Upper Mustang is a majestic land beyond the Himalayans. It is the upper part (Northern region) of the Mustang District in Nepal. Also known as the Last Forbidden Kingdom, it was a restricted kingdom and demilitarized area until 1992. That makes it one of the most conserved regions in the world, with the majority population still speaking the traditional Tibetan languages. Trekking in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal is all about exploring the hidden world of the ancient Buddhist Kingdom of Mustang, also called Lo.
The maximum altitude village Lomanthang of Upper Mustang lies at an altitude of 3840 meters in the northwest part of Nepal. It has been guarded against mass tourism for a long time and now is known as the last bastion of traditional Tibetan culture. To some extent, a trek into Upper Mustang is like trekking in Tibet, as geographically it is a part of the Tibetan plateau. Trekking to Mustang means you can praise the uniqueness of the tree-less landscape, rocky trails, and views of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, and the other Himalayas. It is a rare privilege to be able to visit Upper Mustang as tourism here is regulated.
The Upper Mustang is a trek to the remote Trans-Himalayan Region of the semi-independent Tibetan Kingdom that offers a spectacular adventurous trekking opportunity through the striking semi-arid desert with colourful rock formations, deep ravines, and snow-capped peaks surrounding you. This area has a distinct Tibetian feel in its people and their culture. The gateway to Upper Mustang starts from Kagbeni. From there you will go through a stark landscape in the rain shadow of Dhaulagiri ridge to Lo- Manthang, the seat of past Kings of the Kingdom of Lo.
Following the course of the Kali Gandaki, a majestic and fast-flowing river, we will climb up a steep canyon, and after hiking for a few days, we will reach the walled capital city of Lo Manang, virtually untouched since the timelessness and appreciation for an ancient culture. You can explore caves, rock paintings, monasteries, and gompa and learn about the culture of this area. Gyakar is a few hours' walks from Lo Manthang, it has famous Gompa. Ghar Gompa is over 1200 years old. It was dedicated to Guru Rinpoche, who travelled these areas at that time. The Upper Mustang trek is not particularly difficult, the highest point is 3,800 meters, but the conditions at times can be challenging as it is always windy and dusty throughout the year.
You will get to explore a whole new place steeped in undisturbed Tibetan Buddhist culture with ancient monasteries, traditional villages, and cave dwellings high up on the cliffs, as well as the amazing architecture on view at the walled city of Lo Manthang (capital of Mustang region). All the preserved culture blending with the natural beauty will be engraved in your memories along with the experiences in the incredible town of the kingdom and the friendliness of local Mustang people.
Upper Mustang lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, hence it a great for Monsoon (June, July, August) trek as there is no rain, although it is open year-round for trekking. Generally, the best time to visit Upper Mustang is during Spring (March, April, May) and Autumn (September, October, November). If you visit Mustang in the month of May, you will also get a chance to observe the Tiji festival of Upper Mustang. The main consideration is the winter because during this time most residents there leave the capital and migrate to lower settlement to avoid the cold and snow. Therefore, people usually avoid visiting Mustang during winter.
Accommodation in Upper Mustang
When going to Upper Mustang, you will expect to stay in hotels prior to the start of the trek, teahouses are available along the entire trek to Upper Mustang. Teahouses are simple houses, often the home of the family that runs them, and offer basic meals along with tourist standard bedrooms. There are few accommodation facilities available above Kagbeni, at the time of the famous festival in this region like Tiji can be lack of accommodation due to many tourists. The region is still not much overcrowded.
Upper Mustang Permit
Upper Mustang has opened to non-Nepali trekkers only some fifteen years ago and even today the area is very restricted. In order to enter Upper Mustang, trekkers need two different trekking permits and should be escorted by a certified guide from a registered trekking company. All the trekkers heading into Upper Mustang (north of Kagbeni) require an Upper Mustang Restricted Area Permit which costs $500 per person, which is valid for 10 days. You can stay longer, but every extra day after that will cost $50 per day per person. The Permit is applied after Kagbeni, you'll have to show your permit both in your way in and your way out. In addition to the restricted permit, you will also need to purchase an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP), which costs $20 USD per person.
After constructed of the road in this area, Upper Mustang is now not only for trekking, there can be a driving tour and riding tour too. Jeep tour to Upper Mustang now is possible who are keen to visit the place nut not able to trek entirely. Another suitable tour is by motorbike for adventure riders. Upper Mustang Jeep tour and Upper Mustang biking tour now is more running than trekking. The road is an entirely dusty road though it is being qualities every year. Since this highway is the Nepal government big project to link with the Tibet border, it might be well-paved in near future.
Upper Mustang is a beautiful place in Nepal that offers a view of magnificent mountain ranges and an extraordinary opportunity to experience the local lifestyle and culture of true mountain people who had very little contact with the rest of Nepal for a very long time and managed to retain their wealthy cultural heritage. The history, myth, culture, and legend blend perfectly with the amazing scenery. It is a must-go trek if you love to explore natural beauty along with fascinating culture and history. You can book your trip with certified travel agencies and enjoy the remarkable journey.