About the Upper Mustang Trek

The area known as Upper Mustang is located in the north-west of Nepal within the Annapurna National Park and is renown as a fantastic trekking region unlike anywhere else in Nepal. While Upper Mustang is part of the entire Mustang region it is a restricted area with a special permit required to enter into it which includes a compulsory guide and a minimum of two trekkers..

The Upper Mustang Trek contains breathtaking arid valley landscapes that are very different than what you’ll see in other regions in Nepal. Coupled with a culture that’s been cut off from the rest of the country for decades the area has only been privy to few trekkers until recently. There are three main trekking routes in Upper Mustang which are worth noting on this page. The Upper Mustang trek is now available in my Trekking in Nepal Guidebook.

Bright strata on Upper Mustangs Mountains

The bright colors, hues and strata on Upper Mustangs Mountains are breathtaking at any time of the year

This is a low to medium altitude trek with no high passes to cross making it relatively easy for many people. Accommodation and food are also of a good standard in Upper Mustang making it a great choice for people seeking for some comfort.

For those looking for the Nepal of 20 years ago or undiscovered areas, off-world landscapes along with unique cultures the Upper Mustang trek is ideal. Between the views, culture and people of Upper Mustang it’s easily one the most spectacular treks in the world.

Trek Overview

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Days: 10-12 days

Max Altitude: 4230m (13,877.95 ft)

Distance: 208 km (129 mi)

Accommodation: Teahouse / Lodge

Distance shown is the longer eastern route loop trek. A fully detailed guide to Upper Mustang showing all the trekking routes and itineraries with more details is below.

Honesty counts! Every travel guide on this site has always been 100% independent, unbiased & honest. I do not accept sponsorships, free treks or tours. I do not own a trekking company or business in Nepal. I pay my own way & in turn write authentic guidebooks to Nepal. Rest assured, this is a genuine travel guide that you can trust.
Trekking guides are compulsory on this trek: It is crucial to heed the essential requirements before embarking on this trek. Unlike other treks where a guide is "mandatory", this particular trek mandates a registered compulsory guide, as stipulated by the Immigration Department. This requirement is rigorously enforced by police and army personnel, and inspections are conducted frequently. Find a registered guide in my Trekking in Nepal Guidebook or use my Find a Nepal Trekking Guide Service.

Where is the Upper Mustang trek?

The Mustang region is located within the Gandaki Pradesh province in the north-west of Nepal sharing a border with Tibet. To the south of the region is the upper-lower Mustang border town of Kagbeni in Lower Mustang where Annapurna Circuit trekkers pass though.

Map of Nepal showing the location of the Upper Mustang Trek

The remote region of Upper Mustang was once known as the Kingdom of Lo which was completely restricted to outside visitors until 1992. A special restricted permit is still required to enter Upper Mustang.

There are three trekking routes around Upper Mustang. The most popular is the classic route which is joined by a short western route and a longer eastern route linking them together. All three routes offer dramatic arid landscapes with fantastic colorful strata displayed on high cliffs often dotted with caves and valley's along with unique rock formations. Beneath these mountains lie rivers, salt waters, apple orchards, barley farms, unique Buddhist buildings and whitewashed villages.

Though there are no passes over 4,300 meters the Upper Mustang trail is not well marked and a guide is mandatory.

Map of the Upper Mustang Trek

This map shows you three of the most popular Upper Mustang trekking routes.

Due to relative isolation, cultural and linguistic differences some place names on maps and other guides may have alternative spellings. In this guide and in my guidebooks I use the name and spelling local people use in the area. These names are shown first on this list. Common place name spelling differences are: Ghami/Ghemi, Chhuksang/Chhusang, Shyangmochen/Shyangbouche, Geling/Gelling.

Please note this map should not be used as a practical trekking map. While the main Upper Mustang Classic route remains the same there are variations depending on side trails, the road, weather conditions, time of year, natural events and physical changes to the trek paths. This is particularly true to the western and eastern routes. Detailed trekking maps can be obtained in Nepal at very low costs and in my own trekking in Nepal guidebook.

Facts about the Upper Mustang Trek

Although the trekking routes in Upper Mustang have been known for many years much about the regions history remains lost in the past. The main classic trekking route is now easy to locate but to the west and east it remains no more than rough trails.

Highest point of the Upper Mustang trek

The highest point of the Upper Mustang trek is Chogo La (4,230m/13,877.95 ft) near Ghar Gompa on the western route. There are several other passes around the 4,000 meter mark on the other routes.

Highest sleeping point on the Upper Mustang trek

The highest sleeping point along the Upper Mustang trek is Lo Manthang which is 3,840 meters (12,598.43 feet).

How long have people been trekking the Upper Mustang routes?

Horse and horseman in Upper Mustang
One of the great experiences in Upper Mustang is meeting the people from the region who don't get to meet all that many people from outside the region

Technically the Upper Mustang trek was only opened after 1992 when the area was demilitarized. Still being a restricted region to culturally preserve both the area and culture the trek remained relatively exclusive in the preceding years. Explorers in the 1950s were some of the first to reveal its old salt and trade routes which would later become trekking trails.

Physically, the area has been inhabited for over 3,000 years. Archaeologists have recovered burial sites in the many caves throughout Upper Mustang dating back over 3,000 years. The area is filled with ancient Tibetan and local legends describing lost kingdoms, castles and civilizations.

A special restricted area trekking permit is required to enter the area along with a national park permit. Since 2010 the Pokhara Mustang road has cut through a lot of the classic Upper Mustang trekking route however the road remains a broken dirt one with many years remaining on its completion.

What mountains can you see from Upper Mustang?

Upper Mustang has views of the Annapurna Mountain range including Dhaulagiri and the Tibetan plateau. These mountain ranges can seen for most of the trek as impressive backdrops to Upper Mustangs fabled rock valleys. It’s the cliff faces from these valleys with their bright reds, browns and golds combined with the snow capped mountains behind them that make the trek one of the most visibly impressive in Nepal.

It should be noted that for the most part, aside from producing vivid colors, the valley walls are also often formed into unique rock formations. Dotted throughout the cliff faces are caves that often appear 1,000’s of feet up a cliff face en masse. These caves often have a labyrinth behind them with steps and inner chambers linking them together.

Highlights of the Upper Mustang Trek

Highlights of the Upper Mustang trek include:

Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery, Kagbeni, Lower Mustang.
Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery in Kagbeni, Lower Mustang which is where the border is to Upper Mustang and the start of the trek
  • Incredible mountains, valleys and cliffs unique to the region
  • Experiencing an isolated culture
  • Arid colorful landscapes
  • Visiting fortresses, citadels and palaces
  • Explore unique rock caves
  • Horse riding
  • Low altitude
  • Rare Buddhist monasteries
  • Locally produced foods
  • Relatively easy trails
  • Location intersects with other treks

How to arrange a trek to Upper Mustang

Before starting, remember there is a two person minimum requirement to trek in Upper Mustang. While it can be possible to arrange a solo trek, it's more expensive as you'll need to pay for two permits yourself and nobody knows if it can be done until one week before your trek. There are several steps to arranging a trek to Upper Mustang. These include getting a trekking company specializing in the trek, getting the permits required and meeting the requirements. Most of these can be done by your trekking company.

Mandatory Guide and trekking partner

You need to have a mandatory guide of your choosing for the Upper Mustang trek. There is no getting around this. You will also need to be part of a two person minimum group. With the latter you do not actually have to trek with them.

Mandatory and restricted Permits

You need three official documents before being allowed into Upper Mustang to trek:

  1. A restricted area permit
  2. An Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP)
  3. A TIMS card

All of the above needs to be processed by a trekking company in Nepal.

For detailed information do please read my dedicated page on Upper Mustang Permits.

While above may sound complicated and convoluted it is quite easy to arrange if you get the right people to help you.

Chortens in Tange Upper Mustang

Find the right trekking company for Upper Mustang

From applying for your permits to taking you on the trek you will need to have the right trekking company for Upper Mustang. A guide is mandatory so there really is no choice.

What there is a choice with is choosing the right company. I strongly advise you to research your Upper Mustang trekking company carefully. Many companies are known to "inflate" Upper Mustang trek prices due to the assumption that anyone willing to pay $500 for a permit will pay more for the trek - this is simply not true as Upper Mustang is one of the cheaper regions in Nepal to trek through!

There are several ways to find the right trekking agency, let's take a look.

Buying a package trek to Upper Mustang online

There are several Upper Mustang trek packages online and they can be confusing. The reality is they are generally expensive and overpriced. Part of this is due to getting a permit and the belief that you can afford to pay more. If you are a group of two or more things are easier but the prices can still be high based on the trek status. The reality is that aside from the permit, the trek is no more expensive than any other.

When booking an Upper Mustang trek online do be aware that the company you are dealing with should be able to process the permits on the dates you want to go. Online companies often try to up sell 12-15 day Upper Mustang treks, jeep treks or even helicopter flights. The reality is that they are trying to cash in on who they think will be a wealthy client who can afford the USD$500 permit. Again, on the ground the trek is no more expensive than any other trek and certainly cheaper than an Everest Base Camp trek. Do shop around carefully with this in mind.

Pro's here include not having to worry about permits, accommodation, flights and having to arrange anything.

Con's here mean paying a high price for the trek. Confusing itineraries and not being able to customize your trek easily. The worst element to online booking is that many companies are offering solo trek to Upper Mustang - this is simply no longer possible until one week before a trek - see my page on Upper Mustang Permits for more.

Package tours bought in Nepal:

Tetang's old citadel
Tetang's old citadel just one of many mud fortresses in Upper Mustang waiting to explored

This method is decidedly cheaper than buying a package tour to Upper Mustang online. You will still have to be very astute with trekking companies who will once again presume you are wealthy due to the expensive permit and try to increase the trek cost.

It’s certainly worth visiting several trekking agencies as their prices can vary wildly. The cost of a guide and accommodation should be no more than a regular trek.

Companies will often try to push a jeep tour to Lo Manthang rather than a trek by citing that the road is not pleasant. This is simply not true. By taking a shared jeep you will miss out on many of the impressive mountain landscapes en-route. If taking a private jeep you can stop off along the way as you wish. You will not get to see all the sights this way. Likewise some agencies suggest driving up and trekking back. This will be just for the Classic Upper Mustang trek. There’s nothing wrong with this but with a ten day permit it would be best spent visiting new places instead or going over the same route twice.

Some trekking agents don’t have guides that know the area well. So a jeep or flight out helps solve their problem. Stick to your guns if you want to trek. On this page you’ll see the different routes that make up your trek so you don’t just have the “extended” day treks some agents tend to offer. Instead you’ll get full days of trekking to new areas every day.

Pro's here include meeting your guide or the trekking company in person. Faster permits issued. Having, accommodation, meals, flights arranged for you. It's easier to customize a trek in person.

Con's here mean dealing with Nepali trekking agents who have a habit of over charging for the trek and making things sound more complicated than they are. If you are a solo trekker then there could be a long wait period to find another trekker.

If you don't have time to do this yourself or find the range of options bewildering then use my Find a Trekking Guide Service.

Mountain ranges in Upper Mustang

Hiring a guide for Upper Mustang yourself:

You could avoid package treks and just hire a guide to Upper Mustang yourself. It still means having to go through an agency to get a permit. Keep in mind you'll need to find a "permit partner" as well. After that you will need to pay for your own accommodation and food when you arrive in villages.

For Upper Mustang the benefit to hiring a guide alone and not a package trek is not that great as accommodation and food on the trek is relatively inexpensive compared to other treks. However, where it does help is if you are being presented with a barrage of expensive Upper Mustang Packages. See cost of an Upper Mustang trek below for more. In other words a package trek whereby the guide helps you with your permits and tries to find you a "permit partner" is probably worth it.

Pro's here include meeting your guide before the trek. Having a slight saving on accommodation on the trek. It's easier to customize a trek in person. More independence.

Con's include yet again having to deal with Nepali trekking agents who will try to sell you package treks. Waiting for another trekker for the permit.

One again you are welcome to use my Find a Trekking Guide Service.

Independently trekking to Upper Mustang

Trekking in Upper Mustang without a guide is not permitted. Having a guide is a mandatory requirement. There are police and army checkpoints along the route and locals along with other guides are very much aware of the situation.

Please note: Some online and even local trekking agents will add on extra days to package treks to make it seem like you are getting more days. Read itineraries carefully and beware of package treks that include arrival into Kathmandu, overnight in Kathmandu and return stays in Kathmandu.

Likewise keep an eye out for Upper Mustang package treks that don’t include the restricted area permit.

If looking for a guide for the Upper Mustang trek I recommend you read my article on How to find a trekking guide in Nepal. You may also use my find a trekking guide service if you wish to have my personal recommendations. Finally if you want to research a guide yourself you can purchase one of my guidebooks as they also list my trekking guide recommendations and keep this site going.

Best time of year to go trekking along the Upper Mustang routes

Upper Mustang is one of the rare areas in Nepal where trekking can generally be done at most times of the year. Given the dry arid conditions the monsoon season can often yield impressive green fields, apple orchards and fauna.

Upper Mustang Weather by month

  Avg. Temperature (°C) Avg. Temperature (°F) Precipitation / Rainfall (mm)
January -2.2 28.0 38
February -1 30.2 27
March 2.8 37.0 42
April 5.8 42.4 26
May 8.3 46.9 13
June 11 51.8 19
July 10.9 51.6 68
August 10.6 51.1 69
September 9.3 48.7 37
October 5.6 42.1 24
November 0.8 33.4 4
December -1.1 30.0 12


Do note the low precipitation levels in the above weather table. Similarly the rather mild temperatures which are based on averages. Do note that on average winters can be colder. The chart below should give you a better idea of highs and lows.

Upper Mustang Annual Temperature Index Chart

Upper Mustang Annual Temperature Chart

Do note that wind chill in the Upper Mustang Region plays a strong role in driving temperatures downs. It's not uncommon to add -10 to the above temperatures on cold windy winter days.

Best weather months to trek in Upper Mustang

Mid Sept-October - November/(early)December: Upper Mustang is one of the rare areas in Nepal where trekking can generally be done at most times of the year. Given the dry arid conditions the monsoon season can often yield impressive green fields, apple orchards and fauna. Rainfall during the monsoon season usually only lasts for a few hours in the afternoon however there can be days of cloud cover. Meanwhile in the winter season snowfall does occur but rarely disrupts a trek due to a lack of high passes.

February-March-April: this is Nepal's peak trekking season and generally and best time to go trekking Nepal. In Upper Mustang this is second best time to go trekking in the region as the valley’s are just starting to dry up so there’s still some greenery. However, the skies are more likely to be cloud free and a deep blue which set against the dramatic rock structures can be stunning.

Upper Mustang in the monsoon

Upper Mustang during the monsoon season is equally fantastic with dramatic color ranges on display.

November/December to January/February: this is the end of the dry season and the best time of year to go trekking in Upper Mustang. The rains are just starting and valley erupt into bright greens. Coupled with less cloud cover than during monsoon season blue skies also prevail.

May - June: Nepal's hot pre-monsoon season means it can get quite warm. The valleys around Upper Mustang are already blooming however cloud cover can be an issue as it blocks distant snow peaks but up close Upper Mustang's Valleys still look great.

June - Mid September: this is Nepal's Monsoon season and while not the best time to go trekking to other areas of Nepal it’s still possible to trek in Upper Mustang. The valley’s are green which make for an impressive visual spectacle when set against the rock colors and sky. There will be cloud cover but it often breaks to reveal blue sky.

For more details please see my guide on the best time of year to go trekking in Nepal

What Permits are needed for the Upper Mustang trek?

You need three official documents before being allowed into Upper Mustang to trek along with meeting several requirements:

  1. A restricted area permit
  2. An Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP)
  3. A TIMS card

The following are mandatory requirements:

  1. A mandatory guide of your choosing
  2. Be part of a two person minimum group.

All of the above needs to be processed by a trekking company in Nepal.

For detailed information on permits, requirements and how to obtains them easily do please read my dedicated page on Upper Mustang Permits.


What equipment do I need to go on the Upper Mustang trek?

If you take a package tour option then your trekking agency will give you a list of things to bring for your trek. They may also supply you some items like trekking poles or a sleeping bag.

You’ll need to customize your trekking gear based on the time of year you go e.g. in the winter season you’ll need more warm clothes. In general for an Upper Mustang trek the following are necessities:

Mountain caves in Upper Mustang
Bring enough trekking gear with your to handle your side trips to the mountain caves of Upper Mustang

  • A good pair of hiking boots (preferably with good grips)
  • A wind cheater style jacket or light rain jacket
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Trekking pants
  • Hat
  • Head torch
  • Shorts
  • Socks
  • Rubber sandals
  • Water bottles
  • Water purification system
  • Map
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun protection
  • Lip Balm
  • Dust mask
Trekking poles can be very helpful especially if you go on the western or eastern mustang routes. Dust masks are helpful to avoid the both the dry air and the dust gusts of wind may pick up.

Please note the above is a very basic list. For a full comprehensive list please see my article on trekking equipment you need for Nepal

How difficult is the Upper Mustang trek?

There is certainly no technical climbing or even difficult trekking per se on the Upper Mustang Trek. There are no high passes over 4,180m in altitude. With its relative ease Upper Mustang is popular with a wide range of trekkers of different ages.

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The terrain is arid and pebbled strewn. On descents these pebbles can cause ones feet to slip over them. Trekking poles can help with this. In other areas the pebbles are small and offer a cushioning experience when trekking on them. Sand always appears in parts and dust can be problematic when it is windy.

Upper Mustang Difficulty Chart

The above chart is based on a 12 day eastern trek starting in Jomsom and ending in Jomsom. The difficulty for each day is as follows:

  • Days 1-2 are relatively easy with ambling terrain.
  • Day 3 sees an increase in altitude and if you take the side trek then it is a long day.
  • Day 4 is long but not too taxing
  • Day 5 sees a pass to trek over into Lo Manthang
  • Days 6-7 are easy with day treks from Lo Manthang
  • Day 8 involves a pass and a side trek which can be tiring
  • Day 9 can be one of the hardest days if the rest point in Dye is not open
  • Day 9 can be one of the hardest days if the rest point in Dye is not open
  • Day 10 is a long day whereby you carry your own food and water
  • Day 11 is back down in low altitude and flat terrain
  • Day 12 has equally flat terrain as you enter Jomson

For those who take on the Western Upper Mustang Itinerary then do note that Day 4 will be a long day whereby you carry your own supplies it also involves trekking over 4230 m across the Chogo La pass.

On the eastern side high winds on ridges between two valleys along the Tange and Chhusang trail have built up a bit of a reputation as being uncomfortable and seriously windy. Gusts can certainly push you so concentration along this part of this trek is essential. Winds pick up after midday so leaving early on those days is recommended.

There are practically no trail routes marked out on this trek and the trails signs that are there can either be out of date or incorrect. Some are literally just faded paint marks on stones. So going with an experienced guide who has been in the area is a must.

Full weather and trekking difficulty charts for Upper Mustang are availabe in my Trekking in Nepal Guidebook.

How fit do I need to be to go on the Upper Mustang trek?

Upper Mustang is not a particularly difficult trek. Coupled with relatively good accommodation and food it makes things even more enjoyable than many other treks. There are however a few cravats to this. The Classic Upper Mustang route is the easiest with only the last section coming into Lo Manthang offering a 4,000 meter pass. The western route is only 1-2 days in length (before joining the classic route) but you will need to bring a packed lunch on one day along with enough water. The eastern route is probably the hardest with at least 2 days of bringing your own food and water during the day depending on the season.

For all of the Upper Mustang trek a certain level of fitness is required however there is no climbing involved. Unlike other treks there are no stone steps to climb up and down. However on the eastern side the trail is completely unmarked and you will have some steep upward and downward routes to follow with coarse rock, gravel or pebbles. Trekking poles are helpful.

Like any trek I would advise anyone going trekking to see a doctor before they go for a check-up and to talk about dealing with altitude sickness.

Most days consist of 5-6 hours of steady trekking. Steep inclines are generally short with long periods of slow inclines. Again on the western or eastern route a days trekking can be up to 10 hours. These are probably the toughest days but the visuals make for a great distraction.

Monk living in Upper Mustang
Expect to meet quite a few monks in Upper Mustang ... including some nomadic monks

Altitude sickness is not really a problem on the Upper Mustang trek as you will only be reaching 4,380 meters over a pass along the western route and sleeping at 3,840 meters at Lo Manthang. As a precaution do read about altitude sickness in Nepal. As a precaution do read about altitude sickness in Nepal.

People often stay in Kagbeni in Lower Mustang before or after their trek to relax. Staying in Jomson is not particularly relaxing due to the busy nature of the town and the mass of Nepali who go their at weekends or during holidays. Pokhara is also closer to Upper Mustang than Kathmandu and can also be a better place to stay or relax after the trek.

What's the food like on the Upper Mustang trek?

Food on the Upper Mustang trek is better than on many other treks in Nepal. Dal Bhat is once again the staple meal here followed by typical trekking menus with pasta, fried rice, pancakes and chop suey. If staying in Jomson food is a bit of let down and quite commercial. However from Kagbeni all the way to Lo Manthang the food is fresh and tastes great.

Plate of Dal Bhat on the Upper Mustang Trek

Dal Bhat in Upper Mustang is among the best in Nepal due to incredibly fresh organically grown vegetables

One of the reasons the fresh food in Upper Mustang tastes so good is due to the usage of natural fertilizers on the vegetables grown there. The relative isolation of many villages means that food is often grown in a back garden with vegetables often picked just before cooking.

During the late winter vegetables can become scarce. Likewise shortages in non-Nepali food can happen due to a lack of access and the low number of trekkers passing through. For example one village may not have eggs for a few weeks or pasta is out of stock. As with most treks it’s advisable to stick with the basics of dal bhat which is always available.

Typical Upper Mustang Menu

Item Price
Porridge with milk 200-300 Rupees
Fried eggs (2) 250-300 Rupees
Cheese Omelet 300-350 Rupees
Apple Pancake 200-300 Rupees
Dal Bhat (Meat) 600-800 Rupees
Dal Bhat (Veg) 500-600 Rupees
Veg Thenduk 300-400 Rupees
Chicken Curry 400-500 Rupees
Fried Potatoes with Cheese 350-400 Rupees
Macaroni with cheese 400-500 Rupees
Tea/Coffee 40/70 Rupees
1 liter beer 600+ Rupees
Soft Drinks (Coke, Sprite etc.) 120-150 Rupees
1 liter tap water (from underground spring or stream) free
1 liter boiled water (for filtering) 50 Rupees
1 liter bottled water (if available)* 100-200 rupees

As you might notice from the above menu prices meals in Upper Mustang are cheaper than any other trek in Nepal. The reason is two fold. Firstly the prices are not yet inflated for tourists. Secondly the vegetables are all sourced locally.

Do not that if you trek the western or eastern Upper Mustang routes then you’ll need to be bring your own packed lunches as there are no teahouses on these routes during the day and if there are some close up shop at random times of the year. Packed lunches are generally best made with parathas  or chapattis with vegetables (300 - 400 rupees). Hard boiled eggs are possible to bring but depending on the climate may not be so fresh when eaten (hot season). Again, your teahouse can prepare these for you.

Plate of Dal Bhat on Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Apples are found throughout Upper Mustang in the Autumn

Breakfasts are usually good with pancakes or porridge readily available throughout the year. Trekking bars or small bags of trail mix can be a great help in Upper Mustang as there are not many places to get snacks during the day. Fresh apples are available in autumn and early winter months. Dried apple can be found throughout the year.

Beers, sodas, coffee (Nescafe), tea, hot lemon and bottled water are also widely throughout Upper Mustang.

Water filters are not common in Upper Mustang. Boiled water can contain some sediment along the classic trekking route. It’s best to bring your own water filter solution like iodine or a Steripen. Bottled water is readily available.

Apples are grown throughout Upper Mustang and are well worth trying in season.

In Lo Manthang there is a steady increase in Chinese snacks and consumable products. However do note that none of these products are officially meant to be in Nepal and have not passed any health or safety checks. The ingredients are listed in Chinese only.

What's accommodation like on the Upper Mustang trek?

Along the Classic Upper Mustang route accommodation is quite nice (better than other trekking routes) though not that numerous. Attached bathrooms range between USD $8-12, Shared bathrooms are from USD$5. There will be some stops where the accommodation is basic but no less so than on any other trek. In western and eastern Upper Mustang the accommodation is more akin to traditional teahouses with shared bathrooms.

Lodge in Upper Mustang
Lodges in Upper Mustang are usually wonderful white washed buildings that blend into the environment

Hot water for showers comes from solar water pipes and can be plentiful compared to other treks due to the continuous dry conditions. There is a distinct lack of mains electricity in Upper Mustang, including Lo Manthang. Most electricity comes from solar power and is often scheduled to come on a certain time. Asking when it comes on can be helpful when it comes to charging anything. In eastern Upper Mustang the tea house solar chargers are less capable in that they can charge mobile devices but not always large camera batteries.

Wi-Fi and the internet in general is not good throughout Upper Mustang. There are some teahouses that can supply an expensive satellite connection but it’s not always fast nor working. However the NTC mobile network just about reaches most parts of Upper Mustang where you will stay with 3G or 2G. The latter barely functions and the 3G is not stable. NCELL is virtually non-existent in Upper Mustang.

Read more about how to get a data sim card in Nepal.

Read more and see what trekking accommodation is like in Nepal.

How much does the Upper Mustang trek cost?

Surprisingly the Upper Mustang is not that much more expensive than other treks in Nepal. Accommodation and food costs are less than on an Everest Trek so the main cost is the restricted area permit.

Like many treks putting a cost on the Upper Mustang trek is relative to your needs. Some people want porters other don’t and some people don’t want a package trek while others do. There’s also a huge variation on the prices you’ll find online or in Nepal as many agents boost the price up thinking the clients are rich due to the permit. Again, the reality is the Upper Mustang Trek is not that much more expensive than similar 10 day treks.

Red mountains of Drakmar in Upper Mustang
The legendary red mountains of Drakmar in Western Upper Mustang

Online package tours to Upper Mustang can cost from USD 2,500 to $3,000+ with a typical 10 day itinerary.

An in-country package tour for a 10 day Upper Mustang trek from an honest trekking agency is around USD $1300-1800. This includes a return flight from Jomson to Pokhara/Kathmandu, all permits, accommodation and meals.

Considering the rising cost of an Everest trek the lower end of this trek is not a bad price!

Hiring just a guide for the Upper Mustang and paying for your own accommodation and food will not yield that much of difference in terms of cost due to affordability of accommodation and food in the region.

Breakdown on the costs of a trek to Upper Mustang

Item Cost USD $
Permits (Mustang, ACAP, TIMS) 540*
Guide x 12 days 324
Accommodation x 12 (shared) 60
Meals 3x16 144
Water 4 liters a day (filtered & boiled) 24
Transport (bus-RTN) 34**
Total 1,126

* Permits are based on one person.

** Flights can cost USD 120 each way (Jomson to Pokhara)

Keep in mind the above total is vs. a package trek difference is very little yet with the package trek you'll probably get better meals, accommodation and indeed have the guide sort out all your permits for you.

Permit costs of Upper Mustang:

  1. A restricted area permit – USD $500
  2. An Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) – USD $ 30
  3. A TIMS card – USD $10.
Total cost of permits for Upper Mustang = USD$540.

If you want to extend your trek when applying for the restricted area permit it is USD$50 per day.

Guides for Upper Mustang cost between USD$29-50 per day based on their experience.

  • Rooms with a shared bathroom cost around $5 Rooms with private bathrooms costs are between $8-$11.
  • Meals range from $6 to $12.
  • 1 liter bottles of water range from $0.50 to $1.50
  • You can save some money without a package trek by taking the 11 hour bus back to Pokhara from Jomson rather than flying back. A flight costs around $120 while a bus costs $20. A private jeep costs $250. While a shared jeep is around $50 per seat.

In terms of value for money Upper Mustang is one of the best value treks in Nepal with real prices of package treks starting from $1300 on up.

f you are looking for a guide for Upper Mustang Trek I recommend using the Find a Guide Service for experience locals guides who can arrange permits with no problems.

Additional fees in Upper Mustang

Some travel agents  have made it seem like there are scores of entry fees to places within Upper Mustang on top of permits. This is simply not true.

Here is a list of additional entry fees in Upper Mustang:

  • Entry to enter all of Lo Manthang's four monasteries: 1,000 rupees (USD $10). That’s 1,000 rupees in total and not 1,000 per monastery as incorrectly written in some guidebooks.
  • Entry to all of Chosar's caves and monasteries: 1,000 rupees total.

That’s it. There are no more charges or entry fees.

If you want to hire a motorbike or horse in Upper Mustang that will up to you as an additional option. It’s not necessary, but some people enjoy it. The cost of a motorbike and driver is about USD $25 while a horse is USD $30 for a day. These are for days out in Lo Manthang and not for completing the trek.

Rock and mountain formation in Upper Mustang
The huge rock and mountain formations in Upper Mustang are spectacular

While visiting monasteries other than the ones listed above you can if you so wish leave a donation. It’s completely mandatory. I have not been directly asked by any monk or person in Upper Mustang for a donation to enter any other place.

There are a couple of local groups in Upper Mustang who have taken on the task of repairing trekking trails and bridges which are also used by local people. They may come to a teahouse at night asking for a donation to continue their work. They usually have a book that shows who donated and what the money was used for. Compared to other more established organizations in Nepal these local community groups seem far more financially transparent. Moreover, you can actually see the work they’ve done in repaired sections of the trail, in particular the small cliff routes from Tange to Chhusang Again, a donation is mandatory and you can easily read what other people have donated.

Be aware: When working out your budget for Upper Mustang do be aware of package tours offering 12-15 day treks to Upper Mustang with at least 2-5 days counted as arrivals and departures from Kathmandu or Pokhara. They tend to add up in terms of additional package tour costs.

Likewise pay special attention to itineraries for Upper Mustang treks as many end a day early within the restricted area. One example of common overpricing is the Classic route trek which involves trekking to Lo Manthang and then taking a jeep back to Jomson. The actual days in Upper Mustang are usually only 5-6 so there’s a waste on your permit (the most expensive part of the trek). Whether trekking from Kagbeni to Lo Manthang, or when taking the western or eastern route it’s highly advisable to make the most out of the pricey permit and spend all of the ten days in Upper Mustang.

Don't forget to include travel insurance in your budget. Upper Mustang may be low altitude with a relatively straight forward route but it is in a remote area. If you get hurt or injured jeeps or helicopters are the only way to transport you out. As such having good travel insurance coverage is important. Here is my recommendation for travel insurance when in Nepal.


Chortens in Tange Upper Mustang

There are few places in the world that can genuinely deliver "once in a lifetime experiences" - Upper Mustang is one of them.

Upper Mustang Trek Itineraries and routes

There are several itineraries and routes in Upper Mustang. The vast majority of the ones shown by trekking companies online have been diluted to extend days outside of the main trekking area.

Sunglasses in Nepal
Sunglasses are a must for the Upper Mustang trek (bring your own as Nepali sunglasses are fake)

Other Upper Mustang itineraries have been given nicknames like “monastic tours” or “expeditions". The reality is there are three main routes or itineraries in Upper Mustang which can be joined together in places.

  1. The Classic Upper Mustang Route
  2. The Western Upper Mustang Route
  3. The Eastern Upper Mustang Route

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All three routes can be mix and matched to some degree depending on your time in Upper Mustang. With a ten day restricted permit you will probably only be able to stick with the main classic route or a combination of the classic and eastern routes or the classic and western route when trekking on foot. With an added two-three days you should be able to do all three with ease.

Below we’ll look at all three Upper Mustang itineraries and their combinations. We start from Jomson for all of them as day one. Day two is when you enter Upper Mustang and your 10 day permit starts.

The most popular and longest running Upper Mustang trek is known as the “Classic Upper Mustang Trek”. It is sometimes known as the "Lo Manthang trek" . It follows the old salt caravan trail. It starts in Jomson goes straight up to Lo Manthang and returns the same way. Due to the road the classic trek is also popular with mustang jeep tours, motorcyclists and mountain bikers. Side trips on this trek extend the days. Like on all treks there will be variations on this route with some guides wanting to stay at a different village than one that is listed. The itinerary below is the most popular.

Day Route Distance (km) Highest Altitude
1 Jomson to Kagbeni (Lower Mustang) 11.4 km (3 hours avg) 2,810m
2 Kagbeni to Chhusang (first day entering Upper Mustang) - Side treks to Tangbe & Tetang 10+ km (3+ hours avg) 2,980 m
3 Chhusang to Geling 18+ km (5+ hours avg) 3,570 m
4 Geling to Ghami (4010m Nyi La pass) 10+ km (5+ hours avg) 3,520m
5 Ghami to Tsarang 11+ km (4+ hours avg) 3,560m
6 Tsarang to Lo Manthang (crossing 3923m) 13+ km (5+hours) 3810m
7 Lo Manthang day of exploring monasteries and castles 4+ km (6+ hours) 3,810m
8 Lo Manthang side trek to /Chosar caves and monasteries (can be done in part by horse, bike or jeep) 20 km (6+ hours) 3,810m
9 Lo Manthang to Ghami 16 km (5+ hours) 3,520m
10 Ghami to Samar 21 km (8+ hours) 3,660m
11 Samar to Kagbeni (Leaving Upper Mustang) 16km (6+ hours) 2,810m
12 Kagbeni to Jomson 11.4 km (3.5 hours) 2,743m

* Reducing or additional hours/days: Again, the above classic itinerary is not set in stone. You can adapt it with various side treks. As you may note the trek goes straight up and down. Due to the road, many people will opt on the 9th day to take a jeep from Lo Manthang back to Jomson. They either do a day trek from Lo Manthang or simply stay and enjoy the former kingdom.

A popular addition to the Classic Upper Mustang route is to incorporate the Western Upper Mustang trek on the way back from Day 9. This gives you more to see and a different route back. You can also do the western route on the way up and then take a jeep or trek back the classic route. Let’s take a look at that itinerary next.

The Lo Manthang trek is basically the same as the classic Upper Mustang trek. Tour operators have simply used another name for the same itinerary. In recent years Indians and Nepali who don't need restricted permits refer to this trek by the name Lo Manthang Trek. The reason for this is that they often take a jeep or bus straight up to Lo Manthang, do side treks from there and then take a bus or jeep back down again. It's a short holiday or weekend away rather than a full trek. Again, this is what some tour operators call the trek when advertising for short hop holidays. As such, the term Lo Manthang trek is not set in stone and could mean an actual trek or a package holiday. As mentioned before, this is one reason to read itineraries carefully.

The western Upper Mustang route is somewhat of a misunderstood trek. It’s more like a short 1-2 day diversion than a separate trail. Essentially from Ghami on the classic route you detour off to the west to visit Drakmar, Ghar Gompa and cross a high pass at Chogo La (4230m) before entering Lo Manthang. With this route you avoid the road and can take a different route back so you get to see more. You can also do this on the way back from Lo Manthang which is increasingly becoming a more popular option.

Day Route Distance (km) Highest Altitude
1 Jomson to Kagbeni (Lower Mustang) 11.4 km (3 hours avg) 2,810 m
2 Kagbeni to Chhusang (first day entering Upper Mustang) - Side treks to Tangbe & Tetang 10+ km (3+ hours avg) 2,980 m
3 Chhusang to Syangmochen 13+ km (5+ hours avg) 2,800 m
4 Syangmochen to Drakmar 20+ km (6+ hours avg) 3,820 m
5 Drakmar to Lo Manthang (carry own lunch/water - passing Ghar Gompa and over Chogo pass (4230m) – long day) 17+ km (8+ hours avg) 3,820 m
6 Lo Manthang day of exploring monasteries and castles 4+ km (6+ hours) 3810m
7 Lo Manthang side trek to /Chosar caves and monasteries (can be done in part by horse, bike or jeep) 20 km (6+ hours) 3,810 m
8 Lo Manthang to Tsarang 14 km (5+ hours) 3560m
9 Tsarang to Geling 23.5 km (6+ hours) 3,570m
10 Geling to Chhusang 18 km (6+ hours) 2,980mm
11 Chhusang to Kagbeni (Leaving Upper Mustang) 10+ km (3+ hours avg) 2,980m

As you can tell from the above western itinerary the main difference to the classic route is trekking off to Drakmar to the west. Here the cliff faces are dramatic in color with a legend of Guru Rinpoche killing a demon and its intestines were thrown on to the mountains.

The second day is the longest with up to 10 hours of trekking and no place to stop and eat along the way so you’ll need to bring a packed lunch along with water. You’ll visit Upper Mustangs oldest Monastery Ghar Gompa.

The western Upper Mustang itinerary requires more effort than the classic route but by taking the western route you will get to see more. If tired, there’s always the option of taking a jeep down from Lo Manthang and doing it that way. However, it should be noted that if you take a shared jeep rather than a private jeep or trek then you will not get to see some of the great viewpoints along the classic route. A private jeep simply allows more flexibility.

Of all the trekking routes and itineraries in Upper Mustang the eastern route offers the most as it goes in a complete loop around most of Upper Mustang. You’ll be spending time in the eastern side which is more remote than other parts of the region along with extremely diverse scenery. While it's possible to do the eastern route at the start from Chhusang it’s advisable to do the eastern route after the classic route (departing from Lo Manthang) as it will offer the best experience in terms of landscapes and culture.

Day Route Distance (km) Highest Altitude
1 Jomson to Kagbeni (Lower Mustang) 11.4 km (3 hours avg) 2,810 m
2 Kagbeni to Chhusang (first day entering Upper Mustang) - Side treks to Tangbe & Tetang 10+ km (3+ hours avg) 2,980 m
3 Chhusang to Syangmochen 13+ km (5+ hours avg) 2,800 m
4 Syangmochen to Tsarang 26+ km (7+ hours avg) 3,560 m
5 Tsarang to Lo Manthang (crossing 3923m) 13+ km (5+hours) 3,810 m
6 Lo Manthang day of exploring monasteries and castles 4+ km (6+ hours) 3810m
7 Lo Manthang side trek to /Chosar caves and monasteries (can be done in part by horse, bike or jeep) 20 km (6+ hours) 3,810 m
8 Lo Manthang to Yara (side trek to Ghara / Luri Gompa) 16 km (5+ hours)/4km (1+hours) 3608m/4100m
9 Yara to Tange (passing Dye which may not have food/water) 18.5 km (7+ hours) 3,240m
10 Tange to Chhusang (bring lunch & water) 24 km (7+ hours) 2,980m
11 Chhusang to Kagbeni (Leaving Upper Mustang) - it's also possible to take a jeep from Chhusang to Jomson if available. 10+ km (3+ hours avg) 2,980m
12 Kagbeni to Jomson 11.4 km (3 hours avg) 2,810 m

On day 9 on the Eastern route there is village called Dye which has a single teahouse that offers food and lodging. While you won’t have time to stay with a 10 day permit you can eat here during the long days trek. However, the teahouse is not always open (especially in late Autumn and winter) so bring a packed lunch just in case along with enough water for the entire day.

On day 10 on the Eastern route there is no place to eat. So again you’ll need to bring a good packed lunch and plenty of water.

In both cases a good packed lunch can be prepared in Tange by your teahouse (they are well used to preparing them). Of note, the small village of Tange is especially fantastic and you could easily spend a second day here if you enjoy culture and Mustang cave exploration. However that would mean either reducing a day in Lo Manthang or adding a day to your permit which we’ll cover next.

What's the best Upper Mustang trekking itinerary?

Here’s a good way to work it out. Everyday on the Upper Mustang trek has dramatic changing landscapes. There are also many monasteries to visit along the way especially in Lo Manthang and Chosar. Most are red mud brick and square. They do not allow photography inside.

If Buddhist monasteries are your thing, then Ghar Gompa on the western route is a “must see” destination it’s larger than the others and has a claim to being the oldest in Upper Mustang. The rock cliffs are slightly redder than along the classic route section you’ll be skipping. However a similar red valley can be seen from Tange to Chhusang on the eastern route.

If remote villages, trekking and dramatic landscapes are your thing then the Eastern side offers more. From Yara a side trek to Ghara and Luri Gompa is possible but it can be tiring. Tange village is probably the most scenic in all of Upper Mustang. The long days, remote villages, dramatic landscapes certainly give this eastern route an old school trekkers feel.

Personally, I prefer the eastern route. However, if trekking for long periods is not your thing then doing a mix of the classic and western route is probably better than just trekking the classic route. This of course poses the next question about getting a longer permit.

Should you extend your Upper Mustang Permit to see more?

The ten day Upper Mustang Permit is not long enough to see all of Upper Mustang including some great side trips. It’s certainly not long enough to trek the Classic, Western and Eastern routes together without rushing all the way. By extending your permit for 2 or more days you can do all the routes. Is it worth it though?

If you have the time and money then yes. It’s a spectacular area for trekking. If you don’t have the time or money to extend your days than my suggestion is you choose either the Western Route or the Eastern Route to make the most out of your ten day permit. Use the above options to choose which route would be better for you.

It is also possible to add the Upper Mustang trek to your Annapurna Circuit trek. However it's essential you get your restricted permits before starting.

Keep in mind that many Nepali trekking companies boost their prices up for these types of trek. There’s also a lack of experienced guides who have been to Upper Mustang. To make the most of your trek no matter the routes you go, try to get an experienced guide who knows the area. Again you can use my Find a Trekking Guide Service if you wish.

Frequently asked Questions about Upper Mustang Trekking

Has the road destroyed Upper Mustang?

No. At least not yet. In 2019 there is certainly a dirt road. But one could hardly call it a "road". It’s not tarmacadamed (black topped) and large sways of it are not remotely complete. There’s virtually no traffic on it from the Chhusang aside from the odd motorbike and jeep. Are they annoying? The jeeps are but you’ll likely only encounter 5 in a day. They kick up dust, you wait two minutes for it to settle and trek on.

Trekking along a trail in Upper Mustang

Trekking in Upper Mustang is not as difficult compared to other treks in Nepal.

They say the road will be complete in 5 years. Long delays happen in Nepal so add on a few more years here. After that there will still be little traffic. However, if the Chinese open the border in 5 years then all bets are off if commercial traffic comes through. This guide to Upper Mustang is regularly updated so you can check back here. There’s a rarely used road on the western side and none on the eastern side.

Where does the money for the Upper Mustang Permit go?

Great question and nobody knows for sure. The Upper Mustang Permit is payable to the Department of Immigration. A portion of the money is then said to be given to Upper Mustang for development. However news reports over the years have said that Upper Mustang has long complained about either not getting funds or not getting enough. Do read the Vanishing Kingdom of Lo.

The idea of the permit was to restrict the number of people entering into Upper Mustang and thus preserve the culture there. However the very fact that a road is being built from Pokhara to the border to Tibet as part of a trade route undermines this notion.

Why do I need to pay for an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit?

Another great question. Upper Mustang was made part of the Annapurna Conservation Area which requires a permit to visit the area known as a National Park. As such you need an ACAP permit which is different from the restricted area permit. The funds of an ACAP permit are meant to go towards preservation of the National Park and to place trek route signs, water stations along while supporting local environmental and cultural programs. However, the reality is that along the entire trek you’ll probably only see 5-6 trekking route signs.

Repairs to the trekking trail and local trade trails are largely done by locals these days who claim to have not seen a member of ACAP in over two years. Similarly a TIMS card is also needed with no TIMS card checkpoints to be found along the trail.

Is Upper Mustang still a remote area?

Yes. Despite the "road", such as it is, Upper Mustang still remains a remote place. Wired electricity does not reach Lo Manthang or even Syangmochen. Poles are being placed in preparation but nobody is expecting wired electricity for several years to come.

At the moment electricity comes from small solar stations and panels. There are no wired telephone lines. Only the NTC mobile network reaches some areas. The Western and Eastern Upper Mustang areas remain some of the remotest areas in Nepal and the culture in both is relatively untouched by modern technology or modern life.

Why is it so expensive to visit Upper Mustang?

Take a look at the section above about cost of trekking in Upper Mustang. You’ll quickly realize that the cost of a trek in Upper Mustang is not that much more expensive than the cost of a trek to Everest Base Camp. In fact if you remove the USD$ permit from the costing it’s much cheaper. Unfortunately due to the presumption that a trekker can afford a USD $500 permit many trekking agents have boosted up the price of an Upper Mustang treks overall cost. Some written travel guides to Upper Mustang have also made it sound like you have to pay for entry into everywhere in Upper Mustang in addition to the permit. This is simply not true. Again, see the cost of trekking to Upper Mustang section on this page for a costing breakdown.

Daily treks through Upper Mustang

If you just arrived at this page then there will be a full daily journal of my treks through Upper Mustang appearing here in due course:

More information on Trekking in Nepal

Upper Mustang is one of many treks in Nepal. It's a relatively easy but spectacular trek with very few crowds. Offering incredibly colorful rock valleys, Tibetan plateaus, teahouses, remote Nepali culture, rock caves, citadels and a unique remote trekking experience not found anywhere else on earth.

For alternative treks across Nepal do read my list of treks in Nepal which is continually being added to based on popularity or request.

Likewise my full trekking in Nepal guidebook offers you over 28 treks to choose from.

If you are looking for a trekking guide I recommend you read my article on How to find a trekking guide in Nepal. You may also contact me for details about the guide I had on this trek by using my Find a Trekking Guide Service.

Finally, your could also get my guidebook to Nepal which contains many local guides including my guides details.

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