Upper Mustang is a remote desolate and extremely fascinating almost moon like region of Nepal set amongst wind eroded hills on the borders of Tibet.The region preserves a very strong traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture in Nepal.The number of tourists allowed to visit is strictly regulated and it is open to only a few select trekking groups each season. The trek follows established trails laid down centuries ago through some substantial villages that once served a thriving trade route between Nepal and Tibet. The whitewashed settlements are set amid fields of barley in the summer time and the many impressive chortens and simple monasteries only go to reflect the stregnth of Buddhist culture here. The terrain is striking a semi-arid desert with deep ravines and rock shelves that are flanked by snowy peaks.Without doubt the highlight of the Trek in Upper Mustang is the visit to Lo Manthang where the once king of Mustang reigns over what was his tiny kingdom until recently.And whilst he has now(only in the last few years) surrendered his title he is still revered as a king by the regions inhabitants.
Life in Lo-Manthang has continued much the same as it has for centuries people are steeped in religion with numerous Gompas, Mani walls (prayer walls) and chortens adorning the kings palace and surrounds. Prayer flags flutter above each household spreading good blessings to all corners of the world and the universe beyond.
It is possible to trek here all year round regardless of season as the region li9es within the ‘Rain Shadow’summer months are very pleasant with August being the mildest month of all.However, in winter time there can be 30 to 40cms of snow to negotiate. The people are well adapted to the region with many centuries of experience of surviving the harsh climate.They survive by practicing a form of s agro-pastoralism and seasonal migration with farming done whenever irrigation is possible and then only one crop (barely) can be produced. The barely supports the local population for around 6 months of the year and there is a severe food shortage for the rest of the year. As a result, during the winter months around 70 percent of the local people emigrate to either the lower part of Mustang or further to Pokhara, Kathmandu or even India for employment and trading.
If you are planning a visit to Mustang you need to be reasonably fit. The tour commences with a flight from Katmandu to Jomsom via Pokhara or if you want to extend your time you can trek in for nine days from Pokhara. The trekking route crosses the villages of Tangbe, Samar, Geling to reach Tsarang considered as one of the highlights of the tour, a day before Lo Mangthang.
In ancient Tsarang a set of human hands remains said to belong to the site’s master builder. According to legend the King cut the builder’s hands off to stop him from constructing another masterpiece to compete against it.
It is expensive to visit the region, a single permit cost $500 U.S. for ten days, extendable at a further $50 U.S. a day. All provisions must be carried in, accommodation is in a tented camp with full Nepali support staff.
Mustang is a very popular trekking region in Nepal and has been described as “desert in the mountain”. The trek to this region is a very rewarding one for those who want to experience the hospitality of the people living in this remote region. Department of immigration issued only a small number of special permit since 1991. This is a perfect destination where ample scope is offered for visiting Buddhists monasteries. This semi autonomous and heavily Tibetan influenced region was “described by Tilman as fascinatingly ugly country, the more fascinating for being so little known” indeed, the trek to LO – Manthang is through an almost treeless barren landscape, a steep rocky trail up and down hill, panoramic view of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and several others peaks make your trek memorable. A liaison officer is needed for this trek. This trek begins from Jomsom – accessible by air, Pokhara – accessible by road or Besisahar – accessible by road (If starting from Besisahar include Annapurna circuit too).