Kagbeni might be a popular en route destination of Jomsom Muktinath Trekking and extended version of Annapurna Circuit, but there are many wonderful things to do in Kagbeni itself that you must stay for at least a day or two to discover and experience all the best things. Located on the trail from Jomsom to the Lo Manthang, near the junction with the trail to Muktinath, Kagbeni serves as a gateway towards Upper Mustang.
Kagbeni is a medieval village located in Lower Mustang at 2,800 meters elevation in the north of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountains. It is also a hub for traders from Lo Manthang, Manang and Dolpo, where they exchange the merchandise and rest before traveling to other regions. It sits beside Kali Gandaki river with a less number of settlements.
The whole culture and ambiance of Kagbeni have a great Tibetan influence. There are chhortens and prayer wheels that add color to the dusty panorama of Kagbeni; blue, white, red, green and yellow colored Tibetan flag flaps vigorously as the winds blow making the view even more appealing. Once arriving at Kagbeni was not an easy undertaking, but now visitors can walk easily from Jomsom to arrive in Kagbeni in less than three hours. So, let us jump on to know futher and all the things you can do in Kagbeni
What are the things to do in Kagbeni?
Explore this medieval settlement
Kagbeni is an ancient settlement dating back to hundreds of years, and there are still ruins surrounding the settlements. As you walk through the narrow streets of Kagbeni, you will see the houses are packed form mud and stacked form stone that shows the wear of time. The location of Kagbeni is very striking, set aside the beautiful river, in dusty element with the backdrop of mountains including Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, a few hours of the walk would be one of the best things to do in Kagbeni.
Nowadays Kagbeni receives a large influx of tourists, both national and international. You will see modern building and hotels have found their way between old mud and stone houses of Kagbeni. But, a walk around the old part of town surrounding the fortress, you will see buildings haven’t substantially changed for hundreds of years.
Get to know its background
Kagbeni is scattered with abandoned settlements and irrigation fields, and there is no information on why it was abandoned. However, as the legend suggests there were two villages which were on the verge of distraught when a demon with a head of the lion and body of serpent started causing terror. Then the surviving villagers founded a new place, which is modern-day Kagbeni.
Keeping aside the legends and stories, Kagbeni now is a fortress ruin. Back in the 16th century, before the village was established, the king of Muktinath built a fortress for his son at the convergence point of four trades. There are holes in fortress walls are guessed to be a defense mechanism against invasions. The history of Kagbeni was way more than this; power conflict, the banishment of Lo’s prince; well, these facts will keep you intrigued and interested to Kagbeni, so do not forget to know about these all once you get there.
Side Hiking to Lhungfu Cave
Lhungfu Cave is a sacred site for Buddhists and is a constant destination for pilgrims of different place. It is located close to Phalyak, and Dhakarjhong town at a distance of around two and half-hours stroll from Kagbeni. As per the belief of locals, in summer the god of lives in Lhungfu cave and during winter in Gurusangbo Cave (near Kobang). Devotees ply a visit to this cave every year and worship for rain. Visiting the holy Lhungfu Cave is one of the many things you do in Kagbeni, and not just the cave, the relaxing short hike in the serene trail is the next best thing.
Visit Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Gompa
The name of Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Gompa translates as “monastery of the place to stop and develop concentration on teachings of Lord Buddha.” Located in Baarah Gaun region, the monastery is an important site for Shakya Pa sect. It was founded by renowned Shakya scholar Tenpai Gyaltsen of Tibet in 1429.
The monastery had around 100 monks form 12 different surrounding village up to 18th century. You will be instantly drawn looking at the altar of the monastery that displays bronze icons of Sakyamuni Buddha along with his disciples Sariputra and Maudgalanya and other divinities. Also, the thangkas, frescoes, holy canon, and excellent woodwork is another beauty of Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Gompa. Thus, providing more reason for things to do in Kagbeni.
Take a stroll of Kag Khar Ruined Palace
It is the ruined palace of Kag Khar dynasty that used to have 108 rooms. It might be news to you but Kagbeni used to be an important fortified palace along with the Salt Trade Route, and this ruined palace of Kag Khar will give some insight into it. All the history and ambiance associated with it makes visiting the ruined place one of the many things to do in Kagbeni.
The whole town of Kagbeni bears the testimony of war and reflects its border position. The dark alleyways leading towards small interior courtyards, the streets and the tunnels of this ancient settlement and the ruins of this old fort at the center speaks the fact that it was once an important place located strategically at the junction of Mustang and Muktinath. Well, visiting this historical monument will be all worthy of your time.
Have a good look at Kheni
Kagbeni used to have two entry and exits gates of its surrounded defensive walls, which used to be guarded by people. Then, about a century ago, they were replaced by two Khenis (ghost eaters) representing a man and woman. Khenis are grotesque, primitive figures reflecting age-old animist beliefs. You will notice them while entering Kagbeni, have a better look at them as it is really baffling how Animism was practiced here long before the advent of Tibetan Buddhism in the 11th or 12th century.
Visit Devthen Chhorten
Visiting Devthen Chhorten is one out of many things to do in Kagbenu. It is located near the secondary school in the south-west direction of Kagbeni which was built by Guru Rimpoche to protect the village form ghost. Apart from the interesting story, you will also witness idols of Guru Rimpoche and several other deities.
Maitreya Chapel of Red House Lodge
Red House Lodge is the famous lodge of Kagbeni, and this very popular building owns a small private monastery, Maitreya Chapel. The monastery has a huge clay idol of Maitreya, which is the second largest in Mustang, Jhampa Gompa of Lo Manthang being the first. You will have a nice time in this monastery while observing the beautiful wall printing; now wonder it the best thing to do in Kagbeni.
Getting towards Phudzeling
It is an important archaeological excavation site that has discovered some important findings in Mustang archeology. You can see the findings in the Mustang Eco Museum in Puthang, which is only about five minutes of walk from Jomsom airport.
In Phuszeling, you will see ruined settlements and caves providing enough evidence of the ancient civilization of Muktinath and apparently, the present-day Kagbeni shifted from the ruins. It will be an excellent side hike that is located in about an hour of a walk along Jhong River, opposite to Khinga.
Be a part of festivals
Festivals are the best part of any place you visit; it is when you will really know the place and people and festivals are the best things to do in Kagbeni. There are four annual festivals in Kagbeni; Chhonngu (New Year) in January, Dhajyang in April/May, Fangel in August, and Yartung. These festival are vibrant and joyous that goes on for days.
Many interesting events like archery, traditional horse racing, traditional costume dance, exotic exhibition of culture and tradition and many other events take place during these festivals. You will also get to enjoy the feast of local foods, drink local beer and a lot of enjoyment. Definitely, festivals are the best things to do in Kagbeni.
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