Mustang Circuit and Upper Mustang Trek – Visit The Forbidden Kingdom

Updated: December 7, 2022

The region where the Mustang Circuit and Upper Mustang Trek takes place was only opened to trekkers in 1992, before which it was a literal forbidden kingdom, and even now it sees only around 700 trekkers a year.

The Mustang Circuit itself takes from 12 to 14 days. The continuation onto the Upper Mustang trek can take up to an additional 4-6 days.

Mustang Circuit Trek


Sights on the Mustang trek include monasteries and castles dating to the 14th century, fossils which are believed to be older than the mountains and the walled city of Lo-Mathang.

Lo-Manthang has walls 20 feet high with a turret at each corner. Often, on street corners you will find small groups of women spinning wool. Towards the end of the afternoon, large herds of goats are taken through the city gate and back to their sheds. There are beautiful, large monasteries such as Thugchen Gompa. An amchi is a traditional Tibetan doctor, and the amchi museum and school await you.

Among the most eye-catching attractions along the trek are the colourful rock formations found here, which could pass for the work of a major artist. This trek is of moderate difficulty and, being in the rain shadow zone, less subject to rain in the monsoon season.

Mustang has it own king, albeit unofficially, since Nepal became a republic in 2008. Still well-regarded, he is Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista, who was born around 1933 and can trace his lineage as far back as the warrior, Ame Pal, who founded the kingdom in 1380. His palace is a huge, four-storey building. He sometimes takes visitors.

One highlight is the three-day Tiji festival, which takes place at the end of the dry season in late winter or spring. Here, a thousand people re-enact a myth of a deity named Dorje Jon who fought with his demon father to the save the kingdom – his father deprived it of water, a highly-precious resource. Everything along this trek looks much as it did 600 years ago.

Regional Map


The trek takes place north of two giants – Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, at the southern tip of the Tibetan Plateau. Lying so close to Tibet, Tibetan influence is heavy. It is a massive, high valley that is arid and dry, brimming with eroded canyons and those colourful rock formations. It has the appearance of a desert and was once famously described as “barren as a dead deer.”

The average elevation of Mustang is 13,000 feet and the highest point, Mui La, is less than 700 feet more than that.

Mustang Trek Itinerary

Below is a detailed Mustang Circuit itinerary. Please note that there are several Mustang Circuit and Upper Mustang Trek itineraries that can be done.

Below we have laid out the most popular version – 14 days, leaving from Kathmandu. You can choose a slightly longer or shorter version depending on the amount of time you have. If you want to make your own way to Jomsom then you could probably organise this with your operator or guide.


Day 1-2: Arrive in Kathmandu

Day 3:  Drive to Pokhara

Day 4: Fly to Jomson and hike to Kagbeni

Day 5: Trek to Samar

Day 6: Trek to Geling

Day 7: Trek to Tsarang

Day 8: Hike to Lo-Manthang

Day 9: Rest day at Lo-Manthang

Day 10: Hike back to Ghemi

Day 11: Hike back to Samar

Day 12: Back to Jomson

Day 13: Fly back to Pokhara

Day 14: Fly back to Kathmandu

Recommended Guidebook

The Mustang Trek is covered in Annapurna: A Trekker’s Guide by Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons and in Shangri-La: A Travel Guide to the Himalayan Dream by Michael Buckley.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does the Mustang trek cost?

Are permits required for this trek?

When is the best time to trek in Mustang?

Is altitude sickness a risk?

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About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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  1. Hi there is a group of three of us looking to do the upper Mustang trek starting at the end of October and finishing in the first two weeks of Nov. Is that too late in the season? Will there be lodging still available? Also which guide services do you recommend? Thank you for any help you can offer. Cheers, Carl

    1. Hi Carl, it is possible to do the Mustang Circuit this late in the year. I’m not sure on availability of guides and teahouses though. Anyone want to chime in here, to help Carl?

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