The 4WD journey to Upper Mustang is an amazing adventure. You will travel through the stunning valleys of Mustang with scenic mountain views while getting to experience the ethnic culture of Nepal. As the route entails travelling across the desert-like landscape, barren ridges, deep canyons, eroded cliffs and over 4000 meter high passes – you will be spellbound.
Nestled on the border of Tibet, to the north of the Annapurna range and south of the Tibetan plateau, Mustang was relatively untouched. Till the mid-1960s Mustang was closed to the world, however, in 1992, the Nepalese government reopened the region by special permit.
Upper Mustang is made up of 34 settlements with the most densely populated settlement at Lo Manthang. There are many species of wildlife, many of which are endangered. Much of the Mustang area is made up of high altitude steppe. Vegetation cover is sparse as snow and strong winds accelerate the erosion process. The irrigated alluvial parts are used intensively for cultivation whilst the lower slopes and alpine meadows are used for grazing.
Upper Mustang was once an independent kingdom, although closely tied by language and culture to Tibet. From the 15th century to the 17th century, its strategic location granted Mustang control over the trade between the Himalayas and India. This ancient trade route remained in use until China’s annexation of Tibet in 1950. China revitalized the trade route and in 2001 completed a 20km road from the international border to Lo Manthang. Road construction south of Lo Manthang was difficult due to the Kali Gandaki Gorge but is now complete and is suitable for high clearance and 4wd vehicles only.
Mustang is cold and arid with temperatures plummeting to -25C at times at Lo Manthang. Agriculture is only possible from April to October when the weather is mild. November through February, the land is essentially frozen. Mountain passes are blocked and many settlements are cut-off. Strong winds and high solar radiation are common, and the tough weather conditions cause a large winter migration into the lower regions of Nepal. The 4wd Journey to Upper Mustang is not an adventure that should be taken lightly, and special permits are required for entry into the ‘Forbidden Kingdom”. This and the weather, partly, ensures the number of visitors at a minimum.
The most suitable time to visit is from March to October. Through November to February, it can be cold but still possible to visit. We would be pleased to have you along on this remote wilderness adventure and introduce you to our way of life while you travel as part of my extended family.
- Visit the UNESCO world heritage sites of Pashupatinath, Boudhanath and Swayambhunath in Kathmandu.
- Visit World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara
- Fly through the world's deepest gorge (Kaligandaki Gorge; vertical distance of about 5.5 when measured from the tip of Dhaulagiri) and over the Himalayas. The gorge separates two 8,000ers Annapurna and Dhaulagiri).
- Experience Tibet in Nepal: Upper Mustang falls under the trans-Himalayan region (north of the Himalayas) and is part of the great Tibetan plateau. Historical records pertaining to the present kingdom of Mustang can be dated from 8th century BC.
- Visit Muktinath: An important pilgrimage for Hindus and Buddhists.
- Rejoice at awe-inspiring magnificent barren landscapes (moonscape), ancient caves, century old monasteries and many other archeological sites.
Trip Grade - Moderate
|Departure||Return||Price (Inc. Tax)||Dept Status|
|8 Oct 2022||20 Oct 2022||$3385 USD||Available||Book Now|
|5 Mar 2023||17 Mar 2023||$3385 USD||Available||Book Now|
|16 Apr 2023||28 Apr 2023||$3385 USD||Available||Book Now|
|7 May 2023||19 May 2023||$3385 USD||Available||Book Now|
|7 Jun 2023||19 Jun 2023||$3385 USD||Available||Book Now|
|8 Oct 2023||20 Oct 2023||$3385 USD||Available||Book Now|
- Day 1 :Arrival Kathmandu
- Day 2 :Guided tour of Pashupati & Boudha (Optional: Scheen Monastery)
- Day 3 :Morning flight to Pokhara (822 m; 30min) and afternoon hike to World Peace Stupa.
- Day 4 :Fly Pokhara to Jomsom (2,743 m; 25 min) and drive to Chuksang (2,980 m) via Kagbeni
- Day 5 :Drive to Ghami (3,540 m; 2.5 hrs). Excursion to Chungi cave en route (1.5 hrs)
- Day 6 :Drive to Charang (30 min), hike to Ghar Gumba, a.k.a. Lo Gekar Monastery (10 min); drive back to Charang onwards to Lo Manthang (2.5 hrs.)
- Day 7 :Excursion to Chhoser & Kora La
- Day 8 :Drive to Samar (6 hrs)
- Day 9 :Drive via Kagbeni to Muktinath (3.5 hrs) and back to Jomsom (2.5 hrs).
- Day 10 :Morning flight to Pokhara. Full day at leisure
- Day 11 :Full day at leisure
- Day 12 :Morning flight to Kathmandu. Rest of the day at leisure
- Day 13 :Departure
Notes This Itinerary can be changed by your group leader depending upon the client's fitness and weather conditions, your safety and staff safety is our primary concern. You can request to customize this itinerary to suit your preference, except for the Upper Mustang portion.
Day 1: Arrival Kathmandu
Upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, you will received by Keep Walking Nepal’s representative and driven to your hotel. Please look for Keep Walking Nepal’s board at the opposite of the arrival gate.
In the evening (depending upon your flight time), we will come together for dinner with Keep Walking Nepal family.
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu (D)
Day 2: Guided tour of Pashupati & Boudha (Optional: Scheen Monastery)
After breakfast, you will experience the three most important sanctuaries of the Kathmandu Valley: Pashupatinath, Boudhanath and Swayambhunath.
The Pashupatinath cremation site in the northeast of the city is one of the most important Hindu shrines. The sacred Bagmati River divides the temple complex into two large areas. On the right bank there are cremation sites and the impressive Pashupathinath Temple, which non-Hindus are not allowed to enter.
From Pashupati it’s a short drive to Boudhanath. The Buddhist Stupa is the largest sacred building of its kind in the entire valley and a great attraction for the numerous Buddhist pilgrims. After lunch at one of the many cafes around Boudha Stupa, you will drive back to your hotel.
At the same time, we will arrange the restricted area permits required for you to visit Upper Mustang.
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu (B)
Day 3: Morning flight to Pokhara (822 m; 30min) and afternoon hike to World Peace Stupa.
In the morning, you take a scenic flight to Pokhara. On your 25 minutes flight to Pokhara, you get an aerial view of the beautiful lakes, the green forests, and also the snowy mountains.
After check-in at the hotel and some rest, you will cross the Phewa lake on a small boat and hike all the way to World Peace Stupa. The trail passes through small settlements and a thick tropical forest with excellent bird watching opportunities. You can either hike back to Pokhara or take a local cab or bus.
Overnight at Hotel in Pokhara (B)
Day 4: Fly Pokhara to Jomsom (2,743 m; 25 min) and drive to Chuksang (2,980 m) via Kagbeni
You will start with an early flight to Jomsom Or Dzongsam meaning “New Fort “and walk to a local restaurant for breakfast (if you haven’t had breakfast at your hotel in Pokhara).
After breakfast you will drive on a 4wd to Kagbeni. The drive to Kagbeni (about 15min) is an experience in itself as most of the time you will be driving on the riverbed canyon while crossing several streams. The view is serenading with glimpses of mountains.
Just before you reach Kagbeni you will see an oasis with lush green fields and a mountain backdrop. The village has closely packed mud brick houses, dark alleys and imposing Chortens.
At Kagbeni you can visit the Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Gompa, an important Shakya Pa sect monastery found in 1429, the Kag Khar palace, a ruined palace that used to the fortified palace along the “Salt Trade Route” and the Devthen Chorten.
After lunch at Kagbeni and confirming your permits at the Kagbeni check post you will head towards your overnight destination for the day to Chuksang (approx. 3 hrs. drive from Kagbeni). From Kagbeni onwards you will enter the realm of Upper Mustang.
Chuksang town has 3 separate parts and ruined castle walls on the nearby cliffs making a lovely stop for the night. For those who would like to stretch their legs, we recommend you walk to the nearby picturesque ancient village of Tetang.
Overnight at Chuksang (B,L,D)
Day 5: Drive to Ghami (3,540 m; 2.5 hrs). Excursion to Chungi cave en route (1.5 hrs)
After breakfast you will drive towards Syangboche (3,800m; 1.5 hrs. drive), a small village with few houses. En route you will have views of Nigliri on the southern skyline.
You will stop for a visit to the famed Chungsi cave just before Syangboche. The cave is only accessible by foot. The trail is marked by a cairn and steeply descends along the shadow side of the cliff to a gorge. At the bottom flows the Duptak Chu, a tributary of the Mustang Khola.
The Chungsi cave is naturally carved on a side of a cliff. It is said that the great sage Guru Ripomche is meditated on his way to Tibet in the 8th century and fought a fierce battle with a giant demon nearby. On the cave walls are many naturally formed deities which look like paintings. The cave also contains many sacred relics, statues and myths.
After spending some time admiring the natural beauty, culture and relics you will ascend back to Syangboche for lunch and continue the drive towards the beautiful village of Ghami (about 1 hr).
You can either spend the rest of the day at leisure or embark further on to Dhakmar (round trip about 3.5 hrs.)
Dhakmar is a high desert canyon region with astonishingly red cliffs. It is said that Guru Rimpoche had slain the demon Dhak Chhenmaon on request of the Tibetain king Thisong Deuchan, and the demon’s blood painted the cliffs red.
Overnight at Ghami (B,L,D)
Day 6: Drive to Charang (30 min), hike to Ghar Gumba, a.k.a. Lo Gekar Monastery (10 min); drive back to Charang onwards to Lo Manthang (2.5 hrs.)
This is an exciting day as at last you will reach the fabled city of Lo Manthang.
En route you will drive across the Ghami river to reach the Charang La pass. The pass offers majestic view of Annapurna, Nilgiri and Bhrikuti. You then drive across a plateau crossing several mani walls to the old capital of the Mustang Kingdom at Tsarang/Charang.
At Charang you will visit the iconic red Thupten Shedrup Monastery which was built in 1385AD and the former 5 storied Palace built in 1378AD.
The Thupten Shedrup Monastery is huge and is perched on the edge of the Kali Gandaki gorge, on the East End of the village.
The ruins of the former palace of the Raja of Mustang is strategically located astride a hill. It’s a steep, short hike up to the palace and although it is now dilapidated, there are great views from here and the small chapel and armory (now a museum) are open to the public. The Palace also has 108 volumes of Kangyur Text engraved in Gold.
Another Upper Mustang destination lies 30 min drive west of Charang and further 10 min hike, Ghar Gompa (Lo Gekar monastery). Ghar Gompa is believed to the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery established by Guru Rinpoche even before the ‘Samye monastery’ in Tibet. After some quick snack at the tea stall you will drive back to Charang and continue onwards to Lo Manthang.
From Tsarang the road drops down into a deep canyon before climbing up the other side. The trail then continues along the Thuling Khola on the new dirt road towards Lo. The multi-hued canyons will spread impressively around you.
You will also start to see a few snow peaks ahead of you as you near the Lo La pass; to the south are the Annapurna peaks and the familiar peak of Nilgiri, to the east is a chain of snow-capped peaks, the largest of which is Bhrikuti(6363m/20,877ft). The pass leads through a partial tunnel of rock, flanked on the right strings of Tibetan prayer flags and then climbs to the ridge to the right for wonderful views down to the fabled city Lo Manthang.
Your 2 night stay will give you ample time to explore the old walled city and the village that has spilt outside of the walls of the old town. Prior to the invasion of Tibet, Lo Manthang was a prosperous center for the salt and wool trade. On the first day, you will visit the 4 storeys Mustang Durbar , Chyodi Gompa, Namgyal Gompa, Tingkhar and Tall Champa Lakhang Gompa.
Note: The Tiji Festival in Lo Manthang is one of the most important and colourful in Mustang. Held annually to chase away demons, it is a time of prayer and dance as monks. Tiji consists of three-day of Tibetan rituals. The Tiji centres around a myth, which tells of a deity named Dorje Jono who must battle against his demon father to save the Kingdom of Mustang from destruction. Tiji comes from the word “Ten Che” meaning the hope of Buddha Dharma prevailing in all worlds and is effectively a spring renewal festival. The date for Tiji Festival 2017 in Lo-Manthang is 21, 22 and 23 May
Note: Yartung Festival in Lo Manthangis the annual horse race held in late July, dates to be confirmed. It involves a week of serious horse racing Tibetan style and riders come from around the area to compete in various events that showcase their horses and riding skills.
Overnight at Lo Manthang (B,L,D)
Day 7: Excursion to Chhoser & Kora La
In the morning you will drive along the Nepal – China Kora La highway to Chooser Valley. The route is beautiful as you drive past ancient ruins and beautiful scenery.
Chooser valley is famous for Garphu and Nyphu Gompas and the famous Chooser caves aka the Zhong cave. The cave is believed to built by the escapee monks from Tibet and is dug right out on a hill like a rabbit’s borough. The cave has around 40 room or openings and served different purpose in different time. Currently it is preserved as a tourist attraction.
After lunch, you can optionally drive to Kora La; one of the oldest trading pass between Nepal and Tibet or drive back to Lo Manthang.
Overnight at Lo Manthang (B,L,D)
Day 8: Drive to Samar (6 hrs)
Bidding farewell to Lo Manthang you will drive for about 6 hours via Charang and Ghami to the small hamlet of Samar.
There are a few houses at Samar; its a desert oasis with a beautiful view point.
Overnight Samar (B,L,D)
Day 9: Drive via Kagbeni to Muktinath (3.5 hrs) and back to Jomsom (2.5 hrs).
You will backtrack till Kagbeni and then follow the Jomsom Muktinath highway to the village of Ranipauwa. A 30 min hike away is the famous pilgrimage site of Muktinath which is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists.
An annual horse racing festival is held every August or so. The festival is called Yartung Mela.
Click here for more information about Yartung festival, including dates and itinerary.
After visiting the temple and lunch at the village below you will drive to Jomsom.
Overnight at Jomsom (B,L,D)
Day 10: Morning flight to Pokhara. Full day at leisure
Early in the morning you will fly back to Pokhara where you have rest of the day at leisure.
You can visit one of the many gift shops, cafes or massage parlors.
Overnight at Pokhara (B)
Day 11: Full day at leisure
You will have the full day at leisure at Pokhara.
Overnight at Pokhara (B)
Day 12: Morning flight to Kathmandu. Rest of the day at leisure
You will depart on a morning flight to Kathmandu.
The rest of the day at Kathmandu is at leisure. In the evening we will organize a dinner party to commemorate your successful tour in Upper Mustang.
Overnight at Kathmandu (B,D)
Day 13: Departure
After breakfast, we will drive to the international airport for your departure unless further arrangements have been made.
Cost - US $ 3385 (joining Kathmandu)
(Single Supplement: additional US $ )
- All airport pick ups and drops
- Full day Kathmandu sightseeing with tour guide
- Half day Pokhara sightseeing with tour guide
- 3 night hotel in Tibet Kathmandu on BB | 3 night hotel in Pokhara on BB
- All local transportation as per as itinerary
- Airfare Kathmandu – Pokhara – Kathmandu
- Airfare Pokhara – Jomsom – Pokhara
- Food and accommodation during the trek
- All permits & entrance fees as per program (unless mentioned otherwise)
- Sleeping Bag, Down jacket and Kit bag
- Staff insurance
- Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu and Pokhara (except when mentioned)
- Visa fee
- Travel insurance
- Any kind of alcoholic drinks, drinking water, cold drinks, laundry, phone call
- Tips for guide, porter and driver
- Entrance fee in local monastery
Best SeasonMarch, April, May, June, July, Aug, Sep, October
Group Size2-14 persons
3 Reviews to “4wd Journey to Upper Mustang”
I would give 6 stars if I could. This trip was unbelievably fantastic, everything about it. WOW, WOW, WOW. A trip beyond expectations. The scenery, people, villages, culture, food – all totally captivating.
Originating in Kagbeni, a very lovely and typically picturesque village at the start of the Annapurna region, we got permits to travel into the Annapurna Conservation area. The very rudimentary road then took us up the banks of the Kali Gandaki river, which was very wide but only had low flow for the time of the year but was spectacular. The Kali Gandaki river originates in Tibet and has the deepest gorges in the world, plus includes the peaks of Dhaulagiri and the Annapurnas, and Nilgiri mountains. The ‘road’ was formed into the sides of the sheer gorges. The scenery was not the rainforest type – more the barren but beautiful and very dramatic gorges and sheer cliff faces dropping to the river a long way below. The villages and villagers along the way were original and untouched by tourism, which provided us with a lovely insight into genuine Nepalese life. We stayed in teahouses at villages along to way, each village had its own character and history.
We thought about hiking the whole way (probably around 8 days), but decided that hiring a jeep would make the trip more comfortable – a decision that suited us in the end. With the three of us, plus the absolute best guide and driver, we were able to change our itinerary as we liked. Our only time requirement was the 10 day permit. So we walked when we felt like it – mostly we covered around 10 km a day, but this would have been 20 km if the ups and downs were factored in!
If you are someone who likes treks out of the ordinary, I cannot recommend this trip enough. This is the road less travelled where the locals aren’t jaded by tourists and are genuinely happy and welcoming, and the scenery is beyond stunning. The trip in every aspect was a real boost for the soul. But the road is under construction and will in the next few years be a gateway to China. So do it now before progress changes everything. Keep Walking Nepal tailored our itinerary perfectly – we’re very, very happy.
Rating: 5 / 5
The best trip I have done in Nepal. This journey had it all from jaw dropping scenery to amazing destinations. KEEP WALKING NEPAL organised a fantastic itinerary that suited all our needs. We were a mixed bunch of travellers with very different needs – age (82years) and walking disabilities to keen bird watchers. KWN were able to ensure each of us had a fulfilling and exciting trip from the day we landed in Nepal. We are all planning a return trip and will definitely be travelling with KWN. A big thanks to the family running this business who invited us into their home and gave us momo cooking lessons. We really felt like part of your family. Great family with great staff. Thanks to Chhepal our happy smiling guide.
Rating: 5 / 5
We have not long returned from a trek to Lo Mantang with Keep Walking Nepal.
It wasn’t our first trip with Ang’s team & we never hesitate to use them for a special experience trekking.
Our guide Pratap was amazing! He sourced a jeep when there wasn’t one to be had…he got us through roads that were basically impassable….he encouraged us up mountains that we thought we’d never make!
And then at the end of the day we were able to unwind with games of cards & Yahtzee with our team.
As in the past the professional, caring, warm, friendly attention we experienced made us realise we were walking with friends. We can’t wait to experience the whole thing again.
Rhonda & Geoff
Rating: 5 / 5