THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM OF TIBET – Ride to Upper Mustang “lo-manthang” A Mystic Land

DURATION – 15 Nights / 16 Days

Prepare to experience the most thrilling ride of your life to one of the most unexplored regions of the high Himalayas. This epic ride is challenging and technical and, is best done by experienced riders only. However, if you want to be taken out of your comfort zone we provide lots of experienced helpers.

For political reasons, travel into this Upper Mustang Kingdom was strictly forbidden, and the region remained isolated from the modern world. In 1992, it was decided to allow outsiders in on a very limited basis. (selected tour groups only and charging us $500US per person which is included in our cost). This isolation has helped maintain a way of life almost unchanged for centuries.

The Kingdom of Lo-Manthang (Upper Mustang) is situated at an altitude of 3770 m/12,441ft. It has many ancient monasteries and is the base for people wanting to visit the spectacular and ancient caves of Chhoser. The locals protect these fiercely as they are considered extremely sacred. Most of these are still closed to the public.

To get here, most of our ride is between 4000m and 4600m, as we negotiate many high passes and tricky road conditions. Make sure you have your altitude medication with you. It is still an independent kingdom with an allegiance with the democratic republic of Nepal. The people call themselves Lobas (people from Lo). They are very much Tibetan, and practice a sophisticated culture and economy. They are prosperous and maintain a strong sense of community.

The King’s palace is an imposing 4-story building in the center of the walled city. It is the home of the present king – Jigme Parbal Bista. The Honorary title “Bist” – ( is a high caste title in Nepali ) was conferred by the King of Nepal. Though his duties are largely ceremonial, he is respected by the people and consulted about many issues by the villagers throughout Lo.

The founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava, came here centuries ago to defend Buddhism against the forces trying to destroy it. To celebrate his successful battle, he built the temple of Lo Gekhar that still stands today, surviving along with an unadulterated Tibetan culture that cannot be found elsewhere.

In the early 7th century the land of Upper Mustang mainly, Lo Tshu Dhyun, was highly influenced by Lahsa of Tibet. The land was granted to the King of western Tibet. In late 1300’s a warrior called Ampel became the first king of Mustang) after he defeated the local warlord’s. He united the kingdom, and established his capital at Lo Manthang.

Arrive Kathmandu

You will be met at the airport and taken to the hotel in Kathmandhu. (Hotel Manaslu).

Kathmandu City, stands at an elevation of approximately 1,370ms/4,500 ft) in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. It is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. Kathmandu Valley is part of three districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur) and has the highest population density in the country.  After you have settled into your room the rest of the day is free to relax and/or explore. This hotel has beautiful gardens and a well-maintained swimming pool.

18:00 Hrs:  we will all meet in the hotel lobby where we meet our Road Captain and his team. They will brief us on what is expected on the tour. After this we will be driven to the welcome dinner at a typical Nepali Restaurant (Bhojan Griha.) Bhojan Griha is located in Dilli Bazar. It is in an historical building that is more than 100 years old, and used to belong to a former royal priest. It has been restored and converted into a multi-storied restaurant. Shoes must be taken off at the door- (Nepali custom). We will also be entertained with a typical Nepali floor show of dance and music.

Ride around Kathmandu City

After a safety briefing, we take a sightseeing tour on the motorcycles. We ride to Nagarkot (32kms) via the ancient Bhaktapur Durbar Square where we will stop for sightseeing as well.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square: contains many temples and other ancient buildings. There is lots to see here, including the art school where you can pick up a beautiful Thanka or Mandela painting for a bargain.

We have lunch in the square then ride to Nagarkot

Nagarkot was an ancient fort of the Kathmandu valley. It is well placed to monitor the external activities of neighboring kingdoms. Later, it became a summer retreat for the royals then it became a popular international hill station. It overlooks the Western, Central and the Eastern Himalayas, including five of the world’s 10 highest Peaks- Mt. Everest (8848 m), Mt. Lhotse (8516 m), Mt. Cho-Oyu (8201 m), Mt. Makalu (8463 m), and Mt. Manaslu (8163 m).

The best sunrise and sunset views can be seen from here. Hopefully, we will watch the sunset before we ride back to our hotel in Kathmandu, where our mechanic will be ready to make any adjustments you need on your bike so it is the best fit for you.

Rest of the evening is free.

Ride Kathmandu to Bandipur (1,310) (Approx. 147 Km)

We hit the road today for the big adventure ride to the Forbidden Kingdom of Lo Manthang, Negotiating the traffic out of Kathmandu city on one of the busiest roads into the city is a challenge, so we need to heed our instructions and stay bunched up behind the Road Captain.

It twists and turns, and there will be many trucks and buses passing each other on blind corners as they grind up this huge hill. Not everyone is patient, so watch out for many smaller vehicles attempting suicidal passing maneuvers. After about 26kms, the road becomes much larger and smoother. We get into the rythym of the ride as we follow the Marshyangdi River for about 25 kilometers to the town of Dumre. On the ridge above Dumre, is the town of Bandipur. This is where we are going to stay the night. To reach our resort hotel, we follow a rough, densely wooded track until we come to a clearing and “voila” there’s our hotel, overlooking the beautiful valley below.

The rest of the afternoon is free to relax and explore around Bandipur village. There is a lot to see in this untouched authentic Newar village. It is like a living museum, depicting life as it was centuries ago.

Bandipur
It is hard to believe that somewhere so delightful has escaped the ravages of unchecked tourist development. We can also view the spectacular panorama of the entire Annapurna Range, plus the peaks of Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Langtang from here. There is plenty to see and do: – many temples, paragliding, café hopping, short treks, or just watching the traders and farmers going about their business.

Ride Bandipur to Pokhara (827 m) (Approx 85 Km)    

Today’s ride is very easy and relaxed. It is main highway all the way. We should get to Pokhara with plenty of time left for you to enjoy some of its many sights and activities.

NB. We spend a couple of nights here on the way back, so it’s a good idea to spend some time checking out what you would like to do on your free day then, and if needed book now for when you come back. Especially for some of the popular activities like paragliding and the zipline. Also, if you shop too much, you don’t have to cart all that stuff with you. The hotel will happily store it for you and you can pick it up on the way back.

Pokhara (827ms) is a major tourist destination which is situated by a beautiful lake (Phewa) and has the backdrop of the Annapurna mountain range of which Machapucchre or “Fish Tail Mountain”, takes center stage.

Overnight at the Hotel Barahi or Similar

Ride from Pokhara to Tatopani (1,190 m) (105 Kilometers)

An early start today. Even though we only cover 105kms to our next stop, some of the riding will become dirt track (especially after the township of Beni where we leave the main highway to head north to the high Himalayas).

We ascend gradually through the Kali Gandiki gorge, which is proclaimed to be the deepest gorge in the world. The road is unpaved and dusty. There is gravel and rocks, potholes, mud, stream crossings and slips. The Royal Enfield’s cope with this well, so be confident with your bike.

We are now riding on the famous Annapurna trekkers circuit. This “road” has not been formed for long so sometimes it seems like just a trekkers track. However, you will meet crazy buses and jeeps taking up all your space so, as you are the smallest vehicle on the road, you need to be mindful to make way for anything bigger than you!

Tatopani: “Tato” means ‘hot’ and “Pani” means ‘water’. It is a popular place for trekkers and weary motorcyclists to relax in the natural hot springs.

We arrive here early enough so that you can explore the village and take advantage of the hot pools that are just below our hotel. NB. The Apple Brandy made from homegrown apples at our lodge, goes down very easily.

Overnight at the Trekker’s Lodge, Tatopani

Ride Tatopani to Muktinath (3710m) (approx. 71 Kilometers).
After breakfast, we set out on the trail along the Kali Gandaki River for a challenging ride to Muktinah. We pass beautiful, cascading waterfalls, more slips, dust, water crossings and rocky riverbeds until we arrive at Jomsom via the Thakali villages of Tukuche and Kalopani. On the way, there are fantastic views of the Mt. Dhaulagiri (8167 m), Tukuche (6920m), and Nilgiri (7061m).

A dramatic change in vegetation occurs as we ride from green forests, to dry arid desert. The Thakali’s are the dominant tribe of the valley, related to the Gurung and Magars of the southern slopes.

This day’s journey is tough, but is rewarded with awesome scenic views of the rugged landscape, beautiful cascading waterfalls, orange and apple orchards, scattered roadside villages, and ancient Buddhist monasteries.

Jomsom (2713 m) is more correctly known as Dzongsam or New Fort. It spreads over both the banks of the Kali Ghandaki.

The towering peaks of Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri form an attractive backdrop. It is also the main administrative and commercial center for the Mustang Region, as well as the gateway to the Annapurna region.

It has an airport that operates daily scheduled flights to Pokhara in the early mornings before the winds build up.

From Jonsom, we cross the river and ride through the old Jomsom village.

The valley opens up from here as we ride the east bank of the Kali Ghandaki River. Another 30 to 35 minutes rough ride finds us
on the desert plateau where we arrive at Muktinah. This is where we will spend the night.

Late PM: If Time Permits we visit the Muktinath Temple

The Muktinath Temple is a sacred place, both for Hindus and Buddhists. It is located at an altitude of 3,710 meters (12243ft) at the foot of the famous Thorong La (5416 m) Pass) which is on the Annapurna trekking circuit.

The Hindus call this sacred place Mukti Kshetra, which literally means, “Place of Salvation”. The ancient name of this place, before the Buddhist origin was known as Thiru Saligramam

In Muktinath – (Chumig Gyatsa) all the elements are represented and, for this and reason, yogis from both religions do their meditation at Muktinath.

For Tibetan Buddhists, Muktinath (Chumig Gyatsa) is a place of Dakinis (goddess known as Sky Dancers). It is of great importance for Buddhists as Chumig Gyatsa is one of the 24 Tantric places.

For Hindus, beside the natural fire representing Brahman and the holy waters, the central meaning of the Muktinath area

is the veneration of the god Vishnu in the form of ammonites (shilas) called Salagrama (fossils).

There are many stories which tell of Vishnu turning into stone and all of them are closely connected to the holy Kali Ghandaki River. According to contemporary geologists, the Salagrama – silas (found at the banks and river bed of the holy river Kali Ghandaki) are fossils of a prehistoric insect.

This insect is mentioned in the Bhavisya Purana. Therein, Tulasi, the sacred plant so dear to Vishnu, cursed Vishnu to become a stone during one act of their eternal lila. Vishnu said, “To fulfill your curse, I will become a stone (Salagrama-sila) and will always live on the banks of the Ghandaki River. The millions of Vajrakita worms that live at that place will adorn those stones with the signs of my chakra by carving them with their sharp teeth”. There are many stories which tell of Vishnu turning into stone and all of them are closely connected to the holy Kali Ghandaki River.

According to contemporary geologists, the Salagrama – silas (found at the banks and river bed of the holy river Kali Ghandaki) are fossils of a prehistoric insect. This insect is mentioned in the Bhavisya Purana. Therein, Tulasi, the sacred plant so dear to Vishnu, cursed Vishnu to become a stone during one act of their eternal lila. Vishnu said, “To fulfill your curse, I will become a stone (Salagrama-sila) and will always live on the banks of the Ghandaki River. The millions of Vajrakita worms that live at that place will adorn those stones with the signs of my chakra by carving them with their sharp teeth”.

After a sightseeing tour of Muktinath Temple we check into our overnight guest house (Erica Guest House)

Ride Muktinath to Geling (3,510 m) (approx. 44 Km)  

After a quick briefing about the challenges we are going to face on today’s ride, we backtrack to the village of Kagbeni. From here, we turn northeast and ride to Chhuksang Village, (the entry point of the restricted Upper Mustang region.)

Another Police Check post, then we are riding alongside the Kali Gandaki river again and heading north. We pass through another few small villages (Gele and Tangbe). At Chele (another small village), we have to cross the river, either by a small footbridge or, by riding through the river.

On the east bank of the Kali Gandaki River, we are now riding unformed road and tracks. We cross many ridges and depending on the weather, we have many choices of trail to use.

We pass the Gompa Kang plus some spectacular caves on the west bank of the river. There are trios of black, white and red chortens that typify Upper Mustang. Around the villages we pass fields of barley, buckwheat, wheat and apple orchards.

At the Tibetan village of Samar, (3300m/10890ft) we stop for lunch. After lunch, we continue our ride to Geling (3590m/11,781ft) where we will stay the night.

Ride Geling to Lo- Manthang (3,730 m) (approx. 31 Km)

After breakfast, we continue the ride to Lo-Manthang. The scenery is mind blowing and defies logic how the people survived for centuries up here.

Lo-Manthang(3700m/12,210ft) is a medieval, walled city on the Tibetan Plateau north of the main Himalayan range. It served as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Mustang, which survives as the Kingdom of Lo or “Upper Mustang”.

Lo Manthang was founded in 1380 by Ame Pal, who oversaw construction of the city wall and many of the still-standing structures in the early 15th century.

The monarchy officially ceased to exist on October 7, 2008 by Nepali Government order. The last king is Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (born 1933), is from a direct line of historic monarchy dating back 25 generations to 1380. The population includes ethnic Lhobas.

We spend the next two nights here.

Sightseeing Ride round Lo-ManthangSightseeing

The major Temples inside the walls of the city are, Champa Lakhang (God House) which houses the massive 45ft. statue of Maitreva, the future Buddha, the red Thugchen Gompa with several large images of Sakyamuni, Avalokitesvara and Maitreya, and the Chyodi Gompa of the Sakya sect which has several monks in residence and is the site of the annual Mani Rimdu festival. All built around 1420.

The King’s palace is an imposing 4 – story building in the center of the city. It is the home of the present king – Jigme Parbal Bista.  Everyone must dismount outside the city gates, as only the King can ride a horse within the city walls.

Today, we will visit one of the most exciting and interesting sites of this unexplored area. – The famous, and mostly unexplored Chhoser Caves. We ride across the high-altitude desert valley, through sparsely scattered villages. As we approach the village of Chhoser, we will see many caves in the cliff faces. These were once the homes of the prehistoric Lobas and their monks.

We have to walk to the caves. Make sure you are carrying some money, as the “cave-keeper” (usually a monk) will not allow us to visit. There are literally thousands of these caves, most of which the locals keep sacred and free of visitors, including themselves.
It is still a mystery as to why these man-made caves were created (especially as some are so high up). There have been many attempts from Western explorers to be given a chance to explore these but the Lo people are guarding them protectively. We will have the chance to visit the monastery nearby.

We will take a different route back to our accommodation, then the rest of the day is free to explore.

Ride to Kagbeni (2840 m) (approx. 75 Km)

Today we back track to Kagbeni following the same trail. This will take most of the day.

Kagbeni (2840m/9372ft) is a fascinating medieval village and is the gateway to Upper Mustang.

With closely packed mud brick houses, dark alleys and imposing chortens, It is like a green oasis dominated by its red monastery.
Though the village has a very medieval look, it has all the modern amenities that a traveler requires. This is the only village after Jomsom where there is an internet facility for communication with the outside world. This village also boasts a Monastery. The monks here are of the yellow hat or the Gelup Sect and have only recently opened to the visitors.

Upon arrival at Kagbeni we check in to the lodge and rest of the evening is free to relax and explore around Kagbeni Village.

Ride to Kalopani via Marpha (2530 m) (approx. 36 Km)

We ride 11 kms south to Jonsom, where we complete the paper work at the check post. The next 25 kms will take us to the beautiful village of Marpha.

Sightseeing tour of Marpha village.

Marpha is famous for its apple orchards and apple products. It is a Thakali village and exhibits the typical Thak Khola architecture of flat roofs and narrow paved alleys and passageways.

It is a pretty, stone -lined village which has survived the transition to current times by catering to trekkers and tourists.
Above the monastery, is a chorten painted onto the cliff face and many small stone chortens on the ledges below. Legend says that the villagers became afflicted with leprosy and all attempts to control it had failed. A local monk, originally from Tukuche, south of Marpha, advised the villagers to build the chorten and hold religious rituals at the site. Since that time the leprosy stopped and Marpha flourished once more.

We have lunch here, then continue on to Kalopani where we stay the night

Ride Kalopani to Pokhara (approx. 126 Kilometers)

We tackle the roughest section of the journey in the early morning, then we descend to Beni where we have lunch.

Finally, we hit the main highway and have a cruisy ride to Pokhara where we will spend two nights. Our hotel here is beautiful, and has a large swimming pool. It is also very close to town and shopping!

Free Day in Pokhara Free Day in Pokhara 

There are many things to do here. Some of these are:-
⦁ PARAGLIDING, SKYWIRE, MICROLIGHT FLIGHT, BUNGY JUMP

For these, you will be picked up and taken to the venues. These will all need to be pre-booked. All of them can be guaranteed to give you a ride of a lifetime including a major workout for your cameras. The sky wire is reputed to be the fastest, longest and steepest in the world. Your paraglider instructor is always open to doing some acrobatics if you ask. Eeeek!!!

⦁ BOATING AT PHEWA LAKE: ⦁ BOATING AT PHEWA LAKE: 

You can use a variety of craft: paddleboat, canoe, paddleboard.

If you are feeling really adventurous you can paddle across the lake and climb the steep mountain to the Peace Pagoda. The views up here are fantastic.

World peace Pagoda: We can ride up here, or you can paddle across the lake and walk up.

After walking up 100’s of steps the view is spectacular After walking up 100’s of steps the view is spectacular

International Mountaineer Museum: Set up to show you the famous mountains of Nepal with the history on who climbed these. Also  displays of the early gear that was used.

Tibetan Refugee Villages: There are a few of these here. Great places to visit if you want to shop direct with the people that make the goods, and thereby missing out the “middlemen” that sell from their shops in the city. Some beautiful wool carpets to be had here. You can even watch them being made.

There are many more activities, from spas, yoga, rafting, waterfalls, and much shopping. The nightlife is great as well with lots of choices. All featuring local musical talent. Western food is easy to source in the many restaurants, and even good coffee can be found. Ahhh Bliss.

Ride Pokhara to Kathmandu (approx. 210 Km)

Reluctantly, we must leave Pokhara today. I always feel sad doing this as it is such a special place. Once again, we are riding the main highway all the way to Kathmandu. It is a long day because of the traffic and sometimes we must wait, or negotiate huge roadworks.

After we cross Mugling we will still be passing through other major cities like Kurintar, Malekhu, BairenianNaubise. Stay alert for some of the crazy vehicles that have no regard for smaller vehicles on the road, especially when we get closer to Kathmandu.

Overnight at Hotel Manaslu 

Free Day in Kathmandu 

Free day to relax or explore around the town for the souvenir shopping or sightseeing tour.

Departure

After breakfast, you are free until the departure time.

***End of Arrangements***