More species of birds (236) nest around Rara Lake than people visited in 2010 (170). Yet the largest lake in Nepal, ensconced within its smallest national park, is only three hours walk from an airstrip. It’s a beautiful, calm haven surrounded by forests, and a paradise for bird watchers.

Mugu was once part of the Malla or Khas kingdom of the Karnali River basin, which reigned between the 12th and 14th centuries. Artefacts abound – you may see ancient shrines to the local deity ‘Masta’, wooden effigies of spirits festooned with bells, flowers and cloth, and rock pillarsetched with figures of the sun and the moon. Southern Mugu has rugged ranges forested with ancient blue pine, spruce and cedar, and is inhabited by Hindu Chhetris, Brahmins and Thakuris.

The northern reaches of Mugu are less frequented. As with Dolpa to the east and Humla to the west, it lies in a vast rainshadow zone. It is arid, less intensively farmed and sparsely populated with people of Tibetan origin. One of the more unusual drivers of the local economy is the medicinally valuable yarchagumba fungus, which grows out of the head of a caterpillar and can be worth over US$5000 per kilogram (about 10 times the average annual income of a Nepali).

The Great Himalaya Trail’s lower and upper routes make a crossroads at Rara Lake. From here, trekkers can head along the old salt route to Humla, the royal highway to the plains, or take any of several adventurous paths into neighbouring Dolpa.While facilities are still basic, the area is an adventurer’s dream – authentic culture, a wealth of natural beauty and the trails largely to yourself.

Top Treks

Rara Lake Trek – 6 days

Beautiful trek around Nepal’s largest lake, Rara. Wander through virgin forests and experience life in the region’s charming villages that are rarely visited by tourists. Trekking Style: Camping (basic teahouses in some villages)

Rara Lake to Khaptad National Park Trek – 13 days

Go into the wild and venture through thick forests, alpine landscapes and Nepal’s countryside with remote mountain villages which have hardly seen any tourists. A perfect trek for the adventurer looking for a real wilderness experience. Trekking Style: Camping/Basic Teahouse

Dolpa to Rara Trek via Shey Gompa – 22 days

Walk through barren landscapes, alternated with beautiful forests. You have to cross many passes and pass remote mountain villages, where time seems to have stood still. Trekking Style: Teahouse/Camping (it is recommended to take a tent)

Explore more treks in Rara & Jumla

Fast Facts

  • Mugu is one of Nepal’s most remote areas and remains relatively unexplored by foreign travellers and mysterious even to Nepali people
  • Mugu was part of the ancient Malla Kingdom of the Karnali River basin
  • Fascinating blend of religious practices with Buddhist and Hindu practices borrowing from Shamanism and the ancient Bonpo religion
  • The majority of Mugu lies in the rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himal (ranges) and is very arid. It is the least developed district of Nepal
  • Rara Lake is Nepal’s largest lake with a circumference of approximately 13km. it is home to otters and the fish that feed them, and is an important resting place for migrating water fowl
  • Mugu has many different wild herbs used in traditional herbal medicine such as the highly valuable ‘Caterpillar Fungi’ (yachargumba) used in the treatment of amoebic dysentery among other things, guchi chyau which has an anti-spasmodic effect, panchaunle which is used as a tonic, satuwa a poison antidote as well as bhutkesh, kutki and keshar

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