Upper Mustang Trekking | Tiji Festival in Upper Mustang

  • Hemanta Budhathoki
  • Last Updated on Jun 21, 2024

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Upper Mustang Trek

The Upper Mustang trek is the best way to experience the mysterious ancient Buddhist kingdom of Mustang. Despite being forbidden for years and isolated from the rest of the world, the area has developed its own unique culture and traditions associated with Tibet. It is one of the moderate, lesser-known treks of Nepal, which passes through the country's driest regions and offers stunning mountain views. 

Only a few places world where traditional cultures like the Bon religion, matriarchy, and Martian landscapes are still preserved, like the Upper Mustang or kingdom of Lho. Whereas the Lower Mustang route is popular with tourists, and the scenery is more typical of Nepal. A route through the Himalayas is usually taken via the Lower Mustang route. Historically, Mustang has been insulated from mass tourism due to its inaccessibility and is now considered the last bastion of traditional Tibetan culture. A trip to Upper Mustang offers the fascinating Himalayan experience due to its long, rich and complex history.

The Upper Mustang Trek: Why Should you Visit?

The Upper Mustang offers an exceptional trekking experience. Upper Mustang is a place where you can learn about the mountain people's traditional Tibetan culture and lifestyle, who have known very little contact with the rest of Nepal over the centuries and who have retained their rich cultural heritage.

There are many similarities between a trek in the Upper Mustang and a trek in Tibet since it is geographically a part of the Tibetan plateau. Before 1950, the district of Mustang was a separate kingdom within the boundaries of Nepal. There is something distinctly unique about the Upper Mustang. The Upper Mustang had only opened to non-Nepali trekkers about fifteen years ago, and the region is extremely restricted even today. Trekkers need a different trekking permit to enter Upper Mustang through a registered Nepalese trekking company, and a certified guide must accompany them.

Highlights of the Upper Mustang Trek

The Upper Mustang Trek is a 15 days Trekking route where you can explore the majestic views of the mountains along with the following major highlights:

  • Visit the palace of the Kingdom of Lho i.e., Lo Manthang which will bring you back to Lo Manthang's history.
  • A walk in the rain shadow of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges.
  • Spiritual walk through many Gompas, chortens, flapping prayer flags, caves, rock paintings, and century-old monasteries.
  • Experience the Tibetan influence on local culture and daily life.
  • Enjoy the stunning views of Nilgiris, Annapurna’s, and Dhaulagiri peaks.
  • Become enlightened by Tibetan people and monks with their ritual chants, prayer flags, and mani walls.
  • During your visit, you'll get to see the everyday life and culture of the local people who live close to their Tibetan neighbors.
  • Enjoy the view of the plateau landscape

Tiji Festival in Upper Mustang

Tiji Festival is celebrated in the old Buddhist kingdom of Lo Manthang, is a sacred Buddhist ceremony that has been around for a long time. The festival consists of a series of rituals occurring over three days at the end of May. Lo Manthang's monks and lamas will state the date after Tibetan New year; Tibetan Lhosar generally falls in February/March.

Vedio about Tiji festival in Lo-manthang 

The Tiji Festival is a three-day celebration of the Tiji myth which is known as "The Trail of the Demons". The story of Tiji tells the tale of a deity named Dorje Jono who battles with his evil father to protect the Mustang Kingdom from destruction. The demon father causes a water shortage in Mustang which is the most valuable resource in this extremely arid landscape. Finally, Dorje Jono defeats and banishes the demon. It derives from "ten che" meaning a belief that Buddha Dharma will prevail throughout all worlds. It is a very important spring festival, perhaps the most significant in the Buddhist calendar.
Furthermore, you'll enjoy the trek to Lo Manthang as it's a spectacular walk-through Himalayan terrain that contrasts wildly with the lush fertile hills and valleys south of the main Himalayan chain.
Upper Mustang festival
Monks performing a special ritual in Upper Mustang (Lo-Manthang) during the festival 

The Tibetan region of the Upper Mustang consists of only a few small green fields dotting a lunar landscape, but it is rich in spiritual heritage. It is a land full of small villages, ancient monasteries, friendly people, and breathtaking scenery. Mustang derived its wealth from being a major trading hub on the Kali Gandaki/Thak Khola trade route between Tibet and Nepal, which reflects the rich Buddhist culture, history, laws, and customs.

When is the best time to trek in Upper Mustang?

There is no better time to travel to Upper Mustang Nepal than the summer. The great weather, the great landscape, and the breathtaking views of the mountains attract tourists in the summer.

Your trip will be more memorable if you interact with locals and photograph innocent children. Natural beauty can be found in Nepal due to its variation in terrain and altitude ranging from tropical to arctic areas. In Upper Mustang, you can find different cultures, languages, and lifestyles as well as the rich natural beauty that gives you a sense that you are visiting another country.

So, if you are thinking about which trekking area to choose during the summer months, an Upper mustang is the best option for you. Due to the shades of the Annapurna Mountains, the weather in this region is typically clear and dry in the summer seasons. Also, the summer months are relatively quiet.

You will be able to visit the most popular teahouses in Spring and Autumn. In May, the Tiji Festival is held, attracting many trekkers who want to combine their adventures with cultural experiences. It lasts three days within the grounds of the former Mustang palace. You can also make a trek in the Upper Mustang in winter, but you'll have to make sure your gear is suitable for the weather. Many locals from all over the world come to Lo Manthang (Upper Mustang) to celebrate the festival. Winter months January and February can be more difficult and block the trekking route due to heavy snowfall.

Upper Mustang Trek: How Difficult is it?

Upper Mustang treks are moderately difficult in terms of many aspects of the journey. However, if you are physically fit and enjoy experiencing the trans-Himalayan landscape, you are sure to be able to complete the trek. Moreover, it is safe and convenient for everyone, including families with kids and seniors to trek in Upper Mustang. For those who cannot walk in the middle of the trek, there is also a jeep transfer service or doing it with a horse.

The Mustang region is one of the most popular trekking destinations in Nepal, offering views of unspoiled nature and landscapes like no other place. Mustang's culture and language are similar to Tibet, which is why it is a great place to visit. Despite its location in the Himalayas, the terrain is a mix of snow-capped mountains and desert lands.

The Upper Mustang region lies in the rain shadow of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri massifs, making it possible to trek during the monsoon. Nevertheless, it is best to add one or two days for travel interruptions due to bad weather in the lowlands. Despite being rated as moderately difficult, this trek requires you to go through frequent switchbacks at high altitudes. Additionally, the climate continuously challenges you. So, the best approach to this trek is to not consider it as easily achievable, rather approach it with a lot of effort and motivation.

Trekking the Upper Mustang is suitable for most walkers. However, this trek requires a certain amount of fitness. The difficulty level of the trek is determined by the factors which affect the trek so, you can consider the following factors before trekking to Upper Mustang:

1. Walking Hours and duration:

Upper Mustang terrain is not as harsh as Lower Mustang. The daily walking hours are usually between 6-7 hours. The trip can last up to 18 days. You can, however, make the trek longer or shorter according to your preference. It is important to understand that walking 7 hours is not a joke. There is no doubt that it is difficult and painful, but when you reach the hidden Himalayas, you will be rewarded by their majesty that makes all the effort and effort worthwhile.

2. Altitude:

The terrain in the trekking period is always below 4000m, which means that even if you feel the symptoms of Altitude Sickness as headaches, nausea, or vomiting, there is less likelihood of having severe complications from altitude. Acclimatization techniques must be used carefully at high altitudes. Don't take chances unless you feel like continuing. Altitude sickness might become fatal. Confidence in this route is, if you felt in altitude sickness, can immediately make to low altitude by using road transportation.

3. Weather and temperature:

A factor determining the difficulty of this trek is the climate. Upper Mustang is blessed with four distinct seasons. The summer months are not ideal because the monsoon overlaps with the Summer months. In general, Winter is cold and frosty. During the daytime, temperatures sink to around -100C, which is quite low; however, during the night, temperatures can reach -200C.

It is therefore quite impossible to travel in Winter. Autumn is suitable for trekking, however trekking in Spring is highly recommended to you because you may get a chance to attend one of the largest festivals of the Mustang's-Tiji festival.

4. Physical fitness:

Although prior trekking experience is not necessary, it is advisable to follow a routine like walking and jogging for a couple of months before the trek. This will increase one's stamina at high altitudes and help with shortness of breath. Before beginning the trek, it is important to seek the advice of your doctor if you have pre-existing medical conditions such as heart, lung, and blood conditions.

5. Remoteness:

The remoteness of the region has some effect on the difficulty of the trek; however, it is not the primary factor. There are a number of tea-houses and similar accommodations around Upper Mustang, whose services are satisfactory if you factor in the altitude.


Thus, Upper Mustang offers magnificent views and lifetime experience opportunities for trekkers all over the world. In order to experience the lifetime opportunity, this is definitely the place to visit for all travelers.

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Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki is team leader of Nepal Highland Trekking and travel company. 

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