Muktinath Valley (3710m) is a holy place of pilgrimage both for the Hindus and the Buddhists. Muktinath in the northern Nepal Himalayas, is a quest for only the hardiest of pilgrims. For Hindus it is a sacred shrine of Lord Vishnu, Lord of Salvation. For Tibetan Mahayan Buddhist it is the shrine of the Serpent Deity, Gawo Jogpa. To Buddhists, Muktinath is a place where the great sage guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) came to meditate. It is also known in Nepali by three other names: Muktichhetra, Muktinarayan and Salagrama. Muktinath’s local Tibetan name is Chu-mig-brgya-rtsa which literally a “hundred-odd springs”. The fame of Muktinath as a Hindu place of pilgrimage is renowned. The strong and the faithful have been attracted to it continuously for the centuries from all over South Asia. The main Hindu Temple house is an image of Vishnu/Gawo Joypa in the form of black ammonite. And it is also said that the eternal flames burning at Muktinath is lit by Hindu God Brahma.
This three-tiered pagoda style temple is bounded on the east by running spring water channeled through 108 spouts. It is these water spouts that give Muktinath its Tibetan name. Muktinath is famous pilgrimage site for both Buddhists and Hindus.Infact Hindus believe that Muktinath is a sacred place of salvation and also believe that bathing in waters guarantee the salvation after death.
The black ammonite, which is locally known as Shaligram and also thought as quintessence of Lord Bishnu is found plenty in the area and the physical site of Muktinath is also imbued with supernatural characteristics. Pilgrims can enjoy travel long distances over rugged trails to collect these stones. It is found all along the upper reaches of Kali Gandaki.
The fame of Muktinath as a renowned place of pilgrimage remained strong and faithful. The lower regions of the Kali Gandaki is inhabited by Gurungs and Magars, Thakalis around Jomsom and people with Tibetan roots, the Lopa around Muktinath and upper Mustang. Nepal is full of different customs and cultures, Muktinath can’t be far. It do have distinct customs and attire and trekking is ideal observing their cultures and customs. Lower part is dominated by Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism predominates the upper. Yartung; the annual horse racing is one of the unique festival that is organized in Muktinath. This is a week-long horse racing, in Tibetan style and with serious jollification. And this is to happen in early September. The startle point towards Muktinath is Pokhara especially the Naya Pool to Baglung road and from there, through Ghorepani and Tatopani, into the gorge of the Kali Gandaki.
Walking through, one will see the theatrical change of backdrop of Pine forests crowd in on the trail and the villages take on a quite different appearance between Tatopani and Lete Khola and Most of the route alongside the Jomsom trek has been defined as part of the Annapurna circuit and Annapurna foothill treks.
The design of the houses and of the villages are distinctive to this area. As we go thorough, we can see the houses are designed to protect the inhabitants from the strong winds that blow up the valley every day from the late morning onwards. The reason behind the strong wind is because of the differences in atmospheric pressure between Tibetan plateau and lower belts of valley. The village of Marpha which is a two-hour walk down from Jomsom is the best example of unique architecture of this region.
Jomsom is also best known for its good airport facilities as it offers quick entry or exit to the valley with regular daily flights from Pokhara. Though strong wind prevents flights taking off from Jomsom after 11am. Jomsom can be the best base to explore the upper part of Kali Gandaki region and it do have high class numerous accommodation facilities. The stone labelled streets and the flat roofed houses with courtyard at the center makes an outstanding scenic view, which makes one to spend one more day. And one can view the apple products of this region in their free time in the valley.
The village of Kagbeni can also be the alternative base for trekking which is two-hour walk up the valley, though it is not that much commercialized as Jomson rather much peaceful and trekkers are allowed to go towards upper mustang without special permit and accompanying Environmental Officer.
An alternative to Jomsom as a base for the trek is the village of Kagbeni which lies a further two-hour walk up the valley. Kagbeni is not as commercialized as Jomsom and certainly much quieter. This is the furthest trekkers are allowed to go towards Upper Mustang without a special permit and an accompanying Environmental Officer.
The distance from Kagbeni to Muktinath is a three to four hour trek and trekkers can choose to do this as a day trip or they even can stay at one of the many teahouses available at Muktinath.