The Tiji festival tour is an experience of a life time as you travel through the former kingdom of Mustang. On this trip, you can expect warm encounters with the Buddhist people with overnight stays in cozy lodges.
Tibetan cultural landscape in the Kingdom of Mustang
Upper Mustang with its barren high valleys looks more like part of Tibet. The landscape has hardly changed its face for centuries. Visits to the Mustang capital Lo Manthang and the surrounding caves, monasteries, Chortens and stupas provide intensive insights into a deeply Buddhist cultural landscape that looks almost medieval. The route is rewarding with breathtaking views of Dhaulagiri (8167 m), Annapurna (8091 m), Nilgiri (7061 m) and other ice-armored mountain giants.
Tiji Festival Tour
Tiji festival is the annual harvest festival of the Lo people of Upper Mustang. It is a time of worship and spiritual awakening. Monks perform elaborate dances showcasing the victory of good against evil. The Tiji festival tour allows you a unique view of the rich cultural heritage of the long-forbidden Mustang Kingdom, hidden in ancient, rocky hills on edge linking Nepal and Tibet.
During the Tiji festival, monks wear costumes for three days and perform elaborate dances to the sound of classical drums, bells, and Buddhist chants re-enacting Dorje Shunu’s battle with his demon father to save Mustang people from starvation, their livestock from misery, and the land from other disasters.
Initially a religious ritual, Tiji festival has evolved into a symbol of unity, determination, and harmony. Native believed to give value to its observers just by observing. Days until it begins, the Lo folks start their journey to Lo-Manthang, with mule pilgrims and caravans lining the roads. The celebrations end with a musket eruption after the conclusion of the harsh, dry winter and the beginning of the harvest.
The Tiji festival tour is one of the few ways to experience Tibetan culture without visiting Tibet. The beauty of Upper Mustang during the Tiji festival makes this trip the perfect summer holiday in Nepal. But if you can’t make it to the TIji Festival tour, we suggest our 13-day 4wd Upper Mustang Trip. The trip runs March through October.
- Visit the UNESCO world heritage sites of Pashupatinath, Boudhanath and Swayambhunath in Kathmandu.
- Visit key places of interest in Pokhara (Devi’s Fall, Gupteshor Mahadev, Mahendra Cave, Bat Cave (Chamero Gupha), Peace Stupa, Tibetan Camp, Seti River George).
- Fly through the world's deepest gorge (Kaligandaki Gorge; vertical distance of about 5.5 when measured from the tip of Dhaulagiri) and over the Himalayas. The gorge separates two 8,000ers Annapurna and Dhaulagiri).
- Experience Tibet in Nepal: Upper Mustang falls under the trans-Himalayan region (north of the Himalayas) and is part of the great Tibetan plateau. Historical records pertaining to the present kingdom of Mustang can be dated from 8th century BC.
- Rejoice at awe-inspiring magnificent barren landscapes (moonscape), ancient caves, century old monasteries and many other archeological sites.
- Immerse in the Buddhist culture and convictions through Tiji Festival and view the great Himalayas from its patio.
- Taste the renowned local apples, apple pie and apple wine (Marpha) and other local produce.
- Visit Muktinath: An important pilgrimage for Hindus and Buddhists.
Trip Grade - Moderate
- Day 01 :Arrive Kathmandu and transfer to hotel
- Day 02 :Guided tour of Pashupati, Boudha and Swayambhu (Optional: Scheen Monastery)
- Day 03 :Morning flight to Pokhara (822 m; 30min) followed by half day guided tour of Pokhara Valley
- Day 04 :Fly Pokhara to Jomsom (2,743 m; 25 min) and drive to Chuksang (2,980 m) via Kagbeni
- Day 05 :Drive to Ghami (3,540 m; 2.5 hrs). Excursion to Chungi cave en route (1.5 hrs)
- Day 06 :Drive to Charang (30 min), hike to Ghar Gumba, a.k.a. Lo Gekar Monastery (10 min); drive back to Charang onwards to Lo Manthang (2.5 hrs.)
- Day 07 :First day of Tiji festival
- Day 08 :Second day of Tiji festival
- Day 09 :Third/last day of Tiji festival
- Day 10 :Visit Kancholing cave & Kora La Border
- Day 11 :Drive to Samar (6 hrs)
- Day 12 :Drive via Kagbeni to Muktinath (3.5 hrs) and back to Jomsom (2.5 hrs)
- Day 13 :Morning flight to Pokhara. Full day at leisure
- Day 14 :Afternoon flight to Kathmandu. Rest of the evening at leisure
- Day 15 :End of Trip: Departure
Notes This Itinerary can be changed by your group leader depending upon the client's fitness and weather conditions, your safety and staff safety is our primary concern. You can request to customize this itinerary to suit your preference, except for the Upper Mustang portion.
Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu and transfer to hotel
Upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, you will received by Keep Walking Nepal’s representative and driven to your hotel. Please look for Keep Walking Nepal’s board at the opposite of the arrival gate.
In the evening (depending upon your flight time), we will come together for dinner with Keep Walking Nepal family.
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu (D)
Day 02: Guided tour of Pashupati, Boudha and Swayambhu (Optional: Scheen Monastery)
After breakfast, you will experience the three most important sanctuaries of the Kathmandu Valley: Pashupatinath, Boudhanath and Swayambhunath.
The Pashupatinath cremation site in the northeast of the city is one of the most important Hindu shrines. The sacred Bagmati River divides the temple complex into two large areas. On the right bank there are cremation sites and the impressive Pashupathinath Temple, which non-Hindus are not allowed to enter.
From Pashupati it’s a short drive to Boudhanath. The Buddhist Stupa is the largest sacred building of its kind in the entire valley and a great attraction for the numerous Buddhist pilgrims. After lunch at one of the many cafes around Boudha Stupa, you will drive to Swayambhu.
Swayambhunath has the second important Buddhist Stupa and pilgrimage site in Kathmandu valley. The Stupa complex is located on a hill and has an impressive view of the Kathmandu Valley. In clear weather you can see the snow-capped ice giants north of Kathmandu.
At the same time, we will arrange the restricted area permits required for you to visit Upper Mustang.
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu (B)
Day 03: Morning flight to Pokhara (822 m; 30min) followed by half day guided tour of Pokhara Valley
In the morning, you take a scenic flight to Pokhara. On your 25 minutes flight to Pokhara, you get an aerial view of the beautiful lakes, the green forests, and also the snowy mountains.
After check-in at the hotel and some rest, you will embark on a guided tour of Pokhara Valley. Some of the city’s finest attractions on this half-day Pokhara tour include Devi’s Fall, Gupteshor Mahadev, Mahendra Cave, Bat Cave (Chamero Gupha), Peace Stupa, Tibetan Camp, Seti River George.
In the evening you will be free to enjoy the sight and sounds of the many hotels and pubs by the lakeside.
Overnight at Hotel in Pokhara (B)
Day 04: Fly Pokhara to Jomsom (2,743 m; 25 min) and drive to Chuksang (2,980 m) via Kagbeni
You will start with an early flight to Jomsom Or Dzongsam meaning “New Fort “and walk to a local restaurant for breakfast (if you haven’t had breakfast at your hotel in Pokhara).
After breakfast you will drive on a 4wd to Kagbeni. The drive to Kagbeni (about 15min) is an experience in itself as most of the time you will be driving on the riverbed canyon while crossing several streams. The view is serenading with glimpses of mountains.
Just before you reach Kagbeni you will see an oasis with lush green fields and a mountain backdrop. The village has closely packed mud brick houses, dark alleys and imposing Chortens.
At Kagbeni you can visit the Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Gompa, an important Shakya Pa sect monastery found in 1429, the Kag Khar palace, a ruined palace that used to the fortified palace along the “Salt Trade Route” and the Devthen Chorten.
After lunch at Kagbeni and confirming your permits at the Kagbeni check post you will head towards your overnight destination for the day to Chuksang (approx. 3 hrs. drive from Kagbeni). From Kagbeni onwards you will enter the realm of Upper Mustang.
Chuksang town has 3 separate parts and ruined castle walls on the nearby cliffs making a lovely stop for the night. For those who would like to stretch their legs, we recommend you walk to the nearby picturesque ancient village of Tetang.
Overnight at Chuksang (B,L,D)
Day 05: Drive to Ghami (3,540 m; 2.5 hrs). Excursion to Chungi cave en route (1.5 hrs)
After breakfast you will drive towards Syangboche (3,800m; 1.5 hrs. drive), a small village with few houses. En route you will have views of Nigliri on the southern skyline.
You will stop for a visit to the famed Chungsi cave just before Syangboche. The cave is only accessible by foot. The trail is marked by a cairn and steeply descends along the shadow side of the cliff to a gorge. At the bottom flows the Duptak Chu, a tributary of the Mustang Khola.
The Chungsi cave is naturally carved on a side of a cliff. It is said that the great sage Guru Ripomche is meditated on his way to Tibet in the 8th century and fought a fierce battle with a giant demon nearby. On the cave walls are many naturally formed deities which look like paintings. The cave also contains many sacred relics, statues and myths.
After spending some time admiring the natural beauty, culture and relics you will ascend back to Syangboche for lunch and continue the drive towards the beautiful village of Ghami (about 1 hr).
You can either spend the rest of the day at leisure or embark further on to Dhakmar (round trip about 3.5 hrs.)
Dhakmar is a high desert canyon region with astonishingly red cliffs. It is said that Guru Rimpoche had slain the demon Dhak Chhenmaon on request of the Tibetain king Thisong Deuchan, and the demon’s blood painted the cliffs red.
Overnight at Ghami (B,L,D)
Day 06: Drive to Charang (30 min), hike to Ghar Gumba, a.k.a. Lo Gekar Monastery (10 min); drive back to Charang onwards to Lo Manthang (2.5 hrs.)
This is an exciting day as at last you will reach the fabled city of Lo Manthang for the Tiji festival.
En route you will drive across the Ghami river to reach the Charang La pass. The pass offers majestic view of Annapurna, Nilgiri and Bhrikuti. You then drive across a plateau crossing several mani walls to the old capital of the Mustang Kingdom at Tsarang/Charang.
At Charang you will visit the iconic red Thupten Shedrup Monastery which was built in 1385AD and the former 5 storied Palace built in 1378AD.
The Thupten Shedrup Monastery is huge and is perched on the edge of the Kali Gandaki gorge, on the East End of the village.
The ruins of the former palace of the Raja of Mustang is strategically located astride a hill. It’s a steep, short hike up to the palace and although it is now dilapidated, there are great views from here and the small chapel and armory (now a museum) are open to the public. The Palace also has 108 volumes of Kangyur Text engraved in Gold.
Another Upper Mustang destination lies 30 min drive west of Charang and further 10 min hike, Ghar Gompa (Lo Gekar monastery). Ghar Gompa is believed to the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery established by Guru Rinpoche even before the ‘Samye monastery’ in Tibet. After some quick snack at the tea stall you will drive back to Charang and continue onwards to Lo Manthang.
From Tsarang the road drops down into a deep canyon before climbing up the other side. The trail then continues along the Thuling Khola on the new dirt road towards Lo. The multi-hued canyons will spread impressively around you.
You will also start to see a few snow peaks ahead of you as you near the Lo La pass; to the south are the Annapurna peaks and the familiar peak of Nilgiri, to the east is a chain of snow-capped peaks, the largest of which is Bhrikuti(6363m/20,877ft). The pass leads through a partial tunnel of rock, flanked on the right strings of Tibetan prayer flags and then climbs to the ridge to the right for wonderful views down to Lo Manthang.
You can either rest at hotel for the rest of day or explore the narrow streets and cafes. The city will be buzzing with the preparation for the Tiji festival as reverend lamas, pilgrims and visitors arrive well in advance.
Overnight at Lo Manthang (B,L,D)
Day 07: First day of Tiji festival
The festivities begin in the afternoon so you have the morning to explore the nooks and crannies of Lo Manthang city. There are many interesting things to see.
The tiny city is a densely built labyrinth of whitewashed houses made of mud and stone, with narrow alleys where woolly cows run freely. The city has four centuries-old monasteries.
At noon the festival begins with the congregation of lamas, villagers and visitors at the Mustang royal palace courtyard. The horns of the lamas, heralding the two twelve-foot-high copper dunes, with their elephant-like outgrowths, sounded, followed by two double-row horns, all accompanied by a drum and cymbal. Then an ancient and huge thanga, a scroll painting with Buddhist motifs, three stories high, is rolled up over the entire southern wall of the square.
In the late afternoon, eleven lamas in maroon and gold robes and tall red hats come out of the palace and take their places on the wall below the thanka. A higher lama takes his place on the raised seat in the center. Then the masked dancers begin to portray the Tiji myth, Dorje Jono rejects the demon with the power of his magical dance. When the dances end on the third day, Dorje Jono kills the demon, whereupon his people will be freed from their plague of misfortune, water will flow again in abundance and the balance and harmony of life will be restored.
Overnight at Lo Manthang (B,L,D)
Day 08: Second day of Tiji festival
In the morning you will drive along the Nepal – China Kora La highway to Chooser Valley. The route is beautiful as you drive past ancient ruins and beautiful scenery.
Chooser valley is famous for Garphu and Nyphu Gompas and the famous Chooser caves aka the Zhong cave. The cave is believed to built by the escapee monks from Tibet and is dug right out on a hill like a rabbit’s borough. The cave has around 40 room or openings and served different purpose in different time. Currently it is preserved as a tourist attraction.
On the second day, numerous Lobas, locals who speak the Tibetan dialect, come from the surrounding hamlets, and the small square is filled with decorated, beautiful people. Women and children in traditional clothing. The King of Mustang wears a crown of tiny river pearls interspersed with dozens of large shades of red coral with matching turquoise ornaments.
The second day tells the tale of Dorje Jono, who tried to return the demon to the Buddha realm. The performance sees female performers in their traditional attire and jewelry coming out to the main square. The second-day performance is the main practice that showcases the generation of celestial palaces and deities.
Overnight at Lo Manthang (B,L,D)
Day 09: Third/last day of Tiji festival
The third and final day of the Tiji festival is marked by ceremonial music followed by masked dance.
The Tiji festival ends with the ceremonial destruction of the evil, represented by a long black yak hair and a red torma cake, a ritual offering made of butter and flour, which are chopped into a dark red fur. The red remains of the demons are attached to an old tiger skin and attacked with bows and arrows, snares and other old artillery. The remains of the poor devils are turned to the ground, each time to a wave of gunfire, applause and incense.
Overnight at Lo Manthang (B,L,D)
Day 10: Visit Kancholing cave & Kora La Border
This is an contingency day at Lo Manthang. On the third day in case the flight to Jomsom are cancelled on the third day, you will drive from Pokhara to Marpha and on the next day drive to Ghami. Hence on this day, you will bid farewell to Lo Manthang and visit the key sites which you’d have missed earlier. Your guide will explain and accommodate ad hoc.
In case the flights on the third day of your trip is as expected, you will follow the itinerary below.
After breakfast you will visit the Kangholing cave. The cave is seldom visited and is one of the hidden treasures of Mustang. After some lunch you will drive further to the Kora La border which separates Nepal from China. The drive is scenic with awe inspiring views into Western Tibet.
Overnight at Lo Manthang (B,L,D)
Day 11: Drive to Samar (6 hrs)
Bidding farewell to Lo Manthang you will drive for about 6 hours via Charang and Ghami to the small hamlet of Samar.
There are a few houses at Samar; its a desert oasis with a beautiful view point.
Overnight Samar (B,L,D)
Day 12: Drive via Kagbeni to Muktinath (3.5 hrs) and back to Jomsom (2.5 hrs)
You will backtrack till Kagbeni and then follow the Jomsom Muktinath highway to the village of Ranipauwa. A 30 min hike away is the famous pilgrimage site of Muktinath which is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists.
An annual horse racing festival is held every August or so. The festival is called Yartung Mela.
After visiting the temple and lunch at the village below you will drive to Jomsom.
Overnight at Jomsom (B,L,D)
Day 13: Morning flight to Pokhara. Full day at leisure
Early in the morning you will fly back to Pokhara where you have rest of the day at leisure.
You can visit one of the many gift shops, cafes or massage parlors.
Overnight at Pokhara (B)
Day 14: Afternoon flight to Kathmandu. Rest of the evening at leisure
You will have the morning at leisure and fly back late in the afternoon to Kathmandu.
The rest of the day at Kathmandu is at leisure. In the evening we will organize a dinner party to commemorate your successful Tiji festival tour in Upper Mustang.
Overnight at Kathmandu (B,D)
Day 15: End of Trip: Departure
Our office representative or your trek guide will drop you off at the port of exit per the required time.
- All airport pick ups and drops
- Full day Kathmandu sightseeing with tour guide
- Half day Pokhara sightseeing with tour guide
- 3 night hotel in Tibet Kathmandu on BB | 2 night hotel in Pokhara on BB
- All local transportation as per as itinerary
- Airfare Kathmandu – Pokhara – Kathmandu
- Airfare Pokhara – Jomsom – Pokhara
- Food and accommodation during the trek
- All permits & entrance fees as per program (unless mentioned otherwise)
- Sleeping Bag, Down jacket and Kit bag
- Staff insurance
- Lunch and dinner in Kathmandu and Pokhara (except when mentioned)
- Visa fee
- Travel insurance
- Any kind of alcoholic drinks, drinking water, cold drinks, laundry, phone call
- Tips for guide, porter and driver
- Entrance fee in local monastery