Mustang – The Forbidden Kingdom
- Destination: Nepal
- Activities: Trekking
- Trip Grade: Strenuous
- Departure from: Kathmandu, Nepal
- Arrival on: kathmandu,Nepal
- Group size: 1-12 peoples
- Best Seasons: April - May and Sept - Nov
Mustang – The Forbidden Kingdom
North of the Annapurnas and off-limits to travellers until the early ‘90s, the ancient and mysterious kingdom of Mustang is geographically and culturally a part of Tibet.
Mustang prospered in the 15th Century, when its strategic location enabled it to dominate the salt trade between Tibet and Nepal. Its distinctive, white-painted villages, Tibetan monasteries and impressive wayside inns, a legacy of hundreds of years of cross-border trading, make Mustang a place apart, unlike anywhere else in Nepal. The landscape is different here, too – eroded clonglomerate cliffs coloured by striking earth pigments in variations of red, yellow, brown and blue, with a backdrop of the distant snow-capped peaks of the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri. With the gradual encroachment of the jeep road into Mustang, we now have the opportunity to change and improve the way we run this amazing 2-week adventure holiday.
Days 1 & 2 — Kathmandu, Nepal/Pokhara
Arrive in Kathmandu (4,300′) and meet for an orientation and welcome dinner. The next day, rise early if you wish and join pilgrims on their ascent to the 2,500-year-old Swayambhunath stupa. Later, visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Pashupatinath, an important Hindu temple, and see Nepal’s largest Buddhist shrine at Boudhanath. This afternoon fly to Pokhara (2,800′), the gateway to the Annapurna region. Settle into our charming resort near Phewa Lake, and enjoy a free afternoon to explore.
Day 3 — Jomsom, Mustang/Kagbeni
A short flight between the towering peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri brings us to the Mustang town of Jomsom (8,900′), where our horses and trek crew await. Saddle up and hit the trail, following the Kali Gandaki river gorge past dramatic geological phenomena with the summits of Nilgiri and the Annapurna massif on the horizon. Arrive in the village of Kagbeni (9,200′), set among terraced wheat and barley fields on the edge of the Mustang kingdom, and set up camp for the night. (3 hours riding)
Days 4 & 5 — Ghyakar/Sangboche
Ride up the valley to Tangbe, heading towards the heart of Mustang, and stop for a picnic in an apple orchard. Pass between the massive cliff s of Chhusang, riddled with cave dwellings, and make a final ascent to Ghyakar (11,000′), a rarely visited village of the Gurung people. The next day, our trail winds steeply to Taklam La (Taklam Pass) at 12,250′ and continues to Samar. Descend into a deep ravine to visit the cave at Chhusang—a sacred pilgrimage site in Mustang—where the eighth-century tantric Buddhist saint Padmasambhava meditated on his way to Tibet. Remount our sturdy steeds for the climb to the pastures of Sangboche (12,400′). (6 hours riding and hiking daily)
Camping (B,L,D Daily)
Day 6 — Ghemi
After a morning trek uphill and through canyons, ascend to Nyi La (13,000′) to take in a sweeping panorama of Mustang and the Annapurna range. Our destination, Ghemi (11,500′), appears in the distance, an oasis of green, red, and gold perched among steep mountain cliff s. Explore the town’s castle and the 13th-century gompa, and learn how environmental changes in the Himalaya are affecting villages like Ghemi. (6 hours riding and hiking)
Day 7 — Lo Gekar
Leaving Ghemi, pass magnificent mani walls and chortens before arriving at Dhakmar, where we’ll venture into sacred cave complexes built into fantastical red rock formations. Continue to Lo Gekar (10,800′), home to Kar Gompa, the oldest Vajrayana monastery in the Himalaya. (5 hours riding and hiking)
Days 8, 9, & 10 — Lo Manthang
Cross Marang La (13,900′) to Lo Manthang (12,500′), the capital of the kingdom of Lo and a thriving hub of the salt trade in the 15th and 16th centuries. Spend two days discovering the walled city and its close ties with Tibetan religion, art, and culture. See the ruins of dzongs (forts), and step into the town’s monasteries to examine some of the most spectacular Buddhist murals in the world. Meet with the retired king of Mustang, as well as snow leopard conservationists and the head of a school of traditional medicine. Then head out on a full-day excursion to the ancient cave complexes of the Choshar, where ancient Buddhist and Bon (an indigenous Tibetan faith) texts and paintings have been found on excavations supported by National Geographic. Continue by jeep or horseback if you wish to explore the caves and monasteries of Garphu, Nimphu, and Jhonkar. (Day 8: 5 hours riding and hiking)
Camping (B,L,D daily)
Days 11, 12, & 13 — Yara/Charang/Ghiling
Ride down from high mountain ridges to the Kali Gandaki river on our way to the village of Yara (11,800′). The next day, the trail brings us to Charang (11,700′). See the medieval monastery, recently brought back to life, and meet local leaders to discuss Mustang in modern times. Then continue south, riding by one of the longest mani walls in Nepal. Climb steeply to Nyi La and descend 1,200 feet to our home for the night: the lovely village of Ghiling (11,500′). (Riding and hiking times: 7 hours; 5 hours; 5 hours)
Camping (B,L,D daily)
Days 14 & 15 — Jomsom/Pokhara
Cross three passes on the way to Samar and then retrace our steps back to Chhusang and finally Tangbe, where jeeps meet us for the last leg of the journey to Jomsom. The next morning, fly to Pokhara and enjoy the day to relax by the lake or visit a Tibetan refugee camp. (6 hours riding and hiking)
Days 16, 17, & 18 — Pokhara/Kathmandu
Fly to Kathmandu today and visit the World Heritage site of Bhaktapur, an enchanting town that has preserved its medieval character. Then enjoy time to explore on your own before your flight home on the final morning.
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