Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa is a holy place for both Buddhists and Hindus on the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas of NepalMukti and Nath. Mukti means Salvation or Nirvana and Nath mean god or Master. Mukti Holds grate significance for all spiritual people in the south Asian sub continent. Muktinath This Sanskrit name itself has religious overtone and a sort of emotional ring to it for the devout Hindus. The name is synthesis of two words – (the provider of salvation) has been one such holy site, where thousands of devotees flock for attaining the much sought after moksha (Freedom) from the cycle of birth and rebirth. It is an ardent wish or a dream if you may say, of every Hindu to get Mukti-Nirvana from this cycle taking births over and over again. It is belief of the Hindus that this world is “MAYA” (an illusion) and the earliest one gets out of it the better and a visit to Muktinath will help them achieve that goal. Since then it called Muktinath.The Hindus call it Muktichhetra (Place of salvation) is one of the four religious sites. Many Shaligrams (Ammonite) found here are considered by Hindu as incarnation of lord Vishnu and worship them. According to Hindu Myth lord Vishnu turned into Shaligram because of Brinda’s Curse.This place is opened through out the year but especially in Rishitarpani, Ram Nawami, and Bijay Dashami thousands of pilgrims gather here to celebrate the festival.
How do I go to Muktinath?
Apart from walking to Muktinath all the way, there are many ways one can travel, depending on time and budget.
Basically the trip can be divided in two parts: from Kathmandu to Jomsom, and from Jomsom to Muktinath.
There is no direct flight from Kathmandu to Jomsom. Travelling by airplane one has to fly to Pokhara, stay over one night and then take the early morning flight to Jomsom.
From Kathmandu to Jomsom you can:
1. Go by bus to Pokhara, then the next day by plane to Jomsom.
2. Go by plane to Jomsom.
3. Do the 6-day trek to Jomsom, starting from Pokhara.
4. Take a helicopter.
Starting from Jomsom you can:
1. Walk to Kagbeni to Jhargot to Muktinath in about 5-7 hours total.
2. Go by a local rented horse in about the same time.
3. Go on the back seat of a local rented motor bike or by jeep plus driver.
Can I travel to Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa safely by myself?
Yes, if you are physically and mentally healthy, both men and women alike, up till quite a high age, can travel to Muktinath on their own and travel quite comfortably and safely. Recently new roads have been made and it is even possible now to go by motor bike, jeep or small bus from Jomsom to Muktinath.
What is the best time to travel?
When you are not familair with the local situation, we recommend not to hike to Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa during the raining season (June, July, August and the beginning of September) because of the possibility of landslides. Due to bad weather also there is a great chance plains do not fly from Pokhara to Jomson and back for days. Taking a helicopter can be the alternative.
In November and February it can be cold, but you can travel. December and January are for the die hards.
Do I need a guide?
If people ask us if a guide is needed, the answer is a bit difficult to give. To find your way you do not need a guide, but, of course, you might consider it more convenient to travel together. Beside by hiring a guide you provide income for a Nepalese family.
Do I need a permit to travel to Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa?
Yes, unless you are from Nepal or India you need to obtain two documents which allow you to travel to Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa. Best is to ask a local travel agency in Kathmandu to arange it for you. It saves you time. (See the bottom of this page.)
Can I continue my trip after my arrival by airplane at Jomsom immediately?
When you arrive at Jomsom by airplane you are at 2,800 meters while you came from Pokhara at 800 meters (Kathmandu is at 1,500 meters). Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa is at 3,800 meters. So, you have to be aware that you can get (severe) high altitude sickness when you continue your trip to Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa and stay near in Ranipauwa (3,700 m.) or Jhargot (3,400 m.) for a night without adjusting to the hight.
Basically there are three options:
1) After arrival early morning at Jomsom you can go up and down from Jomsom to Muktinath by jeep in one day. Or you go up bij jeep and walk 4-5 hours back to Jomsom the same day.
2) If you plan otherwise and arrive at Jomsom by airplane from Pokhara, we strongly recommend that you stay one night in Jomsom in order to prevent high altitude sickness instead of going to Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa and staying nearby in Ranipauwa (which sometimes, due to signs with ‘Muktinath’ in this small town, mistakenly is called Muktinath as well) the very same day you arrive by flight.
3) Alternatively, after arrival by plane at Jomsom, you can walk for three hours and stay at Kagbeni for a night at 2,900 meters.
When choosing option 2 or 3, after visiting Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa sleeping at Jharhot is best (which is 30-45 minutes walking down).
Where can I buy bus tickets, and can I do this at the last minute?
The bus tickets can be bought at any travel agency in Nepal. Last-minute bookings are most of the time no problem. Cost for the 6-hour bus drive to Pokhara is between 250-900 NPR, or 3-13 USD.
The road is OK, and officials at government road blocks prevent the drivers of trucks and buses from going too fast by noting down there arrival time at each road block. The cheap local buses to Pokhara always have bad tires and are often run by junior drivers. You can feel comfortable travelling with a tourist bus to Pokhara though. Having said this, travelling by bus in Nepal is less save than flying.
And how about the plane tickets for Jomsom?
For non locals the plane tickets to Jomsom cost about 130 USD for a single trip from Kathmandu to Jomsom and about half of this amount from Pokhara to Jomsom. That is, if you are not from Nepal. For locals the prices are much cheaper for good reasons. Make sure you take an early flight. Every day, between 10 and 11 a.m., it starts to be very windy in Jomsom. The planes need to arrive before that time. If the departure of a plane is delayed, it can be cancelled for that reason. So take the early flight at 7 or 8 a.m., and even with some delay the flight will not be cancelled.
Due to bad weather flights from Pokhara to Jomsom can be cancelled, sometimes for several days in a row, especially during the rain season.
Along the route to Muktinath you’ll find enough guesthouses to eat and sleep. If a local guesthouse is fine for you, you do not need to make arrangements up front. The beds are clean and the food is good. Hot showers and electricity are available during part of the day. Costs per night are about 200-500 NPR for a local guesthouse and 40 USD or more for a hotel. Food per day in a local guesthouse is about 500-700 NPR per person for three meals, including tea or coffee. Enough room is available. For Hindu pilgrims there are also free Dharamsalas.
Does it make sense to use a travel agency to make all arrangements?
Yes, no doubt this could make sense. If you are not used to travelling in Asia, or if you are feeling insecure about things, a good travel agency will make the difference between a relaxed journey and a journey full of worries. Besides, when you travel in a group of more than three persons you must make sure you make reservations not only for bus and plane, but also for the guesthouses you want to stay at. One person can always find a place to sleep. With a group – more than two persons – it can be difficult (to stay together in the same place). In that case you could consider to ask a travel agent to make the bookings up front.
Inspired by: muktinath.org, muktinathdarshan.com