If you like Tibetan Culture then the trek to the ancient Tibetan Kingdom of Lo in Upper Mustang region should be on your bucket list.

UPPER MUSTANG TREK OVERVIEW
Length 15-21 days
Max Elevation 4,325m/14,173ft
Start/finish Jomsom
Difficulty Medium
Accommodation Basic Teahouse
Price from 2,059$

By taking this trek, you will be following the footsteps of salt traders, Tibetan Buddhist Lama, and Khampa freedom fighters along the Kali Gandaki up north.

This journey is like travel back in time passing timeless stone villages, dramatic desert canyon set against blue sky landscape to the capital of Lo Manthang.

 
 

THE LAST LOST TIBETAN KING DOM

UPPER MUSTANG TREK

Being part of Tibetan Plateau, Upper Mustang has similar geographic where there are high altitude deserts, red-rock cliffs, deep river gorges, and some of the highest mountains in the world.

And it hides some mysterious secret:

Let’s dive in…

Mustang has its tale:

Red-rock cliff in Mustang

Red-rock cliff in Mustang

Guru Rinpoche, who had brought Buddhism to Tibet, once passing Mustang he had fought against the Demon among Mustang’s desert canyons.

What we will see today: The red-rock cliffs is Demon’s blood, the longest mani wall nearby is his intestine.

But that’s not the best part.

Sky cave in Choser village in Upper Mustang

Sky cave in Choser village in Upper Mustang

The Kali Gandaki once were strategic salt trading route in the region where scientists have some proof that it end up crossing with the famous Silk Road

Mysterious Mustang hides 1,000 year old man-made caves were carved into the rock, approximately 10,000 caves were used as burial chambers, living places, meditation chambers.

Here is video from National Geographic for your information:

Come and experience the way of life of truth mountain people, feel the howling winds that create such incredible landscape melting in front of your eyes.

Here are some way to experience Upper Mustang:

➡ Discover Mustang sacred caves that hid ancient Buddhist texts and artwork for centuries.

➡ Hike the route that carved the red-rock cliffs in high-altitude desert with dramatic backdrop of impressive 8,000m peaks

➡ Wander labyrinthine alleys of Mustang villages and well-preserved Tibetan Buddhism monasteries

➡ Visit medieval fortress - the captial city of Lo Manthang surrounded by white-washed wall reveals a history of prosperity and grandeur

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Getting There

The main tourist entry point to Mustang is by air from Pokhara to Jomsom where most trekkers end their classic trip to Annapurna Circuit

Few others choose the tougher option is by bus along the Kali Gandaki Gorge in 13 hours

Upper Mustang Restricted Area

Mustang were once an independent Tibetan Kingdom before the Gorkha king of Nepal unify the country.

After Chinese gain control over Tibet, the fiercest Tibetan nomads known as the Khampa retreated to Mustang, Nepal government declared Mustang as restricted area.

Untill recently 1992, the new government reopen Upper Mustang to outsiders with limited of visitors.

Mustang Restricted Area Permits

Kagbeni village, a gateway to Upper Mustang

Kagbeni village, a gateway to Upper Mustang

Foreigners must optain the permits start from US$500 for first 10 days then extra 50$/day for party at least from 2 people

Trekkers enter Mustang Restricted Area at Kagbeni village, a three-hour walk from Jomsom.

 

Upper Mustang Trek Route

Upper Mustang Trek Map.jpg

Upper Mustang Trek Route also called the Salt Route leads through the bottom of the deepest gorge in the world - the Kali Gandaki

The trail requires crossing several high passes between 3,500m and 4,300m, passing timeless medieval villages, along red-rock cliffs and hidden caves

After 6 days trek we will get to the forbidden kingdom of Lo Manthang, means “The Southern Plains of Aspiration” and here ancient monasteries, royal palaces and ruins of fortresses surrounded by a 6-meter white-washed wall. This city is almost untouched by time and modern development.

At the top of Lo La pass, Lo Manthang down below

At the top of Lo La pass, Lo Manthang down below

 

Upper Mustang Trek Itinerary – The Salt Route

Mustang Road Condition

Life is changing fast in Mustang, Chinese government plan the road connection with Lo Manthang going through the high pass of Kora La at elevation 4,660 metres (15,300 ft)

From the south, Road are built all the way up to Lo Manthang for moto and 4WD vehicles hence the trek from Kagbeni to Chhusang can’t avoid moto road.

Here the itinerary customize the return route via Dhakmar and then continue to Muktinath to avoid the main road.

Day Route Hours
1 Flight/Drive Kathmandu to Pokhara (820m)
2 Flight to Jomsom (2,700m/8,856ft)
Trek to Kagbeni (2,858m/8,376ft)
4
3 Kagbeni to Chele (3,050m/10,006ft) 6
4 Chele to Shyangmochen (3,800m/12,467ft) 8
5 Shyangmochen to Ghemi (3,510m/11,515ft) 5
6 Ghemi to Tsarang (3,560m/11,679ft) 7
7 Tsarang to Lo Manthang (3,800m/12,467ft) 5
8 Lo Manthang Acclimatization
Visit Chosar village and caves
5
9 Lo Manthang to Drakmar (3,820m/12,532ft) 8
10 Drakmar to Shyangmochen 6
11 Shyangmonchen to Tetang (3,040m/9,973ft) 5
12 Tetang to Muktinath (3,710m/12,171ft) 7
13 Muktinath to Jomsom 6
14 Flight from Jomsom to Pokhara
15 Return to Kathmandu by Flight/Bus
 

The Classic Trek of Upper Mustang

The tougher option is to follow the classic Mustang trek with mind-blowing trail from Yara to Muktinath at the base of the Annapurna

Take this route you should be preparing for the long day from Tange to Tetang (9-11 hours)

Day Route Hours
1 Flight/Drive Kathmandu to Pokhara (820m)
2 Flight to Jomsom (2,700m/8,856ft)
Trek to Kagbeni (2,858m/8,376ft)
4
3 Kagbeni to Chele (3,050m/10,006ft) 6
4 Chele to Samar (3,620m/11,876ft) 6
5 Samar to Geling (3,570m/11,712ft) 7
6 Geling to Drakmar (3,820m/12,532ft) 7
7 Drakmar to Lo Manthang (3,800m/12,467ft) 8
8 Lo Manthang Acclimatization
Visit Konchok Ling
7
9 Lo Manthang to Yara (3,650m/11,975ft) 7
10 Yara to Tange (3,340m/10,958ft) 8
11 Tange to Tetang (3,040m/9,973ft) 10
12 Tetang to Muktinath (3,710m/12,171ft) 7
13 Muktinath to Jomsom 7
14 Flight from Jomsom to Pokhara
15 Return to Kathmandu by Flight/Bus
 
 

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Best time to visit Upper Mustang

Lo manthang - Temperature - whole year

Lo manthang - Temperature - whole year

Except late December to beginning of March, rest other months are doable for trekking to Mustang.

If you like:

Getting festive

Horse racing in Tsarang, former capital of Mustang

Horse racing in Tsarang, former capital of Mustang

  • The Tiji festival (At the end of the third Tibetan month, around mid-May): three-day festival held in Lo Manthang, Monks perform mask dance which tells the story about the kingdom of Mustang, local gather from all over Mustang to the capital

  • Yartung Festival (August, by the end of monsoon): Three-day Horse racing festival where the local show up their horse riding and archery skills

Experience local activities

The local still do basic farming in Upper Mustang

The local still do basic farming in Upper Mustang

  • Seeing the local herding yaks: The summer month from June to Sep is good time

  • Harvesting activities: Early autumn in Oct

Flora and Plants

Bucketwheat fields in Lo Manthang in late July

Bucketwheat fields in Lo Manthang in late July

  • Witnessing the bucket wheat: Monsoon from late Jul to early Sep

  • Bright-yellow mustard: June-Aug

  • Barley fields: Jun-Sep

Landscape against blue skies

  • Autumn (Oct-Nov) are ideal time to experience the sky of this dramatic landscape.

  • Another good time is Apr-May

 

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