Muktinath, a sacred space for people of both the Buddhist and the Hindu faiths, is a place of pilgrimage, peace, harmony, and amazing artwork. Located at the foot of a mountain pass in the Himalayas, the site offers amazing views along with a rich cultural and spiritual heritage. The Hindu name for the the Muktinath is Mukti Kshetra, which means a place of salvation, which the Buddhist name is Chumig Gyatsa, meaning hundred waters.
Muktinath has been watched over by Tibetan Buddhist nuns from the Lama Domar family, who have lived in the area for generations. For the nuns and others, Chumig Gyatsa and the Muktinath temple are places of great importance, a home to the Dakinis, sky-dancing goddesses. In the Hindu estimation, Muktinath is a central place to venerate Lord Vishnu. Stories are told of a nearby river, the Salagrami (or Kali Gandaki River), which Vishnu turned to stone.
Because of the mountains terrain and the Nepal weather, travel to Muktinath can be difficult at times. The pilgrimage site, when the weather is amenable, can be reached by road from Kathmandu. Visitors also can book helicopter tours and Jeep treks to travel to Muktinath. Trekking along the Annapurna Circuit is another way to make a trip to this somewhat remote site. These guided excursions are a very popular addition to Nepal holidays. Sometimes, the trek is strenuous and requires a lot of walking. Your effort will be rewarded with with experiences that can't be duplicated. If a difficult hike isn't for you, consider one of the other ways to get to the holy site.
Recently, motorbiking has become a new way to travel to Muktinath, thanks to newly paved roads. A popular road winds from Jomsom to Muktinath. You could take this route when exploring on your own or with a guide. Many local Nepali families make their living by accompanying visitors on tours of this amazing place. Many packaged vacations, booked with professional tour planners, help take care of the details of the trip, including transportation and guide service.
Whichever way you choose to arrive, you should prepare for the high altitude, more than 12,000 feet above sea level. Those prone to altitude sickness will do better arriving by road, rather than air, with more time to adjust to the change on elevation. It's also helpful to spend at least a night in Jomsom so you can adjust to the terrain.
On a Muktinath tour, pilgrims and other visitors will have a chance to explore the ancient roots and modern practices of these two great faiths. The Muktinath temple at the center, built in 1815, looks similar in design to the temples of Kathmandu. It remains dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is called Chenrezig by the Buddhists.
Besides the Muktinath temple, there is so much more the explore. Some of the other things to see in Muktinath include an eternal flame and several small structures called gompas. If choose to tour with a guide, you'll have the chance to hear more about the spiritual significance of each of these structures.
After you've spent the day exploring Muktinath, you will have many choices of where to stay for the night, if you don't head back to Kathmandu. On the route to Jomson, there are many guesthouses where reservations are usually not needed. Like any other hostels, these lodges provide comfortable beds and food at a very reasonable rate. Hindu pilgrims will find a welcome at Dharamshalas, a traditional religious resthouse.