Dolpo to Mustang Trek is an ultimate off-beat high altitude trekking experience in Nepal's remote and restricted northwestern region. The 22 days long trek in the challenging Himalayan trail crosses five high passes, namely Baga La, Numa La, Jhyarkoi La, Mo La, and Ghami La Pass, connecting Dolpo to the Mustang district. The trek traverses to the medieval settlements, towering western peaks, and the trans-Himalayan ecosystem of Shey Phoksundo National Park.
The trek offers an experience of witnessing the preserved Tibetan Buddhist and Bon culture through their traditions, practices, and ancient monasteries. From bizarre rock formations to vertical cliffs, snow-capped Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Kanjirowa, and surrounding mountains, the topography is fascinating beyond belief. The mythical Lower Dolpo trail passes by incomparably beautiful Phoksundo Lake and some of the highest altitude settlements of Nepal. At the same time, the Upper Mustang trail gives you a glimpse of the ancient forbidden Buddhist kingdom.
Flying from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, then to Juphal in the north, the trek follows the Bheri River in the arid lower Dolpo passing the Ringmo settlement to Phoksundo Lake. From there, head west and cross the Baga La Pass (5,214m/17,107ft), then Numa La Pass (5,238m/17,185ft) to settlements of Tokyu and Do Tarap. Continue to cross Jhyarkoi La Pass (5,360m/17,586ft), then Mo La Pass (5,035m/16,519ft) to the final Dolpo settlement of Chharka. Traverse through the rugged and isolated terrain to cross Ghami La Pass (5,700m/18,701ft), the trek's highest point, entering the Upper Mustang region with a final stop at Ghami. Drive to Jomsom, then fly back to Kathmandu via Pokhara.
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|Day 1||Arrival in Kathmandu (1,400m/4,593ft) - Transfer to Hotel|
|Day 2||Cultural Sightseeing and Trip Preparation in Kathmandu|
|Day 3||Flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj (150m/490ft) - 50 minutes flight|
|Day 4||Flight from Nepalgunj to Juphal (2,475m/8,120ft) and Trek to Rupagad (2,120m/6,955ft) - 35 minutes flight and 3 hours trek|
|Day 5||Trek from Rupagad to Chhepka (2,670m/8,759ft) - 5 to 6 hours trek|
|Day 6||Trek from Chhepka to Jharna (3,000m/9,845ft) - 6 to 7 hours trek|
|Day 7||Trek from Jharna to Phoksundo Lake (3,600m/11,811ft) - 3 to 4 hours trek|
|Day 8||Rest Day at Phoksundo Lake|
|Day 9||Trek from Phoksundo Lake to Baga La Phedi (4,200m/13,780ft) - 4 to 5 hours trek|
|Day 10||Cross Baga La Pass (5,214m/17,107ft) then beyond Danigar (4,800m/15,748ft) - 8 to 9 hours trek|
|Day 11||Cross Numa La Pass (5,238m/17,185ft) to Tokyu (4,200m/13,780ft) - 7 to 8 hours trek|
|Day 12||Trek from Tokyu to Do Tarap (4,080m/13,385ft) then to Moran (4,200m/13,780ft) - 3 to 4 hours trek|
|Day 13||Cross Jhyarkoi La Pass (5,360m/17,586ft) to campsite (4,600m/15,092ft) - 7 to 8 hours trek|
|Day 14||Cross the Mo La Pass (5,035m/16,519ft) to Chharka/Charkabhot (4,100m/13,421ft) - 6 to 7 hours trek|
|Day 15||Trek from Chharka to Nakhkham Khola Campsite (4,600m/15,092ft) - 7 to 8 hours trek|
|Day 16||Trek from Nakhkham Khola to High Camp (4,900m/16,076ft) - 5 to 6 hours trek|
|Day 17||Cross the Ghami La Pass (5,700m/18,701ft), then descend to a campsite near the lake (4,800m/15,748ft) - 8 to 9 hours trek|
|Day 18||Trek from the campsite towards Ghami (3,490m/11,450f) - 7 to 8 hours trek|
|Day 19||Trek from campsite to Ghami (3,520m/11,549ft) - 6 to 7 hours trek|
|Day 20||Drive from Ghami to Jomsom - 5 to 6 hours drive|
|Day 21||Flight from Jomsom to Pokhara (800m/2,625ft) and Kathmandu (1,400m/4,592ft) - 50 minutes flight both|
|Day 22||Final Departure from Kathmandu, Nepal|
As you arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, you will be greeted with the views of snow-capped mountains surrounding the green valley. After completing the customs and duties at the airport, head to the terminal, where you meet our representatives from Third Rock Adventures. From there, they will transfer you to your hotel in Thamel.
Thamel is a major tourist hub in Kathmandu valley, located just 5 km away from the airport. After reaching the hotel, take some rest, then head to our office located nearby to get introduced to the team and ask any queries that you might have. Later in the evening, head out to the streets to enjoy food, drinks, shopping, and more. At night a welcome dinner will be served with authentic Nepali food to tingle your taste buds.
Overnight stay in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu is a treasure trove of ancient history and religious monuments. After having breakfast, we have a cultural sightseeing trip planned for you. First, make preparations for the trek by getting the permits and documents ready. Your guide will assist you in obtaining the required documents from the respective authorities. You can also buy or hire relevant gears that you might need for the trip on this day.
After the preparation is over, take a drive around the different UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the valley. Your first stop can be at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, located very close to Thamel in Basantapur/Freek Street. You'll walk in the courtyards and alleys filled with small shops, restaurants, shrines, and temples.
From there, head to the western outskirts of the city to Swayambhunath stupa. From the hilltop, observe a wide-angle view of the city. You can visit the Boudhanath stupa, the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal located in the city's northeast. Then your next stop could be Pashupatinath temple, one of the world's holiest Hindu temples. Stroll the vast vicinity of the temple and witness more than a dozen temples. In the evening, head to a popular restaurant or pub in Thamel to enjoy a wide range of cuisine.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Kathmandu.
Take a flight in the afternoon from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, located in the western region of Nepal. As you leave Kathmandu, the city life passes by, and green hills come closer until finally reaching Nepalgunj, another busy city.
One of the hottest cities of Nepal, you most certainly feel the heat and humidity in Nepalgunj. However, there is nothing that a fan or AC can't solve. Drink the famous yogurt-based drink or sweet sugarcane juice to cool yourself. As the city is located only 3km from the border of India in the south, there are many small trade markets. Stroll around in the streets and enjoy some local cuisine, but make sure that you don't upset your stomach before the trip.
Overnight stay in Nepalgunj city.
After breakfast, board the flight from Nepalgunj domestic airport to Juphal, in the north. There is a drastic change in the scenery as the flight takes off, leaving the green flatlands towards green hills. Further north, witness Himchuli Patan mountains beside you which is a fascinating sight. Upon arrival at the Juphal airport, take some rest, then commence your trek with the crew.
The trek to Rupagad is a short but refreshing one. You begin with a fast descent to the village below the airstrip. Walk past terraced fields to the Bheri River. Walk along the riverside, then pass Roop Ghar with a water mill. Then, take a short walk to Dunai town, which is the headquarters of the district. On the way, visit a nearby Bon religious stupa before crossing the Bheri river via a long bridge towards Sulighat. From there, continue your walk to Rupagad, located near the riverside.
Overnight stay in Rupagad.
Early in the morning, begin your trek to Chhepka, with the initial leg of the trek taking you to the confluence of the Bheri river and Suli Gad river. Take a swift north following the Suli Gad River, and feel the humidity in the air. There are only a couple of uphill climbs on the trail. The fields are filled with cash and food crops like millet, pumpkins, corn, and potatoes grown by the locals. The 'Chuk' plant is also grown here and used to produce lemon concentrate. It is profitable to locals for trading to nearby cities and India as well.
Waking further ahead following the riverbed, you will reach the Hanke village, which is the gateway to Shey Phoksundo National Park. It is the largest and only trans-Himalayan national park based in Nepal. There is a drastic change in the topography and climate from here on. On the way, you come across the strangely named villages of Parela, Rahagaon, and Ankhe, translated to the eyelash, eyebrow, and eye, respectively. From hereon, pass the derelict terrain filled with Serbian pea-tree shrubs to reach Chhepka.
Overnight stay in Chhepka.
Only a couple of years before, the route from Chhepka was not as clear and well designed as it is now. There have been ample significant developments in the course. However, its beauty has not diminished a bit. Your initial stretch to Jharna will take you to a steep path and hugging cliffs sides at some points. Walk along the cedar forest towards the Ringmo villager's winter settlement. You come across rhododendron, juniper, and white Himalayan birch forest followed by a steady climb then a stop at Jharna.
The major highlight, Jharna waterfall, at the spectacular drop of 330m/1083ft, is one of the highest waterfalls in Nepal.
Overnight stay in Jharna.
On this exciting day, head to the most renowned Phoksundo lake. You begin a steady walk uphill following the river. Passing the birch forest, reach a ridge from where you move to Ringmo village closest to the lake. Views of Mt. Kanjirowa (6,883m/22,582ft) are visible. Ringmo village takes you back in time with mud-plastered houses, chortans, and mani walls. However, in recent years there has been some development with villagers installing solar panels.
A short walk from there will take you to the majestic Phoksundo Lake. The view of the turquoise lake is even better than the hype. The sizable lake spans south, north, and east, but we will observe views from the south.
Upon your arrival, get settled, then take a brief walk alongside the shore of the lake to enjoy its up-close views.
Overnight stay at Phoksundo lakeside.
Only a day is not enough to enjoy the views of the majestic Phoksundo lake; hence we will make a second night stop here. Also, after the long trek, this is a good way to recuperate your energy for the remaining hike. Phoksundo Lake is an alpine freshwater lake that has been designated as a Ramsar site.
Take a walk around the lakeside and enjoy the views of the surrounding Kanjirowa and Kagmara (5,115m/16,781ft) peaks. The lake is clear enough to see the sight of the clouds hovering above is reflected in the water's surface. Witness yaks taking a bath in the cold water of the lake. There are more than 20 gompas/ stupas located in the southern belt of the lake that you can visit. Most popular is the Tshowa Bon Monastery, a highly significant monastery for the Bon religion followers. The lazy day seems to pass away rather quickly.
Overnight stay in Phoksundo Lake.
Ultimately, it is time to leave the beautiful Phoksundo lake and head closer towards the first challenging point of the trek, Baga La Phedi. If you were to head straight from the lake to Shey Gompa, you would be taking the Upper Dolpo Circuit trek. However, for this trip, you move to the eastern side. Passing by the lovely trail, take a quick ascend, then head to the village of Rikke. From there, you come across another small village called Maduwa, from where the trail rises gradually. You will get to witness up-close views of Norbung Kang (6,085m/19,963ft) peak. Continue your trek from there to reach Yak Kharka, a flat landmass best for grazing yaks. The place is decorated with colorful prayer flags. Have a hefty lunch here before you continue to your campsite stop.
Passing by meadows, you might have a chance to witness Himalayan Thar, blue sheep, and ghorals on the way. You will reach Baga La Phedi in a short while, which lies just below the Baga La Pass. Set camp in the Phedi and take some rest. Enthusiastic trekkers can even take the trail towards Chhoital Lake, an hour and a half away from the campsite. The climb is tough and will take you through uphill battles. Alternatively, you can reserve your energy for the tough climb the next day.
Overnight stay in Baga La Phedi.
Before dawn, make your way to Baga La Pass, the first high pass of the trek. The initial leg of the walk will stretch to the upward trail to Ghuchun Khola River. The track is made more beautiful with the views of Norbung Kang on the backdrop. At times you might have to take breaks to catch your breath as the trail goes uphill. After about 4 hours of uphill drag, you will be welcomed by prayer flags fluttering rapidly in the wind, signifying that you have reached Baga La pass at 5,214m. You are overwhelmed with the feeling of triumph.
The terrain is desert-like, but the views of the surrounding mountains are phenomenal. After clicking pictures and enjoying the scenery, continue on the trail towards Danigar. Take a descent in the initial stage, then it becomes steeper, passing meadows to Danigar. It is not our campsite, but we will have our lunch here. Continue downhill to the river, then take an ascend for an hour or so to reach a flat land to set camp for the day. It is closer to Numa La pass, which you will cross tomorrow.
Overnight stay near Danigar.
On this day, you will cross the challenging second high pass of the trip, Numa La Pass. Begin the trek with an ascent in a steep path which only seems to go upwards. It is a tough trek in the rugged path with what seems like a neverending uphill climb. With Kanjirowa peak in the backdrop, move ahead only to see the pass ahead at the altitude of 5,238m/17,185ft. It is a triumphant climb to the top. Again, like any other high pass, it is decorated with prayer flags welcoming you aboard.
Observe the views of the soaring mountains as you walk over the boulder to flat land. After taking some pictures in the windy pass, continue down the stony path until you reach the river. Eventually, you end up in a flat land from where the course is pretty easy. In a short while, set foot in the scenic Tokyu settlement with the Thakchiu Khola river running through it and small houses, Chorten, Mani walls, and stupas alongside. You may witness the locals engaged in barley harvesting with the amazing views of Dhaulagiri (8,167m/26,795ft) mountain towering behind. After reaching Tokyu and settling down, visit the nearby Champa Monastery. It is a significant Tibetan Buddhist monastery decorated with statues of Sakyamuni Buddha and hermit Guru Rimpoche.
Overnight stay in Tokyu.
After breakfast, begin your short and easy trek to Moran. The flat trail goes to the south towards Do Tarap. It is regarded to be the highest altitude human settlement in Nepal at an altitude of 4,080m. It is amazing to witness how the influence of Buddhist religion shapes people's day-to-day lifestyle, traditions, and culture. The houses are constructed in an architectural way, built underground with only a small area peeking beyond the surface to tackle the cold wind. The people are welcoming and friendly but are unaware of the changes in the rest of the world.
Continue your walk from the village and visit the Crystal Mountain School on the way along with the Tarap Health post, which are recent developments in the area. Just above the Tarap settlement, there is the significant Ribo Bumpa Monastery, known to be 1000 years old. There is a high statue of Guru Rimpoche. It is the lower Dolpo trekking trail if you take it to the south of Do Tarap. However, we will be heading east from Tarap.
Take a slow descent to the Shipchock and Dhoro villages. At Dhoro, visit the peculiar red-roofed Dhoro Monastery. You'll witness images of Guru Rimpoche, Green Tara, and Vajrasattva, which are some of the significant figures in the Buddhist religion. From there, take a gradual ascend to a grassy meadow towards Moran campsite, where you might see rare blue sheep grazing far in the cliffs.
Overnight stay in Moran.
You will be crossing the third high pass of the trip, Jhyarkoi La Pass, on this day which is not as tough as the first two passes. However, wake up early before dawn to begin your trek to avoid the harsh wind during the day. The first phase of the hike will take a gradual ascend to a canyon with impressive rock formations. Along the way, follow a watercourse through a steep and narrow path. It is crucial to watch your step as you approach the steep pass along the zig-zag trail. A high pile of stone and decorative prayer flags will signify that you have reached the high pass.
From the top of the pass, you are offered views of the stunning Dolpo Himal, Churen Himal (7,385m/24,229ft), and Mt. Dhaulagiri. After enjoying the sights, make a descent to the campsite, which takes a couple of hours. Along the way, you might witness Blue Sheep/Baral searching keenly for food in the dry land. This part of the national park is home to some birds like Mountain Finches and Redstart. The campsite is not a designated area, but it is near a water source and flat land.
Overnight stay at the campsite.
Yet another tiring but exciting day awaits as you trek to the fourth high pass, Mo La Pass. Begin walking to the Upper Panzang valley, along the trail towards Mo La, where you might witness griffon vultures circling, searching for carcasses. Other wildlife includes golden eagles, Lammergeiers, larks, marmots, and many yaks. You might be lucky enough even to spot a blue sheep in the blue sheep valley.
The trek is easier than the other days, and the trail is daily straight with just a couple of ups and downs. Climb to the top of the pass adorned with prayer flags and stacked stones. The views are as mesmerizing as can be. After enjoying the pleasantries, take a descent down through a grassy path for a short while. Have lunch while enjoying the mountain views.
Continue towards a ravine, then onwards an entrance to Kani village, then to Chharka town. The town is more advanced than others in this region as there is a school, a shopping center, and numerous lodges. Stock up on supplies from the supermarket if you are running out. The picturesque town in the remote location has also gained a place in Eric Valli's movie, Himalaya. After settling down, head to the nearby monastery to witness the ancient architecture and religious significance. Almost all of the people residing here are Buddhist, with only a small percentage of people identifying as Hindu.
Overnight stay in Chharka.
After breakfast, leave the last habitation, Chharka, before reaching another settlement, Ghami, three days later. You are surrounded by nothing but nature and wildlife. In the initial phase of the long trek, walk towards a bridge on a route not frequently used by the locals, who instead prefer the northern riverbank route. The terrain sees a drastic change heading to canyons taking ascends and descends.
A landslide has blanketed the trail in many areas, so you might need to cross the river. Have your lunch at the Chharka Riverside with possible sights of Himalayan Vultures flying above. Then continue your trek to the southern side of the river. Keep your hopes up high as tourists in the past have noticed snow leopards in the higher altitude here, along with blue sheep herds. Keeping your eyes open to these possibilities, head to the wide valley beside the Nakhkham Khola river. Near the river bed, set camp for the night and take some much-needed rest.
Overnight stay in Nakhkham Khola campsite.
Begin your trek by climbing through the tough terrain, then follow the river. The trail is less frequently used to be very careful while following your guide. The hillside is home to Tibetan snowcocks, among other wildlife. Head to the wide-open arena in the valley, the high camp, a base to the Ghami La High Pass that you will cross the next day.
The weather conditions and availability of water sources will define where your camp is to be set for the night. The high camp offers views of the surrounding high hills and mountains. After settling down, opt for a short walk around to explore the area and acclimatize for the next day.
Overnight stay in High Camp.
Today is an exciting and challenging day of the trip as you will cross the fifth and final high pass, Ghami La Pass, which is also the highest point of the entire trek. Take a hike up the hill for the initial phase of the trek. You might witness snow leopard tracks as well since this is a high-altitude area. The views of the entire valley and Tibetan plateau far beyond look amazing near the Nakhkham Khola trail. There are many high-rising boulders in the path towards the pass, and the lower end of the high pass is quite long.
After a long and tiring climb on the distinct trail, you reach the top of the pass. Stacked stones represent that you have reached the top of the pass. Although tough, the trek is well worth it. The views of the valley below and the distant mountain range coving the area look surreal. After enjoying the views, take a descent downhill through high boulders into a grassy hillside. Take a descent further until you reach the riverside, where you stop for the night. After the tough, long, yet triumphant trek, relax at your campsite, enjoying mesmeric views and the sound of the river flowing.
Overnight stay in a campsite beyond Ghami La Pass.
The trek today is long, but the trail is fairly forgiving. Strive to reach the nearest settlement, Ghami, by tomorrow. Today, begin your trek down to the Ghami Khola that is shallow and easy to cross. Continue your walk to the east and enjoy your lunch in the river bed. After a while, head to a narrow trail across the hillside, then a steady and short climb, you will take you to a ridge from where snow-capped Dhaulagiri looks beautiful.
Take a descent to your campsite with a steep walk crossing a small boulder then traversing around the hillside. Take a dramatic drop on the steep gorge while enjoying the views. The waterfalls look amazing as it cascades down high rocks. We will set the camp in a wide area for the night.
Overnight stay at a campsite on the way to Ghami.
Early in the morning, begin your trek, finally to Ghami settlement. As you start your walk, you come across a few sights of human existence and a small monastery that you can explore. While some peaks are covered with heaps of snow, others remain partially naked and rocky. The river will be gushing below. Passing the snaky trail to the hillside, sometimes narrow and steep, finally set foot at Ghami.
Ghami is filled with terraced fields where locals grow buckwheat and barley. It is green and looks distinct from all the desert-like landscape that you saw throughout the trek. There are small houses predominantly painted white. As it is a windy area, the rooftops are covered with sticks. Surrounded by green hills and snow-capped mountains, this is a picturesque village in Upper Mustang. The streets are dusty, and the settlement looks like it is stuck in time.
After settling down, take a stroll in the streets and visit the monasteries adorned with prayer flags. Stones are stacked up to make a pathway into the village area. Locals are seen busy with producing vegetation and grazing their domesticated animals.
Overnight stay in Ghami.
After the long and tiring trek for about seventeen days, pack up your belongings and take a drive to Jomsom in lower Mustang. The long drive feels almost heavenly as you hop from one village to the next. Along the way, there are high red cliffs with small caves, a testament to the ancient setters in the Mustang region. Pass by the villages of Syangbochen, Chele, and the mythical Kagbeni.
Jomsom is located south of Ghami in the Kali Gandaki valley. It is the commercial hub of the Mustang region with facilities of an airstrip. It is also abundant in apple farming, so locals sell their sweet apples in the main street that you certainly must try. In the evening, interact with the locals, enjoy locally brewed apple drinks and local meals.
Overnight stay in Jomsom.
In the morning, you will be transferred to the Jomsom airport for your departure to Pokhara. As you fly from Jomsom, observe the views of Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167m/26,795ft) and Mt. Nilgiri (7,061m/23,166ft). Heading towards Pokhara, the sights of Mt. Macchapuchre and Annapurna become prominent.
Upon reaching Pokhara, board on another flight back to Kathmandu. The terrain sees a change from green hills and close-up mountains to city life with tall buildings and crowded streets.
After landing, you will be transferred to your hotel in Thamel for refreshment. Take some rest, then head out to the streets of Thamel in the evening. Enjoy souvenir shopping in the numerous shops lined up across the street. Pashmina shawls, Dhaka hats, and Thangka paintings are popular choices among tourists. At night feast on the different cuisines that you had been missing throughout the trekking days.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Kathmandu.
Sadly, it is time to say goodbye to the beautiful country of Nepal after an amazing Five High Pass trek in Dolpo and Mustang.
After enjoying breakfast, you will be driven to the Tribhuvan International airport by our representatives. As we bid you a hearty farewell, cherish the amazing memories you had in the off-beat trail of the Dolpo region, also crossing the high passes towards Mustang. If you wish to embark on yet another adventure in the rustic settings of Nepal in the future, feel free to get in touch with us.
The Dolpo to Mustang Trek with Five High Passes is a difficult to challenging trek and suitable only for experienced high-altitude trekkers with enough time, budget, and fit physique to visit the demanding lower Himalayan trail of western Nepal.
The beginning of August until the end of October is the best time for Dolpo to Mustang Trek.
Early spring and late autumn may not be a good time due to unpredictable snowfall. This could result in it being very difficult to cross the high passes at this time of year.
As most Dolpo to Mustang Trek lies in the rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri Himal Range, it receives little or no rain, including when other parts of the country are under monsoon rain conditions. Partly due to this, this area is a high-altitude desert.