How To Get To Upper Mustang

If you are looking for a complete guide on how to get to Upper Mustang, you have come to the right place. We have all the information you need to reach this Forbidden Kingdom of Nepal, tucked into the Annapurna region. 

Introduction to How To Get To Upper Mustang

Mustang has two geographical parts: Lower Mustang and Upper Mustang. The Upper Mustang was a restricted kingdom known as the Kingdom of Lo. It only opened its doors to outsiders in 1992. Currently, the Upper Mustang is a restricted area and requires permits to access. Lower Mustang Trek is also a popular destination.

How To Get To Upper Mustang

Tibetan Buddhism greatly influences the area, and most locals speak the Tibetan language. Upper Mustang is one of the world’s most preserved areas. Likewise, the region is famous for its unique culture and tradition, climate, and topography. These mystical features have garnered the attention of many local and international tourists in recent years. 

There are several ways to get to Mustang. First, you must reach Pokhara, Nepal’s tourist hub. You can drive or take a flight to Pokhara from Kathmandu. Then, you can take various ways to get to Mustang, Nepal. Let us explore these options in more detail on How to get to Upper Mustang.      

Understanding the Geography of Upper Mustang

Mustang district lies in the remote Gandaki Province, the Annapurna region of Nepal. It is the fifth-largest district of the country, extending from the Himalayas to the borders of the Tibetan Plateau. As mentioned above, Mustang has two regions, i.e., Lower and Upper Mustang. The Upper Mustang covers the northern two-thirds of the district. The town of Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang is the final destination for trekkers.

upper mustang

Upper Mustang has desert-like terrain and offers gorgeous panoramic views of Mount Annapurna, Nilgiri, Dhaulagiri, Thorung Peak, Tukuche Peak, and others. It is part of the Tibetan plateau and lies in the Himalayas’ rain shadow region. The barren landscape has its unique diversity. 

Its rough terrain, picturesque canyons, sky caves, rocky cliffs, and deep river gorges are extraordinarily beautiful. With the increasing attention of trekkers worldwide, this area of Nepal has become more accessible to visitors. A roadway connects Lo Manthang with Jomsom, and a well-designed trail follows.       

Entry Points of Upper Mustang

To get to the Upper Mustang, you must first get to Jomsom in the Lower Mustang. Pokhara is the gateway to Upper Mustang, Nepal. Once at Jomsom, you will begin your journey to Upper Mustang. Kagbeni is the last town of Lower Mustang. The trails to Upper Mustang pass through Kagbeni. You must show the special permit before leaving the village of Kagbeni.

upper mustang

From Jomsom, you can travel by road or on foot to Lo Manthang. You can travel by jeep, which takes 2 days. There are various places you can stop overnight. Among them, Zhaite and Charang are the most popular. Be ready for a bumpy and adventurous ride, as the road is not paved and smooth. However, the winding, dusty road offers fantastic views along the way. 

If you want to take a more adventurous route, you can trek from Jomsom to Lo Manthang, which usually takes around 6 days. The trip duration can vary depending on the trekker’s fitness, acclimatization, or itinerary. The popular overnight stops include Kagbeni, Chele, Syangbochen, Ghami, and Tsarang. 

Transportation Modes

There are different transportation modes to get from Pokhara to Upper Mustang. The journey has two parts: 

  • First part: Pokhara to Jomsom
  • Second part: Jomsom to Upper Mustang

You can travel by air or roadway to reach Jomsom from Pokhara. From Jomsom, you can take a jeep or walk on foot. When you travel by roadway, you can travel in a shared jeep or hire a private jeep.  

The flight to Jomsom is faster and more convenient, but it is an expensive mode of transportation. Meanwhile, driving from Pokhara is more affordable than flying by plane and is quicker than walking on foot. However, trekking is the way to go if you want a real adventure. It requires a good level of fitness but is a budget-friendly option. Moreover, it is the best way to travel to Upper Mustang for maximum adventure. 

Getting to Upper Mustang By Air

The flight between Pokhara and Jomsom takes around 30 minutes. It is a scenic flight, and you will cross diverse landscapes, including the world’s deepest gorge, the Kali Gandaki Gorge. You will fly towards the Tibetan Plateau and land at Jomsom Airport. It is the fastest way to get from one place to another.

Nepal Airlines, Tara Airlines, and Simrik Airlines are the only three airlines that operate flights between Pokhara and Jomsom. The flight fare usually ranges from USD 125 to 150 per person (one way). The plane covers an aerial distance of 68 kilometers. There are about eight scheduled flights each day. 

It is best to fly early from Pokhara as the weather can change rapidly. A strong, high wind blows through Mustang at noon, causing a flight delay or cancellation. It is hazardous to fly in such conditions. 

Getting to Upper Mustang By Road

Pokhara to Jomsom

The overland distance between Pokhara and Jomsom is approximately 154 km. Depending on the road condition, driving can take 6 to 8 hours. The road is rough and dusty, so prepare for a bumpy ride. However, the ride cancellation is less likely due to the weather. You can take a public bus or a private jeep.

Jomsom Muktinath Trek

Although public buses are available, they are uncomfortable. The bus ticket costs only around USD 5 to 10. We do not suggest public buses for traveling. On the other hand, a private jeep costs around USD 300 to 400 (one way). It has seating space for 6 to 7 people and is more comfortable. It is also convenient as you can stop along the way. 

Jomsom to Lo Manthang 

Taking a jeep from Jomsom is faster than covering the distance on foot. The road to Upper Mustang is also a bumpy ride. You will witness the region’s beautiful landscapes as you drive along the twisting road. Depending on your itinerary, reaching Upper Mustang takes two to three days. 

Since you ascend to a higher elevation, you must consider acclimatization. Although the elevation gain is not exceptionally high, rapid ascension can expose you to the risk of altitude sickness. Chuksang, Ghilling, and Ghami are some famous overnight stops. The total driving time is around 12 hours. 

Trekking to Upper Mustang (Make Itinerary in another heading )

Trek enthusiasts mostly choose to hike to Upper Mustang from Jomsom. Depending on the itinerary, it can take 5 to 6 days to reach Lo Manthang. The usual route involves trekking from Jomsom to Kagbeni, then to Chele, Syangbochen, Ghami, Tsarang, and Lo Manthang.

upper mustang

Another option is to take Annapurna Circuit Trek and Upper Mustang. It includes the classic route of the Annapurna Circuit via Thorong La Pass (5416 meters). The trail then heads towards Upper Mustang from Muktinath, home to the sacred Muktinath temple. It is more adventurous and challenging than taking only the Upper Mustang. The trip duration is also longer and can take 18 to 22 days. However, it allows you to experience the Annapurna region’s diverse landscapes and culture.  

Overview of Upper Mustang Itinerary

Here is a quick overview of NAATA’s 17 Days Upper Mustang Trek itinerary:

  • Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu (1400 meters)
  • Day 2: Sightseeing around Kathmandu (1400 meters)
  • Day 3: Drive to Pokhara (900 meters)
  • Day 4: Fly to Jomsom (2700 meters) and Trek to Kagbeni (2810 meters)
  • Day 5: Trek To Chele (3050 meters)
  • Day 6: Trek to Synagbochen (3475 meters) via Taklam La Pass (3625 meters) and Dajori La Pass (3735 meters)
  • Day 7: Trek to Ghami (3520 meters)
  • Day 8: Trek to Tsarang (3620 meters)
  • Day 9: Trek to Lo Manthang (3730 meters) via Lo La Pass (3950 meters)
  • Day 10: Lo Manthang Exploration and Acclimatization
  • Day 11: Trek to Drakmar (3810 meters)
  • Day 12: Trek to Ghiling (3806 meters)
  • Day 13: Trek to Chhuksang (3050 meters)
  • Day 14: Trek to Jomsom (2700 meters)
  • Day 15: Fly back to Pokhara (900 meters)
  • Day 16: Drive back to Kathmandu (1400 meters)
  • Day 17: Departure 

Permits and Regulations

The Upper Mustang Trek requires three permits. These include: 

TIMS Card

The TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card is essential for trekking in Nepal. It is a single-use card that trekkers can obtain through the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu or Pokhara or from TIMS counters in different trekking zones. However, you must get the card through a registered local tour operator.  

While applying for the card, trekkers must provide their personal information, details, itinerary, hotel information, and emergency contact number. The card helps to ensure trekkers’ safety and security during natural calamities and emergencies. 

The costs of the TIMS card vary for SAARC and non-SAARC residents, as well as for solo and group trekkers. 

Costs
SAARC residents (Solo)NPR 600
SAARC residents (Group)NPR 300
Non-SAARC residents (Solo)NPR 1000
Non-SAARC residents (Group)NPR 2000

ACAP

The Upper Mustang lies within the Annapurna Conservation Area. Hence, you must obtain an Annapurna Conservation Area Entry Permit (ACAP) to access the area. You can obtain the permit from the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu or the ACAP counter in Pokhara via a registered tour agency. 

The cost of ACAP also varies for SAARC and non-SAARC residents. 

Costs
SAARC residentsNPR 1000
Non-SAARC residentsNPR 3000

RAP

The Upper Mustang region above Kagbeni village is a restricted area. Therefore, you need a restricted area permit (RAP) to access it. You can obtain the permit through the Immigration Office of the Government of Nepal in Kathmandu or Pokhara via a local registered tour operator. 

The restricted area permit costs USD 500 per person for 10 days and USD 50 per person for each additional day.  

Accommodation and Facilities

Most accommodations in the Upper Mustang region include tea houses, lodges, and guesthouses. These accommodations are usually tiny traditional houses made of brick and mud with only a few rooms. There are concrete and multi-storied accommodations in Lo Manthang. The rooms are small and have limited furniture.

Single rooms are available, but most are twin-sharing rooms. The facilities are basic since the route lies in a remote part of Nepal. The accommodation provides beds, mattresses, blankets, and pillows. You will usually find communal bathrooms with squat seats, but a few accommodations have attached bathrooms. Similarly, the dining area is also communal. You must pay extra fees for services such as Internet, hot shower, device charging, etc.      

Safety Considerations

For a safe and more enhanced experience, here are some safety guidelines: 

  • Plan and carefully prepare your itinerary, considering your fitness level, time, and budget. Also, research about the routes, challenges, and weather conditions.
  • Hire a registered and experienced guide. Guides will help you navigate the route, weather pattern, and any potential risks for your safety. Always listen to their instructions. 
  • Prepare yourself physically and mentally for the trip. A few months before the journey, it is extremely helpful to exercise and train to boost stamina, strength, and endurance. 
  • Pack light but smart. Carry adequate clothing and equipment, but do not overpack. 
  • Obtain all your permits for the Upper Mustang Trek via a reputable and licensed local travel agency
  • Ascend gradually and allow your body to acclimatize. Drink plenty of water during the trek to minimize the risk of altitude sickness. 
  • Be mindful and respectful of the local culture. Dress modestly while visiting monasteries and religious sites. Get permission from the locals before photographing people and the sites. 
  • Practice sustainable tourism and avoid littering while on the trek. Try not to leave any trace other than your footprint. 

FAQs

How can I reach Upper Mustang?

There are several ways to reach Upper Mustang. However, you must first travel to Pokhara. You can drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara and then drive to Upper Mustang. The second way is to fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara to Jomsom and drive to Upper Mustang. The third way is to fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara to Jomsom and begin your trek to Upper Mustang. 

Is Annapurna Circuit Trek with Upper Mustang possible? 

Yes, Annapurna Circuit Trek with Upper Mustang is possible. However, the trek duration usually takes 18 to 22 days. It is an adventurous trek that lets you explore the entire Annapurna region. Similarly, you will explore the region’s diverse topography, nature, and culture. 

Should I travel by road or by air?

Whether to travel by road or by air depends on your preference, budget, and time limitations. Traveling by air is faster, more convenient, and comfortable. However, it is more expensive. Meanwhile, traveling by road takes longer but is more budget-friendly. Hiring a private jeep is a little more than traveling by shared jeep. 

Is Upper Mustang Trek suitable for beginners? 

Yes, the Upper Mustang Trek is suitable for beginners. With recent road construction, it has become easier to reach Upper Mustang. You can trek to Upper Mustang from Jomsom or drive there. The trek itself is a moderate one. Therefore, there is no need for prior experience.

When is the best time to travel to Upper Mustang?

The Upper Mustang lies in the rain shadow area. Thus, the area receives very little rainfall, even during the monsoon season (June to August). It is one of the best times to trek Upper Mustang and enjoy quieter trails. Similarly, spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are also the best time for the trek. 

How difficult is the Upper Mustang Trek?

Upper Mustang is a moderate-grade trek that requires good physical fitness. It is not strenuous, but it is physically demanding. Trekkers have to ascend to an altitude above 3500 meters. Likewise, the terrain is dusty, rough, and desert-like. Furthermore, on average, you will have to trek for 5 to 6 hours daily while on trek. 

What kind of accommodations are available along the Upper Mustang route?

You will mostly find tea houses, lodges, and guest houses along the Upper Mustang route. These accommodations are traditional houses that provide basic facilities. Locals run these cozy accommodations, reflecting their local customs and lifestyles. In Lo Manthang, there are newly built, multi-storied accommodations. Most accommodations provide rooms on a twin-sharing basis and have squat-style communal bathrooms.

Do I need permits for Upper Mustang Trek?

You will need three different permits for Upper Mustang Trek. These include a TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card, an ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit), and an RAP (Restricted Area Permit). You can obtain these permits from Kathmandu or Pokhara through a registered trekking agency. NAATA’s Upper Mustang Trek package comes with all the permits. 

What should I carry for the trek?

The weather and temperature between lower areas and high-altitude areas vary vastly. Hence, you must carry adequate clothing and equipment for the Upper Mustang Trek. Carry a long-sleeved shirt, light trekking pants, warm clothes, windcheater, down jacket, base layer, moisture-wicking socks, insulating layers, and comfortable trekking shoes. For equipment, you will need a backpack (30 to 40 liters), adjustable trekking poles, a flashlight, a water bottle, toiletries, a power bank, sunglasses, and other personal items.

Conclusion

As you know from above, there are different ways to get to Upper Mustang. You can choose the best fit for your preference, budget, and time constraints. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, Upper Mustang Trek is an incredible journey into the arid landscapes of the former Kingdom of Lo. 

We hope you will find our guide on how to get to Upper Mustang helpful. If you need further details on the trek and trip to Nepal, visit our NAATA Travel & Adventures website!

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