Mustang, the “fertile plain” straddles the Himalayas and extends northward onto the Tibetan plateau where the former Lo Kingdom of Mustang is found. To the east lies the Marsyangdi River and to the west lies the world’s deepest gorge, carved out by the wild waters of the Kaligandaki. Mustang is rich in Buddhist culture similar to Tibetan people. In this respect, it is an alternate way to experience the Tibetan culture. Upper Mustang trek, Jomsom Muktinath Trek, Damodar Kunda Trekking, Lower Mustang trekking are the popular trekking routes in Mustang. In addition to trekking to Lo Kingdom (“Upper Mustang”) and the Annapurna Circuit in lower Mustang, the region is also famous for Muktinath yatra and Marpha brandy.
The most convenient way to get to Upper Mustang, is to fly from Pokhara to Jomsom and start the trek from there. The flight is attractive in itself, flying through the deepest gorge in the world, between the Dhaulagiri and the Nilgiri. The trail follows the famous Kali Gandaki river upstream to Kagbeni. From Kagbeni the restricted area of Upper Mustang starts.
10 facts about Mustang
- Mustang was a lost kingdom of Tibet and although it is now part of Nepal now, traditions and cultures remain purely Tibetan. From the 15th century to the 17th century, its strategic location granted Mustang control over the trade between the Himalayas and India. At the end of the 18th century the kingdom was annexed by Nepal. Most tourists travel by foot over largely the same trade route used in the 15th century.
- Residing in the rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri, life in Mustang revolves around tourism, animal husbandry and trade.
- The administrative centre of Mustang is at Jomsom which has had an airport since 1962 and has become the main tourist entry point since Mustang was opened to western tourists in 1992.
- The biodiversity of the region – entire hillsides swiped with pink and red rhododendron forests bursting with birdsong.
- Cultural trails in the region take into the homes of Gurungs in the lowlands, the hospitality of Thakalis around Jomsom, Manangis in the east and Tibetans in the arid north.
- The mystical ‘Kingdom of Lo’ or Upper Mustang, the last example of living Tibetan culture in Nepal, used to be part of the Tibetan empire, and is therefore closely related to Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is still being practiced in a very pure form and villages are built in Tibetan style even today.
- Lo Mangtang is a medieval town, surrounded by a huge town wall. Entering Lo Mangtang leads into a different world. In Lo Mangtang, travelers can find the palace of the king, a huge 4 story high building. Besides, there are a few beautiful big monasteries, for example the Thugchen Gompa, built in the 15th century.
- Upper Mustang trek offers a chance to explore the thousand years of old monastery, caves, local tribes and scenic beauties of the different landscapes.
- The trek to Upper Mustang passes through an almost tree-less barren landscape, a steep rocky trail up and down hill and panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and several other peaks.
- Another attraction of Mustang region is the Tiji Festival influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. The Mustagi people have their own way of family life, which is quite surprising for many outsiders. All the brothers in the family are married to a single girl, what you may call a practice of polyandry.
Explore Mustang and find out how the thousands years of isolation has kept the culture, lifestyle and heritage intact for centuries.