All You Need To Know About Nepal's Upper Mustang

From its history, biodiversity, geography accompanied with a brief 4-day itinerary, find out all you need to know about Nepal's Upper Mustang
Upper Mustang, Kagbeni village
Upper Mustang, Kagbeni village Shutterstock

Upper Mustang is a region located in Nepal's Mustang District, a restricted kingdom until 1992. The region is known as "The Forbidden Kingdom" and is famous for its rich Buddhist culture and monasteries. Due to its isolation from the outside world, the region has been able to preserve its unique Tibetan culture. Upper Mustang is nestled in the majestic Himalayas and is a hidden gem in Nepal waiting to be discovered. This remote region, once an independent kingdom, offers a fascinating combination of history, geography, and natural beauty that will captivate adventurers and culture enthusiasts alike. From its stunning landscape to its rich cultural heritage, let us delve into everything a visitor must know about this extraordinary destination.

History And Geography

Buddhist stupas on the rock near valley in Upper Mustang, Nepal
Buddhist stupas on the rock near valley in Upper Mustang, NepalShutterstock

In 1380, Ame Pal, a Buddhist warrior from Western Tibet, founded a walled city and a fortress in the Lo Manthang valley, currently known as Upper Mustang. This city served as the capital of the Kingdom of Lo until 2008, when Nepal adopted a new constitution and became a federal republic, thus abolishing monarchies and stripping Jigme of his official position. Upper Mustang is situated in the northwestern part of Nepal, a high-altitude desert region that borders Tibet. This ancient kingdom was closely associated with Tibetan culture and was a significant stop on the salt trade route between Tibet and India.

Geographically, the region is a rain-shadow area, sheltered by the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges. This region's landscape consists of barren cliffs, deep gorges, and extensive valleys dotted with traditional Tibetan-style villages. Over centuries, the Kali Gandaki River has carved out the dramatic terrain visible throughout this area.


A view of the landscape of Upper Mustang
A view of the landscape of Upper MustangShutterstock

Upper Mustang, despite its rugged terrain, boasts a unique biodiversity. The region supports a variety of wildlife, including the elusive snow leopard, Himalayan blue sheep, Tibetan gazelles, and diverse bird species adapted to high-altitude environments. Due to the arid climate, the vegetation here is sparse and dominated by low shrubs, juniper trees, and hardy alpine plants.

Major Attractions

Sky caves at Chosser in Lo Manthang, Mustang
Sky caves at Chosser in Lo Manthang, MustangShutterstock

Lo Manthang: The walled city of Lo Manthang is the cultural heart of Upper Mustang. This ancient town is home to the former royal palace, monasteries, and intricately designed mud-brick houses. Exploring its narrow alleys and visiting its monastic centres offers a glimpse into the region's rich heritage.

Gompas and Monasteries: Upper Mustang is dotted with Buddhist monasteries and gompas that reflect the strong Tibetan Buddhist influence. The Thubchen Gompa and Jampa Lhakhang are significant religious sites adorned with exquisite murals, statues, and ancient scriptures.

Natural Formations: The landscape of the Upper Mustang is adorned with natural wonders like eroded cliffs, caves, and rock formations resembling eerie sculptures. The red cliffs of Tsarang and the wind-eroded rock pillars of Dhakmar are particularly striking.

Trekking Routes: The region offers excellent trekking opportunities, with trails leading through picturesque villages, ancient trade routes, and breathtaking mountain vistas. The Upper Mustang Trek is popular, taking trekkers through remote landscapes and cultural sites.

Highlights And Activities

Visit Mysterious Caves: Upper Mustang is home to ancient caves, some of which are believed to have been used by Buddhist monks for meditation. The most famous are the caves of Chhoser, which have fascinating murals and religious artefacts.

Attend Festivals: Experience the vibrant local culture by participating in traditional festivals like Tiji, which are celebrated with masked dances, rituals, and religious ceremonies.

Explore Unique Architecture: Marvel at the distinctive architecture of Upper Mustang’s villages, characterised by whitewashed houses adorned with colourful prayer flags and intricate wood carvings.

Itinerary For Upper Mustang

A view of the Forbidden City of Mustang
A view of the Forbidden City of MustangShutterstock

Though the trek of the Upper Mustang region is a moderate one and takes about over a week to comprehensively explore all the offerings of the region, we have curated a condensed 4-day itinerary. The itinerary is made with an eye to minimum difficulty and a focus on exploring the most number of attractions and experiences. Trekkers must remember that the best time to visit Upper Mustang, Nepal is from March to early November. During this period, the weather is mild and pleasant, with clear skies and comfortable temperatures.

Day 1: Arrival in Jomsom


Upon arrival at Pokhara Airport, catch a flight to Jomsom, weather permitting. Then, transfer to your accommodation in Jomsom.


Explore Jomsom Village's local market and ecomuseum to learn about the culture and geography of the area.


Have a pleasant dinner at a nearby restaurant and take some rest to prepare for the upcoming trek.

Day 2: Jomsom to Kagbeni


Start the day with breakfast at the lodge. Then head towards Kagbeni, the gateway to Upper Mustang, passing through the Kali Gandaki River valley while enjoying the breathtaking views of Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri mountains.


Upon arrival at Kagbeni, check in at your lodge and explore the village and its ancient monasteries, including a visit to the Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery.


Have a delightful Nepali dinner and take some rest to prepare for the trekking adventure the next day.

Day 3: Kagbeni to Lo Manthang


Start the day with breakfast at the lodge before embarking on a trek to the capital of Upper Mustang, Lo Manthang. Along the way, enjoy stunning vistas, explore ancient caves and encounter barren hills.


Stop at a local teahouse for lunch and then continue trekking towards Lo Manthang, enjoying the unique landscape.


Upon arrival in Lo Manthang, check into your accommodation and explore the ancient walled city. Visit the Royal Palace and observe the unique culture of the Lo people.

Day 4: Exploration of Lo Manthang


After having breakfast at the lodge, we will explore Lo Manthang further, visiting its monasteries, including Jampa Lhakhang, Thupchen Gompa, and Chode Gompa. Later, take a walk around the city and interact with the locals.


Enjoy your lunch at a nearby local restaurant. Afterwards, you can visit Namgyal Gompa and Tingkhar villages, both located nearby.


Attend a cultural performance or participate in a local festival and enjoy a farewell dinner featuring traditional Mustang cuisine.

Essential Information

To embark on an Upper Mustang Trek in Nepal, it is essential to obtain three permits. These permits are the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS), and a special permit issued by the Nepal Immigration office. This special permit can only be obtained through a Government Authorised Trekking Agency such as Himalayan Trekkers.

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