Mustang, which lies within the elevated height of 1,372 to 8,167 meters above sea level, is known as a "cold desert" since it receives very little rain each year and most of its areas are dry and uncultivable. Further, the high elevation of these regions also makes the areas very cold. It remains a mysterious world to many people and is one of the oldest Buddhist kingdoms. Before 1990, it was a restricted area for travelers and thus remained isolated for a long period of time. The exploration task was possible only after the establishment of democracy in Nepal. In addition, the district lies beyond the mountains like Mt. Annapurna and Mt. Machhapuchhre, and people often call it a province beyond the mountains.
Mustang is not only a remote area but also the least populated (14,596 people) district in Nepal. The name "Mustang" is derived from the Tibetan word meaning "plain territory”. Agriculture (food crops) and animal husbandry are the main occupations among the people. The entire district is included within the Annapurna Conservation Area, Annapurna Circuit, one of the largest protected areas in Nepal. Development activities within the district, such as tourism management and policy, are primarily supervised by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). After Nepal was declared a Republic state in 2008, Jigme Palbar Bista became the last king of the Mustang after Nepal was declared Republic state in 2008. The main attractions of Mustang are district headquarters Jomsom, Kagbeni, Muktinath temple, Kaligandaki river gorge, and the villages of upper Mustang (Walled City-Lo Manthang, Syangboche, Chuksang, Samar, Tsarang, and so on). Upper Mustang is an arid river valley lying near the Annapurna Circuit in the rain shadow region of the Himalayas.
In the long run, Manang has developed its own tradition and culture, which closely resembles Tibetan culture (sometimes called "Little Tibet"). Currently, Upper Mustang forms a prime trek destination due to its unique desert-like terrain, its unique history, and its unique culture, making it a great open year-round trekking zone. The winter is tough in Mustang, so most residents leave the villages to avoid the cold and snow. The most favorable time for Lower Mustang and Upper Mustang treks is between March and November. In recent days, road access has been made possible, so most tourists choose to drive, cycle, or motorbike instead of trekking. Moreover, this region is regarded as a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site to get in touch with the place of Padmashambhav (a Buddhist leader and founder of Tibetan Buddhism).
Jomsom is a typically small local town and a district headquarters located at an altitude of 2700 meters with the settlement of Thakali people. From Jomsom and local villages, mountain ranges like the Nilgiri and Dhaulagiri Himalayan ranges can be best viewed. Jomsom is primarily part of the Lower Mustang and is a getaway to the Upper Mustang and Muktinath temple. Situated on the bank of the Kali Gandaki River, it has a tiny airport, and only toy aircraft can land there. Moreover, Jomsom is the starting point of the journey to the upper mustang. Travelers reach Jomsom by flight from Pokhara or off-road drive by jeep and private vehicles. Jomsom Muktinath Trek is also a pilgrimage trek.
Muktinath temple is best known as “Mukti Kshetra” among pilgrims. People often believe that their sins will be washed away after bathing in 108 holy taps and 2 ponds, “Saraswoti Kunda” and “Laxmi Kunda", in front of the temple premises. The temple is equally significant for Buddhist people. Moreover, the Muktinath Temple is situated in the Lower Mustang region near the Upper Mustang. On your way back, it is best to visit this sacred pilgrimage site and observe the “Eternal Flame." The temple lies at an altitude of 3800 meters below the Thorong-La Himalayan pass (5410m).
The temple is highly revered and is the best-known example of the religious combination/unity between Hinduism and Buddhism. Hindus worship Lord Vishnu and seek moksha/ liberation. A big statue of Buddha, Guru Rimpoche (Padmashamvav), is placed nearby the temple. A natural fireplace at the monastery.
Lo Manthang is a major attraction and the best place to see mustangs. Lo Manthang is the ancient capital city. The Lo Manthang trek follows the ancient caravan route from Jomsom. The royal town of Lo Manthang is surrounded by walls and wall cities and is located in Upper Mustang. It was ruled by a local king even after Nepal was unified into a single kingdom. The Nepal government has taken initial steps to list this protected ancient wall city on the world heritage list. There are many more things to see in Lo- Manthang including historical caves, monasteries, ancient Buddhist paintings, scenic plateau landscapes, and Himalayan views. Moreover,
This small city is culturally rich in Tibetan origins. Tibetan-style houses, stupas, and memories are other attractions to be explored by visitors. Walking or horse riding tours in this place for one full day or two days are required. Tourist standard tea houses serve accommodation and food for local and international tourists. So accommodation is not a problem for visitors.
After crossing the highest pass of the Upper Mustang trek route, travelers reach Ghar gumba. From the top of Marang La, at 4,230 meters, trekkers can see an incredible view of the whole Mustang area, including the high mountains. Ghar Gumba is a holy place and an ancient nunnery decorated with Mani walls, chortens, and prayer flags. It is also the best place to visit in Mustang. Ancient Ghar Gumba is an important monastery in the Upper Mustang region. It lies at an elevation of 3950 meters at Charang village. This was built in the eighth century by the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava. Local Buddhist monks accompany these monks in this monastery, and they have built Buddhist schools for the monks. Several chortens linked with prayer flags create this place beautifully. The hills above Ghar Gumba generate wonderful views of the local Himalayas and flora.
Exploring green-colored irrigated fields surrounded by a dry, rugged landscape looks similar to the paintings of great artists. If you would like to see the art of nature on earth, then you must visit the landscape of Mustang. Himalayan apricot & apple farming, barley & buckwheat fields decorate the mustang amazingly. You can get a great idea of how people in the mountains survive with the food they eat and their lifestyle.
From Chhusang village, travelers start to discover many sky caves on the red cliffs along the Kaligandaki River. They are thousands in number and you can see them on your way to Lo Manthang. These are human-built caves from between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
The purpose of building the sky caves was to protect the families from the regular battles fought during this time. The caves also include valuable Buddhist paintings, scripts, artifacts, and manuscripts containing the writings of both the Bon religion and Buddhism of those times.
The Tiji festival is a purification ceremony that takes place during the harvest season every year. TheTiji Festival has a long history that goes many centuries back and has been exaggerated in many myths and folktales. Has its originated from the word “Ten Che” which means “hope for world peace” and basically celebrates the triumph of Good over evil. The Tiji Festival is normally celebrated for three days in the month of May each year. Tiji is one of the biggest festivals in the Upper Mustang. Traditional Tibetan songs; colorful dresses, masks; and sword dances are some of the main attractions of the festival. Lamas have a significant role in playing traditional music and drums and citing mantras during the celebration.
Yartung is another popular festival celebrated in Mustang. Like the Tiji festival, Yartung is also celebrated for three days in the month of August each year. The first day is for the king’s activities, the second day for monks, and the third day for local people to be involved in celebration activities. Horse racing is the main attraction of this festival.
The Bhurtachho and Sekong lakes, situated at Kobang, are another attraction of the lakes in Mustang. The lakes are situated about 30 minutes' walk uphill from Boksikhola on the Beni-Jomsom route. Among these two lakes, Lake Bhurchhato is 500 metres long and 50 metres wide, with an altitude of 2,683 metres from sea level. The lake reflects the beauty of the Mt. Dhawalagiri and Mt. Nilgiri mountains in its pristine water.
Furthermore, Sekong Lake is 30 minutes walking distance from Bhurchhato Lake. It is a round shape lake. The Nilgiri summit and the Dhawalagiri summit form the background of the lake and can be seen accordingly.
There is some necessary equipment that you need to carry during the trek. As the places in Mustang are chilly and windy, you need to review your belongings for your safety. Some of the equipment we suggest are windproof gloves, UV protection sun cream, torch lights, portable batteries, trekking shirts, Windproof jackets/windbreakers, lightweight rain jackets, thermal coats, hiking sticks, sunglasses, waterproof shell pants, lightweight hiking boots, water purification tablets or drops, water bottles, small bandages, paracetamol, tissue paper, sleeping bags, and so on. The trekking agency will further provide you with the necessary pieces of information for the trek.
The cost and duration for Mustang normally depend upon the hikers, the travel agency, and the facilities they choose. The visitors will catch up with lifetime memories during the trek. Moreover, it lies within the Annapurna circuit trek, one of the world’s most popular hiking destinations. It is normally a 13-15 days trek and can cost around $1500-2000 (USD) including the travel expenses, tax, route permit, food and accommodation, and others. If you are planning to hike in Nepal, don’t miss the Mustang trek.
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