Upper Mustang is a mesmerizing and remote region located in the north-central part of Nepal, bordering the Tibetan Plateau. Renowned as the “Forbidden Kingdom,” it offers a trekking experience like no other. The region’s isolation until 1992 has preserved its unique cultural heritage, making it a destination of great historical and cultural significance.
Trekking in Upper Mustang takes you through a surreal and enchanting landscape. The journey begins with a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, followed by a scenic flight to Jomsom, the starting point of the trek. As you embark on this adventure, you’ll traverse rugged terrain, barren valleys, and wind-sculpted cliffs, immersing yourself in a world of unparalleled beauty.
The trek takes you through a series of picturesque villages, including Kagbeni, Chele, Syanbochen, and Samar. These settlements offer a glimpse into the traditional way of life in this remote region. The locals, warm and hospitable, provide insights into their rich cultural heritage, steeped in Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Interacting with the villagers and witnessing their rituals and customs adds depth and meaning to the journey.
As the trek progresses, the landscape transforms into a surreal moonscape, with vibrant rock formations and towering cliffs. The highlight of the trek is reaching Lo Manthang, the ancient walled capital of Upper Mustang. This historical city is adorned with ornate monasteries, palaces, and traditional mud-brick houses. Exploring the labyrinthine streets of Lo Manthang is like stepping back in time, as you witness the living history of this once-thriving kingdom.
Beyond Lo Manthang, trekkers have the option to venture further north towards the Nepal-Tibet border, exploring the high Himalayan plateaus and experiencing the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Alternatively, you can choose to visit Chhoser village, renowned for its stunning cave dwellings and ancient monasteries, which provide a unique insight into the region’s spiritual practices.
While the trek presents its challenges, including high altitudes and arid climate, it rewards trekkers with unparalleled beauty and cultural richness. Proper acclimatization, physical fitness, and adequate preparation are crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
The best time to visit Upper Mustang for trekking is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) seasons. Let’s delve into the details of these seasons to help you plan your visit accordingly:
Spring Season (April to June):
Spring is a beautiful time to visit Upper Mustang, as the region comes alive with vibrant colors and pleasant weather. Here are some key features of the spring season:
Weather: The temperatures during spring are moderate, with mild days and cool nights. The weather is generally stable, with clear skies and minimal chances of rain or snowfall.
Blooming Landscapes: Spring brings a burst of life to Upper Mustang, with colorful blossoms and blooming wildflowers adorning the valleys and hillsides. The landscapes become a picturesque canvas of vibrant hues.
Wildlife and Birdwatching: Spring is an excellent time for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers. The region’s diverse flora and fauna become more active, and you may have the opportunity to spot various bird species and wildlife like blue sheep, Himalayan foxes, and more.
Festival Season: Spring is also the season of festivals in Nepal. If you’re lucky, your visit might coincide with local festivals such as Tiji Festival in Lo Manthang, which showcases the rich cultural traditions of Upper Mustang.
Autumn Season (September to November):
Autumn is widely regarded as the best time to visit Upper Mustang due to its pleasant weather, clear skies, and vibrant landscapes. Here are the highlights of the autumn season:
Weather: Autumn offers stable and dry weather conditions, with clear skies and mild temperatures. The days are sunny and comfortable for trekking, while the nights can be cool. It is a popular season among trekkers for its optimal weather conditions.
Spectacular Mountain Views: Autumn provides breathtaking views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks, including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. The visibility is excellent during this time, offering unparalleled panoramic vistas.
Harvest Season: Autumn is also the harvest season in Upper Mustang, and you can witness the local communities engaged in traditional farming practices, such as harvesting crops and gathering produce. It offers a unique cultural experience.
Festivals: Like spring, autumn is also a festive season in Nepal. You might have the opportunity to witness Dashain and Tihar, which are major Hindu festivals celebrated with great enthusiasm and cultural events.
Both spring and autumn offer fantastic weather, breathtaking scenery, and cultural festivities in Upper Mustang. Consider your preferences, availability, and the overall experience you seek when deciding the best time for your visit.
Trekking in Upper Mustang is not just about exploring nature’s grandeur; it is also about preserving the region’s cultural heritage. Responsible trekking practices are essential to protect the delicate ecosystem and respect the local communities. Engaging with the locals, supporting local businesses, and adhering to sustainable and ethical practices contribute to the long-term preservation of this unique destination.
the Upper Mustang trek offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in the mystical world of the “Forbidden Kingdom.” With its awe-inspiring landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm-hearted locals, this trek is an unforgettable adventure that will leave you with cherished memories and a deep appreciation for the wonders of Upper Mustang.
Here is a detailed itinerary for a 14-day trek to Upper Mustang.
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.
Transfer to your hotel and take some time to rest and explore the city.
Meet with your trekking guide for a briefing and necessary preparations.
Day 2: Kathmandu to Pokhara (820m)
Take an early morning scenic flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara.
Spend the day exploring Pokhara, a beautiful lakeside city, and prepare for the trek.
Visit popular attractions like Phewa Lake and the Peace Pagoda.
Day 3: Pokhara to Jomsom (2,720m) to Kagbeni (2,810m)
Take an early morning flight from Pokhara to Jomsom.
Begin the trek from Jomsom to Kagbeni, a picturesque village at the entrance of Upper Mustang.
Trek through the Kali Gandaki Gorge and enjoy the stunning views of Nilgiri and Dhaulagiri mountains.
Day 4: Kagbeni to Chele (3,050m)
Trek from Kagbeni to Chele, ascending gradually along the Kali Gandaki River.
Pass through beautiful villages and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
Explore Chele village and experience the local culture.
Day 5: Chele to Syanbochen (3,475m)
Trek from Chele to Syanbochen, crossing several passes and enjoying breathtaking views of the Himalayas.
Pass through the charming villages of Samar and Bhena.
Visit the Rangchung Cave, an ancient cave monastery en route.
Day 6: Syanbochen to Ghemi (3,520m)
Trek from Syanbochen to Ghemi, ascending to Yamda La Pass (3,850m).
Enjoy stunning views of the Mustang region and its unique landscapes.
Visit the ancient Ghemi Monastery and explore Ghemi village.
Day 7: Ghemi to Tsarang (3,560m)
Trek from Ghemi to Tsarang, passing through beautiful landscapes and picturesque villages.
Visit Tsarang Monastery, which houses a large collection of ancient Buddhist artifacts.
Explore Tsarang village and immerse yourself in the local culture.
Day 8: Tsarang to Lo Manthang (3,840m)
Trek from Tsarang to Lo Manthang, the ancient walled capital of Upper Mustang.
Enjoy the panoramic views of the Himalayas and the stunning landscapes.
Explore the rich cultural heritage of Lo Manthang, including monasteries and palaces.
Day 9: Exploration Day in Lo Manthang
Spend a day exploring the historical city of Lo Manthang.
Visit the King’s Palace, monasteries, and traditional mud-brick houses.
Immerse yourself in the local culture and interact with the friendly residents.
Day 10: Lo Manthang to Dhakmar (3,810m)
Trek from Lo Manthang to Dhakmar, descending through the beautiful landscape.
Visit Ghar Gompa, an ancient monastery known for its rock paintings.
Experience the unique geological formations of the area, including the red cliffs of Dhakmar.
Day 11: Dhakmar to Ghiling (3,570m)
Trek from Dhakmar to Ghiling, passing through scenic landscapes and Tibetan-influenced villages.
Enjoy the tranquility of the remote surroundings and immerse yourself in the local culture.
Day 12: Ghiling to Chhuksang (3,050m)
Trek from Ghiling to Chhuksang, retracing your steps through the Mustang region.
Cross the Kali Gandaki River and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.
Explore Chhuksang village and relax after a rewarding trek.
Day 13: Chhuksang to Jomsom (2,720m)
Trek from Chhuksang to Jomsom, marking the final day of your trek.
Enjoy the last views of the Mustang region and the Kali Gandaki Valley.
Celebrate the successful completion of your trek with your team.
Day 14: Jomsom to Pokhara to Kathmandu
Take an early morning flight from Jomsom to Pokhara.
From Pokhara, take a scenic flight or drive back to Kathmandu.
Spend the day exploring Kathmandu, shopping for souvenirs, and enjoying Nepalese cuisine.
Q1: What is the duration of the Upper Mustang Trek?
A1: The duration of the Upper Mustang Trek can vary depending on the itinerary and trekking pace. Typically, the trek takes around 10-14 days to complete, including flight and preparation days in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Q2: Is a permit required for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A2: Yes, a special permit called the Upper Mustang Restricted Area Permit is required for the Upper Mustang Trek. This permit is designed to regulate and preserve the cultural integrity of the region. Additionally, a valid TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System) card is also necessary.
Q3: What is the best time to trek in Upper Mustang?
A3: The best time to trek in Upper Mustang is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) seasons. These months offer stable weather conditions, clear skies, and pleasant temperatures. However, trekking is also possible during the shoulder seasons of late March to early April and late September to early October.
Q4: What is the level of difficulty for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A4: The Upper Mustang Trek is considered a moderate-level trek. While no technical climbing skills are required, trekkers should have a reasonable level of fitness and be prepared for long days of walking in varying terrain and altitudes. It is advisable to engage in physical training and prepare for the trek in advance.
Q5: Are there any age restrictions for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A5: There are no strict age restrictions for the Upper Mustang Trek. However, considering the physical demands of the trek and the high altitude, it is recommended for participants to be in good health and have a reasonable level of fitness. It is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking the trek, especially for older individuals or those with pre-existing health conditions.
Q6: What is the accommodation like during the trek?
A6: Accommodation during the Upper Mustang Trek is typically in tea houses or guesthouses along the trail. These accommodations offer basic facilities such as a bed, blankets, and shared bathroom facilities. However, it is important to note that the level of comfort may vary, and facilities can be more basic in remote areas.
Q7: Is it possible to do the Upper Mustang Trek independently?
A7: No, the Upper Mustang Trek requires trekkers to be accompanied by a registered guide and to trek with a registered trekking agency. This is primarily to ensure compliance with permit regulations, as Upper Mustang is a restricted area.
Q8: Are there any ATM facilities along the trekking route?
A8: ATM facilities are limited in the Upper Mustang region. It is recommended to carry enough cash (Nepalese rupees) for the duration of the trek, as you may not have access to ATMs once you leave Jomsom.
Q9: What should I pack for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A9: Packing essentials include comfortable trekking clothing, sturdy trekking shoes, a warm sleeping bag, a good-quality backpack, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a water bottle, trekking poles, and basic toiletries. It is also advisable to bring a first aid kit and any personal medications you may require.
Q10: Can I extend my trek to other regions after completing the Upper Mustang Trek?
A10: Yes, it is possible to extend your trek to other regions of Nepal after completing the Upper Mustang Trek. Popular extensions include the Annapurna Circuit Trek, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, or trekking to other regions in the Annapurna Conservation Area. It is recommended to discuss your plans with your trekking agency to make suitable arrangements.
Q11: Are there any age restrictions for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A11: There are no strict age restrictions for the Upper Mustang Trek. However, it is essential to consider the physical demands and high altitude of the trek. It is recommended for participants to be in good health, have a reasonable level of fitness, and consult with their healthcare provider, especially for older individuals or those with pre-existing health conditions.
Q12: What is the altitude profile of the Upper Mustang Trek?
A12: The Upper Mustang Trek involves trekking at high altitudes. The maximum elevation reached during the trek is typically around 3,840 meters (12,598 feet) in Lo Manthang. It is important to acclimatize properly and be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Q13: Are there any health risks during the trek?
A13: As with any high-altitude trek, there is a risk of altitude-related illnesses such as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). It is crucial to acclimatize properly, drink plenty of water, and ascend gradually. It is also advisable to have a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers emergency medical evacuation.
Q14: Can I hire a porter for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A14: Yes, hiring a porter is an option for the Upper Mustang Trek. Porters can help carry your backpack and lighten your load during the trek. This allows you to focus on enjoying the journey while supporting the local economy.
Q15: What is the availability of food and water during the trek?
A15: Along the Upper Mustang Trek, there are teahouses and guesthouses where you can find meals and snacks. The menus typically offer a variety of Nepali and international dishes. It is advisable to drink boiled or treated water or carry water purification tablets to ensure safe drinking water during the trek.
Q16: Are there any communication facilities during the trek?
A16: Communication facilities such as mobile network coverage and internet connectivity are available in some villages along the Upper Mustang Trek. However, the reliability and signal strength may vary. It is recommended to inform your loved ones about the limited availability of communication during the trek.
Q17: Is it possible to customize the Upper Mustang Trek itinerary?
A17: Yes, it is possible to customize the Upper Mustang Trek itinerary according to your preferences and requirements. Your trekking agency can work with you to design a tailored itinerary that suits your desired duration, interests, and fitness level.
Q18: What are the environmental and cultural considerations for the trek?
A18: Upper Mustang is a culturally sensitive region, and responsible trekking practices are essential. Respect local customs and traditions, minimize your environmental impact by following the principles of Leave No Trace, and dispose of waste properly. Engaging with local communities, supporting local businesses, and hiring local guides and porters contribute to the sustainable development of the region.
Q19: Can I combine the Upper Mustang Trek with other activities in Nepal?
A19: Absolutely! Nepal offers a wide range of activities that can be combined with the Upper Mustang Trek. You can explore Kathmandu and Pokhara, visit other trekking regions like the Annapurna or Everest region, indulge in adventure activities like paragliding or rafting, or experience cultural tours and wildlife safaris.
Q20: Do I need travel insurance for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A20: Yes, it is highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers trekking activities, medical emergencies, and helicopter evacuation. Make sure your insurance policy is valid for the altitudes reached during the trek and includes adequate coverage for your personal needs.
Q21: Can I do the Upper Mustang Trek solo, or do I need a group?
A21: The Upper Mustang Trek requires trekkers to be accompanied by a registered guide and to trek with a registered trekking agency. This is primarily to ensure compliance with permit regulations as Upper Mustang is a restricted area. Therefore, solo trekking is not allowed in Upper Mustang.
Q22: How physically demanding is the Upper Mustang Trek?
A22: The Upper Mustang Trek is considered a moderate-level trek. While no technical climbing skills are required, it does involve long days of walking, varied terrain, and some steep ascents and descents. It is recommended to have a reasonable level of fitness and engage in physical training and preparation before the trek.
Q23: What type of meals are available during the trek?
A23: Along the trekking route, there are teahouses and guesthouses that provide meals. The menus offer a variety of options, including Nepali, Tibetan, and international dishes. Dal Bhat (rice, lentils, and vegetables) is a popular and nutritious choice. It is advisable to avoid consuming raw or uncooked food and drink only bottled or treated water.
Q24: How cold does it get during the trek?
A24: The temperatures during the Upper Mustang Trek can vary depending on the season. In spring and autumn, the temperatures during the day are generally pleasant, ranging from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius (50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit). However, at higher altitudes and during the nights, the temperatures can drop below freezing, especially during winter months.
Q25: Are there any alternative routes or side trips within Upper Mustang?
A25: Yes, there are alternative routes and side trips within Upper Mustang that can be explored. For example, you can venture further north towards the Nepal-Tibet border or visit the picturesque Chhoser village known for its cave dwellings. These routes and side trips can be customized and included in your itinerary based on your preferences and the duration of your trek.
Q26: Are there any weight restrictions for luggage during the trek?
A26: While there are no strict weight restrictions, it is recommended to pack light and carry only the essentials. Porters usually have weight limits for their loads, so it is advisable to limit your backpack weight to around 10-15 kilograms (22-33 pounds). You can store any excess luggage in your hotel in Kathmandu or Pokhara during the trek.
Q27: Can I rent trekking equipment in Kathmandu or Pokhara?
A27: Yes, you can rent trekking equipment in Kathmandu or Pokhara. There are several gear rental shops where you can find items such as sleeping bags, down jackets, trekking poles, and other necessary equipment. However, it is recommended to bring your own well-fitting hiking boots to ensure comfort and avoid blisters.
Q28: Is it possible to do the Upper Mustang Trek in the monsoon season?
A28: The monsoon season (June to August) brings heavy rainfall to the region, making trekking conditions challenging. The trails can be muddy, slippery, and prone to landslides. As a result, it is not advisable to do the Upper Mustang Trek during the monsoon season due to safety concerns and limited visibility.
Q29: What is the level of trekking experience required for the Upper Mustang Trek?
A29: The Upper Mustang Trek is suitable for trekkers with some previous trekking experience. While it is considered a moderate-level trek, having experience with multi-day hikes and being comfortable with walking for several hours a day will enhance your overall trekking experience.
Q30: Can I extend my trek in Upper Mustang to visit Muktinath?
A30: Yes, it is possible to extend your trek in Upper Mustang to visit Muktinath. Muktinath is a sacred site for both Hindus and Buddhists and is located in the Lower Mustang region. It can be incorporated into your itinerary, and your trekking agency can make suitable arrangements for the extension.