Getting to Upper Mustang in Nepal is a dream destination for many travelers and trekking enthusiasts. Upper Mustang, located in the northwestern part of Nepal, bordering Tibet, has come into popularity due to its unique landscape and carefully preserved culture and religion. Although it remains a restricted area, there have been many roads and air transportation developments, besides the well-carved trekking routes.
At present, there are different ways of visiting the Upper Mustang, either by flight, by road, or on foot. The standard way of getting to Upper Mustang from Kathmandu is by heading to Pokhara city, then to Jomsom in Mustang district, and finally to Lo Manthang, the main settlement in Upper Mustang.
If you are planning a tour to Upper Mustang and don't know how to get there, check out the insightful details below for more information on your conditions and preferences.
Your first step towards Upper Mustang will begin from the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu. You can get direct flights from different countries in the world to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport. Upon reaching Kathmandu, your next step would be to head to Pokhara city. Traveling straight from Kathmandu to Upper Mustang is not possible by flight or overland tour, so we have to make a stopover at Pokhara. Pokhara is located about 200 km west of Kathmandu. Pokhara is a natural wonderland and is often referred to as the 'city of lakes. It is the gateway to many treks and tours around the Annapurna region of Nepal. There are two main ways of reaching Pokhara from Kathmandu; either via flight or via road.
The easiest and quickest way to reach Pokhara from Kathmandu is via flight. You can take a taxi, a private vehicle, or a public vehicle to reach the Tribhuvan International Airport located in the center of Kathmandu city. The best thing about taking a flight is that you get to witness the birds-eye view of the Annapurna Massif, Dhaulagiri, and other mountain ranges on the horizon.
The flight between the two cities takes no more than 25 to 30 minutes and covers an aerial distance of 146km. The prominent air carriers are Buddha Air, Simrik Air, and Yeti Airlines. There are close to over ten flights per day heading to Pokhara, and you can catch a flight as early as 6:45 AM to as late as 3:00 PM. Although the flight cost depends upon the availability of tickets and the season of travel, it usually costs around USD 125 for a one-way ticket for a tourist and around USD 40 to 50 for an Indian and Nepali citizen.
Traveling to Pokhara by road is a long, tiresome, yet exciting journey. The ride takes about 6 to 8 hours, depending on the road condition and the vehicle you are taking. The route goes alongside the Trishuli river bed then along the Prithvi Highway. You can either travel via a private vehicle or a tourist bus.
If you opt for a private car or a jeep, it is very easy to make stops where you like and have peace of mind as you will not be bothered by anyone. You can hire a private vehicle from many travel agencies and independent vehicle operators as well. A private car takes around USD 150 for a one-way drive, while a standard seven-seater jeep will cost around USD 250. You can either opt to go along with your friends and family or split the cost with other passengers.
There is also the option of traveling via public transport. Tourist buses are designed to be comfortable and safe. The buses carry about 35 to 40 people and depart from Thamel at around 7 AM. You can book your tickets in advance to secure a good seat. The buses are air-conditioned, offer a water bottle, and make brief stops at some decent restaurants in between travel. The cost is around USD 10 to 12 for one way depending upon the time of the year.
Although there is a cheaper option of traveling via a local public bus, we don't suggest it as the buses are not in proper condition and are loud and packed with luggage and people. Hence, the best way to travel via public transport is by taking a tourist bus.
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Upon reaching Pokhara, you will plan for your next stop to Jomsom. Jomsom is situated almost 154 km to the north of Pokhara, in the Mustang District. It is the tourist and commercial hub of Mustang due to the district's only airport located there. There are two ways of reaching Jomsom from Pokhara; another via flight or by overland drive.
Traveling to Jomsom via air is the easiest and quickest option as it takes only about 20 minutes to reach Pokhara. The aerial distance between these two places is only 60 km. You can take a taxi or a public vehicle to Pokhara Airport and then board the domestic flight to Jomsom Airport. Yeti Airlines, Buddha Air, and some other airlines collectively have about eight daily flights scheduled.
The most amazing views of the 8000m and 7000m Himalayas like Dhaulagiri, Annapurna massif, Nilgiri, and Machapuchrey are visible over the clouds. Furthermore, even the Tibetan plateaus and the Kali Gandaki River valley are visible. However, there might be flight cancellations and delays at times due to the changing weather conditions.
Getting to Jomsom via overland drive is a budgeted option that is lengthy yet venturesome. The overland distance from Pokhara to Jomsom is approximately 154 km which takes about 6 to 8 hours depending upon the road conditions. This should be taken as a last resort as the road conditions are usually unpleasant. You can either opt for a drive via a private jeep or via a public bus.
If you want to experience the thrill of the overland option and have enough budget, then Jeep is the way to go. Hiring private jeeps means that you are less bothered by others and have the freedom to make certain stops along the way. The one-way jeep ride takes around USD 300 to 400 depending upon the season of travel.
Public buses are a cheap travel medium but are best avoided due to safety issues. You can book the tickets a day before your travel or early in the morning. The bus fare is no more than USD 5 to 10. The buses don't have air conditioning, the aisles are often filled with luggage, and there is a lot of noise.
Note: Due to the current road conditions, the overland drive from Pokhara to Jomsom is not encouraged. There have been recent landslides, rocks tumbling down, and muddy roads due to the rainy weather. Hence, it is advised to take a flight to Jomsom to avoid the risk and enjoy the trip without disturbances.
Finally, after reaching Jomsom, the ultimate step is to head to Upper Mustang. Upper Mustang is located further north in the Mustang district bordering Tibet and is a restricted area that has only been opened for tourism in recent decades. The ancient walled city of Upper Mustang was once a forbidden Kingdom and now garners tourists worldwide seeking to get a glimpse at this true treasure struck in time. Lo Manthang, also coined as the Kingdom of Lo, is the major Tibetan settlement in Upper Mustang. It is located only 20 km south of the Tibetan border and about 50 km north of Jomsom. There are two ways of getting to Lo Manthang; either on foot or by road.
Trekking to Lo Manthang or getting by foot is an adventurous tour most popular among avid trekkers. It is the best way to experience the landscape, Tibetan Buddist communities, cultures, and traditions. You can customize any given itinerary according to your liking, budget, and time in your hands. However, a standard itinerary suggests that it takes around five days to trek from Jomsom to Lo Manthang. The route passes by the village of Kagbeni, which is 4 hours away from Jomsom. From there, passing by the Kali Gandaki River basin, the trail reaches Chele and Syangbochen. Passing by the caves and the huge rock formations, the trail reaches Tsarang, then Lo Manthang at the elevation of 3,730m/12,235ft.
Getting to Lo Manthang by road is also another popular option as the road conditions have become pleasant in recent days. It is easier, quicker, and lets you experience the natural beauty of the Tibetan plateaus at the vehicle's comfort. A private 6 to 7 seater jeep is popular for the overland drive. The trip can be spread out to 2 or 3 days to reach Lo Manthang while taking pictures and making stops along the way. For a two-day trip, you can make a stopover at Ghami, which is about 5 to 6 hours away from Jomsom. You need to consider the rise in altitude and avoid potential altitude sickness as you reach Lo Manthang in a short duration, unlike the longer trek.
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You can take many trips in the Upper Mustang, depending upon your preference, time, and budget. There are different places in Mustang and Upper Mustang that you can visit along your trip.
The standard Upper Mustang Trek itinerary takes you from Kathmandu to Jomsom, from where you serially pass the villages of Kageni, Chele, Syangboche, Ghami, Tsarang, and finally Lo Manthang.
The standard overland tour takes about eight days to complete starting from Kathmandu to Lo Manthang and back. On the other hand, the standard Upper Mustang trek on foot takes 13 days, passing the same route.
However, if you wish, you can customize your trip by extending it to visit the Muktinath Temple or even enjoy the three days Tiji festival.
You can select from the 5 Best Upper Mustang trek itinerary to know which would best suit you.
Planning to visit Tiji festival in Lo Mangthang, check out the 18 days trek for Tiji Festival.
There are different ways of getting to the Upper Mustang from Kathmandu. You can either opt for an overland tour, a flight, travel by foot, or even get a mixture of all. In any way, you can select different mediums of transport depending upon your time, preference, and also your budget. There are three distinct ways of getting to Upper Mustang mentioned below:
You can choose to take an overland tour from Kathmandu to Pokhara then to Upper Mustang. The overland tour is on a jeep and would take around eight days to complete. It is one of the easiest and the shortest alternatives. You can witness the views of the plateaus and mountains inside the comfort of the four-wheeler. It is best for adults who have limited time and physical fitness to complete a full trek.
The only downside is that you will be traveling inside the Jeep for most of the day without getting out much and experiencing walking on the dusty roads and interacting with the locals. Moreover, rides in 4WD jeeps are expensive.
Another choice is to take a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara then to Jomsom, after which you take a drive to Upper Mustang. It is another expensive yet comfortable alternative. The flights cost more than taking a jeep ride but take a significantly short duration. After reaching Jomsom, the drive to Upper Mustang is pretty comfortable and interesting. It is for all the tourists who have limited time, are heavy in their pocket, and want utmost comfort and luxury. Moreover, you can get a bird's eye view of the mountain ranges from all the flights you take.
If you are looking for a mixture of adventure, comfort, and covering the tour in a short span, then this is the best alternative for you.
The flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara will take only 30 minutes, while the flight to Jomsom will take 20 minutes more. It means that in less than a day, you can land in Mustang from Kathmandu. From Jomsom, the true adventure begins when you then travel by foot to the ancient Lo Manthang. The trek stretches your muscles, get you acquainted with the landscape, offers majestic mountain views, and a chance to intermingle with the locals to know their traditions. The views and experience gained from the trek to Upper Mustang are contrary to that experienced in the flights. Hence, this alternative is a perfect mixture of all the experiences.
Getting to Upper Mustang is very easy; as mentioned in the blog, you have many alternatives. You can either take the option of a flight, an overland tour, a trek, or a mixture of all. In any case, visiting Upper Mustang will most certainly be a unique experience. In all of the itineraries, means of transport, and the routes taken, visiting Upper Mustang offers a different experience, natural views, and perspective. The mystic nature, amazing landscape, and protected religion and culture make the Upper Mustang tour a truly enriching experience.
Getting all the documentation, itinerary, route, and travel bookings done can be a hassle for tourists. Hence, if you opt to take a flight to Nepal for this extraordinary tour, feel free to contact our team of experts to know more or plan for your next big vacation to Upper Mustang.