Upper Mustang Trek
Nepal is a landlocked country that houses numerous treasures within its small area from endangered wildlife species to UNESCO world heritage sites that are religiously and historically significant to the entire world. One of such hidden treasures in Nepal is – Mustang.
Upper Mustang is known as the forbidden kingdom because entry was highly controlled till 1992 due to its proximity to China. It lies in the north-central part of the country between Dolpo and Manang. It got its name from the Tibetan word Mun Tan which translates to ‘fertile land.’ The city of Mustang has huge historic significance as it used to be a trade route between Tibet and India for centuries.
The upper Mustang region is known as the last kingdom of Nepal, as monarchy was abolished by Maoists after the people’s movement in 2008. But the people still respect their leader Jigme Palbar Bista. With a heavy influence of Tibet, most of the people in Mustang are Buddhists with warm hospitality and their unique culture which hasn’t been influenced due to the isolation of the region till recent times.
Lying at an altitude of 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), Mustang is called a mountain desert as it lies in the shadow of the Himalayas – Annapurna massif and Dhaulagiri. As the Himalayan giants block the rain, the area receives very less to no rainfall at such altitude leading to a barren landscape. The area is decorated with eroded sandstone pillars and colorful rock formations of red, yellow and green. These give a deserted, rustic and ancient feel to the place. The place can be visited anytime as there is no rainfall to hinder the trek but the best seasons are March to November.
The population is scattered and mainly comprises of Thakali, Gurung, Manangi, and Tibetan people. The settlements are around the Kali Gandaki River but the people migrate to southern parts of Nepal during winter due to the cold and arid conditions. The main occupation of the region is agriculture with wheat, barley, potatoes and peas being the main crops. Almost every member of the community works in the field due to lack of other employment opportunities.
The region had preserved its natural and cultural uniqueness due to the isolation from the world. With the number of tourists increasing every year, the place is seeing a shift in lifestyle and culture. People are now involved in animal husbandry and tourism. Their lifestyles are also changing due to the new influences.
Mustang is becoming one of the favorite treks among the national and foreign tourists who throng to the region during trekking season. The easy access and unique landscape has been attracting tourists who love adventure as well as serenity. The tour begins from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Jomsom and then Kagbeni, the entry point to the restricted area. The trip can be 2 – 3 weeks long depending on the route and gives you a chance to witness high peaks, glaciers, mountain deserts as you travel through different climatic zones. The spell binding views of peaks like Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and others above 6000 meters (19,685 feet) make the trek worthwhile.
The interactions with people of different ethnicities and lifestyles and a chance to experience their culture and tradition while visiting the ancient Buddhist monasteries, caves in rock formations and many unique sites make the trek a blend of nature, culture and adventure.
Highlights of Mustang Trekking in Nepal:
- Visit Tibetan villages and ancient Buddhist monasteries
- Unique beauty and culture of the mountain desert
- The last forbidden kingdom
- Stone and mud houses with local architecture and unique, medieval look
- A walled complex with houses and monasteries
- Beautiful Buddhist murals and other historic objects
- Visit caves under the rock formations