Mustang – The Forbidden Kingdom

I remember seeing Mustang as a kid in TV. 

A land beyond Himalayas with never-seen-before landscapes. Lifestyle and culture different from anything I had experienced till then. In fact, a place with its own king inside of Nepal.

It was long before I was exposed to internet. So, Mustang seemed every bit like some different world to me – one place that I really wanted to see someday. 

So, when I returned home after completing my bachelor’s, I made sure Mustang was my first trip in Nepal.

My journey in Mustang – The Forbidden Kingdom

Mustang is ancient kingdom in Nepal, hidden between two 8000 meters peaks (Annapurna and Dhaulagiri) and the Tibetan Plateau. Filled with breathtaking gorges, deep canyons, sky caves and colorful hills, Mustang is every bit an adventure into some wonderland.

The Kingdom of Lo

The upper part of Mustang (Upper Mustang) is also known as the Kingdom of Lo. The kingdom of Lo is heavily influenced by the Tibetan culture and lifestyle, and was not permitted to the foreigners up until 1992 (hence also the name – The Forbidden Kingdom).

Long hidden and isolated from the rest of the world, Upper Mustang is one of the few places where Tibetan culture is still preserved. You can still find centuries old buddhist monasteries and stupas, buddhist monks, Tibetan schools and prayer flags along its trail.

Tibetan prayer flags

It was August of 2015 when I visited Upper Mustang with my sister and my friend. It was our first trip in the Himalayas region of Nepal. So, the idea of doing 10 days trek around the Himalayas was a still borderline crazy concept for us. Therefore, we decided to make our trip a mix of both trekking and a road trip.

My sister and my friend

I will share the experience of my trip with the help of my itinerary in 2015. It was almost 4 years ago, so don’t call out on me if things have changed since!

I will also mention one gem of a place that many people seem to miss in their Mustang trip.

So, let’s get started! 

Day 1 : Kathmandu to Beni

Just a normal bus ride in Nepal. Takes about 8 hours to reach Beni. Nothing special trust me. So let’s skip to day 2.

Day 2 : Beni to Jomsom

Beni to Josmon is some 80 kilometers only. Except it took us for than 8 hours. So you can imagine how the road must be.

But it is in roads like these where you realize that quote of difficult roads leading to beautiful destinations is actually true.

Through out the journey, you pass through breathtaking waterfalls and change of landscapes, and as you are about to reach Jomsom, you get the mesmerizing views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.

View from Jomsom

Day 3 : Jomsom to Muktinath to Kagbeni

Jomsom to Mukninath is some 3 hours journey on bus. 

Muktinath is a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists. Located at an altitude of 3750 meters, Muktinath is a temple with 108 taps of water and two ponds.

The scared temple of Muktinath
The sacred 108 taps of Muktinath

From Muktinath, we decided to trek to Kagbeni. It is a beautiful 3 hours journey where you pass through beautiful villages, wind eroded arid hills, and barren landscapes.

Villages on the way from Muktinath to Kagbeni

Day 4 : Kagbeni to Chuksang to Lomanthang

Kagbeni is a beautiful small village and is also the gateway to Upper Mustang. Foreigners planning to visit Upper Mustang need special permit from this point.

We decided to trek from Kagbeni to Chuksang, which is roughly some 4 hours trek.

Trail from Kagbeni to Chuksang

The trail here is right next to the Kaligandaki river, and right from the start you get a glimpse of what is to come next. You pass through some of the most breathtaking gorges and canyons before reaching the next stop – that is Chuksang.

Gorges and hills in between Kagbeni and Chuksang

Chuksang is a picturesque village filled with strikingly reddish hills and cliffs. It is a perfect place to have lunch, rest for a while and take pictures.

Picturesque village of Chuksang and its cliffs

From Chuksang, we took a jeep towards directly Lo Manthang, which is roughly some 4 hours ride. There are two beautiful villages on the way, which we trekked in our return journey (to be covered below).

On the way from Chuksang to Lo Manthang

Day 5 : Lomangthan to Choser

Lo Manthang is the walled capital city of Upper Mustang (Kingdom of Lo). Still stuck in medieval times, you can find the wall structures in Lo Manthang even today. We visited the King’s Palace, two monasteries and a Tibetan based school there.

View from the roof of Palace in Lo Manthang
Local artists painting in the walls of a monastery
Tibetan based school in Lo Manthang

From Lo Manthang, we took 2 hours horse-ride journey to a village known as Choser.

Our horse-ride journey from Lo Manthang to Choser

Choser is easily my favourite place in whole of Mustang. It is famous for its Sky Cave (known locally as Jhong Cave), which is five stories tall and has over 144 rooms. The outside view from the cave is simply stunning.

The Sky Cave (Jhong Cave) in Choser
Outside view from the cave

It is also believed that the locals lived in these cave long ago – especially to hide themselves from the invaders from Tibet. We also visited the nearby Cave Monastery before our journey back to Lo Manthang.

Cave Monastery in Choser

Day 6 : Lo Manthang to Tsarang to Dhakmar

From Lo Manthang, we headed back to our return journey, covering the places we had missed earlier due of our jeep ride.

We first stopped at the Tsarang village (one hour jeep ride from Lo Manthang). The first sight of Tsarang village is a beautiful chorten with a fortress (known as the Dzong Palace) and the arid hills in the background.

Tsarang village

There is also one ancient monastery in Tsarang. Since we had reached Tsarang at the morning time, we got lucky as the monks there invited us to join them in their prayers. It was a peaceful experience for us, as it was the first time we had experienced a Buddhist ritual inside of a monastery.

From Tsarang, we decided to trek to our next stop. Our next stop is the hidden gem that I had talked about at the starting of the article.

On our way towards Dhakmar

Dhakmar is the best kept secret in the whole of Upper Mustang. Since it is a bit out of track from the main trail, not many people travel this place. We got lucky thanks to one local, who strongly urged us visit Dhakmar.

Colorful cliffs and hills of Dhakmaar

Dhakmar has one of those seemingly never ending trail of hills and cliffs. The colorful cliffs at the end of Dhakmaar were different from anything we had seen before.

Day 7 : Dhakmar to Jomson

Dhakmar is not directly connected to the main road. So, we first had to trek 1 hour to a village called Ghami, from where we took the jeep ride back to Jomsom. And one day 7, we had come full circle, completing our journey of Mustang.

On our return journey towards Jomsom
Memoirs of Mustang, 2015

Mustang will always remain special to me. It was the first time I had traveled to a remote destination in Nepal. Before Mustang, I always had this inhibition of traveling to a remote place – not least with no plan and no itinerary whatsoever. So, Mustang, in a way, inspired me to become a fearless traveler.

Also, Mustang was the first time I had witnessed the real beauty of Nepal. Towering mountains, colorful hills, surreal landscape and intriguing (yet embracing) culture – everything I had heard and read about my country till then – I got to see and experience all in one place.

Therefore, Mustang also pushed me to explore more of my uniquely beautiful country.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Asim Khanal says:

    Well written Bhai!


    1. Saurav says:

      Thank you Asim dai!


    2. icedstein says:

      Great post!! Missing Nepal and the true mountains so much *.*

      This amazing place looks so different from what we saw in our trip. It’s like a different country! So much richness you have in there.

      A huge hug from Sant Celoni 😉


  2. Minu says:

    It reminded me of my trip to muktinath☺️ and inspired me to visit upper Mustang soon.


    1. Saurav says:

      Thank you Minu! You should definitely visit Upper Mustang!


  3. Roger says:

    Great post!! Missing Nepal and the true mountains so much *.*

    This amazing place looks so different from what we saw in our trip. It’s like a different country! So much richness you have in there.

    A huge hug from Sant Celoni 😉


    1. Saurav says:

      Thank you so much Roger! Come soon again man! We will explore even more this time! And covey my hi to Sant Celoni! 😉


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