Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek - One of Nepal's most Challenging Treks - 18 days

The Dhaulagiri Circuit trek is challenging, and a real adventure for experienced trekkers who are looking for an expedition-like experience. From farming villages in the Himalayan foothills to high alpine pastures, uninhabited valleys and close-up views of several peaks over 8,000 meter, this circuit trek is breathtaking and exciting at every stage.

Trek Overview

Starting in Beni (a two-three hour drive from Pokhara), the Dhaulagiri Circuit trek is a rugged, high-altitude camping trek in one of the lesser-visited areas of the Annapurna Himalayas. The first few days follow the Myagdi Khola River to the Chhonbardan Glacier, at the foot of Dhaulagiri. The landscape changes from tended farmland to barren, often snow-covered rocky mountains, all with views of Dhaulagiri and other Himalayan giants ahead. As you get higher, the predominantly Magar villages thin out, until the last few days are spent trekking in areas with no permanent settlements.

Camping on the Dhaulagiri Circuit

After a rest day at Dhaulagiri Base Camp, trek up the side of the glacier, over the French Pass (5,360m) and into the Hidden Valley. At this point, experienced mountaineers will have the chance to summit Dhampus Peak (6,060m). Continue on over the Dhampus Pass, and down to Jomsom, the gateway to Mustang. The descent to Jomsom is very steep, as you will be descending over 2000 meters in two days.

If you have trekking (and even better mountaineering) experience and are up for a challenge, the Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek is an unforgettable adventure that takes you into the heart of some the highest mountains in the world. With several days and nights spent above 5,000 meters, two 5000 meter-plus passes and snowy conditions, it is one of the most challenging treks in Nepal, but worthwhile for experienced trekkers.

A group of trekkers on the Dhaulagiri Circuit

Why the Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek?

  • For an ‘expedition feel’, due to the remote and rugged nature of the trek.
  • Varied landscapes, from green farming villages to snowy glaciers to barren, rocky mountain vistas.
  • The option for experienced mountaineers to climb Dhampus Peak (6,060m).
  • Close-up views of Dhaulagiri (8,167m) and several other 7000m-plus peaks.
  • As a circuit trek, there is no retracing of your footsteps in the second half.
Close up view of Dhaulagiri
Close up view of Dhaulagiri

Best season

Spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) trekking seasons.

Permits and regulations

You'll need to purchase a TIMS card ($10) and an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) ($20 USD). These can be obtained independently in Kathmandu or Pokhara, or your guiding company will arrange them for you. As this is not a very popular trek, the checkpoints are quite spread out, but they appear particularly on the way down, once the main Annapurna Circuit route has been joined.

This trek is not within a restricted zone, so it’s possible to trek independently, without a guide. However, this is strongly discouraged due to the difficulty of the trek, the weather conditions, the fact that tents and food will need to be carried, and that some days are spent walking and sleeping on snow.

Accommodation & meals

Apart from the first and last nights in Beni and Pokhara, where you will stay in hotels, this is an entirely camping trek. There are no lodges, and not even any permanent settlements past Pakoban. This fact increases the effects of the cold. Food will be prepared in a camp kitchen, while guides and porters ensure that necessary provisions are carried to prepare high-energy, nutritious and tasty food.

Getting to and from the trailhead

This trek starts in Beni, a sizable town about 2-3 hours’ drive from Pokhara. The road to Beni is winding and through the mountains, but otherwise reasonably well-maintained. Many treks in the Annapurna region start from, or pass through, Beni.

The trek ends at Jomsom. While it’s possible to extend the trek and walk back to Pokhara from Jomsom (part of the classic Annapurna Circuit route), road construction in the past few years has made this a dusty and decidedly un-appealing option. Plus, this is a challenging trek and most trekkers will not want to extend it due to fatigue. It’s advisable to fly from Jomsom back to Pokhara. This is a short, spectacular flight, but can sometimes be delayed or cancelled due to poor weather.

Brief itinerary

Day Activity Duration
Day 1 Drive to Kathmandu to Beni. Overnight in hotel 850m, approx. 8 hrs
Day 2 Trek to Babachur 900m, 5 hrs
Day 3 Trek to Dharapani 1,470m, 6 hrs
Day 4 Trek to Muri 1,850m, 5 hrs
Day 5 Trek to Boghara 2,080m, 6 hrs
Day 6 Trek to Dobang 2,520m, 5 hrs
Day 7 Trek to Choriban Khola 3,110m, 5 hrs
Day 8 Trek to the Italian Base Camp 3,660m, 7 hrs
Day 9 Acclimatization and rest day  
Day 10 Trek to the Glacier Camp 4,210m, 6 hrs
Day 11 Trek to the Dhaulagiri Base Camp 4,740m, 7 hrs
Day 12 Acclimatization and rest day  
Day 13 Cross the French Pass (5,360m); trek to the Hidden Valley 5,200m, 6 hrs
Day 14 Option 1: Hike around the Hidden Valley (semi-rest day)
Option 2: Ascend Dhampus Peak (6,060m) (for experienced climbers)
 
Day 15 Cross Dhampus Pass (5,240m), trek to Yak Kharka 3,680m, 6 hrs
Day 16 Trek to Jomsom 2,700m, 5 hrs
Day 17 Flight to Pokhara (30 mins). Relaxation in Pokhara and overnight in hotel  
Day 18 Either stay in Pokhara or return to Kathmandu via flight (30 mins)  

Level of difficulty

The Dhaulagiri Circuit is a tough trek—one of the toughest in Nepal—suitable for trekkers with previous experience of trekking at altitudes above 5,000m. The optional ascent of Dhampus Peak (6,060m) requires basic mountaineering skills, such as knowledge of use of ice axes and crampons. Three days in a row are spent trekking over snow above 5,000m, without an easy way down. Adding to the challenge is the cold—as this is a camping trek, there are no cozy lodges to retreat to at night. The Dhaulagiri Circuit trek is not one for beginner trekkers or first-time visitors to Nepal, but those with more experience will find the rewards are high.