Are you looking for an adventure taking you off the beaten path and into one of Nepal's most remote regions? If so, Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek could be an ideal option for you.
Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek is an off-the-beaten journey that takes adventurous travelers to the valley beyond the Himalayas where one can witness a surreal combination of the majestic beauty of nature and unique ancient culture that seems straight out of folklore.
Dolpo is a hidden gem nestling far away in the western Himalayas of Nepal. It is a pristine valley far from the modernization of the urban world. Everything here from unexplored routes, untouched mountains, undiscovered caves, and undisrupted lifestyle remains in its true form. This isolated region has successfully preserved the almost non-existent ancient religion, Bon Po. It is one of the last places on earth where both Bon Po and sky burial are still prevailing.
Jomsom is a beautiful town in the Mustang district of Nepal. Located in the Trans-Himalayan region, it is a rain shadow area, unaffected by the Summer Monsoon of Nepal. This mythical land lies on the pedestal of Mt. Dhaulagiri and Mt. Nilgiri offering mesmerizing views of these mountains as well as other Himalayas including Annapurna rage, Mt. Fishtail, Mt. Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak.
Similarly, the indigenous people of Jomsom are Lopa and Thakali who have Bon Po roots but are more prevailed by Tibetan Buddhism. One can experience a fusion of both Bon and Tibetan Buddhism cultures here.
It is astonishing how these two destinations are so similar yet so different. Even though bound by similar religious practices and cultural norms and values, the inhabitants of Dolpo find pleasure in their nomadic lifestyle while the locals of Jomsom relish luxury.
Major Attraction of Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
1. Shey Phoksundo National Park
Shey Phoksundo National Park is a true wilderness paradise in the Dolpo region. With its stunning natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, the park is a must-visit destination for any traveler to Nepal. The park is home to various flora and fauna, including elusive species such as the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, and Tibetan wolf. The park's remote location has helped preserve its natural beauty, making it an extraordinary place.
2. Shey Gompa
Shey Gompa is a 900-year-old Buddhist monastery in Upper Dolpo. The monastery is home to ancient Buddhist art and artifacts. It is a sacred place for the local Dolpo people. The trek to Shey Gompa is steep and challenging but worth the effort. As you approach the monastery, you will feel a sense of bliss and tranquility. The sounds of chanting monks and the smell of incense inside the Gompa will transport you to another time and place. Shey Gompa is truly a gem of the Dolpo region.
3. Shey Phoksundo Lake
Shey Phoksundo Lake is a natural wonder of the Dolpo region. This serene lake is the deepest in Nepal and lies at an altitude of 3,660m. Surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Himalayas, the turquoise-blue waters of the lake shimmer in the sunlight, creating a breathtaking sight. The lake is also known for its crystal-clear waters. The surrounding landscape is equally stunning, with lush forests and meadows of wildflowers.
4. Tibetan Ancient Villages
During this trek, you will visit ancient villages with strong Tibetan cultural influences. Shey village is well-known for its ancient Shey Monastery and Crystal Mountain, a holy peak revered by Buddhists all over the world. Chharka and Dho Tarap are located in lower Dolpo. Chharka is known for its traditional salt trading, while Dho Tarap is known for its Bon Po culture and ancient monasteries.
5. Dolpo's Ancient Salt Trading Route
Upper Dolpo is one of Nepal's most remote and isolated regions. For centuries, the people of Dolpo have practiced trading salt through caravans, creating a rich and fascinating cultural heritage that has captured the imaginations of travelers. Famous French filmmaker Eric Valli was inspired to make a movie based on the life of Dolpo people named "Caravan," which was nominated for an Oscar in 1997. Trekking along the salt trading route in Dolpo, you'll encounter breathtaking landscapes, charming traditional villages, and the enduring spirit of a people whose life has remained largely unchanged for centuries.
6. Magnificent Himalayan Scenery
The Upper Dolpo Trek offers spectacular views of the Himalayan peaks, including Dhaulagiri, Kanjiroba, and the Annapurna range. The rugged and wild landscape of Upper Dolpo is home to high passes, deep gorges, and rocky canyons. Peter Matthiessen, in his book, describes Upper Dolpo as a "hidden valley" that remains largely untouched by the outside world. The book vividly depicts the region's snow-capped mountains, ancient monasteries, and pristine wilderness, inviting readers to imagine themselves in this otherworldly paradise.
7. Jomsom Village
Jomsom village lies on the famous Annapurna Circuit Trek. It is also known for its unique landscapes, including the Kali Gandaki river valley, the world's deepest gorge, and the stunning views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges. Many trekkers choose to start their journey to Upper Mustang from Jomsom.
How to Get to Upper Dolpo?
Upper Dolpo is a remote region in the mid-western part of Nepal, near the Tibet border. There are various ways to get to Upper Dolpo. The first and easy option is flying to Nepalgunj from Kathmandu and taking the next flight to Juphal, where the trailhead begins for Upper Dolpo. The next option is taking a bus from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, flying to Juphal, and starting trekking. Also, you can take a 14 hours bus ride to Jumla from Kathmandu. After that, you'll begin the trek from Dailekh and Kalikot.
Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek Distance
The Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek distance varies depending on the route, but it is around 230-250 kilometers. This depends on the coverage of monuments, side trips taken, and available shortcuts taken.
Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek Duration
The Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek is a long and challenging trek in Nepal's secluded and rugged province. The duration of the trek can vary depending on several factors, such as the trekking itinerary, the fitness level of the trekkers, the weather conditions, and the pace of the trek. In general, the trek takes around 20-26 days.
Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek Elevation
The Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek is a high-altitude trek that crosses several high mountains passes and valleys. The trek starts at around 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) in Juphal and reaches a maximum altitude of about 5,550 meters (18,208 feet) at the Jungbenla Pass.
Essential Trekking Permits for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
Here are the trekking permits you'll need for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek:
1. Lower Dolpo Restricted Area Permit
You must obtain a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) from the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu. A Lower Dolpo restricted area permit costs approximately NPR 2,700 (USD 20) per person weekly plus NPR 700 (USD 5) for every extra day.
2. Upper Dolpo Restricted Area Permit
The Upper Dolpo (RAP) costs NPR 65,000 (USD 500) per person for the first ten days and NPR 6,500 (USD 50) per person for each additional day. But, it is ideal to extend three extra days in upper Dolpo. You need to obtain both two permits to enter the Upper Dolpo. One is to enter Lower Dolpo, and next to enter Upper Dolpo.
3. Shey Phoksundo National Park Permit
You can take a Shey Phoksundo National Park Permit from the park's entrance gate in Sunlight or the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Kathmandu. The permit cost is approximately NPR 4,000 (USD 30) per person and NPR 1,500 for SAARC nationals. Additional fees apply for longer stays.
4. Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP)
ACAP is required as you'll exit the Upper Dolpo region through the Annapurna Conservation Area. The cost of the ACAP is approximately NPR 4,000 (USD 30) per person.
5. Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS)
Nepal Tourism Board issued a TIMS card, which is not mandatory for all trekkers. However, we highly request and suggest that travelers purchase a TIMS card as this is a permit that ensures the safety and security of the guide and porters during the trek. Your small contribution would mean a lot to our guides and porters.
You can obtain it from the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu or the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) office. The cost of TIMS has been updated recently, which is NPR 2,600 (approximately USD 20).
Note: These permit costs are subject to change, and it's good to check with relevant authorities or a registered trekking agency. You can also contact us for the latest permit costs and regulations.
History, Culture, and Lifestyle of Upper Dolpo
The people of Upper Dolpo are an ethnic group of Tibetan origin who have lived in the reserved Dolpo area of western Nepal for centuries. Here's a closer look at their history, culture, and way of life:
History of Upper Dolpo
The Dolpo people are believed to have migrated to the Dolpo region from Tibet in the 10th century. They bought with them their language, culture, and religion, which Tibetan Buddhism heavily influenced. Over time, the Dolpo people developed their distinct culture and traditions shaped by their unique environment and way of life. The area remained isolated from the outside world for many centuries. In the 20th century, the Dolpo sector began to open up to the outside world.
Culture of Upper Dolpo
Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek offers a unique cultural experience as you trek through the traditional villages and interact with the local people. They have their unique language, culture, and traditions preserved for centuries.
The people of Dolpo are known as Dolpali. It is said that Bhootias were the first inhabitants of Dolpo. Bhootias are people following the Bon religion and significantly animism. Now, this region is inhabited by Magars, Tamangs, Gurung, Sherpa, and other castes. Both shamanism and animism are prevalent here. Likewise, the people celebrate several festivals throughout the year. The most prominent is the Phoksundo Festival in the Phoksundo Lake area.
Likewise, Lopas were the first inhabitants of Jomsom followed by Thakali, and now Magars, Gurung, Sherpa, and other castes have migrated to the region. Tibetan Buddhism is the primary religion here but it co-exists with Bon Po as well. The major festival of the locals is the Tiji festival where they visit Lo Manthang for celebration. Animism and Shamanism are crucially followed by the people here as well.
Lifestyle in Dolpo Region
The Dolpo people have traditionally lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle, combining farming and animal husbandry with trade and commerce. Yak herding is an integral part of their economy. They also trade in salt and other commodities with Tibet.
The traditional architecture of Upper Dolpo includes stone houses with flat roofs designed to withstand the region's harsh climate. Their traditional clothing includes woolen robes, hats, and boots with beautiful designs and patterns.
Whereas, the people of Jomsom perform agriculture, trade, and service for livelihood. The farmers engage in cultivating mustard, apple, walnuts, and buckwheat. Thakali people are the ones who mostly perform trade but nowadays they engage in the tourism and hospitality industry as well.
Do Upper Dolpo people still follow Bon religions?
Yes, the Bon religion is still practiced in Dolpo. The Bon religion has a long history, predating Buddhism's arrival in Tibet and Nepal. In Upper Dolpo, the Bon religion is practiced alongside Tibetan Buddhism. The two religions have influenced each other over time.
Many people in Upper Dolpo who practice the Bon religion are part of the ethnic group known as Dolpo-pa. They have their own unique set of practices and rituals, which include chanting, mediation, divination, and offerings. Bon practitioners in Upper Dolpo believe in a pantheon of deities, spirits, and demons, which they believe can influence the lives of humans. They also believe in an afterlife and the possibility of rebirth.
Despite the influence of Buddhism in the region, the Bon religion remains an essential part of the cultural heritage of the Dolpo region, and it continues to be practiced by a significant number of people in the area.
When is the Best Time for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek?
The best time for the Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek is during the spring (March to May), autumn (September to November), and summer (June to August). The weather is mild and pleasant in spring, making the trekking conditions favorable.
Autumn is also a great time to trek, with stable weather conditions and clear skies offering great views of the surrounding mountains. The mild temperature makes the trek during the day comfortable, and nights are cool. Also, this is the harvesting month which adds extra charm to your trek.
Summer is another excellent time to trek in the rain shadow area of Upper Dolpo and Lower Mustang. It lies beneath the Kanjiroba (6,883m) and Dhaulagiri (8,167m) Himalayan ranges, which block the wind that causes rainfall, resulting in an arid climate.
However, getting there might be problematic as flights from Juphal to/from Nepalgunj will be prone to cancellations or delay due to weather conditions. So, if you are choosing this time to trek, keep one or two extra days for possible flight delay or cancellation.
Accommodation During Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
Accommodation during the Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek can vary depending on the location and altitude. Most of the lower trails are full of teahouses/lodges. As you start to gain elevation, you must also go camping. Here are some common types of accommodations you can expect during the trek:
Teahouses, Lodges, and Local Homestay
Teahouses and lodges are available in most villages along the trail, and they offer basic facilities such as beds, shared bathrooms, and common dining areas. The quality of the teahouses can vary, but they provide a warm and comfortable place to rest and recharge after a long day of trekking.
The teahouses are warm in comparison to the tents and provide the travelers with a bucket hot-shower facility. Even though the teahouses are basic in nature, we advise trekkers to stay in teahouses as per availability because they are comforting.
During Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek, you camp in tents set up each night in designated camping areas where teahouses are unavailable. A team of support crew will set up tents at the designated campsites, and the cook will prepare meals and snacks. The tented camps are set in places that are safe and have plenty availability of water resources and are located in beautiful areas.
During a camping trek, our camping staff carries fun board games and some musical instruments with them. The night falls faster in the Himalayas so after dinner on some days, our team will create a fun entertainment program for you by engaging in playing games and musical instruments, dancing, and signing. This is a very cheerful way to end a long day of hiking.
Meals during Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
Meals during the trek are mainly Nepali cuisine, while some Western and Continental dishes are also available in certain teahouses. Since this trek is located in a remote area, there is less to no availability of varieties of meals. So, our camping crew will carry some canned and packaged foods. Even during staying at teahouse/homestays, our crew will assist the accommodation staff to prepare meals. So, it ensures that the meals are safe, hygienic, and fresh.
The most common meals on the trail are Dal Bhat (rice, lentil soup, meat (optional), and vegetables), noodles, pasta, and potato dishes. Meat dishes such as chicken, yak, and mutton are also prepared as per availability. Anything available during the trek is fresh and healthy free from preservatives.
Drinking Water during Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
Staying hydrated is vital during your entire trip. In the lower region, bottled mineral water might be available but as we move forward with the trek, the drinking water availability is limited to natural Himalayan spring water. Boiled spring water is available in most teahouses. However, since this is a camping trek, our camping crew will boil the springwater at certain temperature that kills all the germs and again purify it using UV water purifiers. This method is completely safe to consume.
The boiled and filtered water is carried by trekkers and the crew during hiking. But, sometimes the water might not be enough so in this case, our team will use purifying tablets and provide you with safe drinking water. Also, we suggest you carry a non-plastic water bottle to refill and carry water.
Sanitary Facilities during Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
Generally, you can expect to find basic sanitary facilities during the Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek. Most lodges have squat toilets and shared bathrooms. Only a few teahouses in the lower regions have western style toilets. Bucket showers are common in teahouses along the Dolpo route.
During the camping trek, our crew will prepare a tented toilet. They will also provide you with a bucket hot shower and basic toiletries such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, hand wash, etc.
Packing List for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
- Here is a general packing list for the Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek.
- Warm down Jacket
- Fleece jacket
- Windproof and waterproof jacket
- Trekking pants
- Thermal tops and underwear
- T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
- Sun hat and warm beanie
- Gloves and warm socks
- Hiking boots and sandals
- Trekking Gear
- Sleeping bag and liner
- Trekking poles
- Headlamp and extra batteries
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Water bottles or hydration bladder
- Water purification tablets or filter
- Camera with extra batteries and memory cards
- Power bank and charging cables
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, etc.)
- Sunscreen with high SPF
- Insect repellent (for summer treks)
- First aid kit with essential medications for headache, diarrhea, altitude sickness, etc.
- Personal medication (if any)
- Passport and necessary permits with photocopies
- Cash and credit card
Note: We suggest you pack light and bring essential items for the trek. Before starting the trek, you could rent or purchase some gear and clothing in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
How much does it cost for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek?
The cost for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek can vary depending on multiple factors, such as the trek duration, the level of service you require, the number of trekkers in your group, and the time of year you plan to trek. Here are some main expenses you can expect to incur during the trek:
Upper Dolpo is restricted, and you need a special trekking permit. The permit fee generally ranges from USD 600-USD 620. As mentioned above, the Upper Dolpo restricted permit is the most expensive one.
Guide and Porters
Since this trek lies in a protected area, it is mandatory to travel with a guide and porter. This rule was made by the Nepal government to ensure the safety of the trekkers as this region lies in a very remote part and navigation could be a difficult task. Similarly, there are very few expert guides for this region so it is important to choose an authorized travel agency that provides professional. skilled, knowledgeable, experienced, and destination expert guides.
Transportation is a major factor for cost determination in this trip. Being located in a remote region, the accessibility to the destination is limited resulting in higher costs than other travel destinations. The transportation cost depends on the mode of transportation chosen by the trekkers.
The travelers have the option to fly to Nepalgunj from Kathmandu and again fly to Juphal from Nepalgunj and begin trekking. Another option is taking a bus or private jeep to Nepalgunj and flying to Juphal. Transportation is available from Juphal is limited to flights only.
Likewise, ending the trek from Jomsom, you have the option to either fly to Pokhara and then fly to Kathmandu. Or, you could also fly to Pokhara and take a bus or private jeep to Kathmandu. Similarly, travelers also have the option to drive from Jomsom to Pokhara by bus or private jeep and either drive or fly to Kathmandu.
During the trek, you'll be staying in teahouses or tents. The cost of accommodation can vary depending on the season and the level of comfort you require. On average, you may have to pay around USD 10 to 15 per night for a basic teahouse room.
Food and drinks
You will need to budget for three meals a day and snacks. The cost of food and drinks can vary depending on the location and season, but you can expect to pay around USD 20 to USD 30 per day.
Equipment and Gear
You may need to purchase or rent equipment and gear such as down jackets, hiking boots, sleeping bags, backpacks, and trekking poles. The cost of these items can vary depending on the quality and where you purchase or rent them.
Overall, the Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek cost can range from USD 3500 to USD 5500 per person for a 20-26 day trek, depending on the abovementioned factors.
How difficult is Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek?
The Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek is arduous and remote due to the region's high altitude and rugged terrain. The trek involves crossing several high passes, including the challenging Jungbenla Pass (5,550m), Kang La Pass (5,350m), Nangdala Pass (5,240m), Shey La Pass (5,100m), and Mola Pass (5,030m).
Likewise, the trek also involves long days of walking, with some sections of the trail being steep and rocky. You must walk an average of 6-7 hours daily over rugged terrain. The trekking course also involves several steep ascents and descents, which can be physically demanding, and the high altitude can also make it challenging. Therefore, prior trekking experience and good physical condition are necessary.
The trek also involves camping in remote areas, and there are limited facilities along the way. You need to be self-sufficient and well-prepared with adequate supplies and equipment. Hiring a guide and porter is highly mandatory for this trek due to Government travel rules in this area, as they also can provide the necessary support and assistance.
Useful Tips for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek
- Plan your trek and secure the necessary permits in advance.
- Be physically fit and prepare by doing cardio exercises, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
- Pack light but ensure you carry all essential equipment and gear for the trek.
- Hire a licensed local guide who can help you navigate the region, communicate with the locals and ensure your safety.
- Purchase travel insurance that covers trekking at high altitudes, medical emergencies, and emergency evacuation.
- Ensure to drink enough water and carry a water purification system to avoid waterborne illnesses.
- If you have any health conditions, consult your doctor before embarking on the trip. And carry essential medications and supplies.
- Respect local culture and customs. Dress modestly; ask for permission before taking pictures, and respect local traditions.
- Be prepared for altitude sickness, acclimatize properly, and know the symptoms.
Travel responsibly, try to leave no carbon footprint, and minimize your waste.
- Be prepared for weather changes, and carry waterproof clothing and warm clothes for cold temperatures at night.
- Carry enough cash to pay for your accommodation, food, and other expenses, as no ATMs or banks are along the route.
Undoubtedly, the Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek is an incredibly scenic and culturally rich trek that takes you through some of Nepal's most remote and spectacular regions. We hope this travel guide offers valuable insights and tips on the trek's stunning scenery, cultural experiences, and off-the-beaten path appeal.
So, are you ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime?
Contact us today to book your trip to Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek. Our experienced travel professionals will work with you to create a personalized itinerary as per your needs and interests, ensuring an unforgettable journey through Nepal's stunning region.
Which one is more expensive, a teahouse or a camping trek in remote trekking regions like Upper Dolpo in Nepal?
A camping trek is more expensive than a teahouse trek in the Upper Dolpo region of Nepal. Here are some factors contributing to the higher cost of camping trekking:
Equipment and Gear
Camping trek requires renting or buying camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, and cooking gear. These items can be expensive to purchase or rent, especially in remote areas that may be harder to find.
Support Crew Member
Camping Trek also requires support staff such as cooks, porters, and guides to help carry your gear and set up camp. The cost of hiring those crew members can add up quickly, especially for longer treks like Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek.
Food and Supplies
Camping trekking requires carrying food and supplies, which can be more expensive than eating in teahouses. You may need to pay for a permit and fees to camp in certain areas, which can increase the overall cost of the trek.
Camping trek requires more planning and logistics than teahouse trekking, which can result in additional expenses. For instance, you may need to hire a transportation service to transport your camping gear or supplies to the starting point of the trek.
Note: The camping cost will be less if you book Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek with Himalayan Trekkers. As we have permanent support staff members and already own certain cooking gear, it will not add extra cost to the trip. Providing quality service at a minimal price is our motto.
Do we need to hire a guide and porter for Upper Dolpo to Jomsom Trek?
For safety concerns, Nepal Tourism Board has set a new rule for all foreign trekkers to hire a licensed guide or porter in every region, including restricted areas such as Upper Dolpo, Mustang, Manaslu, Kanchenjunga, etc. However, hiring a guide can make your trekking experience in Nepal more enjoyable and safer. They can provide valuable insights into local culture, help with logistics, and ensure your safety on the trek.