Lower Mustang Nepal: My suggested 3 day itinerary

Mount Everest base camp trek isn’t the only reason you visit Nepal.

In fact, there are loads of mountainous regions across the country you should definitely visit.

One of which is the Lower Mustang. 

Apart from the typical tourist destinations like Chitwan and Pokhara, Lower Mustang is definitely a place to visit for a nontrekker or if you’re short on time. 

Its culturally Tibetan rich landscape, dry and windy remote region, and mouth-watering food make it a place you should not skip. 

Why Lower Mustang Nepal?

Lower Mustang Nepal is the most accessible and affordable place in the Mustang region. In comparison to Upper, you don’t need a $500 permit to get off the Ministry of Travel and hike in advance. 

Quick travel

Moreover, the flights are easily accessible from Pokhara and Kathmandu, being under 1 hour flight. That’s if you don’t find your flight delayed, like mine (due to wind). 

Plus, whether you’re planning to trek or drive around Lower Mustang is pretty accessible and has straightforward routes to each village if you’re not traveling in Monsoon season! Speaking of which, if you’re on more of a budget, you can actually drive from Pokhara to thereby road, which takes around 12 hours or so.

Plus, if you want to squeeze everything in like I did, hiring a driver for the Mustang is reasonable. It’s around $50-$70 a day, just ask your lodge, and they will arrange for you. 

Different type of culture 

Lower Mustang Nepal has a different type of culture you’ll experience when traveling. Mainly it’s dominantly Hindu across the country and less Buddhist. Whereas you’ll find such a rich Tibetan Buddhist influence when you travel to Lower Mustang, you’ll be blown away. 

That’s, of course, if you love Tibetan culture like me. It’s so evident you can find different dresses, food, scenery, prayer wheels, and mindsets compared to other areas in Nepal. 

There’s the holy Muktinath temple 

If you plan to travel to Nepal for religious reasons, you definitely can’t skip the iconic holy Muktinath temple, where Buddhists and Hindus travel from afar to visit. The site itself is situated at 3,710 meters tall. 

Other destinations to visit in Nepal

Day 1: Pokhara- Jomsom 

When traveling to Lower Mustang, you’ll want to book an early morning flight. In fact, they are the only ones that are typically available. Due to a difficult online system, it’s best to book a domestic flight with Yeti airlines at their Kathmandu or Pokhara ticket office. 

When booking, they will most likely ask you to show proof of COVID vaccination or PCR report prior to travel. This is to protect the inhabitants of Lower Mustang as it’s quite an isolated region.

  • Kathmandu locations for PCR

If you need to get a PCR test done in Kathmandu, some hospitals offer it like Mediciti, Central Diagnostics lab, Tesla Clinic, CIWEC, and more.

  • Pokhara locations for PCR

In Pokhara, you can get your PCR test from CIWEC hospital, NRL, Provincial Lab, and LifeCare Diagnostics and research center. 

Once you’ve had your PCR Done, you’re ready to go. Depending on where you’re flying from, you might want to get your hotel to ring the airport in advance to see if the flight is on time. On average, there’s only around 3 flights in a morning that fly to Jomsom and can be delayed due to the weather.

Flight to Jomsom (capital of Lower Mustang Nepal)

In general, the flight you take to Jomsom isn’t that long; you’re on a super small carrier that fits around a max of 15-18 people. If you want to get good views, you might wanna sit on the right-hand side of the plane to see the mountains.

Arriving in Jomsom 

When you arrive in Jomsom, it will be relatively straightforward, as the airport is tiny. Literally, you’ll need to show proof of your PCR and sign your details, such as your name and contact number.

Accommodation 

When you’re staying in Lower Mustang, it’s best you stay in Jomsom and use it as a base for all of your travels. There are plenty of options available to cover all budgets, which are:

  • Her Majesty- 4
  • Hotel Oms home – $$
  • Moksha Mustang $$$

Activities:

Depending on what time you arrive, use this time to roam about the town of Jomsom on your legs. Take your time to digest the stunning scenery with the gorgeous Himalayas around you. 

Jomsom is situated on the world’s deepest gorge bank, known as the Kali Gandaki gorge. In Jomsom, you’ll be able to see stunning peaks around you, such as Dhaulagiri (8,167m) and Annapurna (8091), situated on the west. 

Grab a bite to eat

If you’re feeling hungry, try to grab some local Thakali food in the town. Moreover, this area is also famous for growing apples; they grow everywhere! You might want to try some tasty apple pies or treats in the Modern Bakery. If you’re tired from your morning flight, there’s also a Himalayan Java which you can visit and grab a coffee from. 

Rock climbing 

Perhaps you’ve got quite a bit of energy left after your flight? If so you can always use the afternoon to go rock climbing, just ask in the town center. 

Day 2: Jomsom, Dhumba Lake, Marpha

Visit Dhumba Lake (2900m)

Set off in your private vehicle to Dhumba Lake in the morning. It’ll only take around 45 minutes to reach in a decent 4×4 Mahindra vehicle. Note that there is a small fee to enter the site, which is around a few hundred rupees max (I can’t remember the cost exactly). Ideally, if you want good photo opportunities, you’ll want to get there early as possible before other travelers Nepali and foreigners get in and start photobombing!

The lake itself is a stunning turquoise, and it’s like a breath of fresh air after visiting congested cities like Kathmandu. It’s a small lake in itself and situated at the bottom of Mount Nilgiri. It’s not just any lake though, it’s a sacred lake, especially for Buddhists. 

Many locals come to the lake to pray for a better future, and Buddhists travel far to this green gem. You’re only allowed to walk around it, though, as swimming is forbidden, and there are prayer flags all around to stop you from doing this. 

Marpha (2680m)

After you’ve spent time visiting Dhumba lake, travel to Marpha (around 1 hour in the car), a stunning village with a population of 1600+ residents. What makes Marpha special is that it’s incredibly picturesque with well-preserved architecture. The buildings in Marpha are made from this iconic stone, with stunning doors, windows, and red borders. Moreover, being alone with the mountains makes it a stunning photo opportunity. 

For a long time, this place was a place for Tibetan Refugees, so there’s a lot of Tibetan influence here. You might actually wish to visit the Tibetan settlement Chiaro, only a few miles away from Marpha. Here you’ll find a Tibetan Monastery over 300 years old, which is also a museum.

What to eat

I definitely recommend you take some time in Marpha to try a range of local delicacies. After all, this destination is renowned for many things, especially Apples! Yes, that’s right, they have these tasty apples that they also make use to produce their own brandy; the distillery is in the village itself!

If that’s too strong for you, though, you can always try some delicious homemade apple cider and apple pie. Another local dish you may wish to explore is Yak Sukuti. If you’re not familiar with Sukiti, this is dried out yak meat and marinated in spices. Usually, you can eat different types of Sukiti all over Nepal like buff, chicken, goat, and more, but yak is particularly unique to the lower Mustang region. 

Yak Sukuti

Moreover, you might also want to try Kanchemba, a scrumptious Thakali snack made from buckwheat flour and severed with achaar (pickle). This is a vegetarian and vegan friendly option! Now, if you want to try this type of food, I recommend visiting Hotel Sonam Marpha Thakali Vanchar Ghar. The owners at this place an incredibly hospitable and will go out their way to make this for you and any local specialties. 

Kanchemba

Day 3: Muktinath and Kagbeni

Kagbeni 2,800

To the left of Jomsom, about 30 minutes drive away, is the unique village known as Kagbeni. Kagbeni is also the gateway to other destinations for trekkers like Upper Mustang. Previously this village used to be an important point for traders from Manang, Dollop, and Lo Manthang. 

The village itself has lots of Tibetan influence, and it also has areas where Lama Buddhists bones are buried. There’s also a red monastery you can visit, where monks can give you a tour.

To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend staying here for long as there’s not much to do unless you plan to go trekking elsewhere. The village is a bit like a ghost town, and there are teahouses to eat when there, but I’d suggest saving yourself for the Muktinath area as there are many more local, Nepali and international options. 

Where to eat

While there are a handful of teahouses you can eat in Kagbeni, I’d recommend two. I’ve only eaten at one, but there’s one that’s popular with the travelers. The first I’d recommend is Asia Trekkers Home, where I ate. I visited towards the back end of the season, so there were hardly any travelers. On the contrary, the husband and wife owners were very accommodating. 

They went out of their way to make tasty Thakali cuisine and continental cuisines, such as chicken and chips. In addition to this, they also served illy coffee, which was a novelty in itself and was 300 NPR which is very reasonable. 

Moreover, if you want to try any other local delights, I’d recommend trying the seabuckthorn juice, which is native to that area. It’s so nutritious that the berries used to make this juice has around 15 times the amount of Vitamin C a standard orange juice holds.

On the contrary, if you want to go somewhere a little bit more niche, there’s a Yac Donalds. You might also notice the Yac Donalds advertised all over Jomsom. Plus, you don’t need to travel far to see this in Kagbeni as it has a striking iconic red and yellow outside and inside the restaurant. While it’s certainly no McDonalds, this place is known for whipping up some tasty yak burgers and local equivalents of Mcdonald’s delicacies. 

Muktinath (3,750 meters) 

During the second half of the day, I’d recommend you get your driver to take you from Kagbeni to Muktinath. Make sure, though, you allocate plenty of time because the views are next level! One interesting place you might wish to check out en route is the Serthang Selfie Park. 

This little park is someone’s land they’ve turned into a cafe, charging a nominal entry fee of 20 rupees. Don’t be put off by the name, though! It actually boasts some spectacular views, and they serve tasty milk tea.

The journey from Kagbeni to Muktinath takes around 25 minutes in the car, and you’ll be brought just before the town. When you reach the town, you’ll find an abundance of eateries, coffee places, and scarf sellers. Do note, if you like some of the scarves being sold, pay close attention to them or ask locals who are which. Some sellers bring the scarves directly from Pokhara, and only a select few are handmade there. 

If you’re not that physically fit, take your time climbing up the stairs to Muktinath. As these stairs are tiring and there’s a lot, I don’t know how many, though!

When visiting Muktinath temple, you might also want to bring swimwear with you if you want to go underneath the fountains and do pooja (worship). There are also male and female changing rooms to allow you to change too. Alongside this, you might want to check out the statue of Gautam Buddha as well. 

After your Muktinath trip, drive back to your hotel, hostel, or homestay in Jomsom. When you have your flight back, speak to your accommodation hosts to inform you about the flight the following day. There’s no point waiting for a long time if the flight is delayed due to weather, as the airport is so small and can only hold a handful of people. 

Where to eat

There’s a range of places you can eat in Muktinath, some serve Thakali food, others continental, that you can even find Shakuska! 

FAQS

Why is Upper Mustang restricted?

One of the major reasons the Upper Mustang can be quite difficult to trek is that it has an open border with Tibet, China. Plus, it’s a demilitarized area which makes it a preserved region and one that needs a lot of permissions to enter. 

How do I get to the Lower Mustang Nepal?

There’s a variety of ways you can reach Lower Mustang Nepal, such as by helicopter, flight, or car. If you’re planning on visiting by flight, you can reach there from Kathmandu or Pokhara on a morning flight. At the same time, a car will take 6-8 hours. Obviously, helicopters get you there in less time; it’s just costlier if you’re traveling on your own. 

What does Mustang mean in Nepal?

In Nepal, Mustang derives from the Tibetan term “fertile plain.” This name couldn’t be any more well suited to the Dhaulagiri Zone the Mustang district lies in as the area is dry and hardly has much rain. 

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