Along the Nepal-Tibet border lays a semi-arid land of vibrancy known as the Kingdom of Lo or the Forbidden Kingdom. It is a place of pristine beauty and was inaccessible to the world until 1992. It was only in that year that this region was opened for tourists and thus has preserved the natural cultures of Nepal and Tibet. The tribal people of this untouched mountainous region still speak the traditional, unadulterated Tibetan languages.
The northern two-thirds of the Mustang District in Gandaki Pradesh, Nepal form the Upper Mustang region. Upper Mustang had such a strategic location that it has controlled the trade between India and the Upper Himalayas for centuries. You will find a stark contrast between the topography in Nepal and Upper Mustang; the latter resembles the Tibetan landscape to a great extent. It lies along the rain shadow area of the Annapurna and the Dhaulagiri range.
Since it lies in the rain shadow area, it features a semi-arid type of climate and has mostly deserted lands. You will find scattered, small villages throughout the landscape interspersed with the vibrantly hued Buddhist prayer flags and dull Himalayan landscape. Vegetation is scarce at such extreme temperatures. When you enter the city of Lo Manthang, you will feel that you are transported to a different dimension. Exotic caves, age-old monasteries and stupas, and narrow lanes will tell you an exciting tale about a mysterious land from the past.
Previously, this region could only be traversed by foot. With modernization, a dirt road has been developed that could support jeeps to the very top. If you take the Upper Mustang Jeep Tour, you will travel through amazing landscapes in the trans-Himalayan range. You will halt at stops that will give you a taste of the exotic Tibetan culture. You can easily course through the entire landscape in a short period if you are taking the jeep tour. You can taste all the barren flavours of the rugged mountains of the Forbidden Kingdom in this trip easily and comfortably.
- Travel through the barren and dry landscapes of Jomsom and Kagbeni into Lo Manthang
- Get a taste of the vibrant Tibetan traditions and culture
- Take a trip through history as you make your way through fascinating caves and monasteries
- Indulge in local beverages such as apple wine in Marpha and the locally brewed brandy
- Visit the archaic temple of Muktinath, an important shrine for both Hindus and Buddhists
- Get enthralled by a look at the world’s deepest gorge- the Kali Gandaki
More insight about the Route:
The route through Upper Mustang takes you through pristine, untouched Himalayan landscapes. The higher you go, the drier the surrounding becomes and you are taken to more spectacular sights. This tour through Upper Mustang starts once you reach Pokhara- a 6-hour drive from Kathmandu.
The next halt will be at Kagbeni. You will reach this place after driving through Tukuche, Marpha, and Jomsom. Settlements will become sparse in the deep-seated Kagbeni with few Thakali and Gurung villages here and there. It should be noted that the elevated height gives you some stunning views.
The tour will then take you through Sammar, Dajong La, Bhena La, and Syangboche La into Ghilling. Tsarang comes after Ghilling and after that; you will finally reach the capital of Upper Mustang, the much-awaited Lo Manthang- the Forbidden Kingdom!
One in Lo Manthang, the jeep will take you on an exploration journey through the walled city and into Kora La. The road back is the same as the one you took while going in. The return journey will have a halt at Marpha for its juicy apples and delicious apple-based beverages. On way to Marpha, you can also visit the Muktinath temple, a shrine of Vishnu important to both Hindus and Buddhists. This shrine is situated at an immense height of 3800m from the sea level.
You will find the road to be a mere dirt trail with slippery slope and very sharp turns. However, any heavy vehicle such as the jeep can easily battle through this road without much ado. The dive may not be as comfortable as you could have it but the rugged terrain is well compensated by the breathtaking beauty of this amazing place.
Best Season for Upper Mustang Jeep Tour:
A jeep tour is easier compared to trekking through the terrain because you do not have to deal with the huge extremities of temperature that are prevalent throughout the year. However, if you are driving through the dirt road in winters, it becomes quite difficult. The road remains snow-covered and chances of skids and slips are much higher at such a time.
The period between March to November is the best time to visit Upper Mustang. This is the most favourable season with brighter skies and snow-covered peaks. The vegetation in this land also flourishes during that time giving way to the most striking landscapes. The weather during the day is also bearable thus making way for a pleasant tour.
Fee & Permits for the Upper Mustang Jeep Tour:
Upper Mustang was not open to tourists till very recently (1992) and hence features an untouched, well-preserved landscape. However, tourism is rapidly developing in this region with so many trekkers and tourists travelling by jeep visiting this unique place. If you want to visit this amazing place, the government will charge you a fee of USD 500 for 10 days.
If you want to extend your stay, you will be charged USD 50 per day per person for each extra day of stay. A group of at least 2 people is mandatory to acquire permission into this land and solo travellers are not given permits. There are check posts at Kagbeni where police officials will check for your permit as you enter Upper Mustang.
The Highest Point
The Upper Mustang Jeep Tour will take you through the trans-Himalayan range which has some of the highest mountains in the world. Yes, you heard it right! However, the elevation for most of the tour is not strenuous and quite appreciable. Places such as Kora La, Muktinath and even Lo Manthang are located at a higher altitude. The highest point you will reach is Kora La at an elevation of 4600m from the sea level.