Upper Mustang is located between the Chinese border and the Tibetan Plateau, sheltered by the 8,000-meter peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. In many ways, Upper Mustang is like a new world: it is stunning, spiritual, and culturally distinct. The rivers, like veins, cut across the landscape of this golden alpine desert. Several small settlements are found in Upper Mustang, and they are all spread out along the banks of the Kali Gandaki River and its tributaries as they cut over the dry Tibetan plateau.
Upper Mustang is enriched with cultural beauty besides its majestic natural beauty. Also known as Little Tibet, it is more Tibetan than Tibet. It has well preserved the Tibetan culture and Bon religion for centuries now, and it is probably the last place on earth where you can experience the authentic Tibetan culture and lifestyle.
Places To Visit In Upper Mustang
• Lo Manthang: The Walled City
Lo Manthang is the capital of Upper Mustang or the Kingdom of Lo. The place is tucked away in a valley approximately 20 kilometers south of the border with Tibet. The Loman thang is guarded by stone walls and is enriched with Tibetan culture, houses, monasteries, and gumbas. It’s like a historical piece of ancient Tibet left and preserved in Nepal.
• Lo Manthang Palace
At an altitude of 3,800 meters, you’ll find the historic Lo Manthang Palace. It is believed that the Lo Manthang Palace was built in the 15th century by the first King of Mustang, Amad Pal. The stunning castle was constructed from mud, stone, and wood and was painted with white lime. The historical palace has a library of historical documents, paintings, and relics from the period.
• Sky Caves
Upper Mustang is one of the most mysterious places in the world when it comes to archaeology. Sky Caves is one of its examples. There are around 10,000 caves made by humans and carved into the cliffs close to the Kali Gandaki River. Though not much about the cave’s origin is known, archaeologists’ brief research found that people who lived here carved out these caves as part of a religious ceremony to mummify the corpse. The cave also has ancient paintings, sculptures, and Buddhist texts from around 2000 to 3000 years old. The caves are estimated to date back to the 12th and 14th centuries.
• Chungsi Cave
Chung is a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site located near Syanbochen Village. It is believed that the great teacher Rinpoche used to meditate in this cave back in the eighth century. Monks now use the natural cave for their meditative practices. It is a beautiful place with a backdrop of snow-peaked and rocky mountains. It has spiritual essence to it making it a must-visit place in Upper Mustang.
• Korala Pass
Mustang and Tibet are connected via one of the world’s oldest trade routes, Korala Pass. Historically, it was used to trade salt between Upper Mustang and Tibet kingdoms. The border is around 18 kilometers from the Lo-Manthang, and a motorable road extends to the pass. You can get there by motorbike or jeep.
• Champa Lakhang Temple
Champa Lakhang Temple is also called the temple of the coming Buddha. The temple was constructed around 1420 and has the most extensive collection of Buddhist mandala artwork from the 15th century. Inside the temple is a colossal figure made of painted clay that depicts Maitreya, also known as the “Future Buddha.”
• Thugchen Gompa
The red Thugchen gompa is a few minutes from the Champa Lakhang Temple. This gompa has a large assembly hall embellished with paintings, sculptures of the many avatars of the Buddha, and one of Padmasambhava, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Tibet.
• Red Cliff
The red cliffs are beautiful and mysterious creations of nature that can be seen in the upper Mustang. The place looks no less than the pyramid of Egypt and is best the view when seen in the morning or evening sun. The sun reflects the red hue cliff to create a view that blesses our eyes.
• Luri Gumba
Lauri Gumba is an isolated monastery two kilometers from Yara town in the upper Mustang. It is perched around one hundred meters up on some sheer rock cliffs. Sandstone columns found naturally throughout the monastery’s grounds make it majestic. The monastery’s walls and ceilings are covered with many paintings dating back to the 14th century or earlier. The Gumba is associated with the Nyingma Kargyupa Sect, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism.