21 days, 20 nights
Difficulty Level: 4
Price (US$): From $3,395
Months Available: March through November
The Upper Mustang Trek is a journey to the legendary capital of the kingdom of Mustang in the Tibetan plateau. Mustang lies North of the massive gorge between Himalayan giants Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. Historically Upper Mustang dominated the trade along the ancient route connecting Tibet with Nepal and India. The inhabitants of Mustang (the Lobas) are Buddhist and culturally Tibetan. But as the king allied himself with Jumla rather than Lhasa, the region was eventually absorbed into Nepal.
If you are looking for a trek through alpine scenery, the Upper Mustang trek is not it. Instead, we will be in the great Himalayan rain shadow on a wind-swept desert landscape of implausible gorges and enormous vistas. We will pass brightly painted chortens. And climb a series of canyons and ridges. We will also discover caves used by monks dating back to the 14th century. The altitude on Mustang Trek is not extreme by Himalayan standards. The highest altitude reached is approximately 14,000 feet. The area Upper Mustang are is home to snow leopard and blue sheep, lammergeier, yaks, and nomads. Ammonites and medieval villages dot the region. The king just might welcome us to tea at the palace if he is at home. Watch the PBS documentary on the discovery of the lost caves of Mustang.
For political reasons travel into Mustang was strictly forbidden. Thus the region remained isolated from the modern world. In 1992 it was decided to allow outsiders in on a very limited basis. This isolation has helped maintain a way of life almost unchanged for centuries.
Our Nepal and Tibet treks and climbs are operated by our sister company based in Nepal. Crystal Mountain Treks is managed by our founder’s family and has been in business for over two decades. We employ only the best guides with a minimum of 15 years experience. We treat our staff with the utmost care and respect. Each staff member is provided high-quality equipment and paid higher-than-average wages. Our clients have commented that our treks provide a better value than other companies they researched, comparing services, quality and price. We are happy to provide references of people who have journeyed with us in the past upon request.
Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu
Day 02: Sightseeing in Kathmandu
Day 03: Fly to Pokhara.
Day 04 to Day 10: Fly to Jomsom. Steadily begin ascending to Lo Manthang. An additional day is scheduled in Lo Manthang for exploration.
Day 11 to Day 18: Trek back to Jomsom. We will follow the alternate eastern route away from the jeep tracks. A day is scheduled in Muktinath.
Day 19 to Day 20: Fly to Jomsom and onward to Kathmandu.
Day 21: Final departure.
Day 01 – Kathmandu
Arrive Kathmandu. You will be met on arrival at the Tribhuwan International Airport. Transfer to Hotel. Day Free. Enjoy welcome dinner. Briefing during dinner. (Dinner)
Day 02 – Kathmandu
Full day of sightseeing in Kathmandu. You will be accompanied by our in-house city guide. In the morning, visit Bodhanath, the Stupa of a Million dew drops, to watch monks and devotees circumambulate the largest stupa in the world. Then visit Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, with its two-tiered golden roof and silver door. Drive to Patan for lunch in the garden of the Patan Museum Café. After lunch, visit the well-maintained Patan Museum storing ancient Nepali artifacts, followed by a tour of Patan Durbar Square. Drive back to Kathmandu. (Breakfast and Lunch)
Day 03 – Kathmandu to Pokhara
Board a thirty-minute flight to Pokhara. Day free in Pokhara. (Breakfast)
Day 04 – Pokhara to Marpha (8,750ft.)
Board an early flight to Jomsom. The plane navigates up the Kali Gandaki gorge between Annapurna (26,538 feet) and Dhaulagiri (26,788 feet) to the Jomosom airstrip. Hike one hour downhill to the charming town of Marpha for a night of acclimatization. Here you will meet your trekking staff, who will have brought all your gear up by road. Overnight Lodge. (All meals)
Day 05 – Marpha to Kagbeni (9,215 ft.)
Begin your trek up the windy Kali Gandaki valley to its confluence with the Jhog Khola. Kagbeni is the gateway to Upper Mustang and was formed in the 14th century as a checkpoint to control travel. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 06 – Kagbeni to Chele (9,950ft.)
Heading north along the river, snowy Nilgiri (22,431 feet) will dominate the skyline in sharp contrast to the river canyon below. Enter Tange Village, a labyrinth of narrow alleys among whitewashed houses with fields of buckwheat, barley, wheat, and apple trees. Then continue toward Chhuksang along a trail lined with chortens (Buddhist wayside shrines) painted the traditional colors of red, black, and white — colors made from local rocks and minerals. Eventually cross the Kali Gandaki River on a steel footbridge, then climb up to the village of Chele, perched on a ridge above the gorge. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 07 – Chele to Syangbochen (11,900ft.)
Today will begin with an unrelenting climb — the trail often hewn out of the canyon wall — continuing more gently to your lunch stop at the pleasant village of Samar. In the afternoon, navigate over two more ridges (highest pass is about 12,500 feet) to Syangbochen, a small cliff-side settlement with a panoramic view of the Annapurnas.Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 08 – Syangbochen to Drakmar (11,300ft.)
Start uphill to another pass of about 12,500 feet. The trail then descends with two drops into small canyons, and then continues with a gentle ascent toward Chyunkar and the Nye La (12,720 feet). From this pass, you’ll have incredible views of the Annapurnas and Nilgiris as well as sweeping views of Mustang. Ghemi Village, built on the edge of a steep cliff, appears in the distance. After lunch, continue to Drakmar with its prominent red-cliffs. These cliffs are home to blue-sheep. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 09 – Drakmar to Tsarang (11,500ft.)
Soon after leaving camp, climb over Mui La and proceed to Ghar Gompa (Lo Gekhar). Lo Gekhar contains one of the oldest gompas in Nepal (built in the eighth century — even older than Samye in Tibet), a great red-and-white structure surrounded by trees. At Marang turn to follow the drainage to Tsarang, the impressive village that contains a huge five-story white dzong (fortress) and well as the imposing red gompa, Dorje Dhen. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 10 – Tsarang to Lo Manthang (12,400ft.)
The trail follows a gentle but unrelenting climb for increasingly beautiful views of the mountains to the south, past numerous caves in the cliffs adjacent to Lo La (pass) at 12,800 feet. From here, you’ll have our first view of the impenetrable fortress of Lo Manthang. Enter this walled city through the imposing main gate. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 11 – Lo Manthang
Explore the maze of narrow streets winding through approximately 150 houses, and three important gompas built in the early 15th century. These temples (along with those in Tsarang and Lo Gekhar) have been rescued from the ravages of time by the efforts and heart of local people (Lo Gyalpo Jigme Foundation in collaboration with the American Himalayan Foundation) — with stunning results. If you are very fortunate we may get an audience with the king or queen at the four-story palace. The king, Raja Jigme Parbal Bista, although his duties are mostly ceremonial, is well loved and respected throughout the region. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 12 – Lo Manthang to Dri (11,100ft.)
Our route south is unusual; most groups return the same way they came, but we will make a loop following remote trails on the east side of the Kali Gandaki. Back over the Lo La, head southeast to the Tholung Valley, with terrific views of Nilgiri as we climb higher. Tsarang will come into view across the way, and finally descend steeply into the bowels of the canyon to the village of Dri, one of the most prosperous villages in Mustang. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 13 -Luri Gompa excursion
It is a whole day’s trip to Luri Gompa and back via Yara and Ghara villages. The landscape here contains strange, fluted pinnacles eroded by wind. At 13,500 feet, Luri sits like an eagle’s nest in the cliffs. This mysterious cave monastery dates from the 13th century. The central chamber is carved directly into the rock. The domed ceiling is covered with murals, and in the center of the chamber there is a large and finely crafted chorten. Luri is a true jewel in a most unbelievable setting — the artwork here is considered to be some the finest and most unusual in the Himalayas. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 14 – Dri to Tange (11,050ft.)
The trail follows the river for a while, and we’ll negotiate five or six fairly shallow crossings of tributary streams (wading shoes will be necessary). This is a very good time to look for spiral fossils (saligrams) scattered among the rocks along the shore. Cross the river that is coming down from the sacred lakes of Damodar Kunda, and then over desolate terrain up to a pass of 12,600 feet. This is a long day, but finally the fields of the prosperous village of Tangye will appear below, and we’ll arrive at camp after passing a series of large chortens. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 15 – Tange to Pa (13,300ft.)
After another river crossing ascend steeply to a higher plateau. You’ll have increasingly fantastic views of not only much of the Mustang we have traveled through, but of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Tukche, Tilicho, and Annapurna. You’ll look for blue sheep and enjoy the wildflowers as we traverse to a shepherd’s camp by the stone hut near the pass.Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 16 – Pa to Tetang (9,900ft.)
Ascending and descending, travel through the vast and silent world of the wild uplands. Along a ridge, again have views of Mustang, the wind carved hills all around, and the snow peaks stretching from Dhaulagiri in the south to Tibet in the north. Care must be taken on this path that contours along and into a steep and contorted canyon. Tetang is on the Narsing River above Chhuksang, which we passed our first day out of Kagbeni. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 17 – Tetang to Muktinath
It will take about five hours to reach the pass, Gnyu La, at 13,000 feet. It is a rewarding route providing fine views the entire way and wildflowers. From the pass one can see Muktinath, and within a few hours we will arrive at the final stretch where the trail goes through a grove of trees, across a bridge, past a nunnery, and finally joins the main trail from Manang. Here officially exit the restricted area of Upper Mustang. Muktinath is a holy place, the destination of thousands of Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims every year. We’ll have time to visit the many fine temples and shrines. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 18 – Muktinath to Jomsom
On the last day of trek you’ll be on the main Annapurna circuit route. Enter the village of Jharkot and visit the monastery and the traditional Tibetan medicinal center. Heading west to the Kali Gandaki, we’ll pass Eklobatti, then south along the river to Jomosom. While still beautiful, Jomosom will be quite a culture shock compared to where we have been with all its busy activity — perhaps including a newly arrived highway (which may even have some internal combustion vehicles plying the gravel and spewing exhaust). Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Day 19 – Jomsom to Kathmandu
Fly Jomsom to Pokhara and change plane for flight to Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (Breakfast)
Day 20 – Full day sightseeing
Full day of sightseeing in Kathmandu: visit Swayambhunath, the monkey temple. Then drive to Bhaktapur, the city of Devotees, for lunch and a tour of the royal palace square. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (All meals)
Day 21 – Final departure
Transfer to airport for final departure. (Breakfast)
Per Person Price – valid till December 31, 2017
2 persons: $3,995 USD per person
3 – 4 persons: $3,695 USD per person
5 or more persons: $ 3,395 per person
Single Supplement: $250 USD
Camping trek (tent):
2 persons: $4,295 USD per person
3 – 4 persons: $3,945 USD per person
5 or more persons: $ 3,695 per person
Single Supplement: $300 USD
(Contact us for private departures for 2 or more participants)
Price does not include:
13 March – 02 April
10 – 30 April
08 – 28 May
26 September – 16 October
Cannot find a departure that fits your schedule? No problem. Contact us for private departures (two or more participants) for a date of your choosing.
Book this trip now as spaces are available.
This trip has the minimum sign ups required and is guaranteed to run.
Limited spaces are available so please contact us to inquire about the departure status.
This date is unavailable. please contact us to inquire about other trip departure dates or booking this trip as part of a Custom Itinerary.
“I wanted to go to Nepal to help rebuild, and it was a challenge for me on many levels. The incredible part is that our guide Sune, and all the porters not to mention the family were there to help us accomplish our goal of doing what we could to help them. To receive the patience, physical assistance, guidance (and the incredible food!) touched me deeply. And as it turned out we did help! A lot of rocks got moved. Wire was woven. Progress was made in deconstructing a house. Plus we had fun! I am still integrating all that I experienced. There is something very intense about being in the vicinity of the Himalayas, the stunning beauty, the vastness, the challenges that reduce the ego and enlarge the heart. I’m glad I answered the call to participate in this adventure.”