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.