Mustang Region (Annapurna Conservation Area)

The Mustang Region, also known as the Kingdom of Lo, is a unique and culturally rich area situated in the northern part of Nepal. This region, located within the Annapurna Conservation Area, offers trekkers a journey through ancient Tibetan culture, breathtaking landscapes, and mystical villages that seem frozen in time.

Popular Trekking Routes

1. Upper Mustang Trek

  • Duration: 10-14 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Best Time: March to November
  • Highlights: The Upper Mustang Trek takes trekkers into a hidden kingdom with a landscape reminiscent of the Tibetan Plateau. Starting from Jomsom, the trek follows the ancient salt trade route along the Kali Gandaki River, passing through barren landscapes, deep gorges, and traditional Tibetan villages. The trek’s highlight is the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang, the capital of Mustang, with its whitewashed mud-brick houses, Buddhist monasteries, and royal palace. Trekkers can explore the fascinating culture and history of the region while enjoying panoramic views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, and Dhaulagiri.

2. Lower Mustang Trek

  • Duration: 5-7 days
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Best Time: March to November
  • Highlights: The Lower Mustang Trek offers a shorter but equally captivating journey through the lower valleys of Mustang. Starting from Jomsom or Kagbeni, the trek follows the Kali Gandaki River gorge, flanked by towering cliffs and unique geological formations. Trekkers can visit ancient Buddhist monasteries, such as Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling, and explore traditional Mustangi villages like Marpha and Tukuche. The trek provides stunning views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges, as well as opportunities to witness the daily life and customs of the local people.

Unique Features

Ancient Tibetan Culture:
The Mustang Region is steeped in ancient Tibetan culture, with strong influences from Buddhism and Tibetan traditions. Trekkers can visit centuries-old monasteries, participate in traditional rituals and festivals, and interact with the friendly and hospitable locals, who still practice age-old customs passed down through generations.

Lo Manthang:
The walled city of Lo Manthang is the cultural and historical heart of Mustang, offering a glimpse into a bygone era. The city’s narrow alleys, whitewashed buildings, and ancient monasteries evoke a sense of mystery and intrigue. Trekkers can explore the royal palace, visit the monasteries of Jampa Lhakhang and Thubchen Gompa, and wander through the labyrinthine streets lined with prayer wheels and chortens.

Scenic Landscapes:
The landscapes of Mustang are diverse and breathtaking, ranging from arid desert-like terrain to lush valleys and snow-capped peaks. Trekkers will traverse deep river gorges, cross suspension bridges, and ascend to high mountain passes, all while enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding Himalayas.

Forbidden Kingdom:
For centuries, Mustang remained isolated from the outside world, earning it the nickname “Forbidden Kingdom.” Although now open to trekkers, the region still retains a sense of remoteness and mystery, with its ancient traditions and customs preserved in a rapidly changing world.

Practical Information

Trekkers need an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and a TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System) card. Additionally, trekkers to Upper Mustang require a special restricted area permit, which can be obtained through registered trekking agencies.

Accommodation options along the trekking routes vary from basic teahouses to more comfortable lodges and guesthouses. While facilities may be more limited in remote areas, trekkers can expect a warm welcome and traditional hospitality.

Getting There:
The trek typically starts with a flight from Pokhara to Jomsom, the gateway to Mustang. Alternatively, trekkers can travel overland from Pokhara to Jomsom via Beni and Tatopani, a journey that offers stunning views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges.

The Mustang Region offers a trekking experience unlike any other, combining ancient culture, stunning landscapes, and a sense of adventure that will leave trekkers with memories to last a lifetime.