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Phoksundo Lake

Phoksundo Lake

Phoksundo Lake is a freshwater lake in Nepal.  The lake is located within the Shey Phoksundo National Park in the Dolpa region.  The lake rests at an elevation of 11,849 ft above sea level.  During the last surveillance of the lake, the lake was measured to have a surface area of 1.91 sq mi and a maximum depth of 476 ft.  The lake was formed when a land slide blocked the passage of the river below it, and in the process, also creating a 548 ft water fall on the other side of the natural dam.  The lake was designated an area of international importance by UNESCO’s conservation on wetlands in 2007.

How to get there

The only way to get to Phoksundo Lake is on foot.  It is possible to get within a few days walk to the lake by taking 2 domestic flights.  After the flights, I do not know of any roads that lead to the lake, you must walk through Chhepka, and Chunuwar, villages to Ringmo, which is on the lake.  The whole trip can be done in about 8 days.  I am outlining the itinerary below.

Phoksundo Lake trekking itinerary

Day 01: Arrive in Kathmandu and fly to Nepaligunj

Day 02: Fly from Nepaligunj to Juphal (2,475 m / 8,120 ft) and trek to Chhepka (2,838 m / 9,311 ft) 7 hrs

Day 03: Trek to Chunuwar. -7 hrs, 3,130 m / 10,269 ft

Day 04: Trek to Ringmo Village. -3 hrs, 3,641 m / 11,945 ft

Day 05: Explore Phoksundo Lake

Day 06: Trek to Chhepka. – (2,838 m / 9,311 ft) 7 hrs

Day 07: Trek to Juphal. – (2,475 m / 8,120 ft) 6 hrs

Day 08: Fly to Nepalgunj and Kathmandu.

If you wish to go on this trek please contact Upper-Himalayan Treks and Adventure.  This trek is on our secret menu.

What to bring and where to stay

Phoksundo Lake is a remote area but has all the same facilities of the more popular treks like the Annapurna Circuit or Everest Base Camp treks.  You can expect cold temperatures from fall to spring and should pack accordingly.  The summer season brings high temperatures and a lot of rain.  If you are attempting this destination in the summer, make sure your gear is waterproof or quick dry.  For the winter season, I do not recommend packing heavy cloths, but instead lighter cloths and layer them to stay warm.

When you spend a long duration of time outside, you should protect your eyes with UV protected eye glasses.  Tinted glasses alone (not UV protected) will not help your eyes, but will increase the risk of damage to them.  You should also pack a sleeping bag, hat, sunscreen, trekking poles (if you use them), chap stick, hiking boots, and a water filter.  You can use a SteriPEN or purifying tabs if you do not like filtering your water.

Tea houses are available on this trek.  During the winter months, December through February, tea houses may be closed.  Make sure you plan your trip in advance or have your travel company make the arrangements for you.  If you do not plan to stay in a tea house, tent camping is available.  Make sure you have good gear and a guide for this.  If you think you might want to upgrade your gear, I recommend Eastern Mountain Sports for camping equipment, and Sherpa Adventure Gear for clothing.

When to go

The best time to visit Phoksundo Lake is during the spring and autumn months of May, and September, and October.  March, April, and November tend to be cold.  According to Nepal’s Tourism Board, most people visit the area in September.  In September, Nepal is coming out of its summer season and drying up from the monsoon rains.  Because of its geographic location, Dolpa experiences a slight rain shadow, which allows for some fantastic trips early in the season.  I am posting the visitor data, I graphed out, below.

phoksundo lake
Upper Dolpa visitors

The graph shows the trend in visitors to the Upper-Dolpa region in 2016.  Visitation does not pick up until the middle of the spring season.  The peak of the spring season is in May.  The traffic declines a little in the summer season but is still higher than the first two months of the spring season.  September and October are the highest trafficked months.  During November, only 17 people visited the area.  This is only 3 more people compared to April.

Expenses

If you are interested in going on a trek and visiting Phoksundo, the trek will take about 28 days and cost about $5,890.  There are shorter treks available too, that won’t cost as much.  If you are interested in only visiting the lake.  The trip will take about 8 days, depending on how long you would like to stay at the lake and cost about $1,500.  Dolpo is a restricted area, which requires a Restricted Area Permit in addition to the other permits indicated below.  I provided an itemized list below.

  • $25/day guide
  • $15/day porter
  • $30/day food
  • $30/day room board
  • $10 -$20 Trekkers Information Management System Card (group or independent)
  • $500/ 1st 10 days and $50/ day thereafter Restricted Area Permit
  • $250 transportation

For an 8-day trip to Phoksundo Lake your expected costs will be in the ball park of $1,440.  Because the area is restricted you must have a guide with you and be in a group of 2 or more.  The other cost will fluctuate depending your dietary requirements, where you stay, and how long you are in the area.  You can contact Upper-Himalayan Treks and Adventure to book your trip.

Historical significance

Though there are quite a few religious stupas adorning the lake’s shores.  There is also one gompa where people leave offerings.  The lake, however, has no known historical or religious significance.  Tibetan Buddhism and Bon are the prevailing religions in the area.

 

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