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Exploring Upper Mustang's Mysteries: the Forbidden Kingdom

High in the Himalayas, nestled between towering snow-capped peaks, lies a land shrouded in mystery – Upper Mustang. Once a restricted kingdom, it earned the nickname "Forbidden Kingdom" due to strict restrictions on foreign visitors earning Upper Mustang the nickname "Forbidden Kingdom" preserving its unique culture and landscapes. From 1992 only, Upper Mustang cautiously opened its doors to a limited number of trekkers. Today, intrepid trekkers can embark a journey to Upper Mustang discovering it's secrets. You will require a special permit to enter Upper Mustang, ensuring controlled access and protecting the fragile ecosystem and culture.

Going back to the history of Mustang, around the 14th century, the powerful Lo dynasty established a kingdom in Upper Mustang. They controlled the strategic Kali Gandaki River valley, a vital trade route between Tibet and India. This strategic location fueled their wealth and influence. Upper Mustang became a melting pot of cultures, with Tibetan Buddhist traditions blending with influences from neighboring regions. This unique cultural is still noticeable today. In the late 18th century, Upper Mustang was invaded by the Gorkha Kingdom of Nepal. However, the region retained a significant degree of autonomy and remained largely isolated from the outside world.

Upper Mustang is like stepping back in time, with its ancient monasteries, mud-brick houses, and stunning Himalayan views. The trek to Upper Mustang is a moderate trek but still it has its challenges. The high altitudes have thin air so your walking should be slow and steady. But the spectacular landscapes surrounding will fuel your energy. The extraordinary beauty of the Mustang landscape unfolds with your every step passing through the arid valleys that contrast dramatically with the snow-capped peaks in the distant blue sky.

There's more to Upper Mustang than just breathtaking scenery. The chance to meet and interact with the locals is undoubtedly the highlight.
Their warm smiles and genuine hospitality left a lasting impression. Witnessing their traditional way of life, deeply rooted in Tibetan Buddhist practices, offers a glimpse into a culture untouched by the modern world.

If you are feeling inspired to plan your own Upper Mustang Adventure, here’s how you can get it all done.

Permits
Upper Mustang is a restricted trekking zone in Nepal where a special permit (RAP-Reistricted Area Permit) is required which comes with a price of US$500 per person. Another one is the entrance to ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) entry fee. Permits are handled by your trekking agency like Marron Treks who are experts in Mustang trekking packages and have organized many treks to Mustang in the past.

Training
Altitude acclimatization is crucial since you will be trekking above 3000 meters. Gradually increase your cardio and strength training to prepare for the physical demands. A day is planned at Lo Manthang (3730m) for rest /acclimatization and also to explore the area.

Gear
Invest in good quality hiking boots, warm clothing, and a down sleeping bag suitable for cold temperatures.

Respectful Trekking
Be mindful of the local culture. Dress modestly, especially when visiting monasteries, and avoid littering on the trails.

The journey to Upper Mustang typically starts in the town of Jomsom, where trekkers can either fly from Pokhara or take a jeep to the entry checkpoint in Kagbeni. From Jomsom, the journey travels past traditional towns and villages, ancient caves, and barren landscapes, providing a window into the rich history and culture of the area.

One of the highlights of trekking through Upper Mustang is visiting the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang, the former capital of the kingdom. This ancient city is home to a royal palace, monasteries, and a vibrant local market where you can interact with the friendly Mustang people.

The region is also famous for its vibrant Buddhist culture, with numerous monasteries and chortens (Buddhist shrines) scattered throughout the landscape. One of the most important monasteries in Upper Mustang is the Thubchen Gompa, a 15th-century monastery known for its stunning wall paintings and ancient artifacts. The man-made Sky Caves closer to Lo-Manthang will leave you in wonder and awe.

If you're looking for a truly unforgettable adventure off the beaten path, consider trekking through the Forbidden Kingdom of Upper Mustang. With its ancient mysteries, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage, this hidden gem is sure to leave a lasting impression on any intrepid traveler.

Author: Marron Treks

Date: 25th June, 2024