Geographically, Kagbeni is located on Upper Mustang. But you don’t need Upper Mustang RAP to explore the mediaeval village of Kagbeni. Similar to Lo Manthang, this is now a village development committee in Mustang. Mustang is one out of seventy five districts of Nepal and located on the north of Dhaulagiri Zone. As an ending part of Annapurna Circuit Trail, the village is heavily trekked by wandering hippies. This is the entry point to The Last Forbidden Kingdom of Lo. You have to trek two hours north of Jomsom, access is easy. Frequent four wheel drive also connects Jomsom and Kagbeni. Literally Kagbeni means confluences of crow.
As a part of the Upper Mustang Trek, your permits will be entered in Kagbeni. There is a checkpoint at the northern end of the village. Right on the tenth days of entry, you had to report exit entry. If days get extended above Kagbeni you have to pay extra. It is USD 50 per person per day. After earthquake permit cost might be reduced. Permit cost can be as low as USD 10 per person per day instead of USD 50 per person per day. Normally, except Tiji Festival, your permits are issued for ten days. If you have a different long itinerary, you have to inform at the time of issuing the permits. This is applicable for Upper Mustang RAP only. Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) is single entry permit with no time limit.
According to the census of 1991, Kagbeni had a population of 1200 people in 260 households. Muktinath, where thousand of Hindu and Buddhist devotees pay a visit is further east of Kagbeni on The Annapurna Circuit Trail. The village had played a tremendous role during trans Himalayan salt trading periods between India and Tibet. There are many sophisticated lodges around Kagbeni. Red Monastery in the middle of the village is worth to visit during your stay in Kagbeni. You are supposed to pay a small entry fee of two hundred Nepali Rupees. This is a direct contribution to school and lama kids. It is designed as a fortress town. You can still see ruins of an ancient fortress. Narrow cobbled street of Kagbeni helps you to get rid of strong afternoon wind. Few out of Upper Mustang trekkers spend a day in Kagbeni as a part of acclimatization. They hike up toward Jharkot, another medieval village on the trail to Muktinath. Some treks all the way to Muktinath as well. Also 301 caves in Jhong can be a perfect side trip, if you are spending a day in Kagbeni as a part of acclimatization.
Red House Lodge, probably the oldest lodges in Kagbeni is worth either for a short visit or overnight stay. It is a part of fortress ruins. You can climb up the ladder and witness the view. There is a centuries old wooden pillar, full of carvings. Also a small idol ofMaitreya is another highlight of the lodge. A movie named ‘Kagbeni’ was filmed here in the village. Directed on 2008, movie is based on the short story “The Monkey’s Paw”. Author name was W. W. Jacob. To some extent movie of Kagbeni was able to set a trend, a new taste of technology and story for Nepali audience.
A temperature easily goes minus during winter. Expect strong wind everyday after afternoon. Being in the rain shadow of Mount Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, rainfall is very rare in Kagbeni. It will be a new experience even for the domestic tourist in Kagbeni. You can also go there all the way by motorbike. This is less than 150 kilometers from Pokhara. From the village of Beni (70 kilometer from Pokhara) it is totally off road. It used to be a part of excellent Annapurna Circuit Trek. However, with development of road network, now it is not recommended to trek these parts of circuit. However, Upper Mustang is still in golden age of trek.