Upper Mustang Trek Beauties, Challenges and TIJI Festival 2023

  • Raj
  • Last Updated on Mar 22, 2023

Table of Contents


Upper Mustang Trek is the most loved isolated trek of Nepal. It takes you around the arid land of Mustang, a District across the Himalayas. Despite its remoteness, this trek offers a wonderful combination of natural and cultural beauties. However, there are a few factors to add to Upper Mustang Trek little Difficulty. 
Geographically, Upper Mustang lies in Nepal but you can find a complete influence of Tibetan Buddhism in lifestyle and socio-cultural practices. The ancient monasteries, chortens and mani walls decorated by colourful prayer flags are the testimonials of this claim. 
You begin this trek from Jomsom, the administrative center of Mustang district. You reach there by air or bus via Pokhara and Beni. By witnessing the true spirit of Tibetan Buddhist lifestyle, culture and tradition, you reach Lo Manthang. Lo Manthang is the Capital City of the Last Forbidden Kingdom of Nepal. It is located in the Trans-Himalayan region bordering with the Tibetan Plateau. 
You can have the amazing view of the Himalayas of the Annapurna (8,091m) Massif and Dhaulagiri (8,167m) Massif. 
The walled city Lo Manthang, Thungchen Gompa built in the 15th century and Choede Monasteries are the landmarks of the ancient art and architect of the hidden kingdom. The Sky Caves (a group of 10,000 manmade caves before 2000/3000 years), Tinker Palace and Muktinath Temple are the other must-visit place once in a lifetime!
It is obvious that everyone who hears or reads about the culture and nature of this region, wants to make Upper Mustang trek. But, before planning any trek in the Himalayas, they want to know about Upper Mustang Trek Difficulty.  When you know about the trek difficulty, only then you get to prepare accordingly.

On Tiji Festival, Different people( foreigner + Nepali) are trek to the Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang targeting TIJI festival a three days long ritual known as" The chasing of the Demons", one of the most important festival of the region. Eventually, this kingdom is known as “land of monastery" and follow Buddhist (kyagyupa) religions.
Over the festive time monks dressed in elaborate costumes and masks perform dances and rituals that are supposed to drive away evil spirits. Dressed in their finery, people from all over Mustang gather in Lo Monthang to celebrate the Tiji festival. This year 2023 TIJI fesival lies on May 16, 17 and 18.

Responsible Factors for Trek Difficulty:

Trekking in Nepal is divided into three broad categories: easy, moderate and difficult. The difficulty level of difficulty is decided on various factors that come to face during the trek. The most responsible factors that determine trek difficulty are:

  • Daily trekking duration
  • Weather 
  • Altitude Gain
  • Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
  • Physical Fitness
  • Availability of Guide & Porter
  • Food & Accommodation Services
  • Mode of Transportation

Trek high lights:

  • Rich in Tibetan culture and unspoiled nature

  • Explore the ancient Hidden Kingdom of Lo-Manthang

  • Trek in Unique Varieties of Landscape and Un-touch Caves

  • A great trek to escape the monsoon as well as summer

  • Mysterious Jhong Cave 

  • Kingdom behind the Dhaulagiri 8167m and Annapurna 8167m Range Himalaya  

Let’s talk about these factors individually to make this blog a useful source of information about Upper Mustang Trek  Difficulty’

Daily Trekking Duration:

Despite its location in the rain shadow area arid landscapes, Upper Mustang region is not much harsh. You spend 11 days in Mustang region. Among them, you have two days rest at Lo Manthang. During this stay, you will explore the Walled City, Summer and Winter Palaces of the Mustangese Kings, the Sky Caves and the important ancient monasteries around it. 
You have to walk 6/7 hours per day during Upper Mustang trek in the altitude between 2,700m and 4,200m. Only the day when you trek from Lo Manthang to Dhamar, it is a bit more challenging. You have to go across Marang La Pass (4,230m) and Muila (4,170m) to reach Ghar Gumba. 
You know walking in higher altitude by crossing high passes is more challenging. Therefore, you should prepare yourself physically and mentally to cope with this challenge. 


Weather & Temperature:

Weather and temperature also play a vital role to determine the trek difficulty level of a particular region. Upper Mustang experiences four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter; in a year. 
Spring, summer and autumn are the best time for Upper Mustang trek. Upper Mustang trek in winter is not as favourable as in other seasons due to its weather and temperature. 
The temperatures in daytime and nighttime differ as it is located in high altitude and very high altitude regions. IN spring (March –May), the average temperature of night ranges between 14ºC and 20ºC while it changes to be between -7ºC and -1ºC at night. 
Making this trip in spring season lets you have the fine view of the Himalayas and bizarre landscapes as the days are warm with clear skies. If you want to observe Tiji Festival, the most colourful festival of Upper Mustang region, you should make this trip around the third week of May. As spring is the peak season, the flow of the trekkers to Upper Mustang remains very high. Therefore, you should book the teahouses and homestay before you begin the trek. You may have difficulty in booking them on-arrival.
Summer season (June – August) experiences from 20ºC to 30ºC in the afternoon while it goes up to 02ºC at night. Upper Mustang lies in the rain shadow area of Mt. Annapurna (8,091m) and Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167m). Thus, it receives no or low rain in this rainy season as well. The weather is found supportive to have the magnificent vistas of the Himalayas and the arid terrain of Upper Mustang. This is why, many national and international trekkers plan Upper Mustang trek in summer season as well.
Autumn season (September – November) is the second favourable season for Mustang trek. The temperature of the afternoon extends between 12ºC and 20ºC whereas at  night, it runs between -7ºC and -2ºC. You have the perfect view of the Himalayas, green hills and bizarre landscape. 
Winter season runs from December to February in Upper Mustang region. The temperature goes from 0ºC to -5ºC in day and from -20ºC to -25ºC at night. Because of the negative temperature ranges, Upper Mustang trek in winter is not much recommended. 
More importantly, Upper Mustang remains windy and dusty in the afternoon and it feels really cold in absence of the sun. On this account, it is wise to begin and end the trekking as early as you can in the morning. To cope with the cold temperature, you should pack the suitable clothing. 

Altitude Gain:

You begin the Upper Mustang trek right from Jomsom (2,720m). Moving further through the rugged trails, you gain 300m/400m altitude for a couple of days. Then, you descend to a 200m/300m altitude for other three days. 
Finally, you ascend to Lo Manthang (3,840m) gaining around 300m elevation. Spending a day to explore the significant landmarks of this ancient Capital of Mustang, you gradually climb down to lower elevation. 
This rise and fall in the elevation is another factor to increase Upper Mustang trek difficulty. To overcome this difficulty level, you should cover the specified distance by taking enough rest in the middle of the trek.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS):

Altitude is the vital factor to determine the difficulty of any trek in the Himalayas. If you happen to travel to the places higher than 2,500m, there is always chance for Acute Mountain Sickness. 
You begin Upper Mustang trek right from Jomsom, which is situated at above 2,700m. During this trip, you will have to reach Lo Manthang (3,840m) where you spend a night to explore this walled city. 
While trekking from Lo Manthang to Dhakmar, you have to cross Marang La Pass (4,230m) and Muila (4,170m) nearby Ghar Gumba (3,931m).
Upper Mustang region comprises high altitude (1,500m to 3,500m) and very high altitude (3,500m to 5,500m). Altitude sickness is very common between the height of 2,400m to 4,000m. 
However, following the basic principles of AMS, you can avoid this health hazard. Staying hydrated, having enough sleep and hygienic food, avoiding alcohol and cigarette are some of the cautions to be taken. 
Likewise, walking slowly by taking rest at the regular interval and consulting with the trekking guide as soon as you feel difficulty in breathing or extreme tired also help fight back this problem.

Physical Fitness Level:

Despite its remote location, Upper Mustang trek is a moderately strenuous journey to the Last Forbidden Kingdom of Lo Manthang. Therefore, the previous climbing or trekking experience is not mandatory. If you are physically healthy and mentally determined, you can easily do this trek. 
Nevertheless, a habit of regular walking and doing exercises will benefit you more. This habit keeps you in the best of your physical and mental state. It is sometimes threatening to make this voyage if you have some long-term diseases. In such situations, you can consult with your doctor to decide whether or not to do this trip.


Guide and Porter:

Upper Mustang is a restricted area trekking in Nepal. Hence, you are not allowed to make solo trekking here. You need a special trekking permit issued by the Department of Immigration at Kalikasthan, Kathmandu. 
To make this trek, you must be in a team of at least two trekkers supported by a registered trekking guide. The guide helps you his best to lessen the trek difficulty by implementing the right tactics at the right time. 
Next, you had better hire a porter who will help you transport your stuffs in the higher altitude. You don’t have to worry about how to carry your load provided you have a porter. You can fully be concentrated on taking the full entertainment of the breathtaking view of the amazing landscapes and the Himalayas. In this way, hiring a sturdy porter or guide cum porter is the best way to minimize the Upper Mustang trek difficulty level.

Food and Accommodation:

You know Upper Mustang trek is a remote area trekking in Nepal. There is not roadway access to this region. Therefore, the cost of food is quite higher than in other parts of Mustang. And, you may also not find the food items of your choice there. But, be sure the cuisines you eat there are really tasty and hygienic. You will find the Nepali typical Daal Bhaat, Italian, Indian and some continental dishes over there. 
As there are teahouses and homestay services, you don’t have to worry much about accommodation. Yes, it is obvious that the cost of accommodation might be a little expensive than in urban areas like Pokhara and Kathmandu. Alternatively, you can also do camping trekking to Upper Mustang by consulting with the trekking agency you book the trip with.

Mode of Transportation:

Upper Mustang trek formally begins from Jomsom, the administrative headquarters of Mustang district. To start this trek, you can reach there by using a few alternative modes of transportation. As Nepal has only one international airport, you have no way other than landing in Kathmandu on the arrival day. 
From Kathmandu, you can directly go to Jomsom by reserving a private jeep or catching a public bus as well. You can reach there by driving past Muglin, Pokhara, Beni, Tatopani, Ghasa, Kalopani and Marpha. But the route is quite longer, so it takes nearly 17/18 hours to reach there via roadway travel. 
On the other hand, you can drive to Pokhara from Kathmandu, which takes nearly 6 hours. You can also fly to Pokhara in just 25 minutes and then drive to Jomsom or fly in another 25 minutes. From Jomsom, you can hire a private jeep to reach Kagbeni, the gateway to Upper Mustang trek via Muktinath Temple. Although the ticket fare of the flight is comparatively higher than that of private jeep or local bus, you had better opt for flights to get to Jomsom.


What to Pack for Upper Mustang Trek?

 “Well prepared is half done!” This is the main principle you should always apply while trekking in Nepal. Walking along the steep uphill and downhill rugged trails in the Himalayas is not always on your behalf. The trip may sometimes appear to be really challenging if you don’t have or consult with the experienced local tour operator to get the idea for fighting back the challenges. 
The trekking gears also play the vital role in keeping your mental state high and physically ready. Nevertheless, be careful not to pack the unnecessarily heavy stuffs, which compels you to hire more porters. If you don’t find the right type of porter, you will have carry your load yourself. Consequently, the trek difficulty level comes to rise rather than being comfortable. Therefore, we recommend you to pack the following things while in Upper Mustang trek:


  • Duffel or Rucksack bag (Provided)
  • Down Sleeping bag (Provided)
  • Down Jacket (Provided)
  • Daypack
  • Hiking pants
  • Waterproof & Windproof jacket
  • Rain coat or Umbrella
  • Full-sleeves shirts
  • Jumper or Fleece jacket
  • Pair of T-shirts
  • Trekking Boots (water proof is better)
  • Sandal, Toilet paper
  • Cotton thick socks (2 pair), Woollen socks to wear with boots
  • Sun-hat & fleece hat
  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • Sun block for lips
  • Sun lotion
  • Goggles or Sunglasses
  • Thermal long underwear sets
  • Insulated pants
  • Trekking poles
  • Wind breaker pants
  • Water bottle
  • Flash light or Head light, Batteries
  • Swiss army Knife
  • Personal Dry Towel
  • Personal toiletries and medication which should be labeled
  • Crampons
  • Snow leg Gaiters


How to Cope with Trek Difficulty?

Yes, making Upper Mustang trek is difficult to some extent because of the above mentioned factors. Nevertheless, distinct lifestyles, culture and tradition intact for centuries help you decrease the difficulty of Upper Mustang trek. In addition, the historic monasteries, chortens and mani walls decorated by colourful prayer flags and wheels, Buddhist arts, feasts and festivals make this trek a fun and lifelong experiences. However, you can easily win over the Upper Mustang trek difficulty provided you take a few tactical measures. The top safety measures that help you cope with the challenges of this trek can be listed as below:

  • Physical fitness with strong mental determination
  • Having enough drinking water and good deal of sleep as well as eating hygienic food items
  • Walking with slow pace by taking enough rest while ascending and descending  as well
  • Keeping some medicines like Diamox Oral in the backpack
  • Wearing suitable clothes to meet the changing weather
  • Making the early morning walk to cross the high passes as there blow the strong winds in the Upper Mustang Valley
  • Preparing for contingency days while doing Upper Mustang trek as sometimes the weather may be unfavourable
  • Booking the teahouses or hotels in advance while visiting this region in peak season as the flow of the trekkers is high at this time of the year
  • Booking your  Upper Mustang trek with an experienced local tour operator
  • Hiring a professional and registered trekking guide who is helpful and knowledgeable about the difficulty level of this trek
  • Following the safety measures sincerely and consulting the trekking guide as soon as you feel any of the symptoms of AMS




Even though located in remote area, Upper Mustang trek is a must-do activity once in a lifetime. The natural and cultural rewards of this restricted area trekking in Nepal is unsurpassed by any other trekking regions. 
Yes, there are a few aspects to contribute for Upper Mustang trek difficulty. However, with a better preparation: physical and mental as well;, you can easily do this trek. Moreover, it is a moderate type of trekking in Nepal giving you enough time for rest. 
Most importantly, Upper Mustang trek difficulty can be far too minimized when you book this trip via a well-experienced local tour operator. A1 Excursion Adventure is the one led by a person who has spend nearly 25 years in Nepalese tourism. To get more information and book this trek, www.a1excursion.com.



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