10 things about Upper Mustang trek worth spending $ 500 for the permit

1. Sky Burial 

When someone dies high up in the Himalayan kingdom, a Lama (Buddhist priest) cuts the body into a small size and feed to the vultures in the open air. I know it sounds brutal, but It is the way of burial in the Buddhist tradition. Sky Burial is influenced by the Tibetan Buddhism and believed that feeding to the vultures (Holy bird) means the dead has no sin and his/her departed soul can rest peacefully in heaven. This sound very interesting as much as it is barbaric. You may be thinking, will I have a chance to see sky burial in Upper Mustang while I am there? Which I was often asked by my clients. The answer is no! Only the son in the family and some villagers are brought there to carry the body, and the Lama (A priest) will attend this ceremony. 

2. Hundreds of cave and ancient monasteries 

Mustang is home to one of the world's greatest concentration of human carved cliff caves, large complexes no one has had a chance to explore. Many are so high up the unstable rock making them impossible to reach. Some have been converted to monasteries.  A large part of the cave was found as ancient people's home with thousands of years old painting on the crumbling wall.  Highly skilled ancient architects who lived in the caves centuries ago made these chambers for their protection and as a safe place to live.  The locals believe the caves are holy and that their ancestors carved out these caves for worship.  Tibetan Buddhism believed that all these were discovered by their holy people, Padama Shambhaba and Guru Rimpoche, who established monasteries in the area.  Only a few western climbers and archaeologist who got a special permit for this particular expedition have been explored this cave.  

3. Highest Buddhist kingdom in the world  

Lo-Manthang (4,300 m) is the last Buddist kingdom of Nepal. When Shaha King, from Gorkha, reunited all the smaller states as one country called Nepal, Lo-Manthang was the last kingdom who did not give up freedom.  They agreed with the Nepal king for their kingdom to have their own monarchy as long as Nepal is a kingdom. 

In 2008 the monarchy in Nepal was officially ended after the massive massacre in the royal family. Since then the king of Lo-Mangtang "Jigme Palbar Bista"  was told to step down as a king.  The late King of Mustang Jigme Palbar Bista (1933–2016) accepted the order but vowed to continue in preserving the Tibetan culture. 

4. Deepest Gorge in the world

Kaligandaki River Gorge is the deepest canyon in the world lies in Upper Mustang Trek route in Nepal. As tectonic activity forced the mountains higher, the river was cut down through the uplift. This incredible Gorge was made from two of the highest peak in the world Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167 metres)  and Annapurna to the depth of 7,337 m to the Kaligandaki river. 

5. The only place where you can still hunt 210 million years old ammonite fossil

Ammonites also called "Saligram"  in the Nepali language are about 145 to 210 million years old fossils can only to be found in the bank of Kaligandaki river in Nepal. The Saligram is made of a  carbonate of lime, black in colour and nearly the size of an orange. 

There is an interesting story surrounding the Ammonites.  According to Hindu mythology, it all started because of a love for a beautiful lady called Seti.  Seti was loved dearly by Lord Shiva who at that time was a powerful enemy of her father, Jalandhar.  Not only was Jalandhar blessed with a beautiful daughter,  he was also blessed with a powerful wife, Brinda.  Brinda is a "pativrata"  (a married woman who was faithful to her husband), and she draws her power from her faithfulness.   Out of spite and jealousy, Lord Shiva instructed another god Vishnu to pretend to be Jalandhar and to sleep with Brinda.   The intention is for Brinda to become unfaithful and eventually break her power.  Lord Shiva then changed Vishnu's face to look like Jalandhar and Vishnu did as he was told.   When Brinda found out that she actually slept with Vishnu, she cursed Vishnu and turned him into a rock.   From this story,  Hindus believed Saligram as a representation of god Vishnu, which still be hunted on the bank of Kaligadaki river of Upper Mustang Trekking trail. However, the naturalistic defines as petrifaction. 

6. Muktinath, the holiest temple that every Hindu must visit at least once in their lifetime  

The story of the god Vishnu also continued in this holy place.  Eventually, after the curse from Brinda, he decided to repent, and Muktinath is believed to be the place he prayed to wash his sins.   From then, the place was called Muktinath where Mukti means "relief from something" while Nath is "god".  

To this day, Hindus believed that any sins could also be forgiven by visiting the temple.   There are also 108 taps and pool now where pilgrims can wash themselves of their sins.

Although this is a very sacred place for Hindu, there are also a lot of Buddhist monasteries within the wall of Muktinath.  In fact, Buddhist monks are main priests here.

7. Silk Road and Ancient trade route 

The river valley of Kaligandaki that runs through the Upper Mustang is the only valley that passes from north to south through the Himalayas in Nepal. It's an ancient route connecting India to the south with China's Tibetan plateau to the north.   It was also considered part of the Silk Road. 

8. One of the Expensive trekking permit in Nepal 

By law, you are required to pay USD 500 for the 10 days and NPR 3,000 for ACAP permit to trek Upper Mustang. The only region in Nepal Upper Dolpa and Upper Mustang has the expensive permit set by the government for a trek in the Himalayas. Due to it located in the restricted area of Nepal, you are also required to trek with a guide registered from a local agency in Nepal. As already mention Upper Mustang trek cost is expensive mostly due to the expensive permit fees. If you are ever in the region, we would highly increase you to find out yourself that this region has to offer.   

9. Home to the finest apple wine  in the world 

Small mountain village call "Marpha" in Mustang is the home to the most excellent apple brandy that export to the world market.  While you are in Mustang, you shouldn't miss trying Marpha Brandy or an apple cider. 

10. Modern style "Dal Bhat" was inborn, in Mustang 

"Dal Bhat" is well known Nepali food but it has own way of presentation and serving style depending on the region. In modern days it believes a complete set of Dal Bhat which you could find in every restaurant was influence from Thakalai Kitchen. A small mountain village call "Thak Khola" from an ethnic group of Mustang call "Thakali" who is reach in food culture.  According to Thakali kitchen recipe, a complete set of Dal Bhat should be served in brass plate and bowel for each individual dishes.  It comes with plain white rice, dal (a lentils soup), tarkari (made from mix vegetable), sag, (steamed mustard leaf ), achar (sour and hot spice), optional non-vegetarian curry, such as goat curry or chicken curry along with the sweet yoghurt as a desert. Thakalai Kitchen in Nepal is a chain restaurant which typically served authentic Nepali Dal Bhat. 

About Rajendra Khanal (Raj)

Rajendra Khanal (Raj) Born and raised in Gorkha, Nepal, I am proud to call the Manaslu region my home! I have been in the travel business for over a decade from being assistance guide to being a guide/leader to being a manager and finally a founder of NEST Adventure. So you could say, I know my way well enough in the Himalayas especially in some of the off-the-beaten trails in Nepal like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga or Mustang

I am passionate about travelling and I strongly believe that seeing the world shouldn't break the bank (at least not too much!).  I have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central Americas USA and Canada, one-third of Europe, Caribbean Island and  Latin America.

I studied in the UK and moved to the United States. During that period, I had an opportunity working with multinational companies which taught me, how to deliver quality customer service in the business? As a world travelling backpacker myself, and travel expert of Nepal Himalayas, I started writing about my own country.  Incase, If you required free information about Nepal, please do not hesitate to visit my office in Thamel. We are located in the centre of Kathmandu Thamel. I am happy to share a cup of Nepali tea and free information.  Our team at NEST has earned 5/5 star ratings on TripAdvisor from about 200 satisfied customers. Don't forget to visit our customer feedback page on TripAdvisor.
If you believe our expert team can be helpful in planning your next trip to Nepal, then please do not hesitate to contact me. at nestadventure@gmail.com. I am also available 24x7 on WhatsApp  +977- 9851052042. If you are interested to know more about my travel journey follow me on  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  
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