Upper Mustang Trek

Upper Mustang Trek

20 days (ktm-ktm) Days from

Aptly called the ‘Last Forbidden Kingdom” the region of Mustang (meaning fertile plain) was virtually closed to the foreigners until the 1990 and was opened to trekking only the following year by the Nepal government. Still somewhat restricted (special permits are required) the region of Tibetan influence north of Kagbeni is generally referred to as Upper Mustang. Divided into two parts Upper Mustang is largely inhibited by Manangi people and includes its ancient capital Lo Manthang, whereas Lower Mustang covers the part of lower valley along the Kali Gandaki river. Mustang can therefore be best understood as two climate and natural regions: the lower, more fertile valleys and then the upper reaches which stretch all the way to the border with Tibet. Untouched by modern civilization, isolated in its rugged mountain terrain, a way of life persists here in Mustang that is fast disappearing in Tibet proper.

Lying in the central north part of the country’s transhimalayan region where the Nepalese mountains yield to the Southern Tibetan Plateau, the region of Mustang abounds unique ecology and geology.  Shrouded in mystery and unparalleled in natural and cultural beauty, this stark and barren area of the middle Himalayas holds the last remnants of true Tibetan lifestyle.  Mustang enjoys its own autonomy and the residents live much the same as they have for centuries. To avoid this unique Kingdom being overrun by tourism, the region has been gazette as a restricted area with only small numbers of tourists given access every year.

Indeed, only a decade ago, Mustang was completely off-limits to tourists; only explorers like David Snellgrove, Guiseppi Tucci and Michel Piessel had been allowed in and it was their accounts of this rugged, forbidden territory, ruled by a hereditary king, had whetted the appetite of many travellers. Wild, windy and harsh, yet stunningly beautiful, it was a land of myths and legends, of monks and monasteries, of an ancient culture but without a mile of paved road.
-    Partha S Banerjee

Forbidden and isolated from the rest of the world for century, the region of Mustang was able to evolve its own distinctive culture and tradition. Still largely untouched by the modern civilization, any visitors to this region is bound to feel spellbound by the enormity of its geology and distinct way of life that represents the people living in the region. Throughout this trip visitors are accompanied by the stunning views of more than 35 mountains over 6000meters including Mt. Dhaulagiri (8116m) and Annapurna I (8091m).

Upper Mustang falls under the rain shadow, virtually untouched by the summer monsoon rains so characteristic of South Asia. Consequently, whilst the region can be visited year-round, the summer season from May to September is particularly suitable since other areas of Nepal are at this time too hot or wet to be pleasant. Winter in Upper Mustang can be bitter, with heavy snowfalls and even landslides. The lower reaches of the valley are best visited in the fall and the spring, when rhododendrons are in bloom and the mountain views are breathtaking.

The arid place with snow-capped mountains and barren hills reaches deep inside the vast Tibetan plateau. Cold winds sweep through narrow canyons and over plains. Erosion has left its marks in bizarre rock formations. Yet humans have lived in this hostile environment for centuries. They have built their settlements along rivers and creeks, the villages of whitewashed houses appear like oases in a huge desert. People work as farmers on their fields, sowing and harvesting barley and potatoes, and driving cattle to relatively fertile meadows. The Upper Mustang Trek involves a wilderness of huge proportions and offers a truly exceptional experience.

A feature of this trek is the opportunity to participate in Tiji festival in Mustang which falls during the month of May- June every year and is a very colorful occasion.

\"The Tiji festival is a three-day ritual known as \"The chasing of the Demons\" that centers on the Tiji myth. The myth tells of a deity named Dorje Jono who must battle against his demon father to save the Kingdom of Mustang from destruction. The demon father wreaked havoc on Mustang by bringing a shortage of water (a highly precious resource in this very dry land) and causing many resulting disasters from famine to animal loss. Dorje Jono eventually beats the demon and banishes him from the land. Tiji is a celebration and reaffirmation of this myth and throughout the festival the various scenes of the myth will be enacted. It is of course, timed to coincide with the end of the dry winter/spring season and will usher in the wetter monsoon season (the growing season for Mustang). Tiji comes from the word \"ten che\" meaing \'the hope of Buddha Dharma prevailing in all worlds\' and is effectively a spring renewal festival. \"

We start our trek from Jomsom and continue trekking northwards into the heart of Mustang reaching Lo Manthang through amazing villages and stunning landscapes. We spend two days in this ancient city before returning to Jomsom for our return flight via a slightly different route that takes in the pilgrimage site of Muktinath. And if you wish to participate in the Tiji festival, please let us know in advance so we can make the Mustang Trekking arrangements accordingly.

Fast Facts : 
  • Region: Mustang
  • Max. Elevation: 4130m. /13,448ft
  • Duration: 20 days (ktm-ktm)
  • Grade: easy - moderate
  • Type of trek: FOT (Fully Organized or Camping Trek)
  • Best season: Oct –Dec & Mar - May
  • Accommodation: Tea house & Camping
  • Meals: All inclusive
  • Starts in: Kathmandu
  • Ends in: Kathmandu
  • Attractions: Trekking, Sightseeing / Pilgrimage & Culture
  • Transportation: Private vehicle or Tourist bus
  • Remarks: Special permits are required
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Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu International Airport (1300m/4264ft) and transfer to hotel

Day 02: After breakfast we set out for an extensive guided sightseeing tour of Kathmandu valley’s cultural, historical, religious and world heritage sites. The Kathmandu valley seamlessly combines the medieval and the modern and boasts more World Heritage sights than any other capital cities in the world.

During the course, we visit the famous Pashupatinath temple of Lord Shiva situated at the holy bank of River Bagmati where we will also observe the Hindu cremation ritual. We then proceed to the Boudhanath stupa, a major pilgrimage centre for the Buddhist faith which also is the largest of its kind in the world. We then have a short break for lunch followed by a visit to Swoyambhunath Stupa also known as the Monkey Temple from where we can have a bird’s eye view of Kathmandu valley. Following this, we then proceed for a visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square, the oldest royal palace of Kathmandu and a UNESCO world heritage site.  The whole are of Kathmandu Durbar Square is dotted with numerous fascinating Nepalese architect dating back many centuries. The site is also the home of Nepal’s living Goddess – Kumari, where we will also have the opportunity to experience firsthand this unique Nepali tradition.  In the evening we will attend the welcome dinner hosted by Makalu Adventure.

Day 03: Drive (6 hrs) or fly (35min) to Pokhara (820m): Depending on the time we arrive, the rest of the day is kept free for you to explore this charming city on your own.

 Day 04: Fly to Jomsom (2700m) and Trek to Kagbeni (2858m / 9375ft): Following an early morning breakfast we assemble in the hotel lounge to get started for a 20 minutes flight to Jomsom. Flying over the mesmerizing mountains finally bring us to Jomsom (2713m), the district headquarter of Mustang. Jomsom is a large bustling settlement and is also the administrative centre of the region;  containing the airport, army camp, and numerous hotels, shops, banks and government offices.  Here we meet our trekking crew and prepare for our trek to Mustang. We begin by trekking north to the village of Kagbeni. We cross the river to the eastern bank of the Kali Gandaki and continue onwards to Eklai Bhatti at 2730m. From here we will follow the trail along the river to Kagbeni at 2810m, a fascinating village with many Tibetan influences. Kagbeni is situated at the junction of the Jhong Khola and the Kali Gandaki, and is the northernmost village that can be visited without a permit to continue on to Mustang. Being situated at the confluence of two rivers, it is spiritually auspicious and functioned as an important trade stop in the olden days. It is also by far the most ethnically Tibetan of the villages of lower Mustang: sitting in a smoky lodge here and sipping a cup of yak butter and salt tea, you feel taken back to Tibetan life as it has existed for centuries.

Day 05: Kagbeni -  Chele (3,060m), 5-6 hrs, Camp.
The trail continues up the eastern side of the Kali Gandaki, heading northwards through Tangbe at 2990m and then on to Chhuksang at the confluence of the Narshing Khola and the Kali Gandaki. The trail continues north before crossing the river to the west bank and climbing out of the Kali Gandaki valley up a rocky gully to Chele at 3060m. We can now see the increasing evidence of Tibetan culture as we trek closer to Mustang.

Day 06: Chele – Shyangmochen (3650m):
From Chele the trail climbs along the side of a steep canyon to a pass at 3480m before descending to the popular stopping place of Samar at 3290m. The trail then climbs and drops a few times before reaching the small settlement of Shyangmochen at 3650m where we stop for the night. Camp.

 Day 07: Shyangmochen - Geling (3,570m), Camp.
After breakfast, we will make a side trip to the canyons and gorges to the east. We will have lunch by a mountain stream after making an excursion to the Cave of The Self-Emanating Buddha. The trail then climbs back up to Shyangmochen and to a pass at 3700m where there is a trail junction for Geling and the Nyi La. We take the right fork and descend to Geling at 3570m where we camp for the night.

 Day 08: Geling - Tsarang (3,560m), 6-7 hrs, Camp.
The trail initially climbs gently up the valley, passing above Tama Gaon to the west, before rejoining the direct trail and climbing up the head of the valley to the Nyi La at 3950m. We make a gentle descent from the pass to reach another trail junction and continue to the large village of Ghami at 3460m. The trail now crosses a small bridge over the Tangmar Chu River before climbing past a long Mani wall. We then climb to another pass before descending into Charang at 35600m.

 Day 09: Tsarang - Lo-Manthang (3,840m) /4-5 hrs, Camp.
We are now well into the Mustang region and today we trek on to our ultimate destination, the walled city of Lo Manthang. From Charang the trail descends to cross the Charang Chu before climbing to enter the Tholung valley. The trail continues to climb to a ridge where we get our first view of Lo Manthang, and shortly afterwards we reach the city itself, at 3730m. Lo Manthang is surrounded by a whitewashed wall and we enter the city by the gate at the north-eastern corner.

 Day 10: Lo-Manthang – Rest, Exploration and Acclimatization:
There are many fascinating ancient buildings to visit in Lo Manthang and this will occupy our day. There are four major temples as well as the Raja’s palace, but it is equally satisfying to observe the unique culture of this place, the people, their houses, and their approach to life.

There are four major temples within the medieval walls of Lo, the 14th century, brick-red Jampa Lhakhang (the oldest gompa, built in 1387, with the striking 50 foot 'Jampa' (Future) Buddha, the largest clay statue in Nepal until a few years ago), 15th century Thubchen Gompa (Great Assembly hall, pillars 30 feet high, the second oldest gompa with fantastic murals in the Dukhang), Chhoede Gompa (where the Kempo lives, with a monastic school) and Choprang Gompa. There is also the Raja's Palace, home to the present King Raja Jigme and Queen 'Rani Sahib' (who is from an aristocratic Lhasa family) and an interesting maze of a village to explore. There are approximately 1100 Lobas and 180 houses within the walls of the city although many lower caste Lobas live outside the walls. Many of the Lobas still practice polyandry.

In the 1380’s, King Ame Pal established his reign in Lo, with the walled city of Lo Manthang as the capital and its inhabitants called Lobas. Within the walls of Lo Manthang are about 150 houses built among narrow streets, and some of the largest and finest Tibetan Buddhist gompas in Nepal. The city is quite prosperous due primarily to its past salt and wool trade along the Kali Gandaki with Tibet, and the Lobas themselves are still very Tibetan, living in Tibetan-style dwellings which we'll have a chance to visit. There are even yeti (known here as mehti) prints rumored to be found.


Day 11: Lo-Manthang - Visit the Chosar & Tingkar Valleys:
We recommend horses for anyone wanting to come along on this day-trip; others are free to stay and wander the intriguing streets of Lo. There is an amchi that runs a Tibetan herbal medicine clinic in town, two schools and even a coffee shop along with the increasing number of shops to visit.

Leaving Lo along a wide, canyon trail, past dry gullies and an ancient, ruined fortress, across a bridge and through a cultivated area, we finally view the cave village of Chosar, with the deep-red Nyphu Gompa built into the rock face. We'll need to cross two bridges to arrive at the gompa, at 3760 meters. Plenty of time for photographs before rounding the chorten-toped bend, where we get views of Gharphu Gompa on the east banks of the Mustang Khola. Past the gompa is an incredible cave-dwelling site called Jhong Cave, which you negotiate by ladders and through small tunnels, very interesting and reputed to be 2500 years old. In front of us, a range of spectacular snow-peaks marks the border with Tibet, and around us gurgling streams and green meadows line our trail. If we take the long loop, we can stop at Nyamdo Gompa, ride over a small pass and then head back down the western valley to Lo.

 The western valley leads to Namgyal Gompa (the Monastery of Victory), set spectacularly on top of a desolate ridge and the newest and most active gompa in Lo. The village of Namgyal spreads out past the Gompa. Just past the gompa is the large, sprawling village of Tingkar, where the King has his summer palace. There is a new gompa here, where we saw a puja (prayer ceremony) last year, and met most of the villagers! There are also many ancient ruins surrounding the village, some gompas and others old fortresses perhaps. Further on, we reach Kimaling village, which is an interesting, white-washed village surrounded by fields where we did some carpet shopping last year. Kimaling Gompa is below the village, on the way out as we head towards Phuwa and its gompa on the way down towards Lo. There are tremendous views of Namgyal Gompa backed by snow-peaks behind us as we wander up the valley, and white peaks in front of us bordering Tibet.


 The Chosar valley was the main trading route with Tibet and Lhasa, and is peppered with the ruins of old fortresses guarding this strategic valley. Back at camp, dinner is on the fire, tea is brewing, and cold beers are available from the tea-shops, so relax and enjoy our last evening in this magical capital.


Day 12: Lo Manthang to Dhakmar
From Lo Manthang we will return by a slightly different route to take in villages that were not visited on the route in. We initially head for Lo Gekar along a local herder’s trail, and shortly afterwards reach the important Ghar gompa, which is one of the oldest active gompas in Nepal. From here we ascend a pass and make a steep, dusty descent to the pretty village of Dhakmar.


Day 13: Dhakmar to Yamda
We rejoin our walk-in route at the village of Ghami at 3460m, and continue to trek southwards and meet up with the trail from Charang, before ascending to the Nyi La and then dropping into the Geling valley. From here we vary the route to that taken on the way up and descend to the village of Tama Gaon. Continuing south we eventually rejoin the main trail and climb up to the village of Yamda.


Day 14: Yamda to Chhuksang
We continue to descend and cross back to the eastern bank of the river before continuing south to Chhuksang where we spend the night.

Day 15: Chhuksang to Muktinath (3,600m). Camp.
We begin by trekking east and then in a southerly direction along a rarely-used trail with no human settlements to reach the impressive abandoned fortress of Jhong. We then cross the Jhong Khola and climb up to the holy Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site of Muktinath at 3800m. We spend the night at Muktinath and have plenty of time to visit the temples and religious shrines.

Day 16: Muktinath to Jomsom (2,700m) (5 hrs). Camp.
The last day of our trek - from here we retrace our steps down the Kali Gandaki to Jomsom, from where, tomorrow, we will fly out to Pokhara and then on to Kathmandu.

Day 17: Fly to Pokhara

Day 18: Fly to Kathmandu, overnight hotel.

Day 19:  At leisure in Kathmandu

Day 20: Transfer from hotel to airport for final departure

Trip Cost Includes
  • All ground transfer by private vehicles as per our itinerary
  • Fine hotel –Thamel Eco Resort in Kathmandu (twin sharing including b/f and taxes)
  • Welcome dinner with live Nepalese cultural program hosted by Makalu Adventure
  • Guided sightseeing around Kathmandu world heritage sites including all entrance fees
  • All domestic airfares (Jomsom-Pokhara-Kathmandu)
  • Organized camping trek arrangements including all high quality German Salewa / UK Super Quasar camping equipment such as two men tent, kitchen tent, dining tent, toilet tent, tables, chairs, mattresses,  hot water bags, pillows, inner sheets etc.
  • Everyday three times hot meals while on trekking prepared by our professional kitchen crew.
  • National park, conservation area permit and fees
  • Guide, porters, their daily wages, insurances with all necessary lodging / fooding arrangements.
  • Administration service during rescue and evacuation (if required)
  • Down jacket, sleeping bags, Trekking kit bag/duffel bag, trekking map and trekking Poles
  • A comprehensive medical kit
  • All government and local taxes
Trip Cost Excludes
  • Nepal visa fee.
  • Airport taxes.
  • International airfare to and from Kathmandu.
  • Excess baggage charges.
  • Lunch and evening meals in Kathmandu.
  • Extra night accommodation.
  • Travel and rescue insurance.
  • Personal expenses (phone calls, laundry, bar bills, battery recharge, extra porters, bottle or boiled water, showers etc).
  • Rescue and evacuation if required.
  • Tips and gratitude

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