The hidden world of the ancient Buddhist kingdom Upper Mustang is a remote area in Nepal with highly preserved Tibetan culture. This region has amazing and different landscapes unlike any other place in Nepal. Motorbike trip to Upper Mustang is to reach the most stunning valley with spectacular mountain view, breathtaking landscapes and direct touch with ethnic Tibetan culture of remote Nepal.
Although it lies in the Himalayan region of Nepal, the terrain is a mixture of snow-capped mountains and desert lands. Upper Mustang, the Last Forbidden Kingdom of Lo Manthang, is the perfect adventure for those who love motorbike rides, adventure and want to explore more without being having to indulge at tourists flocked places in Nepal.
A group of my friends planned a trip to this hidden kingdom on motorbikes. After a month of planning and preparation, we finally left Kathmandu on 21 March 2018. On the first day, we passed through the hills and agricultural fields riding through the river banks up to Pokhara. It was a perfect road trip on a fine sunny day. The plan was to reach Beni on the same day. But having traveled 200km in a single day and the nightfall made our stay at Pokhara. As it was a whole day ride, we stretched our legs and walked on the shore of Phewa lake, had some snacks and beer and roamed around lakeside. Next morning, we started our journey very early and continued our trip to Jomsom. Rocky and narrow roads with the view of Annapurna mountain range, riding through small beautiful village and paddy fields took our journey to a whole new level. There were a few landslides, and ongoing road construction due to which, we had got stuck for over 3 hours by the Kaligandaki river. We passed through Rupche waterfall, one of the biggest and the most beautiful waterfalls in the region.
It had been raining since past few hours due to which the muddy road, rain and freezing weather made our expedition more adventurous. Because of the delay and short breaks, we reached Jomson after it got dark at around 7 pm.
We had really good Thakali khana at Jomson We even got a chance to taste the very famous locally brewed apple brandy (Marpha) there. After a very difficult and tiring journey, we all went to bed early. The big day was awaiting us as we were heading towards Upper Mustang the very next day. We started the next morning early, had local vegetables, roti and eggs for breakfast.
The journey to the hidden kingdom began via Kagbeni and Muktinath. Situated at an altitude of 2800m, Kagbeni is a unique and famous village in the Himalayas. Riding just 12km uphill, we reached Muktinath.
Muktinath is a popular lord Bishnu temple located at the highest altitude in the world (3710m). The 7km road section linking Kagbeni to religious place Muktinath was blacktopped in 2016 by Nepal government, which made it to the list of one of the most beautiful roads in the country. Imagine yourself steering your motorbike in the pitch road at an altitude of 3700m at the foot of extremely famous Thorong-La mountain pass with a best and clear view of different mountain ranges on your background. After doing regular pooja at Muktinath temple, we resumed our journey towards Lo Manthang.
The hidden kingdom of Lo is 81km away from Kagbeni. We rode further up through Mars-like landscape of Upper Mustang. We were surrounded by yellow, brown and orange hills that made us feel as if we were on another planet. We exposed ourselves to some of the tallest mountains in the world. We passed through small villages Chale and Chusang with only a few houses and not even a hundred inhabitants. After riding around 27km through narrow and rocky roads, we reached the village of Samar from Kagbeni.It is a village with only 7 houses including 2 homestays and only 50 residents. We stayed at Himali hotel which was amazing, and is highly recommended to anyone traveling there. The owner of that hotel warned us about the difficult portion of the trail ahead. They also offered us yak sukuti as snacks. It was everyone’s first time having yak meat!
Our team started the third day of the trip early. The road from Samar to Lo Manthang was more challenging. It was a mixture of mud and big rocks more than enough to crash our motorbikes. We had to tackle the road which was frozen with ice and numerous uphill with big rocks along our way. We got delayed by tiny landslides and road construction. It took us a whole day just to ride 54km from Samar to Lo Manthang. It was a long day as we reached to Lo at around 4 pm. We took some rest, kept our bags and belongings at the hotel and went for a short ride to Shiza Jhong cave, Chhoser. It was just 30 minutes ride away from Lo. The Jhong cave in Chhoser is one of the most amazing caves in Upper Mustang with 5 story high built in a cliff. There are 40 different rooms inside the cave and ladders to go from one floor to another.
From the window of Jhong cave, you can see the stunning landscape of Upper Mustang. It is believed that the people who were living in the Chhoser village lived together inside the cave to avoid any danger or harm. We explored Chhoser cave and 2 other monasteries nearby.
We were so tired at dinner time. We met some trekkers from Italy and Germany, the same as us it was their first day at Lo. Next morning, we went to explore different monasteries of the village and the royal palace, a nine-cornered 5 story built structure around the 15th century. Lo Manthang was a walled capital of the kingdom of Lo. The village is known for its tall white mud brick walls and gompas which were established in the 15th century. We explored the whole village and on the same day, we rode back to Jomsom. We were familiar with the road, it was very fast ride back down. The next morning, we had an amazing and clear view of Nilgiri Himal right in front of our eyes. We resumed our journey back to Pokhara from Jomsom. We felt like we were on the top of the world after completing the most adventurous road trip of our lives to Lo Manthang.
One thing I love about Nepal is the fact that you will experience a different culture, landscape, and geography within a short span of distance and time. Only 1 day ago, we rode our motorbikes in the lap of Himalayas, stayed at a teahouse, passed uncountable hills that looked like Mars. And a day long ride later, we were at one of the most naturally blessed cities in the world, and busy town in Nepal- Pokhara. Though we enjoyed every single day at our best, we went to one of the bars for beer and dinner. Pokhara is indeed a beautiful city so we decided to spend yet another day in the city. We spent our day at Lakeside and in the shore of Phewa lake looking at the pictures we clicked during our trip to Lo reminiscing, and reliving every moment.
The next and last day was an easy ride back to Kathmandu.
Nepal is a beautiful place to explore. There are still many places to go for an adventure. I am planning for Annapurna/Everest trek next. Keep checking the blog for updates.