Upper Mustang Trek -Exploring ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ of Nepal

Upper Mustang, located in the northwestern region of Nepal, is a land of mystery and mysticism. The region was opened to foreign tourists back in 1992. With ever increasing influx of tourists entering the discreet region of greater Mustang, the local officials along with Nepalese government decided to allow only limited tourists to enter the region with a hefty fee in a year.

It is one of the rain-shadow areas of Nepal, therefore, making it accessible throughout the year. You can consider trekking Upper Mustang region in any season.

History

Buddhist gombas and monasteries are scattered throughout greater Mustang region

Upper Mustang was an independent kingdom, later ruled as a suzerain, until it was annexed to greater Nepal during the 18th century. Though, it still has a King [honorary], the monarchy ceased to exist in 2008. The last surviving monarch of Upper Mustang is Raja Kigme Dorje Palabar Bista who still resides in his primitive palace built inside the walled city of Lo Manthang.

The first ruler of the region declared it an important trade route between Himalaya and India, today, it’s a just tourist destination. The inhabitants are still culturally Tibetan, with the existence of ancient art and architectures dedicated to Buddhism.

British Tibetologist, David Snellgrove, was the first to explore and journal Upper Mustang region back in 50′. With their conservative nature and inclination towards preserving ancient culture, inhabitants of Mustang have still managed to keep the region as it was like when it was first built.

Their sensitive nature of preservation and the belief of culture ruination through modernization has been their major concern, therefore, regulating the inflow  of tourists.

Places to See

#1 Lo Manthang (City of Wall)

Lo Manthang, the village development committee of Mustang district, is a walled city and a former capital of Kingdom of Lo. It is a major tourist attraction in the region for its white washed mud brick walls, Gombas (Monasteries) and the monarch Bista’s palace. Located at the elevation of 3,840 m (12,600 ft), the total population of the walled city didn’t even exceed 876 back in 1991.

A sneak-peek of Lo Manthang
A sneak-peek of Lo Manthang

#2 Primitive Caves

The high mountain caves in Mustang date back 1,000 years, which are to be found in the numbers of 10,000. Located 153 ft above the ground, the caves were used as a shelter during war and famine, and later as a burial ground by the primitive inhabitants.

Today, you can find paintings, statues and other artifacts preserved inside the caves.

Adventure photographer, Cory Richards joined climber Pete Athans, archaeologist Mark Aldenderfer and a team of explorers to unearth the hidden relics of the remote caves back in 2013.

High caves in Mustang are located 155 ft above the ground
High caves in Mustang are located 155 ft above the ground

#3 Buddhist Monasteries

It has 3 major monasteries; first is Jhampa Gompa built in 1387, which is 17 m/55 ft high and 46 m/150 ft long in size, Thupchen is another Gompa built in 15th century by third king Tashi Gon and Chhyoede Gompa is the third Gompa built in 1757.

~Map~

~Cost~

You must obtain a special permit to enter Upper Mustang, arranged through a trekking agency, with the fee of $500 p.person for 10 days. Additional days are charged at $50 p.day. It is well ensured that you’re accompanied by the guide familiar with the region.

The cost of accommodation and meal is slightly higher than other trek trails of Nepal, however, the experience of visiting Mustang beats all the odds and expenses.

Resources

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