How to Get to Upper Mustang
Although the Upper Mustang region, and trek, starts at Kagbeni, in practice the adventure begins at Jomson.
Flight to Jomsom
Flying is the fastest way to get there (assuming there are no delays due to bad weather) with flights only taking 20 minutes of breathtaking views.
Departing Pokhara in the early morning, you will be in Jomsom to enjoy breakfast in the mountains – so close you feel you could actually touch them!
Cost: Approx US$115 each way.
Take Bus to Jomsom
There are buses that run from Pokhara or Beni to Jomsom on a daily basis. It takes 2 hours to drive from Pokhara to Beni and around 5-7 hours from Beni to Jomsom.
So it is relatively comfortable to do the journey in one day. Outwith the monsoon season, the road is quite reasonable, if a bit dusty!
There is also a direct bus from Kathmandu to Muktinath which costs around $35.
Cost: Approx $15 each way.
Take Private Jeep to Jomsom
If you want a bit more comfort and are 3 or 4 people, it might be worth thinking about hiring a jeep which can take you from Pokhara to Jomson.
A jeep will be slightly faster than the bus and the benefit is you can stop where you want for photographs, tea (and pee!) breaks, etc.
Please note there are also public jeeps available on that road. Slightly cheaper than taking the bus, with 9 passengers per jeep, it is less comfortable.
Cost: Private jeep hire – approx cost $300 one way but could vary widely depending on the time of year and petrol costs.
Until a few years ago there was no road transport to Jomson, everyone had to walk or fly. Many still like to walk into Jomson, particularly if they have more time available to them.
There are a few different routes – either driving a short distance from Pokhara to Nayapul or Beni to the start point of the trek.
Depending on your route, it is around 5 or 6 days from Pokhara to Jomsom through lush rhododendron forests and green vegetation, a stark contrast to what you will find when you near Jomson and enter the Upper Mustang region.
Cost: Cost will vary depending on the lodge you choose and the number of days. You can calculate around US$30 to $50 per day, excluding alcohol.
For those who are adventurous then going by motorbike to Jomson and on to Upper Mustang will make for a different experience. It is also possible to take a motorbike into Upper Mustang.
Jomson to Upper Mustang
The village of Kagbeni is the gateway to Upper Mustang and lies in the Kali Gandaki River Valley. From here you can see up the valley into Upper Mustang and watch horse caravans and trekkers enter the Forbidden Kingdom of Lo over a small pass at the end of the village. The small village itself is very interesting and unique and worth an overnight stop.
Kagbeni is situated 2 hours easy walk from Jomson, you can walk along the riverbank in the dry season or take the easier route along the jeep track. From here the route to Lo Manthang, the ancient capital of Upper Mustang, takes trekkers 5 days through dry, Tibet-like landscape, passing caves, gompas, and interesting villages.
It is now possible to reach Lo Manthang by jeep starting from Jomson itself. (Or walk/ drive to Kagbeni and after exploring this lovely village, connect with your jeep to drive onwards).
The route takes three days (stopping in Chuksang and Ghilling to overnight) to reach Lo Manthang. The total driving time is around 12 hours but the reason to spread this over 3 days is to enjoy and explore the countryside and villages and to avoid altitude sickness.
Although this is not a particularly high altitude area, for those who may have flown directly from Pokhara to Jomsom and started by jeep to Upper Mustang, the speed of this rise in elevation could cause trouble.
For the return jeep trip from Lo Manthang, it is possible to travel at a faster speed as people will then be acclimatized.