Discover: Lost Kingdom of Mustang (23 days)

specialThe Kingdom of Mustang has always been known as a mysterious and forbidden land until just recently. Now the Upper Mustang region of Nepal is open but for a limited number of trekkers. Lo Manthang (Mustang) is located north of the main Himalayan chain of peaks and is an amazing high altitude desert with its climate dry and arid making it perfect for summer trekking when other parts of Nepal’s trekking areas are not good due to the rains. Begin your adventure exploring Kathmandu and its surrounding area for a glimpse of the indigenous people who inhabit Nepal. Start your trek in the medieval village of Kagbeni and trek to Muktinath. Discover 800 year old cave and religious carvings. Mustang is on the salt route, so you see yak caravans and traders. Discover: Lost Kingdom of Mustang is a rare opportunity to visit this remote region in Nepal.

Day 1 – Kathmandu
It is a panoramic thrill flying into Kathmandu on a clear day. The views of snow-capped mountain peaks sprawling down below you are almost ecstatic, beginning a whole chain of memorable experiences that stay with you for a long, long time. We will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel.

Our representative will meet you at the airport and drive you to your hotel. At the hotel, you will be briefed about your daily activities. Overnight in Kathmandu at The Vajra Hotel (3 nights)

Day 2 – Kathmandu Valley Sightseeing
After breakfast, embark on a visit of the city which includes Durbar Square, the historic center of Kathmandu in which the Temple of the Living Goddess is located. In this temple a small girl is selected from a particular clan of craftspeople after extensive ritual, and is declared a goddess. She lives in the temple until puberty, after which she is given a life pension and a new goddess is found. The central courtyard of the temple is superbly crafted, with extensive carving on windows and balconies and an elaborate shrine.

Also visit Hanuman Dhoka, a restored palace and temple complex, devoted to the famous monkey-god Hanuman. By the main entrance to the palace complex is a statue of Hanuman. The figure is shielded by a golden umbrella and his face has been covered with red paste by devotees so that his features are now completely obscured. Inside this large compound are many different courtyards and buildings, both religious and secular.

Lunch on your own and can be had at one of the many good standard restaurants around town. Our guide will recommend the same

Then visit Pashupatinath temple and Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest Tibetan Stupas outside of Tibet.

Bouddhanath Stupa lies about six km to the east of downtown Kathmandu and is the largest stupa in the Valley. It looms 36 meters high and presents one of the most fascinating specimens of stupa design. Bouddhanath, a World Heritage Site, is also known as Khasti, or dew drops, after an account that builders had to use dew to mix the mortar as Kathmandu was suffering from a severe drought during its construction.

Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga, or phallic symbol,of Lord Shiva. Chronicles indicate the temple’s existence prior to 400 AD. Devotees can be seen taking ritual dips in the holy Bagmati river flowing beside the temple, also a World Heritage Site.

Day 3 – Patan, Bhaktapur and Nagarkot Sightseeing Tour
This morning visit Patan, the second largest city in the Kathmandu Valley. Patan was once an independent Malla kingdom, its origins dating back 2,000 years. The city houses the fantastic 12th century Buddhist Monastery, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, which is among the finest in the country. Its gold-plated roof, courtyard with many prayer wheels and richly decorated three-storied temple are superb. The elaborately-decorated buildings, statues, temples, palaces and shrines found in the Durbar Square here, mostly date from the 17th century, when the artistic patronage of the Malla kings was at its most inspired.

Lunch on your own and can be had at one of the many good standard restaurants around town. Our guide will recommend the same.

After lunch we visit the ancient city of Bhaktapur, or city of Devotees, also known as Bhadgaon, visiting Durbar square, Lion gate, the five storied Nyatopolo Temple, the tallest of its kind in Nepal, and the palace of 55 windows. The film, LITTLE BUDDHA was shot here, among other places in Nepal.

After the tour, drive to Nagarkot. Time magazine of USA has recommended Nagarkot as one of the best retreats worldwide. Located 30 km to the east of Kathmandu on the valley rim. Situated at an elevation 2175 m and provides a grandstand panorama of the Himalayas. You can see four of the world`s 10 tallest mountains – Everest 8848m,, Lhotse 8516m, Makalu 8463m, and Manaslu 8163m, and many other lesser summits. The snow peaks look especially gorgeous during sunset and sunrise. Later drive back to Kathmandu

Day 4 – Fly to Pokhara
Take the short but scenic 30 minute flight to Pokhara, enjoying the views of Ganesh, Manaslu and the Annapurnas along the way.

You are met at the airport and driven to your accommodation. The rest of the day is free for you to explore as you wish. Overnight in Pokhara at Hotel Barahi (2 nights)

Day 5 – Pokhara
The day is free for you to explore as you wish.

Day 6 – Drive to Jomsom Kagbeni via Nayapul (2780m)
After breakfast, drive to Kagbeni via Nayapul. Arrive Kagbeni and check in at the Annapurna Summit Lodge. Overnight at the Annapurna Summit Lodge (2 nights)

Day 7 – Trek to Muktinath
Trek from Kagbeni to Muktinath (3795 m.):

The Trail steeply ascends for couple of hundred meters. While gradually walking you can enjoy beautiful deserted landscape of Caves, old Tibetan Style Villages, Apple Gardens, Yak Herds and Sheep Herds. You can look at Thorong La valley straight up to the Muktinath.

Enjoy a delicious lunch at Jharkot and visit Monastery built in the 15 century. Head towards Muktinath following a steep ascent path for half an hour. From here you hike to Rani Pauwa (3700m.), an important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. See the temple of 4 elements–where water, earth, air and natural fire meet. At this point, you can see a splendid view of Dhaulagiri (8165m), Nilgiri (7061m.) and others. Walk for fifteen minutes to reach Muktinath Temple, where you can enjoy a holy bath of 108 Taps. The spiritual beliefs of the people of Kagbeni, Jharkot and Muktinath are close to the life style, culture, religion and idea of Tibetan people. Return to the Annapurna Summit Lodge

Day 8 – Trek to Chhuksang (2920m)
It is possible to trek right up the river valley, but we use a combination of the high trail and the riverbank pathways. The trail then widens significantly revealing an endless stretch of sand but the path is kept interesting by the passing of mule trains bearing goods from Mustang and Tibet. On the west bank of the river are some caves and Gompa Kang. Unlike most monasteries in Upper Mustang which are of the Sakyapa sect, Gompa Kang is of the Nyingmapa sect.

We stop for lunch at the village of Tangbe, where we come across the first black, white and red chortens that typify Upper Mustang. The little town is a labyrinth of narrow alleys among white washed houses, fields of buck wheat and barley and apple orchards. Nilgiri Peak continues to dominate the southern skyline.

Chhuksang village is only about 2hrs walk beyond Tangbe at the confluence of the Narshing Khola and the Kali Gandaki. There are three separate parts to this village and some ruined castle walls on the surrounding cliffs. Across the river from Chhuksang are some spectacular red eroded cliffs above the mouths of some inaccessible caves. Overnight in a tea house (1 night)

Day 9 – Trek to Samar (3290m)
There is a distinct change here, not only in the topography, but also in the culture, lifestyle and people, and the settlements become more scattered, smaller and more basic. The people of Lo or Mustang practice agriculture. But due to lack of rain and fertile soil, cultivation is limited to sheltered plots of land. This spots the brown landscape with patches of green. Continuing north, to reach the river. A steel bridge spans the river just in front of a tunnel and north from here the Kali Gandaki becomes impassable by foot. The trek now leaves the valley and climbs steeply up a rocky gully to the village of Chele. Watch out for the ferocious Tibetan mastiffs here, which are chained to many of the houses.

From Chele you climb a steep spur and then continue ascending along the side of a spectacular steep canyon to a pass. Beyond the pass we descend on a pleasant trail to Samar, situated in a grove of poplar trees. This is a major place to stop for horse and mule caravans. Overnight in a tea house (1 night)

Day 10 – Trek to Geling (3440m)
Climb above Samar to a ridge and then descend into a large gorge past a chorten before entering another valley filled with juniper trees. Then cross a stream and after climbing to a pass, descend along a ridge to Shyangmochen, a tiny settlement with a few tea shops. Nearby is Rangbyung, a cave containing stalagmites which have formed in the shape of chorten and one of the holiest places in Mustang.

The trail climbs gently from Shyangmochen and we enter another huge valley before descending to Geling, with its extensive fields of barley. Like in all settlements of Mustang, the white and ochre-painted houses in Geling are constructed using mud and stones. The roofs are made of twigs, straw and a mixture of mud and pebbles. Overnight in a tea house (1 night)

Day 11 – Trek to Ghami (3460m)
From Geling, the trail climbs gently through fields, up the center of the valley, passing above the settlement of Tama Gun and an imposing chorten. Begin a taxing climb across the head of the valley to the Nyi La (3840m). The descent from the pass is quite gentle and about half an hour further on we come to a trail junction; the right trail is the direct route to Charang, the left trail leads to Ghami. Ghami is a large white-washed village sheltered by overhanging cliffs. Overnight in a tea house (1 night)

Day 12 – Trek to Charang (3490m)
Today’s walk is through perhaps the driest part of Mustang, and much of your energy will be spent negotiating the loose, dry soil. However, the magnificent views of the countryside, from the gentle contours of the north to the rugged mountains in the east and west, more than compensates for the hard climb.

Finally, you come to Charang, a large spread-out village at the top of the Charang Chu canyon. At the eastern end of the village are a huge dzong (fortress) and a red gompa which houses an excellent collection of statues and thangkas. Overnight in a tea house (1 night)

Day 13 – Trek to Lo Manthang (3730m)
Spend part of the morning exploring the interesting village of Charang and its large monastery, before setting out for Lo Manthang. We climb gently above the valley to a large isolated chorten that marks the boundary between Charang and Lo Manthang. The trail then broadens and eventually we get our first view of the walled city of Lo Manthang. The city has only one entrance so we circumambulate the wall to the gate on the north-east corner. Overnight in a tea house (3 nights)

Day 14 & 15 – In & Around Lo Manthang
Today, you are free to explore the fascinating city of Lo Manthang. The city contains about 150 houses, as well as residences for its many lamas. There are four major temples within the city and one of these, Champa Lhakang, contains a huge clay statue of Buddha as well as elaborates mandalas painted on the walls. The king’s palace is an imposing building in the center of the city and is occupied by the current King and Queen. Although his duties are largely ceremonial, the King is respected by the people. Throughout the kingdom, the villagers continue to seek his advice regarding many issues.

Optional at additional cost: Ride horses to visit these valleys.

Day 16 – Trek to Lo Gekar & Onward to Ghami (3460m)
Begin your return journey from Lo Manthang, taking the upper highland route. This highland route offers dramatic views of Lo Manthang and the Charang Valley, with snow clad peaks in the background. Just past the settlement of Lo Gekar, we reach the oldest monastery in Mustang, the Ghare Gompa.

Continue your journey on the highland route, crossing alpine meadows before dropping down a steep eroded gully to Dhakmar for lunch. After lunch, walk through the pretty valley, climb to a ridge and descend from there back to Ghami. Overnight in a tea house (1 night)

Day 17 – Trek to Samar (3290m)
Now retrace your route back through Samar (8 hours). Overnight in a tea house (1 night)

Day 18 – Trek to Kagbeni (2780m)
Return to the medieval village of Kagbeni (8 hours). Overnight in a guesthouse

Day 19 – Trek to Jomsom (2710m)
It’s a long and sad final day, from Kagbeni to Jomsom (3 hours) where you end your trek. It’s now time to take a nice hot shower. In the evening, celebrate with the Sherpas and porters, whom we have come to know so well over the last 2 weeks. Overnight in a hotel or guesthouse

Day 20 – Fly to Pokhara and onward to Kathmandu
Take a spectacular early morning flight along the Kali Gandaki gorge to Pokhara. Arrive in Pokhara and take a connecting flight to Kathmandu. Overnight at the Vajra Hotel (3 nights)

Day 21 & 22 – Kathmandu
You have 2 days to explore or relax as you wish.

Day 23 – Depart Kathmandu
You are driven to the airport for your departure flight homebound.

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