Upper Mustang is a rare privilege in Nepal. Here you will experience the way of life of true mountain people, who have been cut off from the rest of Nepal for years and even until recent times had an officially recognized king. In many ways, a trek into Upper Mustang is similar to trekking in Tibet, as geographically it is a part of the Tibetan plateau. The district of Mustang was, until 1950, a separate kingdom within the boundaries of Nepal. The last king, the Raja of Mustang, still has his home in the ancient capital known as Lo Manthang.
Upper Mustang was opened to non-Nepali trekkers only some fifteen years ago and even today, access is still highly restricted. To enter Upper Mustang, that is to travel further north from Kagbeni, trekkers need a special trekking permit and must be accompanied by a government appointed Environmental Officer. The expenses of the Environmental Officer must be borne by the group and trekkers are required to arrange their trek through a government recognized trekking agency in order to receive the permits.
Upper Mustang, being in the Himalayan rain shadow, is one of the regions in the country that are suitable for trekking during the monsoons. During this time, the upper Kali Gandaki valley is still quite dry with only occasional rainfall. The Mustang trek is not particularly difficult, the highest point reached being only 3,800 meters, but the conditions at times can be arduous. Mustang is cold in winter and is always windy and dusty through the year. Winter treks are best avoided due to harsh weather.
There are few accommodation facilities available above Kagbeni, so groups must be fully self-sufficient, especially in fuel. While porters are available in Jomsom it is preferable to use mules to carry the loads up to Mustang. These pack animals are available locally and are more economical, and certainly more environmentally friendly than porters.
The Mustang Trek requires a minimum of 9 days, starting and ending in Kagbeni. This allows the trek to be completed within the ten-day period that the permit allows. The route generally follows the Kali Gandaki valley but, occasionally climbs high above the valley walls. The settlements are scattered and there is little sign of cultivation between villages. In Mustang, little grows without irrigation, thus the region resembles a desert albeit mountainous, with the settlements reminiscent of oases.
Lo Manthang, the old capital, is reached in four days and at least one extra day should be spent here to catch the sights and sound of this unique walled settlement. Ponies are available for hired if you so desire. The return trip can either follow the same route while entering or, as an alternative route, the eastern bank of the Kali Gandaki may be followed.Upper Mustang is a remote desolate and extremely fascinating region of Nepal set amongst wind eroded hills on the northern borders of Tibet. It was previously a forbidden Kingdom; it is now a Kingdom within Nepal that still retains its own King. It was only opened (officially) to tourists in 1992 then with strict limits on the amount allowed in one year. The destination is the historic walled city of Lo Mangtang Life in Lo-Manthang has continued much the same as it has for centuries. People are steeped in religion with numerous Gompas, Mani walls (prayer walls) and chortens adorning the Kings palace and surrounds. Prayer flags flutter above each household spreading good blessings to all corners of the world and the universe beyond. This area can be trekked all year round regardless of season with August being the mildest month of all for Mustang,however, in the winter time there can be 30 to 40cms of snow to negotiate. The people are well adapted to the region with many centuries of experience of surviving the harsh climate.They survive by practicing a form of s agro-pastoralism and seasonal migration with farming done whenever irrigation is possible, only one crop (barely) can be produced. The barely supports the local population for only 6 months a year with severe food shortages the rest of the year. As a result, during the winter months almost 70 percent of the local people emigrate to either the lower part of Mustang, Pokhara, Kathmandu or India, for employment and trading.
If you are planning a visit to Mustang you need to be in good physical condition. The tour commences with a flight from Katmandu to Jomsom via Pokhara or if you want to extend your time you can trek in for nine days from Pokhara. The trekking route crosses the villages of Tangbe, Samar, Geling to reach Tsarang considered as one of the highlights of the tour, a day before Lo Mangthang.
In ancient Tsarang, a set of human hands remains, said to belong to the site’s master builder. According to legend, the King cut the builder’s hands off to stop him from constructing another masterpiece to compete against it.The Mustang trek, goes to the fabled, long forbidden Kingdom of Mustang. The kingdom awaits those interested in exploring the high altitude trails and extreme deserts of this remote part of the world.The Mustang trek is located within north central Nepal, north of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges. Currently, to go on Mustang trek, participants must agree to certain ecological guidelines necessary to ensure that the unique sights, culture, and beauty of Mustang are respected and preserved.
Recognising the special nature of this old, tiny kingdom, the Nepalese have imposed a surcharge for anyone wishing to trek past Kagbeni, the border of Upper Mustang. With legal trekking groups only being allowed in for the first time in March 1992, you would be part of a small privileged minority to visit this remote outpost of Nepal. Mustang is the old kingdom of Lo. Actually the capital of the Mustang district is Jomsom, but the real Tibetan-style district lies north of Kagbeni and is usually referred to as Upper Mustang. The real capital, Lo Manthang, where the present king lives, is a fantastic square-walled town sitting on the 'Plain of Prayers'. Mustang has an average elevation of 13,200ft/4,023m and is located to the north of the mountain giants of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna and is therefore north of the main Himalayan range and geographically is part of the highlands of Tibet. It is a vast high arid valley, characterised by eroded canyons, colourful stratified rock formations and has a barren, desertlike appearance
It is expensive to visit the region, a single permit cost $500 U.S. for ten days, extendable at a further $50 U.S. a day. All provisions must be carried in, accommodation is under canvas with full Nepali support staff.