Upper Mustang Trek: The last forbidden kingdom of Nepal
Upper mustang trek offers a incredible trekking experience in the remote trans-
The name ‘Mustang’ is derived from the Tibetan word ‘mun tan’ which translates in Nepali to mean ‘fertile plain’. Tibetan is widely spoken and the traditional culture of Tibet largely remains throughout the region.
The 18 day Upper Mustang Trek largely follows an ancient salt trading route between Tibet and India. Exploiting the lowest pass through the Himalayas, west of Sikkim in India. On this expedition-style trek, you’ll learn about the Mustang’s status as a forbidden kingdom, which ended in 2008 when its ruling kingdom of Nepal became a republic.
The Upper Mustang Trek is a a classic trekking route but it’s good enough to see, learn, and live a good experience in the Lo’s Kingdom with a fascinating travel experience jumping into a semi desert region crossing over the traditional Nepali settlements.
We’ll start our trip by exploring the temples and markets of Kathmandu, Nepal’s bustling capital city, before flying to the lakeside city of Pokhara at the foot of the Himalayas and onto the large village of Jomsom to start our journey.
Our journey will take us behind the Annapurna ranges, hiking towards the border of Tibet and the beginning of the Tibetan Plateau. Passing through the green oasis of Thakali and into a desert plain – a view that will literally stop you in your tracks!
- Follow a traditional donkey train and camp under the stars
- Visit some of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Nepal, amidst a traditional Tibetan culture
- Watch the landscape unfold from the heights of the Himalayas, to the vast Tibetan Plateau
- Trek to the mysterious Kali Gandaki caves
Day 1 Arrive Kathmandu
Your trip starts in the lively and bustling city of Kathmandu with an explosion to the senses – take a deep breath! You will be met at Kathmandu Airport by a friendly face from Snowyoda who will accompany you to your hotel. Please don’t let anyone carry your luggage or they will expect a tip! If you arrive early, you can head out to explore the city’s labyrinth of back street courtyards, colorful market stalls and ancient temples for your first taste of Nepal’s culture and friendly people. This afternoon, your guide will meet you at our hotel and run through what to expect from the days ahead. Tonight, they’ll take you out for dinner at a local restaurant, for your first experience of Nepalese dining – a culinary crossroad between the influences of China, India and Europe, which makes for some really delicious flavor combinations.
ACCOMMODATION: Hotel Kathmandu Grand in Thamel (Dinner) ELEVATION: Kathmandu – 1400 meters (4600 feet)
Day 2 Fly to Pokhara
After breakfast in Kathmandu, we’ll take a stunning flight west to the adventure capital of Nepal, Pokhara. Nestled beneath the majestic Annapurna mountain range on Phewa Lake, this town is the starting point for many explorers. After lunch, you will have some free time to pick up any last minute supplies before we meet at one of our favorite lakeside restaurants for dinner.
ACCOMMODATION: Hotel View Point Pokhara (All meals) ELEVATION: Pokhara – 830 meters (2720 feet)
Day 3 Fly to Jomsom, Hike to Kagbeni
We take the spectacular 30-minute early morning flight to Jomsom, (famous for its apples) where we’ll meet our trekking crew to being our expedition. After checking our gear and organizing our donkey train, we’ll begin our trek to the pretty village of Kagbeni. On leaving Jomsom, it’s a pleasant walk along the riverbank of the Kali Gandaki. The trail is flat and easy-going, giving you a chance to warm up those hiking muscles gradually. We’ll enjoy magnificent views of huge peaks such as Dhaulagiri, Tukuche, and Nilgiri, while to the south, you’ll see the entire Annapurna massif. Kagbeni, with its narrow alleyways and tunnels, irrigation canals, fields of wheat and barley and a beautiful Gompa (the first of many monasteries we will be visiting), gives us an awesome glimpse into what to expect from the Upper Mustang region. We’ll arrive for lunch and stay the first night in a comfortable lodge. Our camp chefs will dish up the first of many delicious meals tonight. Welcome to the gateway of this long forbidden region of Nepal – go and explore the streets of Kagbeni, you never know what you’ll see!
ACCOMMODATION: Paradise Lodge, Kagbeni (All meals) HIKING DISTANCE: 12 kilometres (7.8 miles), 3-4 hours ELEVATION: Kagbeni – 2850 metres (9348 feet)
Day 4 Hike from Kagbeni to Chhusang
Using a combination of high road trails and riverbank pathways, we meander up the valley. We’ll pass cashmere goat herds and small cows moving up the hillsides, marvelling at the size of the eroded cliffs and the caves formed by years of weathering. Passing large apple orchards and the wide braided river of the Kali Gandaki, we stop for lunch at the village of Tangbe where we come across the first black, white and red Chortens that typify Upper Mustang. Representing three guardians, you’ll see Chortens like these on each side of the Mustang vaillages. You’ll marvel at yet another lush green town and the labyrinth of narrow alleyways among white-washed houses, fields of buckwheat and barley. Nilgiri Peak continues to dominate the southern skyline. Chhusang village is only about two hours walk beyond Tangbe at the confluence of the Narshing Khola and the Kali Gandaki. When you turn the last corner for the afternoon and take the first glimpse of Chhusang, the view will take your breath away. There are some impressive ruined castle walls on the surrounding cliffs of the village and across the river some spectacular eroded red cliffs above the mouth of inaccessible caves. When you arrive at our first campsite of the trek, nestled in an apple orchard, you’ll find our camp team have set up your tent so you can just relax with a hot drink and get to know your fellow travellers. You’ll be impressed how well we take care of you on the trail. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Bharka Hotel, Chhusang (All meals) HIKING DISTANCE: 14 kilometres (8.5 miles), 5-6 hours ELEVATION: Chhusang – 2930 metres (9610 feet)
Day 5 Hike from Chhusang to Samar
Today is a fascinating walk from the beautiful town of Chhusang, further along the Kali Gandaki Valley amidst towering red cliffs. Just before you reach the village of Chele, you’ll cross the Kali Gandaki via a bridge beside a chunk of rock, which has fallen from the cliff side and formed a tunnel for the river to pass through. Above you, you’ll spot a row of ancient meditation caves, some 700 years old! Passing through Chele we climb up a deep valley and alongside a gaping gorge to Dojong La Pass, 3735 metres (12,250 feet), for fabulous vistas. It’s only a short distance down to Samar, a gorgeous leafy village tucked away in the hills of Mustang. Once you’ve settled into camp and had a cup of tea, you might like to visit a lookout point, just a short walk above the village for fantastic views of the Annapurna and Nilgiri range. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Annapurna Lodge, Samar (All meals) HIKING DISTANCE: 9 kilometres (5.6 miles), 4-5 hours ELEVATION: Samar – 3550 metres (11,644 feet)
Day 6 Hike from Samar to Geling
After climbing above Samar and marvelling at the green valley below, we continue over a couple of passes in the morning, before descending along a ridge to Syangboche, a tiny settlement with a few tea shops where we will enjoy lunch. The trail climbs again from Syangboche and we enter another huge valley with views as far as the eye can see. The Tibetan Plateau’s multitude of colours flow and fold as you stand in the winds that have been blowing and shaping this landscape for thousands of years. As you reach the viewpoint, add a stone to the pile on the pass and mutter ‘soso’ – good luck – before sitting down to enjoy the view for a few minutes. The village of Geling stands below, with its extensive fields of barley, lined with tall trees. The twig, straw, mud and pebbled roofs, and the white and ochre- painted houses, are dotted though the village, each with their own green grass gardens and buckwheat fields. While here, we’ll pay a worthy visit to a 15th century monastery, painted in the stunning natural ochres of the region. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Kunga Hotel, Geling (All meals) HIKING DISTANCE: 15 kilometres (9.3 miles), 7 hours
ELEVATION: Geling – 3550 metres (11,644 feet)
Day 7 Hike from Geling to Dhakmar
This morning we hike the Nyi La Pass (4020 metres, 13,200 feet). Upper Mustang lies on an ancient trade route between Nepal and Tibet exploiting the lowest pass, at 4660 metres (15,300 feet), the Kora La, through the Himalaya. This route remained in use until China’s annexation of Tibet in 1950. Mechanised access to Mustang inside Nepal began with the opening of the airstrip in Jomsom in the 1960s. China eventually decided to revitalise trade in 2001, completing a 20 kilometre (12 mile) road from the Tibetan border to Lo Manthang. Road building from the south was inhibited by difficulties along the Kali Gandaki Gorge to the south, however work started in 2012 to eventually connect the area to the outside world. We descend into Ghami for lunch amongst some of the largest apple orchards in the region. After lunch, we walk out of Ghami up to the stunning Dakmar La Pass, before a short descent amongst some of the most impressive eroded cliffs in the region coloured by blue, purple, yellow, red and brown ochers. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Site, Dhakmar (All meals)
HIKING DISTANCE: 14.3 kilometres (8.9 miles), 6 hours ELEVATION: Dhakmar – 3820 metres (12,530 feet)
Day 8 Hike from Dhakmar to Lo Mantang
This morning we’ll head up and out of Dhakmar, climbing to the ancient site of the Ghar Gumba and Lo Gekar, one of the oldest monasteries in Mustang. Legend has it when the famous Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava arrived here he faced an evil spirit. After a visit to Lo Gekar, we are on the road again climbing up a valley to the highest pass for the trek, Chogo La, at 4230 metres (13,877 feet). Look out for Lammergeyer and Himalayan Griffon soaring above your head, and lower in the fields marmot fussing and scurrying in between burrows set in the hillside. There are often herds of yak high up in the hills as they prefer to graze over 4000 metres (13,123 feet) where it’s cooler.
Lying in the rain shadow of the Himalayas is perhaps the last enclave of pristine Tibetan culture. Forbidden and isolated from the rest of the world, Lo Manthang has evolved with its own distinctive culture and tradition, which is rich and unique. Here you’ll have the chance to experience a city largely untouched by modern civilisation. Climb to the rooftop of a building and see the homes show off their affluence by placing firewood around the edges of their roofs. For the next two nights we’ll stay at a wonderful lodge in Lo Manthang, a chance for a hot shower awaits. ACCOMMODATION: Lotus Guest House, Lo Manthang (All meals) HIKING DISTANCE: 18 kilometres (11 miles), 8-9 hours ELEVATION: Lo Manthang – 3830 metres (12,565 feet)
Day 9 Explore Chhosur Valley
Today we’ll be taking a 4X4 jeep ride 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) further towards the Tibetan border to one of the most impressive cave monasteries Mustang has to offer. Jhong cave is 4 stories high and we can clamber and climb through all the small portals in the cave to one of 40 secret meditation rooms and hidden storage chambers. It is here that Khampa warriors sort refuge while they fought the Chinese many years ago, sometimes living 5 years in these caves. In the afternoon, you might like to visit the four major gompas of Lo Manthang. The Jampa Gompa, the oldest, built in the early 15th Century and known as the ‘God house’, has some of the most impressive painted mandala walls of any monastery in Nepal and a huge Juniper pine posted entrance.
ACCOMMODATION: Lotus Guest House, Lo Manthang (All meals) HIKING DISTANCE: 15km Jeep, 2 km hike (1.2 miles), 3 hours return ELEVATION: Lo Manthang – 3830 meters (12,560 feet)
Day 10 Hike from Lo Manthang to Dhi
We’ll ascend out of the Lo Manthang valley and head south along the Thulung Khola farewell the last forbidden kingdom as we cross the Day-La pass. Heading back towards Charang, we’ll cross the Thulung Khola and climb over Dhi pass at 4100 meters (13,451 feet). A spectacular trail with views of Dhaulagiri, we’ll traverse the ridgeline before descending down to Dhi village set low in the valley. After another delicious lunch, you can spend the afternoon relaxing with a good book or soaking up the views. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Hira Lodge, Dhi (All meals)
HIKING DISTANCE: 13 kilometers (8.1 miles), 4-5 hours ELEVATION: Dhi – 3420 meters (11,220 feet)
Day 11 Hike from Dhi to Luri Gumba Cave return
Today we take a very special side trip not often experienced by foreigners. You’ll have the option to hire a horse from our team of porters today, or if you wish to stay with your feet planted firmly on the ground, that’s fine too. We’ll follow the Puyon Khola, a tributary of the Kali Gandaki. If conditions are suitable we’ll make some creek crossings (keep an eye out for Ammonite fossils) up to the village of Yara and onto the famous Cave Gompas of Luri Gumba. According to local legend, there are seven (or nine) cave temples containing ‘chortens’ in this part of Upper Mustang. The detail and decoration of this site are magnificent, with earthen and ochre colored artwork unique to Mustang. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Hira Lodge, Dhi (All meals)
HIKING DISTANCE: 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) 8-9 hours return ELEVATION: Dhi – 3420 metres (11,220 feet)
Day 12 Hike from Dhi to Ghami
We begin the day with a lovely river-side walk next to the Kali Gandaki before a bit of a climb for lunch at Charang, the second largest settlement in Mustang. From here you’ll be able to spot the palace and monastery of Charang.
A feast for the eyes, each element by itself is already extraordinary; the massive, natural colored chorten, the huge ruin of the old fort, the differently striped Gompa and the wind-swept plateau surrounded by hills. After lunch, we will return to Ghami along the longest Manu Wall in Mustang over the Choya La Pass. Watch out for goat herds as they graze in the pastures beside the pass. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Lo Ghami Guesthouse, Ghami
HIKING DISTANCE: 20 kilometers (12.4 miles), 7-8 hours ELEVATION: Ghami – 3550 meters (11,644 feet)
Hike from Ghami to Samar via Ranchung Cave Returning over a couple of passes, we make our way back to Syangboche for lunch on a mixture of road and hillside paths. The views of Mustang are ever changing and returning to this place you’ll recognize how different it looks just to walk the opposite way. We’ll visit Ranchung Cave, considered one of the holiest places in the entire Mustang region. Nobody lives here these days, however, it’s often visited by local monks and lamas to meditate and by pundits passing through on pilgrimages to India from Tibet. There are no elaborate statues or paintings displayed, nevertheless the atmosphere is very solemn and signs of past visitors include prayer flags hung to the ceiling and small clay figures left behind by pilgrims. There’s a climb and descent after Ranchung Cave to one of the best lookout points in the wider valley, you’ll greet the Annapurna Range again as it looms above the dry dusty landscape of Mustang. ACCOMMODATION: Camping Annapurna Lodge, Samar (All meals) HIKING DISTANCE: 24 kilometers (14.9 miles), 9-10 hours ELEVATION: Samar – 3550 meters (11,644 feet)
Day 13 Hike from Samar to Chhunsang, jeep to Jomson
Returning to the wide braided river valley of the Kali Gandaki, you will feel nostalgic to walk out of Mustang as you say farewell to the amazing culture and people that you have been privileged to meet. Have one last sweet and crunchy Mustang apple as you pass by Tangbe. It’s been a big walk with many ‘Nepali Flat’ undulations, but you have made it and the treat of the jeep at Chhunsang awaits your tired legs. Once back to Jomsom, we’ll celebrate tonight and farewell our camp cooks and porters for the fantastic effort they have made on the trip. ACCOMMODATION: Tilicho Hotel, Jomsom (All meals)
HIKING DISTANCE: 9 kilometers (5.6 miles), 3 hours, jeep 2.5 hours ELEVATION: Jomsom – 2720 meters (8923 feet)
Day 14 Fly to Pokhara
We will catch an early flight back to Pokhara and the beautiful shores of Lake Phewa. After lunch at a café, we will make a trip to the Himalayan Mountaineering Museum where you can learn about other cultures and mountains of Nepal. Maybe you’ll like to treat yourself to a massage this afternoon too! Tonight we will meet for a relaxed dinner at our favorite restaurant, Silk Road. ACCOMMODATION: Hotel View Point, Pokhara (All meals) ELEVATION: Pokhara – 830 meters (2720 feet)
Day 15 Free day in Pokhara
Today you can choose to have a well-earned rest in the lakeside town of Pokhara, or enjoy another exciting day in Nepal’s adventure capital! Your guides will be able to offer suggestions and help you organize activities. Today is all yours to relax and explore. This evening you might like to try some of Pokhara’s restaurants where local lake fish is a specialty. Or you might like to try our favorites like Moondance. ACCOMMODATION: Hotel View Point Pokhara (Breakfast) ELEVATION: Pokhara – 830 meters (2720 feet)
Day 16 :Return to Kathmandu, visit Patan Durbar Square
This morning we’ll farewell the Himalayas in Pokhara and take a short flight back to Kathmandu. For those who are keen this afternoon, we’ll head an hour or two south to the city of Lalitpur, otherwise known as Patan, and thought to be one of the oldest Buddhist cities in the world. Patan lies in the southern region of the Kathmandu Valley across the Bagmati River and is home to Patan Durbar Square, one of three Durbar Squares in Kathmandu and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Around the three courtyards here, there are an array of impressive temples (including the Ancient Royal Palace), religious shrines and historical places, all with exquisite carvings and a beautiful display of ancient Newari architecture. Today is also a great opportunity to find a bargain amongst Kathmandu’s many markets. Tonight we’ll meet at a local restaurant for our final dinner together to celebrate our achievements and adventures in the Himalayas. ACCOMMODATION: Kathmandu Grand Hotel, Kathmandu
ELEVATION: Kathmandu – 1400 meters (4600 feet)
Day 17 Return home
Today is the final day of your Mustang trip.
If you have extra time after your trip, we’re happy to make suggestions on how to make the most of it. On the other hand, if you’re on your way home today, we’ll send you back refreshed and invigorated from the great hiking and adventures you’ve had with us in Nepal! (Breakfast)
‘The trip fare includes just about everything, specifically:
- All guiding services. We always have an experienced, Snowyoda trip leader with every trip as well as a team of local guides and porters.
- All ground transportation and domestic flights from trip start to end.
- All accommodation as detailed in our itineraries for each of our treks. We can also organise pre- and post trip hotels for you if required.
- All your meals except where indicated on the itinerary.
- All drinking water while on the trekking trail. Alcohol and other drinks are not included although we’ve been known to spring a few drinks here and there!
- All hiking and park entry fees and permits.
The highest level of service from our guides and from our experienced team behind the scenes. We’re always here for you and we always go the extra mile!
The trip fare doesn’t include flights before or after your trip.
But this is your all-inclusive vacation, and there are no hidden costs. You’ll have a few meals and drinks to cover, extra activities if you choose them, and you’ll probably feel like tipping your guides at the end of a fabulous trip, but you won’t need to pull out your wallet every few minutes on your Snowyoda trip! On the ‘Mustang’ trip, you’ll be visiting a few monasteries, so you’ll want to bring some change for entry donations.
We offer trips that enable you to make the most of Nepal’s awesome outdoor environment, culture and history, whether you’re new to trekking or a seasoned expert. Snowyoda trip leaders are highly trained and experienced outdoor guides, and they will ensure your trip to Nepal is a fantastic experience. You don’t need to be experienced in trekking, or be used to hiking at altitude. You’ll need to be energetic and in good shape, and you’ll have a wonderful time.If you’d like some tips on appropriate fitness for our Himalayan treks, please just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help out. You won’t need to carry a big backpack on these trips as our team of porters will be carrying
gear and supplies. This will leave you free to carry just a daypack. There is no technical climbing involved either – you just need to put one foot in front of the other, slowly! So, with all the research, logistics, safety and hospitality taken care of, you can focus on the most important thing – making the most of your vacation!
- Hiking boots: Good ankle support.
- Hiking shoe or sneaker: As an extra, or to use in Kathmandu.
- Sandals: Slip on sandals or flip-flops, they will give your feet a breather during the evening.
- Woolen socks: 3 pair of hiking heavy woolen socks (75-86% wool).
- Light socks: 3 pair of light woolen socks (at least 50% wool).
- Tri-climate jacket: It gets windy in the Himalayan range during evenings and sometimes it rains. Additionally, for early morning trekking, this jacket can be layered up with your down or fleece jacket.
- Down jacket: It’s light and warm. At least, 700-fill goose down insulation for lightweight warmth. It gets very cold at night and in the early morning.
- Fleece jacket: Your fleece can be layered with your tri-climate or down jackets.
- Hats: Warm one for the morning and baseball cap or sun hat for the afternoon.
- Gloves: Insulated gloves to keep your hands warm on the cold morning trek and liner gloves for cool temper in the evening
- Hiking pants: 2 pair of hiking pants, one convertible (it can get hot in the afternoon).
- Cargo Pants: 1 pair of jeans and 1 pair of cargo pants for while you are in Kathmandu, and either fleece or other heavy sweat pants to wear during the evening downtime.
- Long underwear tops: At least 3 – to wear as a base layer for warmth.
- Underwear: 7 pairs of underwear.
- Tee and Tank: 5 performance tees or tanks to layer with the long underwear tops.
- Long underwear bottoms: 2 mid-weight long underwear bottoms to layer with your hiking pants during cooler points of the trek; or to provide extra comfort under your fleece pants in the evenings.
- Day backpack: 25-35 L backpack (depending on one’s preferences). It should be large enough to comfortably carry your camera, water bottle, extra clothes and snacks while you are on your daily trekking route. Porters usually take off early in the morning and complete the trek with greater speed. You would not see them until later in the evening upon reaching your destination.
- Duffle bag XL: (140L-165 L) / (32 x19x19). You can purchase a duffel bag in Kathmandu for a real bargain.
- Small lock: Bring a small lock for your duffle bag.
- Sack /Plastic bags: 2 sacks or plastic bags in which to organize and store your dirty laundry.
- Trekking Poles: These will provide you with balance and support – your knees will really appreciate this on the downhill portions of your trek.( You can buy this in Kathmandu )
- Sleeping bags: -10° C /14° F for a teahouse (rustic lodging) and -20° C/-4° F or warmer for camping treks. Guesthouses on your trekking route will only provide you with blankets.
- Trekking Towels: 1 large, 1 medium and few wash clothes (quick dry is plus!).
- Cameras, batteries, and memory card: Trekking through the unmatchable beauty of the Everest region will make you a paparazzo! Bring extra batteries (charging cost $1-$2.5 along the trail). 32 GB of memory should be sufficient.
- Sunglasses: Make sure they have 100% UV protection.
- Head lamp: You will need this to light your way during the early morning portions of the trek.
- Binoculars: These are useful while trekking; mountains, flora and fauna are all brought closer to you.
- Tablet computer: For entertainment in the evening; there isn’t much to do after 4pm. It is also quite cold and windy in the higher altitudes. Many trekkers choose to stay in their rooms at night; this being especially true once you have trekked into the more desolated regions beyond Namche Bazaar. If you don’t have a tablet, you should bring along books, mp3 players or playing cards to pass the time. These will become your best friends if you ever get stranded at Lukla Airport!
Personal & Medicals
- Water bottle: Bring 2 bottles for your trek. Make sure they can hold both hot and cold liquids.
- Water purification tablets: These are optional; but if you want to buy them, it is recommended that you do this at your hometown trekking store. The tablets being sold in Kathmandu are questionable.
- Pain reliever: Almost all trekkers suffer from an occasional light headache; these will help you ease the pain.
- Sun block (35+SPF) and lip balm with sun protection are essential.
- Personal first aid kit: Having your own kit on the trek is a plus.
- Band-Aids: Untreated blisters could make your trek very difficult; fabrics are best.
- Baby wipes: Hot showers are limited. Wipes will come in very handy.
- Hand wipes: For hand washing in the morning – otherwise good luck with very cold water!
- Snacks and goodies: Trail mix, granola bars, energy bars, chocolate, nuts, candy bars, and powdered drink mix are all great to sweeten the trail and to give you a boost of much needed energy. Don’t stress on the high calories, you will burn it off in no time while trekking.
- Plastic zip lock bags: They are useful in so very many ways.