15 days

Upper Mustang Trek and Tour Nepal

Upper Mustang is one of this breathtakingly beautiful region’s most interesting and far-flung treks, following old salt-trade caravan trails into Mustang’s most remote areas. Situated in the rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri range, the Buddhist kingdom of Mustang is one of Nepal’s most diverse and spectacularly beautiful regions. Sculpted canyons and fantastic rock formations, traditional, white-washed Tibetan-style villages, crumbling fortresses, royal palaces, unexplored cave complexes, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and Himalayan snow-peaks characterize this spectacular region, a thumb sticking up into the Tibetan plateau.

The ancient Kingdom of Mustang was attached to Tibet in the 14th century although it remained an autonomous dynasty. Later it was annexed by Nepal, but the people still remain predominantly Tibetan. Untouched by the outside world or the Chinese cultural Revolution, 16th century monasteries still remain active to preserve this magnificent trans-himalayan kingdom, with their unrivaled thankas, mandalas and deities.Upper Mustang consists of two distinct regions: the southern region, with five villages inhabited by people related to the Manangis; and the northern region (the ancient kingdom of Lo), where the language, culture and traditions are almost purely Tibetan. The capital of Lo is named Manthang, which translates from the Tibetan as ‘plain of aspiration’. The portion of the upper Mustang district north of Samar is Lo and its capital is Manthang. The king of Lo is the Lo Gyelbu. There are many complex issues relating to the development of Upper Mustang and the procedures under which trekkers are allowed to visit the area. Change and development will come to Lo regardless of the degree of protection that is extended. Despite their isolation, the people of Lo are worldly, well traveled and resourceful. They are essentially Tibetans and are skillful traders, travelers and merchants.


Day 1

 Fly to Phokhara or Drive to Phokhara

We start the day with a short scenic flight to Pokhara, 198 kilometers west of Kathmandu, flying above the rivers flowing down towards the Terai from the Himalaya and Tibet. We look down on terraced villages and green hills, with the Ganesh, Langtang, Manaslu and Annapurna ranges in the distance, and land in balmy, sub-tropical Pokhara. Or Bus, Jeep ride from Kathmandu 6 to 7 hours of journey with the beautiful Scenario, flowing Trisuli River on the side.

Enjoy the afternoon; wander the shore of Phewa Lake, drink fresh juice, do some shopping, or sit and relax at the hotel.


Day 2

 Trek to Kagbeni

Up early for our spectacular mountain flight to the district headquarters of Mustang, Jomsom. Once on the ground at one of the world’s most scenic airstrips on the planet we are greeted by the sound of jingling horse bells as the Mustangi people pass by with their pony caravans. From the airport we have a fantastic panorama of Himalayan peaks: to the far west, Dhaulagiri, followed by Annapurna South, Hiun Chuli with Annapurna I in back, the sacred Machhapuchhre (Fishtail), Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Annapurna II, Lamjung Himal, Himlung Himal and perhaps, on a clear day, Manaslu, Peak 29, Himal Chuli, Boudha Himal and Ganesh Himal to the distance to the far east.

After sorting out gear and loading our horses we trek up the windy Kali Gandaki valley to Kagbeni. The wide trail along a sandy, saligram-filled riverbed provides views of the surrounding peaks of Dhaulagiri, Tukuche and Niligiri, and to the south the entire Annapurna Massif. Kagbeni, spectacularly situated atop a cliff overlooking the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and the Jhong Khola rivers, is the last village in Lower Mustang and guards the entrance into Upper Mustang, visible across the Kali Gandaki riverbed. It is an oasis of green, patchwork fields in the midst of rocky, arid mountains, with Niligiri looming grandly behind it. This ancient, partially ruined citadel town provides us with a taste of scenes to come in upper Mustang, with its narrow alleyways and tunnels, irrigation canals, green fields of barley and its massive, newly-restored brick-red Sayka gompa, 800 years old. We’ll also wander past the ancient, crumbing, 100-room King’s Palace. At the police check post at the north end of the village where a sign reads ‘Restricted area, tourists please do not go beyond this point’, we will complete our paperwork to enter Upper Mustang tomorrow, Enjoy the fantastic views down-valley to Niligiri in the late afternoon. 


Day 3

 Trek to Chusang

From Kagbeni onwards, the trail widens significantly with endless stretches of sand, pebbles and bounders. Small shrubs and thorn bushes are all you can see in the name of vegetation past this area. Despite of the deserted terrain, the trail is kept lively by several passing mule trains and horsemen. The Kaligandaki canyon is awe-inspiring and the trek on this day is uphill, quite steep at times up to the little village of Tangbe. After lunch, you would walk the flat path up to a fairly large village of Chusang, an interesting village with narrow covered alleys running through the centre, inhabited mostly by mixed ethnic groups including Gurungs, Thakalis and some households from the land of Lo. Access to the Buddhist Gompa, constructed out of stone and mud, is limited to low-flow seasons only.


Day 4

 Trek To Samar

The feeling of a distinct change in terms of culture, topography, landscape and lifestyle is prominent, having had entered into this long and secluded valley, having scattered settlements, mostly small and basic. The lack of ample rainfall delimits cultivation in sheltered plots of land, making the landscape of a pattern of brown with scattered patches and shades of greens. After crossing the Mustang River, we reach Chaili, a small but colourful village. The trail then veers along steep lines right up to the village of Samar, a very old and small village situated amongst a grove of trees with a stream running through the middle, making it a tough four hours walk for the day.


Day 5

 Trek to Ghami

As in all desert lands, settlements in Mustang are in oasis village most houses are constructed out of mud and stones with roof cast out of twins, straw and a mixture of mud and pebbles. After hours of walking we will reach to Ghami. Where we overnight in Lodge available there.


Day 6

 Trek to Charang

The days walk is through perhaps the driest part of Mustang. Much of one’s energy is spent negotiating loose dry soil that give way every times you walk uphill, making it seem tiresome infertile at times. However, the magnificent views of the countryside the gentle contours of the north in contrast to the rugged mountain canyons in the east and west are the source in inspiration to walk on. A total walk of five good hours brings us to Charang, a large spread out village inhabited totally by the people of Lo who are of Tibetan origin. The old monastery and the adjoining Gompa are said to be some 500 years old and contain some of the finest religious wall paintings in the world.


Day 7

 Trek to Lo Manthang

We spend part of this morning exploring this interesting village and its large old monastery. We then go a bit out of the way to see Dhakmar, a small-secluded village. Today’s walk is only for some hours. But mostly uphill and then the trail flattens out till Lo Manthang, We have reached the fabled walled city of Lo, with a single entrance through which only the King, Queen and Kempo (Abbot) are allowed to ride. All others must walk, to pay their respects to Chenrizig, the Buddha of Compassion. King Jigme Palbar Bista, called ‘Lo Gyelbu’ by the Mustangis, still resides at his four-storied palace inside the city walls; that is, when he’s not in Kathmandu. He is an avid horseman, and keeps his own stable of horses, some of the best in Mustang. These days, the king plays a somewhat ceremonial role although he is well loved and respected throughout Mustang. The present king is the 25th descendent of Ame Pal.


Day 8

Explore Lo Manthang

OPTION 1: Spend a day (or both) visiting the famous monasteries, wandering the labyrinthine alleyways of Lo Manthang, shopping for Tibetan and Mustangi artifacts and doing a ‘kora’ of the large complex.

OPTION 2: Visit the Chosar & Tingkar valleys on horseback
DISCLAIMER: Horses are a good way to visit both of these valleys but even on horseback it will be a long day. We take no responsibility for anything that may happen on a horse, and horses must be hired out apart from Kamzang Journeys. We will, of course, help with the arrangements.

Leaving Lo Manthang 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 Thingkar, 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. Just north of this valley, over the border in Tibet, Lhakpa and I met a Tibetan man who still dealt in the trade of rare animal skins with Mustangi traders, a risky and of forbidden endeavor. It will be interesting to see if we can find out anything of this trade on the Nepal side of the border. 


Day 9

 Explore Lo Manthang

Explore Rinchin Ling caves north of Lo Manthang. The schedule would be to drive to these remote Buddhist caves, hike up to caves with locals carrying two ladders, tie ladders together and climb into cave (not for those who don’t like exposure), hike back down to the road and return by jeep or truck to Lo Manthang. Note that this isn’t always an option, more details on the trek.

“The Ritseling Cave is located in Upper Mustang on a peak West of the Konchog Ling Cave. Prior to the last few years it appears as though no one has entered the small cave complex in several hundred years. It has an assortment of murals with a large mandala close to the entrance along with several Buddha figures. Towards the back of the cave there is a mural depicting narrative scenes possibly of one of the occupants of the cave and his travels through Tibet and especially to Lhasa.


Day 10

 Trek to Dhakmar

Today the trail climbs steadily to a pass marked by a cairn, offering a last glimpse of Lo Manthang. The trail contours across the head of a valley and crosses another ridge, then drop into another large desolate valley. After ascending to the valley floor, the route heads to the right, up the center of the valley to it head. Cross a ridge at 4070 meters & traverses across the heads of two more valleys to an indistinct pass. Cross the pass to some meadows & a stream. The trail then makes a long rocky descent down a ravine to a grassy valley where LO Geker is situated in a grove of large trees alongside a stream. We will walk further to reach Dhakmar for our overnight stay.


Day 11

 Trek to Syangmoche

A large stream meanders through this village, making this a particularly pretty valley. Most of the surrounding hills are pastel shades of Grey & yellow, but a huge red fluted cliff provides a dramatic contrast. The trail descends alongside the stone walls and fields of the extensive village, After 05 hours gentle walking we will reach to place called Syangmoche.


Day 12

 Trek to Chusang

Trekking almost finished, but we’ll start the day with a couple of hours of hiking to reach our jeeps at Chhusang. It’s an easy hike up the Dajori La, A wonderful descent, past the Gurung village of Gyakar across the new suspension bridge, along our cliff-side canyon trail back to Tsaile, down and back across the tunnel bridge, and then along the riverbed for about 20 minutes to Chhusang.

There is a salt mine two hours from Chhusang, and fortified Tetang village just up the same valley; the salt trade was of utmost importance to Mustang in years past, and much of the wealth of the villages came from this trade. Across the Kali Gandaki , high up in the dramatic, fluted rock face, are clusters of ancient caves, their origins lost in antiquity.  


Day 13

 Trek to Kagbeni 

Today is the same way that you already had. The trail passes through villages like Tangbe. After Tangbe the trail still continues through the bank of Kaligandaki River as well as the windy landscapes & reaches to Kagbeni.


Day 14

 Trek to Jomsom

This day if you wish you can go up to visit Muktinath temple by jeep running there from Jomsom to Muktinath then drive back to jomsom for night halt or simply walk back to Jomsom for overnight stay.


Day 15

 Fly to Jomsom 

Walk to Airport in Jomsom and fly back to Pokhara Valley. 

Price Includes:

  Accommodation in Kathmandu on BB plan.
  All meals as specified for trek
  Arrival pick up & departure.
 All internal local transport as per the itinerary.
  Internal flights as per itinerary.
  All trekking arrangements including trekking permits, National Park entrance fees.
  Accommodation in twin sharing local lodges or best available places for accommodation,
  Trekking guide & porter (salary, insurance, food, accommodation & other allowances).
  Basic first aid kit is carried by your leader.
  farewell dinner after the trip

Price Excludes:

Kathmandu food lunch & dinner,
Airport taxes, car, taxi or van.
Transfers for Land Only packages and group tours if you choose to make your own flight arrangements.
Personal expenditure,
all bar bills, laundry, telephone calls, mineral water, snacks, desserts.
We recommend you bring water purifier & neutralizer tablets to reduce your cost of traveling & to help you be a more environmentally friendly traveler etc.
Porter, Guide & other tips.
Personal clothing & equipment.
Travel insurance.
Optional trips. Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond Drift Nepal control.
Anything else not specified in the ‘included costs’ section above.

Upper mustang Trekking Nepal
Upper Mustang Trek
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Upper Mustang Trekking
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