Mustang, Barren Beauty
In March 1992, the 'forbidden' kingdom of Mustang was opened to the outside
world. Now, for the first time in recent history, foreign travelers are
able to visit Lo Manthang, the seat of an ancient kingdom dating back
to the 15th century. The Kingdom of Lo is situated along the north central
border of Nepal north of the main range of the Himalayan in the upper
reaches of Mustang District . Lo and the area directly to its south, called
Baragaon, which both fall within Upper Mustang,
can be claimed as one of the most outstanding areas of the Himalaya.
The people of Upper Mustang are called Bhotias, and those from Lo are
called Lobas. They speak various dialects of Tibetan. Historically, their
art and culture flourished due to contact with traders, monks and religious
masters passing between Tibet and India, or between Ladakh and Bhutan.
The climate and geography of Upper Mustang are nearly identical to those
of Western Tibet and as such, they are dramatically different from the
temperate and tropical areas of the south side of the Himalayas. The dry,
wind swept ecology of this Trans-Himalayan region is extremely fragile,
Fuel wood is virtually non-existent, water is scarce, the agricultural
land yields insufficient food grains, and the marginal, and grasslands
support only limited numbers of livestock and wildlife . With the influx
of tourists, the already pressured desert environment risks further degradation.
In addition, although the culture has flourished in contact with other
religious and cultural center of the Himalayas, its sudden exposure to
other worlds beyond its high plateau may create a negative impact on the
In order to keep the destructive environmental and cultural impact of
tourism in Upper Mustang to an absolute minimum, the Ministry
of Tourism has decided to develop the area as a model eco-tourism area.
The Ministry of Tourism, has proposed that part of the revenue generated
from trekking royalties to Upper Mustang ($ 700 for 10 days and $ 70 for
each additional day) be earmarked for use in UMCDP to sponsor environmental
and cultural preservation efforts and community development works. An
Upper Mustang Development Fund is also being established with the financial
support of the Ministry of Tourism and the American Himalayan Foundation.
Muktinath, which lies in Mustang,
is a pilgrimage center for Buddhist and Hindus. The shrines include
a Buddhist Gompa and the Vishnu temple Jwala Mai. An old temple
nearby shelter spring and natural gas jets, which provide Muktinath
with the famous eternal flame. Jomsom is the only place along the
Annapurna circuit, which is connected by air with Pokhara and
Kathmandu. It is also the district headquarters of Mustang, which
includes part of the legendary Mustang and the Muktinath Region.
Trekking to Muktinath begins from Jomsom. The trailsare easy to
go to along the Kaligandaki River and reach to village of Kagbeni, a
Tibetan influenced settlement close to Lo-Manthang, the capital of
what used to be the old principality of Mustang. From Kagbeni village
the trail climbs steeply to rejoin the regular trial before Khingar
is reached. A further climb brings you to Jharkot then Ranipauwa,
the accommodation area of Muktinath (3,710m.), where you can see most
impressive views of Mt. Dhaulagiri, Tukche peak, Thapa peak, Dhampus
Peak, Nilgiri north and Tilicho Peak.