Mustang and Dolpa
Dolpo is a remote region located in the Far West of Nepal. The region is protected as the Shey Phoksundo National Park. Upper Dolpo lies north of the Dhaulagiri Range that borders the Tibetan plateau. Most of the inhabitants of this region still rely on trading Tibetan salt as it is nearly impossible to grow anything in this region.
Most of our classical trekking of Dolpo starts from Dunai and on the fifth day of our trek we reach the famous Shey Phoksundo lake. The alpine fresh water lake is religiously significant to the Tibetan culture as a number of stupas and a Gompa surround the lake. From Phoksundo, we trek to Shey Gompa via Kang-La pass. In Shey Gompa, we visit the famous Crystal Monastery, a place of religious significance to people of Dolpo.
The entire district of Dolpo is a seldom-visited trekking destination. As the majority of trekkers visiting Nepal trek in either the Annapurna or Everest region, the region of Dolpo remains uncrowded.
Dolpo lies behind the Dhaulagiri massif and is protected as the Shey Phoksundo National Park. It was only in 1989 that Dolpo was opened to foreigners. Until then the region was restricted because of it’s proximity to the Tibetan border.
Mustang region lies in the western part of Nepal and is officially the name of the district having a Tibet like region. It is accessible by foot or by air. It is located along the banks of the Kali Gandaki river. It is divided into two parts namely the Upper Mustang and the Lower Mustang. Upper Mustang is largely inhabited by Manangi people and goes up to the ancient capital of Lo Manthang. Whereas Lower Mustang covers the part of lower valley along the Kali Gandaki river
Mustang is the only district in Nepal with its own King. The people of Mustang call themselves Lobas. Their house and temple construction all over the region use stone but mostly mud bricks that are sun baked. Some beautiful architecture in this region are the city wall and the four storey palace in Lo Manthang.
Trekking in Upper Mustang requires a trekking permit. The cost is US$500 per person for the first 10 days and US$50 per person per day thereafter. The permit is issued to groups – minimum two people. We’re trekking professionals who have so far led several trekking groups, large and small, to Lo-Manthang, the walled city, which is located in the ancient kingdom of Mustang, is one of remotest places in Nepal. Falling within the Himalayan rain shadow, Mustang’s climate and land is dry and arid. Once up in the mountains you’ll travel from 12,500ft up to 14,500ft and the weather gets colder. It’s so cold out there that during winter a lot of people move down towards the warmer valleys above Pokhara, leaving the elderly and their animals behind.
Upper Mustang means continually climbing up and down ridges and crossing mountain passes. Jomsom, an airport town, serves as the gateway to the “Hidden Kingdom of Mustang”. There are daily flights from Pokhara to Jomsom, but flights can sometimes be cancelled due to strong winds and monsoon rains. Although there is a road between Jomsom and Kagbeni, from where we enter upper Mustang, there is very little traffic on this road. Progress and road construction is on its way in Mustang and soon there’ll be no ‘old’ Mustang, but just another commercial attraction where lazy people will be able to drive to.
You’ll reach Lo Manthang only on the eighth day of your Upper Mustang Trek and you’ll also have two more days in this village to observe the splendid monasteries and palaces that it is home to. The medieval walled village of Lo Manthang is inhabited by around 1000 people. The village is popular for its high mud walls, Gompas and the Royal Palace. Lo Manthang also serves as the capital to the Kingdom of Mustang. Since Upper Mustang lies very close to the Tibetan border, even today, Tibetan Buddhism prevails in this region.
Although not all attractions are created equal and Lo Manthang is the primary attraction of the Upper Mustang Trek; this trip also includes several other attractions that reflect the religion, culture and ancient history of this region.