BlogUpper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek
13 Jul 2019 snowpath
Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek challenges well-established norms of trekking in Nepal. It is not true that Nepal is only a mountainous country and trekking is popular only on high Himalayan ranges. This Trans-Himalayan region of Nepal is equally popular and busy as much base camps and round (circuits) trekking of Nepal. The unique geographical location, climatic zone, interesting civilization along with culture and tradition, historical facts on Buddhism are some highlights of Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek. Moreover, ongoing scientific researches and new findings, especially around the capital of Lo-Manthang keeps this trekking region always in news headlines.
After introduction of Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang to modern world, specifically from 1992, things have changed massively. Especially on traditional occupation, language, and ancient rituals and practices. Previously confined to Upper Mustang, now people have migrated to Lower Mustang region, including all around Nepal and even few to western countries with various purposes. The controversial road construction has well-connected the upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek with outside world. More interestingly, the number of internal tourists is spiking in the Upper Mustang. Without doubt, the forbidden, remote and isolated place still remains the center of attraction for trekker and scholars. Numerous old and ancient monasteries, chortens, paintings with architectural, historical and cultural importance is another good reason to trek to Upper Mustang.
Geography and climate of Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang
Geographically, Upper Mustang trekking region is situated beyond high Himalayan ranges of Mount Annapurna and Mount Dhaulagiri of Nepal. A perfect Trans-Himalayan climatic zone, giving a nickname Tibet of Nepal. Interestingly, minimal or no rain in upper Mustang trekking due to Trans-Himalayan landscape means, only few seasonal vegetation and greenery is seen. Plus, so is the reason, most of the landscape is rocky and barren. High and fast wind is highly responsible of erosion of the land in the region. Numerous rocky and sandy dunes make small gullies and ridges. Lo-Manthang joins to the nearby Tibet. Thus, civilization, culture, tradition, trade, politics and religion is highly interlinked and influenced with nearby Tibet.
Historical significances of Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang in terms of Trade and Politics
The region was highly significant throughout history especially for trade and regional politics. In between 15th and 17th century, Upper Mustang was an independent kingdom and Lo-Manthang was capital. It remained as buffer zone for trade in between Tibet and Nepal stretching as far as India. After Nepal annexed in late 17th century, the region came under the regime of Nepal. It was in between 1950 and 1970 the region once again came to spotlight, branding one of the most sensitive political zone forever. It is also important in history of Nepal, there were two kingdoms and two kings until Nepal became officially Republic on 7th October 2008 ending Monarchy in both Kingdom of Nepal and Upper Mustang.
People, Culture, Language and Religion in Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang
Lhowa/Lobas/Lowas are the legitimate ethnic community of Upper Mustang. They were Subdivided on into three categories Kutak (Bistas), Showa (Gurung) and Righin. The mother-tongue of Lowa people is Loke, making Nepali language second mode of communication. Budhhism, Shamanism, Animism is the main religion of Mustang people. However, numerous anthropologists are still studying these distinctive (unique) practices carried out in Upper Mustang, especially in an ancient era. Tiji, Fakngi, Yartong are some festivals celebrated around Upper Mustang. Massive flow of trekker during Tiji festival proves the importance of culture and tradition of Upper Mustang people.
Recent Trek Scenario of Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek.
Here, we provide all the information on trekking itinerary, necessary permit, transportation option and other valuable things for Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek.
Trekking Itinerary for Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek
Usually, the Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek itinerary within the restricted region is uniform of 10 days excluding nights at Pokhara and Kathmandu. The fixed 10 days itinerary in restricted area is due to the special permit required to trek in this region from Kagbeni to Kagbeni. On other way, the trekking itinerary is prefixed and rigid for 10 days unless trekker doesn’t want to add or reduce number of trekking days. However, trekker can spend overnight depending upon their choice once they enter restricted area.
After construction of road in the region, numerous itineraries are available. However, we suggest trekker to spend at least 10 days in the perimeter of restricted area to take full advantage of USD 500.00 paid to issue the permit.
Permit requirement and price of permits for Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek
Restricted area permit: The restricted area permit is issued by the Department of Immigration of Nepal only through trekking agency. Trekker themselves cannot issue the restricted area permit. Minimum 2 trekkers are needed to issue the permit of Upper Mustang trek. Hiring a trekking guide to trek in this trekking region is also compulsory. The restricted area permit of Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek costs USD 50.00 per day and needs to issue minimum for 10 days. This implies, trekkers at least need to pay USD 500.00 for the permit of Upper Mustang trek. So, is the reason Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek itinerary is almost fixed. If trekker wants to add trekking days, s/he needs to add USD 50.00 per each extra day. The permit is not transferable and non-refundable.
Annapurna Conservation area Permit (ACAP): Trekkers can easily issue Annapurna Conservation Area permit (ACAP) by themselves. It costs USD 20.00 Per person per entry. This permit is also non- transferable and non- refundable. However, the price for SAARC nationality is about USD 2.00.
Trekking Information Management System Card (TIMS): It costs USD 20.00 per person per entry if a trekker wants to issue the TIMS permit in their own. However, if a trekker decides to issue the permit through trekking agency, it costs USD 10.00. This permit is also non-transferable and non-refundable.
Transportation to and from Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek
The transportation from Kathmandu to Pokhara and Pokhara to Kathmandu is really feasible and trekker have numerous choices. Flight, private car, tourist bus is easily available. From Pokhara, trekker can fly to Jomsom which is the easiest and efficient way to start Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trekking. There is also long, hard and off-road drive to reach Jomsom from Pokhara through Kaligandaki valley. Usually, trekker does not prefer to drive, unless the Pokhara-Jomsom flight delays or cancels. The same process applies to return Kathmandu after completion of the trekking.
Best time to trek Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek
The upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek has the longest possible window to trek in Nepal. Beside peak season of trekking in Nepal. So, this trekking is popular as off-season trekking of Nepal among the trek organizers. Avoiding peak season of Spring or Autumn can provide the best deal to trekker. For example, trekker can start this trekking early of March or end of May during spring, so there is high chances trekker can benefit with good price and good service. Starting early August can be another option. Picking this trekking during off-season would be the best decision a trekker can make. However, Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek goes crazy during the Tiji festival, which generally falls on the month of May. Stay updated for the date of Tiji festival.
Difficulty Level of Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek
The Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek is not a difficult trekking. Trekker gains reasonable altitude day by day, so there is no high risk of Altitude sickness. The trekking is even suitable for amateur and beginner trekker. However, remaining alert and following the guidelines provided by trekking agency and trekking guide is equally important. Generally, the walking hour is between 6-7 hr/ per day.
Food and Accommodation in Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek
Though popular, a decade back upper Mustang was highly isolated trekking region. So, due to limited number of proper tea houses in the region, it was necessary to do camping trekking (which used to be expensive). Plus, because of limited food menu available in tea houses, organizer had to carry some extra food even from Kathmandu. The scenario has drastically changed in recent years. Except during busy Tiji festival trekker can spend night at comfortable tea house. The quality and number of food menu has significantly increased. Local tea house entrepreneur started hiring and training cooks to increase the quality of food. The upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek region has become prosperous in terms of providing good food and luxury accommodation to trekker in recent years.
Upper Mustang and Lo-Manthang trek is the most iconic trekking itinerary. Trekking beyond high Himalayan ranges is thrilling itself. The unique landscape from rest of the trekking region of Nepal is something trekker cannot miss. The secret and unexplored history, unique culture and tradition, most ancient architectural monasteries and chortens attracts numerous trekkers from world every year in this mysterious trekking region.