Mustang Trekking as a holiday destination
The most popular of the restricted-area treks, the Upper Mustang trail follows the traditional salt trade route to Tibet from the Mustang lowlands. It leads to the former Tibetan kingdom of Lo; a remote, arid land bordering Tibet graced with spectacular Tibetan monasteries, as well as numerous canyons and caves. Foreigners were only allowed into the region in 1991, and today Mustang is still known as the ‘Last Forbidden Kingdom’.
The best seasons for this trek are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to December). These boast the most clear and sunny days which provide the best views of the Himalayas, although the weather in the mountains is impossible to predict exactly.
Centuries of isolation have kept the culture, lifestyle and heritage of the Loba (Mustangis) largely unchanged. The venerated leader of the community still holds the title of ‘king’, while many Mustangi families maintain the unique familial practise of polyandry, in which all the brothers in the family share a single wife. The trail also passes through the walled town of Lo-Manthang, which features some of the most stunning medieval architecture in the region. Another cultural highlight is the Tiji festival, celebrated at the end of the dry season in late winter.
The trail also goes past the temple at Muktinath; a pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists (and a great place for meditation), it is the site of one of the most ancient temples to the Hindu God Vishnu. Water from the ice-cold Kali Gantaki river flows through 108 stone faucets, and pilgrims (and a few hardy trekkers) stand under each of them. The founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rimpoche, is also believed to have meditated here on his way to Tibet. Both Hindus and Buddhists visit Mebar Lla Gomva, the small monastery of ‘miraculous fire’ (a continuously burning natural gas fire) located near the main entrance.
Getting there/coming back
Access is available by flight (Rs 9200) or by bus or jeep from Pokhara to Jomsom (Rs700-1000). There is also a direct bus route from Kathmandu to Jomsom (Rs 1800) that leaves at 14:30, arriving at 8:00am the following morning.
Trekking in the restricted area
This route is off the beaten-path, away from the ‘teahouse treks’ walked by the vast majority of trekkers to Nepal. These relatively untouched areas are called ‘restricted’ due to the limited number of visitors permitted to enter every year. Please check with us for availability. Unlike the more popular treks, the practise of catering to trekkers is not as ‘developed’, although there are basic lodges and teahouses available on the route. This trek requires an additional permit fee that can only be arranged via a trekking agency (we can provide this). The initial permit is valid for 10 days, with each additional day costing extra after that.
Beginning form the world’s deepest gorge in Kaligandaki, the trail leads on to the world’s highest region of Lo-Mangthang Valley, with a landscape akin to that of the Tibetan highlands boasting excellent panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and several other peaks along the way. The trail also passes through the scenic mountain pass at Taklam La, glaciers and alpine valleys.
This trek is at moderate difficulty, it is recommended that you have some prior trekking experience, but this is not essential. Every trek in the Himalayas requires a certain level of physical and mental fitness. You should be in good physical shape and feel comfortable hiking up and down 7-12 miles per day whilst carrying about 10 pounds. It is recommended that you carry out at least one hour of aerobic activity 3-4 times per week for at least 1 month before starting the trek. Aerobic conditioning is important, as it enables your body to better metabolize oxygen and prepare for thinner air (there is 40% less Oxygen than at sea level). If you are in any doubt of your physical readiness, please consult with a doctor beforehand. Always remember that stamina, confidence and continuity are more important than speed.
Staying for longer than 10 days in the restricted area becomes increasingly expensive, but there are plenty of opportunities for trekkers to explore nearby non-restricted routes such as the Annapurna base camp, Poonhill or Jomsom-Muktinath trails.
Packing List for Mustang Trekking
If you are planning to venture on the ABC trek, these are the things you ought to carry with yourself:
If travelling during winter:
Day 01:Arrival in Kathmandu (1,350 m), transfer to hotel . O/N at Hotel
Day 02:After breakfast, Free Walking Tour Kathmandu, trek preparation. O/N at Hotel
Day 03:Drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara (827 m), 6-7 hrs. O/N at Hotel
Day 04:Fly to Jomsom from Pokhara and trek to Kagbeni, 4-5 hrs. O/N at Lodge
Day 05:Trek from Kagbeni to Chele (3050 m),5-6 hrs
Day 06:Trek from Chele to Zhaite (3730 m), 7-8 hrs
Day 07:Trek from Zhaite to Charang (3575 m) (via Dhakmnar and Lo Gekar), 5-6 hrs
Day 08:Trek from Charang to Lo Manthang (3820 m) (explore the ancient city), 5-6 hrs
Day 09:Lo-Manthang (Namgyal Gompa and Thinggar Valley) (3780 m), Rest Day
Day 10:Lo Manthang rest day and Explore around (3780 m), Rest Day
Day 11:Trek from Lo-Manthang to Dhakmar (3730 m) via Lo Gekar, 6-7 hrs
Day 12:Trek from Dhakmar to Geling (3570 m), 7-8 hrs
Day 13:Trek from Geling to Chuksang (2950 m), 5-6 hrs
Day 14:Trek from Chuskang to Jomsom (2750 m), 5-6 hrs
Day 15:Drive or fly back from Jomsom to Pokhara (827 m), 25 min. flight
Day 16:Drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu, 200 km, 6-7 hrs
Day 17:Departure to airport