Extension of Tibetan plateau, typical Tibetan traditions, Bon (pre-buddhist) and Buddhist culture, forbidden area till the last decade, dramatic landscapes, warm-friendly locals, walled city of Loman-thang, as it was for hundred years ago, grand views of the snow capped peaks
Mustang is the old kingdom of Lo. Actually the capital of the Mustang district is Jomsom, but the real Tibetan style district lies north of Kagbeni and is usually referred to as Upper Mustang.
Mustang has an average elevation of 13,000ft and is located to the north of the mountain giants of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna and is therefore north of the main Himalayan range and geographically is part of the highlands of Tibet. It is a vast high valley, arid and dry, characterized by eroded canyons, colorful stratified rock formations and has a barren, desert like appearance.
One of the most fascinating features of Mustang are literally thousands of cliff dwellings, some of which look completely inaccessible. The most recent theory is that they may date 8-10,000 BC when Mustang was a much greener land.
Naturally, most of the history is now a matter of legend rather than recorded fact, but it seems clear that Lo was once part of Ngari, part of Tibet and a rather loose collection of feudal domains. It was incorporated into the Tibetan Empire under the most famous of the Tibetan kings Songtsengampo. It was an important means of crossing the Himalaya from Tibet to Nepal, and many of the old salt caravans passed through Mustang. By 14C much of Ngari became part of the Malla empire, whose capital was Sinja in western Nepal. Really, it became an independent kingdom in its own right, under the rule of Ame Pal, the founder king of Lo in 1380. The present royal family can trace its history 25 generations back to Ame Pal, and the city of Lomanthang, which we will visit, was the centre of their power.
In more recent times in the 1960’s Mustang became the centre for Tibetan Guerrilla fighters who carried out small operations against the occupying Chinese. They were assisted by the CIA and the Tibetan Khampas were secretly trained in America. With Nixon’s visit to China in the 1970’s, the CIA’s support was withdrawn and the Nepalese managed to disband these resistance fighters.
We have given considerable thought to our Mustang itinerary and it does not skimp in terms of time spent within the kingdom. It does give you the opportunity to visit the main town, Lo Manthang, and one or two of the villages beyond. Our research indicates that late August /early September would be an excellent time to visit the kingdom, which is not much affected by the monsoon.
Well known, intrepid explorers such as Professor David Snellgrove and the Italian scholar Guiseppi Tucci visited Mustang in the 1950’s and it has largely been their tales of a Tibetan like arrid region that has fuelled interest in the area.
Recognizing the special nature of this old, tiny kingdom, the Nepalese have imposed a surcharge for anyone wishing to trek past Kagbeni, the border of Upper Mustang. With legal trekking groups only being allowed in for the first time in March 1992, you would be part of a small privileged minority to visit this remote outpost of Nepal.