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Biking Nepal’s Wild West: Upper Mustang

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Duration: 16 - 18 days
Grade: 5 – Challenging
Max Elevation: 12,600ft.
Accomodation: Lodge

North of the massive gorge between Himalayan giants Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, lies the legendary kingdom of Mustang. Historically it dominated the trade along the ancient route connecting Tibet with Nepal and India. The inhabitants of Mustang (the Lobas) are Buddhist and culturally Tibetan, but as the king allied himself with Jumla rather than Lhasa, the region was eventually absorbed into Nepal. For political reasons travel into Mustang was strictly forbidden and the region remained isolated from the modern world. In 1992 it was decided to allow outsiders in on a very limited basis. This isolation has helped maintain a way of life almost unchanged for centuries.

Why trek when you can bike it? If you are a true mountain biking enthusiast, this trip offers the ultimate thrill: biking in absolutely spectacular landscape with dramatic vistas and implausible gorges. Mustang lies in the great Himalayan rain shadow and is a wind-swept desert. We will bike along brightly painted chortens, push and carry our bikes through a series of canyons and ridges, discover caves used by monks dating back to the 14th century and descend steep trails. The altitude on this route is not extreme by Himalayan standards, the highest point will be approximately 14,000 feet. The area is home to snow leopard and blue sheep, lammergeier, yaks, and nomads, ammonites and medieval villages.

Our Nepal and Tibet treks and climbs are operated by our sister company based in Nepal – Crystal Mountain Treks – managed by our founder’s family. Crystal Mountain Treks has been in business for over two decades and employs only the best guides with a minimum of 15 years experience. We treat our staff with the utmost care and respect. Each staff member is provided high-quality equipment and paid higher-than-average wages. Our clients have commented that our treks provide a better value (we provide more for less) than other companies they researched, comparing services, quality and price. We are happy to provide references of people who have journeyed with us in the past upon request.

Highlights 

  • Bike to the culturally rich and last true vestige of Tibetan culture.
  • Explore a kingdom long isolated from the outside world.
  • Discover 14th century Buddhist monasteries in villages and remote cave sites.
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Trip at a glance

Brief Itinerary

Day Description Overnight Altitude
Day 1 Arrival in Kathmandu Kathmandu  1340m
Day 2 Kathmandu to Pokhara Pokhara
Day 3 Pokhara to Jomsom to Kagbeni Kagbeni 9,215 ft.
Day 4 Kagbeni to Chele Chele 9,950ft.
Day 5 Chele to Giling Giling 11,700ft.
Day 6 Giling to Drakmar Drakmar 12,600ft.
Day 7 Drakmar to Lo Manthang Lo Manthang 11,500ft.
Day 8 Lo Manthang Lo Manthang
Day 9 Lo Manthang to Yara Yara
Day 10 Luri Gompa excursion and descend to Tsar Tsar
Day 11 Tsarang to Syangbochen Syangbochen
Day 12 Syangochen to Tetang Tetang 9,900ft.
Day 13 Tetang to Jomsom Jomsom
Day 14 Jomsom to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 15 Full day sightseeing Kathmandu
Day 16 Final Departure
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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1Kathmandu

Arrive Kathmandu. You will be met on arrival at the Tribhuwan International Airport. Transfer to Hotel. Day Free. Enjoy welcome dinner. Briefing during dinner. (Dinner)

Day 2Kathmandu to Pokhara

Board a thirty-minute afternoon flight to Pokhara. Day free in Pokhara. (Breakfast)

Day 3Pokhara to Jomsom to Kagbeni (9,215 ft.)

Board an early flight to Jomsom. The plane navigates up the Kali Gandaki gorge between Annapurna (26,538 feet) and Dhaulagiri (26,788 feet) to the Jomosom airstrip. Here you will meet your trekking staff, who will have brought all your gear up by road, and who will be responsible for setting up camps and preparing your meals. Your gear will be carried by mules.

After arrival in Jomsom, hop on your bikes and ride up the Kali Gandaki River. You have the option to explore Thini Village (opposite Jomsom) before riding towards Kagbeni. Today’s ride is approximately 20 to 25 kilometers (12.5 to 15.5 miles) and should take around 2 hours at a relaxed pace. We stress RELAXED PACE as this will help with the acclimatization. Most of today’s ride is on the newly-built Jomsom to Muktinath road. Numerous jeeps ferrying Indian and Nepali pilgrims to Muktinath will pass you. After lunch, you have the option to cross the Kali-Gandaki river and explore the village opposite Kagbeni. Overnight Lodge. (All meals)

FULLY RIDEABLE
20 to 25 Kilometers or 12.5 to 15.5 miles
2 hours approximately

Day 4Kagbeni to Chele (9,950ft.)

Heading north along the river, snowy Nilgiri (22,431 feet) will dominate the skyline in sharp contrast to the river canyon below. The trail is pretty level until you reach a fork – one trail is the river bed trail to Chele; we stay on the road and ride uphill to the plateau. Soon (10 Kilometers or 6.25 miles later we reach Tange Village, a labyrinth of narrow alleys among whitewashed houses with fields of buckwheat, barley, wheat, and apple trees. Then continue toward Chhuksang along a trail lined with chortens (Buddhist wayside shrines) painted the traditional colors of red, black, and white — colors made from local rocks and minerals. Eventually cross the Kali Gandaki River on a steel footbridge, then climb up to the village of Chele, perched on a ridge above the gorge. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

FULLY RIDEABLE
18 Kilometers or 11 miles
4 hours approximately

Day 5Chele to Giling (11,700ft.)

Today will begin with an unrelenting climb. Part of the trail is hewn out of the canyon wall and will require substantial pushing/carrying until we reach Taklam La pass. Past Samar is another unrelenting climb requiring more pushing and carrying uptil Bhena La pass (12,600 ft.). We stop at Bhena for lunch. In the afternoon, navigate over Beg La (12,600 ft.) to Syangbochen, a small cliff-side settlement with a panoramic view of the Annapurnas. The ride from the pass to Syangbochen is all down-hill and will provide the first speed thrill. Past Syangbochen is another short climb to the ridge. It is all down hill to our camp at Giling which has a spectacular monastery. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

PARTLY RIDEABLE – INVOLVES PUSHING and CARRYING AT LEAST THREE SECTIONS
18 Kilometers or 11 miles
5 to 6 hours approximately

Day 6Giling to Drakmar (12,600ft.)

Visit the monastery in Giling. From Giling it is all uphill, meaning pushing your bikes, to the first pass (Nyi La – 13,200 ft.). Ride down hill to the next pass Ghami La (12,400 ft.). From this pass, you’ll have incredible views of the Annapurnas and Nilgiris as well as sweeping views of Mustang. Ghami Village, built on the edge of a steep cliff, appears in the distance. Visit the 13th century gompa here. Past Ghami, drop to the river and push your bikes to the top of the road. Soon the red cliffs of Drakmar appear. In the evening, visit the red cliffs and explore ancient caves. These cliffs are home to the endangered Blue Sheep flocks. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

PARTLY RIDEABLE – INVOLVES ONE LONG SECTION AND ONE SHORT SECTION OF PUSHING
17 Kilometers or 10.6 miles
4 to 5 hours approximately

Day 7Drakmar to Lo Manthang (11,500ft.)

Past Drakmar, begin another unrelenting push to the Muila pass (13,700 ft) Ride downhill to Ghar Gompa. Lo Gekhar contains one of the oldest gompas in Nepal (built in the eighth century — even older than Samye in Tibet), a great red-and-white structure surrounded by trees. After lunch is another grueling push to the Marang La (13,900 ft.). From the pass, the downhill through yak pastures with the Tibetan plateau visible in the horizon is simply SPECTACULAR. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

MOSTLY RIDEABLE – INVOLVES TWO LONG SECTIONS AND ONE SHORT SECTION OF PUSHING
17 Kilometers or 10.6 miles
5 hours approximately

Day 8Lo Manthang

Optional visit to the Choser Caves at Jhong which is North of Lo Manthang. You may opt to hire a horse for today’s excursion. Cost is approximately US$20 for the day. These caves were used by ascetics to meditate and also as homes by locals. Another cave with ancient 14th century murals is east of Jhong and involves hiking for 1.5 hours. Note, access to this second cave is on exposed trail. If you are scared of heights, you shouldn’t go.

In the evening, explore the maze of narrow streets winding through approximately 150 houses, and three important gompas built in the early 15th century. These temples (along with those in Tsarang and Lo Gekhar) have been rescued from the ravages of time by the efforts and heart of local people (Lo Gyalpo Jigme Foundation in collaboration with the American Himalayan Foundation) — with stunning results. If you are very fortunate we may get an audience with the king or queen at the four-story palace. The king, Raja Jigme Parbal Bista, although his duties are mostly ceremonial, is well loved and respected throughout the region. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 9Lo Manthang to Yara

Our route south is unusual; most groups return the same way they came, but we will make a loop following remote trails on the east side of the Kali Gandaki. Back over the Lo La, head southeast to the Tholung Valley, with terrific views of Nilgiri as we climb higher. Tsarang will come into view across the way, and finally descend steeply into the bowels of the canyon to the village of Dri, one of the most prosperous villages in Mustang.
From Dri, we head up the Puyung Khola to Yaragaon. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

FULLY RIDEABLE
17 Kilometers
5 hours approximately

Day 10Luri Gompa excursion and descend to Tsarang

It is a day trip to Luri Gompa and back via Yara and Ghara villages. The landscape here contains strange, fluted pinnacles eroded by wind. At 13,500 feet, Luri sits like an eagle’s nest in the cliffs. This mysterious cave monastery dates from the 13th century. The central chamber is carved directly into the rock. The domed ceiling is covered with murals, and in the center of the chamber there is a large and finely crafted chorten. Luri is a true jewel in a most unbelievable setting — the artwork here is considered to be some the finest and most unusual in the Himalayas.
From Yara, we retrace our trail a little past Dri and head southwards to Tsarang. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 11Tsarang to Syangbochen

Retrace route to Syangbochen. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
FULLY RIDEABLE

Day 12Syangochen to Tetang (9,900ft.)

Retrace trail to Chusang and ride a little further east to Tetang. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 13Tetang to Jomsom

Retrace trail to Jomsom. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 14Jomsom to Kathmandu

Fly Jomsom to Pokhara and change plane for flight to Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (Breakfast)

Day 15Full day sightseeing

Full day of sightseeing in Kathmandu. You will be accompanied by our in-house city guide. In the morning, visit Bodhanath, the Stupa of a million dew drops, to watch monks and devotees circumambulate the largest stupa in the world. Then visit Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, with its two-tiered golden roof and silver door. Drive to Patan for lunch in the garden of the Patan Museum Café. After lunch, visit the well-maintained Patan Museum storing ancient Nepali artifacts, followed by a tour of Patan Durbar Square. Drive back to Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (All meals)

Day 16Final departure

Transfer to airport for final departure. (Breakfast)

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THORUNG LA Day 13Day 13 – Tetang to Thorung Phedi (13,500 ft.)

It will take between 4 to 5 hours to reach the pass, Gnyu La, at 13,000 feet. It is a rewarding route providing fine views the entire way and wildflowers. From the pass one can see Muktinath, and within a few hours we will arrive at the final stretch where the trail goes through a grove of trees, across a bridge, past a nunnery, and finally joins the main trail from Manang. Here officially exit the restricted area of Upper Mustang. Muktinath is a holy place, the destination of thousands of Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims every year. From Muktinath continue for another 1 to 2 hours to the Thorung Phedi. Overnight Camp. (All meals)

PARTLY RIDEABLE BUT MAINLY PUSHING

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THORUNG LA : Day 14 Thorung Phedi to Thorung Pass (17,700 ft.) to Muktinath (12,400 ft.)

Early wake up (4:00 am) to begin grueling climb to the Thorung pass. It is around 6.5 Kilometers to the pass and the ascent should take between 4 to 5 hours. The ride down is simply thrilling and you may be required to walk only in two or three sections. Not very exposed as most imagine it to be. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
HALF RIDEABLE
6.5 Kilometers to the pass (4 miles)
18 Kilometers or 11.2 miles total
7 to 9 hours approximately

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THORUNG LA : Day 15Muktinath to Jomsom

Descend to Jomsom via Jharkot. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
FULLY RIDEABLE

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THORUNG LA : Day 16Jomsom to Kathmandu

Fly Jomsom to Pokhara and change plane for flight to Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (Breakfast)

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THORUNG LA : Day 17Full day sightseeing

Full day of sightseeing in Kathmandu. You will be accompanied by our in-house city guide. In the morning, visit Bodhanath, the Stupa of a million dew drops, to watch monks and devotees circumambulate the largest stupa in the world. Then visit Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, with its two-tiered golden roof and silver door. Drive to Patan for lunch in the garden of the Patan Museum Café. After lunch, visit the well-maintained Patan Museum storing ancient Nepali artifacts, followed by a tour of Patan Durbar Square. Drive back to Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (All meals)

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THORUNG LA : Day 18Final departure

Transfer to airport for final departure. (Breakfast)

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Detailed Cost Information

Single Supplement: $300 USD

Thorung Pass Extension: $350 USD per person (Minimum two participants required for the extension)

tent-to-tent biking trip

  • 2 – 4 persons: $3,845 USD per person
  • 5 or more: $ 3,395 USD per person
  • Single Supplement: $300 USD

Thorung Pass Extension: $350 USD per person (Minimum two participants required for the extension)

You may either bring your own bike or rent one in Kathmandu for $25 to $35 per day (price varies by quality).

Price Includes

Expert pre-trip advice and detailed information | Motivated, well-cared-for staff | All airport transfers | One full day sightseeing in Kathmandu as indicated in the itinerary and entrance fees to monuments | 3 nights twin sharing hotel accommodation at Hotel Tibet (3 star) in Kathmandu | 1 night twin sharing hotel accommodation in Pokhara | Round trip airfare: Kathmandu to Pokhara to Jomsom | Meals as indicated in the itinerary | Camping/lodge trekking as indicated in the itinerary | Three meals a day | Boiled water for your bottles three times a day | Guide and staff wages, equipment and meals | Guide and staff insurance | Mustang Restricted Area Permit (US$500 per participant) | Annapurna Conservation Area Permit

Price Excludes

Your international airfare, Nepal Visa, Meals not indicated in the itinerary, Tips and gratuities, Personal equipment (a suggested list will be mailed to you), Travel insurance (Required), Other expenses of a personal nature

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1 Review
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Bob Hayssen., Racine, WI

Solo Traveller

“The trip exceeded my expectations. The favorite part of the trip was being on my bicycle, or pushing or carrying it. Dawa and the crew were fabulous. They couldn’t have been better.”

August 14, 2013