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MUSTANG TREK

(1 Review)
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From$3,600
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Duration: 21 days
Minimum Age: Min Age : 15+
Grade: 5 - Challenging
Max Elevation: 4,114m
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.

If you are looking for a trek through alpine scenery, this is not it. Instead, we will be in the great Himalayan rain shadow on a wind-swept desert landscape of implausible gorges, high passes and enormous vistas. We will pass brightly painted chortens, climb a series of canyons and ridges and discover caves used by monks dating back to the 14th century. 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. The king (a direct descendant of the original founder 25 generations ago) just might welcome us to tea at the palace if he is at home. Watch the PBS documentary on the discovery of the lost caves of Mustang.

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Trip at a glance

Brief Itinerary

Day Description Overnight Altitude
Day 1 Arrival in Kathmandu Kathmandu 1,340m/4,300ft
Day 2 Exploring Kathmandu Kathmandu 1,340m/4,300ft
Day 3 Kathmandu to Pokhara Pokhara 827m/2,713ft
Day 4 Pokhara to Marpha Marpha 2,667m/8,750ft
Day 5 Marpha to Kagbeni Kagbeni 2,808m/9,215 ft
Day 6 Kagbeni to Chele Chele 3,032m/9,950ft
Day 7 Chele to Syangbochen Syangbochen 3,627m/11,900ft
Day 8 Syangbochen to Drakmar Drakmar 3,444m/11,300ft
Day 9 Drakmar to Tsarang Tsarang 3,505m/11,500ft
Day 10 Tsarang to Lo Manthang Lo Manthang 3,779m/12,400ft
Day 11 Lo Manthang Lo Manthang 3,779m/12,400ft
Day 12 Lo Manthang to Dri Dri 3,383m/11,100ft
Day 13 Luri Gompa excursion Dri 4,114m/13,500ft
Day 14 Dri to Tange Tange 3,368m/11,050ft
Day 15 Tange to Pa Pa 4,053m/13,300ft
Day 16 Pa to Tetang Tetang 3,017m/9,900ft
Day 17 Tetang to Muktinath Muktinath 3,710m/12,200ft
Day 18 Muktinath to Jomsom Jomsom 2,700m/8,850ft
Day 19 Jomsom to Kathmandu Kathmandu 1,340m/4,300ft
Day 20 Full day sightseeing Kathmandu 1,340m/4,300ft
Day 21 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.

Overnight Hotel. (Dinner)

Day 2Kathmandu

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. (Breakfast and Lunch)

Day 3Kathmandu to Pokhara (827m/2,713ft)

Board a thirty-minute flight to Pokhara. Day free in Pokhara.

Overnight Hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 4Pokhara to Marpha (2,667m/8,750ft)

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. Hike one hour downhill to the charming town of Marpha for a night of acclimatization. Here you will meet your trekking staff, who will have brought all your gear up by road.

Overnight Lodge. (All meals)

Day 5Marpha to Kagbeni (2,808m/9,215 ft)

Begin your trek up the windy Kali Gandaki valley to its confluence with the Jhog Khola. Kagbeni is the gateway to Upper Mustang and was formed in the 14th century as a checkpoint to control travel.

Overnight Lodge. (All meals)

Day 6Kagbeni to Chele (3,032m/9,950ft)

Heading north along the river, snowy Nilgiri (22,431 feet) will dominate the skyline in sharp contrast to the river canyon below. Enter 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)

Day 7Chele to Syangbochen (3,627m/11,900ft)

Today will begin with an unrelenting climb — the trail often hewn out of the canyon wall — continuing more gently to your lunch stop at the pleasant village of Samar. In the afternoon, navigate over two more ridges (highest pass is about 12,500 feet) to Syangbochen, a small cliff-side settlement with a panoramic view of the Annapurnas.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 08 Syangbochen to Drakmar (3,444m/11,300ft)


Start uphill to another pass of about 12,500 feet. The trail then descends with two drops into small canyons, and then continues with a gentle ascent toward Chyunkar and the Nye La (12,720 feet). From this pass, you’ll have incredible views of the Annapurnas and Nilgiris as well as sweeping views of Mustang. Ghemi Village, built on the edge of a steep cliff, appears in the distance. After lunch, continue to Drakmar with its prominent red-cliffs. These cliffs are home to blue-sheep.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 09Drakmar to Tsarang (3,505m/11,500ft)

Soon after leaving camp, climb over Mui La and proceed to Ghar Gompa (Lo Gekhar). 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. At Marang turn to follow the drainage to Tsarang, the impressive village that contains a huge five-story white dzong (fortress) and well as the imposing red gompa, Dorje Dhen.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 10Tsarang to Lo Manthang (3,779m/12,400ft)

The trail follows a gentle but unrelenting climb for increasingly beautiful views of the mountains to the south, past numerous caves in the cliffs adjacent to Lo La (pass) at 12,800 feet. From here, you’ll have our first view of the impenetrable fortress of Lo Manthang. Enter this walled city through the imposing main gate.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 11Lo Manthang

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 12Lo Manthang to Dri (3,383m/11,100ft)

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.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 13Luri Gompa excursion (4,114m/13,500ft)

It is a whole day’s 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.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 14Dri to Tange (3,368m/11,050ft)

The trail follows the river for a while, and we’ll negotiate five or six fairly shallow crossings of tributary streams (wading shoes will be necessary). This is a very good time to look for spiral fossils (saligrams) scattered among the rocks along the shore. Cross the river that is coming down from the sacred lakes of Damodar Kunda, and then over desolate terrain up to a pass of 12,600 feet. This is a long day, but finally the fields of the prosperous village of Tangye will appear below, and we’ll arrive at camp after passing a series of large chortens.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 15Tange to Pa (4,053m/13,300ft)

After another river crossing ascend steeply to a higher plateau. You’ll have increasingly fantastic views of not only much of the Mustang we have traveled through, but of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Tukche, Tilicho, and Annapurna. You’ll look for blue sheep and enjoy the wildflowers as we traverse to a shepherd’s camp by the stone hut near the pass.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 16Pa to Tetang (3,017m/9,900ft)

Ascending and descending, travel through the vast and silent world of the wild uplands. Along a ridge, again have views of Mustang, the wind carved hills all around, and the snow peaks stretching from Dhaulagiri in the south to Tibet in the north. Care must be taken on this path that contours along and into a steep and contorted canyon. Tetang is on the Narsing River above Chhuksang, which we passed our first day out of Kagbeni.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 17Tetang to Muktinath (3,710m/12,200ft)

It will take about five 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. We’ll have time to visit the many fine temples and shrines.

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 18Muktinath to Jomsom (2,700m/8,850ft)

On the last day of trek you’ll be on the main Annapurna circuit route. Enter the village of Jharkot and visit the monastery and the traditional Tibetan medicinal center. Heading west to the Kali Gandaki, we’ll pass Eklobatti, then south along the river to Jomosom. While still beautiful, Jomosom will be quite a culture shock compared to where we have been with all its busy activity — perhaps including a newly arrived highway (which may even have some internal combustion vehicles plying the gravel and spewing exhaust).

Overnight Camp. (All meals)

Day 19Jomsom to Kathmandu (1,340/4,300ft)

Fly Jomsom to Pokhara and change plane for flight to Kathmandu.

Overnight Hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 20Kathmandu (1,340/4,300ft)

Full day of sightseeing in Kathmandu: visit Swayambhunath, the monkey temple. Then drive to Bhaktapur, the city of Devotees, for lunch and a tour of the royal palace square.

Overnight Hotel. (All meals)

Day 21Final departure

Transfer to airport for final departure. (Breakfast)

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Detailed Cost Information

Per person price (valid until December 31, 2019)

Lodge-to-lodge trek:

2 – 4 persons: $3,300 USD per person

5 or more persons: $ 2,970 per person

Single Supplement: $300 USD

Camping trek (tent):

2 – 4 persons: $4,000 USD per person

5 or more persons: $ 3,600 per person

Single Supplement: $300 USD

Price Includes

All airport transfers; One full days 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 at Hotel Temple Tree (4 star) in Pokhara; Airfare: Kathmandu to Pokhara to Jomsom and Jomsom to Pokhara to Kathmandu; Meals as indicated in the itinerary; Lodge or camping 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; Annapurna Conservation Area Fee; Trekkers Information Management Card; Restricted 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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Map

Photos

Options

  • This trek comes in both a lodge trek and camping trek option. Note, on the lodge trek option, you would have to make the long 8-10 hour hike from Dri to Tetang (Day 14) in one day as there are no lodge facilities in Pa. Opting for the camping option allows you to break this long hike into two days and camp at Pa.
  • If you don’t have 21 days for a trek, consider our 17-day fast paced Mustang trek
  • Yes, we would gladly customize the Mustang trek to suit your needs.
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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

When is the best time to do the Mustang trek?

Mustang falls in the rain shadow region of Nepal and hence the standard weather pattern for Nepal does not apply. The area receives very little precipitation but Winter does arrive early (November through February). It is possible to trek in this region in Spring (March through May), Summer/Monsoons (May through September) and early Autumn (October and early November). Expect a big variation in temperature. In these months, day time temperatures can range from the 50’s to the high 70’s (10 to 30 Centigrade) while night-time temperatures dip to the high 20’s and 40’s (0 to 5 Centigrade). While the Upper Mustang region does not receive much rain, it is still very wet in the lower Mustang region in July and August causing flight cancellations due to bad weather and road blockages due to landslides.

Another consideration is to visit Lo Manthang during the Tiji festival where there is three days of festivities. This is very popular among trekkers and there can literally be more than 500 trekkers at Lo Manthang during this festival.

How much does the Mustang Trek cost?

Unlike most lodge treks in Nepal, an individual CANNOT organize their own trek to Upper Mustang. Your permits have to be procured by a trekking company registered in Nepal. And there must be a minimum of two participants in the group. The Upper Mustang permit is US$500 per person for 10 days. This is the minimum. Add $50 for each extra day.

You can: A) choose a Nepali company or B) choose a western guided trek. If you’re doing Upper Mustang trek with a Nepali outfitter, expect to pay anything between $1,500 – $3,000 with varying inclusions and exclusions. Make sure you understand what is included and what is not included in the package. The best way to choose a Nepali company is to ask for references. Option B would cost above $3,000.

How fit do I need to be to do the Mustang trek?

Anyone who is reasonably fit and can hike 10-12 miles a day can sign up for this fast-paced Mustang Trek. Expect substantial elevation gain/loss of over 3,000 feet (915 meters) on a few days and also a couple of long days of up to 7-8 hours. Elevation reached isn’t substantial and doesn’t exceed 15,000ft. That said, the better shape you are in, the more you will enjoy the trek. It is advised that anyone with a pre-existing condition consult their doctor before signing up for a trek.
We rate the Upper Mustang Trek a 4 on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (challenging).

Can I drink tap water on the trek?

Nepali tap water is NOT safe to drink. Even if you see the locals drinking water straight from the tap, never drink water before boiling or sterilizing. Bring water purifying tablets or other water purifiers. At higher elevations during the coldest times of year the water will freeze, so you’ll need to buy boiled water from teahouses. If you plan to use a STERIPEN, bring wide mouth water bottles. You would need at least 2 one-liter water bottles for the trek. Even if you plan to bring a hydration pack, bring 1 one-liter water to sterilize the water before pouring into your hydration pack.

Crystal Mountain Treks will provide you with a Steripen to use on the trek for no charge.

What kind of food should I expect?

On the camping trek version:
All cooking gear and most of the food have to be carried in from Kathmandu. The cook will purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and rice/lentils from the villagers en route. You will be surprised at what the cook can make on a small gas stove. In general, expect porridge (Oatmeal), toast, eggs (various style), muesli, hash browns, sausages etc for breakfast. And sandwich, pizzas, momos, noodles (dry and with soup), rolls, fried rice, Indian bread with vegetables or Daal Bhaat (Rice with lentils) etc for lunch and dinner.

On the lodge trek version:
Meals on the Mustang trek start out being quite varied especially at the beginning of the trek in Jomsom and Kagbeni. But it becomes sparser as you ascend to the Lo Manthang. In general, expect porridge (Oatmeal), toast, eggs (any style), muesli, hash browns, sausages etc for breakfast. And sandwich, pizzas, momos, noodles (dry and with soup), rolls, fried rice, Indian bread with vegetables etc for lunch and dinner. And expect Nepali dal-bhat (rice-lentils with vegetables and/or meat) at all the lodges.
Ours is an OPEN menu. Meaning we allow our clients to order anything from the lodge menu besides bottled beverages, specialty coffee and packaged snacks. We also don’t limit the number of items per meal as long as you aren’t wasteful. When choosing your trekking company, ask if meals are fixed or if you are only allowed to order one item from the menu. If this isn’t the case, costs can add up over 15/16 days.

What kind of gear do I need for the trek?

Layering is key. And it’s always recommended to trek with good branded gear. A good pair of hiking boots that’s been broken in is very important. Good top and bottom base layers, a mid layer (fleece or capilene), and an outer layer (Gore-tex or other material). If you tend to get cold quickly, bring a down parka especially for the evening at the lodge. On most days, you’d be hiking in a convertible hiking pant that can be converted into shorts and one or two top layers.

if you’re trekking with Crystal Mountain Treks, we provide a sleeping bag (rated to 0 degree F or -17 degree C), duffel bags, down jacket and Steripen for water purification to our clients for no charge.

It is possible to buy cheap and relatively functional gear in Kathmandu – convertible pants, down jackets, fleece, Gore-tex jackets. But remember, you get what you pay for. Wool gloves, hats, socks are available too.

There are quite a few branded stores too. North Face, Moutain Hardwear, Marmot and Sherpa. If you’re coming from Australia or Europe, items in these shops are probably cheaper than back home. But if you’re coming from the US, it’s better to buy branded gear at home.

How should I prepare for the trek?

The more physically fit you are, the more you will enjoy the trip. There are three aspects to training for any trek. 1) Cardiovascular Training will make your body more efficient in using oxygen. Running, walking, swimming or biking, or any combination of these are great for cardiovascular conditioning. 2) Strength Training by either using free weights or machines at the gym will build hiking strength. Walking stairs, especially with a pack will simulate the hiking environment. We also recommend practicing squats. Trekkers will encounter low hanging obstacles to duck under, and many toilets are at ground level, which requires a low squat.
3) Endurance Training is where you build endurance in the months leading up to your trek, slowly increase your length of training sessions. By the time you are 2 weeks from the scheduled trek date you should be able to ascend 3,000 ft. in a 3-4 hour period.

In the end, the more your training simulates a trek, the better off you will be. So hiking 4-5 hours outdoors, uphill and downhill, about once or twice a week in addition to other cardio vascular training at the gym or at home will greatly benefit and prepare you for the trek.

Is there mobile signal on the trek? Wi-fi?

Most of the places on the Mustang trek route now have cell coverage. You can also buy a Sim card with 5GB or 10GB data for under $25: do this in Kathmandu.

Question 9

Answer 9

1 Review
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Terence Potter

Family Traveller

I’ve had two great trips with Crystal Mountain Treks. Both were customized to align with what I was looking for and both exceeded expectations, despite having very different parameters from one another. Communication with Crystal Mountain was very clear and quite responsive. The first was the Dhaoulagiri Circuit with a group of strong hikers. We were able to include summiting Dhampus Peak. We looked at several challenging treks when planning this trip, and Crystal Mountain was able to form an itinerary for us that aligned with our schedule constraints and capabilities. The second trek included my wife and 12 yr old daughter. Again, Crystal Mountain’s communication was both responsive and clear. We selected a mixed tenting and tea-house trek through Upper Mustang, which was an amazing experience for all of us. This was the first trek for everyone but me, and our guides made sure that everyone was doing well. For both treks all the logistical aspects of pulling together a multi-week trek were executed flawlessly, from arrival in through departure. I highly recommend Crystal Mountain Treks.

October 5, 2016