Mustang: Hiking to the "Sky Caves" of an Ancient Kingdom

Cliff Villages, Cave Temples, and a Tibetan Buddhist Festival

Trip Level

This trip is Level 4, Moderate to Strenuous. It is an adventurous overland journey with day hikes of up to five hours, with accommodations ranging from comfortable hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara to basic lodges in Mustang. Our activities center on hiking and exploring cultural and historic sites. Road travel in Mustang is mostly on graveled, dusty roads, and on some days, road travel is long. Good dust masks are recommended, especially for those who are allergic to dust. In general, you should be fit and be able to be on your feet 4 to 6 hours a day on this journey. Our walks and hikes are on mountain trails that involves ascents and descents of up to a thousand feet. All participants should be in good shape and enjoy mountain trails. The exploration of the monasteries and day hikes normally involve some up and down walking, which at high altitudes and in dry conditions, can feel strenuous. For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition. Daily brisk walking is an excellent preparatory exercise.

While in Mustang, we will be at altitudes between 9,000 and 13,678 feet. Individuals vary widely in their physical response to high altitude. It is not uncommon to experience mild headaches or sleeplessness for a day or two when you first arrive at high altitude. Most people gradually adjust within a few days. This itinerary provides time for acclimatization, but you must pace yourself. Go slowly and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Weather

Mustang is a dry, high-altitude realm, like Tibet. The weather will likely be quite comfortable, with blue skies most days, but nights can be very cold. At high altitude, weather is always unpredictable, and the effect of the wind-chill factor can create extra-cold conditions. In Kathmandu and Pokhara, it will be hot and humid, with a high chance of rain, since our journey is set close to the annual monsoon season (but a great time to be in Mustang, which is drier, as it is the rain shadow north of the main Himalayan range!). In Mustang, there is also a strong wind in the late morning and afternoons on most days, which can kick up the dust on the trail. All participants should be equipped with good wind-proof jackets with a hood and good dusk masks. The sun is very intense at these high altitudes and care should be taken to use sun screen as well as a good hat with a full brim for sun protection.

Accommodations

Our lodges in Mustang are rustic but comfortable, owned and operated by local Mustang families. They are a wonderful way to experience local hospitality and gain an insight into the lives of the local people. There are basic toilet and washing facilities, some with Western-style toilets and some with squat-style toilets. Hot water may not be available at every lodge. We provide you with good quality sleeping bags with liners for extra comfort at all of the lodges. Our crew will be equipped with camping gear in case we need it to camp. One of the wonderful benefits of staying in these lodges is the chance to interact with local Mustang families, enjoy cultural encounters with these welcoming mountain people, see them milking their yaks, churning butter, weaving, and going about the everyday chores of traditional life in a remote Himalayan village. In Kathmandu and Pokhara, we'll stay in comfortable hotels with modern amenities in central locations.

Cuisine

Our own experienced cook crew will accompany us in Mustang. The crew is part of the renowned Wilderness Travel trekking staff, and all our meals at the lodges will be prepared by them, though we may also share meals made by the lodge from time to time. Our cooks are extremely well trained and offer  hygienically prepared meals featuring both Nepali and western-style dishes. Meals will be served in the lodge's dining room. Our drinking water is always boiled and treated. Washing water is put out before every meal so you can wash your hands before eating—a key to keeping healthy! Breakfast is normally a light meal of porridge or granola, with hot milk, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits, or cookies. Lunches may include potatoes, eggs, curried vegetables, cheese, local-style breads, fruit, tea, hot chocolate or a fruit drink. Dinner is typically soup and a main course such as a noodle dish, or meat or vegetable stew, depending on what is available in local villages. Dessert on trek is usually canned or fresh fruit.

A Typical Day in Mustang

This is a vehicle-based overland trip with day hikes on most days. We will travel along the newly constructed highway (work is still going on in many places on this road) and make daily hikes on trails off the highway to explore interesting sites, temples, monasteries, and villages. This way, we avoid hiking on the dusty roads and hike only where no vehicles are or where the traffic is sparse. Hiking distances are normally measured in hours not miles, since the terrain and prevailing conditions have such an effect on how long a hike feels.

On a typical day, we wake-up around 6:30 am. After breakfast, we set off by vehicle, normally a short distance of an hour or so, to the trailhead where we start our hike. Our hikes vary from around 4 to 6 hours, depending on the trail chosen for the day. There is always a guide in the lead and a “sweeper” who trails behind the slowest hiker to ensure that no one is lost on the trail. We ask you not to hike ahead of the leader because trails are often not well-marked.

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.