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
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.
With its bewitching beauty extended in forms of snow-capped peaks, tranquil lakes, greenery, adventure sports and trek trails, Pokhara is a place for anyone and everyone. With the magnificent Annapurna range forming the backdrop and the serenity of three major lakes – Phewa, Rupa and Begnas – Pokhara is the ultimate gateway for relaxation. Apart from journeying the adventure hub, we recommend experiencing the following 2 eco-friendly hotels in Pokhara to unwind and enjoy the luxuries that they deliver.
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge
Perched on a ridge above the Pokhara Valley, Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge is located away from the bustle of the city. It is an ideal place set against spectacular Himalayan backdrop and defines the essence of tranquillity.
With a central lodge, bar and dining room, the comfortable rooms are arranged in clusters of cottages resembling a typical Nepali village. All their rooms have attached bathrooms, private verandas that face the views of the Himalayas. The place is also admired for their daily table menus featuring a wide range of Nepali dishes and continental specialties that are made from local fresh ingredients and home grown herbs and garden salads.
Amidst the calm and magnificent Himalayan views, there are numerous trails utilized by local residents that are suitable for day hikes & walks. It is also quite popular for bird watching, walking along the forests and villages nearby, accompanied by experienced local guides. They can also provide a checklist of birds and butterflies and point out the many different species of plants, and medicinal herbs found in the area.
Combining steady walk and short hikes in the rural villages, farmland and forests nearby is a wonderful experience exploring the culture and flora around the lodge. Few of the village walks and hikes are mentioned below.
1. Gurung Village Walk Hike duration: Approx. 6 to 7 hours
A walk along the ridgeline to the east of the lodge, takes you through the village of Kalikasthan (Kali is one of the Hindu goddesses). From here, you will follow the main trail to the left through patches of beautiful forest. This trail leads to a village populated by Gurung people, one of the many ethnic groups to be found in the middle hills of Nepal. The Gurungs are known as hardy mountain people with Mongolian features, and provide many recruits for the Nepalese, British and Indian armies in their Gurkha Regiments. The interesting lifestyle and culture of these people can be seen in the village of Thuloswara. If you feel up to it, add an extension via Lankathar, another scenic village. From Thuloswara, walk downhill via, Lankathar to the Bijaypur river. The effort level now intensifies, with a 1,000 feet (305 metres) ascent to the ridgeline and main trail, which leads back to the lodge.
2. Thulakot & Ramchekot Walk Hike duration: Approx. 5 hours
Walk from the lodge (or drive to Kalikasthan 15 minutes) steadily uphill through diverse cultural villages and farmlands to Thulakot (1250m / 4,100ft), an ancient boundary fort site of the Kaski Rajas until their annexation by King Prithivi Narayan Shah in the 18th century. There is a small Bhairav Temple in fort remains. To reach Thulakot takes about 2½ hours. Walk along the undulating ridge to Ramchekot (approx. 1425m / 4,675ft) with fine views (1 hour) and take in panoramic views of the Pokhara Valley and over into the Madi Valley of Lamjung district. Descend gradually to Deomadi (45 minutes) and back to Kalikasthan via Chitepani. From Kalikasthan either walk or drive back to the lodge.
3. Shanti Stupa Walk Hike duration: Approx. 3 hours
Drive to Pokhara to the dam at the end of Fewa Tal (water from here goes to a small hydro-power plant at the southern edge of the valley) and walk up the forested hill called Raniban to the Shanti Stupa, or World Peace Pagoda, from where there are good views of Fewa Tal and the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himal. The path then descends to the lake shore and one can take a boat across to Barahi Ghat at the heart of the Lakeside area. There will be time for souvenir shopping / e-mail, or to have a refreshing drink or snack at one of the many lakeside restaurants and bars. The drive back to the lodge takes about 30 minutes.
4. Begnas Lake Walk Hike duration: Approx. 4 to 5 hours
Walk to Kalikasthan village from where you continue to follow the main trail to the right. On reaching Kaulikot, you will be greeted with views of the valley and Begnas Lake, the second largest lake of the valley. The walk from Kaulikot descends easily through villages and on to the lake itself. At Begnas there is the option of hiring a boat for a short ride in the tranquil surroundings, before meeting one of our vehicles for the 40 minute drive back to the lodge.
5. Bhimirepani Walk Hike duration: Approx. 3 hours
This is a very pleasant general village and farmland walk through communities of varied groups and castes with the advantage that it is largely on the level or undulating without any serious steep climbs or descents. Leaving the lodge the walk goes to Sundar Gaun (above Khaste Tal) then through local forest to Naraspur (a good area for bird watching) and through farmlands to Bhimirepani before returning to the lodge.
6. Bijaypur River Walk Hike duration: Approx. 3 hours
Descend from the lodge along the spur to the big bend in the Bijaypur River (a descent of about 305m / 1,000ft) and then along the river bank to Sangako Mukh. The path then climbs up to Murali Chowk for a vehicle pick-up and drive back to the lodge (15 minutes) or, alternately, one can walk back up (1½ hours). This makes a good morning bird-watching walk, returning in time for lunch.
The Pavilions Himalayas is a beautiful eco-sensitive luxury boutique resort nestled in a valley near the lakeside city of Pokhara. Far removed from every-day life, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this resort has a serene and peaceful atmosphere surrounded by farmland, forested hills, mountain fed rivers and spectacular mountain views.
Their luxurious eco-friendly villas set against the majestic backdrop of the mountain range introduces the traditional Nepalese architecture with contemporary structures that unfolds the beautiful natural landscapes around. Spread over the organic farmland, the resort respects the natural elements showcasing the village lifestyle of Nepal.
The stay here offers a truly unique opportunity to connect with the amazing natural surrounding without giving up the luxurious comfort. It offers some of the exquisite activities for everyone seeking a bit of relaxation and adventures amidst the soothing landscape on site.
On site experiences:
1. Nepalese Cooking Classes:
For lunch, join in to learn the art of Nepalese cuisine using handpicked fresh vegetables, herbs, eggs and fruits from their very own organic farm. Momo or dumpling, the most loved delicacy of the Nepalese, Chicken or Buff Curry, Black Lentils, Nepali tomato chutney and Kheer (dessert) are the few delicacies to name that are prepared in such classes.
Followed by a fun cooking class demonstrating the cooking procedures, the guests get the opportunity to see, learn and later savor the taste of local Nepali cuisine. This lesson is perfect for all ages, especially for the families, lasting for approximately 3 hours.
2. Village Tour/ Hiking/ Trekking:
Take an easy walk through the farmland and gentle countryside around The Pavilions Himalayas to relish the serenity away from the pressures of the modern world. Connect with nature through deep breaths of clean, unpolluted air and enjoy the taste of unspoilt rural life of Nepal. Treks can be customized to suit various age and fitness levels, all featuring sweeping views of the mountains and forests. Indulging in visits to the nearby rural villages such as Chisapani & Khalse village, farmlands and forests serve the guests as a mini –trek like experience and a typical day’s walk in the Himalayas.
3. Bird Watching:
Nepal is a home to over more than 800 species of birds. Birds such as rose finches, flycatchers, green magpies, vultures and others can be watched at surrounding villages and forests nearby. It serves as a paradise, being one of the perfect locations for bird-lovers.
4. Farm Activities:
Visit the organic farm to see the livestock of buffaloes, cows, wild boar, goats and chickens. Spend some quality time working with the farming community and hear them share their thoughts on the traditional pleasures of farm life. Get an opportunity to pick your own choices of organic fruits, vegetables, and fresh produce and also milk the cows or collect free-range eggs. This is an exceptional experience.
5. Wellness and Yoga: Spa Svastha at The Pavilions Himalayas is a complete wellness centre, ideal to release all the pent-up stress in sauna, before washing away uncertainties with a refreshing dip in the pool. It offers signature Ayurvedic experiences with a luxurious treatment led by trained therapists by using customized spa products.
Their Pool & Clubhouse is set against the incredible farmland and mountain range views providing not only a place for play but also for pure relaxation. Enjoy the surroundings as you soak in their outdoor Jacuzzi and join for some pampering amidst the beauty of nature.
For more of self discovery and healing experience, one can practice yoga in a beautiful serene setting that is one of a kind. Joining for 3 to 10 days’ private classes ensures to recharge, energize and let one completely immerse into the curative beauty of the Himalayas.
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.
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.
Archery or “Datse”, as locally called in Dzongkha language is the national sport of Bhutan. The much celebrated sport can be traced back in 600 B.C., used as an essential tool for hunting and war battles. In course of time, it has evolved into a social game enjoyed by all, whether be it the royals or the locals. Archery gained popularity following its official recognition in 1971; while the kingdom joined the United Nations the same year.
The traditional Bhutanese bows commonly known as zhu are made of bamboo with twisted stinging nettle strings. The arrows are lead–tipped bamboo sticks with bird feathers. While professional archers use the compound bows for international tournaments, these traditional bow and arrows are still preferred by the locals during festivals. The bow and arrow represents a religious significance in the life of the Bhutanese and their culture as they use it in different ceremonies, rituals, and other social activities.
No festival or celebration in Bhutan is considered complete without archery and mask dances. Besides the striking cultural celebration of the local festivals (Tsechu), majority are drawn to the traditional archery tournaments held among the villagers – the battles for honor.
With two teams passionately competing with each other, the archers of each team stare down visualizing by mind onto the small wooden targets, placed at the end of a 145 meters range (double the Olympic distance of 90 meters). Each team has their own set of singers and dancers performing varied traditional songs and dances about love, enlightenment, and karma.
A common yet surprising sight is of the natives standing casually next to the targets cheering enthusiastically for their teams as well as mocking and distracting their opponents, passing comments on poor aims. At a successful attempt of hitting the target, teammates celebrate with a slow motion dance praising the shooter who tucks a colourful scarf into his belt. It is a remarkable sport deep rooted in Bhutanese culture as a symbol of festivity and rivalry.
Witnessing such a lively social event is an unparallel experience on its own as ‘Archery is the celebration of the Bhutanese way of life.’
According to Prince Jigyel Ugyen -“Buddhism is about emptying your mind, and so is archery,” “Once you pull the bow, you forget about everything else and find complete bliss. And if you can hold that mentality for 24 hours and 365 days, that’s enlightenment.”
Blessed with one of the richest cultures of the world, these power places of the Himalayas proudly embrace their traditional attires as an integral part of their daily lives.
Bhutan, ‘the last Shangri – La’, is known worldwide for their brilliance in being able to guard their cultural values. The Bhutanese people are bound by a strict rule of national dress code in their day to day lives. Even today, Bhutanese people can be seen in their colorful traditional Bhutanese attire – Gho worn by men and Kira worn by women, which is believed to be a 16th century old custom. Their national costume adds to their national pride and serves as a unique identity.
Gho is a knee-length dress, identical to the Japanese kimono and the Scottish kilt. It is tied up at the waist with a hand woven belt called kera, forming a pouch in the front. The sleeves are usually made of raw silk, cotton or polyester, which are neatly folded to form white cuffs called lagey. The costume is complete with long socks or stockings and traditional handmade boots. Men also can be seen wearing Kabney, a long scarf made of raw silk, worn from left shoulder to opposite hip; especially when visiting dzong or a temple, or even when appearing before a high level official. The locals, regional officials, ministers and the King, wear significant coloured Kabney, indicating varied status on its own.
Kira is an ankle – length long skirt piece, made with fine woven fabrics and beautiful colour patterns. Inside the kira, a long sleeve blouse called wonju is worn. The set is completed with a short open jacket called as tego worn over the dress. Rachu, an embroidered woven scarf, also made of raw silk and rich patterns is hung over the shoulder.
Nepal is a multi – ethnic country with over 100 ethnic groups, each having unique cultural values, practices, traditional attires, accessories and jewelries different than the others. While the national dress of Nepal is Daura – Suruwal or Labeda Suruwal for men and Gunyo-Cholo for women, the Nepalese are greatly influenced by clothing styles of the neighboring countries which have led to significant variations in the costumes.
Daura is a double breasted sleeved shirt of knee length, which is tied up at the sides. It is worn with Suruwal, a loosely fitted trouser, with a long cloth called Patuka wrapped around the waist. The set is complete with Dhaka Topi, a traditional cap made of fabric – Dhaka, which is a symbol of national pride. Some also wear a waist – coat over the shirt and carry a khukuri, the national weapon and the symbol of the brave Gurkha soldiers of Nepal. The Nepalese men proudly wear their traditional costume during festivals and special occasions as it holds a religious importance for the Hindu and Buddhist practitioners of Nepal.
Cholo is a top or blouse which is tied at the sides and Gunyo is a sari (skirt like), woven from cotton or silk fabrics, draped around the waist. On top of the Gunyo, a long cloth called Patuki is wrapped around the waist. The costume is complete with traditional jewelries.
Nepalese women can mostly be seen in elegant Sari, a five to nine yards length fabric, draped around the waist with one end draped over the shoulder. The sari is worn with a fitted crop blouse having short or long sleeves. A matching petticoat or inner skirt is worn under the sari. The sari is linked with grace and is widely popular as traditional attire worn during various festivals and special occasions of Nepal.
Tibet also has several ethnicities each with their own set of customary attire. The main costume is the chuba, a distinctive piece of ankle length robe tied around the waist with wide elongated sleeves, worn by both men and women differently. Women wear dark-colored wrap dresses over a silk blouse called wonju, and a colorfully striped, woven wool apron, called pangden signifying the marital status of a woman. Men wear the unique woolen hat while ladies adorn their crowns with ornaments made of precious stones. The dress originated as a clothing to protect themselves in the high altitude and from the cold temperatures of the Himalayas.