May is possibly the best time to trek in the Upper Mustang which was closed to foreigners until 1992. Isolated from the world for centuries it is perhaps one of the last truly untouched examples of Tibetan culture and is known as “The Last Forbidden Kingdom.” At the end of the dry season there is an ancient, three-day festival celebrated annually in the walled city of Lo Manthang. It tells the story of the deity Dorje Jono who had to battle his father to save the Kingdom of Mustang from destruction. Dorje’s father created a water shortage which wreaked havoc on the region. Being in the shadow of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Massif region means water in the Mustang is the most precious of commodities.
Dorje defeated his father and banished him from the land. This “Chasing of the Demons” is the Tiji festival, a celebration and reaffirmation of the myth through dances and religious ceremonies. The first westerner to witness the Tiji festival was Michel Peissel in 1964 who described it thus; “The scenes I witnessed were so extraordinary and so unexpected that I dared not believe my eyes and even today I have some trouble in believing in the reality of what I saw that day.” The date of the festival is based on the Tibetan calendar and changes every year but usually occurs in May. To experience Tiji is to step back in time. You are immersed in the sights and sounds of rituals which explode in vibrant colour and extraordinary sounds at this unique and amazing festival depicting the battle of good over evil.
Even getting to the trail head takes two flights. The first from Kathmandu to Pokhara and then a second from Pokhara to Jomsom. Trekking is moderate though with good teahouse options over the 10 days it takes to get to Lo Manthang. Permits are expensive as you need a restricted area permit (currently 500USD) as well as an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (20 USD). But Tiji is unique and every person who experiences it can only agree with Michel Peisell’s quote
Booking Open for Tiji Festival 2020