Upper Mustang Trek
The Upper Mustang trek brings you into the hidden world of the old Buddhist kingdom of Mustang, also called Lo. Lo used to be part of the Tibetan empire, and is therefore closely related to Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is still being practiced in a very pure form and villages are built in Tibetan style, with white washed houses with firewood tucked on the roofs.
Not only the culture, also the landscape is very much related to Tibet. Mustang lies in the rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri and you walk in a complete desolate landscape, surrounded by rocks in all kind of colors and bizarre formations. In this barren landscape the villages with their bright colored fields are like an oases .
The trail follows the salt caravan route of the old days, during which the people of Mustang traded Tibetan salt with grain from the lowlands. The goal of the Upper Mustang trek is the capital of Upper Mustang, Lo Mangtang. Lo Mangtang is a medieval town, surrounded by a huge town wall. From the pass Lo La (3950 m) you can see the town shimmering in the distance in the barren landscape. Entering Lo Mangtang through the town gate you enter a different world. It is just wonderful to wander through the narrow alleys. On several corners of the street you can find small groups of women spinning wool and discussing the news of the day. At the end of the afternoon big herds of goats are being let through the city gate and through the narrow alleys, back to their sheds, which are inside the town. In Lo Mangtang you can find the palace of the king, a huge 4 story high building. When the king is at home, you can even pay him a visit sometimes. The king doesn’t have any real power anymore, but is of course still highly respected by his people. Besides, there are a few beautiful big monasteries, for example the Thugchen Gompa, built in the 15th century. Or visit the amchi museum and amchi school. An amchi is a traditional Tibetan doctor. There are 2 amchis living in Lo Mangtang, which are also the official doctors of the king. They founded a school to preserve this ancient wisdom. Also interesting is a ride by horse to Chhoser, where you can visit a small monastery and a century old cave dwelling, situated high in the rocks.
The most convenient way to get to Upper Mustang, is to fly from Pokhara to Jomsom and start the trek from there. The flight is an attraction in itself, flying through the deepest gorge in the world, between the Dhaulagiri and the Nilgiri. You follow the famous Kali Gandaki River upstream, partly walking in the river bed itself, to Kagbeni. From Kagbeni the restricted area of Upper Mustang starts. However, it is worthwhile to pay a visit to the famous pilgrim destination of Muktinath before heading north into Upper Mustang.
From Kagbeni the trek goes norhtwards, and brings you in 4 to 5 days to Lo Mangtang. You cross pass after pass, which are all between 3,500 and 4,000 m. You can return partly by a different way via Dhakmar, crossing 2 passes of around 4,200 m. Close to Dhakmar you can find the oldest Tibetan monastery in the world, the Lo Gekar Monastery. Lo Gekar Monastery was built in the 8th century by the famous Tibetan magician Guru Rinpoche. He had to kill a powerful demon first and the blood of the demon has painted the rocks around Dhakmar bright red.
Upper Mustang is a restricted area and up till 1992 it was forbidden for foreign visitors to enter the kingdom. Nowadays foreigners are allowed, but to enter Upper Mustang they have to buy a permit of US$ 500 (to be arranged through a trekking agency and valid for 10 days, each additional day costs US$ 50).
Until recently you could only come to Upper Mustang with a fully organized camping trek. However, nowadays some villagers have opened up small guesthouses and you can stay in a guesthouse in each overnight place. While staying there, you are welcome to sit with them in the kitchen. In Tibetan culture, the kitchen is the center of the house, and built like a kind of living room. So there is no better way to learn a bit about the daily life than spending time in the kitchen!
The Upper Mustang
Side Trails & Circuits
Teahouse/homestay/Camping (it is not needed to camp)
Trekking Permit Upper Mustang, ACAP
- Day 1 Flight Pokhara Jomsom (2720 m), trek to Kagbeni (2810 m) 3 hrs
- Day 2 Kagbeni (2810 m) to Muktinath (3720 m) and return to Kagbeni 6 hrs
- Day 3 Kagbeni (2810 m) to Chele (3050 m) 6 hrs
- Day 4 Chele (3050 m) to Syangboche (3800 m) 7 hrs
- Day 5 Syangboche (3800 m) to Ghemi (3520 m) 3 hrs
- Day 6 Ghemi to Tsarang (3560 m) 3 hrs
- Day 7 Tsarang (3560 m) to Lo Mangtang (3800 m) 4 hrs
- Day 8 free day Lo Mangtang
- Day 9 Lo Mangtang (3800 m) to Dhakmar (3820 m) 6 hrs
- Day 10 Dhakmar (3820 m) to Ghiling (3570 m) 6 hrs
- Day 10 Ghiling (3570 m) to Samar (3660 m) 4 hrs
- Day 11 Samar (3660 m) to Jomsom (2720 m) 3 hrs
- Day 12 flight Jomsom-Pokhara