Upper Mustang (the last kingdom of Nepal) is also known as “The Forbidden Kingdom”. The last Bista king of Upper Mustang was Raja Jigme Dorje Palabar Bista. After Nepal was declared a republican country, Government of Nepal no longer gave him (Raja Jigme Dorje Palabar Bista) the recognition of king. All the allowances he had been getting from the Nepal government has been cut off. As per the new constitution he is no longer the king of Upper Mustang. But, the people of Upper Mustang still regard him as their king. They still give him the royal respect.
Due to the remoteness of this region, the people of this region (Mustangi) are compelled to practice all the traditional tools and techniques of life. They still use horses and donkeys as a mode to transport goods from one place to another.
Only limited number of tourists are allowed to travel to this region. This area has been restricted to preserve its culture and traditions. With a view to preserve culture of this area the then His Majesty of Government had enlisted this region as a restricted area. Nepal Government charges 500 US$ per person as permit fee, for 10 days visit to this restricted area. Few years ago, the permit fee to enter this region was higher than it is now. Previously the entry fee was 700 US$ for 10 days. After knowing the importance of this region for tourism purpose Nepal government reduced the entry fee from 700 US$ to 500 US$. These days the Upper mustang region has been opened for the outside world for trekking and bike tours and jeep tours. But the tourists cannot travel individually in this restricted area. They must travel through the registered trekking agency.
Mustang region used to be the trade route to Tibet in the earlier days. People used to trade wool, medicinal herbs, animals, salt, etc.
Upper Mustang region has a very beautiful landscape. It is one of the most beautiful place ion earth. We can see massive red rocks formations. The Lo-kingdom lies in Nepal’s remote Mustang region. Mustang region is also known as the cold desert of Nepal. The cool and sandy wind blows in this region during the day time. So, almost all the flights to Jomsom departs from Pokhara before 12 pm.
Kagbeni village is located in the valley of Kaligandaki river. This village separates Upper mustang region with the lower Mustang region. Its the starting point of the restricted area.
Tiji festival is one of the biggest festival of the Upper Mustang region. It is celebrated in Lomanthang (the Lo-kingdom). This festival is celebrated to mark the beginning of a new season. It is celebrated for three days. The dates of this festival are fixed by the monks using the Tibetan calendar. This festival is celebrated to chase away the evil spirits and bring prosperity and happiness into the kingdom. There is a huge gathering of monks and people of Mustang on this auspicious occasion that is held annually. Various dances, acts, religious events, rituals and ceremonies are held during the three-day festival of Tiji.
The historical myth about the Tiji starts with a deity named Dorje Jono. He battles his demon father to save the kingdom of mustang. The demon creates the water shortage in the kingdom affecting the lives of the people in this dry and barren land. Dorje dono defeats his demon father and brings prosper to the land. The festival is the representation and portrayal of the story through dancing and many rituals. This rare and untouched heritage and culture of the people of Mustang is a beautiful and unforgettable sight to observe.
The trip to Upper Mustang for the Tiji festival will be of about 18 days. 18 days includes the day starting from Kathmandu and ending in Kathmandu. The trip starts from Kathmandu. Then you will either fly or drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara. If you go by flight then on the same day you will be heading to Jomsom by flight. But if you take a drive up to Pokhara then you will stay overnight in Pokhara and then take a early morning flight or drive to Jomsom. If you are interested you can make a short hike during you time in Jomsom then Marpha village is the beautiful village you would not like to miss. Marpha is a beautiful village south of Jomsom. There is Nyingma monastery from where one can enjoy the view of the village and the Kali Gandaki River valley.
From Marpha village we will head back to Jomsom where we will stay overnight. From Jomsom we will make a short hike to Kagbeni. Kagbeni has ancient Sakyapa Monastery with old statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas. It has special Mahakala statue taken from Kathmandu by a high-ranking lama from Mustang. In Kagbeni there is check post to enter Upper Mustang. Tourist must have special permit to enter Upper Mustang. Upper Mustang is a restricted area. So, the permit fee to enter upper Mustang is also comparatively higher than other permit fees. A tourist has to pay 500 US$ to enter the Upper Mustang region.
From Kagbeni we make a long walk up to Chele. It takes approximately about 7 hours to reach Chele from Kagbeni. When we start from Kagbeni, first we meet the Tanbe village. Tanbe is the Mongolian village where all the villagers are Gurung. From Tanbe the trail again climbs to a high point around 3100 m. The trail then drops steeply and undulates along the east bank of Kali Gandaki for 1.5 hours to the village of Chhuksang. From Chhuksang we can see the Chele and in Chhuksang there is a small cave Gumba. On our way we move under a vast block of red sandstone.
From Chele we make 6 hours long walk to reach Syamochen village which is situated at an altitude of 3,820 meters. Immediately on leaving Chele, the path climbs steeply up to a plateau region through a small tunnel like gully. On our way to Syamochen we will have a panoramic view of Mt. Nilgiri, Tilicho peak and Yakawa Kang. The peak that dominates the Thorongla Pass on the Annapurna circuit. After short walk we will reach the Samar village. After leaving Samar the trails dives steeply for about 70 meters into a deep side canyon. Inevitably, it is a short steep climb out and after a brief respite it dives again into another side canyon. This second climb is steeper and longer. After about 2 hours walk from Samar, the trail reaches at an altitude of 3750 meters and descends slightly to the first tea house. The second tea houses can be seen in the distance.
In this way, we walk along the Dhakmar and Tsarang village for the next two days to reach Lomanthang, Upper Mustang. Lomanthang Village is situated at an altitude of 3,810 meters. We stay in Lomanthang for 4 days. On the first day in Lomanthang you will be taking a rest. If you are interested you can make a short walk around the Lomanthang village. On the other three days in Lomanthang you will be watching the Tiji festival.
After Lomanthang our next stop is Yara, one of the most remote areas of this trek. There are only two lodges and there is the scarcity of water. It is also the gateway to Damodar Kunda, one of the most visited place by Hindus. Damodar has its own religious importance among the Hindu community people. Yara is the village situated at an altitude of 3,650 meters. It takes nearly 4-5 hours to reach Yara from Lomanthang
The Luri cave also known as Luri Gonpa lies in the Yara Khola Valley. Luri Gumba lies at an altitude of 4,085 meters. The Luri cave is famous for the earliest stupa situated in the cave. The Luri Cave contains some of the earliest and most beautiful Buddhist mural paintings in the Mustang region. The mysterious Luri Cave Monastery in Upper Mustang is the 12th century cave monastery located towards the east of Lomanthang.