Muktinath is found at the base of Thorong La mountain pass in the district of Mustang at an altitude of 3,710 meters above sea level. Located near the village of Ranipauwa, the place is inhabited by the ethnic group Bhotias. It is quite difficult to access because of harsh weather conditions in the area. Some people hire a helicopter to reach the place when the weather is favorable. However, this is not advised especially if you intend to stay for quite a while because you might suffer from altitude sickness.
It is considered sacred by Hindus. Many pilgrims flock to the site during the Ram Nawami, Rishitarpani, and Bijay Dashami festivals. The Hindus refer to the place as Mukti Kshetra, meaning “the place of salvation”. The temple in Muktinath is said to have originated in Sri Vaishnava. It is regarded as the 105th of the 108 Divya Desam. Additionally, it belongs to the Sakthi peetams. The temple contains the Saligrama sila, which is believed to be the natural form of the Hindu godhead Sriman Narayana.
Just like the Hindus, the Buddhists also consider the valley sacred. They refer to it as Chumig Gyatsa, which means the place of 108 waterspouts or hundred waters. They believe that the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rimpoche, went to this place for meditation, and as a result he acquired spiritual knowledge for a lifetime. The Buddhists regard Chumig Gyatsa as a place for the goddesses called Dakinis or Sky Dancers.
It is not advisable to trek straight to Muktinath without stopping along the way because you will face the risk of altitude sickness. The best way to reach the valley is to fly first to Jomsom from Kathmandu or Pokhara. Jomsom is at 2,700 meters and is a good place for you to stay for at least one night so your body can get used to the altitude. After Jomsom, you can trek to Jhargot, which is at 3,400 meters, and spend the night there as well. Jhargot is just an estimated 45 minutes away from the valley, but it is important that you stay there for a night so your body can adjust gradually. You can trek to the valley the following day.
If you want to stay for more than a day in Muktinath, there are a number of hotels you can choose from. There are decent accommodations available in nearby Ranipauwa and Jharkot as well. Some hotels have hot showers powered by solar energy. Likewise, there are enough restaurants where you can have your meals. Should you need services like health, telephone, and postal services, you can find them in Ranipauwa and Jharkot.
Muktinath is part of the Annapurna Conservation Area, thus you need to pay an entry fee in Kathmandu or Pokhara before you can go there. If you are joining a trekking expedition, the trekking company will help you obtain the permit. You just need to give them two passport size photos. Foreigners usually pay Rs 2000. However, if you get your permit at a field check post instead of in Kathmandu or Pokhara, you will be charged double, and the fee will cost Rs 4000.