Mustang: The Ancient Hidden Kingdom of Nepal

The word ‘Mustang’ is derived from a Tibetan word möntang, meaning ‘plain of aspiration’. It conjures up ideas of remoteness and seclusion, a region lost amongst the mountains. Carrying a rich history, with unproven claims of the caves throughout the region to be dated back to thousands of years ago, Mustang for sure is one of the most fascinating sites in Nepal.

Mustang, although tied by culture of Tibet, was originally an independent country well-known for its commercial trade route where the Lobas (the ethnic community of upper Mustang) and others traded Tibetan salt in exchange of grain from the lowlands. The region of Mustang lies north of the main Himalayan range known as the trans-Himalaya. A vast high valley, arid and dry, it has a barren desert-like appearance similar to the Tibetan Plateau and is characterized by eroded canyons and colorful stratified rock formations.

It is stated that Ame Pal, a fierce soldier was the founder king of ‘Lo’, the Kingdom of Mustang in 1380. He was responsible to develop the territory of upper Kali Gandaki, and many gompas throughout the area of Mustang capital – Lo Manthang. Upper Mustang remained a restricted area with hardly any visitors until 1992. Even though the kingdom was consolidated to Nepal at the end of the 18th century and the Kingdom of Nepal turned into a federal republic in 2006, the Mustang raja or king was still recognized and revered by the Lobas.

Travelling to Mustang

Discovering Lo Manthang on a horseback

Although the capital of the Mustang district is actually Jomsom, but the Tibetan influenced area north of Kagbeni that leads to Lo Manthang, is popularly known as the walled capital of Upper Mustang. The Trek to this mystique kingdom which requires a special permit begins at the airstrip of Jomsom after flying up early from Pokhara. The trek is rather easy as most of the route goes along the bank of Kali Gandaki River and eventually leads you to Lo Manthang at 3,730 m/ 12,238 ft., which is the highest point on the trek.

As Mustang lies in the Himalayan rain shadow formed by the Annapurna & Nilgiri Himalayas with very little rain, this makes the area ideal for trekking even in the mid monsoon while the other areas of Nepal remain unsuitable for trekking due to heavy monsoon rains.

The area is filled with wonders of the architecture, language, Tibetan culture and traditions, all amidst picturesque villages, monasteries, and unique landscapes, which usually leave the visitors mesmerized by the once-upon-a-time mystical kingdom.

This is among the very few adventure trips in Nepal which can be done throughout the year, yet with very less trekkers. Joining the Upper Mustang Trek is not only a road to discovering the ancient hidden kingdom, but it is also being a part of a small privileged minority to visit the remote outpost of Nepal.

Mustang’s only luxury accommodation: Royal Mustang Resort

There are quite a few simple lodges/ tea houses in Mustang offering basic food and shelter along the trekking routes. A recently opened new luxury hotel in the capital of Lo Manthang, is giving rise to more and more tourists in the area in the otherwise remote and restricted region. The Royal Mustang Resort was opened in June 2017 and is run by the region’s former king’s son. With about 20 rooms and suites, all offering tremendous views of Lo’s naturally gifted landscape, the resort is a blissful luxury after several days of hard trekking. This two-storey resort has boosted employment in the locality on a large scale. Boasting wooden floors, simple artworks, a private organic farm, its smiling local staff go about offering their high end services with utmost pride and pleasure. One is bound to get a touch of modern luxury with a blend of traditional royalty at this tranquil sanctuary.

Unwinding Hikes around Pokhara

Pokhara’s bewitching beauty has been the subject of many travel writers. Its pristine air, spectacular backdrop of snowy peaks, serene lakes and surrounding greenery make it ‘the jewel in the Himalaya’, a place of remarkable natural beauty. With the magnificent Annapurna range forming the backdrop and the serenity of three major lakes – Phewa, Rupa and Begnas – Pokhara is the ultimate destination for relaxation. It is the second largest city in Nepal and sits high on the list of ‘must visit’ places in Nepal.

Pokhara Valley is not only the end of the famous Annapurna Circuit and the gateway to some of the most famous long-distance treks in Nepal, but it also has plenty of rewarding short walks and day trips that are suitable even for children and weary trekkers.

Along with several trails used by local residents leading to different villages, fields and viewpoints, below are a few popular hiking trails around Pokhara. These day hikes are ideal for those wanting to take some time away from the happening city life and immerse in the serene natural beauty that surrounds the Pokhara valley.

1. Hike to Begnas Lake
Hike Duration: 4 to 5 hours approx.
Drive Time from Phewa Lake: 45 minutes approx.
Transfer to Begnas Lake, the second largest lake of the valley after the Phewa Lake. A popular tourist destination, the area is filled with numerous resorts and eateries. There are different points from where you can begin walking.

Hike along the ridges as the trail slowly leads higher through forests of Horse-Chestnut and Saal trees. The view of the surrounding hill sides and of the twin lakes of Rupa and Begnas is simply breathtaking. Walk steadily north gaining a slight altitude through Begnas village, a spread out spectacle of clean mud houses and terraced fields. Higher up is Begnas Maidan, an open meadow perched on a hilltop from where one can have the most spectacular mountain views sweeping from east to west in a vast snowy expanse; Manaslu (8156m) the entire Annapurna massif with such prominent peaks as Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna III & IV as well as Mt. Macchapuchhre (6993m) and weather permitting, the distant Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the far west.

After lunch at one of the many local restaurants around Begnas, you have an option of hiring a boat for a short ride in the tranquil surroundings, before meeting your vehicle for the 40 minutes’ drive back to your hotel.

2. Hike to Shanti Stupa or World Peace Pagoda
Hike Duration: 3 hours approx.
Drive to the dam at the end of Phewa Tal, the second largest lake in Nepal. The lake is stream fed but the dam regulates the water reserve, therefore being classified as semi-natural freshwater lake from where the water goes to a small hydro-power plant at the southern edge of the valley. Walk up the forested hill called Raniban to the Shanti Stupa, or World Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist stupa built by the Buddhist monks of the Japanese Nipponzan Fujii organization at a narrow ridge above the Phewa Taal. Walk around the stupa that offers good views of the Phewa Tal and the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himal.

The path then descends to the lake shore where you can take a boat across to the other side while paying your respects at the Barahi Temple located at the heart of the lake.

3. Hike Naudanda to Sarangkot
Drive Time: 45 minutes approx.
Hike Duration: 5 hours approx.
Drive from Pokhara to Naudanda, a small hill offering pleasant views of the greenery and mountain ranges of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu. Start hiking from Naudanda (1600 meters) from a trail that leads you through the traditional Brahmin and Chhetri villages. After a four hours’ hike you will reach the vantage point of Sarangkot.

Sarangkot is a beautiful village located on a mountainside ridge at an altitude of 1600m with panoramic Himalayan views, from Dhaulagiri in the far west and Pokhara city in the south with the Phewa Lake on the north-western outskirts of the city. It is also famous for sunrise views and paragliding. Take a rest here while admiring the far-reaching views of the Himalayas and watch the acrobatics of the many adventurous paragliders that launch from here.

Our descent back down to Pokhara is steep in places. After approx. an hour and a half, it brings us back to Pokhara.

In addition to visiting various sites in Pokhara, the above day hikes can be included and customized as per your inclination to make for an exhilarating experience. These hikes can also be initiated as a warm-up to prepare for lengthier treks in the Annapurna region.

Dharma Adventures as an exhibitor in GAMCE 2018


Nepal boasts eight of the world’s tallest mountains including Mt. Everest, the highest in the world. The country is well-known for the enchanting medieval palaces, pagodas, temples, statues and stupas, along with unparalleled adventure options with abundance in flora and fauna.

Those who thrive on thrill and adventure are fascinated to explore Nepal, an ideal destination offering some of the best trekking routes and others adventurous activities in the world. From experiencing the thrill of rafting down raging rivers, soaring high amongst some of the world’s highest peaks, trekking along serene villages and landscape or just immersing yourself in the panoramic views of the mighty Himalayas and the abundance of scenic tranquility, the country just has so much to offer.

Having realized this, House of Rajkarnicar in collaboration with Nepal Tourism Board organized Global Adventure and Mountaineering Conference and Expo 2018 (GAMCE 2018) with a motive to celebrate and revive Nepal as one of the world’s most popular and prominent adventure destination, endowed with abundant natural resource and heritage. The event was held from 23rd – 25th March, serving as a great platform for national and international adventure enthusiasts and experts to not only exchange information, adventure products and services, but also to participate and discuss the potentials by improving adventure tourism in Nepal. The conference and expo was witnessed by several visitors, outdoor adventure professionals, tour operators and many others involved in the field of adventure tourism.

With over 40 speakers, 250 participants, 35 exhibitors and others, the event successfully directed in making the visitors aware on key subjects of Adventure Sports, Adventure Tourism and Adventure Environment. The speakers familiarized the listeners to new approaches in mountaineering, innovation in adventure sports, environmental impacts, climate change adaptation and sustainability practices, eco- friendly services, river tourism and conservation, waste management system, sanitary and hygiene, Mt. Everest Biogas Project, etc. along with several technical and plenary sessions in between. In overall, the conferences not only gave out prospective on developing adventure activities in Nepal, but it also gave an insight of stepping forward to grasp the emerging markets from all over the world, especially our neighboring country India. Besides, various socio – cultural environmental impact issues were discussed that encouraged to push towards the concept of responsible adventure tourism.

We, the Dharma Adventures team, were one of the sellers at GAMCE 2018 and gained an excellent opportunity to meet and partake in this wonderful event. The event participation has led to enlightened team, inspiring us to push forward our effort in offering finest adventurous experiences to our clients as we have always strived for.

We are your Gateway to the Himalayas!

Nuwakot and The Famous Farm

A good three hours of bumpy ride, about 75 km north from Kathmandu, driving over a hill after another through the meandering Trishuli River brought us to the hills of Nuwakot. Embellished with rich history and traditional royal architecture, Nuwakot was once the capital of the valley. It is here that King Prithivi Narayan Shah, the unifier and the first king of Nepal formulated his strategy to conquer Kathmandu.

For the four of us, this was our first time to Nuwakot. Stories of the first king of Nepal and his beautiful palace, the famous Saat Tale Durbar, a seven-storey fortress built in 1762 were little details we had grown up hearing about. When we finally made it there last weekend, we were saddened to see the catastrophe caused by the April 2015 earthquake. While the seven-storey fortress still remained put, entering it was prohibited because the structure looked fragile. Little village houses and temples around the area were in ruins; and though slowly, there were signs of restoration. Big pictures of pre, and post-earthquake that now adorned the area gave us an idea of what life would have been here before.

With a heavy heart, we drove to our overnight destination, The Famous Farm which was a stone’s throw away from the durbar. At first glance, The Famous Farm was simply an oasis of tranquility. Built in a 100-year-old mud house, this place is an amalgam of old and modern. The Famous Farm beautifully combines village life with modern facilities like a clean bathroom, comfortable bed, hot shower and a scrumptious cuisine. We spent the night warm and cozy in the open courtyard by the fire as we sipped wine and sang along to old country songs. Later we walked to our rooms through small wooden stairs and doors and hopped into our bed waiting for dawn.

We watched the sun rise over the hills as we sipped coffee from our wooden balcony. The ambiance was spectacular as we breathed clean fresh air that is difficult to find in Kathmandu. Quickly we realized that day light accentuated the beauty of The Famous Farm as blooming bright pink bougainvillea adorned the building. Breakfast in the garden was a delight, one could spend hours simply basking in the sun or enjoying a drink but we wanted to make the most of our short trip so we decided to go for a quick hike around the village.

We walked through patchy settlements and terraced farms as little children waved at us while others went about their daily chores. We passed old men and women basking in the sun, looking up to smile at us before getting back into conversations that eluded us. The view from our highest trek point was exceptional as we overlooked hills of dense forests and the meandering Trishuli River flowing smoothly below.

As we returned from the hike, we had a chilled jar of lemonade waiting for us at the hotel. A surprise treat after the hike! Quenching our thirst and thanking the staff for their wonderful service, it was time to say goodbye. As much as we wanted to stay, we left The Famous Farm with tons of stories to tell and a promise to visit again.

Later we stopped at the bazaar for a hearty Nepali meal and left Nuwakot with bellies full and lots of memories to share.

That was a weekend well spent!

Flying Safari – Tigers & Rhinos

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FLYING SAFARI – TIGERS & RHINOS (Fixed Departure 2017)
India & Nepal

This tour takes us on a wild journey through jungles of central India which was Rudyard Kipling’s source of inspiration for his “Jungle Book”. We visit both Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks, being rated as the best for tiger spotting the world over. Later we fly to Nepal and into Chitwan, a place rich in flora and fauna and famous for its wildlife and jungle activities. In March / April the days start getting warmer; most water sources start to dry up and the game is concentrated around the few remaining water sources, making this period the best time to photograph and observe tigers of central India and one-horned Rhinoceros in Nepal.

Highlights of the tour:
• Most comfortable way to see tigers in the wild
• Visit best Tiger Habitats
• Stay in first class award-winning boutique jungle lodges
• Exclusive vehicles for game drive with English Speaking Naturalist
• Fly between the parks in charter planes maximizing game viewing time
• Fully accompanied by expert naturalist
• One horned Rhinoceros

Bandhavgarh National Park: Bandhavgarh is set among the Vindhya hills of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is large in biodiversity and densely populated with tigers. With tigers at the apex, it is also rich in birdlife and other wide range of game. The elephant and jeep safari is an exhilarating experience that takes you through the lush greenery and natural habitat of the varying wild species. It is a safe trip to get a closer look at all the imperial creatures including the royal tigers.

Kanha National Park: Kanha National Park is spread across the Maikal chain of hills, Madhya Pradesh, India. It is popular as a tiger reserve and for preservation of the rare Swamp Deer (Barasingha). Conservation programs for the overall protection of the Park’s fauna and flora, makes Kanha one of the finest National Parks in Asia. The safari takes you on an amazing journey into the wild offering excellent outlook for keen photographers.

Chitwan National Park: Chitwan National Park – ‘the Heart of the Jungle’ is situated in the mid-southern Terai, Nepal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is regarded as one of the best wildlife- viewing national parks in Asia. Home to rich flora and fauna, the park boasts one – horned rhinos and other alluring species like bengal tigers, leopards, asiatic elephants, wild boars, sloth bears, gharial crocodiles, monkeys, deer and more than 600 species of birds.

Hotels

Trident Gurgaon Hotel, Delhi:
Trident Gurgaon Hotel is a five-star hotel owned and managed by the Oberoi Group. It has a resort-like ambience with the designs influenced by Moroccan, Mughal and Rajasthani architectural styles. The rooms represent graceful style and sophistication in every detail with touches of traditional artifacts and elegant furnishing. It welcomes in its warm embrace with magnificence and style accompanied with modern amenities ensuring a comfortable stay.

Kings Lodge, Bandhavgarh:
Situated in an incredible location between the Sal forested hills of Bandhavgarh National Park, Kings Lodge assures a great wildlife experience, outstanding hospitality and an experienced team of naturalists. Its air-conditioned cottage rooms with a large verandah offering views of the forest, are well appointed with wood furniture in honey hues and inviting crisp cotton linen. They have a multi-cuisine dining hall with a fire place overlooking the wild grasslands back dropped by Sal forested hills. They offer an experienced naturalist team with focus on birding tour and an overall holistic wildlife experience. An eco-friendly construction with eco-sensitive waste disposal systems, the units are designed to blend with the surrounding landscape.

Kanha Earth Lodge:
Kanha Earth Lodge lies in the natural forest, tucked away in a small hamlet bordering Kanha’s buffer zone. The luxury bungalows with en suite bathrooms and open verandahs have been inspired by Gond tribal architecture which offers environmentally sensitive, low-impact accommodation through designs and use of local stone and waste wood. It creates an ideal setting for nature walks, birding and cycling trips through the surrounding forest. Earth Lodge offers a variety of Indian and Continental cuisine; all dishes served are prepared from local sources of fresh products.

Barahi Jungle Lodge, Chitwan:
Barahi Jungle Lodge is situated on the banks of Rapti River in Chitwan reflecting the tranquility of the National Park. It offers a refined luxury experience with excellent services and amenities. The hotel assures to be an ideal place of stay for those seeking charm, comfort and convenience in Chitwan. The ambience, architecture and interior style, blends with the jungle giving a stunning insight into the Tharu culture of Nepal mixed with wilderness, strengthening the bond of nature and mankind. The lodge offers authentic Nepalese, Continental, Indian, Thai and Chinese Cuisines. In the evenings, the Tharus perform a cultural show making the environment lively and vigorous.

Itinerary in detail

Everest from Tibet

An amalgam of culture, history and nature, Everest from Tibet takes you amidst a wild and uncompromising landscape, through soaring snow-capped mountains, freshwater lakes and glided temples to the very heart of Tibet.

Everest-from-Tibet

Call it The Roof of the World, The Forbidden City or the Third Pole – so magnetic is its fame that a mere mention conjures up images of grandeur and spirituality. It has the earth’s highest ecosystem and is one of its last remaining wildernesses with its lush forests supporting abundant wildlife. Its many mountains feed some of Asia’s most revered rivers and Mt. Kailash is the most sacred mountain in the world. Its people are some of the most resilient in the world and through their richness and deep religious convictions, were built many captivating monuments.
It is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Asia.

Trip Highlights:

• Everest Base Camp with the spectacular view of the North Face of Mount Everest.
• Dalai Lama’s summer and winter retreats, The Potala Palace and Norbulingkha.
• The sacred Yamdrok Lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
• Witness monks in philosophical debates.
• Tread the path of Lhasa’s pilgrimage route to experience the firsthand religious fervor of Tibet.

Itinerary in Detail

National Geographic: World’s Best Hikes

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

This year National Geographic asked 20 outdoor luminaries—from trail runners to CEOs to beloved authors—about the trails they dream about. Here are their picks for the world’s best hikes.

1. Everest Base Camp, Nepal
EBC
Follow the footsteps of legends like Messner, Bonington and Hillary, up to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and experience how they felt during their quest to Everest. Home of the renowned Sherpas, the mountain hardy people and the realm of Everest, this region needs no introduction. Itinerary in detail

2. Snowman Trek, Bhutan
Snowman

Listed as one of the most difficult treks of the world, the spectacular Snowman trek takes you into one of the country’s most remote valleys. Bhutan’s pristine landscape, friendly people and fascinating Buddhist culture provide the ingredients for a memorable journey into one of the world’s most remote kingdoms. Itinerary in detail