TrekkingChallenging, Hard, Moderate

Upper Dolpo Trekking

Based on 5 Reviews
US$ 5450 $5650

Dolpo region is the most remote and least developed district in Nepal. Although a few anthropologists and geographers had explored the region, the entire district was closed to trekkers until 1989 when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organized trekking groups. Peter Matheson’s book – The Snow Leopard and Snell grove – Himalayan pilgrimage has contributed to the mystique and attraction of Dolpo.

Dolpo, situated in Nepal’s far west, was only recently opened to trekkers. This is where you find the stunning Phoksundo Lake, celebrated as the jewel of Dolpo. The people here trace their origins to Tibet, and their culture is a window of the tradition as practiced on the roof of the world, centuries ago. The elusive snow leopard is a famous denizen of Dolpo. The rare cat has acquired the status of a mere legend. Thus it’s not only the scenery that attracts trekkers to Dolpo, but it’s also the chance to see the west part of Nepal.

Nepal government putting in 1st priority to get road access to remote this region, they already started building the road and connect with the rest of Nepal.

Navigate Outdoor offer  Dolpo circuits trek in the region for short vacation.

Eco- friendly & respect local

Now we are facing a major challenge in keeping our mountain pristine and wilderness. Navigate outdoor is committed to the “Leave No Trace Principle” (Pack in – Pack out). We carry what we need and bring out litter with us. Cooking is done by kerosene, so we don’t use precious firewood and respect the local culture.

  • Destination:Dolpo Region, Nepal
  • Trip Grade:Challenging, Hard, Moderate
  • Max Elevation:5550m.
  • Total Duration:22 - 27days
  • Best Time:June - Oct
  • Best option for camping trek: 5 star

Outline Itinerary

  • Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu transfer to hotel.
  • Day 02: Sightseeing in Kathmandu.
  • Day 03: Fly to Nepalgunj and stay.
  • Day 04: Fly Nepalgunj- Juphal to Dunai 3hrs.
  • Day 05: Trek Dunai to Chhepka 5-6 hours alt 2678.
  • Day 07: Trek Chhepka to Amchi Hospital alt 30130m.
  • Day 08: Trek Amchi Hospital to Phoksundo Lake camp alt 3700m 4 - 5 hour.
  • Day 09: Rest day explore around.
  • Day 10: Trek to Phoksundo Khola Camp alt 3750m 4hours.
  • Day 11: Trek to Mandala Camp alt 4,570m 4 hour and camping.
  • Day 12: Rest day
  • Day 13: Trek to Nangdalo La pass alt 5350m & trek to Shey Gompa alt 4280m.
  • Day 14: Trek to – Sela La pass alt 5094m & trek to Namgung alt 4,3860m 7 hours.
  • Day 15: Trek Namgung to Namdo Gompa alt 3840m 6 hours.
  • Day 16: Trek Namdo Gumpa to Khoma La alt 4460m and to Khomagaon alt 4210m 6hrs and camping.
  • Day 17: Trek Khomagaon to Shimengaon 3885m 5 hours.
  • Day 18: Trek Pu Gompa to Tinjegaon alt 4110m 8 hour.
  • Day 19: Trek Tinjegaon to Kharka alt 4500m. 6 -7 hours.
  • Day 20: Rest day.
  • Day 21: Trek Yak Kharka to Sangda Phedi alt 51140m.
  • Day 22: Trek Sangda Phedi to Sangda/Santa alt 3909m. 6-7 hours.
  • Day 23: Trek Sangda to Phale/Phalyak Gaon alt 3175m 6-8 hours and camping.
  • Day 24: Trek to Jomsom alt 2670m 4 hour.
  • Day 25: Early morning fly to Pokhara and fly to Kathmandu stay.
  • Day26: Sightseeing in Kathmandu.
  • Day 27: Transfer to international airport final departure.

Detail Itinerary

Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu transfer to hotel.
You're arriving in a beautiful boutique small airport in Kathmandu. After you finished your visa procedure grab you baggage walk to the Arrival where our staff stand by with display board with your name. Drive to the hotel in the main city of Kathmandu Valley, depending on your arrival time and travel duration we'll plan accordingly to have small briefing at your hotel and give you free time to relax and refresh.
Day 02: Sightseeing in Kathmandu.
Full day sightseeing in the UNESCO heritage sights in the Kathmandu guided tour after your breakfast till late afternoon. At the same time we finished our last minute permit issue and government procedure for our trip. We'll provide a duffel bag to pack your expedition's gear including your personal clothing at our pre departure meeting at your hotel lobby. The area you are staying its really convenient and easy access to stock some personal items such as sweets, chocolate and nuts as well as trekking gear.
Day 03: Fly to Nepalgunj and stay.
We've whole morning to organize our baggage and other personal needs. We take afternoon flight to Nepalgunj which is just 45 minutes short flight to the regional airport in Nepalgunj, and transfer to hotel, refresh and have a small cultural experience in the evening Rickshaw tour to the local market interact with local, test some local tea and back to hotel. We'll be accommodating with our guide and our guide will arrange your dinner and evening tea etc.
Day 04: Fly Nepalgunj- Juphal to Dunai 3hrs.
Make an early start to the airport for the 40-minute flight to the unpaved dirt airstrip Juphal (2475m). There isn't much to see, we start downhill on trial, which descends between terrace fields. The trail turns into a shallow gully before once again heading out to terrace fields and descending a bit more steeply. You will a small village besides the Thuli Bheri Khola (2080m), which is takes about 45 to one hour. At the river, follow the broad dirt track that was built as a service road between the airstrip and sprawling district headquarters at Dunai (2140m) total 2 an half hour to 3 hours trek. Where're going spent overnight  in the local guesthouse/ simple teahouse.
Day 05: Trek Dunai to Chhepka 5-6 hours alt 2678.
Dunai is the administrative center for whole Dolpo, as well the main trading center. Cross suspension bridge of Thuli Bheri Khola of the right bank and trail turn to left that heads upstream along a denuded hillside to the confluence of the Suli Khola.At the Sulighat we need to register the national park permit an the park office. The trail follow the Suli Khola ups and downs better  than old route via Rahagaon which 600m above. Reach Raktang (2421m) where there is a teashop and trail cross the left bank of the Suli Khola. We'll be crossing suspension bridge few times before reaching Ringmo village. Trail begins to climb for an hour to Chhekpa (2720m), there some teahouse and campsite. We can continue about 20 minutes for excellent campsite pass Chhekpa if we have time.
Day 07: Trek Chhepka to Amchi Hospital alt 30130m.
Today we take the trail on both sides of the valley with the crossing on brigdes. In some places we walk near the river and at other times on a narrow path high up in the gorge. We see forest of horse chestnut, larch and birch with bamboo further up in valley. After lunch the valley widens out and we pass river confluence. Pugma Khola flows from Jumla and we follow the Phoksundo Khola. Heading north we reach a bridge that leads to Amchi hospital. Amchi is the name for traditional Tibetan medicine. The total trek is about 6-7 hours.
Day 08: Trek Amchi Hospital to Phoksundo Lake camp alt 3700m 4 - 5 hour.
After leaving camp we pass a place called Palam and this is another winter settlement. We continue ascending for another hour to ridge at about 3800meters. From here we see the highest waterfall in Nepal following out from Phoksundo Lake. The trail descends through a birch forest and we reach Ringmo village. There are chortens and mani walls at the entrance of the village. It is a short walk to the camp on the shores of beautiful Alpine Phoksundo Lake. We cover around 6 KM.
Day 09: Rest day explore around.
We have two nights at Phoksundo Lake an altitude 3,700m for essential acclimatization. During the day we explore Ringmo village and Bonpo Buddhist monastery. Bonpos circulate chortens anticlockwise rather than clockwise as done by Buddhist and Hindus.
Day 10: Trek to Phoksundo Khola Camp alt 3750m 4hours.
Beyond Ringmo we enter Upper Dolpo where it is necessary to have the restriction area permit. We follow the western side of Phoksundo Lake along a narrow cliff trail. This is the Devils trail the one of the dangerous cliff trail followed by Thinle in Valli's film Himalaya. The path ascends to a ridge with views over the turquoise lake. From here you can see the peaks of Kanjiroba (6612m). Norbung Kang (6085m) and,Jhyarko Dingla (5892m). We descend through stands of birch trees to our campsite on the northen shore of Phoksundo Lake; we cover around 6km takes about 4-5hours.
Day 11: Trek to Mandala Camp alt 4,570m 4 hour and camping.
Leaving camp we follow a wide valley with braided tributaries of Phoksundo Khola after two  hours of walking through pine and birch forest we pass a place called Chunemba. We lunch a beautiful river confluence. Afterwards we follow a trail over a grassy ridge to avoid the narrow gorge. This area produces a lot of Cordyceps siensis this also known as Yarchagomba. The fungus is a medician used by practitioners of Tibetan and Chinese medicine. In May and June people travel here to collect Yachagomba. There is a spectacular view of Kanjiroba (6612m) from the camp site. The longest day 16km and takes around 8-9 hours long day with beautiful trek.
Day 12: Rest day
It's very important rest and acclimatization at the base camp of Kang La (5380m) pass nest day. This also allows our guide a chance to check the condition of the pass and break trail through the snow if required.
Day 13: Trek to Nangdalo La pass alt 5350m & trek to Shey Gompa alt 4280m.
From Camp we cross the river then walk up grassy slopes to join the valley approach Kang La (Nangda La). There are several palces to cross the pass and the one to the right is often snowy. Most years we cross the pass further to the left. This trail is on loose scree so it is good idea to bring your hiking poles. We start a bit earlier than normal day we want to cross the pass before the noon Kang La pass at an altitude 5,380m, takes around 3 hours. The descent from the pass is on scree making for a rapid descent down to Hubajung Khola where we have lunch. The valley narrows to a gorge made of stratified orange rock. After an hour we pass a long mani wall and shortly after She gompa is visible down the valley. Shy is at a river confluence under crystal Mountain. This peak is so called because of the veins of quartz.. It is the holies mountain in inner Dolpo and known as the younger brother to Mt. Kailash in Tibet. Pilgrims make a kora (circuit) of Crystal Mountain, and according to the lama this takes them 12 hours. We camp just below the monastery in a grassy area with several herders' huts nearby. We trek 10kmtakes about 6-7 hours.
Day 14: Trek to – Sela La pass alt 5094m & trek to Namgung alt 4,3860m 7 hours.
From Shey we head East following Sephu Khola. We pass many Mani walls and isolated fields. there are also several seasonal settlements for Yak herders known as doksas. One reaching the summit of Saldang La we enjoy panoramic views. You can see east into Mustang and west to Crystal Mountain and Kanjiroba. The landscape is like the arid Tibetan plateau with folded strata visible in the rocks. We descend from the pass keeping to the left. The dusty trail has little vegetation apart from a few isolated pin cushion mosses. After a descend to a stream we contour further until you see the red and white gomba on cliffs above Namgung. There are stone houses in the village as well as the monastery. Our camp is little outside the village below the entrance chortens and mani wall. Today we cover about 11km and takes 6-7hours.
Day 15: Trek Namgung to Namdo Gompa alt 3840m 6 hours.
Trail traverses high above the village there are good views back Saldang La crossed yesterday. After a few hours of contouring we reach a crest.  From here we see Saldang village below and mountains in Tibet to the North. Inhabitants of Dolpo lead a precarious life in this harsh environment. They grow what they can from this dry land as well grazing large numbers of Yaks and goats. To make up their shortfall in food supply they trade with Tibet using large caravans of Yaks. In the past they traded salt for grain. This is supplimanted by manufactured Chinese goods and Yarchagompa collect in Dolpa area. We have lunch in Saldang village. Afterwards we take the high level trail to Karang village. In June time the villagers will be busy ploughing and planting their fields. We continue our trek to Namdo Sugugaon where camp.  we cover around 15 to 16km and takes 7-8 hours.
Day 16: Trek Namdo Gumpa to Khoma La alt 4460m and to Khomagaon alt 4210m 6hrs and camping.
Today is one of the highlights of the trek following one of the most culturally interesting regions on the trek visiting a valley closed to Tibet rarely seen by other trekkers. This valley is very rich in wildlife, look out for herds of blue sheep. musk deer, Himalayan fox and snow leopard. Shortly after Camp we cross the new bridge over Panazang Khola to the north bank. At Yangur village we will visit Dolpo's oldest gompa surrounded by mani walls and nine chortens, after the village the valley narrows to a beautiful gorge with orange and yellow rock. Tonight we Camp in a field on the outskirts of Mischangaon village also known as Mugaoan to Khomagaon. We hike around 11km takes about 6-7 hours
Day 17: Trek Khomagaon to Shimengaon 3885m 5 hours.
After looking around the local village we start ascending the slopes behind on a good trail up to Muri La. From the top of the pass there are fantastic views over to Dhaulagiri. You can see the peaks Tshu Kalpo Kang Serku Dholam and Tripura Thumba. Our staffs prepares lunch and choose the best place where you can rest and have lunch relax at least 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the schedule and our pace. The beautiful landscape and geography makes your day always curious and interesting, keep your camera handy you might encounter with wildlife or something really rare animals, birds.
Day 18: Trek Pu Gompa to Tinjegaon alt 4110m 8 hour.
After leaving camp it takes about an hour to walk down the valley to Shimen in the Panzang valley. This is one of the four main valleys in Upper Dolpo. The others being Tarap, Nangkhong and Tsharka. This village has groves of willow and a mani wall over 600m in length. Nearly there are fields of buckwheat, barley and potatoes. After lunch the valley widens out. After several hours we pass through the hamlet of Phalwa. Tibetans live in this place where the men have red sashes in their hair. Soon after we arrived in Tinje. This is one of the larger villages in Upper Dolpo located in a wide valley. There are extensive fields with two gompas and an old fort. Today we trek about 18 km in 8 hours.
Day 19: Trek Tinjegaon to Kharka alt 4500m. 6 -7 hours.
We follow Panzang Khola past ruins of an old settlement on the other side of the river. After two hours we arrive at the river confluence where we take the left tributary Kehen Khola. After lunch at the grassy meadow we continue hiking up the lefy bank of Kehen Khola. We pass through several small streams and arrive at the camp at Kharka. Day 19: Trek Kharka Mo La passes alt 5027m and trek to Charka Bhot alt 4300m. 7 - 8 hours camping. We leave camp after an early breakfast for the longest day of the trip. We hike up the valley and after half hour cross Kehen Khola. Usually in May we can use rocks hops in the river to keep our boots dry. If you are here in the autumn season you should bring sandals as the water level is likely to be higher at that of year. We start the climb to the pass by reaching a cairn at 4950m. The valley widens again with many yaks grazing on the extensive pastures. It takes another an hour to reach the summit of the Mo La (5027m) pass where we are rewarded with a beautiful amazing breathtaking views, we can see massif appears on the right. We start descend its quite long distance   takes about 3 hours to Chhakra Bhot where we camp. We trek total 11km in 8 hours.
Day 20: Rest day.
Today we have a rest day for the group and trek crew. Explore Chhakra Bhot and take some time to relax before the final section of the trek out to Jomsom. In the village we can visit the two gompas, both Buddhist and Bonpo, the main two religion of Dolpo region. Day 21: Trek to Charka Bhot to Yak Kharka alt 4780m. 5 hour. Shortly after leaving Chhakra Bhot village we cross Chhakra Tulsi Khola on a bridge. At the river confluence we cross another bridge to follow the left bank of Thasan Khola. After crossing a landslip zone we then descend to a grassy area for luch. After lunch we continue walking up the valley where the gorge narrows. Soon after you reach the Doksa at Noebulung Kharka. We trek about 6- 7 hours and cover 20 km.
Day 21: Trek Yak Kharka to Sangda Phedi alt 51140m.
We start early from Norbulung camp we pass through the high yak pastures of Molum Sumdo. We continue trek to Niwash La (5120m) pass and have lunch after we continue trek to Jungden La (5550m) and descends on loose screen to our camp at Sangda La to phedi. Today we trek about 8km takes about 7-8 hours with two passes.
Day 22: Trek Sangda Phedi to Sangda/Santa alt 3909m. 6-7 hours.
From camp follow Lhaonhimar Khola descend to Ghaldan Ghuldum Khola cross yama khola. The mountain vista is superb as we look towards Kali Gandaki valley and Thorong La. There are 6000m peaks including Tongu Himal and Mukot Himal. There is a steep descent from the pass on a loose, rocky trail. The longer trail to the left passes a waterfall then has a short climb to a saddle. We descend to a grassy plateau with pine trees. The trail turns to the right along a steep trail to the suspension bridge at 3900m. We have lunch by the bridge. After Lunch there is a steep climb then the trail traverses high above Kyalunpa Khola. After an hour we cross a crest with prayer flags at 4150m. We descend through a gully to cross the first tributary river at 3800m. We travers for ½ hour to the second river again crossing on rocks. Soon after you will see the entrance chorten to Sangda village/ Santa we camp. Today we trek about 10km takes about 6-7 hours.
Day 23: Trek Sangda to Phale/Phalyak Gaon alt 3175m 6-8 hours and camping.
From Santa we start climbing to the first ridge then traverse to the second ridge at 4120m. The trail descends into a U shaped beautiful valley full of grazing yaks. On the right up this valley there is the peak of Tasartse 6343m towering above. It is worth looking back up where you can now see both higher and lower Sangda La passes. It is further ½ hour to the fourth ridge where there is a good view of Kali Gandaki valley and Throng peak. At the 10th ridge called Jeula  Danda you get a spectacular vista. You can Thorong Peak, Nilgiri and Annapurna mountain range. After long traverse and descend to a river gorge the continue to the 11th ridge. We have views of the green fields of Phalyak where camp. We cover 20km in 7-8 hours including our lunch breaks.
Day 24: Trek to Jomsom alt 2670m 4 hour.
For our last day walking on this trek we follow the trail down through the main valley. we cross Kali Gandaki river and walk along the jeep road to Jomsom. After check in lodge you can explore the mountain town. Our cook will make a special last meal together. Later on we will hand over out tips/ gratitude to our crew as a thank you for all their hard work throughout the trek.
Day 25: Early morning fly to Pokhara and fly to Kathmandu stay.
Early morning we take flight to Pokhara and connect flight to Kathmandu. Our leader will be accommodating in entire trip and fly together to Kathmandu and transfer to the hotel.
Day26: Sightseeing in Kathmandu.
This is a one day guided sightseeing tour of the Kathmandu valley. We visit four out of the seven World Heritage sites. Your tour start from Soyanbhunath, afterward drive to Boddhist Stupa Bouddhanath have lunch at the Bouddh. After visit Hindus main temple Pashupatinath and drive to Basantpur and after sightseeing at Basantpur we walk by local market to the hotel. At the evening we walk to one of traditional restaurant enjoy the last dinner with our crew and explore the Thamel if you are fancy.
Day 27: Transfer to international airport final departure.
Transfer to Kathmandu International airport to fly back to home. Thanks for your great support and understanding.

Cost Includes

What’s not includes?

  • Fluent English Speaking experienced local expert guide.
  • Porter for the camping and chef w/kitchen helper.
  • All camping equipment (member tent 2person, kitchen tent, dining tent, and staff tent)
  • All the Transportation by private vehicle airport picks up and drops.
  • Flight to Nepalgunj – Juphal and Jomsom to Kathmandu.
  • Hotel accommodation on Bed &Breakfast (Tea /coffee) basis
  • All the Airport transfers, entrance fees to the temple , monastery and palaces
  • Trekking full board basis with trekking permit Lunch Dinner breakfast and hot drinks

Cost Excludes

What’s excludes:

  • Nature of personal expenses and insurance.
  • Personal health, travel & adventure insurance.
  • Mineral Water and Alcohol bottle beverages.
  • International flight tickets and visa fees & airport charges.
  • Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu and sightseeing in Kathmandu.

Cost and Dates

Trip Start Date Trip End Date Price Availability Book
14th April, 2020 9th May, 2020 US$5391 Available Book Now
1st May, 2020 26th May, 2020 US$5391 Available Book Now
1st June, 2020 26th June, 2020 US$5391 Available Book Now

Please be ready and keep in mind that adventure in the Himalayan Mountains requires an open & emphatic mind. During your trek you are lacking some of the basic need like attached bath, hot shower and electricity. Due to weather conditions, health issues, and other general issues of the group members or sudden natural disaster like landslide, snow storms, and other natural aspect we may to change your route. We try our best to follow our original plan when you booked your expedition, but your safety is our primary concern. In case the trip need reroute of your trek is necessary, our group leader/ guide make final call or decision. Essential Gear

  • Camera, water bottle, extra money, sunscreen, sunglasses, sunhat, hiking loose fitting shorts/ synthetic T-shirt etc.
  • Hiking boots, sports shoe, 3 to 4 pairs woolen socks, 1 pairs gloves, warm hat.
  • Day backpack 35 ltr  to 50 ltr , and a duffel bag for your clothing.
  • Warm layers, down or synthetic jackets, fleece, hiking pants, Thermals.
Create your dream trips together customize your holiday particular interest or wishes. Please do not hesitate to contact us for details and additional information about the area. We will provide a comprehensive gear list on booking.

    Landing in Nepal’s only International airport Kathmandu walk two minutes to immigration get ready for your online  visa application, having Passport, Passport size picture, change US Dollar saves your time in visa processing in the immigration. A long flight journey arriving in Nepal, keeping low expectations some delay in the baggage handling and a long line make your journey a little bit curious  want to get out of the crowd, and have a good rest in the hotel. While you walking outside of immigration, baggage claim don’t forget to buy (Nepal Telecom & Ncell) prepaid Sim card  takes a few minutes to sign approve, it makes your tour & travel vacation easier and stress free. Kathmandu valley is very small mountain valley surrounded by mountains, have interesting history, culture, diverse human culture in small area. Prepaid taxi makes your life easier no need to deal with taxi driver at the arrival, provide your information where you staying how many people are sharing transport they’ll easily accommodate your interest.       Booking Luxurious Hotel, Budge Hotels, and guesthouses you can book online or ask your agency they will book and simply add in your tour budget. Popular tourist destination is Thamel, you can get all the above accommodation options, world’s test, and fun evening walk, check local handicraft shops, small local restaurant and Nepalese cuisine. Kathmandu is worth to spend 2-3 days historic sites tour vacation would gives you glimpse of Nepalese culture, tradition and diversify of people. Bhaktapur is smallest district in Nepal with many beautiful historic places in the planet, Bhaktapur Durbar Square area, Changu Narayan, Nagarkot mountain view point short hike to Changu Narayan Temple. Staying overnight at Bhaktapur Durbar Square area great way to see night life of local people peace and Boddhanath Temple, Soyambhunath temple, Baantapur Durbar Square, Patna Durbar Square, and Pashupatinath temple all of them are UNESCO heritage sites, you can easily spent day or two even more time to check and take piture and learn Nepali culture and tradition with local guide at the sites. You can easily arrange tour guide from your hotel, and travel agency, worth to have a licensed tour leader with agency cost around $35 - $50 per day.       After your few days tour vacation, day hiking in Kathmandu valley your journey makes a lot easier to travel other part of Nepal. Your budget and time available there are many different adventure activities can do around Kathmandu, hiking Shivpuri National Forest a minute away from your hotel, climber can easily spent a few days climb limestone natural, bolted rock climbing, and indoor climbing in Thamel Kathmandu. For rafter, water adventure lover you can easily do day whitewater rafting two hours away from Kathmandu and enjoy the Himalayan Rivers and local outfit. There are many options in the close by extreme adventure, luxurious overnight stay in the resort, cultural tour and journey in Kathmandu. Nepal’s is most popular destination for trekking, mountain climbing along with whitewater expedition, cultural city tour and world heritage sightseeing. Have a great tour vacation and adventure journey in Nepal. Chura Mani Aryal

Sam & Jenn Nicholson Montana USA

Mani; Clearly you are chosen & Choose across the globe to make a lasting impact on our children. Your strength, calmness, guidance/wisdom, and patience are so evident. We will forever be grateful for the effort + Impact that you have made on our son. Thank you from our bottom of our hearts for this. It’s unbelievable. Peace & love to you forever. Sam & Jenn Nicholson Montana USA 2018.

Journeying a river: Jai Karnali, January 2020

How did river Ganga come to be?

Mythology says that there was a noble King who requested that Ganga descend from heaven to bless humanity and quench the thirst of the land and its people.
Pleased to shower the world with blessings, Ganga rushed down with such gusto that people feared that all that came in the way would be washed away. The God Shiva came to the rescue and stopped the momentum of the water with his long thick long hair. Because of this, Ganga flowed smoothly and satiated the thirst of all beings and showered blessings on the land with each drop of precious water.
Ecologists interpret this myth as a metaphor- Shiva’s thick long hair is synonymous with dense jungles that help check the floods and stop the land from washing away as the river accelerates down the slopes from the melting glaciers.

Rafting down the river Karnali in Western Nepal last month, it felt as if the myth was true! In our group of 11 people were some seasoned sailors, kayakers, river guides, and rafting experts, but a few like me had never been on a raft. I am also not a strong swimmer; so, it was an act of faith and surrender to the river and expertise of our leader Mani, and river rafting expert Manu to go on the trip.
We put the rafts in the river after about 4 hours drive up the town of Surkhet at an altitude of about 800 m. The rafts and the equipment, including the tents and rations, were supplied with the generous support of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) in the States.

This expedition was conceptualized and planned by Ravi, NOLS India Programmed Director, and Mani ( #navigateoutdoor Nepal) NOLS senior Instructor and who co-led the expedition. The two kayakers, Ganesh and Nanu Kayaks and were in the tumultuous waters of Karnali watching and guiding our rafts at each and every rapid that came along. They were plenty of challenges to varying degrees!

For the next seven days we were out on the river, and camping at some of the most beautiful banks. We witnessed a vast expanse of pristine natural habitats along the way both on land and in the waters. We parked the rafts often to take a walk over to beautiful villages and bought fresh vegetables, fish, milk and yogurt, etc. from the villagers. We savored some delicious meals in cottage eateries that you can find along the traditional walking routes of the shepherds, traders, and village folk, that connect the plains with the high Himal region in the kingdom of Nepal and beyond on the Tibetan plateau. The river crisscrossed some of the most wonderfully crafted hanging bridges on these routes as well.

We saw how the simple and rich life of fishing communities sustainably harvest the bounty of fish from the river. They fish in their dug up canoes made from tree trunks. The fish from Karnali is famous across the region and fetches amongst the highest price in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu. High value and low volume seem to be the guiding factor – it can be 2-4 days walk to sell and transport the fish, so, the fish is dried or smoked creating a very special, niche type of produce from the villages along Karnali.
Agriculture and livestock rearing is still flourishing in the villages. It was amazing to see some of the most appropriately designed dehusking, pounding, and winnowing equipment still in use – that has perhaps not changed in the last thousand years.

It is indeed a living culture that uses and maintains the landscape, in harmony with nature, using indigenous knowledge to enhance biodiversity and what we call ecosystem services. Our faith in the concept of the Gross National Happiness index was further strengthened. The common Human Development indices merely emphasize infrastructure and access to institutions such as hospitals and schools- but there is so much to be taken into account for true sustainability. While the intent is not to romanticize the old, biocultural heritage, the wisdom of the old seems to be working harmoniously and should well complement human development in a more meaningful way.
Some of the big questions being discussed in conferences and seminars across the world could be answered in a much more eco-friendly and happy way by experiencing the life and values of the community here and of other indigenous peoples across the world.

The modern idea of development as highly individualistic has become increasingly crippled with outdated notions of competition, rather than collaboration, also creating massive disparities in income and consumption of natural resources.
We could learn from the communities here, and take lessons from the past into the future: the dignity of physical work, interdependence, and interconnectedness are three principles that need to be central to human endeavor- there is no sustainability without equity and dignity.

Gradually, we descended down with the flow of the river, as it slowly calmed down in the Terai region. It’s a rich habitat for tigers, rhinoceroses, elephants, and another charismatic megafauna. The very sight of these deep jungles invokes awe. We got off the banks of the mighty Karnali at the little town of Chiso Pani.

We deflated the rafts, packed the gear, washed, and rushed to one of the many restaurants in this little town. Some of us relished the delicious fish from Karnali to their heart's content! For others like me, the restaurant served fabulous fresh greens with dal-bhat; as they say in Nepal “Dal Bhat power, 24 hours!”

May the river Karnali have a long life and continue to bless humanity as the King had anticipated in the ancient times. May present-day leaders start to wake up to the wisdom in conservation and sustainable utilization of the river, rather than damning it and threatening the sheer existence of these communities. May we all learn from the life of the people here; all the wonderful ways to weave a close-knit community and flourish together with nature.

Thanks for the whole team Chura Mani Aryal, Manohar, Nanu and Ganesh river experts, and beautiful Karnali River, and people from the river corridor.

Ajay Rastogi

Majkhali India

Ajay Rastogi,Majhkhali India

"I want to thank you and your guides and employees again for the wonderful memories I have of the Manaslu trek and the lovely side trip into the Tsum Valley. The scenery and experiences were great and I especially loved the variety of forests, the wildlife, and of course the incomparable mountain scenery. I want to add a special thank you to you for the special care you gave me when my foot and leg became very swollen. Your help and knowledge allowed me to complete the trek with minimal discomfort. I still experience the problem to a minor degree but still, look forward to further adventurous travel when the situation allows in the future. Conversations with you about Nepalese history were also an enjoyable and informative aspect of the trek".

I would like to thank Navigate Outdoor for organizing such a joyful and safe trip to the Tsum and Manaslu region. I'd like to thank Mani and his entire team to make our trip such memorable and extra care to all of us on the trekking. I really enjoyed having my own personal time exploring the side valley taking pictures and interact with local people on the trail. Mani is an experienced leader who allows space while trekking. He helped, and always available for other trekkers they need medical attention. I saw him support others and interact with them in a really professional way. I appreciated and enjoyed the 24 days trekking in the Tsum valley and Manaslu round trekking.

Nick Green Australia 2018

Nick Green,Australia


I appreciate your attitude "Anyway life comes first and business comes second and other things." I can see you are really living that motto when you tell us of the wonderful time you are having with your family.

Dane, and I really enjoyed the trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary. While I have been trekking in the Himalayas a number of times it was nice to do a trek with my son. Dane was very impressed to see the high mountains. Thanks for organizing Annapurna Base Camp trekking for me and my son Dane. Mani, I really appreciated sharing your previous experiences and telling stories about your own life and adventure career. We'll do another trip in the future. We'll share our experiences with our friends and recommended Navigate Outdoor. I can't express the joyful moment I had on the Annapurna Base camp trip you with, and felt 100% safe, thanks for taking care of us in the trekking.

Malcolm and Dane Dwyer Australia 2019

Mal & Dane,Australia

Karnali River Experience.

They say that the journey is better than the destination. That all the experiences along the way are like an accumulation of rocks along a riverbed. This story is another stone in a river.

I have known Mani Aryal for several years, meeting him in the United States, in the state of Utah. Mani and I were both on a work contract to take a group of students down Desolation & Gray Canyon on the Green River. After spending three weeks with Mani I knew that I made a paddling adventure buddy and that he would be a person that I actively stay in contact with. The years have a way of floating by with adventure and intentions. Every time I spoke to Mani he persistently invited me to Kathmandu to see his home and to float the rivers. Three years after saying “no”, I finally could say “maybe”.

Kathmandu is large in legend and small in structure. The shuttle ride from the airport is an example of whitewater: dodging potholes, must-make moves, and pure adrenaline. It’s best not to watch.

There are two options to get to the river when signing up for a Karnali River Expedition trip: 1) take the plane or 2) ride with the guides and gear on public transport. I was on a tight budget, so option #2 was the only way to go. Putting together a multiday river trip is always difficult, especially when you start combining buses, shuttles, and rendezvous. The first leg of the journey was via public transportation to Koholpur. The guides and I, hanging out at the main bus depot, loading all of the gear we would need for the next 12 days was a new experience indeed.

You see a lot of different people and livestock on the long-distance buses. Chickens and goats are not uncommon. If a woman is standing with a baby, it’s a norm to hand a baby to you, a seated passenger, to hold the child in order to give her a break.

The second half of the shuttle was a private bus to the put-in, the small village of Dungeshor that is located straight down a canyon. The route our bus driver picked was shorter to save fuel but longer because of road conditions. Our bus rocked, creaked and moaned down the road for 8 hours only to cover 85km. “Singletrack” may be a better description than “road” as there were only inches to spare between rock walls and open air.

 Sideswiping other buses, scouting rock gardens, and pushing our transport were common occurrences that quickly become norms. We reached Dungeshor after 10 pm to hastily inhale some food and beer from a generous restaurant owner who opened his doors after hours. Afterward, we set up our tents on the riverbank to welcome a solid, unwavering piece of ground to usher in some sleep.

The next morning, the guides were in their prime, having already started getting breakfast ready for everyone. Mani was no exception, greeting me with a great, white smile and a coffee to help orient my mind back to my body. The biggest surprise was all of the children hanging about camp. We were all warned not to leave our gear unattended. Later that day, I realized a carabineer walked off to hang out with the children. The guides seemed to include me that much more by laughing and sharing stories of gear gone lost.

Throughout the six days, Mani and his guides were exceptional hosts. It seemed as if they never stopped moving. Always quick to put a coffee in your hand, help you set up your campsite, or to offer a meal. Every morning they would barter with local fishermen to add an extra flair to the menu. On the water, I felt safe and involved in risk management. All ideas were heard until a plan formed to be implemented with everyone on board. The standard followed by Mani was professional.

Six months after this trip, the strongest memories I have are of traveling to and from the river. Once I had oars in my hand and a blue sky above me I knew who I was and how I got there.

The total trip duration from Kathmandu to Kathmandu was 10 days included the bus journey.

 Dan Colorado USA.

Thank you, Mani. I look forward to our next adventure.

Daniel Ives

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