For some detail and inspiration on a very similar itinerary do check out Kim's detailed itinerary part way down her old Sacred Dolpo trek page.
Coolness! Here are some photos from our classic 2008 Dolpo trek and see Jamie's Flickr for more pix.
Click the photo to go to Flickr or use the arrow keys to see them here within this page.
We visit all the main villages of Upper Dolpo and really have time to appreciate the region. Our itinerary is well planned with appropriate time for acclimatization to altitude and the multiple rest days can handle unscheduled delays, and there is a variety in the length of trekking days with some half-days to/from villages, giving time to further wander around locally and enjoy.
Although this is the itinerary we plan, we adapt the itinerary to conditions and to the trekkers along with us.
Prior to your arrival in Kathmandu we send out an email with detailed arrival instructions including the visa procedure, meeting our staff, contact details and changing money etc.
Day 0 - early arrival
We suggest arriving today to recover from long flights and have an additional day to recover from the time zone changes, which are particularly brutal if coming from North America.
Providing you have sent us your arrival details, you will be met at the airport our staff and escorted to the hotel where the leader will meet you. We book the extra nights in our hotel for you and can arrange sightseeing too.
Day 1 - arrive Kathmandu 1350m
If you want to spend the minimum amount if time in Kathmandu then you can arrive today before midday so that we can take your passport to finish the permit process. You’ll be met at the airport by our staff so look out for a sign with your name on it.
You have the rest of the day free to explore Thamel. Thamel is a mass of energy and chaos with a myriad banners, signs, pumping music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels and eccentrically clad backpackers. Normally, we meet at the hotel reception area at 6pm for a briefing and perhaps head our local haunt, Sam's bar, for a drink before dinner.
2 - fly Nepalgunj 165m (/permits)
We have the morning in Kathmandu for last minute shopping or some sightseeing while the office finishes the various permits needed. Checking out of the hotel before lunch, we have lunch nearby then head to the new domestic airport for our afternoon flight. Flying along the Himalaya to Nepalgunj, Nepal's western flight hub, the high mountain panoramas are breathtaking in clear weather. Sit on the right hand side of the plane if possible for the best views, which include no less than four of the 14x 8000m peaks, and a dozen other significant and stunning peaks. Coming in to land is an insight to the Tarai, a patchwork of fields and farm houses interspersed with forest as far as the eye can see.
Nepalgunj is always steamy so we stay at the best hotel with very necessary air-conditioning. Wandering around is stepping back in time, cycle rickshaws and horse tongas, the heat-slowed pace of the Tarai plains.
3 - fly Juphal 2490m, trek to narrow camp before Suligad 2280m
We are up smartly for an early morning flight by small plane to Juphal, the airstrip for Dunai, the district headquarters of the Dolpo district. Good visibility is critical for this exciting 45 minute flight, the mountains around are too high to fly over, and it is an exciting landing on the 600m airstrip.
Leaving the airport we take a another step back in time. Although many groups head to Dunai for the first night there is no need to so we avoid the bustle and instead we stay at a peaceful, relatively new campsite that is a couple of hours walk from the airstrip.
Our first three days to Phoksundo are relatively moderate trek days, a balanced introduction for our legs to the rigors of trekking. Additionally, this provides some flexibility and if the flight ot Juphal is delayed by a day, we can trek this section in a little tougher two days, if needed. It is rare for flights to be delayed longer, however if they are, we have plenty more options to cope.
The flight to Juphal is by small twin-engined planes - Jamie
4 - trek to Chepka 2675m
Leaving camp, we turn up the Suli Gad (river), it sparkling turquoise a hint of its origins. It is warm, pleasant walking amid the flowers and forest, and a great introduction to trekking here, before we get alpine.
It is a delight trekking across and beside the Phoksundo River - Jamie
Although the most direct route along the river is the easiest, there is also a high route that sees virtually no trekkers that we have previously trekked as an option. Both routes are delightful trekking, as is our camp which is near the river surrounded by pine forest.
Trekking the high route - Jamie
5 - trek to near Amchi clinic ~3100m near Sumdowa
This is another delightful day along the forested gorge passing through birch, deciduous larches, and fir trees, some with rich autumn colours. From our lunch spot, Rechi which is run by women from Ringmu, it really starts to feel that we are in Tibetan country with flat roofed houses and fields of buckwheat. Our camp is a little before the Amchi clinic and Tapriza school (supported by Marietta, a Swiss friend who spent 6 months researching, living up here years ago). This is the confluence of the Pungmo Chu, which comes from the Kagmara La, and the Suli Gad/Phoksundo Khola.
Collecting fire wood - Jamie
Bali and the crew relax for a moment over tea in a local tea shop - Jamie
6 - trek to Phoksundo Lake 3725m
At last we reach the oh-so-blue lake for lunch. The morning is a mix of forest and a short but stiff climb to view one of Nepal's most impressive waterfalls.
One of the joys in the first week are the varied sections through forest, here en route to Phoksundo - Jamie
7 - Phoksundo Lake 3725m
Camping with tent door views of the lake, we have a day here to really appreciated the ever changing colours of this striking lake. As well as washing and relaxing, there are plenty of day trips, to see the waterfall from another better view, to the gompa and back to Ringmu village.
Now that we are well above 3000m, we also take two nights here to aid with acclimatization before going higher.
That colour! - Jamie
8 - trek to Forest Camp 3725m via 4000m passes
I have to say again, the colour of Phoksundo is unreal yet there it is, a view to never tire of.
Starting on the trail around the lake, we enter Upper Dolpo proper, and what a start. The trail is wide and good, but quite exposed in parts, and is utterly spectacular, make sure your camera battery is fully charged!
In the movie Himalaya, it is this section where the yak fell off into the lake and the two stars are left standing on a ledge - hopefully, we won't have to relive this scene!
After climbing over a large ridge, we descend again to the lake level and have a choice of several different camps. We can stay at the end of the lake or trek an hour or so into the forest, and each camp has its features.
Phoksundo Lake and our trail around the right side (west side) - Jamie
No bridge but plenty of helping hands - Jamie
Looking back to the Kanjirowa range - Jamie
Our horse team climbing up the ridge to our special Crystal Mountain pass - Jamie
These are the Tsakhang gompas on the Crystal Mountain kora - Jamie
A yak shepherds a nak (female yak) amid the autumn colours near Namgung - Jamie
Traditional chuba-clad girls of Dolpo - Jamie
Celesta checks out a Tibetan pony - Jamie
Following the wandering paths of the Panzang Valley - Jamie
Don't believe "It never rains in Dolpo" - it might be rain shadow but it can still rain! - Jamie
Paul and Celesta cruising along a good section of trail near Chharka - Jamie
Chharka blending with the terrain - Jamie
High camp for the Junben La - Jamie
Sangta village - Jamie
Rounding the Bhima Lojun La with a stunning panorama of Upper Mustang - Jamie
Additional days in Kathmandu
If you wish to stay longer, we can offer plenty of suggestions: mountain biking or rafting in the Kathmandu valley, an Everest sightseeing flight, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan, a night at Nagarkot or Dhulikhel for a bit of luxury and expansive sunrise/sunset mountain panoramas, visits to interesting temple villages such as Changu Narayan, a few days in Pokhara or a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park or Bardia National Park.