum Khola, which flows from Thalum Lek and arrive at Yak Kharka. Yak Kharka is an open grazing ground for yaks and sheep. The grassy meadow of Yak Kharka makes for an excellent camping site.

Day 16 Yak Kharka to Tokyu

As the trek begins today, you will cross the bridge over Sulun Khola. Crossing the bridges over several streams the trek arrives at Choila North Pass 5040m. The trail to Choila North BC is an tarduous and difficult trek. Almost two hours steep climb brings you to the top of Choila Pass from where the fascinating sights of Tokyu camps are seen. A downhill and leveled trail beside Choila Khola brings you to Tokyu.

Day 17 Tokyu to Dho Tarap

You will walk towards Dho Tarap, it is nearly one and half hours walk. You will spend the day at Dho Tarap. It is a large village decorated by colorful prayer flags.

There are chortens, mani walls and monasteries. Villagers grow wheat, buck wheat, barley, potatoes and green vegetables in terraced fields. There are tea houses, shops with minimal supplies and lodges. The people closely resemble the Khampas of Tibet, the men with a ponytail and red tassel coiled around their head.The women sport musk deer teeth necklaces. Dho Tarap has a maze of mud-brick Tibetan houses which was featured in Eric Valli’s famous movie ‘Caravan’, the village where Karma and his band of young Dolpo-pa, and Thinley and his older group of Dolpo-pa, set off with their salt to trade for barley over the high passes.

You will enjoy a nature tour and a cultural program consisting of traditional Tibetan dances and songs presented by the villagers. Here it has few major sites that are worthwhile exploring around Dho Tarap.

Including Ribo Bumpa Monastery & Drakmar Dewa Monastery, the vicinity around Dho Tarap has many other important monasteries which include Mekhyim Monastery, Dhoro Monastery and a Bon Gompa of Shipichowk among others. 

Day 18 Dho Tarap to Naworpani 

Today, the trek covers a long distance. As you start the trek, you will have to hike along the flat trail beside Tarap Khola to Mirububane Khola Dovan- the confluence of Tarap Khola and MirubabaneKhola. Then the trek slides down to the bridge over Klang Khloa at Langa Camp.The trail continues to chase Tarap Khola with the picturesque views of arid landscapes. As the trek goes further the trail emerges and cross passes several villages like Sisaul, Gyamghar, Toltol and finally you will reach to Nawarpani for the night stop.

Day 19 Naworpani to Lashicap

The trek today begins on the trail that runs beside Tarap Khola. Gradually, the view in the vicinity began to change. The green forest starts to emerge. For a while you will slide up high above Tarap Khola to Lamchaur. Crossing Lahini Odar, you will descend down the hill to Chhedhul Gompa.

Once again, a short walk along the trail beside Tarap Khola you will arrive at Laisicap. 

Day 20 Lashicap to Dunai

Now on you will trek along the green woodlands high above Thuli Bheri River towards Tarakot. Just before arriving at Tarakot, you will cross the bridge over the small stream.The last day of the trek is not less interesting. You will trek on the trail that stretches beside Thuli Bheri River to Dunai via Lawan and Byasgad. The trail has forested regions on its west, Thuli Bheri River and cultivated terraced fields on its East. 

Day 21 Dunai to Juphal

The trail goes by the side of Bheri river till Kalagawda and then the trail ascends towards Juphal. A couple of hours trek from Dunai brings you to Juphal.

Day 22 Juphal to Nepalgunj and Nepalgunj to Kathmandu

At first you will take a flight from Juphal to Nepalgunj and again board another flight to Kathmandu Valley.

This is one of the adventurous and fascinating trips with many dense forests and amazing tradition and culture of the people.

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