Delve Into The Hidden Wonders of Upper Mustang With Us.
For many, the mystical city of Lo Manthang seems a distant dream, a figment lost in time and space, a place that is one of the few remaining to cling onto its ancient roots, cultures and traditions. Situated high up in the Himalayas on a desert like plateau surrounded by some of the world’s highest mountains, this city exists!
While the city and the entire region has a tiny population, thousands travel here in May of each year to experience and participate in the Tiji festival. We have written May words before about the simple awesomeness of mountain biking in the Upper Mustang Region. This natural desert like area abounds with trails, single tracks and challenging passes with some very very spectacular scenery along the way. But to make it even more special, in the month of May, during the Full Moon the local people celebrate the Tiji Festival. Tiji is one of the most colorful and authentic Buddhist Festivals in Nepal and it makes a special trip in Upper Mustang even more spectacular and memorable.
The festival began over 300 years ago and is one of the stand out Nepal Cultural Festival’s and is unique to Lo Manthang and its people. Tiji or Tenchi is a Buddhist word meaning Prayer for World Peace. Its a three-day ritual known as “The chasing of the Demons” that centers on the Tiji myth. The myth tells of a deity named Dorje Jono who must battle against his demon father to save the Kingdom of Mustang from destruction. The demon father wreaked havoc on Mustang by bringing a shortage of water (a highly precious resource in this very dry land) and causing many resulting disasters from famine to animal loss. Dorje Jono eventually beats the demon and banishes him from the land. Tiji is a celebration and reaffirmation of this myth and throughout the festival the various scenes of the myth will be enacted. It is of course timed to coincide with the end of the dry winter / spring season and will usher in the wetter monsoon season (the growing season for Mustang).
Tiji comes from the word “ten che” meaning the hope of Buddha Dharma prevailing in all worlds and is effectively a spring renewal festival. Its a colorful festival of dancing demons, horse back riding and racing and many other local tradition, surely an added highlight to any mountain bike trip in the Upper Mustang Region. The festival is celebrated with various ceremonies in and around Lo Mantang and some of the highlights are the events where masked dancers dress as demons and deities and reenact the epic battle of good versus evil.
The journey to Lo in the Mustang District, is an adventure unto itself. You can reach there by mountain biking, trekking or jeeping through the immense landscape. Along the way you will discover the magical red cliffs of Dhakma where monks used to take refuge in small caves in the cliffs. The quaint village of Ghami and the ancient monastery of Ghar Ghompa.
Join us on this journey to the Tiji Festival Nepal 2023. The trail traverse’s hillsides, crosses windswept passes, follows ancient trade routes and is never short on breathtaking views. For want of better words, this is indeed the journey of a lifetime to one of the most ancient Nepal Festivals.
Special Program for Tiji Festival 2023
Day 1, 8th May 2023 ARRIVAL IN KATHMANDU
Touch down in the Himalayan Capital. We will collect you from the airport and you will get your first dose of the hectic streets of Kathmandu as we drive to the Hotel. Take some time to check the bikes, chill out and recover from your flight.
Day 2, 9th May 2023 WARM UP RIDE IN KATHMANDU
Today we take time to explore the rim of Kathmandu Valley by bike. Its an intermediate ride into the National Park with about 850m of climbing and some intermediate technical descents, a great way to warm up for the trip. We also have a full trip briefing and gear check. In the evening enjoy a Traditional Welcome Dinner.
Day 3, 10th May 2023 DRIVE TO POKHARA
We leave the hotel early in the morning for the 7 hour drive to Pokhara. Enjoy the stunning landscapes of the Himalayan foothills on the way. In Pokhara take the afternoon to rest and explore the tranquil lake side, or perhaps an afternoon ride around the edge of the lake.
Day 4, 11th May 2023 POKHARA FLY TO JOMSOM AND BIKE TO KAGBENI Distance 14km – 1-2 hour’s, Altitude gain 100m
Wake up for sunrise and hopefully catch a glimpse of the mountains before we head to the airport. It’s about a 22 minute flight to Jomsom, above the Pokhara Valley and deep into the heart of the Himalaya, take a peek out of the window for fantastic views of Dhaulagiri and beyond. The flight is simply breathtaking as the plane’s wing tips almost touch the snow capped peaks, fly right between the snow covered Himalayan giants (Nigiri and Dhalugiri) and you feel your adventure has really begun as the small plane banks left and touches down in Jomsom. In Jomsom, we have breakfast and spend some time getting the bikes ready for the journey and meet our ponies who will carry the luggage. From Jomsom we cycle along the Upper section of the Kaligandaki River to Kagbeni. It’s a mostly flat and steady ride of about 1-2 hours. Kagbeni is a delightful Buddhist village. A great way to start our adventure into the Himalaya.
Day 5, 12th May 2023 KAGBENI TO MUKTINATH distance 15km – 4 hour, Altitude gain 1000m
Get up early to see the sunrise and have breakfast. Today we cycle uphill for the most part. Leaving behind the beautiful village of Kagbeni, warm up your legs and start to climb. We follow the trail on the north side of the gorge and climb up on a dusty jeep track towards the foreboding Throng La Pass. We stop and explore the ancient monastery at Jhong and have some lunch basking in the sunshine and enjoying the mountain Views. The final push after lunch is short and we should arrive in Muktinath mid afternoon. Spend some time here exploring the Monastery and Temples, two of the holiest in Nepal. Stay overnight and enjoy the local culture of this bustling town.
Day 6, 13th May 2023 MUKTINATH TO CHELE (3100 meters) Distance 32km
Today we enter the restricted region of Upper Mustang. It’s an uphill stretch from Muktinath through Chhyonggur and up to the Gyu La Pass at 4077 meters, it is 80% rideable but some sections of pushing. Here there are panoramic views of the snow capped mountains. After a short section of steep downhill we follow an undulating ridge trail down to Tetang at 3040 meters, more than a 1000 meter descent on superb single track. Pass an ancient Mani Wall and cycle on down to Chhusang. From here there is a slight climb and river crossing to reach Chele on the opposite river bank where the river passes through a rock tunnel and then a steady climb up to Chele. Chele is a small town nestled on a hillside with three teahouses and a dozen homes, from here you get good views down the Kaligandaki Valley.
Day 7, 14th May 2023 SYANGBOCHE TO CHARANG (3560 meters) Distance about 32km – 7 hours
A short climb takes us out of Syangboche and towards Jhaite, mostly on Jeep Track. We have to climb up to the 4020m Nyi La pass on a steep trail which might involve some pushing. After the pass we follow the high road, crossing another small pass Ghami La at 3765 before rolling down into Ghami. Ghami is a beautiful village and a nice place to have a break. From here we ride up passed the longest Mani Wall in the region. We have two options, one is to go direct to Charang, the other is a side trip up into the stunning valley of Dhakmar with its red cliffs. There is steep push section to get out of Dhakmar and up to Muila Bhanjyang at 4170m. From here we have a long downhill single track only know to our guides that takes us all the way to Charang.The scenery opens up and there are fields of mustard and barley in the right season which makes for lush pockets of greenery and grazing Yaks. It is also one of the most scenic days with the ever changing colors of the landscape from yellow and browns to reds, grays and blues as the sun moves across the Himalayan sky. Charang is a nice village with a really beautiful 400 year old Gulpa Sect Monastery filled with friendly Monks who like to play football. The Monastery is also home to the oldest library in the region of Lo. Charang is a great village to hang out in and snap some photos.
Day 8, 15th May 2023 CHARANG TO LO-MANTHANG (3810 meters) Distance 25km – 4 hours – Altitude gain 150m
From Charang we have to cross Lo La Pass at 3810 meters, just before Lo- Manthang. This pass is also known as “Windy Pass” and from here you can view the walled city of Lo-Manthang, your first tantalizing view of this kingdom lost in time and your penultimate destination. In June and July, the time when the crops are almost ready to harvest makes for the most dramatic scenery. The barren brown landscape is scattered with fields of vibrant green and gold rolling with the wind under the vivid blue sky of the Himalaya, a truly memorable scene. The ride is easy if a bit of a long climb, about 25 km total riding distance. You will enjoy the open jeep track trail and should arrive in Lo-Manthang by lunch time. Lo-Manthang is perhaps one of the most interesting places in the Himalaya and a couple of days spent here sightseeing is well worth it. Visit the Royal Palace where you have the privilege of having tea or perhaps dinner with the King of Lo himself, what an experience! In the afternoon there are three interesting Monasteries to visit, one of them is over 900 years old and displays some of the most beautiful Thangka paintings found in Nepal. The intricate details and vivid colors of these paintings is a stark contrast to the wide open spaces of the region.
Day 09, 14th May 2023 LO-MANTHANG – DAY TRIP TO GHOM
Today we ride up to Garphu. Follow the upper reaches of the Kali Gandaki River, crossing over several of its tributaries. Here you will find Ghom, a cave tunneling into the mountainside which is the historical site of a Monastery and the cave of one thousand windows. The beautiful scenery and isolated Tibetan culture make this day trip a worthy experience. The way back from Ghom is beautiful single track through traditional villages. This truly is a place to lose yourself in history, rustic architecture and mind blowing landscapes, one could easily roll back in time 100 years or more here. We also join in the festival celebrations.
Day 10, 15th May 2023 LO-MANTHANG
A day to enjoy the Tiji Festival
Day 11, 16th May 2023 LO-MANTHANG TO YARA Distance 18km – 4 hour, Altitude gain 800m
Today there is super nice single track with mountain views and really steep and sandy single tracks. The ride takes us uphill through a canyon to Yara where we will have lunch. After lunch we ride loop out to Luri Ghumba and then return to Yara. The round trip is 50% uphill and 50% down, around 2 hours return, but Luri Ghumba is worth a visit, this tiny Monastery is nestled high into the cliff face. This is a challenging route for good riders with skill in loose trails with some exposure.
Day 12, 17th May 2023 YARA TO TANGYA Distance 16km – 3 hours, Altitude gain 750m
The starts with some really nice single track and beautiful landscape. There is a long climb of about an hour and a half after crossing the river where you might have to push some. We finish our day as we roll in to Tangya, which is a simple and remote village. Tangya is a tiny village with very simple accommodation. You can enjoy the feeling of being really remote and isolated.
Day 13, 18th May 2023 TANGYA TO CHUKSANG AND KAGBENI Distance 25km – 6 to 7 hours. Altitude gain 1690m and 2000m of ascent.
To start the day we have to push and carry for about 2 hours 3 hours 1000m uphill to Pha totally pushing or carrying, followed by 2 to 3 hours of single track which undulates along the ridge line, before an EPIC descent down to Chuksang. The trail reaches a high point at Baha Bhanjyang (4380m) and follows along Siyarko Tangk Dhanda. The scenery on this day is also Epic. It’s a ridge line descent, with some short climbs, amazing views. Some of the best views of Annapurna, Dhalugiri and Nilgiri can be had on this day.
Day 14, 19th May 2023 MUKTINATH- LUBRA VALLEY-DHUMBA LAKE – TINIGOAN
Today we leave early, driving to Muktinath which takes around 2 hours. From Muktinath we climb a little further and hit the Lubra Valley Trail, one of the best descents in the region. We continue on single track to Dhumbar Lake and Tinigoan and then end the ride in Jomsom.
Day 15, 20th May 2023 JOMSOM TO POKHARA
We take the first flight from Jomsom to Pokhara. Spend the day chilling out by the lake and reliving memories of your trip.
Day 16, 21st May 2023 POKHARA TO KATHMANDU
Take a mid-morning flight from Pokhara along the Himalaya and back to Kathmandu. Your bikes will be transported back on the bus. In the evening we will clean and box your bikes for you while you take care of any last minute shopping.
Day 17, 22nd May 2023 DEPARTURE
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.
If you like the sound of this and want to experience this rich and vibrant festival along with the cycling journey of a lifetime to Lo Mantang then sign up for our Special trip in 2023.
While this trip is run in conjunction with World Ride, it is not specific to women riders, all riders that come with an open mind and compassion for others are welcome to join. We hope to see you for the Nepal Upper Mustang Tiji Festival.