Dolpa Region-Mid West Nepal

Dolpa Region-Mid West Nepal

Dolpo is a high-altitude culturally Tibetan region in the upper part of the Dolpa District of western Nepal, bordered in the north by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.1–3 Part of the region lies in Shey Phoksundo National Park. The sparse, agro-pastoral population, known as Dolpo in standard Tibetan and Dhol-wa in the local dialect, is connected to the rest of Nepal via Jufal airport, which can be reached in three days by horse  There are no precise population numbers for the region, with estimates including less than 5,000  and 18,000

The Dolpo are generally adherents of Bon, a religion whose origins predate Buddhism but whose modern form is officially accepted as a fifth school of Tibetan Buddhism. The remote region has preserved its Tibetan culture in relatively pure form, making it attractive to Westerners. Dolpa was the location for the 1999 Oscar-nominated film Himalaya and more recently for the German documentary Dolpo Tulku.

In spite of the near inaccessibility of the region and tourism restrictions for the more remote parts, Dolpa is a popular destination for trekking tourism.


Dolpo is geologically part of the sedimentary Tibetan-Tethys zone. It is surrounded by Himalayan mountain chains including the Dhaulagiri (8,172 metres (26,811 ft)). These cloud barriers cause a semi-arid climate, with reported annual precipitations of less than 500 millimetres (20 in).

Chorten with barley fields; Tarap Valley in the southern part of Dolpa.

The region is historically divided into four valleys: Tsharka ("good growing-place"), Tarap ("auspicious excellent"), Panzang ("abode of monks"), and Nangkhong ("innermost place"). They constitute four of the seven village development committees (VDCs) that were created in 1975. The valleys south of the watershed drain into the Bheri River.

Dolpo can be roughly divided into four valleys, each of which is represented since 1975 by a village development committee (VDC): Dho (Tarap Valley), Saldang (Nankhong Valley, the most populous Tinje (Panzang Valley), and Chharka (Tsharka Valley). There are also smaller VDCs at Bhijer, Mukot and Foksundo.

Agriculture is possible at heights of 3,800 to 4,180 meters (12,470 to 13,710 ft) (villages of Shimen Panzang Valley and Chharka, respectively) but often requires irrigation. Apart from barley, crops include buckwheat, millet, mustard, wheat, potatoes, radishes, and spinach. Similar to transhumance in the Alps, the population migrates between villages and high-lying (4,000 to 5,000 metres or 13,000 to 16,000 feet) summer pastures, in a lifestyle referred to as samadrok (roughly "farming nomads").

Dolpo makes up the greatest part of the area of the Dolpa District, but the district's population is concentrated in the lower southern parts, where also most of the VDCs are located.


Local products are not sufficient to guarantee survival. The Dolpo traditionally trade salt from Tibet to the lower parts of Nepal, where they maintain netsang (literally "nesting place") relationships, first described by Kenneth M. Bauer. According to Bauer, each family in Dolpo has netsang partners in most villages of Dolpo District, a network that facilitates travel as well as trade. In return for salt, the netsang provide grain and shelter. The netsang partners trade with each other on preferential terms, based on fictitious family relations that may last for several generations. Recent changes such as the easy availability of salt from other regions and the closed border with Tibet have put the netsang system under pressure.


Dolpo appears in historical records since c. 8th century. In the time from the 6th century to the 8th century the Tibetan Yarlung dynasty conquered most Tibetan-speaking territories. This seems to have caused a southward migration towards Dolpo and the peripheral areas along the upper Kali Gandaki River (Lo and Serib). In 842, Tibet fell apart, and Dolpa fell under the kingdom of Purang. Purang and Dolpa became temporarily part of the kingdom of Guge in the 10th century, but soon became separate again when King sKyid lde Nyi ma mgon divided Guge among his three sons.

During the reign of the Ya-rtse king A-sog-lde around 1253 both Dolpo and Serib were lost to the ruler of Gungthang, mGon po lde. The latter then reunited both the Dolpo and Serib and classified them among one of three provinces of mNga' ris. It is also known from historical documents that Mongolian troops reached Dolpo to conquer this province when they conquered many parts of Tibet and finally handed over the power to the ruler of the Sakya period.

In the 14th century Dolpo fell under its eastern neighbor the Kingdom of Lo, which controlled the trans-Himalayan trade route through the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The Dolpo had to pay tax and travel to Lo Monthang to provide manual labor.

For some time between the 15th century (1440?) and the 16th century, Dolpo was temporarily independent and ruled by a king from the Ra nag dynasty.

In 1769, the Gorkhas conquered Kathmandu and established the Kingdom of Nepal, which would soon reach more or less the country's modern extent. In 1789, Nepal swallowed the Lo kingdom and with it Dolpo. The kingdom's attempt to wrest nominal suzerainty over Tibet from China ended in a massive Chinese intervention that left Nepal paying tribute to China.

The region in film

The 1999 French-Nepalese movie Himalaya, which gives insight into the local customs, was the first Nepalese film to be nominated for an Oscar award and also a huge success in Nepal itself, drawing the country's attention to the region. Kenneth M. Bauer notes that the film's authenticity was in large part artificial, as dialogues mixed the standard Tibetan of the professional actors with the villagers' local dialects and all external influences in the region (such as clothes, Maoists and tourists) were hidden. He also describes the impact which the film had on the region as an employer.


The 2009 documentary Dolpo Tulku accompanies Sherap Sangpo (born 1981 in the Tarap Valley) on his journey from India back to his home region and his first steps as a Buddhist spiritual leader of the Dolpa. At the age of ten, he had pilgrimaged to India and after meeting the Dalai Lama had decided to become a monk. In Ka-Nying Monastery in Kathmandu he was soon recognized as the reincarnation of Lama Nyinchung and sent to Namdroling Monastery in Karnataka. After 16 years in southern India his education was finished, and in 2008 he returned to his home region to take over the responsibilities of his predecessor as a Buddhist spiritual leader of the Dolpa and in particular the monasteries in Dho-Tarap, Namgung and Saldang.



Trekking in Dolpa is opened in 1989, the Dolpo region is hard to match for it’s pristine beauty and rugged charm, where one can still have opportunity to meet the nomadic people and their life style almost untouched and unexplored. The Himalayas offer an endless variety of landscapes, cultures and great people. This unbounded diversity makes it a destination you can visit over and over again. It even becomes more interesting and fascinating with every time you return. Lying in the rain shadow area of the Himalayas, the landscape resembles that of the Tibetan Plateau instead of the lush, green, monsoon watered hills, elsewhere in Nepal, at comparative altitudes. The people, very pleasant by nature, are of Tibetan descent who follows the pre-Buddhist Bon religion. Their language is closely related to Tibetan. The elevation of the trails is from 1650 meters (5,412ft) to 5136 meters (16,846ft)  above sea level.Dolpo region is situated between the Tibetan plateau and the Dhaulagiri ranges. The entire district was closed to trekkers until 1989 when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organized trekking groups. Our trekking adventure begins with tours of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. We then fly to Nepalgunj and then to Juphal from where we begin our trek in the Dolpo region which was made famous by Peter Matthiessen’s book - The Snow Leopard. Nepal’s first English subtitled movie on Dolpo, The Caravan, was also a huge success and was also nominated for the Oscar Award in the best foreign language film category. On our 28-day trek we pass through interesting villages, trekking routes and meet fascinating people. We also cross a few high Himalayan passes and enjoy the vast and tranquil beauty of Phoksundo Lake. From Shey Gompa, we follow the ancient Trans Himalayan Trade route and return back to Jhuphal as our trek ends. The trek indeed takes us into the wild west of Nepal.

Outline Itinerary

Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu (1300m/4264ft)

Day 02: Kathmandu: sightseeing and trek preparation

Day 03: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj: 1 hour

Day 04: Fly from Nepalgunj to Jhuphal (Dolpo) and trek to Dunai (2,850m/9,348ft): 45 mins flight, 2-3 hours trek

Day 05: Dunai to Ankhe (2,896m/9,499ft): 5-6 hours

Day 06: Ankhe to Sulighat: 5-6 hours

Day 07: Sulighat to Phoksundo Lake (3,611m/11,849 ft) 4-5 hours

Day 08: Acclimatization and rest at Phoksundo Lake

Day 09: Trek to Phoksundo Khola: 4-5 hours

Day 10: Phoksunds Khola to Phoksundo Bhanjyang: 6-7 hours

Day 11: Phoksundo Bhanjyang to Shey Gompa (4,500m/14,760ft) via Kang-La pass (5,360m/17,581ft

Day 12: Acclimatization and rest at Shey Gompa

Day 13: Shey Gompa to Namduna Gaun (4,800m/15,744ft) via Saldang La (5,200m/17,056ft): 6-7 hours

Day 14: Namduna Gaun to Saldang (3,620m/ 11,874ft): 4-5 hours

Day 15: Saldang to Yangze Gompa (4,960m/16,267ft): 4-5 hours

Day 16: Yangze Gompa to Sibu (4,560m/14,957ft): 6-7 hours

Day 17: Sibu to Jeng-la Phedi (4,900m/16,072ft): 5-6 hours

Day 18: Jeng-la Phedi to Tokyu Gaon (4209m/13809ft) via Jeng La pass (5,090m/16,695ft): 5-6 hours

Day 19: Tokyu to Dho Tarap(4,040m/13,251ft): 4-5 hours

Day 20: Rest Day at Dho Tarap

Day 21: Dho Tarap to Tarap Khola (Kamakharka) (3,800m/12,464ft): 6-7 hours

Day 22: Tarap Khola to Khanigaon(3,150m/10,332ft): 4-5 hours

Day 23: Khanigaon to Tarakot (2,537m/8,321ft): 4-5 hours

Day 24: Tarakot to Dunai (2,140m/7,019ft): 5-6 hours

Day 25: Dunai to Jhuphal: 2-3 hours

Day 26: Fly from Jhuphal to Nepalgunj and then to Kathmandu

Day 27: Rest day in Kathmandu

Day 28: Final departure

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We suggest you to bring following equipment when you come to Nepal for trekking. The list can be adjusted according to your needs, name of trekking and time of your trekking. Please remember that during trekking your luggage will be carried out by porter. One porter carries luggage of two people. So if you are more than one, he will carry 12 to 15 kg of your stuff.


  1. Hand sanitizing lotion
  2. Reading/writing material
  3. Camera & Binoculars
  4. Protein bars, chocolate, dried fruits, candies and snack foods.
  5. Travel documents: passport, visa, travel insurance, air tickets
  6. Money: Travelers Cheque/Cash/Credit card
  7. Spare Boot Laces
  8. Sleeping Bag
  9. Light weight Towel
  10. Toiletries
  11. Day pack to carry your personal needs during the day
  12. Torch/flashlight - headlamp style is ideal
  13. Sunscreen and lip balm
  14. Refillable water bottle - Min 1 Littre
  15. Hat
  16. Gloves - wool or fleeced
  17. Scarf
  18. Sewing Kit
  19. Wind and waterproof Jacket & Pants
  20. Umbrella especially in summer (May to September)
  21. Comfortable trekking shoes
  22. Running shoes or sandals for evening
  23. Wool jumper / sweater / fleece. Lightweight /jacket
  24. Fleece Jacket
  25. Shirts 2 or 3 - Long Sleeved
  26. Pants - lightweight long trousers (jeans are unsuitable)
  27. Socks: thick wool blend and thin cotton to be worn in combination - ensure boots fit
  28. Extra warm clothing/ thermals
  29. Medicine (Prescription drugs if you are taking daily, lip salve, aspirin, band aids, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea)


If you don't have good equipment and are not available in home country, it can be bought or rented from trekking shops in Kathmandu, Nepal. The equipment is often top quality. Although daily rental charges are reasonable, a large deposit may be required.


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Trip Facts

 Dolpo offers an off-the-beaten-path experience. The rugged and unspoiled landscapes cater sights of immaculate snowy peaks, ancient and isolated villages, rich wildlife, pristine Buddhist monastery and wonderful lakes. Likewise, Upper Dolpo shelters villages among highest settlements on earth.

  1. Dolpo region is opened for trekkers in 1989. One needs to get trekking permit from Department of Immigration in Kathmandu or Pokhara to visit this fascinating region. Trekking into this region gives an exposure to the high and isolated Himalayan valleys, resembling the Tibetan highlands.
  2. Dolpo is home to some of the highest villages on earth; almost ninety percent of the region lies above 3,500 meters. The region provides the opportunities to visit ancient villages, high passes, beautiful lakes, isolated Buddhist monasteries.
  3. Dolpo region has given birth of Peter Matthiessen’s bestselling book’ Snow Leopards’ and Eric Valli’s Oscar nominated movie CARAVAN (HIMALAYA) was featured in this isolated Himalayan sanctuary.
  4. The Dolpo region is hard to match for its pristine beauty and rugged charm, where one can still have opportunity to meet the nomadic people and their life style almost untouched and unexplored.
  5. The focal point of this region is Shey Phoksumdo National Park. Dolpo is located inside the Shey–Phoksumdo National Park of mid–western Nepal, behind the Dhaulagiri massif, adjoining the Tibetan Plateau.
  6. The people of this area are simple and warm-hearted with enthralling culture and traditions. The cultural traditions of this area are basically linked with Tibetan.
  7. The best known of the many isolated high Himalayan valleys across the northern Nepal, Dolpo preserves one of the last remnants of traditional Tibetan culture. One of the highest inhabited realms on the planet, Dolpo is also still a stronghold of the pre-Buddhist, shamanistic Bon-po religion as well as Tibetan Buddhism.
  8. Dolpo remains a truly isolated corner of Nepal: time has stood still here for centuries as the inhabitants of Tibetan stock continue to live, cultivate and trade the way they have done since time immemorial.
  9. Dolpo’s agro-pastoral livelihood determines survival at such inhospitable landscape.

10.   Dolpo region preserves Eco-system that encompasses a wild and wonderful variety of flora and fauna, including Blue sheep, Mountain Goat, Jackal, Wolf and the legendary Snow Leopard.

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