Are you planning a visit to Upper Mustang in Nepal? Great Decision! Our ultimate Upper Mustang travel guide has all the things to know before visiting this amazing place. This guide will give you all the information, permits, the best time to visit, difficulties, best things to see, accommodation, food, and things to pack while traveling to Upper Mustang.
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Upper Mustang Travel Guide: An insights into Tour to Upper Mustang
Upper Mustang, also known as the Forbidden Kingdom of Lo, is Nepal’s geographically isolated trekking destination. Albeit bordering the Annapurna Trekking Circuit, the most visited trekking route in Nepal, the kingdom of Lo receives a few tourists because of isolated geography and the requirement of a special permit. Besides, it was an independent state until it was annexed in greater Nepal. Although it was annexed in Nepal, they had their king until there was a monarchy system in Nepal. So, the place has restricted permits and unique regulations. Needless to worry, if you are thinking of traveling to this beautiful place, Heaven Himalaya will get a tour permit for you from the Government of Nepal.
Best Things to See in Upper Mustang
The isolated and lesser-known Upper Mustang has preserved its cultures and traditions for a long time. It has significant cultural and historical importance. The kingdom of Lo has Buddhists devotees. Since it is near Tibet and the geography is identical, we can find Tibetan influence over culture and traditions. There is no better place than Upper Mustang if you wish to learn about unspoiled Tibetan and Buddhist traditions and cultures. The ancient monasteries are decorated with praying flags and Mani walls. Beautiful walls encompassed the city, and the red cliffs in the surrounding add extra beauty. Shades of ochre, white, and grey on the surrounding landscapes make the scenery more beautiful.
There are many caves around the city. The ancient scriptures and art are engraved on the walls of the caves. You also get to know about the lifestyle and culture of the mountain people. Likewise, you can see ruins of ancient forts and towers which were used to protect the city. Also, there’s a palace of late king Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (1930–2016) in Lo Manthang. Since it has enriching history and cultures and serene scenery of mountains and astonishing landscapes, you must go on an Upper Mustang Trek once in your lifetime.
There are many things to see while you travel to Upper Mustang. Also, if you are looking for reasons to visit, there are countless reasons to visit Upper Mustang.
How do we get to Upper Mustang?
The popular way to get to Upper Mustang is from Pokhara. From there, either you can book a 20-minute fly or take the road to reach Jomsom. Then 2-3 hours of walk from Jomsom will take you to Kagbeni, where you show the permits. Then you will walk through beautiful villages like Chele, Zhaite, Ghaymi, and Charang until you reach Lo Manthang, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lo. This city is the major attraction of the trek and lies at the height of 3840 m which is the highest point you take during the tour. You can further explore the place by visiting other villages like Yara, Tangge, Chuksang. Besides, you trek to Muktinath at an altitude of 3,800 meters where you get a tour of the sacred Muktinath temple. Again, from Muktinath, you walk to Jomsom to catch a flight to Pokhara. Finally, the Upper Mustang Trek Itinerary ends in Pokhara.
It takes around 2 to 3 weeks to travel to Upper Mustang. However, you can always customize the itinerary according to the number of days of your vacation.
Best Time to Visit Upper Mustang
Upper Mustang receives very little rainfall because it falls in the rain-shadowed areas. Hence, the best time to visit Upper Mustang is during Monsoon. Also, the other most suitable months to go on a tour to Upper Mustang are March, April, and May. Further, you can visit there till November. But we do not recommend other months of winter because during that time most people leave Lo Manthang to avoid cold and snow.
Upper Mustang Trek Difficulty
The difficulty level of the Upper Mustang trek is moderate. Although you will need to walk for many days, there are many teahouses where you can stay and take a rest. The tour is simple and doesn’t require much effort. Although the highest altitude of the trek is about 3840 m, it won’t be an obstacle because you will adapt to the climate and surroundings as you will gradually ascend the height taking around 10-15 days. Further, there will be certified trekking guides to help you with every step you take. So, traveling to Upper Mustang won’t require prior trekking experience, and any fit beginner hiker can visit the area.
Permits Required for Upper Mustang Tour
You need three different permits to visit Upper Mustang. First, purchase a 500 USD restricted area permit which expires in 10 days. If you wish to stay longer, you need to pay an extra 50 USD per day. As government prohibits traveling solo in Upper mustang, you will need a registered trekking agency to get a special permit in your name. Here, Heaven Himalaya will help you get tour permits on your behalf while you can sit and relax while enjoying the journey.
The other permit you need is the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) Permit that costs USD 20 per person. And finally, you will also need to have a TIMS Card, a mandatory permit required for trekking to any place in Nepal.
The police will check your permits at Kagbeni, the entry and exit point to Upper Mustang.
Traveling to Upper Mustang during Tiji Festival
People there have unique customs and celebrate different festivals. And, Tiji is one of their most important celebrations as it marks a victory of good over evil powers. The three-day festival started around 500 years ago. If you visit Upper Mustang in mid-May, you will have a chance to witness the ancient festival. During the festival, the dancers wear colorful costumes and masks and dance to the sound of drums, Buddhist horns, and enchantments of Buddhist mantras. Besides, you can only see the Thangka painting of Guru Rimpoche only during this festival. Other than Tiji, they also observe Yartung Mela, also called the Horse Festival.
If the festival interests you, you can take a Tiji Festival Trek in May.
What to Expect for Accommodation and Food in Upper Mustang?
For accommodation and food, you can find excellent hotels with excellent services up to Kagbeni. Once you cross the Kagbeni check post, the accommodation services won’t be of the same standard. Since the area is still isolated and under-developed, you can’t find star hotels. However, you will have basic yet comfortable lodges and teahouses. The lodges are run as a family business and have a common communal area with heating stoves or a fireplace where you can warm yourself. The bedrooms often comprise two single beds, along with warm blankets, mattresses, and pillows. Talking about food in Upper Mustang, they offer basic local meals instead of fancy western dishes. You will get to enjoy local Thakali, a portion of traditional Nepali food that is delicious. The most common meal is local Daal-Bhat.
Weather, Temperature, and Land Conditions
Upper Mustang is a dry place with red cliffs, deep ravines, and beautiful silver-shining mountains in the surrounding. The weather in Upper Mustang is dry, as it receives very little rainfall and falls under rain-shadowed areas. Therefore, months of monsoon can be suitable to visit Upper Mustang. But the winter is harsh and freezing, so avoid visiting Upper Mustang in winter.
The day temperature in Upper Mustang is always around 10-25 degrees Celsius, but the night temperature is at freezing point or below every time.
Look at the month-wise day and night temperature distribution in Upper Mustang in the below chart.
Things not to forget while packing for an Upper Mustang Tour
Packing things are almost similar to packing for a trekking journey in Nepal. Other than that, we recommend you carry a sleeping bag. Also, a pair of slippers and comfortable trekking boots would be necessary. Towels, wash kits and first aid kits are also other things to carry to maintain personal hygiene. Further, carrying sunscreens, sunglasses or sunhats will help you avoid sunburns. Plus, you need to carry torch and power banks to charge your electronic devices. These are few things that you shouldn’t miss while packing your bag for a trip to Upper Mustang. Other than that, don’t forget to check out the packing kit for trekking in Nepal.
Traveling Overland to Upper Mustang
A lot of travelers travel to Upper Mustang via Jeep as they find it pain-free. Not everyone enjoys hiking. So, if you don’t feel like exhilarating yourself with long tiring walks, a comfortable Jeep Safari to Upper Mustang is the best alternative. After a flight to Jomsom, you ride to Muktinath, a religious site in Mustang. Then, you drive to Lo Manthang in a 4 WD Off-road Jeep. Finally, after you explore the last forbidden kingdom of Nepal with a Jeep Safari, you then drive back to Jomsom, and we again take a flight back to Pokhara. This way, you can also visit the mountain village with your family effortlessly.
At the End
Upper Mustang is a semi-desert area in Nepal that lies near the Tibetan border. The cultures and traditions you experience resemble the Tibetans. So, visiting the destination will also give you the feeling of traveling to Tibet.
The above Upper Mustang Travel Guide gives general information about the place. There are still many things to see and do in Mustang. If you want to know more about the popular tourist destination or book a tour of the area, please let us know in the comments or contact us directly.