People and Lifestyle of Lower Dolpo
The population of Lower Dolpo is low due to its remoteness/how far it is from the nearest city. Those who live there, though, are exceptionally friendly and helpful. They welcome guests warmly and live up to the saying that ‘guest is god.’ They rely on locally grown potatoes, barley, corn, and buckwheat for sustenance. They are known to be diligent, disciplined workers, and recently, the younger generations are usually sent to Kathmandu or Nepalgunj for a better education. Both the young and old folks are known to be incredibly kind, helpful humans.
Lower Dolpo Trek Permit
Two permits are required to trek into Lower Dolpo. The first permit is from the Nepal Tourism Board, which costs $20 for the first week and $5 per day for additional days. Also, the Lower Dolpo Trek falls within Shey Phoksundo National Park, and the national park entry fee is $30 per person. The permit from NTB can be purchased in Kathmandu from the Nepal Tourism Board office. Make sure you bring your passport. The national park permit can be bought at the entrance to Shey Phoksundo National Park as well as the national park office in Kathmandu. It is better to buy both permits in Kathmandu to make the trek smoother. However, we manage both permits for you, and they are included in the cost of the trek.
The Trekking Trail in Lower Dolpo Trek
The trekking trail around the Lower Dolpo area is well-managed these days. In the lower area of the trek, you’ll walk on a road (though there aren’t any cars). The rest of the way, the path follows an age-old trail built and maintained by the locals. Some parts of the trail, like the Numa La and Baga La Passes, are quite narrow, so be careful during these parts. The trail leads through villages and completely desolate wilderness areas, so you’ll experience a diversity of landscapes. After reaching Shey Phoksundo Lake, you join the same trail as the Upper Dolpo Trek for two days, and then the trail widens and mellows out to Dunai for the last bit of the trek.
Required Physical Fitness level for this Trek
Lower Dolpo Trek is considered a moderate-level trek in the trans-Himalayan area of the Dolpo district. The trek requires a good level of fitness to have a successful journey. If you have regular hiking experience, just try to maintain that before departing for your trek by doing some up and downhill walking. The trails are manmade and there are significant elevation changes, so it’s best to do some training beforehand (especially if you don’t have much prior trekking experience).
It helps to hike in some mountains near your home or do some cardio at your local gym to build your stamina. Please consult your doctor or a trainer to get a more personalized fitness regimen to follow. As mentioned, if you have previous experience, training just helps you have a more comfortable trek. We recommend starting training for about 8 weeks before your departure date.
Hardest on the Lower Dolpo Trek
The hardest day on the Lower Dolpo Trek is Day 10 when you trek from Numa La Base Camp to Dhanighar via Numa La (5310 meters). Another challenging day is the following one – Day 11. On this day, you trek from Dhanghar to Temche via the Baga La Pass (5170 meters). These two days are the most difficult because of the drastic changes in altitude. Both mornings require an early start to get the best weather. Have no fear though, after days of preparation and acclimatization, these climbs are manageable and moreover, they are super fun and exciting.
What should I do if I get sick on the trail?
Please don’t be too worried about getting sick on the trail! All problems come with a solution and our team is always ready to solve them as quickly as possible. If you do experience symptoms of altitude sickness, please share them so you can continue the trek safely. Please don’t hesitate to tell our guide when you have any sort of problem. They are always happy to help! The guide will take the necessary action according to your symptoms/level of sickness. If it is a minor issue, the guide will take care of you and might recommend staying somewhere for another night to rest. If it is a bigger problem, the guide will take you to the nearest hospital.
Geography of Lower Dolpo:
Dolpo is the largest district in Nepal and is a situation in the Far Western side of the country. Dolpo is bordered by Tibet to the north, Mustang to the east, and Myagdi, Jagarkot, and Rukum districts to the south. There are 23 village development communities in the district. Much of the Dolpo region is taken up by the Himalayas, with forests in the lower region. Along the Lower Dolpo Trek route, there are 6 waterfalls. There are fewer flatlands in the area, and the flatlands that exist are where the villages are. The only piece of infrastructure that connects Dolpo to the rest of Nepal is a road leading to the airport of Juphal from Dunai.
Geographical Categorized :
Alpine Zone: It covers nearly 8% land area
Subtropical Zone: It covers very little area
Temperate Zone: It covers a bit more than the Subtropical area
Trans-Himalayan Zone: It covers 70% of the land area
Culture and Festivals of Lower Dolpo:
The villages along the Lower Dolpo Trek have a rich culture with unique festivals. In the southern part of the Lower Dolpo Trek, villages are a beautiful mix of different ethnic groups. They are mostly Hindus who speak Nepali and other local languages. In the higher regions, most people are ethnically Tibetan. They speak their own language, follow their own religion, and have their own festivals. If you take the Lower Dolpo Trek at any time, there is a good chance your trip will coincide with one of the many festivals. Here is a list of festivals celebrated in the Lower Dolpo region:
Chaitey is the 12th month of the Nepali calendar and Dashain is the major festival for Hindus. The purpose of Dashain is to pay homage to Lord Ram. It is celebrated by eating delicious food, singing, dancing, playing games, and most importantly spending time with your family.
Vijaya Dashami ( Dashain):
Dashain is the greatest, most celebrated festival for Nepalese people. It is celebrated in every corner of Nepal. It happens in the month of October and lasts 15 days. During Dashain, all family members get together, eat lots of meat and other delicious delicacies, play cards, receive tika blessings from the elders, and spend quality family time together.
Tihar is the second biggest festival in Nepal – primarily celebrated by Hindu people. Also, known as ‘the Festival of Lights,’ Tihar lasts 5 days. On each day, something new is worshipped. For example, crows, dogs, cows, oxen, and finally, brothers, all have their own day of worship. All brothers are blessed by their sisters so that they have a long and healthy life. Then, brothers give gifts to their sisters. Like Dashain, Tihar is celebrated with the good company of people’s families.
Maghe is the 10th month of the Nepalese calendar, which typically falls on or around January 14th. Maghe Sankranti is celebrated with a grand gathering of family members, eating yams/sweet potatoes, sel roti (typical Nepalese fried bread), and other delicious foods while singing and dancing. This festival marks a farewell of winter and a welcoming of the spring season in Nepal. Specifically, the Magar community is associated with this festival – singing and dancing in their villages in Nepal’s middle hills.
Chye Chu takes place in the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar. A ritual is performed by the head Buddhist lama before the winter migration so that the local villagers have good luck in the lowlands. This ‘festival’ is very fascinating and is specific to the Dolpo region.
Celebrated in the month of December, this festival is the Dolpo equivalent of marking the New Year – similar to Lhosar for Tibetans. Chaigu is celebrated for 13 days and on the final day, the head lama looks up at the starry sky and performs rituals. This holiday is celebrated specifically in the Dolpo region.
Chaitu falls in the month of Chaitra (the 12th month in the Nepali calendar), which is the month of March in the English calendar. This festival, believe it or not, is simply dedicated to rest and relaxation. Because the monsoon season requires a lot of labor, Chaite allows people to take a nice rest before the hard work. During this time, instead of working in the fields, people spend time with their families and neighbors while eating delicious foods, dancing, and singing. Like Chaigu, Chaite is celebrated exclusively in this area.
Keja festival takes place in the first month of the Nepali calendar, Baisakh, which is April in the English calendar. Keja commemorates the onset of spring in Nepal and is especially celebrated by and for the ladies. During this festival, women get together, make bread and other foods, dance together, and play games.
As there is a festival for ladies, there is also one for the gents. Yacha falls in the month of Bhaisakh (April in the English calendar). It marks the start of spring and the return of the local ancestor god, Chyopta, from the Terai region. The people of Dolpo practice a mix of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Po, and this holiday is mostly influenced by the latter. During this festival, locals make triangular buckwheat bread and offer it to their god. Why triangular bread? Because Chyopta stayed for a long time in the Terai, he ate a lot of rice, so they wanted to welcome him back with their local buckwheat bread. It is an exciting celebration for young boys as they play with each other and practice their archery skills. Every year, an archery competition takes place and a special prize is given to the best archer!
Shrawan Purney and Bhadure Purney:
Shrawan Purney and Bhadure Purney happen in the 4th and 5th months of the Nepali calendar. In the English calendar, this is during July and August. Purney, meaning full moon, is a special time in Shamanistic religions. During this very auspicious festival, the Dhami (Shaman) travel for long distances to return for the full moon. They perform dances with their typical dresses. For 2 to 3 days, devotees visit the shamans’ homes bearing flowers and fruits. They tell the shamans details about their birth and then the shaman predicts their future and gives them advice on their life.
Lower Dolpo Trekking Cost:
The Lower Dolpo Trek cost includes all accommodation, food, and transportation as given in the itinerary. If you’ve looked at the Upper Dolpo Trek, you’ll notice that this one is much cheaper. This is because the Upper Dolpo Trek lies in a restricted area, which requires a more expensive permit. Compared to other packages like the Everest Base Camp or Annapurna Base Camp Trek, the Lower Dolpo Trek is a bit pricier due to the fact that you have to fly there and it is a camping trek. On camping treks, we have to carry our own food, tents, etc., but the experience is definitely worth it. Nowhere else in Nepal can you experience the unique culture, silent trails, and the glorious Shey Phoksundo Lake.