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upper mustang landscape

7 Mar 2024 Himalaya Trip

Upper Mustang Trek overview


Welcome to the enchanting region of Upper Mustang Trek, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. This remote and mystical land, often referred to as the “Last Forbidden Kingdom,” offers an unforgettable trekking experience like no other. As you embark on this epic adventure, prepare to be mesmerized by the awe-inspiring landscapes, ancient Buddhist monasteries, and the warm hospitality of the local people.

The Hidden Wonders of Upper Mustang

Upper Mustang is a place of unparalleled beauty and cultural richness. As you traverse through its rugged terrain, you’ll be captivated by the sheer grandeur of the towering Himalayan peaks, including the iconic Nilgiri, Annapurna, and Dhaulagiri ranges. The region’s distinct landscape, characterized by deep gorges, wind-swept cliffs, and barren plateaus, creates a surreal atmosphere that feels like stepping into another world.

Beyond its natural wonders, Upper Mustang is also renowned for its rich cultural heritage. The region was once a part of the ancient Tibetan Kingdom and still retains its unique Tibetan Buddhist traditions. As you explore the numerous monasteries and ancient caves adorned with intricate murals and religious artifacts, you’ll gain a profound appreciation for the spiritual significance of this sacred land.


Trekking in Upper Mustang

Venturing on a trek in Upper Mustang is not just a physical journey; it’s an experience that will challenge and transform you. The trek takes you through remote villages, where you can witness the daily lives of the resilient Mustangi people. Their warm smiles and genuine hospitality will leave a lasting impression on your heart.

The trail is a mix of challenging ascents, thrilling descents, and breathtaking panoramas. You’ll cross high mountain passes, such as the Lo La Pass and the Dhi La Pass, offering panoramic views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. The highlight of the trek is undoubtedly the visit to the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang, the capital of Upper Mustang. Stepping through its ancient gates feels like stepping back in time, as you wander through its narrow alleyways and explore the royal palace and monasteries.


Planning Your Upper Mustang Trek

Before starting your Upper Mustang trek, careful planning is essential to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. First and foremost, you’ll need to obtain the necessary permits and adhere to the regulations set by the Nepalese government. Upper Mustang is a restricted area, and a special permit is required. Additionally, you’ll need to hire a licensed guide and trek with a registered trekking agency to ensure your safety and support the local economy.

Choosing the right time to visit Upper Mustang is crucial. The region experiences a harsh climate, with extreme temperatures and strong winds. The best time to trek in Upper Mustang is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) seasons when the weather is relatively stable, and the skies are clear, offering unobstructed views of the majestic mountains.


Permits and Regulations for Upper Mustang Trek

To trek in Upper Mustang, you’ll need to obtain two permits: the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and the Restricted Area Permit (RAP). The ACAP costs USD 30 per person, and the RAP costs USD 500 per person for the first ten days and USD 50 for each additional day. These permits can be obtained through a registered trekking agency or the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

It’s important to note that trekking in Upper Mustang is not allowed as an independent trekker. You must hire a licensed guide and trek with a registered agency. This regulation is in place to ensure your safety and preserve the delicate ecosystem of the region.

Best Time to Visit Upper Mustang

The best time to visit Upper Mustang is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) seasons. During these months, the weather is relatively stable, with mild temperatures and clear skies. The spring season offers the added beauty of blooming rhododendrons and other wildflowers, while autumn provides stunning views of the mountains against a backdrop of vibrant fall colors.

Unlike other commercial treks in Nepal like: Annapurna Base Camp Trek and Everest Base Camp Trek, Upper Mustang Trek can be done in summer months too. Being in a rain-shadow area, Mustang region does not receive as much rainfall as other areas. If you are planning Upper Mustang Trek in summer months (June-August), it can be doable given the weather forecast is in your favor. The winter months (December to February) are extremely cold, with temperatures dropping well below freezing, making trekking conditions challenging.


Trekking Routes and Itineraries in Upper Mustang

There are several trekking routes and itineraries to choose from in Upper Mustang, depending on the duration and level of difficulty you prefer. The most popular route is the Jomsom to Lo Manthang trek, which takes around 12-14 days to complete. This route offers a perfect balance of stunning landscapes, cultural exploration, and physical challenge.

Another option is the Upper Mustang Circuit trek, which extends the Jomsom to Lo Manthang trek by including the remote villages of Yara, Luri Gompa, and Ghara. This trek takes around 16-18 days and provides a more immersive experience of the region.

Accommodation and Facilities in Upper Mustang

Accommodation and facilities in Upper Mustang are relatively basic, given its remote location. Along the trekking route, you’ll find tea houses and guesthouses that offer simple yet comfortable rooms with shared bathrooms. However, it’s important to note that the availability of amenities such as hot showers and electricity may be limited, especially in the more remote areas. That being said, there are high-end luxury hotels in Tsarang and Lho Manthang which you can choose for a comfortable and lavish stay during your trekking journey.

It’s advisable to carry a sleeping bag suitable for cold temperatures and a good quality trekking tent if you prefer camping. This will ensure you have a comfortable night’s rest, regardless of the availability of accommodation along the trail.

Essential Packing List for Upper Mustang Trek

When packing for your Upper Mustang trek, it’s essential to pack wisely to ensure your comfort and safety throughout the journey. Here’s a list of essential items to include in your backpack:

  1. Sturdy trekking boots with good ankle support
  2. Warm layers of clothing, including thermal base layers, fleece jackets, and down jackets
  3. Waterproof and windproof outer shell jacket and pants
  4. Hats, gloves, and scarves to protect against the cold and wind
  5. Sunglasses and sunscreen to protect against the strong Himalayan sun
  6. A good quality sleeping bag suitable for cold temperatures
  7. Trekking poles for added stability and support on uneven terrain
  8. First aid kit with essential medications and bandages

Safety Tips for Trekking in Upper Mustang

Trekking in Upper Mustang requires proper preparation and adherence to safety guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Acclimatize properly by allowing your body time to adjust to the high altitude. Ascend gradually and take regular rest days to minimize the risk of altitude sickness.
  2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the trek. Dehydration can worsen the symptoms of altitude sickness.
  3. Follow the instructions of your guide and trekking agency at all times. They have the knowledge and experience to ensure your safety.
  4. Dress in layers to regulate your body temperature and protect against changing weather conditions.
  5. Be cautious while crossing high mountain passes and narrow trails. Walk slowly and carefully, especially in areas prone to landslides.

Cultural Highlights of Upper Mustang

Upper Mustang is a treasure trove of cultural heritage, offering a glimpse into the ancient Tibetan Buddhist traditions. As you explore the region, you’ll encounter numerous monasteries, such as the Thubchen Gompa and the Jampa Gompa, adorned with beautiful murals depicting Buddhist deities and intricate mandalas. The Tiji Festival, held annually in Lo Manthang, is a must-see cultural event that showcases colorful dances and rituals performed by the local community.

Must-Visit Attractions in Upper Mustang

In addition to its cultural highlights, Upper Mustang is home to several must-visit attractions that will leave you in awe. The ancient walled city of Lo Manthang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the crown jewel of the region. Its narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and ancient monasteries offer a glimpse into the rich history and architectural beauty of Upper Mustang.

The mysterious caves of Upper Mustang, such as the Ghar Gompa and the Choser Cave, are another fascinating attraction. These caves are believed to have been used as meditation chambers by Buddhist monks centuries ago and are adorned with ancient murals and religious artifacts.

Challenges and Rewards of Trekking in Upper Mustang

Trekking in Upper Mustang presents both challenges and rewards for adventurous souls. The rugged terrain, high altitude, and variable weather conditions require physical endurance and mental resilience. However, the breathtaking landscapes, cultural immersion, and spiritual awakening make every step worth it.

As you conquer the challenges of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, encounters with warm-hearted locals, and a deep connection with nature and yourself. The sense of achievement and the memories forged during your Upper Mustang trek will stay with you for a lifetime.

Conclusion

In conclusion, embarking on an Upper Mustang trek is an adventure that will take you on a transformative journey through breathtaking landscapes, ancient monasteries, and a vibrant cultural tapestry. As you unveil the hidden wonders of Upper Mustang, you’ll experience the true essence of the Himalayas and create memories that will last a lifetime. So, pack your bags, prepare yourself for an epic trekking adventure, and let Upper Mustang capture your heart like no other destination can.

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