Upper Mustang - Exploring Ancient Tibet

Upper Mustang is a totally unique destination. It’s forbidden Tibetan kingdom, land of ancient civilization and a place yet to be thoroughly explored and discovered. Trekking in this rough landscape is an experience to be remembered for the rest of the life. Upper mustang, more culturally and geographically similar to Tibet rather than Nepal, is a home of indigenous Tibetan people still with their well-preserved unique art and culture. Trekking in this region is unlike anywhere else in Nepal- its challenging yet manageable for anyone, the scenery is spectacular on every single corner and the people are some of the most welcoming and warm people you will ever meet.  

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Upper Mustang is one of the most preserved and isolated areas in the world. Trekking here is a rare privilege giving you the opportunity to observe old capital city kingdom of Lho Manthang, magnificent monasteries and meet welcoming Tibetian people still not used to meeting tourits. The unique landscape is full of carved caves, dry and windy valleys, medieval villages and some of the rare inhabitant of Himalayan fauna. Except for harsh winters, you can visit this magnificent Mustang even in the monsoon. The best time to come would be in March as you get to see he fascinating Tiji festival lasting three days. Upper Mustang used to be closed to all foreign visitors until 1992 preserving all of its cultural heritage. Nowadays, Upper Mustang has become accessible for any visitors, however tourism is still restricted. Once here, you can either trek, drive a jeep orexplore the region on the seat of a motorcycle. If you wish to visit this place you will need to apply for a special, and unfortunately rather expensive permit that lasts 10 days. It is also legally compulsory to be trekking here with an authorised guide.

Day 1: Kathmandu (1310 m) to Pokhara (800 m)

Transfer by bus/plane from Kathmandu. You get time to relax and prepare for the trek

Day 2: Pokhara to Jomsom (870 m) and trek to Kagbeni (2840 m) 25 min fly, 3 hours trek

Make sure you get a window seat because we will be boarding an exceptionally scenic flight over the Annapurna mountain range. Jomsom lies on the bank of dry Kali Gandaki river valley and is surrounded by two towering mountains of Mt. Tukuche in the east and the Dhaulagiri massif in the west. Their valley will be leading us on today's route to Kagbeni. On our way we frequently cross paths with pilgrims travelling to or from Muktinath - the holiest place in the entire country. From now on a wind will be following our steps and won't leave us for the duration of the entire trek - an unavoidable part of trekking in these corners of the world. In the later afternoon we reach Kagbeni - the setting of the village is picture perfect with the stone mountains on each side, river valley forming its shape and muddy houses giving its unique authenticity.

Note: Getting to Jomsom
If you have enough time, you can reach Jomsom with the road network. It takes two more days from Pokhara to reach Jomsom.

Day 3: Kagbeni (2840m) to Samar (3500m) 2 hours Jeep Drive and 3 hours of walk

Today we board a private jeep upto Chuksang (2900m) village and trek to Samar village. You can expect vast arid deserted highlands, broad riverbed and traditional whitewashed earthen houses. On our way to Chele we cross the Kali Gandaki river where it makes a tunnel to pass it way through massive rock. The flute like cave is another highlight to see here on red chunk cliff. After Chele village we mostly follow roadway to reach Samar village. The Chele La (3600m) is the first pass which opens you magnificent views of Annapurna mountains in south. Samar is a beautiful village settled in the middle of poplar tree.

Day 4: Samar (3600m) to Ghiling (3800m) 5-6 hours

We leave Samar and drop down to the river walking through juniper forest. Later on we ascent roughly 200m to Bhena where there are few tea shops for us to chose from for our little break. The trail is easier to follow and comfortable to trek on. We finish our trek when reaching Ghiling. This village is a home to an ancient red white and yellow washed stupa. Ghiling offers a great hotel facility with a wonderful Tibetan atmosphere. The village has a secondary school, century old monastery and a central stupa right in the middle of the village. From here you will be able to interact with with Lobas - people from Lho kingdom, the most genuine, warm and friendly people you will ever come across.

Day 5 : Ghiling (3800m) to Ghami (4000m) 4-5 hours

The broad valley around Ghiling is just so beautiful. After one hour of gentle ascent reach the village of Jaite (4130m). Another 100m of ascent takes us at dramatic Jaite La from where you can clearly see the Annapurna mountain range on south. Mt. Nilgiri (7300 m), Thorong La peak (6500m) and Gangapurna are visible. Today's trek is gentle and very enjoyable with magnificent views of both himalayan peaks and mustang scenery along the way.

Today's trek finishes in Ghami - the 3rd largest settlement of Lobas. The village is full of traditional Tibetian mud houses, ancient city gates, smart water channels and more monasteries. The hotel where we stay is owned by the royal region of the Lho country. It has been recently build and finished to high standard yet still keeping tradition Tibetan feel making this a wonderful experience on its own.

On rest of spare time we relax and wander around the village. This settlement has got largest mani wall in all over Mustang and very friendly local people happy to chat to all foreigners.

Day 6: Ghami (4000m) to Marang (4200m) 6-7 hours

Some of the most spectacular scenery and the most enjoyable scenery is waiting ahead of us on today's itinerary. The highlight of our trip is the village of Dakmar from where we can observe red chulk like cliffs dotted with ancient caves. We take a less known trail through Tsarang where we visit a palace and a magnificent Gompa. Later on we come to Marang village, a peaceful village just above Tsarang for overnight stay giving us a great starting point before crossing tomorrow's rather challenging pass (4200m).

Day 7: Marang (4200m) to Lo Manthang (3840m)  6-7 hours

Today we will experience a rare visit to the Ghar Gompa which is believed to be constructed in the 7th century. The Gompa is considered to be one of the oldest Gompa made in old Tibet and has been mentioned in the old Tibetan Tantric mythology. The summary of the story goes back to Tibetan Tantric Guru Rimpoche who chased a demon and killed him right here at this Ghar Gompa. There won't be any places for us to stop for lunch as we will be crossing vast deserted land so a packed lunch it is. The piknik spot we have is on top of the hill where the view down the valley is fantastic - lunching in the open air doesn't get better than this. Right before reaching our final destination there is a lovely place for us to tie prayer flags to make sure all our dreams come true. Even for the not-so-spiritual people this is a wonderful and quiet touching moment. In the late afternoon we reach Lo Manthang for a much needed rest.

Day 8 : Lhomanthang

After a week of trekking we suggest you take a day off within this ancient city to relax, eat some lovely food, shop in local stores, visit local monastery school and perhaps even join young monks at their morning prayers. A local Lama guide for small reasonable fee offer $10 with Lama guide offers to show you three Gompas, King’s palace and tell what it is like to live in this wonderful place. He will take you through narrow alley ways within the palace, shows you thangka paintings and tells you mysterious stories about the city.

Day 9 : Lhomanthag - Horse ride around Chosar cave

Get ready for some fun because today we will take a horse ride around the area of this old kingdom capital. Even for total beginners this is a wonderful and exciting experience to see this magnificent land from the back of a horse. A guide will take us through some wonderful small villages, the views are beyond scenic, people we meet along the way are welcoming and friendly and the caves are fascinating and  all making this the highlight of our trek.

Day 10 : Drive Muktinath (3710m) 7 hours

Today we drive back to Muktinath (3700m). The drive to Chusang is fairly adventurous and is one not to be forgotten. We stop for lunch on the way back in a lovely tea lodge. Later on we reach Muktinath. This settlement is one of the oldest and holiest places in Nepal. Thousands of tourists from both Nepal and India come here every year to take a bath in the sacred spring water. The accommodation in this village is very good with plenty of local and western style restaurants around giving you plenty of options to refuel and rest.

Day 11: Muktinath (3710m) to Marpha (2680) 6-7 hours

From Muktinath we head down towards Marpha. It will be rather long, however very enjoyable walk yet again with some stunning views. Marpha is properly the most picturesque village in the entire Upper Mustang. It is surrounded by apple orchards and is famous for various apple products such as apple brandy, dried apples, apple pie and many others. The white washed windproof houses, stone paved narrow alley street and underground water channel are some of its highlights. Once we reach this settlement you get enough time to explore its surroundings. We suggest you go for evening monastery ceremony and chat with young lamas who are always happy to share their knowledge with visitors. 

Day 12 :  Drive from Marpha (3710m) to Sikha (1800m) 6 hour drive & 3 hour trek

In the morning we take a shared local jeep which brings us down to Tatopani. The drive is scenic as we pass rivers and river valleys. Once we reach Tatopani we trek uphill to Sikha - a traditional picture perfect village in the hillside with magnificent view of Mt. Dhaulagiri.

Day 13 : Sikha (1800m) to Ghorepani (2750m)

From Sikha to Ghorepani it is almost a 1000m ascent meaning it is not going to be easy. However the trail is so beautiful with vies over lush forests dotted with local little farms. The slate roof houses of Magar community and their unique habitat makes your day trip memorable. On the way we cross many local little villages with plenty of spots for breaks on the way. We will end the trek in Ghorepani - a place famous for some of the finest of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri range.

Day 14: Ghorepani (2750m) to Pokhara (827m)

Sometimes being an early bird pays off and today is definitely the case. We will walk up to catch the sunrise over the Himalayas from the famous Poon Hill. While sipping on your favourite hot drink you can admire all the mountains right in front of you - In the northern corner just below Mt. Dhaulagiri (8193 m) and Nilgiri (7061 m) lies world’s deepest Dana Valley. Annapurna I (8893 m), Annapurna South (7219 m) ranges in the east and the beautiful holy mountain Machhapuchhre (Fishtail,6993 m) to the southeast.
If you visit Poon Hill in between March and May, you get to see the wonderful blooming flowers of Nepal’s national plant - rhododendron.

Later on in the morning we descend down to Nayapul and take a bus ride to Pokhara. The trail to Nayapul goes through beautiful ancient oak and rhododendron forest, terraced fields and traditional mountain villages. Along the way you can see towering Machhapuchhre from Birethanti.

We finish the trek in Pokhara. If you get enough time we suggest staying here for few days and enjoy the famous Phewa Lake, go shopping or for a massage, and enjoy all the amenities this tourist resort has to offer.