If you just came to know about Upper Mustang Trek in Nepal, you might be curious What is Mustang famous for? Travelers frequently ask these questions over the internet. A few reasons, such as the cost of the permit, ancient history, culture, and unique landscape in the high Himalayan desert make this place unique. In this article, I am going to share some of the most famous sights of Upper Mustang.
1. Sky Burial
It’s a ritual for locals but one of the interesting matters for tourists is the sky burial in Upper Mustang. 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 and extremely disturbing but It is the way of burial in the Buddhist culture of the people living in this part of the Himalaya. The tradition came and influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.
They believe, feeding to the vultures (Holy bird) means the dead has no sin and his/her departed soul can rest peacefully in heaven. As much as it is barbaric to hear it is interesting for outsiders to hear about. You may be thinking, will I have a chance to see sky burial in Upper Mustang. Which my clients often asked me. The answer is no! Only family members and villagers may attend the ceremony closeup but in some cases, you might be able to see from afar with respect to their culture.
2. Famous for Cave sightseeing
Cave sightseeing in Upper Mustang is one of the most famous side trips during your visit. Mustang is home to one of the world’s greatest concentration of human carved cliff caves. The large complexes, no one has had a chance to explore. Many are so high up the unstable rock, making them impossible to reach. Some of them converted to a monastery and their holy place to pray. A large part of the cave discovers as ancient people’s homes 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 believes their holy people, Padama Shambhaba and Guru Rimpoche, discover and established the monasteries in this area. Only a few western climbers and archaeologists got a special permit to explore the cave city. As we know Upper Mustang is a restricted area, there are only a few famous caves tourists can visit as a side trip.
3. Famous as the last Buddhist Kingdome of Nepal
The last Buddist kingdom of Nepal, Lo-Manthang (4,300 m) is one of the famous villages in Mustang. When Shaha King, from Gorkha, unified Nepal as one country called Nepal, in 18th century. However, Lo-Manthang was the last remaining Buddhist kingdom in Nepal until 2008. The two kings agreed to give freedom to have their territory in Mustang to have their monarchy as long as Nepal is a kingdom.
In 2008 the monarchy in Nepal officially come to the end 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. Until now, Mustang is famous famous for its own country and its unique culture.
4. Mustang is Famous As the deepest Gorge is here
Kaligandaki River Gorge is the deepest canyon in the world lies in the Upper Mustang Trek route in Nepal. As tectonic activity forced the mountains higher, the river cut down through the uplift. This incredible Gorge made from two of the highest peak in the world Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters) and Annapurna to the depth of 7,337 m to the Kaligandaki River.
5. It is famous for ammonite fossils
Ammonites, also known as “Saligram” in the Sanskrit language, are about 145 to 210 million years old fossils found in the bank of Kaligandaki river in Nepal. The Saligram made of carbonate of lime, black, and nearly the size of an orange.
According to Hindu mythology, there is an interesting story surrounding the Ammonites. 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, but Brinda also blessed her husband with the power of 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 instructed. 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 is still by the bank of the Kali Gandaki river of the Upper Mustang Trekking trail. However, the naturalistic defines as petrifaction.
6. Mustang is famous for Muktinath Temple
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 where he prayed to wash his sins. From then on, 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 the main priests here.
7. Famous for the ancient trade route
Upper Mustang is famous for the ancient trade route. It’s the only route connecting India to the south with China’s Tibetan plateau to the north. It is the ancient trade route part of the Silk Road. The river valley of Kaligandaki that runs through the Upper Mustang is the only valley that passes from north to south in Nepal.
8. Famous as one of the expensive trekking permit in Nepal
Mustang is well recognized as the permit to enter the upper part is the most expensive. By law, you should hike with a guide and pay USD 500 for the 10 days permit along with 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. Upper Mustang is a restricted trek in Nepal, As mention already, Upper Mustang trek cost is expensive, mostly due to the costly permit fees. If you are ever in the region, we would highly increase you to find out yourself.
9. Well known Apple brandy and cyder
A small mountain village call “Marpha” in Mustang. Home to the most excellent apple brandy that exports to the world market. While you are there, you shouldn’t miss this famous place in Mustang and try some Marpha Brandy or an apple cider. Especially this famous for local Nepali tourists.
10. Mustang is famous for Authentic Dal Bhat
“Dal Bhat” is a widely famous Nepalese food. Depending on the place and region and their culture, serving style might rely on it. In modern days a complete set of Dal Bhat in every restaurant came from Thakalai Kitchen. A small mountain village call “Thak Khola” from an ethnic group of Mustang call “Thakali” is reach in food culture. According to the Thakali kitchen recipe, a complete set of Dal Bhat comes in a brass plate and bowel for each individual dish. 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 yogurt as a dessert. Thakalai Kitchen in Nepal is a chain restaurant that typically served authentic Nepali Dal Bhat.