Located beyond the Himalayas, Upper Mustang is a land of unconventional natural beauty and great cultural significance. The trek to the Upper Mustang is unlike any other. It is an adventurous journey to the mystical and restricted area of Nepal, Lo Manthang - the lost kingdom of Mustang. The 17 days Upper Mustang Trek is an experience that will take you back in time amidst rich history and barren landscape. Surrounded by glistening snow-capped Himalayan mountains and barren hills, Upper Mustang is one of the most beautiful places in Nepal.
Artistic monasteries, white-washed houses, green meadows, fields of barley & wheat, and the unique attire of the locals with their big bright smiles all together make a heart-warming view. This isolated region of the trans-Himalayan mountains borders Tibet and is distinctly Tibetan in both people and culture, as well as in the dry, high-cliff scenery with peculiarly shaped and colored rocks. As the entire region was closed to foreigners for a long period of time, everything is the same as it used to be decades ago. The paintings and sculptures in the monasteries along with relics are the keys to the history of this remote land.
The Upper Mustang Trek route follows the trade route between Nepal-Tibet and offers dry naturally carved sandstone pillars & discontinuous moraine terraces. The trail is almost treeless and infertile. Strong winds are one of the things that you have to overcome during the trek. As you reach Lo Manthang- the capital of Mustang, you see high walls built by the former king to protect his kingdom. A big part of this thrilling journey is taking in the panoramic vistas of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, and other mountains.
Being a restricted area with an expensive permit, Upper Mustang receives only a handful of trekkers making the trail less crowded. Trekking to Upper Mustang is a privilege that only a few get. The dry air makes the comparatively high altitude (3,000–3,800 m) of the journey even more intense. While people who were born at this altitude have no trouble traveling quickly, tourists have to hike slowly to avoid any altitude-related issues. The trek involves walking 5 to 7 hours a day on average, and some trails are especially dusty and windy.
The Upper Mustang trekking starts with your arrival in Kathmandu. After spending a day touring the important monuments of Kathmandu, you will drive to Pokhara from Kathmandu on the third day of the trip. The next morning, you fly to Jomsom early in the morning and begin trekking towards Kagbeni. Further, passing through several villages like Chele, Syangbochen, Ghami & Charang, the trail takes you to Lo Manthang. Spending a couple of nights here, you trek back to Jomsom, fly to Pokhara, and take a bus ride to Kathmandu.
Book this adventurous journey with us, Outfitter Nepal Treks and Expedition, for extensive service in the remote location of Upper Mustang. You can check the favorable departure dates for Upper Mustang Trek, or contact us if our dates do not suit your preferences. We would love to organize a private trek to the Upper Mustang for you as per your needs.
Best Features of the Upper Mustang Trek
- Sightseeing tours of historical UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kathmandu
- Scenic mountain flight from Pokhara to Jomsom and back
- Hiking the amazing Trans Himalayan Caravan Route trails
- Visit historical places including Kagbeni and Lo-Manthang’s secret kingdom
- Stunning Himalayan vistas of the Annapurna I, Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, and Tilicho
- Touring the natural caverns where the monks in the area once practiced meditation
- Wandering through several Gompas, chortens, prayer flags in the air, and caverns with a spiritual sense
- Observe firsthand how Tibetan culture has influenced the area's residents and their daily life
- Chance to experience the Upper Mustang's most auspicious holiday, the Tiji Celebration
- Stroll around freely without worrying about the rain as it is a rain shadow location
- Free time to explore the stunning natural and cultural sites of Pokhara
What trekking permits are required for the restricted Upper Mustang Trek?
Upper Mustang was closed to any foreign visitor up until 1992 to protect and preserve its rich culture and raw nature. Now, you have to get special permission from the government to go on a trek in this region. Announcing the entire region into a restricted area has helped a lot to maintain the ecosystem, lifestyle, and practices there.
One requires a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to trek to Upper Mustang. The permit is expensive to get, and only a handful of visitors travel to Upper Mustang every year. It cost USD 500 for the first 10 days. After that, each day will cost USD 50. Plus, you will only get this permit if you are traveling with a local trekking agency and you must be at least 2 foreign trekkers accompanied by a licensed trekking guide.
In addition, you should also get an Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) Entry Permit which will cost USD 30 per person for any number of days. If you book the trek with us, we take care of all your permits. The cost is also inclusive of the permits.
How difficult is the 17-day Upper Mustang Trek?
Being a moderately difficult trek, this hike to Upper Mustang requires careful planning and packing. The area has a challenging terrain, lengthy paths, and a high-altitude landscape passing over 3500 meters. Trekkers must, therefore, possess the necessary strength, endurance, and stamina to successfully finish the walk. This trail has fewer obstacles, which makes it perfect for an amazing hiking experience. In comparison to other popular hikes, the paths are generally safe and uncomplicated. However, there are also parts of this journey that require an intense ascent and deep descent.
To successfully accomplish this expedition, you must be properly prepared—both psychologically and physically. It takes about 6-7 hours of walking per day during the Upper Mustang trekking journey. In high altitude conditions, this demanding hike calls for strong trekking stamina. Some hikers may find the area's topography challenging because it is extremely dry, resembling a mountain desert. To top it off, adequate training is necessary prior to this isolated location excursion.
Altitude sickness is one of the challenging aspects. Higher heights are typically associated with decreased oxygen concentrations, which is why acute mountain sickness is expected. Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, sleeplessness, fever, dizziness, and shortness of breath can all result from this. Managing altitude sickness on these hikes requires consistent hydration, acclimatization, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. As soon as trekkers experience serious signs of altitude sickness, they must immediately descend to a lower altitude.
What does a typical day on the Upper Mustang Trek look like?
Every day brings with it a new trekking adventure. You will be exploring the nearby villages, snapping pictures, and soaking in the landscape. Throughout the walk, you will have our knowledgeable, amiable guides by your side. They will also provide you with details on the locations you will be hiking. Porters will also be a part of our trekking crew to help with luggage handling. However, we anticipate that you will pack a small everyday bag with necessary and valuable objects that you carry yourself.
We have a hot cup of tea or coffee first thing every morning. Depending on the length and type of the hike, we set out for the day's adventure between 7 and 8 AM after a hearty breakfast. The mountains appear all around us as we take in the desert-like scenery with gompas (Buddhist shrines), mani walls (Buddhist texts carved into stone walls), and prayer flags. There are interesting caverns to explore in addition to the breathtaking mountains.
After 3 to 4 hours of trekking, we will provide lunch around midday at a tea house on the way to the day’s destination. We will resume our stroll after an hour of rest following lunch. The trek in the afternoon lasts between 2 and 3 hours. You can eat the additional dietary food like energy bars and chocolates brought by you as a snack when we get to our overnight accommodation, tea house, or tent. After settling in your tea house room, you can rest or tour the area until nightfall.
Dinner is served between 6-7 PM. You can engage in friendly conversations and talk about the day's events after dinner and before bed. The schedule for the next day will be explained to you by your trek leader or guide. You can read books, watch films on mountaineering, or play games like Monopoly and cards after this briefing. The majority of visitors enjoy picking up simple Nepalese vocabulary from our staff.
Major Attractions of the Upper Mustang Trek
Scenic flights in/out of Jomsom
Jomsom is the starting point of the Upper Mustang Trek. We can drive to Jomsom from kathmandu which takes a long time, so, instead, we drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara first and take a short and scenic flight from Pokhara that leads to Jomsom. During the flight, you can see an aerial view of the lush green hills, rivers, small settlements, and most importantly, the Himalayan mountains entirely covered in snow. It’s like going on a mountain flight.
Gorgeous landscape and stunning Himalayan mountain views
The Upper Mustang Trek presents a dry, barren, and arid landscape. The big meadows, unique rocks, and barren hills all together create scenery, unlike any other place. Likewise, the white-washed houses add a splash of color to its surroundings. Similarly, the Himalayan mountains like Annapurna range (8,091 m), Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Mt. Nilgiri (7,061 m), Mt. Tukuche (6,920 m), and many other mountains increases the beauty of the region.
Following the ancient salt caravan route
Upper Mustang used to be the trade route between Nepal and Tibet back in time. Locals from both nations used this route to move in and out of each place carrying goods from one place to another. As it was difficult to grow crops in the infertile land of Tibet, they used to trade salt available there with grains from Nepal. During the trek, you will follow the same ancient salt caravan route that once used to trade salt for grain.
The last forbidden kingdom, Lo Manthang
Lo Manthang, the walled city is the capital of the Mustang region. Stepping into Lo Manthang is like stepping into a completely different world from what we live in. It is like traveling back in time, where you will see narrow alleyways, hidden chortens, long mani walls, ancient prayer wheels, and herds of animals in the huge open fields. There is a lot to explore in Lo Manthang. The royal palace, where still the royal family resides, Thugchen Gompa built in the 15th century, the Amchi museum, and the Amchi school are the places you must visit in Lo Manthang. Amchi is a traditional Tibetan doctor who is also the official doctor of the king.
Ancient culture & tradition
The Upper Mustang Trek offers to closely observe the rich culture and tradition of the locals that are handed from one generation to another over decades. People residing in this region are mostly Lobas and follow Tibetan Buddhism called Bonpo. Locals here call themselves descendants of Tibetans, therefore you get to see the influence of Tibetan Buddhism in their culture, tradition, and lifestyle.
Visiting Namgyal Gompa & Tingkhar
Namgyal Gompa & Tingkhar are some of the main attractions of the Upper Mustang Trek. Namgyal Gompa is located on a hilltop and is a very important monastery in the region and serves as a local court. After visiting this gompa, you head to the last village of the region located northwest of Lo Manthang, Tingkhar, for a short excursion. Visiting the Tingkar village gives you the opportunity to witness the century-old local customs and traditions closely.
Small monasteries & centuries-old caves
Outside of Lo Manthang, you can visit Chhoser, where you’ll find a small old monastery. You will also get to see century-old caves situated on high rocks. Moreover, you can see caves in other places as well during the Upper Mustang trek. The whole region is decorated with an abundance of small monasteries, chortens, mani walls, and prayer flags, that look beautiful and add spiritual value to your trekking journey.