Would you like to visit the “Last Forbidden Kingdom” or the hidden world of Tibetan Buddism? Or trek through the ancient route that the salt caravans used to take? I am not talking of Tibet here, but the hidden world of the Buddhist kingdom Mustang, also known as Lo. Mustang, though located in the remote trans-Himalayan region of Nepal, it used to be a part of the Tibetan empire and thus has close connection with the Tibetan culture, language and landscape.
The Upper Mustang Trek is one of the most premier treks of Nepal. The trail follows the ancient salt caravan route through which the people of Mustang traded Tibetan salt for grains from the lower plains. The trek offers a 14 days adventure in the spectacularly beautiful semi-arid region with deep ravines and snow-clad mountains around. Mustang has a complex and interesting history that are shrouded in myths and mysteries. It is said that the revered Tibetan poet Milarepa had visited Lo. The district of Mustang was, until 1950, a separate kingdom within the boundaries of Nepal. The last king, the Raja of Mustang, still has his home in the ancient capital known as Lo Manthang.
The Upper Mustang was out of bounds for non-Nepali trekkers till 1992 and even today the entry is highly restricted. To enter Upper Mustang, that is to travel further north from Kagbeni, trekkers need special trekking permit and must be accompanied by a government appointed officer. The permit costs USD 500 for 10 days and for each additional day, it is USD 50 per day.
Tucked and isolated from the outside world, the region has a highly preserved Tibetan culture. The entire region has unspoilt nature with the landscape unlike any other places in Nepal. As I said earlier, the place is more like Tibetan plateau with endless expanse of brown and grey rolling hills, loose rocks and clear blue skies. Upper Mustang lies in the Himalayan rain shadow region, thus monsoons are also dry. Villages are miles apart with barley fields and small chortens festooned with prayer flags here and there. The trek is one of the most expensive treks of Nepal because of the high permit value, but the place is definitely worth every penny. Not just the arid but beautiful landscape, you are also going to fall in love with the simple people and their well-preserved culture too.