Upper Mustang Trek is one of the most beautiful and famous cultural trek in Nepal. Upper Mustang trek in Nepal was officially opened in 1992. Particularly limited numbers of trekkers are only allowed each year. Thus to protect and conserve the local Tibetan tradition and the fragile environment. This trekking offers a very impressive trekking experience with a semi-arid valley. It is located in Mustang district upper corner of deepest gorge Kali Gandaki gorge, Annapurna Circuit. Here, you will trek through a semi- desert landscape with spires and cliff-top villages surrounded by verdant fields. You can enjoy the panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna Dhaulagiri and Damodar mountain range. This region is cold in winter and windy and dusty through the year. Once Upper Mustang known for the Last Forbidden Kingdom because tourists were not allowed to enter this region until 1992. This region is isolated from the rest of the world as it has unique structure of landscapes with traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture and Bon religion at Lubra. On this trek you will explore the hidden world of the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Lo-Manthang and the lifestyle of true mountain residents, who for hundreds of years and little contact with the rest of Nepal. Till 1950, Mustang was a separate kingdom of Buddhist and still recognized as historical capital Lo-Manthang and the Raja, the last king of Mustang has still a home at Lo. Culturally and geographically, Upper Mustang is more similar to Tibet than Nepal and known for desert beauty.
Upper Mustang lying in Leeward side (rain shadow) of Himalayan range, is suitable for trekking even during monsoons and is not so much difficult as the highest approach is almost 4,000mtrs but challenging. Officially, this region is one of Nepal’s restricted area, hence to access into this region, it requires a special trekking permit. Summer, Autumn and Winter are the best seasons to visit Upper Mustang and spending your holiday in upper mustang make your lifetime memorable.
There are some festivals to see in the Upper Mustang. They are:
This festival is celebrated at Lo-Manthang for three days in the mid-May every year during the full moon. This is a fascinating festival consisting of Tibetan rituals celebrate the myth of a son who had to save the Mustang Kingdom from destruction. This festival is celebrated with performing masked dance dressed on colorful costumes to chase away the evil spirits. Tiji festival is organized by Choedhe Monastery and about 65 monks perform dances.
On the 1st day of the festival, monks perform ‘Tsa Chaam’ dance which tells the story of the birth of ‘Dorje Sonam’-reincarnation of Buddha to a Demon. On second day, the monks perform ‘Ngacham’ dance and Dorje tries to return the Demon to the Buddha realm. And on the third day monks perform ‘Rachham’ dance and banishes the demon from the Mustang.
This festival is celebrated all over Mustang, especially on Lo-Manthang and Muktinath during August and September in every year.This festival is also celebrated for three days with riding horse, drinking and dancing by local Gurung and Thakali people. On the first day, they have the local king’s activities take place, the lamas and monks on second day and local peoples on the third day. Horse riding competition between man and women is the most attractive event on this festival. They use to say Yartung Mela that Yartung means Sumer and Mela means festival and Yartung Mela means to send off the summer. They celebrate this festival at the end of harvesting their crops and stored the cereal at home. The senior respectable priest called Lama, sets the day for celebrating this festival, finding the most auspicious day on their local calendar and keeping in mind the view of completion of the harvesting crops. In fact, this festival for making offerings to Buddha and receive blessings from the village chief as well as senior citizens for an auspicious journey.
The starting and ending point of this trek is Jomsom. On the first day and second day of your arrival in Nepal, you will visit Kathmandu city and prepare for trek. Next day you will fly/drive to Pokhara and roam out around Fewa lake. And the next day, you will fly to Jomsom and start trekking from the following day heading towards Upper Mustang region. Fly between Pokhara and Jomsom saves your time and avoid the arduous bus or jeep journey by land.
Minimum of 2 trekkers is compulsory for any restricted area in Nepal for issuing the special permits. A company and a local staff is must and in no way you can organize upper Mustang trek through independent guide or a porter. Special permits cost $500 per trekker for 10 days that’s the minimum number of days you can have as the permit validity and $50 per day if you wish to have couple of more day's extension. Besides special permit you would need an ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project). However, with Himalayan travellers, it's all set by the time you arrive in Kathmandu.
Tiji or Tenchi Festival which is celebrated during the month of May happens to be one of the principal and most colorful festival for the people of Upper Mustang. During this time the capital, the walled city of Lo Manthang would be full of activity and chances of not finding the rooms may be possible.
The itinerary below is intended as a guideline only, although every effort will be made to adhere to it, changes may be forced upon it by weather conditions, transport failure or other unforeseen events. You should be prepared to be flexible where necessary.
Day 1. Arrival in Kathmandu and transfer to your Hotel.
Day 2. Visit historical and world heritage sites of Kathmandu and prepare for trekking.
Day 3. After breakfast, drive to Pokhara. The road takes us out of the Kathmandu Valley along the Prithivi Highway. On the way, we can see Trisuli River( one of the famous rafting river of Nepal) and rafters rafting on. After you reach Pokhara and check into your hotel you can roam around the Fewa Lake and go for boating and relax.
Day4. Fly or drive to Jomsom from Pokhara and trek to Kagbeni. This amazing short fly makes your trip more interesting as you can enjoy beautiful hills and mountain views during this flight. After you reach Jomsom, you will hike to Kagbeni via Lubra Villege( one of the hidden bon Village of Lower Mustang) and visit around Kagbeni ( The Tibetan Village). Kagbeni is the gateway to Upper Mustang.
Day5. Kagbeni- Tangbe-Tetang- Chhusang. After breakfast, we have to check for especial Upper Mustang permits and drive till Tangbe by jeep and hike to Tetang. Entry to Tangbe is thus from below a string of beautiful chortens and a ruined fort. Then instead of continuing along the road, it’s better to detour via Tetang. Tetang is one of the best preserved villages of the Shoyul. Arriving in the village from above is particularly beautiful. Then, continue trek to Chhusang. Upper Mustang, the challenging of the wind as it whistles up the valley gorge. We will pass through the white-washed houses and set of buckwheat and barley fields. We find three protectors (Rigsum Gonpo) through out this trip. There are three colored Rigsum Gonpas and they represents the trinity formed by the three most popular buddhisattvas in the Mustang area: Jampelyang (Sanscrit:Manjushri), Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara) and Chana Dorje (Vajrapani). The color red is the attribute of Jampelyang, the god of wisdom. White represents Chenresig, who personifies compassion. He is the most venerated god in the Tibetan Buddhism, known also for the famous mantra: “Om mani padme hum”. Blue is the color of Chana Dorje, a fierce and powerful diety who fights demons. Another significance of these Rigsum Gonpas are that they guards the villages and houses terein against malevolent spirits coming from the three levels of the world: sky, earth and underground. White represents the Lha divinities who live in the sky. Red is the Tsen, demons of the earthly expanses. Blue is the Lu (nagas), the snake god of the underground and springs.
Day6. Chhusang-Samar via Ghyakar. Today we cross Kali Gandaki River and pass through the steep barren land alongside the copper-red canyon. We will visit a Ghyakar village and monastery. We will continue down-hills and up-hills until Samar.
Day7. Samar -Shyangboche/Ghiling. Today we will continue our trek challenging with down-hills and up-hills of the trail and visit Chungsi Cave and continue trek to our destination Shyangboche/Ghiling. Chungsi cave is a popular pilgrimage of Mustang which is believed that Guru Ringpoche meditated in this cave around 8th century. This cave is naturally originated on the cliff.
Day8. Shyangboche/Ghiling-Ghami(Ghemi. After breakfast we will leave Shyangboche/Ghiling in the alternative route and head towards Ghemi. As soon as we leave Shyangboche/Ghiling, we cross many hills to get into Ghami. During this journey we will trek up and down walking through narrow trail of semi-arid desert of hills and panoramic Himalayan views. Shyangboche to Ghami route offers you the similar exploration of the village in Tibetan plateau. Many massif mountain views, landscape, culture and natural of this part makes the journey joyful.
Day9. Ghami(Ghemi)-Chrang. Today after crossing the steel bridge at Ghami Khola, we will walk along the longest mani wall of Upper Mustang and pass many chortens to reach Drakmar. Drakmar is one of the most fabulous village and valley with stunning panoramic views of different colored red-cliffs. From below Tensing Riverside Lodge, take the path for Ghar Gumba which winds it’s way through the cliff and turn left and follow the line of the ridge crossing a few small intermediate summits. Breathtaking panoramic views are guaranteed. From the pass we can see the amazing views of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Throng peak, Nilgiri and Damodar mountin range.Then after we will continue to Ghar Gumba.The Ghar Gumpa is the oldest monastery in Upper Mustang which is linked with Guru Rinpoche and Samye monastery in Tibet. Evidently when Samye monastery was being built it was destroyed every night by eerie demons. In the Lama’s dream the building was saved which meant Guru Rinpoche could help them so he sent a request to him. Guru Rinpoche came to Tibet and destroyed the demons but told the monks that Samye could not be completed until the monastery was built in the Lo Gekar in Mustang. There was also a demon in Lo Gekar who Guru Rinpoche killed on whose blood spilled on the mountains. Therefore, Drakmar’s mountains are red. The demon’s intestines where then used to create a long mani walls.
Day10. Chrang-Lomanthang. Today we walk through motorable road, the walking trails are mostly flat, wide and gradually up. From the windy pass we can see the first glimpse of an amazing walled capital of Lo Manthang. From the pass we descent down to reach our final destination Lomanthang.
Day11. Explore Lo-Manthang, walled capital of Lo (especially visit monasteries). Lo-Manthang is one of the major attraction of this trip, the walled capital of Buddhist kingdom of Lo and is the northern two-thirds of Mustang district founded by Ame Pal in 1380. It has tall whitewashed mud-brick walls, gumpas and Raja’s or Royal or King’s palace. There are four major temples at Lo-Manthang: Jampa Lhakhang or Jampa Gompa the oldest known as the ‘God house’, Thubchen Gumpa a huge and red assembly hall, Chodey Gumpa the main city Gompa and Choprang Gumpa popularly known as (new gumpa).
Day12. Lomanthang- Choser. Today we trek to Choser, have lunch at Choer, visit around the Choser valley and get back into the teahouse. There are many Tibetan villages, caves and monasteries within this valley to visit. We will visit Jhong cave and deep red Gharphu Gumpa built into the rock face.
Day13. Choser-konchok ling- Lomanthang. Today early in the morning after breakfast we visit Konchok ling cave and trek back to Lomanthang. This cave is famous for it’s amazingly beautiful Murals. Large figures of Vajradhara, Chaturbuja, Avalokiteshvara and Tara are depicted in the Mural of this cave. The cave is situated in unaccessible height so the care must be taken. The route ascends the valley decorated with ancient chortens then heads east to a quite steep zigzag. This is surely the most beautiful walk in Mustang. The main purpose of visiting this Cave is to admire the cave painting in the Leopard’s Grotto, the surrounding countryside, the views from the arête, the ambience, the hardiness of the trail all combine to make this the most unmissable itinerary in the whole of North Mustang. Atraverse is followed by steepish descent, then another climb next to a stunning geological delirium in flamboyant colors. At the col, a very old construction attresrs to the historic importance of the site: a monastic complex with the evocate name of Trakpuk konchokling. The cave consists of a wall 7.5m long covered by 55 panels of 12th century Pala Buddhist art representations. Depicted in the principal fresco are the “The Great Accomplished Ones” or Mahasiddas, historic persons or legendary characters practicing asceticism and psychophysiogic techniques of yoga.
Day14. Lomathang-Yra. Heading towards Yara leads us to the same route to Tsarang till near the Sungdha Chorten. After that we follow the left route of the trail and pass through the small hills to reach Udi Danda pass. From this pass we can see the panoramic views of different colored cliffs, hills and mountains. We will descend down from Udi Danda till Dhi Village and stop there for lunch. Dhi village is a full of farming fields, we can also go for excursion of Dhi village if interested. Then after we cross Kali Gandaki River and go along the trail on the left side of a Puyung Khola. We can see very beautiful landscapes on the opposite side of near Yara. There are also Chortenas and Rigsum Gompo (the three protectors) on the way. Then after continue 10-20 minutes, we reach our destination.
Day 15.Explore Tashi Kabum,Luri Gumba,Gharagaon, and back to Yara. A day for culture, visiting two exceptional religious sites- Tashi Kabum and Luri Gumpa with the highlights being the unique landscape of the Yara caves. We visit Tashi Kabum which is located in a cliff approximately 50meters above the Puyon Khola on the way to Luri Gumpa. It takes almost an hour to reach Tashi Kabum by foot from Yara village. It is little bit difficult to reach this cave and also we need to crawl down to enter into the cave but once inside we have enough space to stand approximately five-six meters high. In the center of Tashi Kabum cave there is a white chorten under the ceiling of eight suspicious symbols. The symbols painted on the ceiling are surrounded by Vajras and lotus petals as in a Mandala and contains Lokeshvara and a Buddhist Master. The mantra of compassion, “Om mani padme hum” is painted in a lot of places in Upper Mustang. Luri Gumba is also known as Luri cave monastery which is situated inside the cave with numerous delicate paintings. This cave also surrounded by beautiful landscapes and is one of the most important places to worship in the Kingdom. The monastery represents the “Dhukpa Kagyu” sect of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the Mustang’s interesting mysterious. In the center of this cave is a chorten, six meters high, with painted figures on all sides of its rectangular base, on its dome, and also beneath the ritual parasol atop the dome. The domed ceiling is decorated with eight painted images of Mahasiddhas, circling above the chorten. Then after continue with good mountain views until Gharagaon and stop there for lunch. After lunch we will visit around this village and continue to Yara.
Day16. Yara-Chrang. Chrang village is also spelled as Tsarang and it has numerous stupa structures and monasteries. Chortens and Mani walls surround the village of typically Mustang style, which form a maze of narrow stone flagged alleyways and whitewashed mud and stone houses with flat timber topped roofs that blend so perfectly with the surrounding landscape. Chrang village is a very peaceful with series of cultivated terraced fields and the peoples are friendly and hospitable. Chrang is actually the second largest village in the entire Mustang region.
Day17. Drive back to Jomsom.
Day18. Fly to Pokhara and drive to Kathmandu.
Day19,20. Rest day in Kathmandu.
Day21. Departure time.
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