Nepal 2017 Photography Tour
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The Himalayas, Roof of the World, Nepal has captured the imagination of travelers for generations. Home to the highest and mightiest mountains on Earth, Nepal’s rugged geography serves to isolate and preserve cultures that go back centuries, and has led to this small country being home to over 120 languages.
Beyond the well-trodden tourist routes to Everest and Annapurna, many of these isolated pockets remain. One such enclave is the Kingdom of Mustang.
Formerly known as the Kingdom of Lo, Mustang was opened to foreigners only in the 1990’s, and maintained a centuries-old sovereign monarchy until 2008.
Culturally, residents preserve the Tibetan way of life in dress, language and Buddhist religion. Owing to its longstanding isolation, Upper Mustang is considered one of the best-preserved, most-diverse and spectacularly-beautiful regions in the world, and absent the influence of China, is a better representation of traditional Tibetan culture than many parts of Tibet today.
Geographically, Upper Mustang belongs to the Tibetan Plateau, within the rain shadow of Dhaulagiri, and receives limited precipitation compared to the lower Himalaya.
The landscape is noted for its fluted, fantastically-eroded sandstone cliffs, and arid valleys punctuated by green fields of wheat, barley, buckwheat or potatoes. Historically, it lies along the ancient salt-caravan trade routes between the Indian Subcontinent and China, and the nomadic lifestyle of antiquity can still be seen today, one of the few places on Earth where this is possible.
The Monarchy of Upper Mustang may have officially ended in 2008, during Nepal’s anti-monarchy purge, but the King, Jigme Dorje Bista, died only in 2016, and many residents still consider the King’s family to be the rightful rulers of Mustang.
Accompanying us on our journey to Upper Mustang will be the king’s nephew, Raju Bista, who will join us starting from the village of Ghami, below the capital of Lo Manthang, to share his extensive local knowledge and whose status with the residents will open many doors.
A 4x4 road only recently reached Upper Mustang, making a vehicle tour possible. However, the road in from the lower Himalayas frequently washes out, naturally limiting the number of vehicles that can enter. We’ll be contracting 4x4’s already present in Upper Mustang, and thus won’t have to rely on road conditions in the steeper, wetter canyons below.
October 23, 2017 - Day 1: Kathmandu international arrivals
You will be met at the airport by a member of our crew and transferred to the 5* group hotel. For those wishing to arrive early, extra nights can be arranged upon request.
We’ll enjoy a group dinner of classic Nepali cuisine known as “dhal bat.” Traditionally eaten without utensils, this dish is the staple food in Nepal, eaten by some for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and consisting of rice, lentils, vegetables and often chicken or lamb curry.
Day 2 - Kathmandu city tour
Following breakfast we tour the labyrinthine streets of Kathmandu, including Durbar Square, with its classic architecture, and the famous Swoyambhunath Stupa, one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world.
Passports will be collected so that as we tour the city, our crew can obtain the necessary permits to visit the restricted area of Upper Mustang.
Day 3: The peaceful lakeside city of Pokhara
Today we fly to the peaceful lakeside city of Pokhara, at the foot of the Annapurna range. From the roof of our 4* hotel (best available), a clear sky grants us views of Dhaulagiri (8167m) and Annapurna 1 (8091m) the 7th and 10th highest mountains in the world, as well as the sacred Macchapuchre, aka Fishtail Peak, and the massive Annapurna 2.
To end the day, we watch the changing light of sunset hit the snowy peaks as they reflect in the waters of Phewa Lake.
Day 4: Our journey into the Himalayas
Our journey into the Himalayas, the “Abode of the Snows,” begins with a short flight following the world’s deepest canyon, the Kali Gandaki Gorge, flanked by 8000+ meter peaks on either side, with 8 of the 20 highest mountains on Earth in view.
Our destination is Jomsom, at 2700m. Here, we board our 4x4 vehicles and follow the newly-developed trail into the lower regions of Upper Mustang, spending our first night at altitude in Chhusang, 2920m.
During our stay in Upper Mustang, we’ll be staying in comfortable tea houses, the best available in each village. While many will have attached private bathrooms, travelers should be aware that the standard of accommodation in the Himalayas is rustic in nature. Tonight we dine on hygienically-prepared mountain cuisine, including, possibly, yak meat. Vegetarian options are always available as well.
Day 5: The Village of Ghami
For safety reasons, our ascent to altitude proceeds at a relaxed pace.
Today we climb approximately 500 meters via 4x4 to the village of Ghami (3490m), and are now well within the Kingdom of Lo, Upper Mustang. The mud-brick style of Tibetan architecture is prevalent, and signs of the Buddhist religion are everywhere in the form of chortens (round structures of stone and mud) and prayer flags.
Today Raju Bista, nephew of the deceased King of Mustang joins our group, and we stay in a lodge owned by his family. The afternoon will be spent exploring the surroundings, photographing the locals with the assistance of our Nepali-speaking guides.
Matt and Jonathan will share tips on travel photography such as how to interact with the locals to get the best picture possible, what is the best gear to use for each situation, and how to properly care for and carry gear during adventure travel. Battery charging facilities are available in each tea house.
Day 6: The Kingdom of Upper Mustang
Today we arrive at the seat of the Kingdom of Upper Mustang, Lo Manthang, 3800m.
We'll continue to enjoy the guidance of Raju Bista, nephew of the recently-deceased King of Mustang, an insider’s-insider, who is known and revered throughout the Kingdom and will show us sights and introduce us to people we would never get a chance to see otherwise, including, we can hope (no confirmation yet), the Royal Palace. Overnight in tea house owned by the royal family, naturally the best in town.
Day 7: Lo Manthang
Basing our explorations in Lo Manthang, Raju Bista accompanies us through the arid landscape on a 4x4 drive to the hidden Shija Jhon Cave complex at Chosar, where Buddhist monks, over centuries, expanded a network of natural caverns to create over 150 “rooms” for prayer and contemplation . Along the way, we visit the very old and isolated village of Tingar, relying on Raju to communicate with the local residents, who speak only Tibetan.
Day 8: The west of Lo Manthang
Today we explore to the west of Lo Manthang, to the seldom-visited Namgyal Gompa, the Monastery of Victory, a secluded redoubt of Tibetan Buddhism.
We will meet and interact with the resident monks, learning of their communal lifestyle, and perhaps pick up a secret or two on the road to enlightenment! As part of this visit, we’ll hike up to the sacred Gomba overlooking the valley, affording a spectacular view of the austere landscape.
Day 9: The village of Kagbeni
Today we descend via 4x4 to the lower limits of the Kingdom, overnighting in the village of Kagbeni at 2780m.
Along the way we will stop frequently to photograph the landscape and the people.
Day 10: The Village of Muktinath
From Kagbeni, our 4x4 vehicles take us again high into the mountains, to the Village of Muktinath, sacred to Buddhists and Hindus alike.
The temple and monastery at Muktinath, with it’s 108 fish-shaped water fountains, is the destination for Hindu pilgrims paying homage from as far away as India and Bangladesh. If we’re lucky, we’ll meet some, resplendent in their colorful attire. In Muktinath, the view towards Mus- tang is sublime, with both Dhaulagiri and the nearly-8000m Nilgiri flank- ing the valley below.
After a leisurely tour of the temple and lunch in Muktinath, we descend to Jomsom.
Day 11: From Jomsom to Pokhara
Flying from Jomsom to Pokhara, within 20 minutes we leave the arid frigidity behind and disembark to the thick, tropical air of lakeside Pokhara.
On offer is a visit to the International Mountain Museum, world famous for its comprehensive displays on the first ascents of all 14 of the world’s 8000m peaks, as well as very well-put-together displays on the geogra- phy, geology and human history of not only the Himalayas, but all the other major mountains of the world. If relaxing is more your speed, feel free to skip the museum and stroll along the lakeside shops, or just stay in and enjoy the warmth.
Day 12: Jomsom to Kathmandu
This morning we awake before sunrise and drive approximately 30 minutes to the hilltop viewpoint of Sarangkot, which affords an unblocked panoramic view of the Himalayas from Dhaulagiri, to the Annapurna Massif, to Machapuchre, all the way to Langtang Himal.
As the sun rises, clouds typically form, making the golden hour of sunrise the best time to view the peaks in all their glory. Following a nap, then lunch, we fly from Pokhara back to Kathmandu and return to our 5* hotel. After our gourmet dinner, we bid each other farewell.
Day 13: International departures
Transfer to Kathmandu airport according to your schedule for international departure. End of tour.
Trip cost: US$6900 Early bird special $6600 until July 15, 2017
Minimum group size 8 – Maximum group size 12
Trip cost includes:
- Hotel and lodge accommodation double-occupancy basis. English-speaking local guides
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), starting with dinner on Day 1 and ending with breakfast on Day 13
- Purified water provided daily
- All road, and/or air transportation within Nepal, including airport transfers
- Permit fee for Upper Mustang, and entry fees to all sights, reserves and parks
- Tips for local Nepali guides and drivers
- Group and individual photography instruction and photo review by Matt Granger and Jonathan Stewart, includes pre-trip consultations on gear selection.
Trip cost DOES NOT include:
- International flights
- Emergency Medical and Evacuation Insurance (required)
- Breakfast and lunch on Day 1
- Lunch and dinner on Day 13
- Alcoholic beverages
- Additional hotel nights and meals before and after trip dates.
- Single supplement ($800)
- Shopping and personal extras
- All payments, except initial $1200 deposit, made by Paypal are subject to 5% surcharge
- Contact Jonathan Stewart for alternate payment methods.
While this trip is cultural in nature, we will be traveling over very remote terrain, at altitude, far from medical assistance. Travelers should check with their physicians to ensure they are fit enough to embark on such a journey, and are up to date on all required vaccinations. Upper Mustang is generally not considered a malaria risk, but travelers should check with their physicians before deciding on whether to bring prophylaxis for our short visit to the lower elevations at Pokhara. Maximum altitude reached will be approximately 4000m (13,000’) Temperature extremes can be expected to fluctuate between -5°C in the upper elevations and +35°C in Pokhara (+25°F to +95°F), with cool to pleasant daytime highs, mitigated by the clear, sunny skies. Precipitation is possible, but unlikely. While we will do our best to ensure that we stay in the hotels and villages indicated in the itinerary, the Organizers reserve the right to change the itinerary as conditions dictate, with guest safety and comfort the primary concerns.
Please note, the trip cost is on a sharing basis. While we always do our best to match travelers with others of the same gender, this may not always be possible. Therefore, we recommend the $800 single supplement to those for whom this may be an issue.
While this trip is geared towards photographers, all are welcome as there will be much to see and do besides taking pictures. For those seeking exercise, Nepal is a unrivaled for hiking, and there will be plenty of opportunities to scramble up hillsides for better views at the beginning and end of each day.
Extra nights lodging before and/or after the trip dates can be arranged for an additional cost.
For a preview photo gallery taken by Jonathan in Nepal, click: https://goo.gl/YlEmvE