Upper Mustang – There is something about a hidden kingdom that captures everyone’s imagination. What is amazing is that you can actually visit such a place – in Nepal. Upper Mustang region is an incredible place to trek in what had been a Buddhist kingdom.
Technically, the kingdom has not existed since 2008 when Nepal changed from a monarchy to a republic. But to the people of this region, many still consider themselves under a king, who can trace his lineage back to the kingdom’s founding in 1380. The local people call this land the Kingdom of Lo. The main city is called Lo Manthang, and is a walled city dating back to 1380.
The kingdom of Lo did not become a part of Nepal until 1950 and following the Chinese invasion of Tibet, Lo served as a base of operation for Tibetan Freedom Fighters. The Dalai Lama finally asked that hostilities cease in 1970. Upper Mustang area has been peaceful ever since.
Upper Mustang was closed to outsiders until 1992, and entry is still restricted. A special permit is required at a cost of $50 a day. This helps to limit the impact of other cultures on Upper Mustang.
The region of Upper Mustang looks like nothing else in Nepal. The land is more like a moonscape due to its lack of monsoon rains which stop to the south by the mountains of the Annapurna Range. Here, there is no lush vegetation, but instead wind-sculptured rocks into unique and bizarre formations. The snow-capped peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri rise to the south, while the land north of the Tibetan border looks like a barren desert in places. It is mostly treeless with the wind blowing almost constantly. Deep and narrow canyons add to the forbidden appearance of this arid land.
The residents are primarily from Tibetan origins and had developed a high culture in the three cities and 30 villages that dot the region. Upper Mustang trekking will take about 12 – 14 days with a maximum elevation being 4210 meters . The trail is considered moderate. It is an ideal place to trek during monsoon season as the land is just north of where the rains end.
Trekkers will visit the principal cities and some of the villages and see village life. There are numerous gompas (Buddhist monasteries) that reflect its Tibetan origins. One monastery, Ghur Gomba is over 1200 years old.
While the area is remote, lodging will be in tea houses along the way where visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture.It is almost impossible to describe Upper Mustang. It requires a personal inspection, which will charm and impress any visitor who makes Upper Mustang trek into the heart of what had been not long ago forbidden territory.