The Forbidden Kingdom of Upper Mustang

Highlights

  • A unique & genuine mountain biking adventure
  • Ride in the forbidden Kingdom of Upper Mustang
  • Ride through the Planet’s deepest valley
  • The historic walled city of Lo-Mantang
  • 20 days / 19 nights
  • Ancient monasteries & carved cliff dwellings
  • Stunning riding amidst a timeless landscape
  • Rather Be Trip Leader & Nepali biking guide
Number of Days: 20
2018 Land Only Price From: £2,095
Grade: Spicy
Group Size: 6 – 14 (Smaller Groups by Arrangement)
View: Kit List

Dates:

Please call us on 01768 778848 for our Nepal trip dates in 2018/19

Dates are available for Private Groups by arrangement – contact us for details

Trip Overview

The Kingdom of Upper Mustang, the ancient Kingdom of Lo, is an almost forgotten region which, whilst still in Nepal, lies to the North of the main Himalayan Range and is, geographically speaking, an extension of the Tibetan plateau –  a vast and arid region, cut with eroded canyons and colourful stratified rock formations. It is an ancient, haunting and captivating region, a landscape from another time. Not many Westerners explore this region and very few travel by bike.

The walled and ancient capital of Lo-Mantang is our destination and it is the seat of the Lo Royal Family, a dynasty that can trace its ancestry 25 generations back to Ame Pal who founded the Kingdom in 1380. A fascinating aspect of Mustang’s rock faces is that they contain a myriad of carved cave dwellings and monasteries dating back thousands of years.

Exploring Upper Mustang and the Kali Gandaki Valley by bike is truly one of the World’s great mountain biking adventures. Testing terrain, jaw dropping scenery, a rich history and warm welcome, numerous 4,000m passes, fantastic trails and gigantic descents (and climbs) all combine to make this our “must do” mountain bike trip of 2015.

Day 1 Arrivals Day

On arrival in Kathmandu you’ll be welcomed by your Rather Be Cycling Trip Leader and then transferred to our hotel. Due to differing arrival times we meet up as a complete group for the first time in the evening and have a meal together in our hotel and discuss the adventures that lie ahead.

Overnight in a 3 star hotel. Meal/s included: D

Day 2 Overland to Adventure

We have an early start today as we load up our bus with our bikes (still boxed) and bags for the scenic drive along the Trisuli River and into the tropical lowlands to Pokhara.  The afternoon is spent checking and organising our kit for the trip.

Overnight in a 3 star hotel. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 3 Into the Himalayas – Fly Pokhara to Jomsom

It’s an early start today and we catch a short flight from Pokhara to Jomson (2,767m). Flying deep into the jaw dropping giants of the Himalayas we arrive in the small town of Jomsom, in Lower Mustang, where the cultural influences of the large local Tibetan population are apparent. We check into our lodge, build up our bikes and pedal out on a short acclimatisation ride. Today should be treated gently, giving our bodies time to start an efficient acclimatisation process.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 4 Ride Mustang Gateway

Today we hit the trails proper and we ride up through the upper part of the Kali Gandaki valley to Kagbeni (2,807m), also known as Mustang Gateway. After lunch at our lodge there’s the option of a ride up to the 3,000m contour and a superb singletrack descent back down to the valley floor. Spectacular views of the high mountains are all around and time should be taken to explore the delightful Bhuddhist village of Kagbeni.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 5 Uphill to Sacred Muktinath

An uphill day today. Climbing out of the valley on a jeep track we ascend to Mucktinath (3,800m). Climbing to this altitude should be taken slowly and the ride today is best treated as a series of mini rides punctuated with breaks to take pictures, stay fully hydrated and to just simply savour the awesome scenery and views. Muktinath itself is nestled at the foot of the Thorung La Pass and is a very sacred place for Hindus & Bhuddists. A visit to the Temple complex is a must.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 6 Entering the Forbidden Kingdom

Today the adventure really begins as we enter the restricted region of Upper Mustang. The day starts with a climb of just under 300m to the top of the Gyu La Pass (4,077m), which is technical in places. After regrouping at the top and savouring the panoramic mountain views we set off on a long downhill to Tetang (3,040m). We pass an ancient Mani Wall (circulate clockwise) on the descent to Chhusang village after which there is a short climb and river crossing to reach Chele (3,050m), our destination for today.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 7 Fours La’s = Pass-tastic

It’s not flat today – but we are in the Himalayas after all.  En route to Zaite (3,800m) we cross four passes – the Taklam La (3,624m), the Dajori La (3,735m), the Bhena La (3,860m) and, finally, the Yamda La (3,860m). The trail is a mix of jeep tracks, single track and steep descents with the odd section of portage here and there. All in all a tough day at high altitudes in spectacular surroundings.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 8 Mega Mustang

We spent last night by the Syangboche River and first up today is the short climb up to the Syangboche La Pass. Riding through cultivated open valley the riding is easier than the previous few days. We tackle the Nyi La (4,010m), on jeep track trail, which has spectacular views of Mustang, Annapurna & Nilgiri from the top. The scenery today is spectacular with pockets of greenery amidst the arid landscape of Upper Mustang. A singletrack descent follows before we rejoin the jeep track at Gami, after a visit to the Ghompa and a chat with the monks. Our destination for tonight is the historic village of Charang (3,560m), home to the greatest library in Lo and the 400 year old Gulpa Sect Monastery.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 9 A Kingdom Lost in Time

Today is a shorter ride of about 3 – 4 hours. Crossing the Lo La Pass (3,810m), also known as Windy Pass, we get our first views of the fabled, walled city of Lo-Mantang, our destination. This region is really a Kingdom lost in time and relatively few Westerners travel in this region. Arriving in Lo-Mantang for lunch we have the opportunity to explore and soak up the atmosphere of this surreal place.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 10 Rest & Exploration

Lo-Mantang is, perhaps, one of the most interesting places to explore in the Himalayas. We will visit the Royal Palace and, with good fortune, we will have the privilege of having tea with the King of Lo – an unforgettable experience! In the afternoon there are three ancient Monasteries that are well worth visiting – one of them is over 900 years old and is famed for very beautiful Thanka paintings.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 11 The Cave of a Thousand Windows

Today we explore by bike. Following the upper reaches of the Kali Gandaki River and crossing it’s tributaries we ride to Garphu and Ghom. Here we can explore the 2,000 to 3,000 year old caves and the site of an ancient Monastery. Heading back to Lo-Mantang we ride on fabulous singletrack from village to village. This is a magic, historic place that casts a spell and one can easily image the centuries rolling back in this timeless landscape.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 12 Riding Through History

Leaving Lo-Mantang behind we start our journey back down the Kali Gandaki Valley but in true Nepali style we head up and over the 4,090m Pangga Pass. This challenging climb is approx 75% rideable singletrack but there are some portage sections before the stunning views from the top. Some rolling terrain folllows before the amazing downhill to Dhi. The colours in the landscape here are breathtaking – from reds to blues. Riding on to Yara (3,530m). This area is worth exploring and above Gara sits the Luri Ghumpa. Here small monastic chambers are carved into the rock some with incredible painted ceilings and wall panels. The ride back to Yara, and our accommodation for tonight, is technical and downhill.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B. L & D

Day 13 Technical Trails & Wet Feet

A tough day to Tasnge lies ahead with rocky and technical terrain including some portage sections as well. En-route we look for fossils on the Ghechang Khola riverbed before wading across the river. A climb up to 3,850m follows before we descend to the small village of Tasgne.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 14 Himalayan Highs, Vultures & Blue Sheep

Today we have probably the toughest and most rewarding day on the entire trip. We start with a warm up climb before crossing the Tage Khola river after which we climb for approx. 3 hours to the highpoint of our adventure the 4,210m Chacho La pass. The panorama from the top is stunning – Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Tilicho, Nilgiri and many others. Riding downhill to our overnight destination of Chhusang we pass a sacred ancient Sky Burial site, so keep your eyes peeled for soaring Himalayan Vultures and the rare Blue Sheep sometimes seen in this region.

Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 15 How Do Like Them Apples …?

Today we ride out of the Kingdom of Upper Mustang and cross back into Lower Mustang at Kagbeni. Riding over the Kali Gandaki riverbed we pass through Jomson and head on down the jeep track to Marpha. Marpha is our stop for the night and the area is famed throughout the Himalayas for apple growing – apple pie and locally made apple brandy anyone?
Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 16 Dusty Skids – Into the Valley

Today is one of our all time favourite rides in Nepal, it’s a classic!. We drop down the Kali Gandaki Valley, the deepest valley on Earth, from Marpha at 2,743m to Tatopani at 1,190m so a whopping 1,553m of descent punctuated by numerous sections of “Nepali Flat” – short uphills. The trails aren’t technical as such but there’s loads of opportunities to get creative with your lines and use the natural features to spice things up. The jeep track trail is often dusty and we share the road with jeeps, the odd bus and all the commerce heading in and out of the entire Mustang region. We stay overnight in the delightful village of Tatopani famed for it’s hot springs. Tradition dictates a theraputic cold beer is enjoyed in the hot springs.
Overnight in a lodge. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 17 A Day of Two Halves – Both of them Downhill

Today the descending continues as we rip down the valley to Beni in the morning – CLICK HERE for a short video of the trail. Beni is a bustling roadhead / trailhead town an the noise and organised chaos comes as a culture shock after the more sedate pace of life we have experienced in Upper & Lower Mustang. We meet up with our support bus today and load up our bikes for a road transfer part of the way to Pokhara thus avoiding a long tarmac climb. At Naudada we disembark, enjoy the views of Annapurna and hit the trails once more.
We head XC towards Pokhara on jeep tracks and take in a sinuous hairpinned descent which drops us into the flat valley about 14kms from Pokhara itself. The last couple of k’s are along the Lakeside and give us a great opportunity to reflect on the amazing biking adventure we have just completed.
Overnight in a 3 star hotel. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 18 Chill Out in Civilisation

A long lie in a comfortable bed would be understandable today as we have a free day to enjoy in Pokhara, the chill out capital of Nepal and it’s the perfect place to kick back with a lazy lakeside lunch and a few celebratory beers. In the evening we hit one of Pokhara’s great restaurants and soak in the atmosphere of this vibrant town.
Overnight in a 3 star hotel in Pokhara. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 19 Kathmandu Bound

Today we take a short flight (approx. 30 mins) back to Kathmandu whilst our bikes are transported back by road on our bus. If the weather is clear the views North to the Himalayas are some of the most spectacular you’ll see. After a late lunch we pack up our bikes for our return flights tomorrow which leaves the rest of the day free for sightseeing and buying some last minute gifts. In the evening we head out into Thamel for a celebratory end of trip meal.
Overnight in a 3 Star Hotel. Meal/s included: B, L & D

Day 20 Departure Day

Today is a free day in Kathmandu until it is time for your complimentary transfer to the airport and your return flight home.

Overnight in a 3 Star Hotel. Meal/s included: B

What’s Included

  • 19 nights accommodation* as detailed in the trip overview.
  • All meals as detailed in the trip overview.
  • Meal Key: B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner.
  • Kathmandu Airport transfers to / from group hotel on arrival & departure days only.
  • Pokhara to Jomson & Pokhara to Kathmandu internal flights.
  • Airport transfers in Pokhara.
  • Overland Bike Transfers from Kathmandu to Jomsom & Pokhara to Kathmandu.
  • Lower Mustang Permit & Conservation fees (Upper Mustang Permit Fees are NOT INCLUDED).
  • The services of a Nepali Biking Guide.
  • The services of a Rather Be Cycling Trip Leader – ON ALL GROUP SIZES
  • The services of a bus and driver (Kathmandu to Pokhara & Beni to Naudada).
  • Access to commonly required tools and mechanical advice & assistance.**
  • A half day sightseeing tour of Kathmandu.

*We use a 3 star hotel when staying in Kathmandu & Pokhara. When cycling we use lodge & teahouse accommodation. All accommodation is allocated and priced on a twin occupancy basis. Please contact us for Single Occupancy Rates. It should be noted that lodge  & teahouse accommodation can be rather basic at times.

**Please note that whilst we are prepared for the most likely mechanical issues we cannot carry spare parts / tools to deal with all eventualities. Please ensure your bike is fit for purpose before your trip – we are happy to advise you.

What’s Not Included

  • International and / or Domestic Flight/s to and from the start (joining) point and end (departure) points of the trip.
  • Any excess baggage charges relating to outbound, return & internal flights.
  • Visa/s as required.
  • Travel Insurance – compulsory.
  • Upper Mustang Permit Fees – currently (Jan 2014) US$ 500 per person (Lower Mustang Permit Fees ARE INCLUDED).
  • All drinks e.g. bottled water, soft drinks, coffees, teas, alcohol, etc.
  • Spare / replacement bicycle parts & accessories e.g. tyres, tubes, wheels, etc.
  • Other expenses e.g. souvenirs, additional food, etc.
  • Tips – at your discretion but encouraged for the local guide and crew.
  • Certain meals on certain days – please refer to trip overview.
  • Your spending money.

Bike Spec

  • A modern, good quality mountain bike. A full suspension bike is ideal for this trip but a quality hardtail with 2.1 / 2.2 would be suitable.  We suggest 2.1 mixed terrain off road tyres at minimum and slightly wider tyres for hardtails / shorter travel bikes
  • Your bike should be fully serviced AND thoroughly tested before your holiday.

Many parts of rural Nepal are in a period of rapid development and there is a very active road building programme currently underway. What was a blinding singletrack can become a jeep track the next time we pass the same way and jeep tracks can become tarred roads. We work closely with our agents and biking contacts in Nepal, who are constantly seeking out new off road routes. We reserve the right to alter our itineraries in-country to take in more new off road sections wherever possible should the traditional routes become upgraded.

Gallery