Published on : Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Once known as the forbidden kingdom of Nepal, the trans-Himalayan district of Mustang has been transformed thanks to tourism. Since opening to the outside world in 1992, the region bordering China has never failed to enchant its visitors with mysterious and picturesque landscapes.
Mustang is located just in the lap of Mount Nilgiri and other Himalayan ranges. It is a unique travel destination due to its remoteness and exclusive high-altitude deserts.
Foreign tourists are usually found trekking in this Himalayan region that comprises the world’s popular Annapurna trekking circuit.
Although Mustang has the second lowest population of all regions in Nepal, it boasts more than 200 registered hotels with 4,500 rooms, with more hotels currently under construction. Also catering to visitors are restaurants serving European coffee, modern bakeries, souvenir shops and pool houses.
Between five and seven morning flights connect to the district headquarters of Jomsom from Lake City Pokhara every day.
Often listed among the top tourist destinations in the world, Mustang in 2016 alone attracted nearly 40,000 foreign tourists compared to less than 500 a quarter of a century ago.
One of the major features of Mustang, which lies along the Kali Gandaki River, is its pristine geography and climate. Beside its geography, spectacular lifestyle and unique culture are also attractive. The region hosts a number of prominent festivals like Tenji, Yartung and Lha Phewa in which former royal family members, monks and locals participate.
Though Lower Mustang is easily accessible for travel, foreign tourists need to receive a special permit from the government by paying 500 U.S. dollars to visit Upper Mustang, known as “Lo Manthang,” the unofficial capital city of Mustang.
Lo Manthang, also known as the walled city, is popular for monasteries, centuries-old caves and archaeological sites.
With a population of just 15,000 people, most of the locals are either fully dependent on tourism or on apple farming. Having been exposed to the outside world and modernization, a visible change can be seen in the lives of the locals in terms of awareness and lifestyle.