Our delightful Upper Mustang trek begin from Jomsom after taking a picturesque flight from Pokhara, leading us to the hidden Shangri-La of the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Mustang, also called Lo. Lo used to be part of the Tibetan empire, and is therefore closely connected to Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is still being practiced in a very pure form and villages are built in Tibetan style, with white washed houses with firewood tucked on the roofs. Until recently you could only come to Upper Mustang Trek with a fully planned camping trek. However, these days some villagers have opened up small guesthouses/teahouses and you can stay in a guesthouse in each overnight stay. While staying there, you are welcome to sit with them in the kitchen. In Tibetan culture, the kitchen is the center of the house, and built like a kind of living room. So there is no better way to learn a bit about the daily life than spending time in the kitchen!
Not just the culture and tradition but also the landscape is very much related to Tibet. Mustang lies in the rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri and you walk in a complete deserted landscape, surrounded by rocks in all kind of colors and bizarre formations. In this barren landscape the villages with their bright colored fields are like oases. The trail follows the salt caravan route of the old days, during which the people of Mustang traded Tibetan salt with grain from the lowlands of Nepal. The theme of the Upper Mustang trek is the capital of Upper Mustang, Lo Manthang. Lo Manthang is a medieval old town, surrounded by a huge town wall. From the Lo La pass (3950 m) you can see the town shimmering in the distance in the barren landscape. Entering Lo Manthang through the town gate you enter a different world. It is just astonishing to wander through the narrow alleys. On several corners of the street you can find small groups of women spinning wool and discussing the news of the day.
At the end of the afternoon big herds of goats are being let through the city gate and through the narrow alleys, back to their sheds, which are inside the town. In Lo Manthang you can find the palace of the king, a huge 4 story high building. When the king is at home, you can even pay him a visit sometimes. The king doesn’t have any real power anymore, but is of course still highly respected by his people. Besides, there are a few beautiful big monasteries, for example the Thugchen Gompa, built in the 15th century. Or visit the amchi museum and amchi school. An amchi is a traditional Tibetan doctor. There are 2 amchis living in Lo Mangtang, which are also the official doctors of the king. They founded a school to preserve this ancient wisdom. Also interesting is a ride by horse to Chhoser, where you can visit a small monastery and a century old cave dwelling, situated high in the rocks.
History of Mustang
Once Upper Mustang was a self-governing kingdom, though closely related by language and culture to Tibet. From the 1500 AD to the 1700 AD, its strategic location granted Mustang control over the trade between the Himalayas and India. At the end of the 18th century the kingdom was invaded by Nepal. Though still recognized by many Mustang residents, the monarchy ceased to exist on October 7, 2008, by order of the Government of Nepal. The last official and current unofficial king is Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (born c.1933), who traces his lineage directly back to Ame Pal, the warrior who founded this Buddhist kingdom in A. D 1380. Ame Pal oversaw the founding and building of much of the Lo and Mustang capital of Lo Manthang, a walled city surprisingly little changed in appearance from that time period. In 2007, a shepherd in Mustang discovered a collection of 55 cave paintings depicting the life of the Buddha.
Mustang is situated in Trans-Himalayan part of Nepal is under rain shadow and is a mountain desert. Many people called it "Mini Tibet" in Nepal. The main hydrographic feature of Mustang is the Kali Gandaki River. The river runs southward towards Nepal Terai, bisecting Mustang. Routes paralleling the river once served as a major trade route between Tibet and India, particularly for salt. Part of the river valley in the southern Mustang District forms by some measures the deepest gorge in the world. Traditional Mustang (the Lo Kingdom) is 53 km north–south at its longest, 60 km east–west at its widest and ranges from a low point of 2750 m above sea level on the Kali Gandaki River just north of Kagbeni to 6700 m at Khamjung Himal, a peak in southeast Mustang.
The population of the whole Mustang District in 2001 was 14,981, spread between three towns and roughly thirty smaller settlements. The people are either Thakalis, Gurung or, in traditional Mustang, primarily Tibetan. Most of the population of Mustang lives near the Kali Gandaki River, 2800–3900 m above sea level. The tough conditions cause a large winter migration into lower places of Nepal to escape the winter cold. The administrative center of Mustang District is at Jomsom (eight kilometers south of Kagbeni) which has had an airport since 1962 and has become the main tourist entry point since Mustang was opened to western tourism in 1992.
Tourism and Permission
Foreign visitors have been allowed to travel to the region since 1992, but tourism to Upper Mustang is regulated. Foreigners need to obtain a special permit to enter, costing USD 50 per day per person. Most tourists travel by foot over largely the same trade route used in the 15th century. Over a thousand western trekkers now visit each year, with over 2,000 in 2008. August to October is the best months to visit. On August 27, 2010, local youth leaders in Mustang threatened to bar tourists beginning October 1, 2010 due to the refusal of the Nepalese government to provide any of the USD 50 per day fee to the local economy. Visitation, however, continued uninterrupted beyond that date. Mustang is rich in Tibetan Buddhist culture, similar to the area of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. It is an alternate way to experience the Tibetan culture and scenery to the tours provided by the Chinese government. The Tiji festival in Lo-Manthang is another popular destination for tourists in the area seeking to experience the native culture. The first foreign visitor to Mustang was Toni Hagen, Swiss traveler and geologist, who visited the Kingdom in 1952 during one of his travels across the Himalayas. French Michel Peissel is considered the first westerner to stay in Lo Manthang, during the first authorized exploration of Mustang in 1964.
How to get there?
Most trekkers fly from Pokhara to Jomsom and simply begin their tour. Many airlines fly to Jomsom from Pokhara every day (U$123.00 for one flight) takes approximately 25 minutes to Jomsom. You can enjoy fantastic view of wide range of Annapurna Himalaya while flying. Local buses and sharing jeeps are to Jomsom or even beyond are available from Pokhara. Flight is much comfortable and faster than riding tiring local vehicle in dusty and unsealed road. However it depends on your time frame and interest. If you can allow the time you can start the trek from Nayapul via Ghorepani Poon Hill - Tatopani - Gasa - Kalopani - Larjung - Marpha and Jomsom then to Upper Mustang that will make you physically much fitter and better acclimatized. That will need additional 6-7 days to get to Jomsom.
Upper Mustang Trek Itinerary will be 10 to 16 days long depending on your time frame plus you will have to add transportations days in the duration. From Kagbeni the restricted area of Upper Mustang starts. The trail goes northwards, and brings you in 4 to 6 days to Lo Manthang. You cross pass after pass, which are all between 3,500 and 4,000m. You can return partly by a different way via Dhakmar, crossing 2 passes of around 4,200m. Close to Dhakmar you can find the oldest Tibetan monastery in the world, the Lo Gekar Monastery. The Monastery was built in the 8th century by the famous Tibetan magician Guru Rinpoche. He had to kill a powerful demon first and the blood of the demon has painted the rocks around Dhakmar bright red.
Upper Mustang Circuit or Alternative Route
Most of the trekkers prefer a circuit route than returning the same away back. No problem! You could do this alternative route but there is no lodge or village between Tangge and Tetang. Many trekkers start the day early from Tangge with pack lunch. It takes about some 9-10 hours depending on level of your fitness and stamina you have. Rivers may affect the trail during monsoon time (July – Mid September) as it gets bigger due to rain fall. Mostly at Dhyee, you will have to take the shoes off and cross the river. Please check with us for more information during your trip booking.
Permit and Trip Cost
As per state law; except Nepalese national anyone entering to Upper Mustang must have restricted area trekking permit that can be attained through an authorized registered local trekking agency in Kathmandu Nepal. Upper Mustang permit costs USD 500 per person valid for 10 days; each additional day costs USD 50 extra. Plus you will need ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) Permit which cost NPR 3000 (about USD 30 ) per person. And visitors must trek with a government registered trekking guide. Wilderness Excursion offers special Upper Mustang Tour Package 2017 for our valued clients. For further detail please kindly e-mail us and send your requirements.
Your Financial Protection
Wilderness Excursion realizes that financial security is a consideration when choosing a trekking company who to book a holiday property through. We hold a License with the Authority to operate adventure activities under the supervision by Nepal Government. We are a fully bonded Adventure operator authorized by the Nepal Government, Tourism and Civil Aviation Department, Nepal Tourism Board, Industry Department, Company Registration Office, Nepal National Bank and the Taxation Office. We are also affiliated with several prestigious regulating bodies such as NATTA, NMA, TAAN, and KEEP with whom we have a bond. We know that the last thing you want to worry about when you’re planning your trip of a lifetime is whether your money is in safe hands. As a leading Adventure provider it’s our job to make sure your finances are secure, so when you book with us you can be confident that we do just that. To ensure that you have complete peace of mind Wilderness Excursion is an authorized adventure travel agency. Please kindly check our legal documents if any doubt. Upper Mustang Trek group join 2020 and 2021 available.