Experience the stark, barren landscapes of Lower Mustang dotted with Tibetan Buddhist cultural attractions on treks around Jomsom. Altitudes on this trek are not too high, and flying between Pokhara and Jomsom speeds up the journey. This is an ideal trip for trekkers who don’t have much time, or who would rather not do a very strenuous trek.Lower Mustang Trekking is an adventurous trek in a short time span.
Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!
As you fly into Kathmandu, you’ll have beautiful views over the valley, the Himalaya, and of the terraced fields below. After going through customs, a representative will be waiting to guide you through the initial culture shock of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets and get you settled into your hotel. Once you’ve settled in, head out and visit one of Kathmandu’s cultural highlights. In the evening, the tourist hub of Thamel is a good place to grab your first meal, with a variety of restaurants to chose from offering both Western and local Nepali dishes.
Day 2: Explore Kathmandu
Kathmandu has a special atmosphere during the early morning hours when the city is slowly coming to life yet not too chaotic. It’s a great time to walk and explore the streets or have a chai overlooking one of the local courtyards or durbar squares. There are a number of ways you can spend the day given the many incredible sights around the Kathmandu Valley. Later in the evening, head out for dinner at one of the city’s great eateries, or your specialist can arrange a home-cooked dinner with a local family.
Day 3: Flight from Kathmandu to Jomsom via Pokhara
After an early breakfast in Pokhara, you’ll drive to the airport for a 30-minute flight to Jomsom, the headquarters of Nepal’s Mustang district. The flight takes you over the Kali Gandaki, the deepest gorge in the world. From the plane, you’ll have great views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.
Jomsom is among the very few places in Nepal from where the Himalayan peaks can be admired at such a close range and yet from a safe altitude of only 8,800 feet. Giant peaks like Nilgiri, Tilicho, and Dhaulagiri seem so close you could reach out to touch them.
In Jomsom, you’ll feel how much cooler and drier the air is. Today is a day for taking it easy and exploring the charming town of Jomsom and beyond to get a feel for your surroundings. Depending on how you feel, there is a great two-hour walk down the Kali Gandaki Valley to Marpha, home of Thakali people and their famous Marpha apples and apple brandy. You can explore village learning about the traditional design principles, including the flat roofs to dry produce for use in the long winters and the underground drainage system. You can also visit the distillery and sample their wares before returning to Jomsom.
Day 4: Trek to Kagbeni
This morning, you’ll trek north to Kagbeni, arriving in time for lunch. The wide trail along the western side of the sandy, saligram-filled riverbed provides views of the nearby peaks of Dhaulagiri, Tukuche, and Nilgiri, and, to the south, the Annapurna Massif.
Kagbeni, spectacularly situated atop a cliff overlooking the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and the Jhong Khola rivers, is the last village in Lower Mustang and guards the entrance into Upper Mustang (visible across the Kali Gandaki riverbed). It is an oasis of green fields amidst rocky, arid mountains, with Niligiri looming beyond. This ancient, partially ruined citadel town is a glimpse into a unique way of life, with its narrow alleyways and tunnels, irrigation canals, green fields of barley and its massive, 800-year-old brick-red Sayka Gompa. You can also wander past the ancient 100-room King’s Palace.
At the police check post at the north end of the village, there is a sign that reads “Restricted area, tourists please do not go beyond this point”. This is the trail going up to the famous Lo Manthang, in ‘forbidden’ Upper Mustang.
Day 5: Trek to Jharkot and visit to the red Gompa
You will want to eat a hearty breakfast this morning, as today, the climbing begins. From Kagbeni to Jharkot is approximately 3-4 hours walking, depending on how you are feeling in the dry air and the altitude.
It’s an uphill trek from Kagbeni to Jarkhot and you gain quite a bit of elevation, so it’s nice to stop here and take the afternoon to explore this old fortified village. The main feature of the village is the striking red Gompa (monastery) of the Sakya sect of Buddhism that sits prominently at the front of the village. This Gompa is more than 500 years old and has an active Tibetan Medicine school. There are stunning views down the valley and up towards the famous Thorong La (pass) which is the highest point of the Annapurna Circuit trek.
Day 6: Trek to Jharkot via Muktinath
Muktinath is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus, and a great example of a sacred place shared in harmony by followers of two religions. Local Buddhist nuns (belonging to the lineage of Lama Wangyal) caretake the site. Every year, thousands of devotees from India, Tibet, and Nepal come here on pilgrimage for purification and salvation. It is said that throughout history many kings throughout Asia did the same.
It’s well worth spending a day here to not only visit this sacred shrine but also to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Day 7: Trek to Jomsom via Lupra
You’ll descend to Jomsom via Lupra village, visiting a local Bonpo Monastery. While you have to ascend the mountain again for a short way to get back on the trail, it is a great route that trekkers on the Annapurna circuit miss out on, so you will be far away from the crowds and the jeep trail to Jharkot and Muktinath.
Bonpo is an ancient pre-Buddhist religion not represented by many monasteries these days, so it is a rare and special chance to learn about this ancient animist religion while taking a stunning alternate route back to Jomsom.
Day 8: Flight from Jomsom to Kathmandu via Pokhara
After an early breakfast in Jomsom, you’ll be transferred to the local airstrip to catch your return flight to Pokhara. From here, you’ll catch a connecting flight to Kathmandu.
Once you arrive, you’ll be transferred to your hotel in the capital city. Spend the rest of the day on your own, perhaps exploring the streets on foot, bicycle, or rickshaw, and seeing anything you may have missed at the beginning of your trip.
Day 9: Depart Kathmandu
Time to say farewell to Nepal. Enjoy your last moments in Kathmandu with breakfast in a café, a city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home. It’s good to be at the airport at least two hours prior to departure.