The Upper Mustang
The Upper Mustang region of Nepal is a place of great history and a great mystery. Mustang was originally the hub of an ancient trade route that facilitated trade between the Himalayas and India. It would later become part of a larger demilitarized zone that would push the region into a state of economic isolation.
When the demilitarized zone was lifted in the 90’s Mustang was revealed to the world as a place of unique cultural and natural preservation. Many isolated mountain villages were able to open their arms to tourists, bringing in a myriad of cultures to visit, similar to the region’s role in ancient times when it was key to the travel between India and Tibet.
To this day, Upper Mustang is a place of important lore for the Buddhist religion, with many historic temples as well as multiple alpine pilgrimage locations.
In the most recent years, Mustang has undergone another dramatic transformation with the staggered construction of the Beni-Jomsom Korala road. The road is meant to replace the ancient trade route with a modern motorway.
While the construction has affected the deep isolation that is associated with the Upper Mustang, the region still remains a place of natural wonder. Visiting the region now is especially important – the Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang, as it has been known, is rapidly changing.
Nepal is an autonomous republic between India and China and has been known as the heart of the Himalaya Mountains. Historically Nepal is where Buddhism was founded, as well as a key location in ancient Hindu history. Nepal was formally united as a republic in 2008.
Today, Nepal is a fantastic destination for travel, as the country’s extreme alpine terrain has left it in a state of natural and cultural preservation. Of course, Nepal is also known for Everest, as well as the other great peaks of the Himalayas.
Culturally, Nepal has always been a country of many different peoples. The Nepalese do not necessarily identify along ethnic or religious lines, but instead with a nationally defined unity due to the countries historic divide. Largely the nation is Hindu, although the Buddha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Nepal. Due to the historic ties to Buddhism, the religion also holds an important place in the culture of the Nepalese.
The food in Nepal is varied, with many delicious curries and dumplings endemic to Nepalese cooking. Some foods you must try when visiting are, Momo – steamed dumplings usually with vegetables and a spicy sauce, Roti – fantastic fried bread prepared in a donut style in Nepal, and Dal Bhat – a lentil and rice curry that is the nation’s dominant dish.
About Our Trek
Nepal’s capital is Kathmandu, where we start our Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang Trek. The capitol is one of the nation’s true highlights, with multiple fascinating museums, exotic markets, and world-class hotels and restaurants.
Hiking in Nepal is both dramatic and intense. The Himalayan mountains are the largest in the world and while we do not approach any of the summits, instead of following the ancient salt trading route, the trails are often rugged, and the altitude is still quite high.
Because of the region’s isolation and distance from the west, we also trek here for nearly twenty days, as seeing Nepal is both an experience that must be savored and an expedition that must be respected.
While hiking in Nepal we also work with local guides, who are naturals in the mountains having spent their lives exploring the Himalaya’s secrets. The local guides also help to supply the trip providing food, ponies, and support for our extended trek into the Himalaya.
Our in-house guide Ace Kvale is the perfect person to facilitate this unique and challenging trek, as he has guided all over the world and led over 30 expeditions to the Himalaya!
On our trek, through Upper Mustang we visit many destinations that are truly unique highlights that can’t be imitated by any other location in the world. We follow the Kali Gandaki River, which travels down the world’s deepest valley. High above the valley, the Annapurna range of the Himalayas rises up to 26,000 feet.
Our trip begins in the small city of Pokhara, which is notable for its massive alpine lake and the stunning views of the Annapurna range across it. Later highlights of the trek include Tangye, Yara, and Lo Manthang. Tangye is a small village that is perched in an isolated section of the Himalaya. Despite the rocky desolation surrounding it Tangye has been farmed for millennia and it now stands out like an emerald oasis which will be a welcome sight after our second major day of trekking.
On the route to the village of Yara, we come across a substantial cave system which houses some truly mystical cave paintings. These paintings, still vibrant despite their age, depict a great battle with the demon of Mustang and are a place of significant religious importance. In the greater alpine region around Yara, multiple cave-temples are built into the mountain caves.
Lo Manthang is perhaps the highlight of the trip and to mark this we spend an extra day just exploring the remote city. The ancient city is built with white stone walls and buildings, a stark architecture that is contrasted by the city’s vibrant painted doors, flags, and gateways.
The capital of the ancient Kingdom of Mustang, Lo Manthang was home to the last living King of Mustang up until his passing in 2016. Lo Manthang is a true trip backward into time and must be seen to be believed!
Experience Stunning Regions of Nepal
Booking a guided tour of Mustang is absolutely the best way to experience the region’s beauty. Both our team of in-house guides and local guides will provide access to a region which is essentially otherwise inaccessible. To this day there is no way to visit Upper Mustang by car, thus it is a journey that must be traveled to on foot.
On our Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang Trek, the local guides will provide us with superb cuisine. They also help us communicate with the natives and possibly even introduce us to notable religious and political figures.
A guided tour is also the only way to access the various alpine camps that provide surprisingly luxurious accommodation in locations where the sheer facade of the Himalaya Mountains is your only company.
Why You Should Book Now
Book a trip to the Upper Mustang region of Nepal is now! The isolation of the region is rapidly changing and with that change, much of the cultural and natural uniqueness will fade. While the modernization of the region is a complex topic that affects the locals in a variety of positive and negative ways, for a tourist the chance to step backward in time is unique to the Mustang region.
The food, people, and the staggering presence of the Himalayan Mountains are the heart of Nepal and the Ancient Kingdom of Mustang embodies the best of them all. Mustang represents the unique experience of exploring a region that has been closed to travelers’ multiple times throughout the centuries.