Nestled below soaring Nilgiri and Dhawalagiri mountains, Jomsom is a beautiful town in Mustang. This trans-Himalayan town known as Dzong-Sampa, meaning new fort in the local dialect, became Jomsom with time. King of Thini, Thang Min Chen established a fort for surveillance of people’s movement along the trade route to Tibet. Once a bustling trade route and a transit for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims to Muktinath, Jomsom is now popular among trekkers.
Jomsom is also known as a gateway to the forbidden Kingdom of Lomanthang in Upper Mustang. Trek or vehicle trip to the Kingdom of Lo and Mustang region begins here. Lomanthang remained restricted to foreigners until 1992. Since the culturally and naturally bestowed area opened its doors to the world, Mustang quickly became a destination of choice for local and international trekkers.
Mesmerizing natural beauty, alpine desert-like landscape, and exotic Thakali, Lopa, Gurung, Magar, Tibetan, and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist culture attract thousands of footfalls every year. The town is a part of the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna foothill treks. It connects with off the beaten trails like Dhawalagiri Circuit and Upper Dolpo. Located at an altitude of 2740 meters above sea level within Annapurna Conservation Area, Jomsom has plenty of attractions to be a destination on its own.
While you are at Jomsom, there is a wealth of options to indulge in adventure and relaxation activities. We have brought you the top five things you would not want to miss while you are in Jomsom. If you miss any of these attractions, you will not see all of Jomsom.
1. Detour to Marpha or Kagbeni
Both Marpha and Kagbeni, two old settlements of Mustang are around two hours of a trek either way from Jomsom. If you prefer ease or want to take a vehicle, 20 to 30 minutes would be enough to reach these towns that appear straight out of ancient history book. Stone paved narrow alleys, whitewashed stone walls and flat mud roofs make this a picturesque village.
Marpha is a settlement of Thakali community who have been living in Mustang for ages. The old town of Marpha was around 20 minutes hike from the new hamlet you will see now. The peculiar architect and smiling faces of Marpha are not all this village has to offer. Marpha is also famous for apples. Continue reading to know more about apple shopping.
Kagbeni is a confluence Kaligandaki and Jhong rivers. Located north of Jomsom, a non-Nepali trekker can go as far as this village with Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) permit. You either like to hike or take a bumpy vehicle ride; this village can is accessible within a short time. You will be walking against the wind blowing from Tibet to reach Kagbeni from Jomsom.
Mud houses, narrow alleys, an exotic lifestyle of Thakalis makes this village another unmissable destination of Mustang. If your taste buds have gone numb with eating Dal Bhat in the mountains, Kagbeni has Yac Donalds for a change. This namesake of a popular fast food joint offers some mouth-watering western food that reminds you of your home. Pay a visit while you are at Kagbeni or passing through the village. This restaurant cum lodge will be one more reason to smile while you are here.
2. Day Hike to Dhumba Lake
Dhumba Lake is a sacred hidden lake among the rocky terrains and scattered pine trees. At a distance of approximately 5.5 kilometers from Jomsom, this crystal clear and serene lake is a perfect day hike destination, while you are in Jomsom. You can reach this lake at approximately two hours from Jomsom. To hit on the trailhead, turn right from the bus park, cross the wooden bridge over Kaligandaki and follow the pointer marking Thini/Dhumba Lake.
At around five kilometers, you will reach Thini village. In about half a kilometers walk, you arrive at the beautiful turquoise lake. Regarded as a sacred place by Buddhists, prayer flags surround the lake. Located at the base of Nilgiri Mountain, crystal clear water reflects a mirror image of surroundings on calm, windless weather.
As this place is considered sacred, please resist the temptation to swim in the lake. There are plenty of other crazy adventure activities to calm your adrenaline rush. This lake is pleasant and serene to give you relaxation after a day hike.
There is a gompa at a ridge over the lake. A further stroll of 15 minutes takes you to the Gompa that offers a panoramic view of the surroundings.
3. Apple Shopping
Nepalis relate Mustang as a kingdom of delicious, fresh, and juicy organic apples. Villages around Jomsom have plenty of apple orchards with juicy apples ready to be eaten straight out of the tree. You can buy as much as you can carry or your airline allows. Depending on the season you are in Mustang, visit the orchards in Marpha and sample the range of products including fresh apples, dried apples, apple brandy, and apple juice.
Bakeries at Jomsom serve warm and delicious apple pies to satiate your craving sweet tooth. The thirsty traveler in you can get a chance to go tipsy with apple liquors straight out of the factory. Visit a scattered village south from Marpha’s main town, and you will smell the distilleries. Chat with locals, and you may even grab a discount than buying the same product in Pokhara or Kathmandu.
4. Mountain Biking or Rock Climbing
For adrenaline junkies, Jomsom has quite a few adventure activities other than hiking. Barren hills, dry terrains connected with road makes Jomsom and its surroundings ideal for mountain biking. Downhill run, uphill cycling or just gentle biking along the banks of Kaligandaki River will promise you once in a lifetime ride. Don’t believe us? Here’s a video to prove it!
If cycling is not your thing, but prefer climbing experiences, Jomsom has fantastic vertical walls for rock climbing. Natural near vertical cliffs offers the challenge of scaling a mountain at a much lower altitude and fewer risks and costs than climbing a mountain. There is a climbing cliff right outside the airport, which is mostly used by the army for training. Just let your travel agent know about your adventure bucket list, and they will help you tick off each of them. After all, Nepal is all about adventure and seeking thrill out of mundane life.
5. Thakali Cultural Detour
Mustang is not only about trekking and adventure. It is also about warm hospitality, genuine smile, and exotic culture and traditions of Mustang. Meet with locals, talk to them, and live a life as they do for a while to truly experience Jomsom as it is. In addition to people, cuisine, and lifestyle of Thakali, Gurung and Lopa ethnicities, Jomsom celebrates a unique Yartung festival in early September.
Yartung is an annual horse racing event observed over a week. Watching this festival of horses and men racing in Tibetan influenced celebration is a must see activity in Jomsom. In addition to the festival, learn about the Thakali culture. Choosing a homestay above a commercial lodge will give you more opportunity to closely watch the tradition, culture, and lifestyle in the mountains.
Jomsom also has a Mustang Eco Museum to learn about the history, architecture, and culture of the local community. If you find fun in learning about local art, history, culture, and artifacts about Mustang, this is a perfect place for you. Additionally, a 14th-century Sakyapa Monastery also known as Kagchode Thubten Sampheling Gompa at Kagbeni is an archaic religious attraction. The monastery stands on a ridge overlooking Kaligandaki River.
Villages and towns of Mustang are visibly and culturally different than other parts of Nepal. Tibetan Buddhist traditions influence culture, traditions, dialects, and people’s attire in this region. The lifestyle of lower elevations drastically while you gain altitude. Experience this diversity and richness of culture while you are at Jomsom.
If you have not made enough of Jomsom with our five recommendations, make the best out of Jomsom by visiting more of these attractions that are no less than a gem.
This underground cave is gaining popularity among tourists lately. You can detour to this cave at Thini village during your hike to Dhumba Lake.
Jomsom view tower
Jomsom view tower at an elevation of 3750 meters offers a panoramic view of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Tilicho peak and other mountains and unique landscape of Mustang as far as Muktinath and Upper Mustang. Consider visiting this view tower at Thini village during your trip to Thini.
Jomsom Modern Bakery
If you want to end your Jomsom stay with a dessert to tangle your sweet tooth, Jomsom Modern bakery will open its doors wide for you. Muffins, apple pies, and cakes as airy as the mountains, and fluffy as snow will treat your taste buds. If you are craving for some baked goodies or your sweet tooth, visit the hidden bakery at Beni-Jomsom road, next to Army barrack.
|Author: Gaurav Aryal
Gaurav Aryal is an avid traveler, photography enthusiast, and development professional who feels at home in the mountains.