Upper Mustang, the hidden paradise in the Trans Himalayan Region
There are different unique treks in Nepal which are done by very less people. One of the unique treks with unforgettable experience is visiting the Upper Mustang area after taking a brief Trans Himalayan flight from the second popular city of Nepal Pokhara. If you don’t like to take this scenic flight as the flights are operated with small planes one has the choice of taking land transfer too. The fight follow the Kaligandaki valley with superb view of Dhawalagiri and Annapurna, both are eight thousands meter high peaks from the Himalaya and unique gift to the Nepalese by nature. Going to Annapurna and Dhawalagiri is more common than going to Upper Mustang area.
Upper Mustang trek is the best way to explore the hidden world of ancient Buddhist Kingdom. The area is protected from the mass tourism due to rigid and fragile landscape, security, living tradition and culture as well as very old monasteries. The Upper Mustang is extra ordinarily fascinating place for the visitors. The trek to this area gives unique experience due to long, rich and complex history which is still unspoiled and authentic. Some of the monasteries to visit in this area are as old as 8th century, which was founded by Guru Rimpoche himself.
Mostly the trek route follows the Kaligandaki River upstream and reaches the ancient capital of Lo-Manthang, which was once a walled town and the administrative base for whole upper Mustang area. After discovering the attractions from this walled town and its age old monasteries, one can take different route to retrace back to the Kagbeni where the restricted area ends.
Why Upper Mustang Trek is special?
Upper Mustang is considered lost paradise from Tibet. One can see the living Buddhist monasteries which are very old and still survived in the Himalayan region. The landscape one can observe specially the variegated landscape is not available in none of the other trips. The culture of the ethnic group who reside in this area is also different than the other part of the Himalaya. As the area is located in rain shadow zone, the vegetation and concentration of the settlements next to the river banks make the area unique too. For security reason the area was closed for visitors from sixties and only reopened in nineties. The opportunity to observe the Yak from near also makes the trip special. One has to go with special permits in organized trips to protect the culture and landscape, so the entry is restricted to limited people.
The scenic flight to and from Pokhara also gives an excellent opportunities to observe the snowcapped mountains and pass through the world’s deepest gorge which was formed by tall raising Dhawalagiri and deepening Kaligandaki river.
When is the best time to visit Upper Mustang?
The trek can be done throughout the year but the winter time is extremely cold. This could be the best trekking in June July as the area receives very less rain. Tiji festival is the popular festival from Lo Manthang which falls in May/June and can be observed by visitors. The Tiji festival is all about driving the demons away to protect the kingdom from demons and evil spirits. Tiji festival last for three days mainly and consist of complex Buddhist rituals to save the Mustang kingdom from invading evil spirits. This indigenous festival explains a myth of a son who protected the area from his insidious dad who likes to devastate the kingdom by spreading the detestable evil spirits in the town. The festival is organized by local monasteries and local people from neighboring villages come to observe the festival with nears and dears. During the festival the monks wears a special costumes and perform the mask dances.
Permits to visit the Upper Mustang
There is a special permit to visit upper Mustang area which cost $500 for ten days and $50 per day for extra days. At least two members are necessary for the permits to be issued. No permits are issued for solo trekkers. Besides the special permit one has to pay the conservation fee for Annapurna Area conservation project and TIMS is also charged for every individual entering the area. Permits and Fees are revised without prior notice so please feel free to consult us for recent updates.
Accommodations and meals during the trip
Tea house accommodations are available for small groups and the local lodge where one is staying caters the fresh foods with choice of Nepalese and simple continental dishes. The big groups are staying on tents as they have limited rooms in many villages in the area. The company manages cook and food for big groups mostly in dining tents.
Transportation in Upper Mustang
Most of the upper Mustang area is now connected with rough, not black topped roads and instead of walking if you like to make the trip in vehicle it is possible. The construction of these rough roads overlaps the trails in many areas leaving annoyed experience due to dust they produce as trekkers are walking. The area is accessible by Jeep or four wheels drive so persons who are not comfortable for walking long hours can still take advantage of visiting the areas. The horses were used extensively in the past for transportation in the area and now our visitors can enjoy the horse ride to visit some ancient monasteries.
The price of the trip and what it covers
Normally we charge around $2500 per person and it covers basically everything from Kathmandu to Kathmandu. Please write us for the details. There must be at least two persons in the group. However if you want to have luxury accommodation in the city the trip price varies. One can take a flight from Kathmandu-Pokhara-Kathmandu sector to avoid long bus journeys of about 8 hours each way between these two towns on extra cost. We recommend our valuable clients to take a land transfer at least one way if you love to observe the landscape of the hilly area of Nepal. The trip prices never cover the tips and gratuities which seems expected in Nepal. You can check our tipping page for further clarification.
The itineraries for the Upper Mustang Trek
The itineraries we make are based on our experience and research but we are flexible to customize according to the needs of our clients and accommodate accordingly. The best itinerary we found feasible for all normal trekkers to Upper Mustang Trek is accessed here. Normally the itineraries cover an introductory city tour in Kathmandu, we are happy to reduce the cost if you are not interested for this tour. We strongly recommend this tour to our valuable customers as the tour is not only taking you to discover the heritages in town but also gives you time to prepare before heading for the trek and recover from Jetlag.
Permit processing for Upper Mustang Trek
As there is a special permit to enter Upper Mustang area which is issued in Kathmandu by department of Immigration, we can process the permits only in government working days. We strongly recommend our clients to arrive Kathmandu during week days as the government offices closed during weekends and public holidays. Please consult us before you by the international flight tickets or prepare for some spare days in Kathmandu before you head for the trip. We need pictures and original passport for the permit processing so please carry passport size pictures for permits.
Side trips from Upper Mustang Trek
There are some side trips you can make after doing Upper Mustang Trek which gives opportunity to compare the varied landscape and culture in the upper Mustang area and lower Mustang area or neighboring area of Mustang. The side trips totally depend with the time available, interest of individual and budget available. From Kagbeni where the check post for special permit is located, a day trek to discover the famous Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site of Muktinath is worthy for many people. It needs just an extra day to do this. Discovering the whole Kaligandaki valley downstream, the Kaligandaki valley explorer trek will give idea of totally different landscape than upper Mustang. The trip can be extended to visit even up to Annapurna Base Camp. Few extra days will give opportunity to do the popular pass of Thorung-La clockwise and discover the hidden secrets of Manang, which is located behind the Annapurna range. Once reached to the Pokhara, one can make an extension to visit the famous national park of Chitwan to chill out after the mountains by observing great one horned rhinos and many other endangered animals like Royal Bengal Tigers. If you are culturally and religiously conscious a pilgrimage visit to birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini is worth going. Remember Lumbini is very hot during summer; one has to prepare to cope with high temperature specially after doing the trip in the mountains.
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