Jomsom to Muktinath Mountain Biking Escapade

Experience Issue 172 Mar, 2016
Text by Anuj D. Adhikari / Photo: Anuj D. Adhikary

High altitude, pristine mountains, holy temples, arid desert, and a beloved mountain bike. Prepare for the trip of a lifetime!

This week-long pilgrimage biking trip to the holy Muktinath Temple in lower Mustang is reminiscent of an era lost in time. Translated as the ‘temple of soul liberation’, Muktinath sees Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims flocking from as far off as South India to pay homage to the deity. Enjoy spectacular views of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, and Tukuche peaks as you ride along the laps of the Himalayas.

Top off a tiring biking day with a sip of the famous locally brewed apple brandy at Marpha; feel the chilly headwind in Jomsom with its cultural majesty; and reward your adventurous soul with a relaxing dip in Tatopani hot springs. This short and splendid Jomsom-Muktinath mountain biking trip packs nature, culture, adventure, and relaxation into one.

Day 1 Drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Sightseeing in Pokhara

Kathmandu (1,345 m) - Pokhara (900 m)

Catch an early morning bus to the lakeside valley of Pokhara, renowned for the gorgeous Phewa Lake and panoramic views of Machapuchure, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri , and Manaslu. Spend the rest of the day reveling on the beautiful and vibrant lakeside. Boat on Phewa Lake, explore Seti River gorges and Gupteshwar Cave, visit Tibetan Refugee Camp, and Barahi Temple. The Peace Pagoda is also quite a spectacular hike, with an amazing view of the valley below and the Annapurnas at a distance. A relaxing warm-up bike ride to Palme will do just fine.

Day 2 Fly from Pokhara to Jomsom. Bike from Jomsom to Kagbeni

Pokhara (900 m) - Jomsom (2,720 m) - Ekle Bhatti (2,820 m) - Kagbeni (2,810 m)

There are several flights from Pokhara to Jomsom in the morning, before the high winds in Jomsom pick up late morning. Upon landing, we assemble our bikes and spend some time riding through the cobbled streets of the bustling town. We then head off to Kagbeni, riding the relatively flat section along the river trail. In Kagbeni, you can enjoy a fantastic mix of scenery and native lifestyle. The lively Tibetan culture in the village is sure to give you a warm welcome.

Riding Time: 1 to 2 hours
Riding distance: 14 km
Level: Medium
Route Composition: Jeep Trail (100%)

Day 3 Bike from Kagbeni to Muktinath

Kagbeni (2,810 m) - Jharkot (3,550 m) - Muktinath (3,760 m)

After an early morning breakfast, we start riding uphill, and gain almost 1,000 m in elevation. The region is dry and arid, almost desert-like, with awe-inspiring sceneries of the mountains on the horizon. We come across trekkers and pilgrims flocking from as far off as India on their way to Muktinath, one of the most revered Hindu temples in the world. Once at Muktinath, we’ll explore the religious site and see the eternal flame that burns on natural gas source. “Mukti” means liberation and “nath” means a temple, so Muktinath is considered to be a temple of soul liberation. Besides Hindu hermits and pilgrims, we’ll see some Tibetan traders as well.

Riding Time: 4 to 5 hours
Riding Distance: 15 km
Level: Medium
Route Composition: Jeep Trail (100%)

Day 4 Bike from Muktinath to Tukuche

Muktinath (3,760 m) - Muktinath Pass (4,000 m) - Lupra (3,028 m) - Ekle Bhatti (2,820) - Jomsom (2,720 m) - Marpha (2,670 m) - Tukuche (2,586 m)

From Muktinath, we ride along a very enjoyable downhill track descending to the Kali Gandaki River valley floor. We’ll make a quick pit stop at Marpha, a village with legendary apple orchards. Make sure to taste some Marpha brandy and a range of apple products like apple pie and dried apple skin. We call it a day at Tukuche village, an ancient Thakali tribe settlement, and spend some time exploring the region and learning about the culture and history of the village. Tukuche lies right beneath the Tukuche peak and Dhaulagiri, with amazing views of Mt. Nilgiri and icefalls of Dhaulagiri’s east face.

Riding Time: 4 to 5 hours
Riding Distance: 27 km
Level: Medium
Route Composition: Jeep Trail (60%) and Single Track (40%)

Day 5 Bike from Tukuche to Tatopani

Tukuche (2,586 m) - Kobang (2,550 m) - Larjung (2,500 m) - Ghasa (2,010 m) - Rukse Chahara (1,650 m) - Tatopani (1,190 m)

We begin riding from Tukuche to Tatopani through some fantastic downhill sections. Tatopani translates to “hot water”, and rightly so; the hot springs here are quite a treat. This is a fabled place to relax your mind and body, so pamper yourself after a great day of biking in this fantastic region. Located besides the banks of the Kali Gandaki River, the hot dip amidst the surrounding natural beauty in Tatopani will definitely unwind your muscles.

Riding Time: 4 to 5 hours
Riding Distance: 43 km
Level: Medium
Route Composition: Jeep Track (100%)

Day 6 Bike from Tatopani to Beni, and drive to Pokhara. Full body massage in the evening

Tatopani (1,190 m) - Thadi Khoriya (1,030 m) - Ranipauwa (1,100 m) - Galeshwar (1,170 m) - Beni (830 m) - Pokhara (900 m)

After a relaxing time at Tatopani, we ride for about 1.5 hours on jeep tracks to reach Beni, a small but vibrant market town. We’ll spend some time exploring the town, and then take a 4-hour drive back to Pokhara. It’s a bumpy drive, but you’ll enjoy the scenic views along the way. Once we reach Pokhara, we can do some boating on the Phewa Lake, and have a pleasant time reflecting on our thrilling adventure in the Annapurnas. In the evening, loosen up your muscles and free your mind with an hour-long full body massage.

Riding Time: 1 to 2 hours
Riding Distance: 18 km
Level: Medium
Route Composition: Jeep Track (100%)

Day 7 Drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu. Farewell dinner in the evening

Pokhara (900 m) - Kathmandu (1,345 m)

We catch an early morning bus back to Kathmandu, and reach Kathmandu after 5 hours on the highway. This concludes our mountain biking trip to Jomsom and Muktinath.