Mystical Mustang: Nepal's "Forbidden Kingdom" | Mountain Travel Sobek

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Mystical Mustang: Nepal's "Forbidden Kingdom"

Trip Length 17 days

From $5,495

  • Discover a once-forbidden feudal kingdom, long isolated and now accessible only by permit, on this 18-day Himalayan expedition
  • Turn back time and experience authentic Tibetan religion and culture in a land of vast monasteries and remote villages
  • Trek the spectacular summits and valleys of the northern Himalaya with MTS's top mountaineering experts

There are few genuinely unexplored places in the world—here’s your chance to experience one. Tucked away behind the legendary Himalayan peaks of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, the forbidden kingdom of “Lo” was isolated from the outside world for centuries. Now known as Mustang, it was only recently opened to visitors. Our fully supported 13-day trek takes you back in time to a land of brightly painted shrines and boulders carved with Buddhist prayers, where vast monasteries stand guard over pocket-sized villages and every ridge offers another arresting vista. With two full days in the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang, almost entirely unchanged since the 14th century, you’ll have been one of the rare few to discover this magnificent and well-preserved gem. If you are yearning to tread off the beaten path, Mustang is the remote getaway of your dreams.

 

Trip leader Sanjeev Chhetri has been leading treks in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India and the Alps since 1990. He first went to Upper Mustang in 1990, before the area was open to outsiders, and has been guiding trips here since 1992.

Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu (4,385)

Welcome to Kathmandu, Nepal! An MTS representative will meet you at the airport outside of the customs and immigration area, and escort you to your hotel. Once at the hotel, your guide will hold a short orientation meeting in the hotel around 4pm to brief you on trekking arrangements and important information on your stay in Nepal.

  • Accommodation:Yak & Yeti Hotel

Day 2: Kathmandu - Pokhara (2,690)

Kathmandu is one of the three former medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley, along with Bhaktapur and Patan. This morning, we’ll tour its Hindu shrines and ghats at Pashupatinath on the Bagmati River and the large Buddhist stupa at Bodhnath, center of the Tibetan Buddhist culture in Kathmandu. Both sites are part of the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the late afternoon, we’ll fly to Pokhara, a lively town set beside Phewa Lake with fantastic views of the Annapurna Range.

  • Breakfast/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Shangri-La Village

Day 3: Jomsom - Samar (11,874')

This morning, weather permitting, we’ll board an early flight from Pokhara up the Kali Gandaki Gorge, flying between the majestic peaks of Dhaulagiri (26,804') and Annapurna (26,538') to land at the small airstrip in Jomsom (8,922'), in full view of Nilgiri (23,160') to the south. Jomsom is the administrative center of the once-isolated Mustang district. After disembarking, we’ll collect our gear and prepare for our jeep ride to Chhuksang (9,774') via the medieval-looking village of Kagbeni (9,184'), which is also the northernmost area that foreigners can visit without a permit. We will be driving along the rocky trails of the Kali Gandaki River, named after one of the Hindu goddesses (“Kali”) and said to be one of the holiest rivers in Nepal. The arid climate, earthen houses, Tibetan-style clothing and language illustrate just how closely this area is linked with Tibet. At the end of Kagbeni village, we’ll go through administrative formalities at the check post and enter the forbidden kingdom of Mustang.

We will then drive through the village of Tangbe (10,037'), where we’ll take in our first views of the uniquely colored chortens and landscapes of the Upper Mustang, where beautiful red, yellow, and brown sandstone pillars rise from a barren, desert-like terrain. We’ll continue driving to Chhuksang (9,774'), at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Narshing Khola rivers. From here we will get off the jeep and start hiking north. We’ll cross the Kali Gandaki before a short steep climb brings us to the village of Chele (10,168'), from where we’ll have a magnificent view of the southern valley of the Kali Gandaki. We then continue west from Chele. The climb from here is steep, leading us to a cairn from where we’ll see the village of Ghyakar (11,683') and its fields across a massive canyon. The climb continues on a long, steep, dry trail and winds up the side of a deep canyon. After crossing a ridge, the trail enters a large side valley, gradually descending to Samar (11,874') our camp. Samar, once a trading post for horse caravans, is an oasis surrounded by grove of poplar trees amid the arid landscape. Tonight, we’ll spend our first night together in camp. (Jeep ride: 2 hours. Hiking time: 3 to 4 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 4: Jhaite (12,529')

After breakfast, we take an alternative route to the main trail in order to visit an ancient cave that houses the Rhangchung Chorten (meaning “the chorten that built itself or appeared by a miracle”), hidden away in a deep canyon. We take a sharp descent to cross a ravine, then we deviate off the main trail, cross an even deeper ravine then start up the long hike up to a pass from where we will have a great view of the canyon to our north and east and of the snow capped mountains to the south. After the pass a narrow traverse flanked by juniper bushes brings us to another lower pass from where we get the distant view of Syangmochen (12,464’) our lunch stop.

After a very steep descent, we finally reach the cave monastery, which seems to be growing out of the vertical wall. The cave, decorated with khatas (ceremonial scarves), numerous chortens and other ritual items is believed to have been visited by Padmasambhava, the Indian saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet. After visiting the cave we head north to Syangmochen. The trail passes through an area of small trees and green bushes in the narrowing gorge for a while before it broadens into a valley. After a gradual and long climb we arrive at Syangmochen where we stop for lunch.

After lunch we will head to Jhaite (12,529’) our camp for today. On our right, we will see the scenic village of Geling (11,710') with its poplar trees and vast, fertile fields. The main monastery overlooks the whitewashed houses that are dotted in the valley. (Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 5: Ghar Gompa (12,956')

From Jhaite, we’ll climb across the Nyi La pass (13,186’) and descend to the large village of Ghemi (11,513'). If time permits, we can stop for a cup of tea at a local teahouse. We’ll then follow the trail across the valley to cross the Dhakmar Chu River over a suspension bridge and past the most impressive and longest stretch of mani wall (boulders with carved Buddhist prayer inscriptions) in Upper Mustang. After the mani wall we will leave the main trail and descend down to the secluded village of Dhakmar (12,529’) situated under the magnificent red sandstone cliffs dotted with numerous cave openings. After crossing a stream we climb up a rocky gully then we arrive at the Muila pass (13,677’), from where we get our first view of the famous Ghar Gompa, our camp. It is also known as Lo Gekar meaning true virtue of Lo. This is the oldest monastery (Nyingma sect) established in the 8th century by Padmasambhava, in an effort to pacify the 'demons' that were hindering the construction of the Samye monastery in Tibet, which is often considered to be the first monastery in the Tibetan region. (Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 6: Lo Manthang (12,595')

From Ghar Gompa after crossing several valleys we reach the Chago La pass (14,800’), highest pass on the entire trek. After a long gradual descent, we finally get our first view of the wall city of Lo Manthang in the distance, set amongst the fields and poplar trees. From here a steady downhill brings us to our camp. (Hiking time: 4 to 5 hours).

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 7: Lo Manthang (12,595')

Today, we’ll step off the trail and take the day to explore Lo Manthang, known as “the Kingdom of Lo” or “Mustang.” We’ll start with visits to its two major 15th-century monasteries: Thubchen Gompa and Champa Gompa. Due to their remoteness, the monasteries have remained unaffected by modernity and entering them is like walking into another world, one heavy with incense and flickering yak butter lamps. When the chanting of monks or the moan of the long Tibetan horns is added to this, it’s possible to lose oneself in reverie for a long period of time!

Thubchen Gompa, located near the center of town, contains fine Buddhist murals in its massive assembly hall, supported by 35 tall, wooden columns. Sakyamuni, the main deity of Thubchen, is depicted with other deities such as Avalokiteshwora and Padmasambhava. The three-storied Champa Gompa opens to a central courtyard supported by carved wooden pillars containing a 50 foot tall clay image of Maitreya, the future Buddha, sitting on a pedestal that occupies the entire ground floor. The walls here are painted with intricate mandalas. A team of conservation architects has restored both monasteries with funding provided by the American Himalayan Foundation. Our visit continues to the Choede Monastic School. Although the monarchy of Mustang officially ended in 2008 by order of the Government of Nepal, the former official Raja Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista was recognized by Mustang residents until he passed away in December 2016. He traced his lineage back to Ame Pal who founded the kingdom of Lo in the 14th century.

Note—The PBS series Nova has made a documentary titled The Lost Treasures of Tibet. The movie serves to make people aware of Mustang’s cultural heritage and the restoration projects before they disappear.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 8: Return trek - Yara (11,742')

Leaving Lo Manthang, the trail leads us south towards Charang. We’ll climb up the pass overlooking Lo Manthang and continue for some time before walking down towards the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The dry and dusty trail is steep and winding, with a clear view straight down to the rooftops of the village below. The final section of the trail drops sharply to the village of Dhi (11,119'),situatedby the banks of the Kali Gandaki River. Just like most of the settlements along this river, Dhi is also marked by a patchwork of fertile fields and trees. After a well-deserved break at Dhi, we’ll hike up to the village of Yara to camp. Just before reaching Yara, we will see an incredible series of gigantic 300-foot-high wind-scoured cliffs resembling giant organ pipes. The cliffs are dotted with numerous cave openings and offer one of Upper Mustang’s most spectacular sights.(Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 9: Yara

Today, we’ll visit the ancient Luri Gompa cave monastery (13,317') and then return to our camp in Yara. The day begins with a steep climb to the village of Ghara and continues further up to Luri Gompa. Luri is the most important cave monastery in Upper Mustang as it remains as one of the only monasteries in the region belonging to the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery consists of a series of interconnected chapels covering various levels, all carved out of the cliff. The inner room contains a large chorten painted with deities. Kashmiri-style paintings of exquisite flowers, deities and various figures of Indian origin don the dome-shaped roof and the west wall. Luri is one of the few remaining cave monasteries in the world! (Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 10: Tangge (10,627')

From Yara, the trail leads south to Dhechyang Khola, winding steeply uphill before opening to magnificent views of landscape below. We’ll then continue downhill into the village of Tangge, a small hamlet whose homes form a fort nestled below cliffs eroded into massive columns. The view of the settlement with its groups of chortens and mani walls of various sizes and shapes is stunning! Our camp is constructed in a walled compound to protect us from the dry winds of Mustang. (Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 11: Pha (13,835')

On our way out of Tangge, we’ll take an atmospheric walk past narrow rows of houses, under buildings and up alleys through town, past the mani walls and chortens to join the trail leading down to the Tangge Khola, where we’ll cross a wooden bridge. We’ll hike above the village and then descend again to the wide rocky plain of the Yak Khola. After one more river crossing, we’ll begin a steep ascent, allowing the horizon to widen between Charang, Lo Manthang and Nepal’s northern border. Once we reach the prayer flag-adorned summit of Pha, we’ll take in our first view of Dhaulagiri—a sight that will leave everyone speechless. Tonight, we’ll camp below other side of the pass near the only water source on this part of the trek. (Hiking time: 5 to 6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 12: Tetang (9,971')

Today, the trail winds uphill, opening to exceptional views of the whole of Mustang valley, extending far to the northern border beyond Lo Manthang. Care must be taken here, as the scenery is so dramatic you may be tempted to venture too close to the edge of the 3,000-foot gullies dropping down to the river below. Some sections of the trail are fairly narrow. Soon, the trail veers away from the rim and opens to the extraordinary southern view of the Kali Gandaki Valley below as it cuts between the Annapurnas, Nilgiris and Dhaulagiri. To the east, an array of peaks surrounds the famous Thorang La pass (17,764'). From this viewpoint, our descent begins down a steep and rough trail with loose scree. The view down to the fields and the village of Tetang is out of this world! Eventually the trail flattens out on a plateau and splits in two. The right fork leads to Chhuksang, while the left one (our route) leads on through gullies to Tetang. Tonight, we’ll camp near a chorten below the village of Tetang. (Hiking time: 5 to 6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 13: Muktinath (12,333')

From our camp, the trail drops to cross the river and climbs up a willow creek into the main village of Tetang. The village is divided into two parts. The first (main) part consists of 30-foot outer walls of houses, giving a fortress-like appearance, and a central area of alleys, tunnels and doorways leading into houses. The second part of the village has the remains of a fort or gompa, again with high fortress-like walls on the outer houses. Our trail starts from a small square adjacent to the main village, leading past a mani wall above the willowy creek, heading up alongside a longer mani wall outside of the village through a region of loose, pointed rocks. The trail then heads up a scree field, across a plateau before veering east into a narrow river valley. Leaving the valley, the trail climbs into a more open valley before reaching the summit of the Gyu La pass (13,373'). We’ll follow the trail downhill toward Muktinath, gently heading southeast and down into a smaller river valley. After a short climb, we’ll reach Changur, the site of a small but active gompa, then past a grove of trees into another smaller river across a bridge, and past a nunnery, where our path joins the main trail from Thorang La by the Vishnu Temple complex at Muktinath. We’ll walk past the temple to Ranipauwa where our guesthouse is situated. After many nights of camping we will enjoy spending the night at a local guesthouse. (Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Guesthouse

Day 14: Jomsom (8,922)

This morning, we’ll visit the temple and holy shrines of Muktinath before heading for Jomsom. Muktinath, meaning “place of liberation,” is an important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. Located in a poplar grove, the holy shrines here include a pagoda-style temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu with a courtyard of 108 brass waterspouts and Marme Lhakhang, a Buddhist gompa. In another ancient temple, small natural gas jets ignite a perpetual holy flame next to a spring of sacred water. This combination of earth, fire, and water lends Muktinath its profound religious significance. 

Our trek today avoids the vehicular road down through Lupra, which is a small beautiful village located to the east of the Kali Gandaki in the valley of the Panda Khola. The trail from Muktinath starts with a gradual ascent before we get to a long steep descent. The origin of the village is connected to the establishment of a Bon monastery (Phuntsoling) in the 12th century, which was founded by a scholar named Lupra Tashi Namgyal. It is one of the few Bon monasteries left in Nepal. We visit the Bon Monastery and discover some Bon culture. There are about 20 houses that lie picturesquely in the valley at the bend of the river. We then follow along the Panda Khola reaching the valley floor where our jeep will be waiting for us. From here we will drive back to Jomsom with wonderful views of the Mt. Nilgiris (23,160' and 22,763'). (Jeep ride: 15 minutes. Hiking time: 5 – 6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Guesthouse

Day 15: Return to Kathmandu

Weather permitting (always a factor in Nepal), we’ll fly from Jomsom via Pokhara to Kathmandu. If the weather poses a challenge to safe travel, we’ll spend another day in Jomsom.

Flights in and out of this tiny mountain airstrip are commonly delayed and we have no control over their operation or schedules, so you should be prepared for delays and cancellations (all meals at Jomsom are included while waiting). With luck we’ll get out the first day, but we have scheduled an extra day at the end of the trek so as not to interfere with your homeward-bound flights. If all goes well, however, we’ll spend the day in Kathmandu!

  • Breakfast
  • Accommodation:Yak & Yeti Hotel

Day 16: Kathmandu

If the Jomsom flight is not delayed, we’ll begin our day in Kathmandu with a morning tour of nearby Bhaktapur, one of the three royal cities of the Kathmandu Valley which has preserved its ancient character with an enchanting display of medieval Nepalese town life and architecture. Durbar Square, is a highlight with its many temples, palace structures, and intricate Sun Dhoka (“Golden Gate”), a gilded copper gate crafted in 1753. The afternoon is free to relax or do some last minute shopping or sightseeing on your own. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner.

  • Breakfast/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Yak & Yeti Hotel

Day 17: Kathmandu - Departure

Say goodbye to your newfound friends and transfer to the Kathmandu airport for your homeward-bound flights.

  • Breakfast

May 14 - 30, 2018

Sep 24, 2018 - Oct 10, 2018

pricing

2017 Prices

$5,495 (6-12 members)
$550 internal airfare – Kathmandu/Jomsom/Kathmandu
$700 single supplement

$575 per person - Special Upper Mustang permit fee (must be paid in US dollars cash in Nepal)

2018 Prices

$5,695 (6-12 members)
$570 internal airfare – Kathmandu/Jomsom/Kathmandu
$800 single supplement

$575 per person - Special Upper Mustang permit fee (must be paid in US dollars cash in Nepal)

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Guesthouse

Hotel Shangri-La Village — Pokhara

Guests at the Shangri-La Village enjoy up close and personal views of the Himalayas from their rooms, which feature epic panoramas. Private balconies off each guest room face the mighty Annapurna range, and spacious landscaped gardens complete the scene. Guests will enjoy every comfort in a beautiful and serene setting.

MTS Camp — Mustang

Yak & Yeti Hotel — Kathmandu, Nepal

A 5-star deluxe oasis in the heart of Kathmandu, the Yak & Yeti is the perfect blend of contemporary international standards and time-honored Nepali tradition. Guests will find refuge among antique fountains, gilded temples and emerald gardens, while enjoying a state-of-the-art gymnasium, spa, shopping arcade, atrium, tennis courts and swimming pools.

"I just completed the Mystical Mustang trek with the best guides imaginable. It was an amazing trek. The guides, Sanjeev Chhetri and Sirish Bhatt, provided extraordinary insight into the area. Together they made the complex religious and political history of Mustang easy to understand. Sanjeev’s vast knowledge of the geology, the terrain and religious monuments and holy places made every day an exciting adventure. With her extensive archeological restoration work in Mustang, Sirish was able to provide details of the restoration process and show examples of her work. The biggest surprise was how luxurious the campsites were—everything from thick sleeping pads and pillows to comfortable camp chairs and delicious meals. I was glad to do this trek while the Tibetan culture still exists." Dick Stockment

"This was the trip of a lifetime! A spectacular, active, and challenging trek combined with great scenery, amazing monasteries, and  insight into the changing Buddhist culture of Upper Mustang. Sanjeev is a logistical wizard and his great love of Mustang is infectious. Sirish's depth of knowledge of Lo Manthang and its surrounding temples and monasteries is presented in such an inviting way, attuned to one's interest. I would absolutely recommend MTS!" Sandy Sauer

  • Discover a once-forbidden feudal kingdom, long isolated and now accessible only by permit, on this 18-day Himalayan expedition
  • Turn back time and experience authentic Tibetan religion and culture in a land of vast monasteries and remote villages
  • Trek the spectacular summits and valleys of the northern Himalaya with MTS's top mountaineering experts

There are few genuinely unexplored places in the world—here’s your chance to experience one. Tucked away behind the legendary Himalayan peaks of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, the forbidden kingdom of “Lo” was isolated from the outside world for centuries. Now known as Mustang, it was only recently opened to visitors. Our fully supported 13-day trek takes you back in time to a land of brightly painted shrines and boulders carved with Buddhist prayers, where vast monasteries stand guard over pocket-sized villages and every ridge offers another arresting vista. With two full days in the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang, almost entirely unchanged since the 14th century, you’ll have been one of the rare few to discover this magnificent and well-preserved gem. If you are yearning to tread off the beaten path, Mustang is the remote getaway of your dreams.

 

Trip leader Sanjeev Chhetri has been leading treks in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India and the Alps since 1990. He first went to Upper Mustang in 1990, before the area was open to outsiders, and has been guiding trips here since 1992.

reviews

"I just completed the Mystical Mustang trek with the best guides imaginable. It was an amazing trek. The guides, Sanjeev Chhetri and Sirish Bhatt, provided extraordinary insight into the area. Together they made the complex religious and political history of Mustang easy to understand. Sanjeev’s vast knowledge of the geology, the terrain and religious monuments and holy places made every day an exciting adventure. With her extensive archeological restoration work in Mustang, Sirish was able to provide details of the restoration process and show examples of her work. The biggest surprise was how luxurious the campsites were—everything from thick sleeping pads and pillows to comfortable camp chairs and delicious meals. I was glad to do this trek while the Tibetan culture still exists." Dick Stockment

"This was the trip of a lifetime! A spectacular, active, and challenging trek combined with great scenery, amazing monasteries, and  insight into the changing Buddhist culture of Upper Mustang. Sanjeev is a logistical wizard and his great love of Mustang is infectious. Sirish's depth of knowledge of Lo Manthang and its surrounding temples and monasteries is presented in such an inviting way, attuned to one's interest. I would absolutely recommend MTS!" Sandy Sauer

DAILY itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu (4,385)

Welcome to Kathmandu, Nepal! An MTS representative will meet you at the airport outside of the customs and immigration area, and escort you to your hotel. Once at the hotel, your guide will hold a short orientation meeting in the hotel around 4pm to brief you on trekking arrangements and important information on your stay in Nepal.

  • Accommodation:Yak & Yeti Hotel

Day 2: Kathmandu - Pokhara (2,690)

Kathmandu is one of the three former medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley, along with Bhaktapur and Patan. This morning, we’ll tour its Hindu shrines and ghats at Pashupatinath on the Bagmati River and the large Buddhist stupa at Bodhnath, center of the Tibetan Buddhist culture in Kathmandu. Both sites are part of the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the late afternoon, we’ll fly to Pokhara, a lively town set beside Phewa Lake with fantastic views of the Annapurna Range.

  • Breakfast/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hotel Shangri-La Village

Day 3: Jomsom - Samar (11,874')

This morning, weather permitting, we’ll board an early flight from Pokhara up the Kali Gandaki Gorge, flying between the majestic peaks of Dhaulagiri (26,804') and Annapurna (26,538') to land at the small airstrip in Jomsom (8,922'), in full view of Nilgiri (23,160') to the south. Jomsom is the administrative center of the once-isolated Mustang district. After disembarking, we’ll collect our gear and prepare for our jeep ride to Chhuksang (9,774') via the medieval-looking village of Kagbeni (9,184'), which is also the northernmost area that foreigners can visit without a permit. We will be driving along the rocky trails of the Kali Gandaki River, named after one of the Hindu goddesses (“Kali”) and said to be one of the holiest rivers in Nepal. The arid climate, earthen houses, Tibetan-style clothing and language illustrate just how closely this area is linked with Tibet. At the end of Kagbeni village, we’ll go through administrative formalities at the check post and enter the forbidden kingdom of Mustang.

We will then drive through the village of Tangbe (10,037'), where we’ll take in our first views of the uniquely colored chortens and landscapes of the Upper Mustang, where beautiful red, yellow, and brown sandstone pillars rise from a barren, desert-like terrain. We’ll continue driving to Chhuksang (9,774'), at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Narshing Khola rivers. From here we will get off the jeep and start hiking north. We’ll cross the Kali Gandaki before a short steep climb brings us to the village of Chele (10,168'), from where we’ll have a magnificent view of the southern valley of the Kali Gandaki. We then continue west from Chele. The climb from here is steep, leading us to a cairn from where we’ll see the village of Ghyakar (11,683') and its fields across a massive canyon. The climb continues on a long, steep, dry trail and winds up the side of a deep canyon. After crossing a ridge, the trail enters a large side valley, gradually descending to Samar (11,874') our camp. Samar, once a trading post for horse caravans, is an oasis surrounded by grove of poplar trees amid the arid landscape. Tonight, we’ll spend our first night together in camp. (Jeep ride: 2 hours. Hiking time: 3 to 4 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 4: Jhaite (12,529')

After breakfast, we take an alternative route to the main trail in order to visit an ancient cave that houses the Rhangchung Chorten (meaning “the chorten that built itself or appeared by a miracle”), hidden away in a deep canyon. We take a sharp descent to cross a ravine, then we deviate off the main trail, cross an even deeper ravine then start up the long hike up to a pass from where we will have a great view of the canyon to our north and east and of the snow capped mountains to the south. After the pass a narrow traverse flanked by juniper bushes brings us to another lower pass from where we get the distant view of Syangmochen (12,464’) our lunch stop.

After a very steep descent, we finally reach the cave monastery, which seems to be growing out of the vertical wall. The cave, decorated with khatas (ceremonial scarves), numerous chortens and other ritual items is believed to have been visited by Padmasambhava, the Indian saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet. After visiting the cave we head north to Syangmochen. The trail passes through an area of small trees and green bushes in the narrowing gorge for a while before it broadens into a valley. After a gradual and long climb we arrive at Syangmochen where we stop for lunch.

After lunch we will head to Jhaite (12,529’) our camp for today. On our right, we will see the scenic village of Geling (11,710') with its poplar trees and vast, fertile fields. The main monastery overlooks the whitewashed houses that are dotted in the valley. (Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 5: Ghar Gompa (12,956')

From Jhaite, we’ll climb across the Nyi La pass (13,186’) and descend to the large village of Ghemi (11,513'). If time permits, we can stop for a cup of tea at a local teahouse. We’ll then follow the trail across the valley to cross the Dhakmar Chu River over a suspension bridge and past the most impressive and longest stretch of mani wall (boulders with carved Buddhist prayer inscriptions) in Upper Mustang. After the mani wall we will leave the main trail and descend down to the secluded village of Dhakmar (12,529’) situated under the magnificent red sandstone cliffs dotted with numerous cave openings. After crossing a stream we climb up a rocky gully then we arrive at the Muila pass (13,677’), from where we get our first view of the famous Ghar Gompa, our camp. It is also known as Lo Gekar meaning true virtue of Lo. This is the oldest monastery (Nyingma sect) established in the 8th century by Padmasambhava, in an effort to pacify the 'demons' that were hindering the construction of the Samye monastery in Tibet, which is often considered to be the first monastery in the Tibetan region. (Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 6: Lo Manthang (12,595')

From Ghar Gompa after crossing several valleys we reach the Chago La pass (14,800’), highest pass on the entire trek. After a long gradual descent, we finally get our first view of the wall city of Lo Manthang in the distance, set amongst the fields and poplar trees. From here a steady downhill brings us to our camp. (Hiking time: 4 to 5 hours).

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 7: Lo Manthang (12,595')

Today, we’ll step off the trail and take the day to explore Lo Manthang, known as “the Kingdom of Lo” or “Mustang.” We’ll start with visits to its two major 15th-century monasteries: Thubchen Gompa and Champa Gompa. Due to their remoteness, the monasteries have remained unaffected by modernity and entering them is like walking into another world, one heavy with incense and flickering yak butter lamps. When the chanting of monks or the moan of the long Tibetan horns is added to this, it’s possible to lose oneself in reverie for a long period of time!

Thubchen Gompa, located near the center of town, contains fine Buddhist murals in its massive assembly hall, supported by 35 tall, wooden columns. Sakyamuni, the main deity of Thubchen, is depicted with other deities such as Avalokiteshwora and Padmasambhava. The three-storied Champa Gompa opens to a central courtyard supported by carved wooden pillars containing a 50 foot tall clay image of Maitreya, the future Buddha, sitting on a pedestal that occupies the entire ground floor. The walls here are painted with intricate mandalas. A team of conservation architects has restored both monasteries with funding provided by the American Himalayan Foundation. Our visit continues to the Choede Monastic School. Although the monarchy of Mustang officially ended in 2008 by order of the Government of Nepal, the former official Raja Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista was recognized by Mustang residents until he passed away in December 2016. He traced his lineage back to Ame Pal who founded the kingdom of Lo in the 14th century.

Note—The PBS series Nova has made a documentary titled The Lost Treasures of Tibet. The movie serves to make people aware of Mustang’s cultural heritage and the restoration projects before they disappear.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 8: Return trek - Yara (11,742')

Leaving Lo Manthang, the trail leads us south towards Charang. We’ll climb up the pass overlooking Lo Manthang and continue for some time before walking down towards the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The dry and dusty trail is steep and winding, with a clear view straight down to the rooftops of the village below. The final section of the trail drops sharply to the village of Dhi (11,119'),situatedby the banks of the Kali Gandaki River. Just like most of the settlements along this river, Dhi is also marked by a patchwork of fertile fields and trees. After a well-deserved break at Dhi, we’ll hike up to the village of Yara to camp. Just before reaching Yara, we will see an incredible series of gigantic 300-foot-high wind-scoured cliffs resembling giant organ pipes. The cliffs are dotted with numerous cave openings and offer one of Upper Mustang’s most spectacular sights.(Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 9: Yara

Today, we’ll visit the ancient Luri Gompa cave monastery (13,317') and then return to our camp in Yara. The day begins with a steep climb to the village of Ghara and continues further up to Luri Gompa. Luri is the most important cave monastery in Upper Mustang as it remains as one of the only monasteries in the region belonging to the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery consists of a series of interconnected chapels covering various levels, all carved out of the cliff. The inner room contains a large chorten painted with deities. Kashmiri-style paintings of exquisite flowers, deities and various figures of Indian origin don the dome-shaped roof and the west wall. Luri is one of the few remaining cave monasteries in the world! (Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 10: Tangge (10,627')

From Yara, the trail leads south to Dhechyang Khola, winding steeply uphill before opening to magnificent views of landscape below. We’ll then continue downhill into the village of Tangge, a small hamlet whose homes form a fort nestled below cliffs eroded into massive columns. The view of the settlement with its groups of chortens and mani walls of various sizes and shapes is stunning! Our camp is constructed in a walled compound to protect us from the dry winds of Mustang. (Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 11: Pha (13,835')

On our way out of Tangge, we’ll take an atmospheric walk past narrow rows of houses, under buildings and up alleys through town, past the mani walls and chortens to join the trail leading down to the Tangge Khola, where we’ll cross a wooden bridge. We’ll hike above the village and then descend again to the wide rocky plain of the Yak Khola. After one more river crossing, we’ll begin a steep ascent, allowing the horizon to widen between Charang, Lo Manthang and Nepal’s northern border. Once we reach the prayer flag-adorned summit of Pha, we’ll take in our first view of Dhaulagiri—a sight that will leave everyone speechless. Tonight, we’ll camp below other side of the pass near the only water source on this part of the trek. (Hiking time: 5 to 6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 12: Tetang (9,971')

Today, the trail winds uphill, opening to exceptional views of the whole of Mustang valley, extending far to the northern border beyond Lo Manthang. Care must be taken here, as the scenery is so dramatic you may be tempted to venture too close to the edge of the 3,000-foot gullies dropping down to the river below. Some sections of the trail are fairly narrow. Soon, the trail veers away from the rim and opens to the extraordinary southern view of the Kali Gandaki Valley below as it cuts between the Annapurnas, Nilgiris and Dhaulagiri. To the east, an array of peaks surrounds the famous Thorang La pass (17,764'). From this viewpoint, our descent begins down a steep and rough trail with loose scree. The view down to the fields and the village of Tetang is out of this world! Eventually the trail flattens out on a plateau and splits in two. The right fork leads to Chhuksang, while the left one (our route) leads on through gullies to Tetang. Tonight, we’ll camp near a chorten below the village of Tetang. (Hiking time: 5 to 6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:MTS Camp — Mustang

Day 13: Muktinath (12,333')

From our camp, the trail drops to cross the river and climbs up a willow creek into the main village of Tetang. The village is divided into two parts. The first (main) part consists of 30-foot outer walls of houses, giving a fortress-like appearance, and a central area of alleys, tunnels and doorways leading into houses. The second part of the village has the remains of a fort or gompa, again with high fortress-like walls on the outer houses. Our trail starts from a small square adjacent to the main village, leading past a mani wall above the willowy creek, heading up alongside a longer mani wall outside of the village through a region of loose, pointed rocks. The trail then heads up a scree field, across a plateau before veering east into a narrow river valley. Leaving the valley, the trail climbs into a more open valley before reaching the summit of the Gyu La pass (13,373'). We’ll follow the trail downhill toward Muktinath, gently heading southeast and down into a smaller river valley. After a short climb, we’ll reach Changur, the site of a small but active gompa, then past a grove of trees into another smaller river across a bridge, and past a nunnery, where our path joins the main trail from Thorang La by the Vishnu Temple complex at Muktinath. We’ll walk past the temple to Ranipauwa where our guesthouse is situated. After many nights of camping we will enjoy spending the night at a local guesthouse. (Hiking time: 6 to 7 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Guesthouse

Day 14: Jomsom (8,922)

This morning, we’ll visit the temple and holy shrines of Muktinath before heading for Jomsom. Muktinath, meaning “place of liberation,” is an important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. Located in a poplar grove, the holy shrines here include a pagoda-style temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu with a courtyard of 108 brass waterspouts and Marme Lhakhang, a Buddhist gompa. In another ancient temple, small natural gas jets ignite a perpetual holy flame next to a spring of sacred water. This combination of earth, fire, and water lends Muktinath its profound religious significance. 

Our trek today avoids the vehicular road down through Lupra, which is a small beautiful village located to the east of the Kali Gandaki in the valley of the Panda Khola. The trail from Muktinath starts with a gradual ascent before we get to a long steep descent. The origin of the village is connected to the establishment of a Bon monastery (Phuntsoling) in the 12th century, which was founded by a scholar named Lupra Tashi Namgyal. It is one of the few Bon monasteries left in Nepal. We visit the Bon Monastery and discover some Bon culture. There are about 20 houses that lie picturesquely in the valley at the bend of the river. We then follow along the Panda Khola reaching the valley floor where our jeep will be waiting for us. From here we will drive back to Jomsom with wonderful views of the Mt. Nilgiris (23,160' and 22,763'). (Jeep ride: 15 minutes. Hiking time: 5 – 6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Guesthouse

Day 15: Return to Kathmandu

Weather permitting (always a factor in Nepal), we’ll fly from Jomsom via Pokhara to Kathmandu. If the weather poses a challenge to safe travel, we’ll spend another day in Jomsom.

Flights in and out of this tiny mountain airstrip are commonly delayed and we have no control over their operation or schedules, so you should be prepared for delays and cancellations (all meals at Jomsom are included while waiting). With luck we’ll get out the first day, but we have scheduled an extra day at the end of the trek so as not to interfere with your homeward-bound flights. If all goes well, however, we’ll spend the day in Kathmandu!

  • Breakfast
  • Accommodation:Yak & Yeti Hotel

Day 16: Kathmandu

If the Jomsom flight is not delayed, we’ll begin our day in Kathmandu with a morning tour of nearby Bhaktapur, one of the three royal cities of the Kathmandu Valley which has preserved its ancient character with an enchanting display of medieval Nepalese town life and architecture. Durbar Square, is a highlight with its many temples, palace structures, and intricate Sun Dhoka (“Golden Gate”), a gilded copper gate crafted in 1753. The afternoon is free to relax or do some last minute shopping or sightseeing on your own. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner.

  • Breakfast/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Yak & Yeti Hotel

Day 17: Kathmandu - Departure

Say goodbye to your newfound friends and transfer to the Kathmandu airport for your homeward-bound flights.

  • Breakfast
lodgings

Guesthouse

Hotel Shangri-La Village — Pokhara

Guests at the Shangri-La Village enjoy up close and personal views of the Himalayas from their rooms, which feature epic panoramas. Private balconies off each guest room face the mighty Annapurna range, and spacious landscaped gardens complete the scene. Guests will enjoy every comfort in a beautiful and serene setting.

MTS Camp — Mustang

Yak & Yeti Hotel — Kathmandu, Nepal

A 5-star deluxe oasis in the heart of Kathmandu, the Yak & Yeti is the perfect blend of contemporary international standards and time-honored Nepali tradition. Guests will find refuge among antique fountains, gilded temples and emerald gardens, while enjoying a state-of-the-art gymnasium, spa, shopping arcade, atrium, tennis courts and swimming pools.

Dates and Pricing

May 14 - 30, 2018

Sep 24, 2018 - Oct 10, 2018

pricing

2017 Prices

$5,495 (6-12 members)
$550 internal airfare – Kathmandu/Jomsom/Kathmandu
$700 single supplement

$575 per person - Special Upper Mustang permit fee (must be paid in US dollars cash in Nepal)

2018 Prices

$5,695 (6-12 members)
$570 internal airfare – Kathmandu/Jomsom/Kathmandu
$800 single supplement

$575 per person - Special Upper Mustang permit fee (must be paid in US dollars cash in Nepal)

Activity Level Strenuous
Trip Length 17 days

From $5,495

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Award-winning journeys recognized by Travel +Leisure