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Your flights to Lukla from Kathmandu may be diverted to Ramechhap Airport. Here’s Why!

Your flights to Lukla from Kathmandu may be diverted to Ramechhap Airport. Here’s Why!

Mustang Trek Complete Guide

Upper Mustang Trek Complete Guide

Upper Mustang, formerly the independent Kingdom of Lo, unfolds a landscape of unparalleled richness and uniqueness. Within the confines of Upper Mustang are high-altitude desert terrain, deep canyons, ancient rock formations, and traditional Tibetan-influenced villages, secretly waiting to captivate your heart. Isolated from the rest of the world and enveloped in solitude, Upper Mustang was opened only in 1992. This region is still restricted; you will need a special permit to enter the area. Upper Mustang remains the treasure trove of Tibetan culture and breathtaking landscape. From the Mustangi people’s warm hospitality to the 1,000-year-old manmade caves and monasteries, this blog aims to be your go-to resource for an adventure to Upper Mustang.

Upper Mustang Trek Overview

Location: North-central part of Nepal

Trek Starting/Ending Point: Jomson

Trek Difficulty: Moderate

Best Time to Trek: Spring and Autumn

Highest Elevation: 4,660 m (15,289 ft)

Total Distance: 208km (109 miles)

Trek Duration: 10 to 14 days

Permits Required: Restricted Area Permit (RAP) & Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP)

Accommodation: Teahouse, lodges

Guide: Mandatory (plus a minimum of 2 trekkers)

Transportation Mode: Motorcycle, Jeep, 4WD vehicle

Flight: Yes, Pokhara to Jomson

Upper Mustang Interesting Facts

  1. Mustang Caves, 10,000 in number, some dating as early as 1,000 BC, have been listed as a UNESCO tentative site since 1996.
  2. Upper Mustang is one of the most preserved regions in the world.
  3. The upper Mustang region was officially incorporated into Nepal in the 18th century.
  4. In 2010, 27 human remains were found in two biggest caves near Samdzong.
  5. Upper Mustang was once an independent kingdom with its own king from the 15th to the 17th century.
  6. Upper Mustang was exclusively opened to tourists in 1992.
  7. The Tiji Festival, celebrated in Lo-Manthang, is a centuries-old festival that signifies the victory of good over evil.

Why the Upper Mustang Trek?

10,000 man-made caves; this could be the one-solid-reason to do the Upper Mustang Trek. But wait, there are more. The expansive grey rolling hills and warm hues of tanned red cliffs are something you will find only in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal. The ancient royal palaces, monasteries, and fortresses add a layer of historical fascination to the trek. Upper Mustang lets travelers immerse themselves in a living museum of Tibetan-influenced traditions and the timeless culture of local people. Did you know Lo-Manthang was once an independent Tibetan kingdom? Well, this trek offers an opportunity to explore the remnants of the old royal capital of Lo-Manthang and its labyrinthine alleys and centuries-old monasteries.

Accessible only with a special permit, Upper Mustang is beyond the reach of the modern lifestyle. You will meet people in unique dresses and a glimpse of their daily lifestyles that whisper tales of bygone eras. From Jomsom to Lo-Manthang and in between, each day of the trek unfolds with its own touch of magic, generously rewarding trekkers with captivating vistas and memorable experiences along the way. From ancient caves to the walled city, the Upper Mustang trek leaves an indelible mark on the soul of travelers. The warm hospitality of Mustang people creates an immersive and enriching experience.

What Is The Best Season for Trekking in the Upper Mustang?

Like every other trek, the best season to trek in the Upper Mustang region is spring and autumn. Since the Upper Mustang region lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, you can also do the trek in monsoon. The rain shadow effect occurs because the region lies in the rain shadow of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges, which block the majority of the monsoon rains. The winter season is considered off-season due to cold temperatures. The locals in Upper Mustang often leave the region during winter, and some facilities may be closed.

During the autumn and spring seasons, you will love walking on warm sunny days with excellent visibility of the stunning landscapes. If you are trekking in the spring seasons, the trails are adorned with vibrant colors of blooming wildflowers, adding a splash of color to the arid terrain. For the autumn season, the best part is stable weather conditions, minimal rainfall, and clear skies. Following the monsoon season, the air is crisp and clear. Whether it’s the lively and colorful ambiance of spring or the tranquil and clear landscapes of autumn, both seasons offer an unforgettable journey.

How long does Upper Mustang trek takes to complete?

The standard Upper Mustang trek itinerary takes 10 to 14 days to complete. However, the duration of the trek can vary depending on various factors. It primarily depends on the mode of travel chosen- overland by jeep, motorcycle, or trek. For those opting for an overland tour, typically involving a combination of jeep rides and short walks, the journey may take around 8 to 10 days. The motorcycle expedition from Kathmandu or Pokhara should last approximately 8 to 12 days. On the other hand, the classic Upper Mustang trek generally spans 10 to 14 days.

Upper Mustang Trek Difficulty

The Upper Mustang trek presents moderate challenges to trekkers. In terms of altitude, it takes you through elevations ranging from 2,800 meters (9,186 feet) to over 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), with the capital, Lo Manthang, situated at around 3,840 meters (12,598 feet). Therefore, altitude sickness is a genuine concern. The trek involves crossing deep canyons, traversing narrow ridges, and navigating through traditional Tibetan-influenced villages. Trekkers must be ready to walk 5 hours per day on average. The difficulty level can question your fitness level during winter due to cold temperatures and harsh weather conditions. So, it is advisable to trek during the autumn or spring season.

Packing List for the Upper Mustang Trek

Regarding packing for any treks in Nepal, the packing list remains largely consistent. The packing list for the Upper Mustang trek is somewhat similar to that of the Langtang trek or Everest Base Camp trek. However, specific considerations may vary due to differences in altitude, climate, and trek duration. Make sure your packing list contains moisture-wicking base layers (at least 2 pairs), fleece or down jacket, dry t-shirts (at least 2) and long sleeve shirts, waterproof jacket, trekking pants, convertible pants, sturdy hiking boots with moisture-wicking socks, gaiters, sandal, sun hat or beanie, lightweight, gloves, poncho or rain jacket.

Additionally, a first aid kit, including altitude sickness medication, water purification tablets, and sunscreen, is indispensable. Packing toiletries like biodegradable soap, wet wipes, and a quick-dry towel is convenient, and a lightweight, compact travel towel can be a space-saver. Bring a portable charger for your electronic devices, but be mindful of limited charging opportunities.

How Do I Get Fit For The Upper Mustang Trek?

You must be physically fit with a good endurance level and strength to address the unique challenges of the region’s terrain and altitude. Given the varied landscapes ranging from arid deserts to steep ascents, you must incorporate cardiovascular fitness through regular exercises like hiking, running, or cycling to enhance endurance. Strength training, particularly focused on the legs and core, will help you through steep inclines and descents. Your fitness training can also include flexibility exercises such as yoga to minimize the risk of muscle strains. The most effective fitness preparation involves hiking in your home country while carrying a loaded backpack. There’s no exact timeframe for trek preparation, but dedicate a minimum of a month to prepare for the adventure to Upper Mustang adequately.

What Type of Accommodation Can I Expect While Trekking in the Upper Mustang?

While trekking in the Upper Mustang region, expect to eat and sleep at white-painted teahouses and lodges made of mud and brick.  In the majority of places like Lo-Manthang, Kagbeni, and Jomson, you can find multi-storied concrete teahouses.Teahouses are a popular choice, providing basic yet comfortable amenities. The teahouses in the Mustang and Upper Mustang region resemble those of the Langtang and Everest regions. They offer twin-bed rooms with blankets, pillows, and a table. The communal dining area and shared bathroom facilities are common. That said, some teahouses offer private bathrooms equipped with hot shower. The accommodation cost is ridiculously affordable, with prices increasing as you ascend higher into the mountains.

What Type of Food Option Can I Expect While Trekking in the Upper Mustang?

The culinary offering in the Upper Mustang region greatly resembles those found in other trekking region, with dal-bhat emerging as a predominant and ubiquitous choice among trekkers and travelers. With Tibetan dishes like Tibetan noodle soups, the typical food menu includes noodles, pasta, fried rice, pancakes, and momo. Some international dishes commonly available include pasta, noodles, pizza, apple pie, and omelets. Upper Mustang’s apple orchards presents an array of delectable treats: Mustang’s apple juice, apple wine, and snacks like dried apple rings, apple jam, apple pies, and apple pickles. If you appreciate a good drink, you must try a local beverage called “Marpha”.

Do I need a permit for the Upper Mustang Trek?

A special permit called “Upper Mustang Restricted Area Permit” is required to embark on an adventure to the Upper Mustang region. In addition, you will also be required to obtain an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP). This is because the trail passes through the Annapurna Conservation area. The Upper Mustang Restricted Area Permit (RAP) costs USD 500 (AUD 785 approximately)  per person for the first 10 days, then USD 50 ( AUD 78 approximately)  per person per day thereafter, and the ACAP costs USD 30 ( AUD 47 approximately)  per person for foreigners and USD 10 ( AUD 15 approximately) per person for SAARC Nationals. You must also provide your passport, 3 passport-size photos, and essential details like your travel insurance number, contact details and trek details.

Do I need to hire a guide for Upper Mustang Trek?

If you are planning to do this trek, make sure to allocate a budget to hire a guide. This is equally important as planning the route to Upper Mustang. If you want to get the best from the trek, you have to hire a guide who can help you with everything, from getting special permits to cultural insights and logistical support. You can hire a licensed trekking guide on a per-par-day basis and the normal fee is AUD 40 to AUD 55 per day. If you are organizing the trek from a travel agency, they will do this part for you. Please verify the trek cost and its inclusions to ensure clarity and transparency.

Is Wi-Fi and internet available en route?

Yes, Wi-Fi and internet service are available, but access to it is limited. In larger settlements like Jomsom and Lo Manthang, you may find some teahouses or guesthouses that offer Wi-Fi services. Keep in mind that the speed and reliability might be limited. Some teahouses charge you for the usage of internet service on an hourly basis. As you venture into a remote part of the region, there is less chance of internet service availability. To be on the safe side, consider purchasing a local SIM card with a data plan. In recent years, the region has seen drastic changes in internet and telecommunication. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that you can enjoy high-speed internet in district headquarters like Jomson and places like Lo-Manthang.

What are the Must-Visit Places in Upper Mustang?

The trek to Upper Mustang is dotted with some of the incredible places or, say, resting stops like Kagbeni. If you are doing this trek, here are the must-visit places: Lo-Manthang, Kagbeni, Jomsom, Marpha, Muktinath temple, Shija Jhong Cave, Mustang Eco-Museum and Dhumba Lake. Similarly, you cannot afford to miss the mysterious sky caves. Drakmar canyons and the dramatic red cliffs are yet another impressive site. Don’t miss to visit the Ghar Gompa, which is believed to be the oldest monastery in Upper Mustang. Charang Gompa, also known as Charang Monastery, also tops the list of must-visit places in Upper Mustang. You can drive to the Kora-La border if you want to go beyond Lo-Manthang.

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