The Upper Mustang trek is the trek to the remote Trans-Himalayan Region of the semi-independent Tibetan Kingdom. The trek to Upper Mustang offers an adventurous itinerary with spectacular trekking through the striking semi-arid desert with colorful rock formations, deep ravines, and snow-capped peaks surrounding you. The history, culture, myth, and legend of this region blend perfectly with the stunning scenery. The trek to Upper Mustang is a rare privilege where one can experience a way of life of true mountain people, who have lived for hundreds of years, had very little contact with the rest of Nepal. The people here have retained their rich cultural heritage. The trek to Upper Mustang is somewhat similar to that of trekking in Tibet, as geographically it is a part of the Tibetan plateau.
On the other hand, until 1950 Mustang district was a separate kingdom within the boundaries of Nepal. The last king of Mustang still has his home in the ancient capital known as Lo Manthang. Likewise, the district was open to non-Nepali trekkers only fifteen years ago and even today, access is still highly restricted. To enter Upper Mustang, trekkers need a special trekking permit and must take a government-appointed official. The highest altitude of the trek is only 3800m making it one of the easiest treks to the Himalayan region. Because of the long, rich, and complex history, many of the trekkers who have been interested in ancient history find the upper mustang a suitable destination for the visit.
Trip Highlights of Upper Mustang Trek
- Scenic flight from Kathmandu
- Explore the culture and tradition highly influenced by Tibet
- Close view of the Himalayas such as Annapurna, Nilgiri, and Dhauligiri
- Four-story chooser cave
- The Buddhist monasteries built in the 13th century
- Exploration of Lo Manthang, an independent kingdom
- Kali Gandaki gorge, the deepest gorge
- Visit the forbidden kingdom of Lo.
- Trekking through several caves, monasteries, gompas, Chortens, rock paintings.
Upper Mustang Trek Difficulty
The trek to the Himalayan regions is challenging. Same with the Upper Mustang trek. This trek is a moderately difficult trek passing through several terrains, frequent ups, and downs at constant high altitudes. Besides, several factors are causing the trek to be more strenuous. So, we will discuss some of the difficulties of Upper Mustang Trek.
One of the major difficulties when trekking to the upper mustang is the high altitude. However, the Upper Mustang lies below an altitude of 4000m, which means the trek is a bit easier than other high-altitude treks. The maximum altitude of the trek is 3800m at Lo Manthang. Despite being moderate in altitude the trek to Mustang is still arduous. And the problem that can be created by altitude is altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can occur above an altitude of 2500m. The higher the altitude, the lower the level of oxygen making it difficult to breathe.
However, In the upper Mustang even if you feel the symptoms of altitude sickness, it is not severe and complicated. You may feel several symptoms like nausea, and slight headaches. It may happen to anyone of any age because of the new environment where the amount of air is relatively low. Therefore, to minimize such problems, trekkers should follow acclimatization techniques at higher altitudes. If you are not feeling like continuing your trek or your body is not supporting you to go to a higher altitude, you might take a break.
Another difficulty that trekkers may face in the Upper Mustang Trek is walking hours. As Upper Mustang at an altitude of above 3000m, you have to walk a long distance for the trek through, rough uphill and downhill trail. However, the walking hours may differ according to the destinations that you have to cover. Like, there will be a day when 3-4 hours of the walk is okay whereas someday you have to walk for almost 7 hours continuously. Despite being lower in altitude than any other high altitude trek, Walking in Upper Mustang is still difficult. Similarly, the trekking days in the Upper Mustang range from 15-18 days as per the itinerary. So, for almost 15-18 days, you will be walking for an average of 5-6 hours which is strenuous.
Therefore, 6-7 hours of continuous walking in a Himalayan region is challenging and painful for beginners as well as experienced ones. Therefore, physical and mental fitness is required while trekking in an Upper mustang.
Apart from altitude and walking hours, the trail of the Upper Mustang Trek itself is challenging. Most of the trekking trails are wide. However, some segments are difficult and rough. The route over the Kali Gandaki is one of them. The routes are difficult and frustrating. Similarly, the roads are too narrow and small to walk. On the other hand, one can feel dizzy just by looking downhill. Kali Gandaki gorge is the deepest gorge in the world and you will be trekking by the side of the Gorge. Sometimes, the whole route becomes dusty and you will be unable to identify the route because of the windy climate. Besides, during the winter season, the temperature falls below freezing and the routes may be blocked by the snow. Therefore, the trial to the mustang is somehow challenging.
Climate is another factor that creates challenges in the trek to Upper Mustang Trek. Similar to the rest of the country, Mustang also has four major seasons. Trekking can be done all year round in every season. However, there are some factors one needs to consider before trekking in every season. During summer, the monsoon overlaps summer with rainfall which is why the trails become slippery and challenging to cross through. Besides, winter is highly frosty. The temperature falls below freezing during winter seasons in Upper Mustang making it difficult for the trek. Autumn and spring can be an ideal season for the trek to mustang. Therefore, the comfort of trekking even depends upon the climatic factor of that place.
Altitude and Mountain Sickness
Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is caused by acute exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high altitudes. It mostly occurs at an altitude above 2500m. However, Altitude is not a big issue while trekking to the Upper Mustang. Despite being the trek to the Himalayan region you will be trekking below 4000m throughout the trekking period. You may feel several symptoms of Altitude Sickness such as headache, nausea, or vomiting but there is less probability of having severe complications by altitude.
Despite being an easy trek to the Himalayas, Upper Mustang Trek is still challenging for the freshers, beginners, and people who are first to trek at high altitudes.
As you climb higher, the level of oxygen decreases, and the atmospheric pressure gets thinner. Your body suddenly experiences new environments because of which you may face difficulty in breathing. The problem of altitude sickness is mainly because of the failure in proper acclimatization. Sometimes, even in a healthy state one may suffer from Mountain sickness. Likewise, one may face problems like vomiting, nausea, headache, loss of appetite, and most commonly fainting.
The mountain sickness may be mild or dangerous depending upon the people and how they approached the trail. There are several ways one can trek in the Nepal Himalaya without getting altitude illness.
Measures For Upper Mustang Trek Difficulty
- Drink up to 4-5 liters of water
- Do not rush while trekking
- Follow the itinerary and the hours allocated for that day
- Avoid eating any foods that may disturb your digestive system
- Drink plenty of soups
- Do not drink alcohol during trekking days
- Must listen to your trek leader
- Don’t forget to bring Diamox or medicines to tame down the symptoms of mountain sickness with the consultation of the doctor
- Take frequents breaks in between the journey
- The best way to prevent this sickness may be acclimatization. Give yourself a proper time to adjust to a new environment. Another way of reducing altitude sickness is by drinking a lot of water, taking a walk slowly if you are tired, and listening to your body. Don’t rush for it or don’t push your body.
Upper Mustang Trek Weather Difficulty
Mustang is geographically located in the rain shadow area. Hence, it remains dry most of the year and receives low rainfall. However, Upper Mustang is a windy place where the wind might challenge the people in moving forward in their journey. Hence, for some, experiencing windy weather conditions might be a new experience. Because of this, we suggest you wear at least 2 or 3 layers of clothes to avoid the crispy wind.
Upper Mustang Weather in March, April, and May
March, April, and May are the months of spring in Nepal. During these times, it is greener than ever. The scenario is awesome this time as it presents a clear view of the Himalayan ranges. Spring is another best season for the trek to the upper Mustang in Nepal after Autumn. Showcasing the beautiful scenario of natural landscapes as well as the stunning view of sunrise striking through the peaks of the Himalayas, spring brings out the best of the Upper Mustang. However, spring is the windiest time of the year. The wind directly hits you hard. So, taking proper care of what you wear is best. Furthermore, wearing more than one layer of clothing is necessary despite the warm weather. The days are warmer during spring and chilly during morning and night.
On the other hand, the temperature during spring ranges from 16 to 22 degrees Celsius in the day and -6 to -2 during the nighttime. All in all, it is one of the best times to visit the Mustang. However, the flow of tourists is quite high. There may arise a problem of accommodation if not booked early.
Upper Mustang Weather in June, July, and August
June, July, and August are the months of summer and monsoon in Nepal. And since Mustang lies in a sheltered area, it seldom experiences rain making it one of the suitable places for trekking even during monsoon. Likewise, the weather remains hot during the day and chilly at night. When we imagine summer we usually think about the rainfall and the hot temperature. This is true for most of the parts of Nepal. However, this is not the same with the Upper Mustang. Unlike other parts of the country, the upper Mustang doesn’t receive rainfall during summer. The summer is mostly longer and the trekkers will get more time to spend. Similarly, the temperature is suitable for the trek as well as it ranges from 13-20 degrees Celsius.
However, the lower part of the Mustang may receive slight rainfall making the trail slippery and muddy. But the upper part is still clear with an astonishing view. For those who fantasize about the beauty of nature after rain, the views are astonishing in Mustang during this season. The natural vegetation is at its best during this time attracting hundreds of visitors to the upper Mustang.
Upper Mustang in September, October, and November
September, October, and November are autumn seasons in Nepal. It is one of the most preferred seasons for trekking in Nepal. Among all the seasons, Autumn receives a higher number of visitors in Nepal. Because of the favorable weather and temperature, Autumn can be taken as the best season for the high altitude trek and it is the same with the Upper Mustang region. The weather around this time is splendid where trekkers will get to see clear blue skies with the crystal clear picture of the Trans Himalayas and Annapurna range along with Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, and Nilgiri.
In addition, the temperature ranges between 12-20 degrees celsius in the upper and lower mustang which is very suitable for adventurous activities and trekking. Visiting the upper mustang during this month of the year is not only about the views but also about the festivals. Autumn is the season of the festival in Nepal. When visiting Upper Mustang, you will witness the festivals of Nepal and its celebration. Therefore, the views will be magnificent without any disturbance so do the colorful festivals and celebrations.
Upper Mustang in December, January, and February
December, January, and February are the months of winter in Nepal. It is a time when trekking and adventurous activities are least done in Nepal. It is the same with the Upper Mustang. During this time of the year, Upper Mustang receives fewer numbers of visitors. As winter is the coldest season throughout the year even in the Mustang region. Even the people of the Upper Mustang themselves descend to lower regions during the months of winter. The weather and temperature are least bearable in winter. Hence, the cold temperature makes trekking in Upper Mustang nearly impossible.
The higher the trek is, the coldest the places get in Winter. The routes are covered with snow and the temperature decreases in minus during this season. The temperature ranges around 0- 5 degrees during daytime and drops to -25 to -20 degrees during night time. Also, sometimes because of heavy snowfall the routes may be blocked. One can do a trek to the lower Mustang during winter but trekking to the upper Mustang is relatively difficult. However, the trek will be challenging but not impossible with proper gear and equipment.
If you are planning for this adventurous trek, then here is the detailed package.
Trekking trails of Upper Mustang
Unlike any other trek, the Upper Mustang trek sits a world apart thanks to its dramatic semi-arid landscape and distinct Tibetan heritage. A trek here centers as much on cultural exploration as it does spectacular scenery. Every route or every village we pass through has several preferences and importance. So, here is the list of the trekking trails in the Upper Mustang.
- Lo Manthang
Kagbeni is without a doubt one of the medieval villages that are at the crossroads of four historic trade routes. It sits at the confluence of the Jhong and Kali Gandaki rivers. Kagbeni is the gateway to Upper Mustang which is why permits are checked here before entering the Upper Mustang. Kagbeni is a wonderful atmospheric village with narrow lanes, traditional mud-brick houses, and shared courtyards where locals fetch water. Besides, another major attraction here is the quirky ‘ghost eater’ statues and an impressive 15th-century gompa.
Tangbe is an attractive village on your way to the upper mustang. This village lies between Kagbeni and Chgusang. Trekkers can take a short detour to Tangbe on their way to or from Chhusang. Sitting on the banks of the mighty Kali Gandaki, there are cultivated fields and apple orchards spread out around it. Similarly, ancient Chortens, narrow cobbled lanes, and photogenic buildings are the major attractions of this village.
Chhusang is a common overnight stop for trekkers on the return journey from Lo Manthang. Besides, Chhusang is also a popular lunch stop on the way to Upper Mustang. Connected by road to Kagbeni, the village itself has much to offer to the visitor. Likewise, it has the incredible colored cliffs across the Kali Gandaki that steal the show. You can find a shared local jeep to lo can’t hang from here.
The trail follows the road and river from Chhusang. After crossing a steel bridge you can see some ancient caves. Besides, the trekkers can see the line of ‘windows’ carved out of the cliff face above. From the river bed, a short steep climb can reach the village of Chele. Chele is another attractive village where there are numerous traditional Mustang homes, a couple of lodges, and attractive views.
From Chele, trek to the huge cliffside high above a plunging gorge on the route to Samar. Cross the suspension bridge across the gorge to Ghyakar. Ghyakar is a small leafy village that saw little to no trekking traffic in the pre-road days. This is a local village with limited options for eating, as well as no overnight lodge.
Samar is a small settlement on the way to Syangboche with just a smattering of homes and lodges. More than an overnight stay, Samar is a common lunch stop. However, some trekkers stay overnight here if it’s convenient for their trek itinerary.
Sayngboche is another small settlement with a limited number of lodges. This village can be a convenient overnight stop for some trekkers, depending on your itinerary. Also, there is a road trail between Samar and Syangboche via Behna La and Yamda La, or an off-road trail via Chungsi Cave.
Ghiling is one of the bigger villages in the region. This village is also home to an impressive 15th Century monastery. Sitting at the foot of a rocky mountain, the village is surrounded by agricultural fields. Ghiling also has the facilities of lodges and local homes.
When it is about trekking to Upper Mustang, Ghami is a place where one should make a stop and explore more. Unlike other areas, Ghami has access to lodges and local homes. You can visit a prayer wall and colorful Chortens in the center of Ghami. Likewise, outside of the village lies the longest main wall in Mustang at 305 m. Beyond the wall, a picturesque cluster of large Chortens blends seamlessly with the backdrop of jagged cliffs.
Tsarang is the second-largest settlement after Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang. It was once the capital, and the King’s Palace still stands tall. Tsarang still has the 16th-century monastery, a central red building surrounded by striped walls. Tsarang is a wonderful place for trekkers to spend a day.
The walled city of Lo Manthang or the capital of Upper Mustang is indeed a wonder to behold. With its narrow alleys suddenly opening out into courtyards with water wells and rows of bulbous Chortens, this becomes a place everyone wants to wander around. Spend a day here in Lo Manthang, get to know more about the culture and tradition along with the natural landscapes
Physical Fitness For Upper Mustang Trek
Upper Mustang is a moderate-level trek. The trek is not hard and intense like that of other high-altitude treks. So, it can be done by both experienced trekkers as well as novice trekkers. However, before trekking to any of the places above 2500m, it is very important to be healthy and physically fit for the trek. As the highest altitude of the trek is only 3800m at Lo Manthang so, this trek will be easier compared to other treks. However, the trekkers need to be prepared for any circumstances that occur while trekking.
Similarly, you can prepare for the trek ahead by engaging in physical exercises and training that increases your cardiovascular capacity. Engage yourself in activities like swimming, hiking, running, brisk walking, and jogging. In addition, make sure to walk for 5 km in just 30 minutes before the date you start your hiking to Upper Mustang. Overall, Upper Mustang is a moderate trek. So anyone can explore the magnificence of this place.