Mustang refers to as the country across the Himalayas. Our Upper Mustang Lo Manthang trek is specially for the travellers who are keen to know more about Tibetan Buddhism. Government of Nepal has classified Upper Mustang as regulated region.
Still somewhat restricted, the government limits the visitors in this area with special trekking permits. The Home Ministry of Nepal opened the Upper Mustang region for trekkers in October 1991. Therefore, the land is also famous as the forbidden Kingdom.
Upper Mustang region is located north to the Middle West of Nepal on the map. The Upper Mustang trek starts generally from the north of Kagbeni at Annapurna Circuit trail. This region has a great influence from Tibet for culture and traditions. The men folk are either traders or farmers while the women mostly tend the fields.
Lo Manthang and other villages in Upper Mustang are still untouched by the outside world. The 14th century monasteries are available active to preserve this magnificent Trans-Himalayan Kingdom with their unrivalled Buddhist shrines. The cliff hanging monasteries, thankas, mandalas, deities and cave dwelling people are the main attractions of Upper Mustang.
The traditional Upper Mustang trail used to be the Salt Road following through the bottom of the deepest gorge in the world – the Kali Gandaki. The extended Tibetan plateau up to Kagbeni has great rivers, fields with the highland and the pristine peaks of Annapurna and Nilgiri marking the horizon in the South.
Trekking in this forbidden Kingdom gives you the opportunity to go where only a few have been before. Most of the trek has deserts inhabited mostly by people of Tibetan origin. The scattered settlements have little sign of cultivation between villages.
Why trek to Upper Mustang?
A steep rocky trail climbs up and down hills with panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and several other peaks. Hence, being in the Himalayan rain shadow area, Upper Mustang Lo Manthang trail is one of the few parts of the country that is suitable to trek during monsoon also. The Upper Kaligandaki valley is still quite dry with occasional rainfall.
Along with insights into the everyday lives of the people of “Lo” you will have the opportunity to witness their vibrant culture and also a chance to get a look at Lama Buddhism so little changed by time. The art of living in the caves of the clay-mountains in the past is truly mesmerizing.
Importance of Lo Manthang
The main attractions of Lo Manthang area are the Tall Champa Lakhang “God house”, the red Thugchen Gompa, Chyodi Gompa and the Entrance Hall. Another attraction is the four–story building of the Raja’s Palace as well as the surrounding panoramic views of the Himalaya. Having seen one, you are excited to see the others.
Besides Lo Manthang, there are two other interesting valleys worth visiting. The western valley Tingkhar, the sight of the Raja’s summer palace, Kimling and Phuwa as well as the Gompa of Namgyals “The Monastery of Victory” is the newest and most active Gompa in Lo. The eastern valley contains Choser, the main trading route to Lhasa.
Permits for Upper Mustang Trek
Since Upper Mustang is a controlled area, you will need special trekking permit that can be issued by a local Trekking Company. Besides, you will also need ACAP permit for this trek. The special permit will be issued for a group of minimum two persons.
The special permit for Upper Mustang trek will cost US $50 per person per day and need to apply for a minimum of 10 days, hence a total of US $500 per person. Likewise, ACAP permit will cost rupees 3000 (US $27) per person.
Accommodation on the trek
Upper Mustang trek can be completed on teahouse style now-a-days. Because of the availability of local teahouses en-route, this trek has become feasible for a low budget travel as well. There was a huge expenditure on the logistics until the teahouses were built.
The teahouses are equipped with two basic single beds. Toilets are mostly shared and can be outside of teahouses. Hot shower may not be available and can cost extra for a bucket of warm water. Heating can be available in the dining area only.
Transportation in Upper Mustang
The Upper Mustang Lo Manthang trek starts with a drive from Pokhara to Beni, Jomsom and further to Kagbeni. Similarly, we take a return drive from Muktinath to Pokhara. The leader will consult the group to make a stopover at the interesting place.
Due to the ongoing road construction project between Kagbeni and Korola at the Tibetan border, trekkers might be distracted by the mode of exploration instead of walk. It is, therefore, requested to remain firm for the trek.
But it is an ideal paradise for motorbike lovers who are ready to accept the off-road biking tour. Upper Mustang can certainly rejoice your passion for a motorbike tour.
Trip Extension to Damodar Kunda (Lake)
Damodar Kunda lies in Mustang district of Nepal at an elevation of 4,890 meters (16,044ft). ‘Kunda’ refers to as ‘Lake’ in English and it is a sacred Lake. It is named after the Damodar Himal (6,706m/22,002ft) and generally remains cold, dry and windy.
Damodar Kunda has a great importance among Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims. It is also considered that Muktinath Darshan will be completed only after the visit of Damodar Kunda. Hindus believe that a deep-bath into the Lake will remove all sins from their body.
So, there are two ways to visit the Damodar Kunda- by trek or by Helicopter. If you are trekking in Upper Mustang and Lo Manthang, it is worthy to extend your trek and include the Damodar Kunda as well. Since the Lake is located at high enough, you can have an awesome view of the Annapurna Himalayan massif from there.
Indian and Nepali pilgrims are keen to visit the Damodar Kunda by Helicopter. We have a Muktinath Yatra by Helicopter tour package and can be included the Damodar Kunda also on your request. Damodar Kunda and Muktinath Darshan by Helicopter together are becoming more popular these days.
August is an ideal time to visit the Damodar Kunda. It observes a great festival celebration during the full moon of August every year. However, the best time to visit the Lake is April through September.
- Views of extended Tibetan plateau
- Panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains
- The ancient walled city of Lo Manthang
- 14th century Monasteries and ancient villages
- Traditional Tibetan culture
- The great countryside, beautiful landscapes, rivers and streams