ABOUT THE AREA,
About Area – Introduction
Jomsom lies at 2,700 meters above sea level, in an area that bridges the Himalayan foothills and the Tibetan Plateau. Jomsom is the main commerce and administrative centre of Nepal’s Mustang region. Featuring the only major airstrip north of the Himalayas, Jomsom serves as the entry and exit point for several classic treks. Mustang is also famous for its apple orchards, sacred lakes, and Muktinath, one of Nepal’s most revered religious pilgrimage sites.
Part of Mustang’s allure lies in the spectacular landscape and scenery unlike anywhere else in Nepal. Heading north up the Kali Gandaki, the world’s deepest river gorge which lies between the mighty peaks of Annapurna to the east and Dhaulagiri to the west, the scenery gradually shifts from mammoth snowcapped mountains and alpine meadows to vast and haunting arid landscapes stretching as far as the eye can see. Once in the remoter areas of Upper Mustang, one can admire the sheer diversity of rock formations, earth tones and stunning panoramas.
Historically, Mustang was the ancient seat of the former kingdom of Lo, a once independent kingdom which lasted from the 15th to 18th century when it was finally annexed to Nepal. The medieval walled capital city of Lo Manthang, where the ceremonial king still lives to this day, often serves as a turning point for treks into Upper Mustang. The Upper Mustang region was formerly part of Tibet, and its northern borders still extend into the Tibetan Plateau. The locals inhabiting this region share a unique culture inherited from their Tibetan descendants, and due to its isolation, the region is regarded as the world’s last bastion of pure Tibetan culture, which is evident in the local dress, dialect and Buddhist traditions.
Evidence of a fascinating and mysterious history marks the landscape throughout Mustang, where numerous ancient cave dwellings are found carved into the cliff faces, some containing remnants of human civilization dating back to more than five thousand years. The area is also known for the 130 million-year-old ammonite fossils contained within lustrous black stones, called Shaligrams, which are found scattered along the Kali Gandaki Valley and are closely associated with the Hindu god Vishnu.
Needless to say, visiting Mustang is a unique and memorable experience. Another boon to the region is that the window for travelling remains open longer than elsewhere in Nepal due to its location in the Himalayan rain shadow area, where the arid climate is not affected by the yearly monsoons. Though the winter months in Mustang are excessively cold and harsh, the conditions throughout the remaining months provide for pleasant travelling conditions. Keep in mind that high winds kick up in the afternoons throughout the year. Trekkers often begin their days walking early when the conditions are more favourable, and always take care to carry the right gear to guard against the wind. Wind in the mountains also causes frequent flight cancellations or delays, a wise thing to consider when flying in and out of Jomsom.
Mustang and Dolpo regions are two of Nepal’s remotest destinations, well preserved in their isolation and overflowing with tremendous landscapes and cultures that are all their own. The areas are populated by various ethnic groups including the Loba, whose Tibetan descent is evident in their uniquely Tibetan culture, having been preserved exquisitely due to their isolated circumstances. Trekking in the Mustang or Dolpo regions is a truly unique experience, requiring special permits to enter the restricted areas.
Damodar Kunda located in the Upper Mustang region is accessible after several days walking from the nearest village. This is one of Hinduism’s sacred lakes and a site of holy pilgrimage. The journey requires several days of camping if travelling on foot before reaching the pristine lakeshore (also reachable by helicopter), from where dramatic views of the Tibetan plateau are visible as well as spectacular views of Annapurna, Damodar Himal and a slew of lesser peaks.
Tilicho Lake is definitely worth a visit—one of the world’s highest lakes, this body of turquoise water was formed by glacial runoff at nearly 5,000 meters. Several routes provide access to the lakeshore. One popular option is an added side trip to the Annapurna Circuit. Direct routes from Jomsom are available and it is possible to reach it via rugged lesser-travelled trails requiring overnight camping in tents.
Dhumba Lake is another of the region’s spectacular mountain lakes, lying just a day’s walk from Jomsom near the base of Nilgiri. There is a local legend that claims the lake’s waters once mysteriously turned red, and only returned to their turquoise hue after the local priesthood performed an elaborate puja ritual. Henceforth locals revere the lake as sacred and visit its shores to receive its transforming energies.
Visitor Information Centre
Our Visitor Information Centre provides guidance and assistance for a wide range of activities in and around Jomsom.
Day Hikes/ Multiple Day Treks: Regardless of your fitness level or time constraints, a wide range of treks and day hiking trips are available around Jomsom and surrounding areas. Let us help you arrange all aspects of your trek or day hike, from itinerary planning to hire guides/porters, vehicle hire, permit arrangements or land/air ticketing. Our staff members are knowledgeable about the region and ready to assist you with all your travel needs.
Mountain Biking: The terrain surrounding Jomsom is full of trails that are perfect for mountain biking. Further afield, there are vast options for great biking trips stretching as far as your legs will take you. The trail heading northwards out of Jomsom toward Kagbeni is a popular option, with wide gravel trails and great scenery. If you’ve got a day to spend in Jomsom before a flight, renting a bike and tooling around town is also time well spent. We assist with bicycle and gear rentals, guides and trail itineraries.
Volunteer Opportunities: Plenty of opportunities exist to support the community and contribute something meaningful during your stay in Jomsom or in the surrounding villages. Volunteers are welcomed at schools, health and social services and agriculture projects. Positions are dependent on availability and seasonal factors. Inquire with us about volunteering possibilities, we are happy to assist you with finding the right fit for your abilities and desires.
Religious Sites: The temple Muktinath, dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, is the most visited religious site from Jomsom. Thousands of pilgrims travel to Muktinath each year; it is sacred and a place for liberation for both Hindus and Buddhists. Numerous monasteries are spread across the region, including Ghar Gompa, one of Nepal’s oldest monasteries. The region north of Jomsom is, in fact, brimming with monastic culture and history. Inquire with us about visiting the area’s most sacred spiritual sites.
Ancient Caves: Mysterious and fascinating cave systems, some natural, some man-made, and some seemingly in-between, are a hallmark of the Mustang experience. Marveling at the elaborate caves which pepper the cliff faces scattered throughout the landscape brings to mind questions that can only be pondered with awe. Some caves in the region contain remains of human civilization more than 5,000 years old. Some resemble the prehistoric equivalent of a modern apartment building. How were these cave dwellings built with such rudimentary technology? One has to see it to believe it.
Lakes: As if to quench the thirst of enduring such rugged and arid terrain, Mustang is home to a number of beautiful and pristine mountain lakes. When the sunlight glistens off their turquoise waters, the contrast to the surrounding moonscapes provides for spectacular views. Several lakes in the region are considered sacred and visited regularly by pilgrims. We can assist you with trips to nearby lake shores or extended trips to lakes further afield.