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Biking Nepal’s Wild West: Upper Mustang

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From$3,315
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Duration: 16 days
Minimum Age: Min Age : 15+
Max People : 12
Grade: 5 – Challenging
Max Elevation: 12,400ft.
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 1,340m/4,300ft
Day 2 Kathmandu to Pokhara Pokhara 827m/2,713ft
Day 3 Pokhara to Jomsom to Kagbeni Kagbeni 2,808m/9,215ft
Day 4 Kagbeni to Chele Chele 3,032m/9,950ft
Day 5 Chele to Giling Giling 3,627m/11,900ft
Day 6 Giling to Drakmar Drakmar 3,444m/11,300ft
Day 7 Drakmar to Lo Manthang Lo Manthang 3,779m/12,400ft
Day 8 Lo Manthang Lo Manthang 3,779m/12,400ft
Day 9 Lo Manthang to Yara Yara 3,383m/11,100ft
Day 10 Luri Gompa excursion and descend to Tsar Tsar  
Day 11 Tsarang to Syangbochen Syangbochen 3,627m/11,900ft
Day 12 Syangochen to Tetang Tetang 3,017m/9,900ft
Day 13 Tetang to Jomsom Jomsom 2,700m/8,850ft
Day 14 Jomsom to Kathmandu Kathmandu 1,340m/4,300ft
Day 15 Full day sightseeing Kathmandu 1,340m/4,300ft
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.

Overnight Hotel Tibet. (Dinner)

Day 2Kathmandu to Pokhara

Board a thirty-minute afternoon flight to Pokhara. Day is free in Pokhara. You may opt to take a boat ride in the Phewa Lake and hike a short distance (30 minutes) to the Peace Stupa. You may also visit the International Mountain Museum where there is an amazing display of information on the world’s mountains and mountain communities.

Overnight Big Pillow Inn. (Breakfast)

Day 3Pokhara to Jomsom to Kagbeni

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

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 Lodge. (All meals)

FULLY RIDEABLE
18 Kilometers or 11 miles
4 hours approximately

Day 5Chele to Giling

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 Lodge. (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

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 Lodge. (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

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 Lodge. (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 Lodge. (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 Lodge. (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 Lodge. (All meals)

Day 11Tsarang to Syangbochen

Retrace route to Syangbochen.

Overnight Lodge. (All meals)

FULLY RIDEABLE

Day 12Syangochen to Tetang

Retrace trail to Chusang and ride a little further east to Tetang.

Overnight Lodge. (All meals)

Day 13Tetang to Jomsom

Retrace trail to Jomsom.

Overnight Lodge. (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)

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Detailed Cost Information

Per person cost (valid till December 31, 2019)

2 – 4 persons: $3,900 USD per person

5 or more: $ 3,315 USD per person

Single Supplement: $300 USD

You may either bring your own bike or rent one in Kathmandu for $35 to $50 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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Trip Gallery

Options

It is possible to shorten the trek by two days by forgoing the side trip to Yara (Luri Gompa). Alternatively, it is possible to lengthen the trip by extending the trek to visit Muktinath to do the awesome downhill runs from the Thorung La pass or the Lubra valley or both.

 

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

When is the best time to do this biking trip?

Because Mustang is in the rain-shadow region of Nepal, the ideal times to visit this area are not the same as for other parts of Nepal. There are three preferred seasons for the Mustang biking trip: Spring, Summer and early Fall (March through November). Day time temperatures range in the 50’s and 60’s (10 to 15 Centigrade) while night-time temperatures are in the 30’s and 40’s (0 to 5 Centigrade). Expect some light showers in the monsoon months.

How skilled do I need to be to participate?

Participants are required to possess moderate biking skills. So at least 8 – 12 months of riding. While the trip does not involve any crazy downhill trails (and even if it does, you can always opt to walk/push), riding in the Himalayas does require a certain degree of balance and skills.

How fit do I need to be to participate?

Anyone who is reasonably fit and can trail ride 12-20 miles a day can sign up for the Mustang Biking trip. Most of the ride involves a lot of ascents and descents. A participant must also posses upper body strength as there is substantial bike pushing/carrying involved on this trek. Regardless, 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 Mustang Biking Trek a 4 (strenuous) on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (challenging).

Can I rent a good bike in Kathmandu? How much would it cost?

Yes, it is possible to rent good hard-tail and double suspension bikes in Kathmandu with good parts. Expect to pay around US$ 25 – US$ 35 per day for a hard-tail bike and US$ 40 – US$ 50 per day for a double suspension bike. You may also bring your own bike from home.

Is it safe to drink tap water?

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 trail?

Meals in the Mustang region are quite varied. 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.

Is there mobile signal on the trek?

Most of the places on the Annapurna Circuit trek route now has cell coverage. Lodges in some locations will offer wi-fi for between $1 to $10 per hour. You can also buy a Sim card with 5GB or 10GB data for under $25: do this in Kathmandu.

How should I prepare for the trip?

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 biking trip, the better off you will be. So biking 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 trip.

What kind of gear do I need for the trip? Can I buy/rent in Kathmandu?

Biking specific gear are available for sale in Kathmandu. But not for renting.

For general equipment:

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.

What kind of toilets should I expect on the trek?

Most tea houses have a common toilet. Some tea houses, especially those at the beginning of the trek, have en suite rooms. While squat toilets are more prevalent, newer lodges have Western style toilets.

It is possible to shower in almost all the lodges. And hot shower usually means a bucket of boiled water. Be prepared to pay anywhere from $2-$5 for this service.

1 Review
Sort By:RatingDate

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