the Hidden Kingdom of Mustang, June 2021
A Photographic Journey with Jeremy Woodhouse
Upper Mustang, the former Kingdom of Lo, is a land of stone, earth and wind. The desert-like landscape reinforces the power of the colours of the ruined castles that crown the red landscape and snow white hills. Tiny white houses sprout up between irrigated oases of barley and pink buckwheat fields. Travellers to Upper Mustang follow the old trade route along the Kali Gandaki River which used to carry grain from lower part of Nepal, and salt from Tibet. Over centuries the surrounding landscape has been endowed with small settlements, Chorten and Mani walls. Ancient caves, historic monasteries and archaeological sites in the Upper Mustang situated on the northwest frontier bordering Tibet is being ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Mustang is the hinterland enriched with mainly barren ridges, deep canyons, eroded cliffs and Moraine valleys. Mustang is the alternative to travel in Tibet as the overland route from Nepal to Tibet has been closed to tourists since the earthquake of 2015.
Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu
Upon arrival at the International airport, you will be met by our representative and transferred to the hotel.
Kathmandu is the capital and largest city of Nepal, with a population of around 3 million. The Kathmandu Metropolitan area, which includes Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, has a large population of around 5-6 million people. Kathmandu is also the largest metropolis in the Himalayan Mountain region. Nepali and Newari are the most spoken languages in the city.
Rest of the day free in Kathmandu to acclimatize to the altitude
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu
Day 2: Kathmandu
The most ancient and enigmatic of the Valley’s holy shrines the golden-spired stupa of Swayanbhunath tops a wooded hillock. Records of its history date as far as the 5th century, but its origins are believed to be older. It is the Kathmandu Valley’s most sacred Buddhist shrine and whilst its worshippers include the Vajrayana Buddhists of northern Nepal and Tibet, Newari Buddhists are the most fervent devotees.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Kathmandu’s number one tourist attraction swarms with life. Though a few of the square’s 50-plus monuments date from the 12th century, most are from the time of the Malla Kings. Probably the most famous building here is the KumariBahal, a building richly decorated with beautiful woodcarvings, which is home to the Royal Kumari, the Living Goddess, a manifestation of the great goddess Durga. Nearby the former Royal Palace is a Mall Dynasty dwelling, once considerably more extensive than today. Within, the courtyard Nassal Chowk, originally hosted dramatic dance performances, now it is the coronation site of the Shah kings and contains some of the finest wood carvings you will see anywhere in the kingdom.
Rickshaw Ride at Thamel
Discover Kathmandu like a local as you explore the city on an evening rickshaw ride. Start the tour from Kathmandu Durbar Square and pass buzzing bazaars and market squares as you head to the colorful tourist hub Thamel, where you'll spend time exploring by the different angels of Nepalese lifestyle, markets and many more. Sit back, relax and be enchanted as you take in views of the sunset, silhouetted temples and Kathmandu’s lively evening.
Later transfer for sightseeing tour of Boudhanath and Pashupatinath
This great stupa is one of Nepal’s most distinctive monuments and one of the most important Buddhist sites in Nepal and, with a diameter of over 100 meters, amongst the largest in the world. There are a number of legends accounting for the Stupa’s construction, but it is generally believed to date from the 5th century. All Stupas contain holy relics and Buddha is said to contain the remains of the past Buddha Kasyapa. Buddha is a particular focus for Kathmandu’s Tibetan community and throughout the day there is a constant stream of people circling the stupa spinning prayer wheels and reciting mantras. Surrounding the stupa are six major monasteries and a host of smaller ones as well as cafes, restaurants and shops selling Tibetan carpets and Newari silversmiths. Boudhanath has now been fully restored and consecrated following the earthquake of 2015.
Visit Monastery for interaction with Lama in Boudhanath. The Blessing includes the following:
This is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu shrine and one of the subcontinent’s great Shiva sites. The supreme holiness of the site stems from the Shiva linga enshrined in its main temple and its location. It expresses the very essence of Hinduism as pilgrims, priests, devotes, temples, ashrams, images, inscriptions and cremation Ghats intermingle with the rituals of daily life, all sprawled along the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. The temple’s origins are obscure, an inscription dates from 477, but a shrine may have stood here for 1000 years before that.
Sadhus in Hinduism are wandering holy men or monks revered for being good. Many Sadhus are also Yogis who are practitioners of meditation. They have chosen a life away from or at least on the edges of normal society to focus on their own spiritual practice. Talking with a Sadhu is said to either be wildly confusing or deeply insightful. Either way being able to speak Hindi is a huge advantage in deciphering what they are saying. However a few Sadhus do understand more English than you might at first have guessed. Sadhu's are peaceful and do not have any possessions.
Later enjoy the beautiful Aarti ceremony at the bank of Bagmati.
Pashupatinath Temple is regarded as one of the holiest shrines of Hindus across the world. Priests and devotees perform daily ritual worships and offer prayers at the temple in the morning, day and evening time. The evening ‘Aarti’ at the banks of Bagmati River on the eastern side of the temple draws people in hordes. This evening ritual with a band singing hymns in praise of god, playing of classical instruments, chanting of Vedic mantras, ringing of bells, burning of incense, and lighting of oil lamps, keep the people spellbound throughout. The ritual makes the evening environment dazzling. The Aarti is performed at 6 pm every day. The attendees experience a blissful moment.
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu
Day 3: Kathmandu/Pokhara – Approx 30 min flight
After breakfast, transfer to domestic airport for a flight to Pokhara. Upon arrival at Pokhara transfer to Hotel
Pokhara is a place of remarkable natural beauty. The enchanting city has several beautiful lakes and offers stunning panoramic views of Himalayan peaks. The serenity of the lakes and the magnificence of the Himalaya rising behind them create the ambience that has made Pokhara such a popular place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. Tourism focuses on the districts of Damside and Lakeside (or Pardi and Baidam, in Nepali, respectively).
Stroll around the lakeside and enjoy the beautiful sunset view at Fewa Lake.
Overnight at Hotel in Pokhara
Day 4 Pokhara/Jomsom Approx 20 min flight
After breakfast, transfer to Pokhara airport for a flight to Jomsom. Upon arrival at Jomsom transfer to Hotel
North of the Mighty Himalayas lies Jomsom, a mirage on the stark Tibetan plateaus, at 2713 meters. It is the capital and administrative headquarters for Mustang district, which stretches south from the Tibetan border to Ghasa along the Kali Gandaki River. The river cuts deep ridges as it flows between Mt. Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, creating the deepest gorge in the world. This is a land of mystique -where the rugged mountain peaks, like the Annapurna, Nilgiri and Dhaulagiri, gaze down in their awesome splendour at weathered landscapes which contrast with deep river ravines over noisy river beds. Life in Jomsom is a mixture of hard work, social frivolity tempered by culture founded on deep religious traditions. Such close proximity to some of the world's highest peaks is destined to ingrain a sense of awe about the natural and supernatural.
Visit around Jomsom village and enjoy beautiful sunset over the Himalaya in the evening
Overnight at Hotel in Jomsom
Day 5: Drive to Chuksang via Muktinath (approx 7hrs)
After breakfast, drive to Muktinath. Muktinath is a reverred shrine for salvation seekers. Mukti mean Salvation and Nath means lord and so it holds great significance for all spiritual people in the South Asian Sub-continent. Muktinath (the provider of salvation) has been one of the famous Himalayan shrines where thousands of devotees flock for attaining the much sought after moksha (freedom) from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
After visit of Muktinath enjoy a short visit to Kagbeni village. Kagbeni has the look and feel of its northern neighbour Tibet, and is known as the “Gateway to Upper Mustang”. The town of Kagbeni sits at the bottom of Muktinath Valley which is scattered with abandoned settlements and irrigation fields. The centerpiece of Kagbeni is its fortress ruins. In the second half of the 16th century, before the establishment of the village, Muktinath Valley’s king built his son a fortress at the convergence point of four trade routes. This strategic location allowed the king to levy taxes on the commodities and animals that passed through the valley. After lunch enjoy a short hike around Kagbeni: Kagbeni Monastery and Buddhist School, Kaligandaki gorge (world’s deepest gorge), Kaligandaki River, Buddhist monastery in Jharkot, Incredible views of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri and Tukuche peaks and local activities. Later drive to Chuksang
After a brief Kagbeni visit and registering your permits for Upper Mustang, next stop is Chuksang. Another ancient village with fort like town nearby, on the banks of Kaligandagi River. The landscape here is amazing with surrounding cliffs carved by the river and naturally made caves high above. The reddish colour of the cliffs on the background of blue sky gives a great panoramic view of the landscape. Some patches of greeneries mostly wheat fields and small apple trees on the background of above mentioned landscape, gives Chuksang its unique colours. The altitude of Chuksang remains 2900m, which further assists you to get acclimatized.
Dinner and Overnight at Hotel in Chuksang
Day 6: Drive to Tsarang via Lo Gekher (approx 7 hrs)
After breakfast drive to Tsarang via Lo Geker. Lunch at Local Restaurant on the way.
Lo Geker Monastery
The monastery of Lo Geker is one of the oldest and most important Monastery in Mustang. It was here that the first of the hidden scriptures of Padmasambhava were discovered (he hid his teachings in many different places in the Himalayas, to ensure that they were safe when the times were dangerous for the survival of Buddhism). In the anteroom of the monastery are tiles depicting Buddha Sakyamuni and Bodhisattvas. The Gonkhang is illuminated by dozens of butter-lamps, which enhance the statues, including images of Padmasambhava and the Yoginis Yeshe Tshogyal and Mandarava. In a small room to the left are more beautiful figures, including a Green Tara.
The Gompa in Tsarang is a massive structure on a small hill with glaciers visible behind. In former times several hundred monks lived here. Now there are only about 50, but most are not resident. Though imposing from the outside, the Gompa is running to ruin and many rooms are unusable. There are some fine paintings in the assembly hall, as well as Thangkas and statues. The other main landmark here is the king’s palace, which too has fallen into disrepair, having not been used for half a century. The only two rooms remaining in good condition are the Gonkhang and the chapel, which has some fine statues, including ‘The Three Holies’, figures who played an important part in Mustang’s early history, and Tibetan books. In the Gonkhang, or room of the protectors, above, is a stuffed snow leopard, some old weapons and armor and an infamous severed hand. There are three popular theories about the hand that it was the hand of a thief (severing the right hand was the typical punishment for a second thieving offence), that a monk offered his hand as a sacrifice, and that it was cut from the architect of the dzong, to prevent him creating a similar building anywhere else.
Dinner and overnight at local lodge in Tsarang.
Day 7: Drive to Lo Mathang via Luri Gompa (approx 8 hrs)
Drive to Lo Manthang via Luri Gompa. Lunch at local restaurant on the way.
In the desert east of Lo Monthang, sandstone cliffs and bluffs have been fluted by wind and weather into fantastical formations, like serried, tapered pillars or organ pipes. These cliffs are pitted with caves, and such a cave forms the inner sanctum of Luri Gompa, a small jewel of Buddhist art. The Gompa, covered with a red wash, perched on a ledge on a one hundred-meter high cliff, stands out against the sand and bone-coloured sandstone pillars. The outer chamber, containing a shrine, is painted very crudely, apparently at a later date than the paintings within. This outer chamber leads into the inner room, the cave within the rock. The treasure of Luri is the inner chamber, a rounded space that was hollowed out or enlarged and smoothed within the cave. One small window provides some natural light. In the centre of this chamber is a chorten, six meters high, with painted figures on all sides of its rectangular base, on its dome, and also beneath the ritual parasol atop the dome. The domed ceiling is decorated with eight painted images of Mahasiddhas, circling above the chorten. Along one wall is a set of painted figures, and above them a row of nine small portraits of lamas. Later drive to Lo Manthang.
Lo Manthang is the capital of former Kingdom of Lo and has been built on a 3880m high plateau. The town is surrounded by a 6-meter high wall with square towers or dzong on the corners. This isolated Tibetan settlement was founded in 1380 and was the capital of the former Kingdom of Lo. Within the walled fortress there exists a compact settlement of about 200 earthen structures including palaces and monasteries. The inner city with the palace and about 30 dwellings is walled and the gates are still locked every night. There are four major temples within the city and one of these, Champa Lhakhang, contains a huge clay statue of Buddha as well as elaborates mandalas painted on the walls. The king's palace is an imposing building in the centre of the city. Although his duties are largely ceremonial, the King is respected by the people. Explore Lo Manthang – Capital of the Forbidden Kingdom
Dinner and overnight at local lodge in Lo Manthang
Day 8: Drive to Chhoser (approx 4 hrs)
Drive to Chhoser to explore Chhoser Monastery, Khangchuling cave, Jhong cave, NYFU Monastery, Chhonup Village, Nymagel Village and Tingkar Village, Namgyal Monastery and Summer Palace and local activities.
Chosar is a cave village, with the deep-red Nyphu Gumpa built into the rock face at 3760 meters. Past the Gumpa is an incredible cave-dwelling site called Jhong Cave which you negotiate by ladders and through small tunnels, very interesting and reputed to be 2,500 years old. In front of us, a range of spectacular snow-peaks marks the border with Tibet, and around us gurgling streams and green meadows line our trail. If we take the long loop, we can stop at Nyamdo Gompa, ride over a small pass and then head back down the western valley to Lo. The Chosar valley was the main trading route with Tibet and Lhasa, and is peppered with the ruins of old fortresses guarding this strategic valley.
After exploring Chosar Village we return Lo Manthang
Dinner and overnight at local lodge in Lo Manthang
Day 9: Drive to Jomsom (approx 7 hours)
After breakfast drive back to Jomsom. Rest of the day free at Jomsom for explore and shopping
Dinner and overnight at Hotel in Jomsom
Day 10: Fly to Pokhara (approx 20 min)
After breakfast fly to Pokhara. Upon arrival at Pokhara transfer to Hotel
Half day sightseeing of Pokhara city and one hour boating at Fewa Lake
Overnight at Hotel in Pokhara
Day 11: Pokhara/Kathmandu (approx 30 min flight)
After breakfast, transfer to Pokhara airport for a flight to Kathmandu. Upon arrival at Kathmandu transfer to Hotel. Rest of the day free to explore or shop.
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu
Day 12: Departure or onward for the Extension to Everest
Free till the time of Departure. Transfer to Tribhuvan International Airport for Departure
END OF TOUR
Arrival, Departure & Visa
Arrival & Meeting Place
Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. The airport located in the Kathmandu Valley about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the city center of Kathmandu.
Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Documents Required for US Passport Holder
Daytime temperatures range from a minimum of 20ºC to a maximum of 30ºC. Nighttime temperatures are much cooler with temperatures between -2ºC to 0ºC.
The 2011 National census lists 123 Nepalese languages spoken as a mother tongue (first language) in Nepal. Most belong to the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan language families. The official language of Nepal is Nepali, formerly called Khas-Kura then Gorkhali.
A Nepalese Rupee is the official currency of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The Nepalese rupee is subdivided into 100 paisa. The issuance of the currency is controlled by the Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank of Nepal.
Before you pay your deposit, please register for this tour
Tour dates: June, 2021
Cost: Approx $5,800
Upper Mustang Permit: $500
Annapurna Permit: $35
Internal Flights: Approx $500
Single Supplement: $600
Max Group Size: 8 (supplement for a group of 5: $400)
8 SPOTS OPEN
Photographer: Jeremy Woodhouse
Once you have made your flight arrangements, please fill in the form at the link below
Tour Fee Includes
Tour Fee Does not Include
Paying by check
If you would like to pay your deposit and/or balance with a check, please make the check payable to: Pixelchrome, Inc and mail it to:
605 Rouen Drive,
McKinney TX 75070
Paying by Wire Transfer
If you would like to pay by Wire Transfer please send the funds to the following bank account (please make sure that you cover the fee for the draft).
Please inform us by email once you have sent the draft.
Bank: Wells Fargo Bank, NA
Account #: 4428-000051
Routing #: 121000248
Swift #: WFBIUS6S
Wells Fargo Bank, NA
2851 South Ridge Road
McKinney, TX 75070
Phone: (972) 439-3416
Virtual Private Network
If you want to access an uncensored internet while on the road, you may want to consider getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN). I use Express VPN. If you decide to use this option,
please use the referral link below.
Also good to have