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13 Days | 12 Nights
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Discover the unknown on this epic bike journey through the Mustang Region of Nepal! This is the epitome of adventure, and specially designed for intrepid cyclists. Explore the lost Kingdom of Lo, dramatic landscapes of the Mustang Valley, and ancient Tibetan cultures on this expedition to an ancient forbidden kingdom.
4 to 14
Comfortable hotels, tea houses
One of our newer exciting cycling adventures, this breathtaking journey will take you through the timeless Kingdom of Lo, the last bastion of traditional Tibetan Buddhism. This region was, until recently, forbidden to all foreigners.
This fascinating area requires a special restricted area permit to enter (so numbers are limited), which supports conservation of the area’s unique heritage. This landscape hosts incredible sculpted canyons with ancient cave monasteries, fortified medieval villages offering oases of green fields in the arid landscape of the Tibetan Plateau, wild trails over high passes and along stark ridge-lines - all set against the backdrop of the soaring snow-peaks of the Himalayas.
Lo, in the Upper Mustang region, is an ancient kingdom tucked away in northern Nepal at the headwaters of the 'deepest river gorge in the world', the Kali Gandaki. It is a remote and starkly beautiful section of the Tibetan Plateau, the high altitude desert bordered to the south by some of the Himalayas’ highest mountains. The fact that it now lies in Nepal rather than Tibet has enabled the people of the region to preserve their unique and fascinating Tibetan Buddhist culture and lifestyle.
Our exploration of Upper Mustang takes us on some of the less traveled routes through this sun-drenched region; sometimes following the Kali Gandaki river-bed, other times biking on spectacular trails to passes high above it, and descending on awesome trails through gorges, wondering at the ancient cave dwellings and monasteries we see carved into the rugged mountainsides. These newly opened trails have to be biked to be believed.
233 Km riding. The majority of the riding is on dirt roads, rough and ready jeep tracks and these are fun enough, but we also have some simply unbelievable single trail riding. The trails take us over high passes and on long sweeping downhills, through crazy canyons and along wild ridgelines – all the while looking out to the Himalayan Range. The riding on this tour is tough and some experience with single track riding is advised. Although not extremely technical and difficult the single track is challenging and does require skill; for some of the most technical sections of riding, it may be possible to avoid them with the option of riding on the jeep track.
We are riding through the heart of the Himalayas, the highest point is a pass at 4325m (day 9), where the altitude is a factor to consider. The tour is designed to reduce altitude sickness with planned acclimatisation days. Altitude affects everyone differently, some people will feel no difference, some will feel slight shortness of breath, where cycling will feel more difficult. These symptoms will fade as you become acclimated.
Visit three of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley for a stunning introduction to Nepal.
Discover the ancient Tibetan ways of the Nepalese living in the forbidden kingdom of Upper Mustang.
Pedal through colorful canyons with dramatic mountainous backdrops to the Kingdom of Lo with views of the Plain of Aspiration.
Explore the one-of-a-kind walled city of Lo Manthang as you cycle this UNESCO treasure.
A driver will welcome you at the international airport, guiding you through the sensory overload of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets, and get you settled into your hotel. After check-in, meet your guide for an afternoon bazaar walk, exploring the secret alleys and courtyards of old Kathmandu that most visitors don't get to experience, as well as a visit to the ancient Durbar Square. The perfect introduction to Kathmandu! In the evening we meet up at the hotel for the welcome briefing, before we take you out for a welcome dinner in a traditional Nepali restaurant.
After breakfast today, we embark on a day of sightseeing, getting to know the incredible Kathmandu Valley. Where we will visit three out of an incredible seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the valley. The hilltop Swayambhunath Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple, the giant Buddhist Stupa of Boudhanath, and one of the holiest Hindu temples in the world, the birthplace of Shiva, Pashupatinath temple with its cremation ghats on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. After Pashupatinath, we head to the nearby airport for a spectacular half hour flight along the mighty Himalayan Range, passing four of the world’s giant mountains over 8000m before landing in Pokhara. An experience not to be missed!
We are up early this morning for another spectacular mountain flight to the district headquarters of Mustang, Jomsom. Once on the ground, we can look forward to being greeted by the sound of jingling horse bells as the Mustangi people pass by with their pony caravans. We have even seen a herd of yaks in the main street! We set off for Kagbeni, cycling up along our stony jeep trail that runs beside a sandy riverbed, providing beautiful views of the surrounding peaks of Dhaulagiri, Tukuche and Nilgiri, and to the south the entire Annapurna Massif. Kagbeni is spectacularly situated atop a cliff overlooking the confluence of the great Kali Gandaki and the Jhong Khola rivers. We’ll pedal through this oasis of green fields in the midst of rocky mountains. This is the last village in Lower Mustang and guards the entrance into Upper Mustang. This ancient, partially ruined citadel town provides us with a taste of what is to come in upper Mustang, with its narrow alleyways and tunnels, irrigation canals, green fields of barley and the newly-restored brick-red giant Sakya Gompa (800 years old).
This morning get up bright and early to catch the sunrise over the stunning Himalayan peaks, best viewed with a steaming hot cup of Nepali tea! After a hearty breakfast, we will start the mega climb up to Muktinath, this will feel like a lot of work as we are at altitude but it is a great way to make sure we are acclimatized for the altitudes of Upper Mustang. We’ll park our bikes at Muktinath, a very important Hindu pilgrimage site located high above us at 3800m.
From here we have a couple of intoxicating descent options, depending on how we feel. We can cruise back down the jeep trail, or we can ride the single track down through the Lupra Valley (visiting a unique Bonpo Monastery on the way) and hit the main trail from Jomsom, finishing off on the jeep trail to Kagbeni. Note: This is important as an acclimatization day.
Today we enter the forbidden Kingdom, Upper Mustang. We cycle a rough jeep trail north high above the river. We ride past the little town of Tangbe, with plenty of time to get off the bike and have a look around the town of Chuksang on the riverbed at 2950m, dominated by a crumbling Dzong or fortress. Pedaling across the Kali Gandaki river, we see clusters of ancient caves high up on the dramatic rock face and a naturally-formed tunnel. We push on a short distance up into Tsaile, a lively village with several guest houses and extensive wheat and barley fields and orchards.
From Tsaile northwards, life becomes increasingly Tibetan... the Tibet of a lost time! Sheep horns adorning the houses, and there are protective amulets (Zor) in the shape of crosses on the walls of the houses. These Zor capture evil spirits in their web and protect the inhabitants of the household. This is a fascinating glimpse at authentic life at this altitude.
Expect a hard start to the morning, ascending steeply to a ridge-line above the town. We are rewarded with scenery that is simply awesome as we arrive at a spectacular, steep canyon-side trail leading towards the Dajori La at 3600m.
Having 'conquered' our second pass of the tour, we cycle on a fantastic flowing trail down into Samar with its lovely poplar grove, formerly a staging post for Khampa raids into Tibet. Passing through the village’s charming entrance and exit chortens (stupa), we plunge down on a steep, switch-back trail to the Samarkyung Khola river. From here we portage as we ascend steeply on a rough trail until it widens out and we hit the contour, climbing up to the chorten-topped Bhena La (3840m). We cycle a great sweeping trail past the seasonal Bhena village before dropping into a rocky stream and then climbing sharply up to the Beg La past the deserted village of Yamda. Eventually reaching the Yamda La, at 3985 meters, we are rewarded with a pass topped by a large cairn and a tangle of multi-coloured Tibetan prayer flags. The views from the top are awe-inspiring! So we park our bikes for a break to take it all in.
Soon we meet up with the road that is being pushed through from Lo. From here on, we cycle on amazing jeep trails and our portage days are behind us. We head down into the small hamlet of Shyangmochen (3765m) and have a short climb to the Shyangmochen La, where the trail intersects a wide east-west valley, and it’s a fast descent and short climb to the picturesque village of Geling. There is an old gompa above the village, ancient meditation caves in the eroded cliffs visible above and traditional Mustangi houses surrounded by barley fields.
From Geling we climb steadily on a good trail to reach the Nyi La (4000m), where we descend and contour around to the Ghemi La and then descend steeply down to the large village of Ghemi (3570m), marveling at the red oxide and silver hues of the towering cliffs across the valley. This is yet another stunning village, with tiny streets and high walled houses creating the 'fortified' feeling so characteristic of this region.
From Ghemi this morning we have only a few hours to reach the fortified village of Tsarang where we stop for lunch and a look around. Tsarang is a large village built on top of the Tsarang Khola canyon and is dominated by a huge Tibetan-styled fortified palace built in 1378, and the large, ochre-hued Tsarang Gompa, of the Gelugpa school, with the greatest library in Lo. The dzong has a wonderful, old prayer room with a gold-printed prayer book and a fascinating array of statues, thankas and large Buddha paintings – if you’re lucky the resident lama will show you the withered 500-year-old hand of the master architect of the palace!
Leaving Tsarang on a trail leading down and across a small river, we climb steeply up a rocky trail to a cairn on the opposite ridge and then follow the Thuling Khola on the new, dirt road towards Lo. The multi-hued canyons wrap themselves impressively around us as we pedal, and in the distance we see the huge Sungda Khola. Once past that landmark, we reach the tiny, green doksa of Sungdala, where we’ll stop for tea and maybe lunch at the one small tea-house there. Continuing along the trail, the landscape becomes very Tibetan in character, the high desert plains of the Himalaya. We start to see snow peaks ahead of us as we near Lo La at 3960 meters. Tunnels of rock and webs of beautiful prayer flags lead to wonderful views down to Lo Manthang and the aptly named ‘Plain of Aspiration’, below us.
We cruise down the trail and head across the plain into the famed city of Lo Manthang, where we’ll settle into a local tea house and start exploring the city and its many gompas. Looking over the city in it’s mystical golden, yellow glow, as the local people bring their sheep and horses inside the city gates for the night.
The fabled walled city of Lo Manthang, with a single entrance through which only the King, Queen and Kempo (Abbot) are allowed to ride (all others must walk, to pay their respects to Chenrezig), is a mythical city like no other. The ancient, walled city of Lo Manthang is described by UNESCO as having no place of comparison!
There are four major temples within the medieval walls of Lo Manthang, dating back to the 14th century, including interesting features such as the striking 50 foot ‘Jamba’ or Future Buddha, the largest clay statue in Nepal until a few years ago. Situated here is also the Raja’s Palace, home to the present King Raja Jigme and Queen ‘Rani Sahib’, and an interesting maze of a village to explore. The local houses are inhabited by the Lo-ba (people of Lo); many still practice polyandry (where wives take multiple husbands).
Sometime after lunch, we mount up and ride out of Lo Manthang heading north along a wide, canyon trail, past dry gullies and an ancient, ruined fortress. We meander past a stunning deep-red Gharphu Gompa built into the rock face, and an incredible 2500-year-old cave-dwelling site which you can negotiate by ladders and through small tunnels.
Sadly, we must leave magical Lo Manthang. We head out the gates of Lo and make our way southwest, cycling off the main trading trails and into an area crisscrossed with herder tracks. The trail climbs steadily to a cairn on a pass at 4000m, where we can stop to have a rest and enjoy the amazing view out to the south, back to Lo Manthang and all the way up to the border with Tibet.
Our trail continues to climb the ridge and cross the Chogo La, at 4325m, the highest point on our ride. From here we have an amazing craving trail that traverses above a vast grass valley. We cross the Tsarang Khola and approach Lo Gekar (which means 'pure virtue of Lo') and the Ghar Gompa, built by Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Tibet. It's truly humbling to visit this Gompa, knowing it was the very first Tibetan Buddhist monastery!
Our trail now climbs up to our next pass, the Mui La at 4170m before we descend gently through a wide, open landscape to the edge of the Dhakmar valley. Here we ride down steeply through an eerie but stunningly eroded landscape to the beautiful village of Dhakmar, set against cliffs said to be so red because it is the blood of an ogress conquered by Guru Rinpoche before he could build the Ghar Gompa. From here we ride down the stunning valley to Ghemi, where we rejoin the jeep trails we rode up on, we climb to Ghemi La before an exhilarating downhill to Jhaite where we spend the night after another epic day of cycling.
This morning we are treated to a hearty Tibetan breakfast before we cycle the trail down the valley to Chuksang. As we are now riding south, we have great views of the many towering peaks including Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Tukche Peak, Tilicho Peak, and Thorang Peak.
We cycle a couple of small passes between Chuksang and Sama and then the lovely downhill to Tsaile, just below here we cross the river and the last little stretch into Chuksang, where we spend our last night in Upper Mustang.
Today we will bid farewell to Upper Mustang after an incredible journey into this remote Kingdom. After breakfast we are back on jeep trails, riding downriver for a while before climbing to the village of Tangbe (3030m), a labyrinth of narrow alleys and white-washed houses, surrounded by apple orchards and fields of buckwheat, barley and wheat. From here we continue on the jeep trail through a valley and a good climb onto a plateau above the river, which we ride until we hit the ‘Nepali flat’ before dropping into Kagbeni, our familiar haunt from the early days of our journey. Here we leave Upper Mustang and enjoy the seemingly huge variety of food now that we are back on the more heavily visited trekking trails of Lower Mustang.
After lunch we cycle out down the familiar trail to Jomsom, battling against the mighty afternoon winds, caused by the pressure difference of the Himalayas with the plains of India, the Kali Gandaki gorge is a wind tunnel which channels the warmer air from the lowlands up to the heights above us.
We board an early morning mountain flight from Jomsom, switching planes in Pokhara for a Kathmandu flight, and if both flights run on time, then you will arrive back in Kathmandu in time for a delicious lunch! You have the rest of the day free to see the sights of Kathmandu, shop the bazaar for last minute gifts, or just to relax with a massage (you’ve earned it).
We’ll enjoy our final breakfast in Nepal, sharing one last round of tales about the trip, then we’ll transfer you to the airport, bid farewell, and look forward to our paths crossing again. Farewell, for now.
No matter where we are some things don’t change. Great bikes are essential to a great cycle tour. All the bikes we use are current Giant, hardtail mountain bikes, with appropriate tires, lockout front suspension and hydraulic disc brakes. Sizes available to suit all heights.
Grasshopper has always focused on quality riding and experiences, and accommodation and cuisine plays a large part in this. Due to the pioneering nature and remoteness of this tour location, outside of the cities we will be staying in very basic tea houses, these are designed to accommodate traveling pilgrims and monks, and very rarely tourists. Grasshopper supplement these stays as much as possible with your own sleeping bags and blankets, arranging for hot water for washing etc. These tea houses are an incredible experience, the wonderful people who run them have a warmth and humor that is hard to find in the modern world - an experience always worth the ride. We understand the importance of a quality meal after a day of cycling; we will open horizons in your culinary adventure, with delicious, authentic, and exciting local fare. From mouth-watering snacks presented mid-ride to the adventurous tasting local delicacies you will never go hungry!
This tour has been handcrafted by Grasshopper's Expedition Engineers. This team brings with them a wealth of knowledge on all things Asian, and all are experienced in the delivery of outstanding expeditions. In addition to a Grasshopper representative joining you, you will be supported by a well informed, English speaking local guide who can provide unique insights on the local customs, cultures and landscapes. Your guide will keep your safety and comfort top priorities at all times.
Groups of 4-8 guests will be accompanied by our expert local guide and our expedition leader. For groups of 8 or more, we will be joined by a cycle mechanic. Our support crew is always on hand to help tired riders whenever needed.
Full vehicle support follows riders at every step of the tour. The vehicles carry your luggage and bikes when not in use and there is always a comfortable seat when needed.
Take it Home
A beautiful souvenir Grasshopper cycling jersey is yours to wear and take home. We also provide a Grasshopper drink bottle as an extra memento.
4 to 14
This tour is guaranteed for a minimum of 4 travelers. And we limit the group size to only 14 travelers so that you get all the attention you want in an intimate group.
There is no surcharge for single travelers - we will match you with another same-sex single traveler. If you want a single room there is an optional upgrade that you can book.
Every day was a new adventure! The riding was challenging but very fun, especially downhill! I had an amazing trip surrounded by amazing people! Any problem we faced got worked out. Even though some things didn't go as planned, it all went pretty smooth.
Follow this link for general travel information about Nepal.
Multi-day Cycling Tours Frequently Asked Questions
This tour is designed for the truly experienced and adventurous cyclist who is seeking challenging riding in a dramatic environment, with breathtaking views, high altitudes, and fun single tracks. Also, the fact that this area of Nepal was until recently closed to tourists adds to the sense of adventure as we discover remote areas in forbidden ancient kingdoms. Come along on this odyssey through the mighty Mustang for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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