Upper Mustang is a remote area by the Tibetan border. Little changed over the centuries, this is where you can see this traditional and colourful three-day festival where local people come from miles around. Once an independent kingdom, Mustang is closely tied to language and culture to Tibet. From the 15th to the 17th century, its strategic location granted Mustang control over the trade between the Himalayas and India. At the end of the 18th century, the kingdom was annexed by Nepal and became a dependency of the Kingdom of Nepal. In 2008 however, the monarchy ceased to exist by order of the Government of Nepal. The last king Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista died in 2016. His ancestor, the warrior Ame Pal, founded the Buddhist kingdom in 1380 and built much of Lo Manthang.
The Tiji Festival is the most auspicious festival in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal. A lunar festival, every year the dates are different. In 2019 the festival will take place on May 30, 31 and 01st June.
Ancient mythology relates how the Tiji Festival is celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil. It is believed that the region was in trouble, being destroyed by a demon that spread epidemics and took away the water. Dorje Jono fought and defeated this demon. The festival celebrates his victory with prayer chants and colourful dances.
Flying from Pokhara to Jomsom, you visit Kagbeni when you get your first glimpse into the Forbidden Kingdom. You then drive up to Lo Manthang in two easy stages, gradually acclimatizing the higher altitude. You are close to the Himalayas, upon the barren and high Tibetan plateau where the landscape is stunning. You pass a mysterious settlement wherein 2007, a shepherd discovered some 55 cave paintings depicting the life of the Buddha.
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:
For more information about the Tiji Festival: Mustang's Colorful Tiji Festival
|Arrival in Kathmandu
|Drive to Pokhara (915m, 7 hrs)
|Fly from Pokhara to Jomsom (2760m); drive to Kagbeni (2840m, 1 hr)
|Drive to Ghami (3560m, 3-4 hrs)
|Drive to Lomanthang (3840m, 3-4 hrs) - Tiji Festival first day
|Lomanthang - Tiji Festival second day
|Lomanthang - Tiji Festival Closing Day
|Drive to Muktinath
|Drive to Pokhara (7-8 hours)
|Pokhara free time; drive back to Kathmandu (7 hrs)
Royal Mountain Travel is a Nepal-based sustainable tourism operator. We specialize in curating once-in-a-lifetime experiences to showcase indigenous and community based tourism projects. We work with travel agents and tourism companies to help plan travel experiences that highlight authentic, local lifestyles throughout some of the most unique landscapes on earth.
Arrival in Kathmandu
Your first impression of arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport is an experience in itself. But don’t be worried by the apparent confusion as your airport representative will be waiting to welcome you with your name written on a placard. Depending on traffic, you will be at your hotel within 20 minutes or so.
The day is spent visiting some of the major World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu. More…
You will have plenty of time in the afternoon to prepare for your trip and check that you have everything you need. You might want to visit Thamel, the tourist hub of Nepal where you can easily find all you need. Or if you just want to relax, there are many cafes and bakeries serving excellent local tea and coffee. It is best to avoid the street food, however, unless you have a very strong stomach. It is recommended that you have an early night as you will have an early start in the morning.
Drive to Pokhara (915m, 7 hrs)
Drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara, you arrive in the late afternoon. Lakeside offers lovely views of the surrounding Annapurnas.
Fly from Pokhara to Jomsom (2760m); drive to Kagbeni (2840m, 1 hr)
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.
Your road follows the Kali Gandaki up to Kagbeni where you look down into the valley that is the gateway to Upper Mustang. Here houses are flat-roofed in the Tibetan style.
Drive to Ghami (3560m, 3-4 hrs)
You continue along the road that was completed only in 2015, linking Lo Manthang to Jomsom and Pokhara. The landscape is stark as you head up into the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Ghami is a large village of whitewashed houses and one of the larger villages in the region.
Drive to Lomanthang (3840m, 3-4 hrs) - Tiji Festival first day
Lo Manthang, the capital of Lo, is a small town that lies within a tall whitewashed mud-brick wall. This is where the king of Mustang used to live. Mustang’s status as a kingdom ended in 2008 when its suzerain Kingdom of Nepal became a republic.
“Tiji” is an abbreviation of “Tempa Chirim” or “Prayer for World Peace”. The festival commemorates the victory of Lord Buddha’s incarnation Dorjee Sonnu over a demon called Man Tam Ru, a vicious creature feeding on human beings and causing storms and droughts.
The monks from Lo Manthang’s Choedh monastery perform ritual dances. In the first day of the festival, you can see a dance called “Tsa Chham” showing the harassment of Ma Tam Ru Ta. The Choedhe Monastery belongs to the Sakya sect of Buddhism and about 65 monks from Lo Manthang, Nhenyul and Chhosyer live there, headed by a Rimpoche. Masked dancers in colourful costumes come to perform in the main square in front of the Royal Palace to the music played by the lamas and monks of the Nyingmapa.
Lomanthang - Tiji Festival second day
On the second day, you see the birth of Dorjee Sonnu as the demon’s son depicted in a dance called “Nga Chham”.
The Mustangi people look very much like Tibetans and come with their own traditional dress and pieces of jewellery. There is usually some horse racing and a tug-of-war. Lo Manthang is a fascinating place to explore. Tough it is called a ‘city’, it is more like a large village. It is full of narrow alleys that wind between closely packed stone houses, temples, gompas and the four-storied palace. In the surrounding fields, wheat, barley, peas or mustard are cultivated. It is a prosperous town that made its wealth from the wool and salt trade from Tibet. Despite politics, the trade still continues along this route and many Lobas also travel south to India to trade during the winter.
There are about 150 houses as well as well as the residences for the many lamas who live here. There are four major temples within the city. Champa Lhakang contains a huge clay statue of Buddha and beautiful mandalas painted on the walls.
Lomanthang - Tiji Festival Closing Day
You see the attempt to return the demon to Lord Buddha’s realm in the dances performed on the third and final day.
Drive to Muktinath
It is a long day on the road back to Lower Mustang and to Muktinath. Sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, this village attracts many pilgrims. Here spring water flows from a rock face via 108 spouts (108 is a sacred number to Buddhists). This water wall surrounds a temple sacred to Vishnu and below the statue runs a trickle of water with pale flames of burning natural gas. There are shrines to Shiva, his consort and Padmasambhava, as well as numerous chortens and the surrounding poplar grove, supposedly sprang from the staffs of the 84 Siddhas.
Drive to Pokhara (7-8 hours)
The road takes you down beside the Kali Gandaki, the deepest river gorge in the world. You pass villages and arriving in Pokhara at the end of the afternoon.
Pokhara free time; drive back to Kathmandu (7 hrs)
You have some time in the morning free in Pokhara before driving back to Kathmandu. You could visit the International Mountain Museum (IMM) or go boating on Lake Phewa. Pokhara’s Lakeside is a good place to relax and admire the views of the mountains over an excellent cup of locally grown Himalayan coffee.
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.