May 5, 2014
The remote Mustang Valley of Nepal was once a thriving region hidden deep amongst the northern Himalayan passages. It’s early inhabitants were producers of fine Buddhist art and writings, but the major economic vein that helped it thrive thousands of years ago was salt, trading up and around the Chinese border and beyond. What the now desolate region is known for most these days however, are its vast, mysterious, and nearly impossibly complex system of man-made caves, one of the great archaeological mysteries of the world.
Some sit by themselves, a single open mouth on a vast corrugated face of weathered rock. Others are in groups; a grand chorus of holes, occasionally stacked eight or nine stories high, an entire vertical neighborhood. Some were dug into cliff sides, others tunneled from above. Many are thousands of years old. The total number of caves in Mustang, conservatively estimated, is 10,000. Read more
January 5, 2014
Though the tourist arrival across the country decreased in 2013 due to political instability, especially general or transport strikes, the number of tourists visiting Upper Mustang actually increased compared to the previous year.
With this the collection of revenue also increased, up to Rs 200 million, according to Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP).
The cost of traveling in the ´controlled area´ as announced by the government is very high. Foreigners who wish to visit the area have to take permission from the Department of Immigration (DoI) by paying US$ 500. By paying US$ 500 they can stay in the area for 10 days and if they want to extend they have to pay additional US$ 50 per day. However, the cost does not seem to have affected the tourist visiting Upper Mustang.
According to Santosh Sherchan, chief of ACAP, a total of 3,344 foreign tourists visited Lo Manthang in 2013. ´Despite all odds, we had scores of more tourists and we were able to earn revenue worth Rs 200 million,” said Sherchan, adding that there were many tourists who extended their stay by paying additional charges.
The number of tourist from France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China increased after Upper Mustang was listed as one of the worlds´ best destination.
´Lonely Planet Travel Guide Book´ had listed Upper Mustang in the third position of the world´s top ten best destinations.
“Though the number of tourist increased, our expectation was much more as the area was listed in the third best destination in the world. However, strikes, political disturbances, Constituent Assembly (CA) election and fear of insecurity hindered the arrival of tourists,” said Khagendra Tulachan, president of Mustang Hotel Association of Nepal.
The scenic Himalayan range, traditional monasteries, caves and palaces built back in the middle ages, old houses, art and culture among others factors attract the tourist. Besides, they also visit the area for carrying out the research of traditional art and culture.
The ´controlled area´ was opened for foreign tourist only in 1992 and till date, the government has earned around Rs 2 billion from them, according to the District Development Committee. However, the locals complain that the government has hardly spent money for the development of the region.
´The government has earned millions of rupees and if some of the amount could be spent for the development of the region more tourists can be attracted,” said Tashi Bista, a youth advisor of Upper Mustang Youth Society.
Source & References
Pokharel, S. 2014. Unlike rest of Nepal, upper Mustang received more tourists in 2013. [online] 04 January. Available at: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=67410 [Accessed: 5 Jan 2014].
January 3, 2014
A new set of recommendations submitted to the government recently could mean that some changes are afoot in trekking and mountaineering activities in Nepal. The 160-plus page document includes recommended reforms like opening up of several border peaks and royalty-related issues. But there was one particular thing tourism operators had pinned their hopes on and in all probability, they will now be disappointed.
This concerns the relaxing of rules in controlled areas like Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo, where only limited tourism activities are allowed for premium fees. Tourism entrepreneurs wanted these places to be recommended for complete opening up, like any other tourist spot.
But according to top sources involved in preparing the recommendations, the document has recommended that the decision be taken at the political level: “Given the risks of undesirable activities in these areas, we decided to leave it for the political level to decide whether these places should be opened as common tourism destinations.” Senior bureaucrats hinted that “Tibet-related activities” were still a matter of concern and therefore, such a decision could not be taken at their level.
Those in the trekking industry say they have lobbied all these years with politicians and yet, nothing happened. They argue that there is no point at keeping these places as controlled areas because the Chinese government has fully opened up Tibetan areas across the border for tourism activities.
“While we have senselessly kept these areas as controlled areas, Chinese tour operators bring in their clients on vehicles to Lo Manthang (in Upper Mustang) from Tibet and make money,” Mahendra Thapa, former president of the Trekking Agents’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), said in an interview I did for the BBC recently. “We therefore have requested our Home Ministry to open up these areas because China itself has done the same on its side in Tibet.”
There are more than half a dozen such restricted areas in Nepal, most of them bordering Tibet. But what do trekking agents actually mean by opening up of such places? Thapa had this to say: “For example, in Upper Mustang, we are required to pay $500 per day for every tourist we take there, whereas across the border in Tibet, tourists can get the luxury of a five star hotel for 10 days by paying $1,000. The bottom line is that our destination has remained expensive and others are reaping benefits from it. We have put this with the tourism ministry but the Home Ministry has not given permission.” Thapa said the Home Ministry had told him that the file had been sent to the Foreign Ministry. “The home ministry said the foreign ministry was first trying to get an OK from China and other quarters that are involved.”
But TAAN’s incumbent president, Ramesh Dhamala, dismissed any Chinese role. “I have been following this for years now and I can say that there is no pressure from the Chinese government on this issue.” When contacted, Home Minister Madhav Ghimire initially told this scribe that he needed some time to understand the issue. He could not be reached again.
The fact that the government is all set to open up new border peaks for mountaineering following the latest recommendation seems to hint that Chinese sensitivities with regards to Tibet might not be an issue. There have been few incidents in the past when mountaineering expeditions from Nepal were sent back by China’s security personnel because the mountaineers had to cross a small patch of Chinese-controlled Tibetan territory to reach the summit, which was within Nepal’s borders.
But then, Chinese scholars I interviewed in the past said that Beijing is aware of “unwanted activities in monasteries that are located in Nepali land bordering Tibet.”
Call it a coincidence, sources within the government too say the risk of “undesirable activities” in areas bordering Tibet is quite high for the bureaucracy to decide whether controlled areas should be opened up for tourism. Hence, “the idea of leaving it for the political level to decide”—if they ever do.
TAAN president Dhamala, however, said that bureaucrats were convinced that rules for such places had to be relaxed. “We have now found that there is a realisation at the bureaucratic level that these places have to be opened up. What we need to do now is take it to the political level and get it decided by the Cabinet.”
That, trekking agents say, has been an uphill task all these years. They may have helped trekkers climb many peaks in Nepal but getting politicians to overcome geopolitics still remains an uphill struggle.
Source & References
Khadka, N. S. 2014. No go zone. [online] 03 January. Available at: http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2014/01/02/oped/no-go-zone/257719.html [Accessed: 3 Jan 2014].
November 13, 2013
Still waiting to get wanderlust adventure? We have got your adventure dream of the year in the Himalayas. Himalayan Glacier’s top 15 picks present this year’s must-trek adventures. Our top 15 picks cover cross-border trek of India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. What could be your interest for travelling in the Himalayan region – cultural, recreational or adventure – our top picks garnish your dream of adventuring in this region. The adventure treks in the Himalayan region will be a once in a lifetime adventure in the company of inspiring and breathtaking scenery. See our top 15 picks to find yourself encircled by majestic vistas of eight-thousanders.
- Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek from Nepal (EBC), one of our top epic walks in the Himalayas, offers a huge sense of accomplishment and unbeatable views of beautiful forests, Sherpa villages, glacial moraines and foothills that surround the Everest region. Likewise, the trek takes you closer to the rich Sherpa culture while following the trail of Sir Edmund Hillary to EBC. It will also take you to some of the most popular places in the region like Kala Pathar which provides a stunning view of Everest along with other high mountains and the very famous Tengboche monastery, which is the largest monastery of the region of Nepal. Of course we will be at our final destination, EBC. Overall, the trek materializes the dream of reaching to the base camp of highest peak in the world.
- The Annapurna Base Camp Trek, the most stunning treks in the world, leaves you just being in the company of some of the highest mountains on earth and the splendor of the sunrise over the snow-capped Himalayas. This invigorating trek passes through waterfalls, villages, farmlands, rhododendron forests, and mountain vistas. You also pass through a diverse geographical and cultural variation with amazing ranges of flora and fauna in between. Throughout the trek you enjoy the sheer magnificence of the Himalayas, including two mountains that are above eight thousand meters – Annapurna and Dhaulagiri; hospitality and rich culture of the local community and the brilliance of nature.
- EBC Trek via Gokyo Lakes, one of the top adventurous treks in the Everest region, takes you to fabulous Gokyo Valley, the large Ngojumba Glacier, the famous Cho La pass, and the celebrated view points of Gokyo Ri and Kala Patthar along with Everest Base Camp (EBC). The trek further traverses through the landmarks of Everest region in the company of majestically soaring mountains, friendly Sherpas, colorful monasteries and prayer flags, the Namche Bazzar, the Sagarmatha National Park, and many more. Beyond the tranquil glacial lakes, you can enjoy 360 degree panoramic views of four above 8000 m massifs and other mighty mountain ranges from the best view point of Everest Region, the Gokyo Ri.
- Makalu Base Camp Trek, one of our top 15 picks in the Himalayas, makes a trek to the base camp of world’s fifth highest mountain. Mount Makalu is a close neighbor of Mt Everest, lying in the northeast region of Nepal. Following the beautiful Barun river valley in the Makalu Barun National Park, you cross various high passes and lakes. While trekking, you rise from lowland of Tumlingtar on the Arun River to one of the highest Base Camps on earth, the Makalu Base Camp at 5000m. While on the way, you will enjoy the views of the highest mountains such as Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Chamlang, Mt. Baruntse and other mighty Himalayan mountains along with Makalu (8481m) itself.
- EBC Trek in Tibet, one of the top adventure walks in Tibet, enhances you to experience the beautiful mountainous landscape of Tibet, while exposing you to its rich culture and history. Beyond acquainted with Tibetan culture and history, the trek will also be full of adventure and fun. Besides, you will visit popular landmarks in Tibet like Dalai Lama’s Potala and Norbulingka Palaces, ancient monasteries like Tashilhunpo, Sera, Drepung, Rongbuk, and Sakya, explore Namtso Lake, and finally reach the Everest Advanced Base Camp. Basically, the trek begins from Lhasa and ends in Kathmandu. In nutshell, the trek takes you to the advanced base camp of the north face of Mt. Everest (in Tibet) – the highest mountain in the world.
- Everest View Trek, one of our best picks, offers a wide range of spectacular scenery combined with unique cultural encounters with the Sherpa people who inhabit in the high altitude regions of the world. The trek continues through the lush vegetation of Sagarmatha National Park, with pine forests, rhododendron flowers and an abundance of wildlife, to Namche Bazaar (3440m). Furthermore, the trek brings you to the village of Tengboche (3930m), home to the highest Buddhist monastery in the world (4100m) and also reputed by photographers as one of the best places to capture the awesome beauty of Mt. Everest (8848m) and its neighboring peaks.
- Bhutan Tour is a special cultural tour to the living masterpiece of ecological conservation of the world today in which you will be introduced to the mystical and unspoiled cultural and natural grandeur of Bhutan. Filled with rugged terrain and steep mountain valleys, Bhutan is sandwiched between Tibet and India. Predominantly a Buddhist country with Vajrayana Buddhism being state religion, Bhutan deliberately preserves its unique way of life, culture and flora and fauna. Along with exploring the rich coniferous forests, glacial lakes, beautiful passes, and amazing views of snow-capped mountains, this tour traverses through various Dzongs, monastic sites and religious legends of Bhutan.
- Bhutan Cultural Tour introduces you to the imposing Dzongs, or temple fortresses, that are intrinsic to Bhutanese cultural way of life. You begin this tour from undoubtedly the most beautiful valley in Bhutan, Paro. The masterpieces of Paro like Tiger’s Nest Monastery, 8th century Kichu Monastery, and the national museum will be the prime attractions of this tour. Furthermore, following north along the Thimphu River, you will arrive Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan which is a potpourri of traditional and modern culture. After making excursion of Thimphu, you drive to Punakha valley across picturesque Dochula Pass (3150m) for great views of Himalayan ranges. Beyond exploring Punakha valley, you walk for the Dzong- the famous fertility temple in the region.
- Annapurna Circuit Trek, one of our best picks for magical trek, takes you around the entire Annapurna massif reaching the Zenith at Thorong La Pass (5,416m). During the trek, you pass through a diverse geographical and cultural variation with an amazing range of flora and fauna of the region. Just imagine the thrills of walking through world’s deepest Kali Gandaki Gorge, with Annapurna I rising to 8091m to the east and Dhaulagiri hovering at 8167m to the west! Cross the highest pass, Thorong La on the way from Manang to Muktinath, savor the fabulous mountain views from Poon Hill (3,210m) and discover more than ten different culturally rich ethnic groups that reside in different climate zones of Annapurna Circuit.
- View of Mt. Kanchendzonga also known as Dzongri Trek is the best choice for an extraordinary mountain adventure into the hinterlands of Mt. Kanchendzonga. The trek lies in Sikkim in the Eastern-Himalayan foothills bordering with Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. The attractions of the trek includes the great preview of a variety of Sikkim’s biodiversity encompassing beautiful rhododendron flowers, bird population and some amazing views landscapes and of course the majestic Himalayan peaks. The trail runs through the meadows of Dzongri at 4,000m with exceptional mountain views. The snow covered mountains, lush dense green valleys, and the extravaganza of nature’s beauty bewilder one’s soul.
- Jomsom Muktinath Trek helps you to explore the years old monastery, caves, local tribes and scenic beauties of Annapurna region. The trek will be the most rewarding once the visitors make an adventurous start from world’s deepest gorge to the world’s highest regions passing through an almost tree-less barren landscape, and panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and several other peaks. The trek gets interesting once the trekkers pass through Jomsom and Kagbeni, the entry point of upper Mustang. The grandeur of the region intensifies as the first glimpse of the windy Tibetan Plateau on the way to the holy Hindu pilgrimage site of Muktinath (3800m) emerges. From Muktinatht downhill to Jomsom, travelers land into the land of “Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang”, and get a glimpse of the ancient traditions still in practice.
- Upper Mustang Trek encompasses a spectacular remote Trans-Himalayan mountain area with Tibetan cultural influence. The Upper Mustang region also known as the “Last Forbidden Kingdom” is a treasure trove of thousand years’ old monastery, caves, local tribes and scenic beauties of the different landscapes. The great adventure journey starting from world’s deepest gorge to the world’s highest regions of Lo-Mangthang Valley passes through an almost tree-less barren landscape, a steep rocky trails and astounding views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and several other peaks. The surprising fact of this region is that the thousands years of isolation has kept the culture, lifestyle and heritage of this region intact.
- Explore Tibet, one of our best picks, is for those who are interested to experience the people, culture, monks, monasteries, land and palaces of Tibet. In Tibet, you will travel around Tsedang, Yumbulakhang, Thandruk, Samye, Tsurpu, and Ganden monasteries. Potala and Norbulingka Palaces, Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Bazaaar, Sera and Drepung Monasteries, and Tibetan Nunnery and Tibetan Medicine Center will be the prime attractions of this tour while you are strolling around Lhasa. Of course, you will also cover Tibet’s famous turquoise lake, Yamadroke Lake.
- Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, one of our top picks for spiritual walks in the Himalayas, is basically known for its religious value, cultural significance, spiritual importance and thrilling nature. The celestial beauty of Mount Kailash is not only fascinating, it is also one of the greatest pilgrimage destinations for Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Bon religions from around the world. The Kailash region also includes the two turquoise-blue, pristine high-altitude lakes and that are Mansarovar and Rakshesa. Another uniquely contributing fact to the spiritual aspect of Kailash is that four most sacred rivers of the Indian sub-continent begin from here and those are Sutlej, Karnili, Brahmaputra and Indus.
- Nepal Sunrise Tour encompasses some of the most spectaculars natural and cultural destinations of Nepal and you will enjoy the company of dozens of waterfalls and mountains, flora and fauna, and rural villages sprawled over the mountains. The tour starts from Kathmandu valley. The valley holds high number of places recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, and contains three medieval cities famous for their arts and architectures – Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. There are also some interesting cultural centers on the outskirt of the valley: Dhulikhel and Panauti. You make a visit to all these places and end your Kathmandu valley tour with the mesmerizing sunrise views over the Himalayas from Nagarkot. Then, you drive deep into the mountains to the resort town of Daman for a typical mountain experience. Driving further deep into the mountains, you spend a day at Bandipur and continue your journey to the fantastic Lake City, Pokhara.
November 7, 2013
At a time when the tourism industry is witnessing decline in tourist arrivals from other countries, Mustang district has witnessed a steady increase in the number of Indian tourists in recent years.
According to data provided by Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), over 12,000 Indian tourists visited Mustang area in recent years to worship at Muktinath temple, take a holy dip in Damodar Kunda and to observe the natural beauty of the region.
The increase in arrival of Indian tourists to the northern part of Nepal has also been facilitated by the construction of the 73-km Beni-Jomsom road.
Of the total 321,499 tourists visiting the Mustang region, the number of the Indian tourists is said to be at 12,144. In the current fiscal, more than 11,000 Indian tourists had visited the Mustang region by October, said ACAP Mustang tourist assistant Bel Pun. “Tourists come here mostly to trek and enjoy the mountains,” said Pun. According to Pun, unlike others, most Indian tourists visit Mustang with a religious motive — to pay obeisance at the shrine of Muktinath.
As per ACAP data, 2,976 tourists visited the region in the month of May alone. Keeping in view the tourists visiting the area, about 150 hotels are operating in places like Jomsom, Kagbeni, Muktinath, Lete and Marfa. “Most of the tourists come from India with a religious motive,” said Mustang Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairperson Khagendra Tulachan.
source: Himalayan Times, 06 NOV 2013
September 16, 2013
Making discoveries on ancient findings can lead to a lot of speculations and excitement when confronted with it. There are a good number of manmade caves, 155 feet from the ground, hidden within the Himalayans, separated by the Kali Gandaki River, which are some of the world’s amazing mysteries, yet to be discovered. It is estimated that around 10,000 caves have been found in former Kingdom of Mustang in North Central Nepal, some of which have either been dug into the Cliffside or tunneled from above. While some sit by themselves, others are in groups of holes stacked eight or nine storey high on a vertical neighborhood. These caves seem to be thousands of years old and the unknown fact is yet a mystery, of why and by whom were they built. Being 155 feet above the valley floor, it is also unknown how people climbed into the caves at these heights. Some of them who have seen these mysterious caves relate that the effect of the cliff face makes it look like a giant sand castle with dozens of holes carved into the sandy colored cliff, hidden within the Himalayas in a large gorge and dwarfs the Grand Canyon.
In the mid 1990s, several groups made attempt to discover these mysterious caves and found some bodies which were at least 2000 years old and since then the adventure to these mysterious caves is still on. Adventurer photographers, Cory Richards, who was joined by climbers, Pete Athans, and archaeologists, Mark Ardenderfer, along with a team of explorers set out to unravel some of the mysteries to us with pictures and their own findings. They started their expedition, though it was not an easy task to climb the sky caves with the rocks being unstable and posing to be dangerous while climbing. They envisaged a few dangerous threats all along their expedition to these mysterious caves. As they began with their exploring process to get to know more on these mysterious caves, they faced a lot of challenges during the dangerous climb with loose rocks around them which were very scary. With these loose rocks around them they had a feeling of everything crumbling down during their expedition.
They also encountered a few mishaps and faced physical injuries during their climb which were at times unnerving, but they were determined and excited in making discoveries to unravel the hidden mysteries of these caves. Their exploration lead them to what seemed a 12th century village culture beneath the caves with amazing history to it having villages which they used to live in but now unfortunately forgotten. This intrigued and further excited them in making more headway in their exploration of these caves. On arrival at the caves it seemed to be grander and bigger than they had imagined and made them wonder how the people at that time accessed and got into these caves. As they began exploring they came across images of eroded mural on the walls of Ritseling Cave in Upper Mustang. This exploration took a good many years to unravel and to discover it. Moreover since the climb and access to these mysterious caves seemed a lot difficult than they had envisaged, they had to thread with caution and care, since Cory Richards had already encountered an injury when he had lost his footing and fell down breaking his back. In another, incident videographer Lincoln Else had also faced injuries when he was hit by a falling rock and fractured his skull. Their exploration in solving the mysteries of the caves kept them perplexed as to how the original inhabitants accessed into these caves without any signs of ascending of ropes, scaffolding or even steps, in any of the caves which were at a height of 155 feet above the ground.
Some of the caves which they found were empty though some showed signs of inhabitation with sleeping spaces, hearth, and grain storage bins, besides the murals related to Buddhist history together with calligraphic manuscripts. Mustang cliffs are gorgeous with the walls melting like wax under the intense heat of the sun, with the ridgelines eroded into wild shapes of bony fingers lending support to the colossal rocky basketballs and with towering tubes spread similar to an endless pipe organ. The most amazing thing about these rocks is that its color keeps changing as the day progresses encompassing it in shades of red and ocher and brown and grey. According to the Scientists, the caves in Upper Mustang have been divided in three periods, one as early as the 1000 BC, where the caves may have been used as burial chambers. Towards the 10th century, the region may have encountered frequent battles and hence for safety purpose rather than convenience the people of that time, moved into the caves making it their living quarters. By 1400s, the caves may then have been used as meditation chambers, storage units since the people had moved into village or even military lookouts.
source: Historum, 02 Sept, 2013
August 27, 2012
Nepal is increasingly becoming a travel, trek and meeting hub in the South Asia region. After ending of the 10 years Civil War, Nepal has become even more popular travel destination. A recent Global Peace Index says that Nepal is the second most peaceful country in the South Asia. The Australia and US-based Institute of Economic and Peace’s ranking shows that when it comes to peace, Nepal is far more ahead than its neighbors like India, Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Nepal is even ahead of her northern neighbor China.
That’s one of the reasons why Nepal received a record number of tourists last year. Not only the tourist stay but the average number of days spent by tourists has also increased to a 7-year high in 2011. The trekking route in the Everest, Annapurna, and Langtang region also received increased number of tourist arrivals. The number of mountaineers and the number of their stay also rose in that year.
Not only that, Nepal is also increasingly becoming a meeting hub for regional and international organizations. Various international organizations and companies are finding Nepal a perfect place for conducting their seminars and meetings owing to Nepal’s scenic beauty, pleasant climate, and hospitable people.
Similarly, Nepal also hosted a regional level film festival week recently. Documentary films on environment protection were shown in the festival. The participants were from Nepal, India, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and the Philippines.
Nepal is also increasing becoming a regional adventure sports center. Besides mountaineering and trekking, you will find opportunity for many adventure activities here: bungee jumping, mountain biking, kayaking, paragliding, rafting, etc. Nepal is also seeing more adventure related infrastructure in its tourism industry. The recent one is the plan of creating an international standard rafting center at Bhotekoshi.
Recently, another adventure sports was introduced in Nepal’s tourist capital of Pokhara: Zipflyer. A popular adventure sport in Europe, Nepal’s Zipflyer is South Asia’s first Zipflyer adventure. This adventure sport takes you on ropes from Pokhara’s Sarankot Hill to Yamdi. You cross and pass by various mountains, jungles, lakes, and rivers. Pokhara’s Zip Line is supposed to be one of world’s fastest and longest Zip–lines.
October 16, 2008
The number of trekkers visiting upper Mustang has doubled compared to last year.
Thanks to reduced royalty and Tibet being closed to foreign tourists that helped to boost the trek there.