The Mustang sky caves are one of the most intriguing and mysterious historical sites in Nepal. Carved into the sandstone cliffs of the Mustang district these caves carry the biggest mysteries with respect to the archaeological point of view. In this blog post, we will delve into the historical and cultural significance of the Mustang’s caves, exploring their mysteries that live within them.


The Mustang Sky Caves are called the Mysterious Sky Caves of Nepal due to the secrets and legends that surround them. But what makes these caves fascinating is the ancient human remains and artifacts that have been discovered within them. Researchers have found various ancient artifacts, including murals, statues and manuscripts, which provide insight into the life of the people who lived there. 

A brief History about Mustang Caves

Mustang, the previous kingdom of Lo, is the home to some of the diverse and enthralling places enriched with culture values. Situated in the Himalayan Mountains, the caves of Mustang are located in an isolated region. Due to its location and inaccessible area, these caves are famously known as Sky Caves Of Nepal. These Sky Caves are at an elevation of around 4,000 meters above the sea level, between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges.

How old are these caves and how are they formed?


The caves of Mustang are estimated to be over 2,000 years old, dating back to the pre-Buddhist era of Nepal. The people who created these caves are believed to be the ancient tribe of Lopa, who lived in the Mustang district and are said to have been skilled in stonework and masonry. Furthermore scientists have divided the usage of the Upper Mustang cave into three periods. Before 1000 BC, these caves were used as a burial chamber. During the 10th century, there was a battle in Tibet which led families to move inside the cave turning them into secret hideouts and living quarters. After the 1400s , these caves were used as meditation chambers, military lookouts and storage units for food and other necessary supplies. 


It is believed that the upper mustang caves were created as a means of shelter and storage for the Lopa tribe. Despite the age and arid dry weather conditions they have endured, the Mustang caves have remained well-preserved, and some of the artwork inside the caves is still visible. The intricate detailed cravings and murals found inside the caves are believed to depict religious and cultural influence of both Buddhism and Hinduism in Mustang.


The Mustang Sky caves are a remarkable feature of engineering in spite of their age and the challenging terrain in which they were built. The mountain caves, located in the sandstone cliffs, are carved using simple tools, such as chisels and hammers. The builders used their knowledge of the local geology and architecture to ensure the stability of the caves along with multiple levels. Some of the caves are up to four stories high. These Sky caves are connected by tunnels and passageways can range in size from small chambers to larger rooms that could hold people.

The Mysteries behind the Upper Mustang Caves


The caves of Mustang are shrouded with mystery hence they are famously known as Mysterious Sky Caves of Nepal. The caves are hidden completely within the Himalayas of Mustang area. These caves carry the biggest mysteries with respect to the archaeological point of view.


Many of the ancient human remains and artifacts that have been discovered inside these caves provide insight into the ancient culture and way of life in the Mustang District. Archaeology evidence from different universities of the world have been the source to prove these facts about these national geographic caves. The caves have been a mystery to the world for centuries, but in recent years, many archaeologist have started to explore them and unravel their secrets. They are still exploring these Sky Caves to unravel their secrets and identify the reality.


On exploring the stacked caves, they found several bodies including pottery, jewelry and ancient textiles that were a minimum of 2000 years old. The human remains that have been found were the most fascinating discoveries which provide insight into the health and lifestyle of the ancient Lopa people. Many of the remains show signs of malnutrition and poor health, suggesting that the life inside these caves was not always easy at all. Over centuries these caves have also been home to various groups, including the Lhasa Kingdom, the Tibetan army, and the Gurkha. There are several theories about how the Mustang Sky caves were used and what their purpose was. 


Some believe that the caves were used as burial sites, while others speculate that they were used for meditation or as hideouts during the war between the Gurkha’s and the British East India Company in the early 19th century. There are also theories that the caves were used for religious purposes, and that the intricate carving and murals found within the caves were part of religious ceremonies or practices. One of the theories is that the caves were used by early Buddhists who were fleeing persecution in India and needed a place to meditate and practice their religion in peace. 

The artwork found inside the caves depicts Buddhist symbols which support this theory. These different theories about how the caves were used and what their purpose was only add to the mystery and intrigue of these remarkable caves. 

10 mysterious findings on Sky Caves in Upper Mustang

  • Inscribed names and dates: Some of the Mustang caves contain inscriptions with names and dates, which suggest that these caves may have been used for personal or family rituals and ceremonies.

  • Mysterious symbols and markings: Some of the sky caves contain symbols and markings that have not yet been fully understood or deciphered. These may be related to spiritual or religious practices, or may be more symbolic in nature.

  • Hidden chambers and passageways: Most of the sky caves in Mustang contain hidden chambers or passageways that have yet to be fully explored or understood. These may have served as storage or ritual spaces, or may have had other purposes.

  • Ancient artifacts: Many of these caves contain ancient artifacts, such as ritual objects or religious statues, that provide insight into the spiritual and cultural practices of the region.

  • Mysterious inscriptions: Many of the sky-caves contain inscriptions that are written in languages or scripts that have not yet been fully understood. These inscriptions may hold clues about the spiritual or cultural practices of the region.

  • Intricately carved stone structures: Some of the sky caves contain intricate stone structures, such as altars or shrines, that were carved by hand and show a high level of skill and craftsmanship.

  • Ancient paintings: Some of the upper mustang caves contain ancient paintings that depict religious or spiritual figures and scenes. These paintings provide insight into the beliefs and practices of the region.

  • Mysterious structures: Some of the sky caves contain structures that have not yet been fully understood or explained. These may have been used for rituals, or may have had other purposes.

  • Hidden treasure: It is rumored that some of the sky caves contain hidden treasure, either in the form of gold or other precious objects, or in the form of spiritual or cultural artifacts.

  • Strange noises or phenomena: Few people have reported strange noises or phenomena occurring in or around the sky caves, such as unexplained lights or sounds. These may be related to the spiritual or cultural practices of the region, or may be more mysterious in nature.

Some of the List of Main Mustang Caves

Nepal, the land of the Himalayas, is not only home to the world’s highest peak Everest, but it also holds a hidden treasure of ancient history- the sky caves. And Mustang district is home to a vast number of caves, each with its own unique characteristics and features. Here are some of the popular caves in Mustang District that have been explored and studied:

1. Shija Jhong/ Jhong Cave


Shija Jhong Cave, also known as Chhoser cave is located in the village of Chhoser in Upper Mustang. From Lo Manthang it takes two hours of trekking or walking to reach Shija Jhong and 30 mins from jeep or bike. This cave is one of Nepal’s most mysterious and amazing caves. It is a five storey high built cave  which has almost 40 rooms and multiple ladders leading to higher levels. The entrance of the cave is narrow and small with steep stairs to climb up to higher levels. It has a natural skylight that provides natural light and ventilation inside.


Shija Jhong cave of Chhoser is situated close to the border of Tibet. It is famous for its past exciting history. The purpose of building this cave remains unknown. Before the 10th century, since people who were living in Chhoser and adjacent villages  were always under the threat, they used this cave as a hideout for their safety purpose. According to findings and history, archeologists have discovered human remains with cut markings on bones, ranging in age from the 3rd to the 8th century. These caves were chiseled by the people who used to hide in caves with their families throughout the 10 century. During the 1400s, these caves were utilized for meditation, storage and military lookouts. 

2. Chungsi Cave


Chungsi cave, also known as Ranchung Cave is located on the path to Upper Mustang, between the villages of Samar and Syangbochen, this natural wonder captivates visitors with its stunning surroundings, including the picturesque landscapes and ancient Buddhist culture that permeate the region. Ranchung Cave serves as a popular pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to have been a place of meditation for Guru Rinpoche during the 8th century. holds immense spiritual significance as a meditation retreat attributed to Guru Rinpoche, who is the revered Tibetan saint who introduced Buddhism to Tibet.


Above the cave, one can find the Monastery where Padmasambhava himself meditated. Additionally, Ranchung Cave is associated with the Hindu god Shiva. It was believed to be a site of his meditation during his journey to Kailash. As a natural cave nestled amidst the thousands of man-made sky caves in Mustang, Ranchung Cave showcases naturally formed deities adorning its walls, while intriguing natural figures resembling kissing people can be seen on the opposite side of the cave’s cliff wall. 

3. Nyiphu/ Nyphu Cave

The upper valley, Tsoshar, north-east of Lo Manthang, is riddled with hand-dug caves and extensive hilltop ruins. Near Nyiphu there is a well preserved multi storey cave system that is revealed only by a scattering of head- size openings in a vertical cliff. Nyiphu cave stands out for its intricate architecture, featuring well-preserved pillars and columns which provide structural support and add to the overall aesthetic appeal.The caves are entered through a wobbly notched log ladder through a hole in an overhang. On each level a corridor runs parallel with the cliff face from which short passages jut inwards, surrounded by cells. Several holes in the floor and ceiling lead to other levels. 


Inside Nyiphu Cave, visitors can admire ancient paintings that adorn the walls. These intricate murals depict religious figures, celestial beings and scenes from daily life, providing insights into the cultural practices and beliefs of the ancient Lopa community. The combination of impressive architecture and exquisite artwork makes Nyiphu Cave a must visit destination for history enthusiasts and art lovers.

4. Tashi Kabum Gumba


Located high up on the cliffs, approximately 50 meters above the Puyon Khola, the Sky Caves of Tashi Kabum offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It takes an hour on foot from Yara Village on the way to Luri Gompa. However it is quite difficult to reach this place. Though there is a narrow trail made by the locals of Yara village, you have to literally crawl down to enter this Gumpa. But once inside, there is enough room to stand bending a bit as the cave is approximately only five meters high. 


While Tashi Kabum may not have architectural features as others, their natural setting and the sense of mystery they evoke make them an intriguing destination. This cave is actually a temple cave and in the center of the cave stands a white stupa (Chorten) under a canopy of eight auspicious symbols – the Asta Mangals. Unfortunately, the upper dome of Chorten inside this gumba has been robbed and destroyed which was believed to have been built in the 14th century.Gumba is filled with beautiful paintings and carvings on a dome shaped ceiling enclosed by Vajras and Lotus petals as in a Mandala. 


Tashi Kabum is unique and holds importance in the religious and cultural heritage of Mustang. Many devotees visit this cave every year to offer prayers and meditate. It is a sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists which is famous for its murals which depict various deities and legends of Buddhism. Travelers who want to deepen the understanding of the spiritual paths must visit this place to gain spiritual power.

5. Luri Gompa


Luri Gompa is one of the most beautiful and historic Buddisht monasteries located in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal. The monastery is set on a ledge, at least a hundred meter high from the ground, in one of the many natural pillar-like sandstone structures. The entire complex consists of a series of interconnected caves, chortens and prayer flags. The caves are adorned with murals depicting the life of Buddha and his teachings.


A winding footpath climbs all the way from the bottom of the valley to a single entrance door that leads into two interconnected chambers. The outer chamber is a shrine, while the inner chamber, the main treasure of Luri Gompa,  is beautifully decorated with a series of paintings depicting spiritual importance gained by meditation dated back in the 14th century.

6. Kanchok Ling cave


The Kanchok Ling cave, located in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal, is renowned for its mesmerizing and exquisite murals. These precious murals are believed to date back to the 13th or 14th century, representing a profound historical and artistic treasure. 


Within the cave, you can find the breathtaking depictions of Vajradhara, Chaturbhuja, Avalokiteshvara and Tara  among other prominent figures from Buddist mythology. The murals also feature a segment showcasing the Eighty- four Mahasiddhas of the Vajrasana System, offering a glimpse into the spiritual teachings of the ancient times. Notably, the murals include a four-line verse composed by Vajrasana System. 


Kanchok Ling cave serves as a sacred site, inviting visitors to experience a unique blend of cultural and spiritual exploration. Its ancient murals, intricately carved motifs and offerings left by devoted pilgrims create an atmosphere of reverence and devotion. Over time, Kanchok Ling cave has faced erosion and suffered damage, resulting in the collapse of portions of its walls and the loss of a significant part of the 84 Siddhas depicted in the murals. 


The journey to the cave involves a scenic hike through the Mustang District, allowing pilgrims and curious travelers to connect with the profound roots of Buddhism in the Himalayas. The adventurers must navigate a steep and narrow trail that winds up the cliff face, eventually reaching the entrance of the cave. Due to its elevated and inaccessible location, visitors rely on fixed ropes to safely access the cave’s entrance. 

7. Ritseling cave


Ritseling Cave, situated in Upper Mustang, is a captivating mystery of the ancient kingdom. Explored only a few years ago, these secret caves hidden in the Himalayas had remained untouched for centuries. Located in close proximity to Konchok Ling Cave, Ritseling Cave highlights the isolation of Mustang that played a crucial role in preserving its ancient culture.


As a Buddhist site, Ritseling Cave in the Mustang District of Nepal boasts a rich history adorned with intricate paintings, sculptures, inscriptions, and depictions of Buddhist religious figures. The cave’s interior is divided into multiple chambers, each featuring unique artwork and designs that showcase the creativity and devotion of its creators. Near the cave entrance, visitors will find a prominent Mandala alongside numerous Buddha figures. Despite the erosion of some murals, the remaining artwork adds to the cave’s enigmatic aura. Notable among the murals is a large depiction of the nine-faced and eighteen-armed Garuda, along with various other deities. 


The local community and Buddhist pilgrims from around the world consider Ritseling Cave a sacred site. Its serene and peaceful environment provides a perfect setting for meditation and reflection on one’s spiritual journey. The allure of Ritseling Cave lies not only in its historical and archaeological significance but also in its ability to evoke a sense of wonder and connection to the ancient traditions of mustang. 


Preservation of Sky caves of Nepal


Upper Mustang is a well- known tourist destination and has been open for foreign travelers since 1992. Until 1992 it was a restricted area. This fact was the main reason that makes it one of the most preserved regions in the world. Even till now Mustang remains one of the most remote and isolated regions. Foreign travelers need to get a special restricted area permit from Kathmandu Valley through travel agencies to enter Upper Mustang. The Upper Mustang tour costs around $500 for 10 days and after exceeding 10 days each has to pay an extra $50 per day.


Despite restrictions and their cultural and historical significance, the sky caves of Nepal are at risk of being destroyed. Over the years, many of these caves have been damaged by natural disasters, such as earthquakes and landslides. Additionally, some of the caves have been looted for their ancient precious artifacts. Hence, it is essential to preserve these caves for future generations to learn about the rich cultural heritage of Nepal.


To preserve these caves, the government of Nepal has taken several steps. In 2008, the government declared these caves of Nepal a protected monument. The government has also provided funding for the restoration of some of the damaged caves. Several non-government organizations (NGOs)  are also working to preserve these caves. The American Himalayan Foundation has partnered with the Nepal Department of Archaeology to document and restore the murals in the Luri Gompa Cave. The NGO Global Heritage Fund is also working to preserve the sky caves of Nepal.


In conclusion, the Sky Caves of Nepal are a hidden treasure of ancient history that provide a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived in the Mustang over centuries ago. These caves are of great cultural and historical significance and are a testament to the skill and knowledge of the people who created them.


The Mustang sky caves are one of the most intriguing and mysterious historical sites in Nepal. Carved into the sandstone cliffs of the Mustang district these caves carry the biggest mysteries with respect to the archaeological point of view.

According to several groups of archaeologists and researchers, these stacked caves are at least 2000-3000 years old.

The sky caves were created by people who sought refuge in the Himalayas during the Tibet war.

Inside the sky caves of Nepal, there are numerous mysterious findings, murals, stone carvings that depict the Buddhist way of lids, their beliefs and their practices. Some caves also contain well-preserved murals that dated back to the 14th century.

The Sky caves of Nepal, also known as the Mustang Caves, refers to 10,000 artificial caves constructed in the Mustang District of Nepal. The region was formerly the Kingdom Of Lo, with the capital located at Lo Manthang, until the kingdom was annexed by Nepal during the 18th century AD.

The Sky caves of Nepal are of great historical and cultural significance. These caves provide a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived in the Himalayas centuries ago, and they are also important for their architectural value.

The government of Nepal has taken steps to preserve the sky caves, including declaring them a protected monument and funding restoration efforts. NGOs such as the American Himalayan Foundation  and the Global Heritage Fund are also working to preserve these caves.

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