Trekking through the barren beauty of the Upper Mustang—one of the most remote regions of the Himalaya—is a highlight of this 15-day itinerary, which culminates in the annual Tiji festival in Lo Manthang. During this colorful, three-day Buddhist celebration, you'll witness masked and costumed dances and ancient music at the most important local religious festival of the year. En route, you'll take in the natural and cultural attractions of Kathmandu and Pokhara, Nepal's two most lively cities.

Highlights

  • Be mesmerized by the amazing landscape of Upper Mustang
  • Watch an ancient festival involving masked dances
  • Trek in a restricted part of Nepal that few tourists see
  • Chill out in Pokhara post-trek, a relaxed lakeside city

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 2 Fly to Pokhara Pokhara
Day 3 Fly to Jomsom - Trek to Kagbeni Kagbeni
Day 4 Trek to Chele Chele
Day 5 Trek to Syanboche Sangboche
Day 6 Trek to Dhakmar Dhakmar
Day 7 Trek to Lo Manthang Lo Manthang
Days 8-10 Tiji Festival Lo Manthang
Day 11 Return to Jomsom by Jeep Jomsom
Day 12 Fly to Pokhara Pokhara
Day 13 Tour Pokhara Pokhara
Day 14 Drive back to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 15 Farewell Nepal  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

Swayambhunath Stupa
Swayambhunath Stupa

After your arrival into Kathmandu, you'll be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to take a sunset walk to Swayambhunath, a Buddhist stupa atop a hill overlooking the city. Later, enjoy a traditional welcome dinner.

Day 2: Fly to Pokhara

Pokhara - Lake City
Pokhara is a city of mountains and lakes

In the morning you'll get a detailed trek briefing, so you know what to expect and how to prepare for the coming days. In the afternoon, fly to Pokhara. It's a short flight of less than half an hour, and if you sit on the right-hand side of the plane you should be treated to stunning mountain views.

After arrival, you can rest up at the hotel, take a short guided walk through the Lakeside area of town, or take an evening stroll along the lake's edge, with sundowners.

Day 3: Fly to Jomsom - Trek to Kagbeni

Sunset view of Mt.Nilgiri over the Kagbeni Valley
Sunset view of Mt. Nilgiri over the Kagbeni Valley

Early this morning, fly to Jomsom in Lower Mustang. It's a short but very exciting flight, as you pass through the Kali Gandaki Gorge and over to the 'other' side of the Himalaya

After arrival in this little frontier town, embark on the three-hour hike to Kagbeni, where you'll stop for the night. While some people drive this way, walking towards Upper Mustang is a great prelude to the adventure that awaits you over the next few days.

You can spend the afternoon exploring Kagbeni, a wonderful ancient settlement, with its narrow lanes and earthen brick homes and monasteries, including a monastery that's more than 500 years old. If you're feeling energetic you can even take a small uphill hike for acclimatization and a view.

Kagbeni altitude: 9219 feet (2810 m)

Day 4: Trek to Chele

Kagbeni

Get your Upper Mustang permit checked just outside Kagbeni, and begin the trek into the region, following a trail alongside the Kali Gandaki River. The path here is quite sandy, and you turn uphill.  Reach the village of Tangbe, where you can admire the narrow alleyways, white-washed houses, barley and buckwheat fields, and apple orchards.

Leaving Tangbe, continue past another village, across a river, and along a ridgeline before reaching Chele village, your stop for the night. From here one can have an amazing view of the sunset over Mt. Nilgiri

Trekking time: 6-7 hours
Chele altitude: 10,006 feet (3050 m)

Day 5: Trek to Syanboche

The trail to Tilicho Lake
The trail to Tilicho Lake

Be prepared for a harder day of trekking today. You'll need to cross two passes, Taklam La (11,889 feet/3624 m) and Dajori La (12,253 feet/ 3735 m). On the way, enjoy great views of Tilicho, Yakawa Kang, and Damodar Danda, as well as passing by Ramchung Cave.

Descend further and reach Samar village. From here, walk on a trail above the village and reach a ridge. Next, descend on a steep trail to a stream and finally reach Syanboche, your overnight stop.

Trek duration: 8-9 hours
Syanboche altitude: 12,467 feet (3800 m)

Day 6: Trek to Dhakmar

Trekking in Upper Mustang

There will be another couple of high passes to cross today. Begin by ascending to the Yamda La, at 12,631 feet (3850 m). On the way, pass by a few teahouses, chortens, and beautiful villages. Trek through poplar forests and barley fields, and reach Nyi Pass, at 13,156 feet (4010 m). From here, descend to Ghami, which is one of the biggest villages in the Lo region. Continue on to the final destination of the day, the village of Dhakmar, which is surrounded by beautiful irrigated fields.

Trek duration: 7-8 hours
Dhakmar altitude: 12,532 feet (3820 m)

Day 7: Trek to Lo Manthang

On the way to Lo Manthang

The trail today begins by descending to a canyon and crossing a river, before turning uphill to the Lo La Pass, at 12,959 feet (3950 m). From the top of the pass, admire the views of beautiful, walled Lo Manthang village. From the pass, descend to Lo Manthang. From here there are great views of the Himalaya, including Nilgiri, Tilicho, Annapurna I, Bhrikuti Peak, and Damodar Kunda (pond).

Trek duration: 9-10 hours
Lo Manthang altitude: 12,500 feet (2810 m)

Days 8-10: Tiji Festival

Tiji is a Tibetan Buddhist festival

For the next three days, you'll get to rest your body but invigorate your senses at the amazing Tiji Festival. The amazing cultural display will make all those hours of hard walking worthwhile.

On the first day, the monks perform a dance called Tsa Chaam. This tells the story of the birth of Dorji Sonam, a reincarnated Buddha, to a demon. This demon harassed the kingdom of Mustang and brought havoc to the country. You can witness the monks acting out the demon's harassment of the people of Mustang.

On the second day, the monks perform Nga Cham, during which Dorjee Sonam tries to return the demon to the realm of the Buddha.

On the third and final day of the festival, the Rha Chham dance takes place. During this, Dorjee Sonam triumphs over the evil demon and banishes him from Mustang.

Day 11: Return to Jomsom by Jeep

The Jeep track between Jomsom and Lo Manthang

You'll leave Upper Mustang today, retracing the steps you took back to Lower Mustang, but in the back of a Jeep. The journey takes about 6-7 hours. Stop for lunch at Kagbeni, then continue to Jomsom, where you'll stay overnight.

Jomsom altitude: 8923 feet (2720 m)

Day 12: Fly to Pokhara

Lakeside Pokhara

Take a short early morning flight to Pokhara, before the winds of Mustang whip up and make flying too risky. The plane passes through the Kali Gandaki Gorge, between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains, making the flight itself an amazing experience.

After arriving in Pokhara, spend the rest of the day in leisure, perhaps enjoying a massage or a meal with a view of the lake.

Day 13: Tour Pokhara

Photo taken by Greg C
Paddling on the lake is a popular Pokhara activity. Photo by Greg C

Pokhara is a lovely lake city, and after breakfast, you'll begin your tour of it. Head to the Shanti Stupa, the Gupteswor Cave, Davis Falls, and the Mountain Museum (the latter if there's time). You can choose to hike to the Shanti Stupa or to preserve your energy and drive. To walk, take a boat across the lake and then walk uphill for an hour. Driving via the winding back roads takes only about half an hour. After appreciating the sweeping views of Pokhara, Fewa Tal and the Annapurna Himalaya beyond, go down to the Gupteswor Caves, Davis Falls, and the Mountain Museum.

Day 14: Drive back to Kathmandu

Souvenirs for sale in Thamel

Today it's time to return to Kathmandu. You'll go overland, which takes much longer than the 30-minute flight but will give you a chance to see the beautiful Trishuli River Valley and all the small farming villages along the highway. The journey takes 6-9 hours, depending on the traffic conditions.

After you arrive back in Kathmandu, you may wish to do some last-minute souvenir shopping, or perhaps even chill out in the beautifully landscaped Garden of Dreams. In the evening you'll enjoy a small farewell dinner.

Day 15: Farewell Nepal

Farewell Kathmandu

Depending on your departure time, there may be time for a final wander around Thamel. You'll be transferred to the airport in good time to check in for your flight onward or home.