Today, due primarily to its isolated location and closed nature (the area was only open to tourism in 1992), Mustang is one of the last true remote lands remaining in the world. Its inhabitants, who are primarily of Tibetan descent, lead lives little-changed from centuries past; they till the fields by hand, tend herds amid the dry hills, and work and live among the harsh, starkly beautiful lands.
Still, with the completion of a new highway linking Mustang to Tibet and Nepal, it is clear that this stronghold of traditional Tibetan culture may not remain remote and untouched for much longer.
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Meet a prominent local family for dinner at their home; sample Tibetan specialties like momos, or dumplings stuffed with yak meat; thukpas, or thick, long Tibetan noodles; and salty, savory butter tea, used to fortify one’s body against the elements.
Carved into the sheer walls of the Himalayan foothills, much of the area around Mustang is home to a number of manmade caves. Many of these structures contain various Buddhist artifacts, including sacred, illustrated texts, elaborate wall paintings and murals, and even manuscripts detailing the Bon faith, the area’s pre-Buddhist, shamanistic religion.
Located at a lofty 12,172 feet (3,710 meters), Muktinath Temple is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike. Set in the shadow of the majestic Himalayas, Muktinath was believed to be the site where Guru Rimpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, stopped and meditated while making his way to Tibet.
While small, the temple itself consists of an inner temple and an outer courtyard; the former contains a large, golden murti, or representation, of the Hindu god Vishnu. The outer courtyard is home to 108 bull-shaped spouts which pour forth water diverted from the River Gantaki; because of the temple’s high elevation, the water is often ice-cold – a daunting challenge to devoted pilgrims, who, as a test of faith, plunge into the waters for a cleansing, sacred bath.
As Mustang is a remote, far-flung locale, it also offers some of the best trekking and hiking within Nepal. Clamber over dry, barren hills that are shades of yellow-brown and sparsely dotted with trees; pass thatched huts that have stood as local homes for decades, if not centuries; and gaze upon the imposing white peaks of the Himalayas in the distance, wreathed in cloud and fog.
Once a cosmopolitan, thriving enclave that commanded crucial trading routes, the walled city of Lo Manthang was once the capital of the kingdom of Mustang. The walls of Lo Manthang are rectangular, and are capped at each corner by a square dzong, or fort – a feature common to the high mountain areas of Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal. Built in the 1380s, Lo Manthang stands today in a remarkable state of preservation – to the point where festivals and feasts extinct elsewhere in Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan are still held in the city; because of this, Lo Manthang is tentatively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
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As one few thousand people a year are privileged enough to visit Upper Mustang, Jay Tindall brings us a tale of princes, caves, and isolation in an ancient kingdom.
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