This epic yet fairly easy trek takes you through the vast Dolpo area of Western Nepal; because it's only been open to trekkers since 1989, this is one of the least-explored regions of this country. You'll pass through wonderful Himalayan forests, traditional villages, picturesque rivers, and magnificent waterfalls. The highlight is Lake Phoksundo, considered a natural treasure in Nepal and is sacred to Buddhists and followers of the Bonpo religion. Along the way, you'll see rich flora and fauna, including musk deer, blue sheep, great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan tahr, and perhaps even the very rare and elusive snow leopard.

Highlights

  • Admire majestic Lake Phoksundo
  • Meet Nepalis from a range of cultures, including Dolpali, Bhotia, and Magar
  • Trek on lesser-visited trails in the spectacular high Himalaya
  • Enjoy time sightseeing in Nepal's vibrant capital, Kathmandu

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 2 Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, and Patan Durbar Square Kathmandu
Day 3 Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj Nepalgunj
Day 4 Fly from Nepalgunj to Juphal, Trek to Dunai Dunai
Day 5 Trek from Dunai to Chhepka Chhepka
Day 6 Trek from Chhepka to Jharana Hotel Jharana Village
Day 7 Trek from Jharana Hotel to Ringmo Ringmo
Day 8 Explore Lake Phoksundo Phoksundo
Day 9 Rest Day in Lake Phoksundo Phoksundo
Day 10 Trek from Lake Phoksundo to Chhepka Chhepka
Day 11 Trek from Chhepka to Juphal Juphal
Day 12 Fly Juphal to Nepalgunj, Connect to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 13 Depart Kathmandu  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu

Boudhanath Stupa , Kathmandu , Nepal
Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu

As you fly into Kathmandu, the views of snow-capped mountain peaks greet you. Your representative will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel, where you'll be briefed on your daily activities.

Depending on your time of arrival, you may be able to do some relaxed sightseeing. The centrally located Kathmandu Durbar Square is a good place to start or you can browse the shops and restaurants of the tourist hub, Thamel.

Day 2: Tour Kathmandu: Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, and Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square

After breakfast, you'll be picked up for a full-day cultural tour of the Kathmandu Valley. Spend the day at three sacred sites: Swayambhunath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, and Patan Durbar Square.

You'll do quite a lot on this carefully planned day, yet the itinerary doesn't overload you with too many sites. You can spend as much time as you like at each temple as this is a private tour just for you, but most people like to spend about an hour.

Swayambhunath Stupa: A short distance from the city center, high on a hill, Swayambhunath is a great place to admire the views of the Kathmandu Valley below. The stupa—a dome-shaped Buddhist structure—is one of the most historic places in this part of the world. Spins the prayer wheels and admire the fine paintings and sculptures around the stupa.

Pashupatinath Temple Complex: Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, Pashupatinath Temple is Nepal's holiest Hindu pilgrimage site, and has received worshippers for at least 1,500 years. A circuit of the area takes visitors past a sixth-century statue of Buddha and an eighth-century statue of Brahma. Wander past skeletal images guarding temple gates and other magnificent temples dedicated to various deities in the complex. Many open-air cremations are held here every day, so be respectful when exploring and taking photos.

Patan Durbar Square: This beautiful living square with many temples is also home to the excellent Patan Museum. The unmissable Golden Temple is also just around the corner. 

Return to your hotel in Kathmandu in the late afternoon and meet your trekking guide, who will go over details for tomorrow's adventure.

Day 3: Fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj

Siddhartha Hotel in Nepalgunj Nepal
Siddhartha Hotel in Nepalgunj

In the morning, walk through the streets of Thamel while your specialists arrange your trekking permits, then collect your documents and head to the domestic terminal of Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport. From Kathmandu, you'll fly west to Nepalgunj, a border town on the Terai close to India and Bardia National Park.

After your one-hour flight, settle into your accommodations and relax in Nepalgunj for the night.

Day 4: Fly Nepalgunj to Juphal, Trek to Dunai

Enroute to Dunai Village
En route to Dunai Village

This morning, you'll hop on a 35-minute flight to Juphal (8,120 feet/ 2,475 m), the starting point for your trek to Lake Phoksundo.

As you begin the trek, the trail ascends high above the Thulo Bheri Valley, followed by an hour's walk through maize fields to the village of Kalagaunda. Continue trekking along the southern bank of the river and pass Roop Ghar with its water mill, until you finally reach the village of Dunai (7,037 feet/ 2,145 m).

Dunai is quite a big mountain town with schools, a health post, government offices, a police station, and decent lodges. Wander the streets, tuck into a traditional meal and enjoy the view as you sip some Nepali tea and rest your feet. 

Trekking time: 3 hours

Day 5: Trek from Dunai to Chhepka

Herder of Chhepka Village
A local herder in Chhepka

Begin today's trek by descending through Dunai and crossing the bridge over the Bheri River. Then, chase the northern bank of the river for an hour to reach Sulighat.

From here, you'll head north to reach the check post for entering the Shey Phoksundo National Park, where you'll show your permits. Beyond the check post, you'll gradually climb up along a rock-strewn trail above the serpentine Suli Ghad River.

As the trail stretches higher through hemp tree forests, you'll arrive at Kageni. Continue through beautiful forest of walnut and maple trees; soon you'll begin to see the first signs of Tibetan culture. There are beautiful views of fluttering prayer flags, ecological biodiversity, cascading waterfalls, and lush vegetation on the way to Shyanta (8,267 feet/ 2,520 m). From there, you'll tackle another 90 minutes of uphill trekking along narrow trails to your overnight stop, Chhepka (8,759 feet/ 2,670 m).

Trekking time: 6-7 hours

Day 6: Trek from Chhepka to Jharana Hotel

Modern House structure in Ringmo Village
Modern structures in the village of Ringmo

Rise early in the morning and, after breakfast, make your way towards Jharana Hotel. The trail climbs through a forest of big cedars and a winter settlement used by the people of Ringmo village. The route climbs steadily through open country to an elevation of 11,056 feet (3370 m). En route, get a close-up view of a spectacular 1,082-foot (330 m) high waterfall, the highest in Nepal, as well as your first glimpse of Lake Phoksundo in the distance. 

Trekking time: 5-6 hours

Day 7: Trek from Jharana Hotel to Ringmo

A lovely view of Bon Village
A lovely view of a Bon village

After a hearty breakfast today, you'll make your way to Ringmo via a steep descent through birch forests, to the upper reaches of the Phoksundo River. After you cross a bridge, you'll follow a trail north to the ranger station at the stunning Lake Phoksundo.

After a final push through the Phoksundo River Gully, emerge to the yak-filled meadows of Ringmo (11,351 feet/ 3460 m), a village home to the ethnic Bon community. Here you'll find a few lodges where you can rest for the night.

Trekking time: 5-6 hours

Day 8: Explore Lake Phoksundo

The Majestic Lake Phoksundo
Majestic Lake Phoksundo

Spend today exploring the area around Ringmo and the magnificent Lake Phoksundo.

First, you'll head to Tshowa, a fascinating lakeside Bon monastery that's about 900 years old. You'll then drop down to the lake along steep cliffs. Lake Phoksundo is famous for its magnificent turquoise color and spectacular scenery. If you wander around the lake area, you'll find stunning glaciers, and if you're interested in learning more about the local flora and fauna, you can take a guided nature-focused tour.

Day 9: Rest Day

Take the day to rest at Lake Phoksundo

It is advisable to build some extra days into any Dolpo itinerary in case of flight delays, to help with acclimatization, and also to explore the area fully. Luckily, there's a lot to see in this valley.

Spend today resting up and enjoying the views or stretch your legs on a hike to a viewpoint above the lake. You can also participate in some cultural and artistic activities, such as painting and photography, or spend some time interacting with the locals. If the weather is good you could even go for a quick dip in the lake's cold water. In the evening, warm up beside a bonfire at your lodge.

Day 10: Trek from Phoksundo Lake to Chhepka

Stupa by the Entrance of Chhepka
Stupa by the entrance of Chhepka

Today you'll trek back to Ringmo and continue towards Sulighat, following the stream that originates from the lake. You'll then pass through the village of Renje. After an enjoyable meal break, you'll continue through fir and larch forests, then you'll hike along the Sulighat River before you reach Chhepka (8,267 feet/ 2,520 m) for the night. 

Trekking time: 6-7 hours

Day 11: Trek from Chhepka to Juphal

View of the trial to  Town of Juphal
View of the trail to Juphal

After breakfast, you'll continue retracing your steps along the trail through forests, fields, and charming villages. You'll end your trek in Juphal, where you can celebrate with a delicious meal before spending a final night in the mountains.

Trekking time: 6-7 hours

Day 12: Fly Juphal to Nepalgunj, Connect to Kathmandu

Kathmandu Valley ; Patan Durbar Sqaure
Kathmandu Valley; Patan Durbar Square

In the morning you'll head to the local airport in Juphal for your flight to Nepalgunj. You'll then continue onward to Kathmandu.

Once you settle in at your hotel in Nepal's capital this afternoon, you can enjoy some free time or see anything you may have missed at the beginning of your trip.

Day 13: Depart Kathmandu

Hindu Priest at Pashupatinath Temple Kathmandu Photo taken by Greg C
A Hindu priest at Pashupatinath Temple

Depending on your time of departure, there may be some time today for last-minute souvenir shopping or a final meal of dal bhat or some delicious Nepalese momo. You'll then be transferred to the airport in good time for your flight.