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Upper Mustang Motorcycle Tour – Ride to the Kingdom of Lo

by travelmynation
Upper mustang motorcycle tour

What is the Upper Mustang region?

Mustang translates to ‘fertile plains’ in the Nepali language and the former Kingdom of Lo is a remote region in Northern Nepal. Till 1992, the Upper Mustang area was a restricted area but in 2008, when the Kingdom of Nepal became a republic it was opened to tourists. And once tourism started, Upper Mustang motorcycle tours got really popular.

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Landscape in Upper Mustang valley

Two-thirds of the Mustang region is made up of the Upper Mustang area and the rest is made up of Thak. This is the region of the Thakali people after whom the Thakali thali is named! In ancient times, Mustang was an independent kingdom but at the end of the 18th century, it was annexed by Nepal. Since 1795, it has been part of the Kingdom of Nepal.

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Ancient ruins along the Pokhara Mustang route. Pic courtesy - Nepal Guide

Upper Mustang experiences a Himalayan climate. It falls under a rain shadow zone and hence sees a cool and arid climate throughout the year. The terrain of Upper Mustang is said to be similar to that of the Ladakh region in India. This is one of the main reasons for a growing number of Upper Mustang motorcycle tours.

How to reach Mustang?

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Pic courtesy - highlight story

The roads to Upper Mustang have never been in great shape but in the last decade, the Nepalese government has taken steps to develop the region. From Kathmandu to Upper Mustang the distance is about 350 kilometers via Pokhara. Road trips are said to be the last resort to travel there. People usually fly to Jomsom airport and from there rent a car to Upper Mustang.

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Village landscape in Mustang. Pic courtesy - mountain guide Suman

The ride from Pokhara to Jomsom is quite arduous and only adventure riders make the journey. During your Upper Mustang motorcycle tour, you will have to ride 155 kilometers from Pokhara to Jomson through off-road stretches that are uncomfortable and dangerous in some places. The journey is quite long – it takes around 8 hours to complete the trip. Landslides are quite common and they can hold up the traffic for hours and days.

From Pokhara, you will first ride to Jomsom then proceed to Kagbeni and finally head to Lo Mantang. This is part of the Upper Mustang region.

Upper Mustang experiences a Himalayan climate. It falls under a rain shadow zone and hence sees a cool and arid climate throughout the year. The terrain of Upper Mustang is said to be similar to that of the Ladakh region in India. This is one of the main reasons for a growing number of Upper Mustang motorcycle tours.
Strange formations but lovely to click. Pic courtesy - boundless Himalayas

Permits for Upper Mustang

Every foreigner must obtain a permit to enter the Upper Mustang region. If you book an Upper Mustang motorcycle tour, the cost of the permit is usually included in the tariff. Since it’s a restricted area, you will need to apply for a Restricted Area Permit along with an ACAP entry permit.

  • Upper Mustang Restricted Area Permit for all foreigners: US $500 per person for the first 10 days and US $50 per person per day thereafter.
  • ACAP entry permit fee for foreigners: 3,000 NPR (Approx. US $30)
  • ACAP entry permit fee for SAARC nationals: 200 NPR

Requirements for Upper Mustang permits

  • Original Passport
  • 2 Passport size photographs
  • Scanned copies of the passport and photographs
  • You have to be in a minimum group size of 2
  • You will have to hire a local operator for your Upper Mustang motorcycle tour who will process the documentation for the permit
  • Permits are issued for a minimum of 10 days

These permits are available at the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu and the Tourist Office in Pokhara.

Recommended bikes for Upper Mustang Motorcycle tours

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Bikers Enroute Mustang. Pic courtesy - City Motorbike

The landscape of the Mustang valley is varied, It ranges from high rocky cliffs, unpaved roads, off-road stretches and lots of dirt tracks. While planning an Upper Mustang motorcycle tour, you will first need to select a reliable and comfortable motorcycle. You can choose to book a light trail bike or go with the more grounded and heavier Royal Enfield motorcycles. Pillion riding is not advised due to the rough terrain so pick a bike accordingly. Here are some of the most common options you will find for Nepal motorcycle tours.

Royal Enfield 500 cc

Royal Enfield Classic 300 cc

Royal Enfield Himalayan

Honda CRF 250 cc

Honda XR 190 cc

BMW 310 GS

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Good patches along the route

You should be able to rent these bikes from companies like BS Motorbike, Bikemandu, City Motorbike, etc. For Indian nationals, you can book your Nepal motorcycle tours here.

When you hire a motorcycle, you will need to leave behind your passport or a hefty deposit. The only way out is to drive a hard bargain with the tour operator or rental agency.

Best time to visit Upper Mustang

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Pic courtesy - Remote Lands

Since Upper Mustang lies in a rain shadow region, you can go there during monsoons as well. But the Lower Mustang regions of Kagbeni so experience monsoons and riding in those areas in rains is a horrible experience. Winters are quite severe as well and the cold weather makes riding very difficult. Even the locals leave for Pokhara or Kathmandu to escape the harsh winters.

Therefore, the best time for an Upper Mustang Motorcycle tour is from March to May and then from September to November. In May, you will get to experience the Tiji festival celebrated in Upper Mustang.

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Pic courtesy- Nepal tourism board

Accommodation in Upper Mustang

Since it’s a remote area, the accommodation options in Upper Mustang are quite basic. You will get varied options in places like Kagbeni, Jomsom, and Muktinath but beyond that, the supply of hotels is quite strained. The average cost for accommodation in Upper Mustang is around $7 (INR 500) and a simple meal will set you back by $4 (INR 280).

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Village houses that double at homestay. Pic courtesy - Tramping himalaya adventures

If you want to cut down on costs, you can hire tents from Pokhara and camp in Upper Mustang. You can have your meals in local shops and restaurants. But to answer nature’s call, you will have to go wild!

Challenges of an Upper Mustang motorcycle tour

Upper mustang motorcycle tour
Pic courtesy - base camp hike

The conquest is a challenging one and something that most motorcycle rides aim to do. But an Upper Mustang motorcycle tour presents unique sets of challenges. First, it’s really expensive for budget travelers who might not be able to accommodate the additional $500 for permits. A typical 15-day ride can set you back by about $3000 excluding fuel, flights, shopping, and other expenses.

Secondly, the terrain is unforgiving. The dry, rough mountains present no respite from a bumpy, hard ride and most riders get irritable halfway when they reach Kagbeni. It’s a really raw experience and the rides can get tough, tiring, and long!

However, the Upper Mustang motorcycle tour is a unique experience that takes you through a beautiful country full of amazing places. You’ll love the hospitality of the Nepalese and enjoy the vibrant cuisines across the country.

Featured pic courtesy – Mid Life Adventures

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1 comment

Komakawa August 2, 2020 - 12:44 PM

What a lovely Article and am waiting to explore these places

Reply

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