Flying up through the deepest river gorge in the world, you head up the mighty Kali Gandaki into the mountains. Touching down in Jomsom, you are driven to Kagbeni, an old trading point where Tibetans used to cross into Nepal. Here you can peak into the ‘Forbidden Kingdom’ of Upper Mustang. You visit the Muktinath, a very holy pilgrimage site where thousands of Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims come every year. Over these four days, you explore this fascinating corner of the Himalayas, visiting local monasteries, exploring ruined villages and looking in on meditation caves. Hiking in Lower Mustang, you start early in the morning to avoid the sometimes fierce and cold winds that whip up the Kali Gandaki river gorge by late morning.
Trek grade: The trek grade is 1-2 as the hikes are short and not at very high altitude (under 3000m). The only time you are walking at a higher altitude, this is to walk down from Muktinath.
If this interests you, you might like to have a look at some of the other treks Royal Mountain Travel can offer in the area:
Inspired to learn more about this area? Have a look at Inside Himalayas: The Road to Jomsom; 10 Frequently Asked Questions about the Annapurna Circuit Trek
|Day 1||Arrival in Kathmandu|
|Day 2||Kathmandu sightseeing: Boudhanath, Pashupatinath, Patan|
|Day 3||Fly to Pokhara|
|Day 4||Fly from Pokhara to Jomsom. Jeep to Kagbeni|
|Day 5||Hike to Thini (2334m, 3-4 hrs)|
|Day 6||Hike to Dakmar, Phalak and back to Kagbeni|
|Day 7||Jeep to Muktinath; hike down to Jomsom.|
|Day 8||Fly to Pokhara|
|Day 10||Fly to Kathmandu|
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail condRead More...
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail conditions. The guide in charge of your trip may have to alter the schedule if necessary and any such changes are at the discretion of Royal Mountain Travel and your guide.
The trekking day
Your day starts with a wake-up call, followed by breakfast and baggage pickup. You are then driven to the start point of your trek. While trekking, your day starts with breakfast at the tea house where you are staying. You need to pack up your baggage before breakfast as porters usually set off early.
Normally you are on the trail by 8 am and stop for a leisurely lunch around noon, with the chance to stop along the way for short breaks. Lunchtime usually lasts a couple of hours to give you time to relax or to explore the village where you have stopped. The afternoon walk is shorter and you can expect to arrive around 4 pm to allow time for short excursions to nearby sites, monasteries, exploration of the village or for relaxing with a book or catching up on your diary. Dinner is generally around, 7 pm.
Everyone walks at different speeds and you should always go at the pace that is comfortable for you. The grade of the trek is only an approximate indication of what to expect, based on the altitude and the hours of walking per day. In general, the condition of trails is good as these are the main routes between villages.
What you carry?
Each porter carries 15kg so you should pack 7.5 kgs of baggage, sharing one porter between two persons. These things will not be available to you during the day as the porters usually leave early and do not walk with you. Your daypack should contain all that you need during the day. This should consist of warm clothes for when you stop, a water bottle, camera, sunscreen, lip salve and maybe waterproofs depending on when you’re trekking. Your guide will let you know each evening about any extra items you might need for the following day. You should take a comfortable daypack to carry just a few kilograms of things you need along the way.
Food and drink
No meals are included in your trek. These are available in tea houses, lodges and bhattis that may sometimes have quite limited menus. There are a lot of tea houses and lodges along the way while you are trekking. Meals are generally simple but filling, but you may wish to stock up on ‘trail munchies’ before leaving Kathmandu or Pokhara. Although mineral water in plastic bottles can be found along the way in many places, you should try to avoid using this. Plastic bottles are a serious problem on the trekking routes as there is no way to dispose of them. Instead, you should use water purification tablets, a water filter or ask for boiled water at the lodges. It is a good idea to bring a heat resistant, a water bottle which can double up as a hot water bottle when you go to bed at night too!
It is not recommended to drink alcohol at altitudes above 3,000m or so, where altitude sickness can start to have an effect.
Accommodation is in lodges and teahouses and is of a basic standard. Rooms may be twin or multi-share with basic shared toilet facilities. Hot showers are available in some places for a small charge. It is a good idea to pack wet-wipes to freshen up, especially useful when you reach high altitudes where the water can be very cold. It is not recommended to wash your hair when you are at higher altitudes and where the outside air is cold, as you run the risk of getting a chill when your wet hair takes a long time to dry.
Lodges usually have a common room where later in the day, when people start to arrive from their day’s trek there might be a stove that is lit to keep warm. Bedrooms, however, are not heated. The lodges provide clean bedding, but you may want to pack a sheet sleeping bag for peace of mind.
The main means of transport are on foot, or in some cases by horse, with mules or donkeys sometimes carrying baggage. On most trekking routes, your baggage will be carried by the porters. You should ensure that anything you might need during the day is in your day pack as you will not see the baggage that is being carried again until the end of each day.
You will be provided with government licensed, experienced trek guided assisted by the porters who transport your baggage with one porter for every two trekkers. The guide is in overall charge of the trek and looks after you. This is the person you should go to with any problems, concerns or questions. Our guides are highly trained in all aspects of trekking, conservation, high altitude medicine, first-aid and emergency procedures. They are professionals selected for their knowledge and passion for Nepal and its peoples. However, you should remember that they are local guides and their English may sometimes be quite basic and limited to trek related topics. Usually, porters will have a more basic understanding of English. Please try to speak slowly and clearly to make communication easier.
Trek grading and preparation
It is impossible to have a ‘foolproof’ grading system as everyone has different expectations and perceptions of their own fitness level. Remember that no trek in the Himalaya is a stroll as all involve going up and down, often at altitude. Altitude affects everyone differently, and even if it has not affected you much before, each time can be quite different in how it affects you.
Regardless of age or fitness, preparation, before you arrive, is a good idea. Aerobic activity, swimming, cycling or brisk walking is recommended or, at the very least, walking up and down stairs in your trekking boots to be sure that they fit well and are comfortable. Try to use hiking boots that you have already broken in to avoid blisters. Remember that the trek should be fun and you should go at your own pace.
It is best to bring cash in major currencies such as the US, Canadian or Australian dollars, Euros, or Pounds. Ensure you have a mixture of large and small denominations. Everyone’s spending is different, but as a guide, we suggest about USD 8 – 10 per meal in Kathmandu and Pokhara and USD 30 – 35 per day whilst trekking. If you drink or smoke you need to allow a bit more.
You should exchange enough money into Nepalese Rupees to last the entire time of your trek before leaving Kathmandu. You can find the money exchange counters near your hotel in Kathmandu and Pokhara but there are no exchange facilities in villages along the way.
Communication: mobile phones and internet
Please note, as you will be often trekking through valleys and will not always be close to mobile towers, mobile phone reception can be very patchy. NCELL, the local mobile company has quite good coverage, but sometimes the signal can be very weak. Usually, lodges have powerpoint’s to recharge your mobile, although this sometimes can be at an extra charge.
Tipping is a personal and voluntary matter and is not included in the trip price. If you wish to reward the efforts of those who have worked to make your trek the best they can, we suggest the following: USD 4 per day for groups of 8+, USD 5 per day for smaller groups which will be shared amongst the whole staff, including porters.
Travel insurance is not included in the trip price. It is essential that you take out comprehensive travel insurance prior to your trek. Your travel insurance must provide cover against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency evacuation and repatriation (including helicopter evacuation) and personal liability. We also recommend that it covers cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. Be careful to check the small print of your insurance regarding altitude as some policies only provide cover up to 2000m.
There are no specific health requirements for entry into Nepal. Your health condition must be sound as you will be climbing to above 4000m. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date information regarding vaccinations, high altitude medication and medications for any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst traveling in Nepal. Be aware that some drugs, including anti-malarial, have side effects at altitude. Please discuss this carefully with your doctor.
Please be aware that you will be in remote areas and away from medical facilities for some time during this trip. We strongly recommend that you carry a personal First Aid kit as well as sufficient quantities of any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses)
AMS (acute mountain sickness) is a serious issue. It is the result of the failure of the body to adapt to high altitude and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness. It usually occurs above 1,800 meters and the likelihood of being affected increases as you ascend. The way to reduce the effects of altitude is to ascend slowly, 300 meters per day above 3,000 meters until you have acclimatized. Poor acclimatization can result in headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, difficulty breathing and swelling of fingers and glands. The only cure for AMS is to descend to a lower altitude and your guide’s decision on this matter is final. There is a possibility of AMS in any trek that passes through altitudes above 4000 meters.
Although our routes are carefully planned to allow proper acclimatization you may feel some effects of altitude for the first few days or at higher altitudes. Breathlessness, lethargy and mild headaches are not uncommon and generally decrease as your body adjusts. Maintaining adequate fluid intake is essential. Please advise your guide if you feel more severe symptoms and do not medicate yourself without discussing it with them first.
Variation of climate is directly proportional to the altitude. For this trekking, trekking routes are often passed through a range of altitudes from 850m upwards. Between, about 2700m and 3000m a cool temperate climate prevails, and you should expect a cool summer and very cold temperatures in the winter. Above 3000m, even if the daytime is sunny and quite warm, the temperature will drop sharply as soon as the sun goes down.
The weather in the mountains is notoriously changeable, so always be prepared for a change in conditions and note that if severe or dangerous weather conditions occur your guide’s decision on any course of action is final.
Trekking permits are required for almost all treks and will be obtained by Royal Mountain Travel. The Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) is essential for the record of Nepal Tourism Board keeping in mind about probable hazards to occur. You need to provide your full name, nationality, home address, passport number, sex, date of birth and 2 photographs for each permit. Royal Mountain Travel also pays any fees required for entry to national parks, conservation areas or restricted areas.
Packing for your trek
You will need to bring a comfortable medium sized daypack to carry the things you will need during the day. This should have a waist strap or (better) a padded waist belt.
You should limit your baggage to about 7kg. You will find the following items useful.
Arrival in Kathmandu
Arriving at Tribhuwan International Airport is an experience in itself. Don’t let it put you off, as our airport representative will be waiting to welcome you with your name written on a placard. Depending on traffic, the drive to your hotel takes about 20-30 minutes. (Traditional Comfort Hotel or equivalent)
Kathmandu sightseeing: Boudhanath, Pashupatinath, Patan
Starting in Boudhanath, you will visit the largest Buddhist stupa in Asia which is the hub of Tibetan culture in Nepal. The 36-meter high stupa is one of the largest stupas in South Asia. It was built on the site where ancient Tibetan merchants used to rest and offer prayers over the centuries and formed a kingdom within a kingdom. Refugees from Tibet settled here and there has been the construction of over 50 gompas (Tibetan convent) around Boudhanath. Since 1979 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Swyambhunath, it is one of the ‘must see’ popular tourist sites in the Kathmandu area.
Close by is Pashupatinath another major religious site. Pashupatinath Temple, considered one of the sacred temples of Hindu faith sits on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. The seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, the temple complex has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1979. It is a collection of temples, ashrams, images and inscriptions scattered along the banks of the holy Baghmati. A major festival celebrated here is Maha Shivaratri when over 800,000 devotees visit here. Hindus believe in cremation within a day of death. You may see funeral pyres smoking as this believed to be one of the most auspicious places to be cremated.
Continuing on to the third World Heritage site of the day, you are taken to Patan Durbar Square. Patan is now part of Kathmandu but used to be another of the three independent kingdoms. Very different in character from the rest of the city, Patan’s Durbar Square is surrounded by the most superb of Newar architecture. It is a beautiful ensemble of temples and shrines beside the old royal palace that now serves as a little museum. In Patan you can see a mixture of both Hinduism and Buddhism, with people worshipping in both at the same time. Renowned for the “Birth to Death” shops, these are where to shop for every little item that Nepalese rituals require from birth to death. There are many interesting festivals and traditions that are observed here.
Fly to Pokhara
Catching a morning flight you have the rest of the day free in Pokhara. After lunch you are taken on a tour of the city, visiting Gupteswar Mahadev Cave, famous for its religious importance. You see Devi’s Fall nearby, which is impressive after the rainy season. Here you go down an underground staircase to approach the water that falls deep down. You also visit the Tibetan settlement where there is a nice little monastery, a school, and refugee jewellery and craft stalls. Here you can also see some beautiful handmade Tibetan carpets.
Fly from Pokhara to Jomsom. Jeep to Kagbeni
Flying from Pokhara in the early morning, all flights go early to avoid the high winds that build up during the day. It is a spectacular 30 minute flight, not for the fainthearted as you feel your wingtips almost brushing the sides of the mighty Kali Gandaki river gorge and the massive Dhaulagiri mountain along the way up. As you go up, the landscape changes from the lush greenery of the Pokhara area to the barren, rocky terrain of Mustang.
Taken by jeep up to Kagbeni, this atmospheric medieval town is a perfect base for exploring Lower Mustang. Hiking out from Kagbeni for a couple of hours, you stop for a leisurely lunch. You might feel the altitude a little bit, so take your time. Later in the afternoon, once you’ve rested and the winds have died down, you can stroll around the pretty town of Kagbeni. Spin the prayer wheels tucked in the narrow alleys, watch the local people do their daily chores, and admire the views of the monastery, the river and the mountains.
Hike to Thini (2334m, 3-4 hrs)
After a good night’s sleep you should be ready for your next walk in the local area, to Thini village. The culture in Lower Mustang is interesting and quite different from anywhere else in Nepal. The people are primarily Gurung and practice a Tibetan form of Buddhism which is obvious in the architecture, religious buildings, and the local dress.
Returning to Kagbeni, after lunch and a rest, you can visit the monastery here, where the lamas will give you a talk about Buddhism and the way it is practiced in this area. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions about what you’ve been observing in Lower Mustang.
Hike to Dakmar, Phalak and back to Kagbeni
This morning, you begin with a hike to the villages of Dakmar and Phalak, and then returning back to Kagbeni for lunch. Later in the afternoon, you learn how to make momos, the steamed Tibetan-style dumplings that are very popular throughout Nepal. They look deceptively simple, but they can be quite fiddly to make! But after this class you will have a new skill to take home with you—a long-lasting souvenir.
Jeep to Muktinath; hike down to Jomsom.
Driving up Muktinath you have time to explore this fascinating pilgrimage site high on the mountain that is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The pagoda style Muktinath Temple contains one of eight such shrines (the others include Srirangam, Sri Mushnam, Tirupati, Naimisaranyam, Thottadri, Pushkaram and Badrinath). In front of the temple are two ponds. Thousands of devotees come here to attain moksha (freedom) from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
On the way down, you visit Jharkot, an impressively fortified village with some ramshackle but picturesque old buildings and beautiful mountain and valley views. It has a lovely Kani (huge chhorten) and a large Shakya-Pa sect monastery. The monastery is situated close to the ruins of the old forts that were in Jharkot. The Tibetan name of the monastery is Ngorp and it is said that this monastery was founded during the regime of King Chopse. Four monks usually stay here and perform various ceremonies at different times of the year. It is the main monastery of Jharkot, Purang and Khinga people.
Fly to Pokhara
Be ready for an early morning flight departure to Pokhara. Jomsom is small so it should not take long to walk to the airport. You have the afternoon free to relax, go shopping or visit some of the museums such as the International Mountain Museum (IMM). In addition there is an ethnographical museum, Pokhara Regional Museum and Annapurna Natural History Museum with collections of flora and fauna, and butterflies. There is also the Gurkha Museum featuring the history of the Gurkha soldiers. Gurkha soldiers are still recruited here in Pokhara.
You have the day free in Pokhara. You might like to take a full day or half day Tibetan Encounter Day Tour to learn the history of Tibetan refugees in Nepal, visiting local schools and monasteries, and eating a traditional home cooked lunch at one of the Tibetan settlements. You might like to go boating on Lake Phewa and walk up to the World Peace Pagoda to admire the views. The Peace Pagoda offers good views of the Annapurnas, including the Fishtail, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna South, and Annapurna III. If you want a thrill, go paragliding or bungee jumping.
Fly to Kathmandu
Flying back in the morning, you are in Kathmandu in time for lunch and have the afternoon for last minute shopping or relaxing. In the afternoon, if you don’t want to do any more sightseeing, why not just hang out in the beautiful Garden of Dreams in Thamel, which used to be part of one of the old Rana palaces.
You transfer to Tribhuvan Airport to connect with your onward flight. Please note that you should check in three hours prior to your flight time.