Shey Phoksundo Trek, a magical journey to the land of tranquil lake

Posted May 23rd, 2022 under Blog, Special Events, Travel Guide, Trekking & Hiking,

phoksundo lake trek
Every time we share stories about Phoksundo Trek, Dolpo trail and Ringmo village, we can’t help going back to the memory lane when we were first awestruck by Peter Matthiessen’s Snow Leopard. Yes, today we are talking about the same trail to Shey Phoksundo Matthiessen took some 40 years ago – the trail that has turned many of us into a mystic!

Trail to Phoksundo Lake can still be called as off the beaten path. Traversing into the remote and wilder Himalayan area towards the beautiful holy turquoise lake Phoksundo, indulging in the majestic views of Kanjirowa massif, surrounding glaciers, dense forest around the Lake, and unspoiled beauty of Western Nepal, this beautiful adventure offers everything a visitor would  expect in his wildest dreams. The trek, however, is not just about the rugged wilderness, but also a blend of wonderful cultural spectrum of rich Bonpo heritage set against the most dramatic biodiversity of Shey Phoksundo National Park, Nepal’s largest National Park.   

Phoksundo Lake Trek

This extraordinary trek starts from Juphal, a small hill town at an altitude of 2475m. The trail descends down the motorable road and goes southeast up the valley of Thulo Bheri before winding to the village of Kalagaunda through the terraced fields and following the south bank of the Bheri River towards Dunai. The trail then follows the northern bank of the river and crosses the big suspension bridge to reach a tiny beautiful village, Sulighat, followed by Shey Phoksundo National Park check post from where it ascends along the rock-strewn route and goes further through a series of fluttering prayer flags, waterfalls, and lush greenery until it reaches Kageni. Furthermore, the trail ascends up to a winter settlement used by the people of Ringmo village through a forested path filled with big cedar and climbs up through wide meadows situated above the gorge of Phoksundo River, from where the astonishing view of high waterfall can be seen.

The route becomes easy and flat and continues through the dense forest of birch and coniferous trees until it reaches Ringmo, the settlement of flat stone houses at the foot of a big rocky cliff. As the journey moves ahead, the trail then crosses a bridge and follows the north ranger station of Phoksundo river which leads to the beautiful alpine turquoise colored freshwater lake, Phoksundo Lake at 3660m. This strikingly beautiful lake is the deepest lake of Nepal. After exploring the lake and its magnificent surrounding including Tshowa Gompa, a 900-year-old Bon monastery on a ridge above the lake, the trail retraces back to Juphal through beautiful forests, fields, and villages.

If this appeals you, maybe you should plan your next adventure to this magical land! We assure you that you will return home a happy soul. 

Suligad Waterfall Phoksundo Trek

TRIP PROFILE:

Trip days – 11 days

Trip Grade – Moderate

Max. Altitude – 3660m

Trek Type – Teahouse

Start/End – Juphal/Juphal

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Enchanting turquoise colored lake Phoksundo, the deepest lake of Nepal (145m deep)
  • Rich biodiversity of Shey Phoskundo National Park, Nepal’s biggest and the only trans-Himalayan region National Park (3555 sq. km.)
  • Unique culture of Bon-po, an ancient religion with roots in Animism and Buddhism
  • Rewarding views of mountains, monasteries, hamlets, waterfalls etc.

ITINERARY:

Day 01: Arrive in Kathmandu           

Day 02: Fly to Nepalgunj (1 hr)

Day 03: Fly to Juphal (2475m) – 30min and trek to Dunai (2140m) – 30min

Day 04: Trek to Chhepka village (2720m) – 5/6 hrs

Day 05: Trek to Jharana Waterfall (3040m) – 4/5 hrs           

Day 06: Trek to the Tibetan village of Ringmo (3640m) – 2/3hrs    

Day 07: Explore sacred Phoksundo Lake and Tshowa Gompa (3611m)

Day 08: Trek to Chhepka village (2720m) – 5/6 hrs

Day 09: Trek to Juphal (2475m) – 5/6 hrs

Day 10: Fly to Nepalgunj, Fly to Kathmandu

Day 11: Depart Kathmandu

 SOME HELPFUL INFO:

Accommodation

Shey Phoksundo trek is a wilderness trekking in remote region of Nepal. You can find tea houses in the trail but they are very basic with modest facilities. You will get twin sharing room consisting of beds with pillow and blankets. There won’t be attached bathroom with hot shower, but they will provide hot water with some extra charge.

Communication

There will be network of NCELL and NTC in lower altitude but after reaching higher altitude the network doesn’t work properly. If you want to get connected throughout your trek, we recommend you to get rental satellite phone.

Food

You will have your meals at the teahouses. They offer nutritious and hygienic food with limited variety of dishes. Normally, they serve Nepali food (Daal Bhaat – rice, lentil and curry), noodles, pasta, chapattis, omelets, bread, porridge etc. Since, the food option is limited, it’s better to carry instant food/drink like soup, instant noodles, dry fruits and nuts, coffee, juice, herbal tea etc.

Water

Water is important while trekking. You should probably drink 3-4 liters per day for hydration. But there is no need to worry as you will be provided enough filtered water. You can also buy bottled water in lower altitude but it’s a good idea to bring your own bottles and refill it.

Electricity and charging

Electricity and charging facility can’t be very reliable in remote areas. Some teahouses have charging facilities and you need to pay extra for it. So, having a power bank is handy.

Clothing and equipment

Shey Phoksundo trek is an adventurous trek in the Dolpo region which lies in the higher altitude. So, you need to be properly geared with warm and comfortable clothes, and support equipment. Trekking gears include hiking boots, thermals, down jacket, hiking pants, caps, wind cheater, gloves etc. Since, this is not a technical trekking, you will need some basic accessories and equipment only like trekking poles, sunglasses, torchlight, water bottles etc. All gears can be purchased or rented in Kathmandu at reasonable price. You can get both branded as well as imitation items. Even the imitation items are good to go.

Permits:

As you trek in the protected area, you need to get some permits.

  • Shey Phoksundo National Park: Approx. $30 (Per Person)
  • Upper Dolpo restricted area permit: $500 (per person for 10 days )
  • Lower Dolpo special permit : $20 (per person per week)

Best time to travel:

The best time for traveling is Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to May). The weather is clear and you can get the best views. During Spring, the trail gets filled with rhododendron bloom and wild flowers, making it a piece of heaven. And autumn is always marked with great visibility. It’s cold during winter (December to February), but traveling is possible as the trail doesn’t go beyond 3600m. Traveling during summer and monsoon (June to August) is possible as Shey Phoksundo lies in the Trans Himalayan region meaning it receives very less rainfall and also it is less humid. But the chance of flight cancellation and delay is common during this time due to rain in the rest of the part of the country. So, be prepared with contingency days. 

Trek Difficulty Level

Shey Phoksundo trek is a moderately challenging trek. The trails are well defined, making it quite easy. But there is less accessibility in the region due to its remoteness and some days are in complete wilderness. So, being prepared for the uncertainty is a good decision. The maximum altitude you gain in this trek is 3611m, which means you are less prone to high altitude harsh weather conditions, and there is very minimal chance of altitude sickness.

If you think this is the adventure you are looking for, let us help you. Please contact us at sales@explorehimalaya.com

 

 

Government of Nepal eases travel restrictions with no PCR Report requirement for fully vaccinated travelers

Posted Mar 10th, 2022 under Blog, Tourism News, Travel Guide,

Nepal Travel Update No PCR Test required

Government of Nepal has recently waived the mandatory requirement of negative PCR Test Report for fully vaccinated passengers traveling to Nepal. So, now onwards, fully vaccinated passengers are not required to submit negative PCR report at the immigration desk to get entry in the country. However, the passengers should carry their vaccination card that verifies full dose vaccination with validity of having 15 days lapsed after both doses. The passengers who do not have the vaccination certificate have to submit the negative report of Covid-19 Test (RTPCR, True NAAT, Gene Xpert) within 72 hours of starting their journey.  The passengers travelling from Nepal are required to have health related documents as per the rules of the destination country. This new rule of PCR Test waiving is taken as a welcoming gesture by the tourism community.  

Following the third wave of COVID-19 that started from January 2022, Nepal Government had imposed restrictions for travelers to minimize the spread of the virus. With the infected cases dropping down significantly to two digits with no death cases, Government of Nepal has eased restrictions in many sectors, including the travel sector. This recent step is taken with an objective to revive the tourism industry in Nepal, which is the most hard-hit sector during the two years of pandemic. To uplift the industry, the Government also formed National Tourism Revival Committee in collaboration with private and public sectors in February. The Committee, together with the government, is now working for destination promotion, marketing, policy reforms, infrastructure upgrade and skills development.

Since, things are slowly turning hopeful, we are also optimistic that the initiatives from both public and private sectors will help for the rapid and responsible recovery of the travelling industry. Hope to see you soon!

 

 

 

Lumba Sumba Trek, an adventure to the treasured land of eastern Nepal

Posted Feb 14th, 2022 under Blog, Travel Guide, Trekking & Hiking,

Lumba Sumba Trek
Lumba Sumba Trek, commonly known as recently-opened trek, is one of the best kept secrets of Eastern Nepal. It’s opened to trekkers in April 2012.The trek traverses through naturally and culturally gifted landscapes of world’s two highest Himalayan giants Kanchenjunga (8,586 m) – the third highest mountain and Makalu (8,463 m) – the fifth highest mountain. A home to rarely trodden trails, pristine landscape and rich cultural heritage of highlanders, Lumba Sumba region offers you the experience that takes you back to the Himalayan trekking of 80s and 90s. So, if you want an authentic trekking adventure among the lofty mountains that both inspire and intrigue you at the same time, think no further – Lumba Sumba Trek is just for you.

Lumba Sumba Trek starts with a flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur (91m), a town in the tropical belt of southern Nepal. Then after, the trip continues overland through sinuous hilly road towards Ilam, a picturesque hill station with stunning views of lush tea gardens. By the time you reach Ilam, you will have already gained more than 1000m. Ilam, though not a very familiar destination for western travelers, is a popular hub for domestic tourists after Pokhara for its kaleidoscopic beauty of tea gardens complimented by the magnificent vistas of mountain in the backdrop. After leaving this beautiful town, the trip still continues with a drive to Chiruwa via Taplejung. Finally on day 4, from Chiruwa, your trek to the wonder region starts.

Taplejung Bazaar, on the way to Lumba Sumba Trek

Passing through the beautiful cardamom gardens initially and following the Tamor river later on, the trek continues through the rich flora and fauna of Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. As you proceed through villages like Lelep, Ila Danda and Selep Kharka, and enter deeper into the region, human settlements start getting thinner and landscape much wilder. However, in the remote outpost also, you can get the opportunity to explore rich highland culture in village like Olangchung Gola, a typical Sherpa village, where you normally have a day of rest for acclimatization. Now onwards, the trek starts getting much trickier as you have to traverse through snowy trails. After negotiating with the challenging snow fields, soon the glacial walk culminates at Lumba Sumba Pass (5177m), the ultimate point of the whole trip. In the Pass crossing day, an early start is necessary around 5 am (from High Camp) as the weather after noon can get nasty with strong winds. The views from the Pass, which is actually the combination of two Passes Lumba and Sumba, worth every step you have taken so far. As, the Pass joins Kanchenjunga and Makalu regions , the Pass allows one to savor the rarest views of eastern Himalayan ranges that include Kanchenjunga to the east and Makalu to the west.

Lumba Sumba Trek

After the exhausting yet worthwhile climb, the trek slowly makes its way down to Arun valley. Further down, you pass through dense forests of pine and rhododendron along with more populated villages to enter Makalu Barun National Park, the only protected area in the world with an elevation gain of 8,000m. You also get to see the confluence of Arun and Barun River en-route, both major tributaries of mighty Sapta Koshi. As the trek descends towards Num village following the changing landscape from conifers to rich paddy terraces, you reach Tumlingtar to catch a scenic flight back to Kathmandu.

All in all, the trip is much recommended for two reasons; first the obvious one – it gives you a much needed break after being confined at home for such a long time due to pandemic, and next it offers you a rewarding experience of hidden treasures of Nepal which are lesser known yet equally mystifying as Everest and Annapurna regions, or even more, who knows?   

Lumba Sumba Trek

TRIP PROFILE:
Trip days – 23 days
Trip Grade – Strenuous
Max. Altitude – 5177 m / 16634 ft
Trek Type – Camping

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Lumba Sumba Pass
  • Spectacular panorama of Maklau and Kanchenjunga ranges
  • Rich biodiversity of two protected areas: Makalu Barun National Park and Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (chances of spotting endangered species Red Panda and Snow Leopard)
  • Nepal’s two big river systems Arun and Tamor
  • Cultural mix of highland ethnic groups including Rai, Limbu and Sherpas 

OUTLINE ITINERARY:

Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu and transfer to hotel
Day 02: Fly to Bhadrapur (91m) – 45 mins and drive to Ilam (1206m) – 2 hrs
Day 03: Drive to Chiruwa (1246m) via Taplejung – 8 hrs
Day 04: Trek to Taplechowk (1456m) – 5 hrs
Day 05: Trek to Lelep (1687m) – 7 hrs
Day 06: Trek to Ila Danda (2051m) – 5 hrs
Day 07: Trek to Selep Kharka (2525m) – 5 hrs
Day 08: Trek to Olangchung Gola (3208m) – 5 hrs
Day 09: Rest day at Olangchung Gola
Day 10: Trek to Langmale (3893m) – 6 hrs
Day 11: Trek to Tangcher (4203m) – 4 hrs
Day 12: Trek to Phedi – 3 hrs
Day 13: Cross Lumba Sumba (5177m) and trek to Chaunri Kharka (4595m) – 9 hrs
Day 14: Trek to Thudam (3500m) – 7 hrs
Day 15: Trek to Khimbuche, Yak Kharka (2877m) – 6 hrs
Day 16: Trek to Chyamthang (2229m) – 6 hrs
Day 17: Chyamthang buffer day
Day 18: Trek to Hatiya (1595m) – 7 hrs
Day 19: Trek to Gola (1128m) – 6 hrs
Day 20: Trek to Hedangna (1179m) – 5 hrs
Day 21: Trek to Num (1572m) – 6 hrs, and drive to Tumlingtar (405m) – 5 hrs
Day 22: Fly to Kathmandu – 45 mins
Day 23: Depart from Kathmandu

Lumba Sumba Trek

SOME HELPFUL INFO:

 Accommodation
Lumba Sumba Trek is a trekking in Himalayan wilderness. In lower trails, you can find some local teahouses but they are basic. In higher altitudes, there is no accommodation facility. So, Lumba Sumba trek is normally organized as camping trek to ensure comfort and safety of the trekkers. Normally ‘Two men dome’ or ‘A’ shaped tents with foam mattress underneath for insulation are used. Trekkers need to bring their own sleeping bags (can be rented). Bags or cloth packs can be used as pillows. If you wish, you can bring your own ‘Air pillow’. And if you accommodate in the teahouses (in lower altitudes), you get basic rooms consisting of beds with pillow and blankets. (Make sure to bring your own sleeping bag as the blanket may not be warm enough). You can’t find rooms with attached bath and hot shower. However, if you request, they will provide bucket full of hot water with extra charges (approx $2 – $4). Majority of teahouses have rooms in twin sharing basis and dormitory rooms.

Communication
While trekking in Lumba Sumba region, you may not have an access to telephone or internet facility for some days or weeks especially in higher altitude. You can get the communication facility up to Lelep only (but very limited network).  If you want to get connected with your family and friends throughout the trip, you can get rental satellite phone.  

Food
During camping trek, you can get three plentiful, nutritious and hygienically prepared meals daily with a variety of local and Western dishes.

Breakfast – porridge, muesli /cereal, omelet, fried or scrambled eggs with chapattis or bread Lunch – salad, vegetables, pasta and traditional breads
Dinner (3 course) – soup, vegetables, meat, rice and pasta dishes, simple dessert, tea, coffee, hot chocolate etc.

Teahouses in Lumba Sumba region are very basic, and their food menu is also very simple, consisting of local Nepali food (Daal Bhaat – rice, lentil and curry), noodles and chapatis. It’s always a good idea to carry supplementary food which you can prepare easily like soup, instant noodles, dry fruits and nuts, coffee, juice, herbal tea etc. Since you don’t have many food options, it’s better to have Daal Bhaat as they are always freshly made and good for calorie replenishment

Water
It’s really important to stay hydrated while trekking but water is not something to worry about while trekking in Nepal. Normally you will be provided with filtered water about 3-4 liters per person per day. You can also buy bottled water (approx. $1) in tea houses in lower altitudes but it’s better to minimize the use of plastic bottles. So, the best thing is to bring own water bottle and refill it. You can also bring water purification pills in case you want to drink water from local taps.

Electricity and Charging
This trek takes you through the isolated valley. So, electricity is a problem in the area. You can get the facility till Lelep. Beyond that only in few places like Gola and Thudam, you can have charging facility (approx $2 – $4) powered by solar energy. So, it is better to carry fully charged power bank.

Clothing and Equipment
Lumba Sumba Trek is an adventurous trek in the Himalaya. So, you need best trekking clothing and gears like boots, hiking pants, winter caps, down jackets, Poncho, wind cheater etc. Thermals and layers are really important to keep you warm and comfortable. Trekking poles and crampons (while crossing pass) are essential during this trek as you follow snowy and steep trails. The gears that you need during the trek can be purchased in Kathmandu. The items can be genuine branded items or imitation depending on your choice and price. The imitated items might not be best but they are good enough for the trek considering the price.

Permits
You need some permits in order to trek in Lumba Sumba region.

  • Makalu Barun National Park permit: Approx. $30 (per person)
  • Kanchenjunga Conservation Area: Approx. $30 (per person)
  • Makalu Barun Special Permit : Approx. $20 for 4 weeks (per person)
  • Kanchenjunga Special Permit : Approx. $20 for 4 weeks (per person)

Best Time to Travel
Autumn (from mid-September till November end) and Spring (from the beginning of March until mid-May) are considered to be best for Lumba Sumba Trek. The weather in these months is likely to be stable with clear skies. As Spring in Nepal is marked with abundant rhododendron blooms in hills and low mountains, some consider Spring as a better option for Lumba Sumba Trek as the kaleidoscopic beauty of snowy peaks and red blooms is simply the best. Trekking during monsoon is not recommended as the visibility is poor during rainy days. Winter is extremely cold with heavy snow in trails but trekking in this region is possible for those who want some extra dose of adventure. You can also get exceptional visibility during winter.

Trek Difficulty Level
Lumba Sumba Trek is a fairly challenging trek as the trail is less frequented and marked with raw wilderness, glacier fields and high altitude passes with less availability of travel amenities. Unlike the popular routes, the trail is not well-marked. The highest point of the trek is Lumba Sumba Pass (5177m). Despite being a challenging trek, with right attitude and preparation the adventure is achievable.

(If you have any query regarding this trip, please let us know at enquiry@explorehimalaya.com . We would be more than happy to help you!)

 

 

 

 

 

Pokhara Skydive 2021

Posted Nov 29th, 2021 under Blog, Photo Essay, Skydive, Special Events,

Pokhara Skydive 2021Every year November brings some great news! This year also, in November, continuing its glorious legacy, Pokhara Skydive 2021 took place at its usual dropzone at Pame, 11km west of Phewa Lakeside. The event was organized from 16th to 21st November 2021. The event couldn’t take place in 2020 due to pandemic. But this year, it came back with its same glory and charm, in fact, with some more add-on charisma than before as it had altogether 178 jumpers from India and Nepal, the highest number till date. All the jumps were executed by the expert crew team of Everest Skydive that includes Team Leader Paul-Henry de Baère (France), Nadezda Solovyeva (Russia), Gregory Lee Shelton (USA), Sabina Kotarba (USA),  Arnold Camfferman (Netherland), Matthew Larry Yount (USA), Lauren Nicole Weikle (USA), Alberto Avalis (Italy), Peter Piotrowski (USA), Peter Svalo (Denmark), and Christopher Lee Whitley (USA). All heli flights were carried out by the professional team of Fishtail Air. A joint venture of Everest Skydive and Explore Himalaya, Pokhara Skydive 2021 was supported by BEEP – Beautiful Experiences Extraordinary Places, Aloft Kathmandu Hotel, Turkish Airlines, Buddha Air, Fishtail Air and Alma Artes.

Pokhara Skydive 2021Pokhara Skydive started its commercial operation from 2013. Since then, hundreds of adventurers from around the world have enjoyed the ride in the Himalayan sky. Pokhara Skydive is one of the most thrilling ways to experience freefall in which you exit from a helicopter while being among the Himalayan giants Manaslu, Machhapuchhre and Annapurnas before you surf through an ocean of clouds down to the magnificent valley of Pokhara. Due its uniqueness, the event is being one-of-a-kind adventure in the whole South Asia. And most importantly, unlike other skydiving events, it’s an annual event taking place in November only with some occasional special editions in Spring. So, it’s a rare experience that deserves to be in the bucket list of any extreme adventure buffs. This year’s immense success has also proved it right. Well, now who can say no to an epic Himalayan skydiving adventure with legendary skydiving instructors and videographers from around the world?
Pokhara Skydive 2021 If you want to be a part of this exclusive adventure, Pokhara Skydive awaits you! Please feel free to contact sales@explorehimalaya.com for more details. 

New Entry Protocols for Travelers in Nepal

Posted Oct 5th, 2021 under Blog, Tourism News, Travel Guide, Trekking & Hiking,

New entry protocols while travelling to Nepal
Nepal Government has recently revised its travel guidelines and set new entry protocols for the people who wish to travel to Nepal. Now, fully-vaccinated travelers can get on arrival visa and don’t need to follow seven-day quarantine rule, which means they can start their travel right after their entry! The latest update is as follows:

1. There is no quarantine rule for fully vaccinated travelers, but they need to make sure that they have received their last dose at least 14 days before they enter Nepal.
2. On arrival visa service has resumed for fully vaccinated travelers. They need to present the following documents at immigration desk:

✔️ Vaccination Certificate (WHO approved vaccines)
✔️ RT-PCR negative test issued within 72 hours or less before first flight
✔️ Proof of hotel booking
✔️ Print copy of filled International Online Arrival Form available at CCMC website (https://ccmc.gov.np/arms/person_add_en.php)
✔️ Permit copy of mountaineering or trekking

3. There is no on arrival visa provision for non-vaccinated or semi-vaccinated travelers. They need to have prior visa from Nepalese Diplomatic missions in their respective countries.
4. Non-vaccinated or semi-vaccinated travelers need to stay 10 days in quarantine at their own cost in the hotels designated by Nepal Government. https://ccmc.gov.np/arms/attachments/Quarantine_HotelsList_Recent.pdf . On the 11th day, they need to have PCR negative report to continue their travel.
5. Upon arrival, non-vaccinated or semi-vaccinated travelers need to present all the documents specified in no. 2 (except vaccination certificate), plus proof of quarantine hotel booking and recommendation letter from travel/trekking/tour agency in Nepal.
6. Vaccination is not mandatory for children below 5 years and age group of 5 – 18 years old but PCR negative report is compulsory for the age group of 5 – 18 years old.
7. Travelers leaving Nepal should present PCR negative report issued within 48 hours or less before the flight and also fill CCMC Departure Form available at https://ccmc.gov.np/atms/person_add_atms_en.php 

So, now it is possible to travel to Nepal. Though, there are still some travel restrictions with new entry protocols, if you abide by the rules, travelling in Nepal will not be a hassle. Once you are in Nepal, make sure you follow the protocols of local destinations as well. Don’t stress too much about your safety as Government is launching inoculation campaign more aggressively. More than 21% of the total population is fully vaccinated with 26% already receiving their first dose. As tourism professionals belong to the prioritized frontline groups, above 95% of the tourism workers have been fully vaccinated by now (97% in Khumbu and Mustang region).

At Explore Himalaya also, almost all the office and field staffs are fully vaccinated. As there is some silver lining finally, we are now trying to go with V2V (vaccinated to vaccinated) service approach, which is the best thing to do as of now. We ensure our travelers that we will follow all the health and safety measures strictly during all our operations. This autumn, we are preparing more than ever to make our visitors feel welcomed and safe.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

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Happy Explorers

Our itinerary was very good and excellent, never too much or too little. We had plenty of time to acclimatize. So we always felt good and safe. Overall we had an amazing time, made by your exceptional staff who looked after us all the way.

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