from Tibetan Mun Tan which means fertile
plain, Mustang or Kingdom of Lo is part
of the Kingdom of Nepal and one of its
districts (see Mustang District), in the
north-east of that country, bordering
China (Tibet) on the Central Asian
plateau between the Nepalese provinces
of Dolpo and Manang. It is roughly 80 km
long (north-south) and 45 km at its
widest, and is at an elevation of over
It is largely dry and arid (annual
precipitation is in the range of 250-400
mm) due to its position in the rain
shadow of surrounding mountains.
The population is around 9,000, spread
between three towns and approximately
thirty smaller settlements; the people
are either Thakalis or Tibetan.
Most of the population of Mustang live
near the river, 2-3,000 m above sea
level, but the tough conditions cause a
large seasonal migration into lower
regions of Nepal. The administrative
centre of the district is at Jomsom (Dzong
Sampa), population 5,363 (1998), which
has had an airport since 1962 and has
become the main tourist centre since the
area was opened to tourism in the 1970s.
The main feature of Mustang is the
Gandaki river, its valley and
The river runs north-east
to south-west towards Nepal Terai,
bisecting the territory. It once served
as the major trade route between Tibet
and India, especially for salt. Part of
the river valley, the Thak Khola, forms
the deepest gorge in the world.
Mustang was once an independent kingdom,
although closely tied by language and
culture to Tibet. From the 15th century
to the 17th century, its strategic
location granted Mustang control over
the trade between the Himalayas and
India. By the end of the 18th century,
the kingdom was annexed by Nepal.
However, the monarchy still survives as
the Kingdom of Lo in Upper (northern)
Mustang, with its capital at Lo Manthang.
The current king (raja or gyelpo) is
Jigme Parbal Bista, who traces his
lineage back to Ame Pal the warrior who
founded the Buddhist kingdom in 1450.
Even though foreign visitors are allowed
to the kingdom since 1991, tourism to
Upper Mustang is very restricted.
Foreigners need to obtain a special
permit to enter, which costs $700 per 10
days per person.